The Power Of One

The Power of One

Image from the move ‘The Power of One’ (1992, starring Morgan Freeman, Stephen Dorff). Tells the of a orphaned English boy, Peekay, growing up in South Africa not long after WWII. Racial and political tensions run high as the relationships that form anger the state’s apartheid government.

“Coach the head first, the feet second.”

Just stumbled across the quote above… I jotted down on, what is now, a tattered piece of paper from some 25 years ago. It’s from a book called: The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay.

In reflection, it’s funny to think about how this quote has shaped my approach as an athlete and now as a teacher-coach.

Many basketball players are good at the HOW. They have refined technical skills. Where they struggle though, and where we as coaches still struggle, is in teaching the WHO, WHEN, WHERE and WHY. Those four W’s are so important and are what get to the essence of game intelligence (or what I like to call ‘game sense’).

As a basketball coach, teaching the technical skills, a new offensive set, or an out-of-bounds play isn’t the hardest part. In some ways, it’s like painting by numbers. It takes very little time and effort to come up with a formula for coaching the feet.

Now coaching the head is another ball game (pun only slightly intended). The head is where the art + science of effective coaching comes in. The ability to develop athletes that can think the game and execute their skills at speed is what makes the great coaches great.