Steady progress adds up to better results. This used to be common sense, but these days it seems more like an old wives’ tale than a leadership principal. My son, Owen, experienced this lesson first hand while playing with his basketball team this season.
His coach, Herb, was a seventy-something volunteer with a mission: each kid on his team was going to be a better basketball player at the end of the year- regardless of their record.
Coach Herb knew basketball and he knew how to teach the fundamentals of good basketball. Today, most kids try to play basketball like they watch on ESPN or play on X-Box. They don't understand the subtleties of situation, score, momentum, spacing, rebounding, picks, passing lanes, team defense, shot selection etc.... - they just want to run.
My son was frustrated by everything Herb tried to do:
· Owen made a fancy pass; Herb told him to play simple.
· Owen drove the ball; Herb told him to take the open shot.
· Owen tried to steal the ball; Herb told him to contain his man.
· Owen played hard; Herb told him to play smart.
After one sequence in which Owen was his usual whirling, dervish self on both ends of the court, a frustrated Herb said, "Owen every play is either great or a catastrophe - I need you to play more consistently for your teammates."
The rides home from the games were frustrating for father and son. Owen's game looked out of sorts and he wasn't having any fun. I listened to Owens' complaints but also Herb's coaching. The coach was getting Owen to make small adjustments; he was building a foundation with consistent little steps. Owen couldn't see it or feel it but I could. I told him to hang in there and listen to Herb. Owen stared at me and wondered why I didn't support his frustration.
It all came together in a game late in the season. Owen had been energetic on both ends of the court in a close game. He grabbed a rebound and took off towards the center of the court. He pushed the ball but he was in control. He let the situation develop before he made his decisive move. He hesitated to allow his teammates to fill the lanes. The defense parted to pick up their men. Owen faked a pass to gain a step then he attacked the basket and was fouled as the ball dropped through the hoop. Coach Herb clapped and said over and over. "Perfect Owen - perfect Owen...that's what we need from you."
Owen's game had changed; Herb had focused on consistent, small steps to improve his players and his teams. Coach Herb had a plan for his team, he had a plan for his players, and he worked his plan everyday.
We all have opportunities for a lot of good days. We all have opportunities to work for progress.
Don't miss the good waiting for the great. Create your progress. The little steps add up; the little steps matter.