During one practice at Wake Forest, I failed to protect the weak side on defense and the late Skip Prosser yelled at me, “Alan Williams you’re better than that.” I immediately responded, “My bad coach.” That’s when coach yelled at me again, “I KNOW IT’S YOUR BAD AL WILL—YOU DON’T HAVE TO REMIND ME—NEXT PLAY, MOVE ON.”
Coach Prosser’s response to, what I thought was a ‘coachable’ response on my part, was indicative of his believe that anyone who ‘sat’ in their mistakes too long was selfish. Why selfish? Because if I got down for missing a shot, then I probably wouldn’t sprint back on defense—my body language would probably go sour and this would hurt my team.
Coach would say that “sulking = selfish” and wouldn’t accept it. Ironically, the kind of selfishness I’m referring to is often disguised as humility—or false humility I should say. EXAMPLE: One of my players has a terrible first half and so they put their face in their hands in the locker room at halftime. Conceivably, this player could be convincing himself that his frustration is derived from how much he cares for the team. Sharing Prosser’s playbook, I’M NOT BUYING IT. Prosser says this is selfish because that player is only focusing on their own ‘deal’.
It’s no secret that big egos ruin team—they destroy businesses. Too often, I think we characterize the egocentric person as someone who overly delights in their successes, but what about someone who overly bathes in their shortcomings—maybe Debbie Downer has a big ego too! Perhaps the lens she is looking through is fogged by her own pity.
I suppose CS Lewis, a novelist and wise man, calls out either case of the big ego (self absorption) when he says, “Humility is not about thinking less of ourselves, but thinking of ourselves less.”
I’m starting to think that a lot of teams in life would be much more effective if they had CS Lewis and Skip Prosser coaching and yelling at them from the sidelines. Coach Prosser could acknowledge that “Yes” we messed up and to “move on.” And CS Lewis could provide a deeper rational as to why we can move on to to the next play. He’d probably use words like repentance, forgiveness, and righteousness, but it would probably make the best case for leaving our failures and even our successes behind.
Coach Lewis—a basketball coach–that’s a funny thought.