“A value isn’t a value until it’s been tested.” – Bob Richey, Furman Basketball
I highly recommend this podcast, hosted by Chris Oliver, with Bob Richey, the head coach at Furman: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-basketball-podcast/id1398261897
Bob Richey makes a great point about your values. He uses the example of ball movement being a core value at Furman. But he makes the point that it isn’t a value “until it’s been tested.” What happens when you get a guy who doesn’t really share the ball much, is more of a one on one player, but has the ability to get you 20 on any given night? Do you make sure that guy is going to share the ball the way everyone else does, or do you give him more freedom to play individually and make plays? That is when your value is tested. If you don’t coach that player to share the ball the same way you do everyone else, then ball movement really isn’t something you value. It’s a preference.
We are faced with these situations often as a coach. One of our core values at Rhode Island College was toughness. I’ve always found myself attracted to tough players, and luckily the ethos of Rhode Island College as a school was a good match for me. We had a lot of tough kids. But early on as a head coach, while I found myself talking about toughness all of the time, and being very clear about the behaviors that exhibited the level of toughness I liked, I wasn’t really rewarding it. I was leaning more towards playing the talented guys than the tough guys, who usually filled in for spot minutes off the bench.
Finally I realized I wasn’t practicing what I was preaching. If I wasn’t going to talk about toughness as a core value, and I was going to hold guys accountable for tough plays, I needed to reward it. I needed to make sure toughness was rewarded with playing time. That was when our core value of toughness got tested. If I wasn’t willing to reward it, it wasn’t really a value. It was a preference.
I realized I wasn’t being true to what I was saying, and I made sure to reward the right level of toughness. We had a bunch of incredibly tough kids who were usually walk-ons who weren’t recruited. They didn’t have the same level of skill or ability as some of our other players, but if I thought toughness was really that important to our team (I did), they had to play. Almost every year we had at least one, sometimes two, walk-ons in our starting line up who were just tough-as-nails kids who refused to let you beat them. They may have not looked the prettiest or been the most skilled, but they always found ways to help us win. Not only did we start winning games consistently, but our culture developed a rock solid core. Our guys knew that I valued toughness so much that our toughest players were going to start and play a lot.
A value isn’t a value until it’s been tested. It’s one thing to talk about it a lot, but when it comes down to making important decisions if that value doesn’t stand up to the test, it’s not really a value. It’s a preference. And talking about it as a core value will slowly erode your credibility.