“To what service is my soul committed? Constantly ask yourself this and thoroughly examine yourself by seeing how you relate to that part called the ruling principle. Whose soul do I have now? Do I have that of a child, a youth… a tyrant, a pet, or a wild animal?”

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 5.11

It has been some years.

The more I have learned, the more I understood that there is a vast darkness around me. I remember of a saying that described knowledge as darkness around a campfire. The more knowledge you acquire, the bigger the fire gets. Then, so does the darkness. By achieving knowledge you realize how big the “unknown unknowns” are. Things we do not know we do not know.

Minding my own business – I got a call from Sandy. This is the time I did not use WhatsApp or any of that, so I got more calls than text messages. I do not recall the exact day, but it was around start of the summer as we were changing teams. Opportunity was – to take over first women’s team. What? Bear in mind – this is the time I actually wanted to get rid of training at all, or at least top down to only one Team.
“Okay, maybe I can swap u18W with D1, but I want to do ONLY one team!” was my first response.
Well, we all know how that went. Sleep over it, she said. And I did. Once I told my wife the news, I could see in her face that I have already made a decision. It did not matter what kind of ‘self talk’ I performed walking around our two bedroom apartment.
“You promised to be more around home!” my wife objected.
“I know, I know…” I replied. “But if I do not do this, then who will?” I asked.
Silence. She knew.
So the day after I got back to Sandy and accepted – I will take on first ladies team. And the u18W for the last year. They promised to leave if I did not continue to train them, this was the master plan all along – to train ONLY u18W in the season 2021/22. Worked out fine…

Fast forward – this was a challenging season to take over a team. I won’t even put flowers on it, this is not some book publishing, this is a blog post after three years of silence. This one goes for my books.
We are coming out of the hardcore pandemic and it still was not over. Nobody has any idea, everybody does their best and we try to preserve what we can. Only later I would realize that I am taking over a team that is relatively new, worked its way through pandemic and my mission is to fill shoes of a coach who had it for 5+ years and rebuilt it from scratch. Oh, and by the way – I have to get them back into the higher league. Good luck Valts.

At this point, this is becoming a rant and I won’t even deny it. Why? Because it’s past and we all got over it. Still, it is the part of the story. Season hit us hard at the start and I was really doubting my abilities to pull this adventure straight. One part of it was my persistence to introduce the “free basketball” to the Team. I knew it would be a challenge. I just did not assume it would take a whole damn season and more. Perhaps I had overestimated my abilities and that of the team and underestimated the impact the pandemic had on us.
If you know me, I did not take that hard on the team as I did take it on myself. Why isn’t it working? What am I doing wrong? How do I get to them? How much time do we need? Am I losing my mind? Why are we losing? Why do we keep going back to previous steps and not advancing?
Question after question and at some point it just goes into a downward spiral. We lost first games, it was a complete chaos and I was reconsidering my whole existence as a Coach and a Leader. It was supposed to be my bread and butter, but there I was – not able to follow myself. Most common question I asked myself over these months – “How can others follow me, if I am not able to follow myself?”.

We were standing 1 win and 4 losses at the bottom of the bracket. Only question in my mind – is this how I will fail the team? Take over the women’s team in damn Bezirksoberliga and fuck it up? Sure we had close games under ten points, but it takes only one point to win or lose. If we can’t break it – that’s it. We are going to leave the league. Players can’t do nothing for it, they were following me more than I thought they would. Something was missing.

The turning point? Our game six in the season against München Ost. Before that it’s been three losses against top teams and many cancellations due to Corona. So we could not compete with teams on even level or lower, but had to compete against top notch teams in the league. So was the München Ost also. This is where we take a little discourse.

This season I also completed my C-license in competitive sport as the action got cancelled completely because of the Covid last season. To be able to complete this license, one has to partake also oral examination with three questions. One of them was how to defend 1-3-1 Zone defense. Which I failed miserably – I have never played nor taught this particular Zone defense. This mistakes would me almost cost my license. I took it as my challenge and duty to learn and add this particular defense to my arsenal and got my team to do it. This also collided with the game against München Ost as I planned to use it to throw them off the track by switching different Zone defenses. All I had to do is teach it within one week to the ladies…

Getting back on track – it worked like a charm. Team went full in on the 1-3-1 and our defense got maximum effect on München Ost and even though they were favorite over us (even in my eyes) we managed to pull off the only thing that could’ve worked – great defense and decent offense. This was exactly what we needed as a team – success against a strong opponent. Word has it – they did not anticipate outcome like this with the roaster they brought in..

After, we won another three straight games. We got even with Wolnzach by implementing another defensive miracle with box-and-one and isolating their top scorer, who for some reason, was shooting EXACTLY against us like there is no tomorrow. Literally, she needed as little as 1s release for three-point shots. So the best bet was that she does not receive ball at all. We finished the season against Fürstenfeldbruck with two duels as they were coming out of tough season and re-building the team. For them it was more about getting the experience and toughening up, for us it was a chance to try new things and generally grow together as a team.

So here we go, a tough 5/4 season with uncertainties and more questions than answers. It’s not too far fetched to say – everyone was more tired of cancelled games than the ones being played. Something like that is not good for ones head.

The Biggest Change of all
Perhaps you fret and think you can’t make a difference in the way things are. Wrong. You can make the biggest difference of all. You can change yourself. And when you do that you become a very powerful and important force – namely, a good role model.
I believe you can do more good by being good than in any other way.

Coach John Wooden, A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court

All that, I am really looking forward to another season with Hellenen first ladies team, I think we have had a good “ice-breaker” season and we have developed a strong foundation on which we can build up for the future. Even if tough at start, we came through and I started to see the beauty in their game I had planned from the beginning. It is just beautiful to watch a team having fun, discovering something new and implementing it against the competition. This was also lesson for me, not to doubt my own vision, even if we have to go through the process and come back again, even if the pace is slower as imagined – trust the way, trust the team and they will deliver. At the end, maybe you are the change they need?