One of the things I really believe in as a coach is the notion of a competitive cauldron. I first ran across this term in a book by highly successful North Carolina women’s soccer coach Anson Dorrance. The idea is that you gather all of these kids from different backgrounds and experiences, and you’re somehow supposed to mold and shape them into a team.
Though all of the players who come to a school like Duke are extremely talented, it’s always interesting to see how they perform and act when they get into that competitive cauldron. Most of them had been the best player on their high school team—and now they are surrounded by players who are either just as good or better. Some of them respond to that challenge by working harder and making themselves better players. Others, however, become swallowed up by that cauldron and never become the players they should be.
Coaching requires teaching and mentoring and diving into the task at hand—being in the moment and dealing with whatever you have to deal with to make it work. Every coach in every season is going to have obstacles to overcome: injuries, players not performing up to par, and other adversities. It’s always interesting to watch how different coaches handle all of these challenges: Some try to find a way to battle through the problems and still find success, while others throw up their hands and say, “All of my best players are injured—there’s no way we can win.” I don’t think those individuals ...