The North American ice hockey league (NHL) has a yearly event that they call the Winter Classic, which is when they play a game outdoors in a football/baseball stadium in front of a huge crowd. This year one of the US cable networks has prepared a documentary series leading up to the event showcasing the teams involved and how they reach/ed that point. The first two episodes have already aired and while I don’t subscribe to a US cable TV provider, the shows may or may not be available to illegally download. But I digress… To prove that sport is the first and best reality TV the beginning of the series finds the teams in contrasting fortunes. One in the midst of a winning streak and one in a losing streak. Seriously they couldn’t have scripted it like that, especially as the match up was decided months ago. But again I digress… It is interesting to follow the teams as they attempt to continue/break their respective streaks. In this context, the General Manager of the Washington Capitals (the losing team) makes the following statement with regards to coping with a crisis…
“You have to have the guts to do what’s right and to be patient”.
While this wisdom may seem self explanatory, my (past) experience of similar crises is that it is anything but. When a team is losing there is enormous pressure (and I can only begin to imagine how there must be in this instance) to do ‘something’. The pressure is both internal and external and this ‘something’ is never specified. Externally (press/management/fans) it is held as self evident that what you did until now is wrong, so you must change ‘something’. Acoach can rarely get in trouble by changing ‘something’ during a losing streak, as you are then perceived as doing ‘something’ (unless of course they continue losing, in which case they ‘panicked’). Internally there is doubt. Lots of doubt. And it all adds up. In this moment the most important thing is to have a philosophy, a set of principles and a concept. With these factors in place the coach can judge performances objectively (wins and losses are NOT objective) and act (rather than react) appropriately, as GM above says, to ‘do the right thing’ rather than to do ‘something’.
A coach can only work effectively in the long term with a philosophy, a set of principles and a concept. Only then can he/she do what’s right.