I'm in the unique position in the game to act as both a player (for the Philadelphia Wings) and a coach (for The Hill Academy). Two worlds start to collide as we hit mid-season with the Wings and start our spring season with The Hill. I find myself using each coaching experience to learn and improve as a player and vice versa. I know what I appreciate from my players as a coach. I want to make sure I'm not asking anything of our players that I'm not willing to do myself.
As a player, you become conscious of how you respond to your coaches, your body language and your overall approach. I battle against myself at times knowing that what I'm doing as a player would upset me as a coach. I tend to be very relaxed and laid back as a player when it comes my pre-game preparation. That drives me nuts as a coach. I can feel like a walking contradiction at times.
As a coach with experience as a player, you are more aware of the mental stress of your players and can better identify with how they are feeling and you can gauge your level of expectations accordingly. You also understand the things you value from your coaches and try to implement those things into your own style. I find myself stealing lines from our Wings coaching staff, or making mental notes during practice with points or strategies I can use with my team at The Hill.
You also look at tendencies from teammates and opponents more closely and in a different light. You look at the preparation of some of the top players in the world and try to convey that to your players. I am able to witness first-hand what makes guys like Jordan Hall and Kevin Crowley some of the best players in the game.
There will be times in practice as a player where I see something and think — maybe that is tougher than I thought, why was I so hard on my player for making the same mistake? Or conversely, that a conditioning drill actually wasn't that hard, my players are dogging it!
Playing in a game is much less stressful than coaching in a game. As a coach you want to control everything but you can control very little. You feel the stress and emotions of the game much more intensely. As a player, you don't have to think a lot, you just have to react, follow your game plan and let your instincts take over. Players have the ability to impact the game directly and make plays, rather than stand on the sidelines and make adjustments.
In both cases, losses are tough to accept, but you feel more responsible for them as a coach. As coach Dave Urick used to tell our team at Georgetown after losses: "Coaches get too much credit after wins and players get too much blame after losses." As a coach you want to protect your players and help them perform to their potential. As a player, you want to support your coaches and earn their respect and trust.
What I have come to learn in both situations, is achieving success and improvement really is dictated by how one handles setbacks and adversity. It's not a matter of if someone will suffer a setback; it is just a matter of when. Adversity in the game can come in many different forms. You learn a lot about yourself, your teammates and your players, when you go through tough stretches. It is a great feeling when you are able to overcome adverse situations and gain a better understanding of what you are capable of.
This weekend we play in Rochester, a place where we have had very little success. It will be a good test to see what we are capable of.