You are a commander general stationed on the battlefield with your highly skilled and elitist troops. What is the worst thing you can think of that will happen, if the commander does not have control of his troops because of ill-discipline? A formula 1 pit crew team trains for months in perfecting the right timing, the right sequence and flawless execution for a pit stop. What do you think will happen when a driver in first place comes in for a stop and a crew member decides there is a better way of doing things and executes on it?
In real situations it is easier to see that discipline is a key element of cohesion and a team’s success. The question I poise is discipline the problem facing the youth today? Could this be the reason why very few athletes make it to the top or why bottom log teams are… bottom of the log? I had the privilege of working with the national basketball squad a few years back under coach Patrick Fick in preparation for the commonwealth games. I learnt some important lessons from a great coach who just so happened to be my youth coach back in the late nineties.
The first lesson I learnt from him was, funnily enough discipline, and I learnt if the hard way. During a training session the coach was explaining an important motion offensive play and I was happily cracking jokes and waffling on to a teammate while the coach was trying to teach us something new. In the blink of an eye a missile basketball was launched at me and needless to say my head was the recipient of a loving lesson I never forgot.
The second most valuable lesson I learnt as a youth was that if you are not in the first starting 5 then there is a good reason for it. As a young athlete I thought I knew it all as a basketball player and my pet hate was sitting bench. I didn’t believe I deserved to be there. The fact is that the coach saw something I didn’t. In my frustration I took the courts and worked twice as hard as any other player. I practised at school, I practiced before practice, and I practiced with the seniors after practice. I even after dinner made sure I shot 200 baskets before bed. I slowly migrated off the bench and into the starting 5.
The third most important lesson I learnt is that a coach who comes to practice prepared almost always wins the respect of their players. If you have ever been lucky enough to be coached by Coach Pat, you will understand after the first session, he does not take nonsense and is the most well prepared coach you will find. I remember back, it was a week before the national camp and Coach Pat and his wife Morella where frantically, at their own time and expense, putting the final touches to the player’s manuals. It was the first time every national player got the entire game-plan ahead of the camp and I am sure it was probably the last under Coach Pats’ reign.
Each player had drills which he expected them to master and plays he expected them to learn before practice. He was the first coach to bring a dedicated sports scientist to work on their sports specific conditioning, bringing in a nutritionist, bringing in guest celebrities to motivate players and the first to introduce game video and feedback sessions before bed.
I can honestly say that travelling at 5am the 80km to get to work and travelling back at 10pm was not easy but somehow because of the coaches’ discipline, pursuit of excellence and going over and above was the standard norm, I felt this was my minimum standard.