A Transformational Experience


Mr. Hinton has been talking to administration and staff lately about the difference between a “transformational experience” versus a “transactional experience.”

One of my dear friends, Mike, used to coach basketball at a private Christian school. He always had very disciplined teams that worked hard and they did really well in spite of the fact that they did not have a lot of natural talent. I asked Mike what his secret was, and he told me the key was two meetings he had with each player each season at the beginning and end of each season.  He said the meeting was one-on-one and took about 15 minutes. He asked the players to come prepared to the pre-season meeting with notes answering four questions. What do you think you’re best at (in basketball)? What do you think you need the most work on? What position do you think you are in on the team? (Basketball position as well as starter, second, or third string) What role do you feel like you play on the team that can best help this team win?

When the meeting occurred Mike would ask the student to go through their answers and he would listen. He would then go through the four questions and either support or correct the expectations in a sincere, loving, but firm way. The result of the meeting was that the two of them left on same page. Mike also told me that the number of parent meetings dropped because when a parent grumbled at home over playing time or who started, more times than not, the player actually corrected the parent because HE KNEW THE ANSWER to the question they were raising.

I saw this first hand. One night during a game I saw a kid that was his most talented player (inside player but very good with the ball) take a rebound off the rim and go coast to coast and dunk the ball. The crowd went wild. As the team ran back down the court to a screaming crowd, I noticed a sub come to the table. They pressed the inbounds and got a turnover. At the whistle the sub came in for the player that had gotten the crowd so wild. I watched the player come to Mike in disbelief as he came off the court. I watched the two of them have a short conversation. I could see the boy ask why he was taken out. I saw Mike respond and the boy dropped his head but then nodded and said something back and did not seem upset. It was then that the most remarkable thing happened. Mike told the boy to go back in.

After the game I asked Mike what had happened. He told me that the boy had come to him from a homeschool program and was the best team in his league. He told the young man in their meeting that one of his roles was to get the ball out to the guards for the fast break and NOT to take it himself but rather be the one to follow the play. Mike told him he knew this would be hard for him since he had been “THE MAN” in the other league but for his team this was a role that was important to fill. He also told him if he did not play his role he would take him out. That night, when he went all the way down and dunked, he had not filled his role and thus was hurting his teammates’ ability to play their roles.

When he took him out and told him why the boy nodded and said, “Yes sir, you’re right, won’t happen again”. Mike said the boy was going to sit down when I told him to go back in. Because they had established a relationship based on mutual respect and shared responsibility, the boy was willing to accept correction. The boy was surprised but not shocked when his coach acknowledged the boy’s ownership of his mistake and sent him back in.

I have never forgotten this story because it models for me the type of relationship, I want our coaches to have with our players. Think about this. Most happy and successful employees are this way because they have a good boss. What is a good boss? One that explains to them their role, encourages their good moments, corrects their mistakes, all while creating an environment for growth with transparency. We have no greater opportunity to teach our young people and model this type of behavior than when we coach them in a sport.

It is easy to get caught up with coaching skills and tactics. When we do we are giving a “transactional experience”. When we invest in communication in addition to skills and tactics we are creating a “transformational experience”. Sports come and go but the lessons we learn can transform our lives. I know all of you and know this is why you coach.

I hope this is something that you will consider doing. I know 15 minutes per student seems like a cost of time, but I see it as an investment. One that can pay off for a lifetime.


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