Let the Ball Go Up
I made a brief reference to a story I’ll recount here in an earlier post. It warrants elaboration here because the subject of planning seems to have crept into many of the conversations I’ve been engaged in of late, including this one with my friend, Jim Vinoski.
The notion of planning always troubled me. It still does. It reminds me of lyrics from the West, Bruce & Laing song, “Sifting Sand”:
Like sifting sand/The things I feel they flow right through my hands.
Given the nature of change, plans have always felt fleeting, ephemeral to me. And so it is that, because our children are among our best teachers, I share this story:
Both of my sons are basketball coaches. The elder, Sean, had started Coaching while his younger brother, Quinn, was still playing at Salve Regina University. Sean and I drove to Newport together to attend one of Quinn’s games one night. The game unfolded as Salve’s games always unfolded that season: The Salve team would be getting run off the court. The coach would pace and fume like a lunatic and wait too long to call timeout. When he finally did, he’d huddle the players up, pull an index card out of the breast pocket of his shirt, and start screaming.
After the game, the boys and I went out for pizza at a local haunt.
“What’s on the index card Coach always pulls out of his pocket during the first timeout?” I asked Quinn.
“The game plan,” he said.
“And when Coach starts screaming, what’s he screaming about?” I asked.
“He’s screaming that we’re not following the game plan.”
I turned to Sean, whom I’d seen coach many times (Sean didn’t lose a game as a coach until the last game of his second season — the New England Championship game for the league in which his team played) and said, “I’ve never seen you with an index card, and I never see you scream at your players. Do you have a game plan?”
Sean said, “I scout every team we play. And I have a plan for every game. But I have no idea what’s going to happen until the ball goes up.”
And there it is. I resist planning because I have no idea what’s going to happen until the ball goes up. So, my planning, such as it is, consists of determining to do something. Then I throw the ball up. Whatever I do next is determined by what happens after the ball goes up.
If things don’t go as planned, I call timeout.
Originally Published on https://www.bizcatalyst360.com/category/lifecolumns/notes-to-self/