For the past 10 years, I’ve been the head coach, boys’ varsity basketball team at a charter school in Chapel Hill, NC. During this season, we’re into the 5th game. Our opponent is tough, gritty and street-smart.
The game starts. Our opponent is playing with urgency. It looks as if we’re sleepwalking. They’re alley-hoop dunking, stealing balls and generally playing with more enthusiasm. Next thing I know, 3 minutes into the game, we’re down 12-0. I call timeout. As the players retreat to the bench, I look at them with both hands up!!!
We huddle up. There’s a long, pregnant pause. I ask them, “What are you doing? The game has started! They’re PUNKING US!!! Let me give you the scenario! Starters, you have 2 minutes to go out there and compete! If you don’t, I’m going to bench you all! In other words, I’ll give someone else a chance to fight! Do you guys understand? Hands in, on 3, FIGHT. 1 – 2 – 3, FIGHT!”
As the game resumes, we’re competing much better. Our opponent isn’t running thru us anymore. Things start getting a little contentious. The other team doesn’t like our newly found fighting spirit!
Next thing I know, one of my players, Osman Sbaiti, gets into a shoving match with the other team. The referee intervenes, breaks up the ruckus and calls both coaches to center court. The referee says, “Coaches, get control of your teams. Else, I’ll start ejecting players. “ I said, “No problem; I’ll take care of it.” I then walked over to my player. My exact words were “Great job! Keep up the good work! You’re moving up the food chain!”
Although we ended up losing the game, it was very competitive! At the end, as we were shaking hands, the other team had great respect for us. Had we not stood up for ourselves, we would’ve gotten bullied.
Lesson learned: Always stand up to the bully. If you don’t, you’ll get run over. If you do, 9 times out of 10, the problem goes away, and you’ll be respected. This principle may be applied in the street, at work and in sport play.