In the mid-2010’s, the fan base of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers adopted the slogan “Trust the Process” as their team built for the future. The popularity of that phrase has led to it being adopted by numerous teams across all levels and sports. While “The Process” may mean different things to different teams, my interpretation of the concept generally is: if we are doing things the right way and staying true to our principles, good results will eventually follow (even if the immediate results are not ideal). As coaches, we all have some version of “The Process” that we follow – our roadmap to prepare our teams and build our culture. We spend countless hours thinking about this process and how to implement it, and while there are always unexpected circumstances that make us adjust our plans, we can generally foresee the type of obstacles we might face.
I would imagine for most of us, the ending of this season was not within the realm of possibility until just before it happened. There was not a roadmap to follow and it was not an obstacle for which we prepared a contingency plan. Instead, we were faced with it as a rapidly evolving, real-time event. In a 24-36-hour period, most of us went from practicing/playing, to having our season suspended, and then canceled.
It was difficult to comprehend, and I felt a tremendous sense of loss for our athletes that give so much to the game. Even when we know the end of our seasons (or athletic careers) are imminent, we are never truly prepared for it because it means so much to us. For all the athletes who had their seasons/careers end through a meeting with their coaches or a notification from an athletic department or governing body rather than on the field, court, ice, etc. this year, I can’t fathom how that felt.
That was the primary lens that I viewed everything through in the first couple days after our season was canceled. It felt unfair that after all the buildup and preparation, we did not get to complete the paces of the season. It was jarring that we were together one day and forced to stay apart the next. I immediately missed being around our team every day.
A day or two later, as the COVID-19 threat accelerated, I started to question my initial reaction. With so many real-life issues that have impacted (and will continue to impact) so many people, why was I so hurt about losing the rest of our season? Was it selfish or wrong to feel that way? Did I process this correctly?
With another week to reflect, it seems natural and reasonable for a coach or an athlete who has just lost the game they love in an instant to feel, express, and hold on to that sense of loss even when they can understand the reason behind it. It is also natural and reasonable (especially during this time) to be much more concerned with what is happening with our families and friends and dealing with new realities.
The coming weeks (or months) will undoubtedly bring similar conflicting feelings as we manage our communication structure and efforts to continue team building while balancing the real-world implications that we will all deal with from COVID-19.
While most of us did not previously have a “process” built for the sudden end of a season and dispersion of our teams, I believe we all will find it by taking the pulse of our teams and staying true to what we are feeling. There will not be one “right way” to move forward in this environment and what we see one team doing on social media may feel wrong for another team. However, just as we all trust the process to build a team, we can now trust how we (individually and as a team) are processing all that has happened, and will continue happen, to find the best way forward together while we remain apart. Best wishes to all and be safe.