It was the end of the school term and my son Tom had less than three months left before he would finish his six years at high school. During this time he had developed a passion for basketball and may I say as a proud and somewhat biased father, he is energetic, skilful and plays a key role in the three different teams that he plays for each week.
Sadly, due to my work commitments over the last twelve months, I had only been able to attend a few of his games, however, I was determined to get to his last game for the school term which co-incidentally would see him play in two back to back finals; one for his school and the other with a team he and his mates had formed, so that as he put it, 'he could get some extra game time and improve his basketball skills.'
I arrived just as Tom's first final was about to start and joined a small crowd comprising the team's school friends and a few parents, to watch what would end up being a nail biting finish to his first final.
Tom's team came out in the first 10 minutes with a burst of goals that saw them leading by just over 20 points at the end of the first half. At this level of the game teams play two 20 minute halves and I could see that the coach was well pleased with their efforts, so much so, that he hadn't called a time out in the first half and had made only a few substitutions.
The second half took on a totally different complexion as the opposing team quickly played themselves back into the game. They were on a role and three pointers came thick and fast as Tom's team dropped their intensity and started to miss an increasing number of shots and rebounds. Their lead was cut back to only a couple of points with less than two minutes to go. It was at that point that the coach called his first time out.
As I sat some three metres from where the team and coach were gathered together, the surrounding noise of the spectators became muted as I was drawn into what was happening, as the coach spoke to them.
He had the team standing a half circle and squatting down was looking up at them giving some very calm and clear instructions on what they needed to do in the last couple of minutes.
As he stood up to allow the team to return to the court, I saw him give some further words of encouragement to all them coupled with a pat on the back for those going onto to the court and also to those who would sit on the bench for the last couple of minutes.
As I watched this and what unfolded over the next 2 minutes, it struck me as to just what the coach had done in that critical time out. You could see that he knew that the team was fighting to save the game and that he needed to re-focus them and lift them up.
By squatting down he placed himself in a position where he was talking up to them, rather than down or at them and as the players went back onto the court his words of encouragement and that pat on the back, served to lift their energy and spirits.
Well Tom's team went on to win the final by 5 points and it was a great game to watch, particularly as the team had started so strongly, then lost it's way until the very last few minutes of the game, when they lifted to win. The win was due in the main to the on court efforts of all the players, however, much of the credit must go to their coach who in that last time out had by his actions literally placed them on a pedestal, restored their confidence and lifted them up.
When the players and coach had finished congratulating each other and celebrating their win, I went over to the coach to thank him for the work he had done with the team throughout the year, which had lead to a finals win. I commented on what I had seen him do in that last time out and he seemed surprised, however, acknowledged that by squatting down he felt less inclined to give them a blast about what they were doing wrong, but rather focus on what they needed to do to win the game.
As I drove away on that evening I thought about his comments and a couple of parallels came to mind about what can happen to us all in our everyday life.
Firstly, we may think that what we say has the most influence and impact on people, when in actual fact it is just as much or perhaps even more about our actions and how we make people feel.
Secondly, we should always focus our attention on talking about what needs to be done in a positive and enthusing way, rather than dwell on the negative aspects of what we didn't do right.
One of my favourite quotes is about the half filled glass of water - 'is it half full or is it half empty.' Like the teams coach, the answer to this quote all depends on how you look at things and act.
On that night I was privileged to watch, hear and see a young coach who focused on being half full and then some, and who clearly possesses those all important soft skills that we may talk about as being important, but so rarely put into practice in our every day life.
As a postscript to the evening, Tom's second appearance in a final did not see the same result as the first final, perhaps if the team had a coach this may have been different, but then again I would rather not dwell on the loss and remember the great win.
May there be may more positive experiences for Tom and his mates, in their life beyond school.
Inspired by Ben Rowse - a young man with natural coaching skills and a feel for what is important in encouraging people to achieve more.
Copyright © 2007 Keith Ready
Keith Ready lives and in Sydney, Australia and is affectionately known as Mr Inspiration. He is publisher of InspirEmail which provides inspirational messages to refresh the spirit and boost the emotional bank account.
You can visit his website at www.agiftofinspiration.com.au