Every coach recognises those words as the moment a player begins making an excuse for not doing whatever he or she was supposed to do. A book with the collected excuses of players with that title would doubtless be a best seller as coaches would snap them up at a pretty decent rate, either for their own enjoyment or as amusing gifts for coaching colleagues. However, despite what coaches would have you believe, it is not only players who come up with imaginative excuses. As the cartoon above shows, coaches are just as prone as athletes to make excuses for their failings. In fact you can open the sports pages on nearly any day and get a Coaching 101 lesson in excuses from the coaches who lost yesterday. For example, every time a coach talks about the officiating. Julio Velasco often talks about more serious excuses that coaches make. One of his favourites is blaming the psychological failings of a player / team for coach’s lack of success, as I quoted about here, rather than seriously analysing their own work. In the video clip, he talks (apparently, it is in Spanish) on a similar theme, of coaches blaming a player’s lack of talent for the lack of success.
The most popular current excuse for coaches is athlete ‘entitlement’. You can read the complaint often on internet coaching pages and one well known basketball coach quoted ‘entitlement’ as part of the reason for her retirement. The reason I use the inverted commas there is to emphasise that those are not my own thoughts. Obviously, society has changed (as it always does) and with it so have athlete’s expectations of the coach / athlete relationship (as it always does)*. But when reading those posts, it is impossible not to see that many of the posters are looking for excuses instead of honestly reviewing their own contributions.
How many times have you heard a coach or player say something along the lines of ‘The guys were fully committed today and that is all I can ask of them.’ As famous football coach Guus Hiddink says**.
“…commitment (is) also a little bit of an excuse. When you have 100%, whatever happens in the game, we are happy. I said ‘No, that’s not enough for me. Let’s go and try to make the commitment more balanced to technical behaviour, strategy.”
Excuses are everywhere. Ultimately there are two possibilities in any endeavour: you either succeeded or you didn’t succeed. And if you didn’t succeed there is a very high probability that the reason was something that YOU did. Those who search for that reason, and not for excuses, and seek constant improvement, are invariably the ones who eventually do succeed.
* I used to be a player. The way I remember the ‘good old days’ is of what we had to put up with from our coaches. Some in particular coached in a way that would now, rightly, be considered child abuse. Instead of complaining about how players are now, we should be ashamed that we didn’t speak up about the things we were forced to do.
** in the excellent book ‘That Night’ about his work with the Australian football team in qualifying for the 2006 World Cup.