October 18, 2018

March 5, 2017

A couple of years ago I had the privilege to view an excellent basketball coach work with one of the top recruits in the nation in a private one- on -one coaching. I expected to see a massive amount of sweat pour forth while watching unreasonable numbers of laps, stretches into formations that would rip my quads (sadly, not ripped), moves that would make pretzels and gymnasts envious, ball handling that required octopus limbs, and shooting from the outer space regions of the court.

Thing is, I didn’t.

What I saw was tedious. Surely they would soon break free of the tedium I was witnessing.

Thing is, they didn’t.

The tedium

a highly skilled coach rebounding for a highly skilled player. The player was positioned mid- zone right in front of the basket (a shot many of us could make.) Said player had only sunk a couple shots when the coach suggested a wrist adjustment. Looser? More flop? Different angle? I have no idea. What I do know is that the player put the ball down for some time and worked on the wrist motion while the coach made suggestions, demonstrated some wrist-y moves and offered feedback. After a while the player was granted the ball again. I figured this was the moment when all the fancies of practice would begin and I would be entertained and awed while the sweat puddled.

Wrong again.

Instead, the player stood in that same darn spot and attempted to institute the wrist-y thing from their work without the ball to work with the ball. Now, I can tell you I KNOW that player could make that shot easily, but they missed way more than they sank. The ball would slip into the hoop once in awhile but no celebration was had-just more reps, feedback, endless wrist-y shots for the player, endless rebounds for the coach to fetch, and more adjustments.

I would catch an occasional glimpse of the player’s face. I read frustration with a side of anger, despair, frustration, and fatigue. The coach maintained a pretty pleasant demeanor throughout but was direct, matter of fact, and at times, shared the same expression.

They continued, shot, rebound, shot, rebound, all the while wrist-y thingy-ing.
There was a balance developing between the coach offering instruction and the player incorporating adjustments independently (like trying out that flippy wrist with and without the ball at the player’s discretion). The player shot and shot while the coach continued rebounding and rebounding and rebounding and rebounding and rebounding, and rebounding, and…whew, that was a close one-I almost didn’t get myself out of that hoop-oh I mean loop☺

The session came to a quiet close with no pomp and circumstance, no backslapping, and not much to show for it.


We do the same thing. Learn Teach Learn

The gym was the practice room that day (the player the flute student, the coach the teacher.) A lesser student might have given up. A lesser teacher might have given up, yelled, whatever.

Their interaction was utilitarian and no-frills. It seemed to me that this wrist thing was going to take some time, maybe a lot of time. The point was, obviously, not to sink the shot but to learn the form, the technique. It was messy and frustrating. Flip your wrist-great now you have it ( HA, if only!) I’m certain the player comprehended the modifications but getting it in the brain, and getting it in the body are different things. It takes time, thoughtful, critically constructed, observational, intentional work, and experiences of doing, doing, doing again to start to own something so one can count on it.

FORM inFORMs function

Without proper form you might manage nicely for a long while but you’re likely to hit the learning- ceiling headfirst. You may attempt a challenging passage and leave a mess in your audience’s ears. You’ll toss up your shot from under the basket and it’ll bounce right back at you (tauntingly.) You’ll think it was an easy shot, berate yourself, tell yourself you should have made it. Then you might realize you forgot the flip-y –wrist-y –thingy, and you’ll go back to the gym the next day and do it all over again, trying to identify and improve-problem solve, sleuth out solutions.

I reckon that mentor could have offered a different coaching that day- a coaching that was fun and active and encouraging and congratulatory and made the player feel just great. Not that day, though.

Was it fun? I doubt it.

Was it satisfying? Ah, that is different. (Please consider this notion. I have had a thing about fun and satisfying for a long time now. Fun is FUN! Satisfying, well, satisfying can be fun, too. Contemplate, please.) I was riveted the entire time, amazed by the player’s determination and singular focus, and amazed by the coach’s intensity and singular focus. The court, the practice room, the private coaching, the same.

The coach taught
plain and simple
The student learned
plain and simple

I learned
   I bet the coach learned too

No perspiration but lots of inspiration