Updated: Jul 22, 2020
We read books to our children almost every night before they go to bed and have been doing that since Keagan was born. One book they have wanted to read several times in the last week is a story called Stone Soup. I'm sure there are many versions of this story, but the one we have follows Molly and Max as they enter a town, looking for something to eat and a place to stay. Upon seeing them about to enter, all of the towns people agree to hide all of their food and supplies because they don't want to share. Molly and Max begin making "Stone Soup" as an intrigued towns folk look on. Upon tasting the "stone soup" they have made, the characters encourage more and more of the towns people to add to the soup by saying, "Stone soup is great plain, but it's even better with..." In the end Molly and Max create something out of nothing and encourage sharing. They all end up helping each other to create something that they wouldn't have been able to make on their own. It's obviously a story about being generous and helping others, but it got me thinking about coaching and leadership.
I often feel that we talk about things like leadership and team chemistry as they are these arbitrary, simple topics that everyone understands. When in reality these things are very complex and very seldom are entire teams on the same page about even the definition of the word leadership. I think many people stand on the sidelines and wonder why certain teams fail or don't live up to their supposed talent level and I think it's because the team doesn't know how to make "stone soup." Now almost all fingers will point to the coach and while there is some truth there, I don't think all coaches are good at making stone soup. If you are going to look at comparing making stone soup with coaching, to me it's about pulling out the best in each person and combining it with the rest of the ingredients that each player brings to the table, putting it all together, and creating that team chemistry. I think there are some coaches who are very good at this and I think there are others that aren't good at it yet. If you'll notice in the Stone Soup story, everyone in town has something to offer and when basically asked "who has any....?" someone always says, I know where to find that and then brings it to the soup. Now this, in part is about pulling out of your athletes the best pieces you can, but it's also about recruiting. Team chemistry is in a lot of ways about balance. Sometimes the "best" team on paper is not always the best when you throw them all out on the court together because you might have the wrong chemical make-up and balance when it comes to personality on the floor. My assistants gave me a hard time over the years for recruiting athletes with a little bit of "edge" (that's a good word for it), but I always felt like those girls were more fun to coach, always had a personality and most of the time you need at least one person that can turn-up the intensity of everyone else around them. But it's a balance right? So you also need the "non-edge" athlete on the floor as well. So, recruiting can sometimes be a jigsaw puzzle when it comes to trying to balance all of the personalities on the floor at the same time. Keep in mind you also have to be pulling all of the ingredients you need for the soup, from each individual and making sure everyone is adding to the soup! Stone Soup certainly starts with recruiting, but a lot happens on and off the floor once those athletes are there. It's not an easy task for coaches to assess what ingredients an athlete has to add before they get on campus and a lot of the time those athletes don't really know what they have to offer until they get there; even then for several athletes I coached, what they contributed to the soup would sometimes change and also grow as their career progressed. I think every athlete can have a different role on the team. Sometimes those roles are very in your face and other times very much behind the scenes. As a coach is trying to find all the right ingredients, you might find your self contributing in a way you didn't know you could or hadn't in the past. That is always a good thing. What's makes the soup good is the combination of ALL the ingredients! Different personalities create different ingredients. All of those ingredients are important to the soup.
I say all of that to say this...Want the stone soup. Want to play for a coach and a program that is not only willing to start from scratch, but also that wants to pull the best out of you so that you can contribute to the soup. Contributing an ingredient to the soup means you are contributing to the success of the team. Being a team is not just about finding all the best athletes and putting them together; it's way more complex than that. It's about finding the best athletes that can all bring a different ingredient to the soup and turn nothing into something great. That's Stone Soup.
Sign up for the PRI Newsletter by clicking HERE!
retold by Marilyn Sapienza