Coach’s Column: Chris Martin

By Chris Martin (TheLorian)

This has been a year like no other. As coaches, we usually spend our off-seasons recruiting, game planning, spending time with our players, and developing our players’ skills on and off the court. This year we have spent less time on those aforementioned strategies and more time than ever on our players’ mental and emotional health. Although this may not be where we are trained as coaches, it is where we felt we needed to lean in during this unforeseen time. As a program, we are choosing growth over apathy, engagement over isolation, knowledge over ignorance. We hope our program comes out of this year better prepared to face life’s unknowns.

In 2020 (so far) we have faced COVID-19, a divisive election, racial and social injustice issues, and an athletic season that seems to come into question every couple of weeks. College athletics is hard, really hard actually, but it also gives our student-athletes a platform to rise up, grow, and overcome anything that may be in their way, both now and in the future.

Off the court, the pause this pandemic has offered is the best opportunity we all have ever had to grow! This past year the NCAA passed legislation to give our teams ten days outside our playing season to complete any type of small group leadership training we wanted. We used these days to come together as a team off the court, hoping, and now seeing, that it would carry over onto the court and into our relationships as players and coaches. As players and coaches, we presented on our FAITH, (Family, Attitude, Integrity, Toughness, Humility) leadership, politics, racial injustice, and strength and conditioning. We have planned programming about our team mission statement, personal mission statement, how to create good habits, and grit!

On the court, this year our motto is easy: Work Hard, Have Fun, Improve, and COMPETE! Or is it that easy? We are constantly asking ourselves “What would we be thinking if we were a first year or senior? How are these guys’ bodies doing? How should we practice them knowing we don’t have a game for 3 months? How do we evaluate these younger guys with no non-conference games?” This year is more about trying to find the right balance of preparing a team to win a conference title and understanding where each guy is mentally and physically at any given moment. Balance is tricky because we want to both foster individual growth and push each player to be the best he can be in order to win games. Winning titles isn’t easy, but then again nothing they have faced this year has been.

In my opinion, what we do OFF THE COURT is what college athletics is really about. We are able to teach and learn real-life lessons that will help us become better men, fathers, husbands, and members of our communities while using the game we love to do it. As Tony Robbins wisely said, “there are only two options: make progress or make excuses.” We work hard to choose progress daily, and encourage our players to never make excuses.

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