Bridges are engineering phenomenons. From the basic bridges that span a small country stream to bridges that span large rivers and bays, it’s amazing how they are built and how they work. Think about how limited humans were before we built bridges.
The gap between knowing and doing requires a similar kind of bridge. It’s a pretty amazing feat when one is built that can most any force that could bring it down. Humans have figured out how to build the physical structures. What challenges humans and what will always challenge humans is building that mental bridge. First however, there must be the recognition that a gap exists. There must be acknowledgment that a bridge needs to be built.
So let’s say a player recognizes what they need to be able to do and that they aren’t able to do it well yet. They recognize they have to put work in to be able to do what they know they need to do. They commit to the work and are willing to do the work. What happens during that time when he/she is trying to build that bridge? What happens during “construction” when execution is required but the bridge isn’t built yet? How do we build confidence when it’s still a work in progress?
Before we address these questions, as coaches we have to ask ourselves some questions. What part of the year did this recognition come? How did the player recognize the gap existed? How critical is this gap to the team’s success? How much time will it take to bridge the gap? How much time and attention can we afford to give to building this bridge?
Of course these questions are very subjective. Let’s think about some possibilities. If this recognition comes as part of a post season individual meeting, then that’s preferred. Now the player has lots of time to work to build that bridge. If that realization comes in the last week of January, then it’s probably a good idea to wait until the off-season.
If the player recognizes the issue on their own, they are more likely to be motivated to resolve it. If a coach, teammate, or fan points out a weakness, the player might not be as open to that feedback depending on the situation. Our approach to these situations must consider the source of the information.
Are we talking about a point guard’s ability to post up or a post player’s ability to finish a lay-up? Are we talking about a point guard’s on ball defense or a post player’s ability to shoot a step back 3 pointer? If you need your post player to make a step back 3 in order to win, then I want to coach your team. You have to judge what’s important and what isn’t.
Will it take 30 minutes three times a week for a month? Will it take 60 minutes every day for six months? Of course there is no right answer for this. But making a major adjustment to a player’s shooting technique is much more involved than teaching someone a new 1 on 1 move. Teaching someone how to defend a post player isn’t nearly as involved as improving their weak hand. Knowing how much time you have to build that bridge and knowing how much time it will take is important in the process. If you don’t have enough time, do you try to tackle it anyway? Is some improvement better than none? Or could that time be better spent in another area?
This leads into the next area — what else do we have to do? If we spend time in this area, do we have enough time for other areas? Do we have time for other players? Do we have time for other “things”? Do we have the expertise we need? Do we have the resources that we need? Do we have the staff that we need? Will this be the best use of our time?
Notice we haven’t answered the first set of questions. Those are still important. We still have to manage the process within the process. We cannot control every decision of every player that we coach. They will always have the freedom to make decisions that we won’t even know that they made. Whatever bridge they are building, there will always be obstacles along the way. There may be a call for doing even when the bridge isn’t finished. As coaches, we must be able to carefully manage these situations with our athletes. Depending on the athlete, these may need to be handled in different ways.
We are engineers. We devise ways to turn knowledge into action. The good news is that it doesn’t involve calculus or physics. The bad news is there is never one method that always works.