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Handling the Crisis of the Day


“Stuff” happens and as long as basketball teams are made up of people, especially young people, there is always going to be various degrees of unacceptable behavior. Like it or not that’s just the way it is. No matter what you call it – drama, crisis, fire, problems, or just plain crap – there is always plenty of it! If that really bothers you then coaching basketball might not be a good fit!

As a basketball coach dealing with the “crisis of the day” is often extremely complex. First of all, the crisis has to be solved and the fire be put out and that almost always takes more time, energy, and mental focus than you have readily available.

Then while all that’s going on you need to have the ability to compartmentalize everything that’s taking place because you still need to take care of the day to day operations of your program. The inability to successfully juggle these two major responsibilities can easily result in putting your team in such a deep hole that it might take all season to dig yourselves out.

I’ve personally seen that happen several times over the years where coaches put so much time and energy and focus into solving a specific crisis that they neglect to nurture and develop the rest of the team. Before long everyone in the program is in a downward spiral.

Here are 4 things that you should consider when dealing with your basketball team’s “crisis of the day”:

Crisis of the Day

The problem will always be bigger and uglier than it first appears to you.

How do I know? Because you’re working with young people and young people have a tendency to make mountains out of molehills. (So do many parents, athletic directors, booster club presidents, school administrators and newspaper reporters.) Now I’m not saying you won’t have the occasional “wildfire” because you most definitely will. What I am saying is that if your players and/or the administration that you are working with see any problem, even a small problem, as a big problem then it’s a big problem and it can’t be ignored or swept under the rug.

There is no such thing as a secret.

Once upon a time basketball coaches could keep their problems “in house.” A sign would be placed in the locker room or team room that would say something like “Whatever you see hear, whatever you hear here, let it stay here when you leave here”. That would remind everyone to keep the team’s business to themselves. . . . and they did!

Now mainly because of all the various forms of communication and social media platforms you can count on every single crisis, and how you handle them, eventually becoming public knowledge. Therefore, don’t let your emotions get the best of you and always make sure you think before you say or do anything.

You can’t please everyone so you won’t please everyone.

If the crisis you are dealing with involves a legal violation or issue of some type or if it involves a breach of school policy then there will most definitely be predetermined protocols that will have to follow.

Everything else will most likely need to be solved on a case by case basis. There are just too many unique situations that can (and will) come up to rely on a definite set of hard fast rules. You will need to rely on your experience, your knowledge, your common sense and your gut intuition to handle the problem as well as possible. It’s not always easy but it comes with sitting in the “big chair.”

However, know that regardless of how you handle the situation at hand there will be those who second guess you, those who criticize you and those who will be downright mad at you. And if the media somehow gets involved everything could be grossly magnified and exaggerated.

The sun will rise tomorrow and your program will survive.

Over the past 30 years as a basketball coach I’ve seen my team go through more than our fair share of “stuff.” Substance abuse, grade issues, eating disorders, unplanned pregnancies, a player murdered after practice and most recently a school shooting on our campus are just some of the things that have tested my leadership abilities.

Each time it seemed like a black cloud was hovering over my head and I was miserable for days and sometimes weeks at a time. Even though I wish none of those things had ever happened, our program is as strong as ever and I now have an entire catalog of leadership experiences to help me the next time I need them.

Written By Dave Stricklin

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