What Did I Miss?
I've started thinking differently about our exit interviews.
For the past decade we have met with individual players following each season to learn about their experience, to find out what they liked and didn't like, and to look ahead to next season. Those conversations were largely productive, but rarely enlightening.
In general, they tend to enjoy the experience, they want to play more next year, and film sessions are too long.
While our interview questions have stayed relatively consistent over the years, my approach this year is designed to answer two district questions:
1) What information do I now have that I should have known sooner?
2) How could I have found that information when it would have mattered most?
In her outstanding book Thinking in Bets, Annie Duke calls this "hidden information." There are always things we don't know that will affect the outcome of our decisions, the challenge for leaders is to improve our information systems to discover more of what we could know to improve the decision process.
There are obvious examples of this on the court. We lost one particular game after giving up 16 points on the weak side dive. We didn't practice defending it because it wasn't in our scouting report, and we hadn't seen it on film during our prep. However, we later discovered they ran the same action against another team before we played them, but we didn't find it. Why not?
In our interviews we are learning how some players just outside the rotation were frustrated with a perceived lack of upward mobility. Some felt like they weren't given a chance to compete for time once we settled into our regular substitutions. To be clear, they handled it exceptionally well. It never caused any drama, or became an issue that affected our team negatively. That being said, I wonder how I could have communicated differently during the season to give them better feedback. In other words, I have a very clear sense of why they didn't play more, but I'm not sure I ever shared that explicitly with them as the season went on, or helped them to improve in those areas to increase their chances of contributing.
This new information has spurred a healthy discussion about our practice structure as well. Did these players have enough reps in our system to prepare them for minutes in varsity games when they did go in? Did they get enough time running our stuff in live play to learn, develop, and demonstrate growth? Should we have allocated at least some of our time differently, especially considering these same players will be competing for more prominent roles next season?
The answers are not always clear, but the conversation has been incredibly valuable.
The search for information has also forced me to listen intently and to ask good follow-up questions. For example, after asking about the season's challenges, we might ask a player when their confidence was the lowest. Then we cross-check their answer with our 1v1 schedule to see if we met with them around the same time. If not, why not? If so, were we aware of their crisis in confidence at the time? Could we have done anything more to help them?
We also apply this same thinking to adjustments we made during the season. For example, our defense got a lot better as the season went on. We made some changes to our coverages over winter break and to our rotation in January, and the results were significant. As I reflect on the season, I wonder if we could have recognized the catalyst for those changes sooner.
While all this woulda, coulda, shoulda talk can sound confusing, I hope this point is clear. We aren't just searching for new information in our exit interviews, we are challenging our ability to find pertinent information when it matters most so our decisions can be better informed next year.
And yes, we will do our best to shorten those film sessions.
Food for thought.
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