The Rejection Business

Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do your best to create the conditions for good things to happen.

“Basketball just isn’t fun for me anymore,” this would-be senior told me at her retirement meeting last week. Despite being in this business for over 20 years, this is a reality I still haven’t gotten used to.

When players choose to leave the game, it often feels personal, even when it’s not. In the immediate aftermath, I comb back through years of interactions with the player, and the decisions we’ve made that affected her experience, searching for fault. 

Was it something I said? Was it something I did? 

Most of the time, it was not, but that doesn’t stop me from wondering why we can’t keep more players out through their senior year. The rule of thumb seems to be, “If I’m not going to be in the rotation, it’s not worth my time.”

To some extent, I understand the logic. Basketball, like all sports these days, requires an enormous amount of time and energy. As we have improved, the bar for cracking the lineup continues to rise. With so many other ways to spend their time, it probably shouldn’t surprise me that eventually most will level out before their senior season.

However, I would be lying if I said it doesn’t hurt. It feels like rejection, and that can be a miserable place. However, just like anything else in life, I am learning that it’s how we respond that makes all the difference.

Ryan Holiday prescribed one simple change in our approach to outcomes such as this.

Change the definition of success. 

At the end of the day, there are too many variables at play to have complete control over who stays out and who doesn’t. What we can do is give our best effort to create the conditions for good things to happen. 

Good things happen in positive environments where people are valued, connected, and empowered. 

Good things happen when people put in the work to selflessly pursue a common goal.

Good things happen when a leader is true to their authentic self.

Good things happen when coaches and players care for one another. 

According to Holiday, good things happen when you “do your work, and do it well… then let go and let God.” 

In a coaching world that is desperate for control, perhaps the greatest superpower of all is the peace of mind that comes from knowing you did your very best to create the conditions for good things to happen.

Food for thought.

Nate Sanderson


Four Ways to Push Through Adversity and Failure Without Ego by Ryan Holiday

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