“I Can” or “I Will”

Saturday’s intrasquad scrimmage was the last chance our guys had to perform in a competitive setting in front of our coaches before our first exhibition game Wednesday. Some guys entered the day trying to hold their starting spot while others were just trying to prove they belong in the rotation. The games were competitive and as always, some guys out-performed others. However, what is the definition of “out-performed?” Is it always the guy who scored the most points, shot the best percentage or had the most rebounds?

With the stat sheets in hand and the impressions in mind, as a coaching staff we must now evaluate each of our players’ talents and determine what role they must play to give our team the best chance of winning.  Determining each player’s role within a team and then getting them to buy into it is one of the most crucial aspects of coaching. Our staff has constantly communicated to our players that those who perform to their ability in the classroom, execute our offensive and defensive principles, make their teammates better and play with great passion as they achieve a certain level of success will play. Period. The End. However, shock and disappointment happens every year to at least one guy. They don’t understand why they aren’t getting the minutes they think their high shooting percentage and play-making ability on offense deserves. Their frustration grows if the guy who is rewarded with more playing time is not as talented offensively. Once these roles are determined and communicated to each player, how will guys handle their success (starting or in the rotation) or frustration (not starting or getting just a few minutes)?

I believe our staff’s ability to get guys to commit to their roles is what has allowed us to be the most successful staff in the SEC over the last 5 years.  This has a lot to do with the strong relationships we develop with our players. Coach Pearl really emphasizes relationships to our staff. Therefore, we all work really hard to clearly communicate our expectations, build trust, respect, loyalty and always show them that we genuinely care for them not only as players but as a family member, too. This sounds a lot easier than it is. As a former player, I know how a lot of these guys think when it comes to their playing time. If they aren’t playing a lot or performing well, they are embarrassed. They feel like they’ve let their coaches, friends and family down. It’s tough. I sympathize with them. Playing basketball means a lot of these kids.

But no matter what level of success (high or low) they are currently having it is important to remind them how much their attitude will effect whether or not they change for the good or continue down a slippery slope to loss of confidence and negativity. One of the best ways to combat this is to set goals and commit to them not with an “I can” attitude but an “I WILL” attitude. I believe this puts more purpose and accountability into these goals. An “I WILL” attitude won’t allow a player to give in to adversity and give up on their dreams. An “I Can” attitude allows for those who aren’t fully committed to waiver. “I Can” do it but it’s just so hard. It’s uncomfortable. It’s not easy. The “I Will” attitudes are going to do whatever they can to be successful. They will pause, reevaluate and modify their plan and then work with a revitalized passion and focus toward achieving their goals.

These are the type of kids I believe we have. As their roles of starter, backup or out of the rotation are communicated to them Monday, we don’t expect anybody to be satisfied. Once you become satisfied you become complacent. You start patting yourself on the back, stop working and start falling. What type of attitudes is our team comprised of? “I Can” or “I Will” attitudes? In order for us to prove critics who picked us to finish 4th in the SEC wrong, I hope our players will come to practice Monday with the attitude, “I Will”– be willing to play my role and do whatever  I can to help our team be successful.



About Mark Pancratz's Blog

A native of Schaumburg, Ill., Mark Pancratz played Division I basketball at UW-Milwaukee, earning his degree in marketing and finance. He joined Tennessee's staff in 2006 as a graduate assistant, earning his master's degree in sports management later that year. Serving as a G.A., director of video scouting and assistant to the head coach, Pancratz was an integral part of Tennessee's six-consecutive NCAA tournament appearances. At 26, Pancratz boasts an impressive 18 games of NCAA Tournament experience as a player and/or administrative staff member. He is a member of the Illinois High School Basketball Hall of Fame and voted one of the 100 Legends of Illinois High School Basketball. Pancratz resides in Knoxville and is married to the former Brooke Waddell.
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