My teams on the floor! (Part III)

5 Jul

This is Part III and the last part of our story.  Parts I and II precede this in the tow earlier posts. If you have not read Part I and II then in strongly encourage you to scroll down and do it before continuing.  The message will be far more powerful if you read the story in it complete form. With that said I now present Part II of our story!

And now the conclusion to our story…

Part III

As the second half began it was clear little had changed and the team started drifting even further behind, nearly to the point where the opponents lead would be insurmountable. Each time the boys would bring the ball down the court the towns folk would yell for them to take the open shot but each time the boys would pass the ball trying to meet the coaches four pass rule. Often the ball got stolen and other times the boys passed up easy shots only to lose the ball or take a less attractive shot just trying to meet with the coache’s requirement.  It all seemed a little bizarre and by the end of the third quarter the crowd was in afrenzy.

At the opening of the fourth (last quarter) one of the boys got the ball and had an open shot.  The crowd yelled loudly for him to shoot the ball but the team had not passed it four times as the coach required. Hearing the crowd and seeing they had fallen way behind the boy decided to disregard the coaches rule and take the open shot. S-W-I-S-H went the ball through the net and the crowd went crazy. The next time down, the same boy took a shot before the four pass rule and again it went S-W-I-S-H…it was clear he had “the hot hand” and over the next few trips down the court the team began to creep back into the game.

At the next break in the action the coach called time out and called the team over to the bench. As the boys made their way to the bench the crowd went crazy with applause cheering the boy how had started the team’s comeback. When the team arrived at the bench the coach told the lone boy sitting on the bench that he was going in to replace the player who had made all those points that had brought the team back into contention. After a few words from the coach he again reiterated his rule and held up his hands and said, “how many times are we going to pass the ball before we shoot?” “4” said the boys…”how many?” he asked again, “4” said the boys again…and onto the court they ran.  As the boys took the court, the player the coach had taken out of the game sat down and the two locked eyes but the coach said nothing.

By now the game was close and nearing the final minutes. The boys were flying all over the court trying to steal the ball back in the hopes they’d get one more shot at regaining the lead. At one point, one of the boys was able to knock the ball loose from the opponents hand and just as the team broke for the basket the referee blew his whistle and called out “foul”. Time was running out. The game was close. There would only be a few more chances if they were to retake the lead.  Immediately after the foul was called, the official at the scorer’s table called the referee over from the court to speak to him and, after conferring for a few seconds, the referee on the court blew his whistle again and informed the boy who had been charged with the foul that he had exceeded the maximum number of allowed fouls and had “fouled out” of the game.  Disappointed, the boy headed towards the bench and the crowd rose to their feet to give him a hand for his efforts.  Now there were just five players left. As the boy made his way to the bench the other boy sitting on the bench (the boy the coach had taken out earlier and who had taken the shots before meeting the four-pass rule) immediately rose to his feet and began to take off his warm-up to reenter the game.

As the boy removed his warm up to reenter the game the coach walked over to him and said “where do you think you are going…sit down?” Upon seeing this, the crowd went  silent and the coaches words seemed to echo thru the gym. Confused by the coaches demand the boy looked around and then said “we need five players coach” and again began to take to the court. This time, in a louder more forceful voice, the coach point toward the bench and said  “SIT DOWN”…his words ringing clear throughout the entire gym.  By now the crowd was on its feet leaning over the railing and looking down on the bench in stunned silence…and  disbelief. Everyone in the gym was confused and it wasn’t long before the referee came running over to the bench. “Coach,” the referee said, “we need a one more.” Slowly the coach retook his seat leaned back…pointed towards the court and said “my team is on the floor.” It was shocking and immediately, the crowd erupted in anger, chaos reigned and boos filled the entire gym.

And, so it went. On that day the team lost and finished the game with just four players on the court at the end. After, as the team arrived in the locker room, they were angry, humiliated and confused. They didn’t quite know what to make of their new coach or what had happened on the court just a few minutes earlier. Soon the coach arrived in locker room and he sat the team down. “For those of you who were on the court at the end of the game I’m proud of you” he said. “For the rest of you I want you to go home this weekend and decide whether you want to play on this team or not. If you come back on Monday then you will do exactly what I say…no questions…my word is the law. Now I want each of you to take the weekend and I’ll see you at practice Monday.”  After the coach had issued his order the team sat in silence.

On Monday all six boys showed up for practice.

That year they won the only state title in the school’s history.

At this point, I stopped telling the story and looked at the young coach. “Coach” I said …”are you willing to do that?” Unsure exactly what I meant he asked “do what?” “Would you be willing to play with four players” I said…“I don’t know” he said, to which I responded “then that’s the problem”…as soon as I said it a slight smile came to his face and I knew he got it.

After I had finished, the coach sat silent. As we sat there I looked deep into his eyes and I could see his mind was ablaze and that I had ignited his coaching fire within him and I could feel his excitement and anticipation to get back on the field with his team.

We chatted a bit longer and then the young coach said he had to go. As he stood up to leave he grabbed my hand and said “thank you Coach Bruce…I wont forget it…can I call you some time if I need to chat again? “Of course”, I said and he headed out the door.  Soon it was time for my old friend and I  to say goodbye as well and when we neared the door he reached out his hand and said “thank you coach”.  “My pleasure” I said… “I hope I helped”. ”You did” he said with a smile and we hugged and then it was done.


Winning is everything to me. The question is not whether winning  is important but rather how do you build a program that will produce consistent winning results.  Coaches who rely too much on the talent of their players’ lose control of their program and become spectators to their own fate…much like the young coach I met with in the story above.  You cannot be transactional with your team. Set the rules, and make everyone follow them or it will eventually unravel. If any of them break the rules, no matter how important, then set the punishment and apply it…make no exceptions. The great coaches build programs that produce consistent winning results. This is how it all starts.

To do this you may need to take a step back early on as you iron out the process. Never turn your program over to your players…make them surrender to the program. Over time your program will build and as it does so to will your wins. Winning cures many things!

To be a great leader in sports or in business you need to build a program. To build a great program you need the following simple things. These are: 1) A philosophy about coaching you believe in. 2) A system you know deeply and believe in. 3) The fortitude to step back before stepping forward…patience… and 4) the faith that things will turn out the way they are suppose to…in other words the conviction to tell them … “my teams on the floor!”

When you can to that you’ll be on your way!

Most respectfully,

Coach Bruce


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