Webster defines ethos as “the fundamental character or spirit of a culture”. Whether one realizes it as such or not, each coach creates a unique culture for his program and teams. Watching a friend’s summer travel team practice last night, I asked myself how do summer coaches develop a desired ethos for their teams. After all, it’s difficult to develop the desired fundamental character or spirit of even school and university teams, let alone very often hastily put together squads with players from multiple schools.
Last night’s squad has 10 players from no fewer than 6 high schools and while I would describe every player as a good guy with basically good intentions, they were all over the map when it came to general basketball knowledge, motivation and work ethic. As simple as it sounds, this is where the coach comes in-getting all these disparate players to have the same vision for their team and get on the same page.
While one would think that getting a school team to develop the desired ethos would be easier than a summer travel team, the truth is those school players can be just as diverse in their thinking (or lack thereof) as their summer counterparts. The difference, of course, being that many school team coaches theoretically have their players in programs longer both for career length and season length. Yet, I’ve seen travel programs whose teams at every age level play in such a way that would make many high school and college coaches envious. In the end, it’s not how long one has players; it’s what one does with players in the time allotted.
In college hoops there was ‘the Butler Way”, in MLB the “Cardinals’ Way” and even though the terms haven’t been coined to the same degree, there are very definitely a “Patriots’ Way” and a “Spurs’ Way”. There’s no reason why every team can’t have its own unique stamp founded in traditional values and fundamentals.
While an ethos can be developed in a short period of time, it’s also obvious that a longer period of time can produce a even richer character with multiple levels. Any coach who believes his program possesses an enviable ethos will tell you that it’s best passed on from team to team more by the players than the coaching staff. It’s one thing when a coach tells players, “This is how we do it,” and a totally different thing when players tell players the same thing. Another way to describe ethos is a collective frame of mind that permeates everything that a team does in every situation.
Going back to my friend’s travel team, he has 3 players who “get it”. The other 7 only get it intermittently and briefly when they do. Focus is really the main culprit. My friend will eventually get some of the 7 to comply by the force of his personality but with the help of the 3 key guys, he can do it much better-and quicker at that.