Archived Story

Good coaching is the X-factor in the postseason

Published 11:03am Monday, October 25, 2010

As an athlete, when you win it’s hard to give a lot of credit to the coach.

When you lose, it’s easy.

“I should have been in at the end of the game, and we should have run this play not that one.”

The athletes win games — coaches lose them.

That’s the mentality I had until March of my junior year of high school.

For two seasons, I was a member of an Albert Lea varsity boys’ basketball program that underachieved during the regular season. With a plethora of talent, we went just 27-28 over two years. We never beat Mankato West, we never beat Mankato East and we never beat Rochester Century, and guess who I blamed?

The coaches.

But it was partly the coaches fault and they admitted it themselves. Coaching is a major part of every win and loss, and the coaches reflect on their performance after each game just like players do. And a good coach will take ownership in bad decisions. Mine did.

So as I dribbled through my two years on the basketball team I grew frustrated with a lot of things: Injuries, playing time and the effort and attitude of my teammates, but coaching was at the top of the list.

We lost 28 times — blaming the coach was easy.

But finally on March 25, 2005, things changed.

We limped into the Section 1AAA tournament my junior year, winning only three of our last 10 games including a heartbreaking last-second loss at Austin.

We were slated the No. 4 seed and matched up against a very good Northfield Raiders team at home.

But during a short week of practice we were given copious notes by our coach detailing each player’s skill set and how to defend them. We practiced hard but more importantly we practiced intelligently and come Wednesday’s game, we were more prepared than we had been all season.

We won 60-53 and earned a trip to the Rochester Civic Center to play No. 1 Red Wing — a team that had been to the state tournament the previous eight years.

Again, the coach prepared us with notes and intelligent practices, and we upset the Wingers 52-44.

The championship game was against Faribault — a team we had lost to twice that season — but the same drill led us to a 51-44 win and Albert Lea’s first trip to the state tournament in 69 years.

We, the players, performed well, but something was different. It was the best, most purposeful coaching I had received in my basketball career and we finally stopped underachieving.

Good coaching put us on a bus to Minneapolis.

Despite having our 15-14 record displayed next to Shakopee’s 30-1 record in the state tournament program, we earned our spot and a good performance by our coach and players kept us three points away from upsetting the No. 1 team in the state.

The section tournaments for prep football starts Tuesday, and it’s a fresh start for many area teams.

As important as good coaching was in the regular season, it’s even more important now.

Despite how poorly a team plays during the regular season, anything can happen in the playoffs, including, much like the 2004-05 Albert Lea boys’ basketball team, an unlikely trip to state.