Long time followers will know that I have in my time been guilty of the classic internet reflex of propagating, and on occasion even composing my own, inspirational quotes. Recently I have had second thoughts about this practice, for a few reasons.
We have all seen the beautiful meme attributed to Abraham Lincoln (superimposed on a picture of George Washington) to beware of internet memes. Particularly in the moment of history we now find ourselves in, I now fact check whatever I share.
We have also all seen quotes from Kobe Bryant extolling the virtues of teamwork and Shaquille O’Neal about hard work. Those quotes, and many others, may well be accurate and were indeed uttered by the attributed author. But Bryant also said “Friends come and go but banners last forever” and Shaq also said “I was hurt on company time, I’ll rehab on company time”. The two of them are great champions and examples on many themes but they are the last people you should listen to on those particulars topics. Add to that list any big sport US college coach on any topic relating to ethics and sportsmanship and student athletes.
MISINTERPRETATION AND MISUSE
Statements by anyone are prone to misunderstanding both intentional and otherwise and direct misuse. I have recently seen Shunryu Suzuki’s quote “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities but in the expert’s there are few” used to extoll the virtues of an expert’s mind. Many lists exist explaining the differences between bad and great players. These lists are most often shared on coaching sites. While the lists are at best half truth generalisations, their existence provides coaches with neat narratives to explain away lack of success.
CREATING UNREASONABLE EXPECTATIONS
Quotes and lessons from great players are for the most part misleading, and in many cases dangerously so. Biographies, long form articles, interviews, quotes taken out of context etc never provide the whole of any story and when boiled down to a few (one) key point/s very often give unrealistic understanding of what is always, always a vastly complicated process with many ups and downs. In doing so unrealistic expectations are created. Coaches learn what they have to do. Players learn how they have to be. Nobody has to do anything, in any particular way, in order to be successful.
Success cannot be boiled down to anything, least of all an inspirational quote on a well designed meme.
The collection of Coaching Tips can be found here.
Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.