"The coach cost us the game" Encouraging Learning and Growth by Avoiding the Blame Game

On Sunday, my nephew’s team lost in the New York State Basketball Tournament. I did not watch the game or any of his games this season, but I got quarterly updates via group text.

As his team lost their halftime lead my dad started to question the coach’s decision to take my nephew out of the game, because he felt his absence on the court was costing the team the game.

Later he sent me a text blaming the loss on the coach’s decision to not play my nephew late in the game and the poor execution of other players on the team, but assuring me if I was the coach of this team it would never have happened!

While I greatly appreciated my father’s belief in me as a coach and the support of my nephew and his abilities, I could not help think of how many parents or fans have said similar things about me.

Reflecting back on our last game of this season I know I made some mistakes that were costly.

Parents and fans were thinking, “what in the heck is this guy doing?”.

Many of our players made mistakes that were costly.

Parents and fans criticized those players as well.

Blame starts to get thrown around, especially in an emotional loss the last game of the season. I know as parents we feel sorry our sons and daughters having to endure hard losses. The problem is when we start to blame the coach and other players we really are not helping our athletes to learn and grow from the experience.

I am NOT encouraging parents (or other family members and fans) to spend time breaking down all the mistakes of the athlete.

I am encouraging us to avoid blaming others on the team. Start praising the effort and attitude of our sons and daughters and offer support by listening. If they start to complain or blame others encourage them to focus on what they can control.

I am quick to reflect on previous games and the mistakes I made in an attempt to improve my coaching, because I learned long ago it was not helpful for me or my team to blame the players and their mistakes.

The overwhelming majority of players are going to be critical of their performance and when they do blame teammates and coaches it is often an attempt to hide the insecurities of their own play.

If we start teaching our athletes to accept responsibility for what they can control instead of blame others, they will start to work harder, have a better attitude, and treat those on their team with more respect.

I have seen so much energy wasted by fans on criticizing and blaming coaches and players instead of supporting and encouraging.

Sportsmanship does not stop when players and fans they leave the court.

Discourage wasting energy on the things they CANNOT change.

Praise their effort, attitude, and sportsmanship.

Encourage accepting responsibility for the things they can change.

Twitter and Instagram: @jpnerbun

Email: jpnerbun@gmail.com

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