Pitchin' with Pritch: Learn how to take discipline and apply it

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Since retiring from coaching a decade ago, I have had the opportunity to watch different aspects of coaching and see how things may or may not have changed through the years. 

I think one of the first things I have noticed is players are probably more knowledgeable about whatever sport in which they participate. 

That is good, but it certainly doesn’t automatically mean the player will be more successful than someone who isn’t as knowledgeable. Players still need direction, correction and discipline along with some athletic ability to make things work. 

There are lots of ways to be successful in coaching. I certainly don’t profess any great knowledge of how you get it done other than I had the opportunity to study a number of coaches while I was playing, and I was really lucky to have some great mentors when I started my coaching career back in the 60s.

What maybe prompted this column was a situation that happened during the NCAA basketball tournament during a Michigan State game, and it has nothing to do with X’s and O’s. The situation featured Tom Izzo, the Michigan State head coach, and one of his players, Aaron Henry.

I don’t even remember what happened in the game, I just remember Coach Izzo met his player at a time-out way outside the team huddle and it was obvious he wasn’t happy with the young man.

Coach Izzo is “Old School” as far as discipline is concerned, and as the chewing lasted longer and longer and ran over into the team huddle, causing some players to grab the coach and hold him up from getting into Henry’s face again, you got the idea that the kid must have messed up the entire remaining time in the game. 

I don’t want to get into what the player did, but afterward the player didn’t complain to the school, his parents, law enforcement or transfer from MSU. The shouting was no big deal to the team. 

One of the players who had grabbed Coach Izzo asked the coach what he was trying to convey to Henry and then that player went and demanded it of Henry peer to peer. He later said he just felt at that time he might be able to convey the message to him better than Coach Izzo. That tells me the players understand what is going on and they are able to handle it without pouting and letting it affect their performance. 

Maybe that is one of the reasons Coach Izzo has over 600 wins in his career. Even though there were a number of critics that blasted Izzo, more former players backed him than there were critics.

Now do I think I could have handled it that way? Not really, I had no trouble in raising my voice if I thought it was necessary. I don’t think I could have duplicated Coach Izzo’s performance but for him it works that way and for his players, they understand it. 

I don’t hear much about players transferring from Michigan State’s program. Transferring has become the answer to a lot of athlete’s problems. Over 800 players transferred a year ago to other schools because of real or imagined problems.

Discipline is important in order to be successful. I believe our teams had discipline. We tried to emphasize that when we were correcting them in some area of the game. We were correcting what they were doing and not criticizing them as a person. 

I also know not every high school player I had bought into that 100 percent. I think most of them did and they demonstrated it on the floor. 

I also know some of them won’t speak to me or shake my hand, but I also feel those who bought into those kinds of things have been able to insert that into their adult life and that has helped them way more than playing basketball did. 

Not sure I got my point conveyed here or not, but I know when a person gets out into the real world, there is a chance his immediate boss or his superiors may criticize them, yell at them, dock their pay or worse yet, show them the door. Learning how to take discipline and apply it to whatever you are doing is probably a good skill to learn.

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