By Pat Baldwin
Men’s basketball coach
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
We have big goals as a basketball team, but you don’t reach those big goals without first knocking off the little goals, one at a time, day in and day out. The same holds true for any business, organization or group – give yourselves permission to dream big, but leave no stone unturned along the way.
For our young men at UW-Milwaukee, it starts with daily habits. We preach to our players to be “everyday” guys, which means approaching every task, every drill, every class with consistent focus and effort. If you’re impatient or unfocused, you forget about the fundamentals of a drill or a skill you need to be successful. If you’re detailed, you go back to being that everyday person.
Because our season starts in October and ends – hopefully – in March, I’m constantly talking about being patient and not being bored by the process. It’s going to get lonely at times. We’re a few games into the season. The road ahead is a long one and there will be bumps and adversity along the way. How you respond goes back to your core character. That’s what you do on a daily basis.
Although we have big goals, it’s counterproductive to look any further ahead than our next game.
“Stacking successes” has become sort of a buzz phrase in athletics. What it really means is knocking off those little goals, one at a time.
We talked to our guys at the end of last season about understanding the grind from April to October, because there is no offseason in Division 1 college basketball. Whether a player gains Five or Ten pounds on the bench press in the weight room or increases his vertical jump by a couple inches, those should be celebrated as victories.
Those small victories are important, because without them, the bigger victories are that much more difficult to achieve. We’re going to lose some games along the way – we already lost a tough one in triple overtime to Western Michigan – but even in defeat, and sometimes especially in defeat, there are lessons to be learned and mistakes to be corrected. Those aren’t victories in the traditional sense, but you can’t grow as a player or as a person without confronting uncomfortable truths head-on and learning from them.
Another concern we have as coaches, and one we share with leaders in any team environment, is distractions. Even champions have distractions. The teams that allow the fewest distractions to get in the way of their goals are probably going to be the teams that win. We want to try to minimize anything toxic that can erode the quest to win or be productive.
When I played at Northwestern, our coach, Ricky Byrdsong, used to ask us how we thrived in chaos. It’s a part of everyday life. Chaos can be Twitter. It can be trying to balance the demands on your time. It can be the sound of people congratulating you on a one-game performance.
I feel good about our “everyday” guys and where we’re headed. I’m confident our players will attack the small goals, celebrate their victories, learn from their mistakes and build to something special.