Why A Pro Basketball Team Practiced Wearing Coats…

In Personal Growth
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When I arrived to play in Montenegro, the club had recently opened a brand new gymnasium. 

The floors shined. The seats were still dusty from the finishing of construction. No one ever bothered to dust the place off. 

Still, the new gym looked good. It smelt like fresh wood-stic (that’s my name for the wood-lookalike plastic material that composed the surface of the basketball court). 

When the lights were turned on, the gym was a great venue. My first practice with the club, I didn’t miss a shot. 

For games, I always felt excited to walk through the tunnel from the sparse locker rooms out onto the court. 

The gym had only one issue: there was no heating system. 

Well, maybe there was a heating system, but no one ever bothered to turn the damn thing on. 

I don’t like being cold. I’d moved from Philadelphia to Miami to guarantee myself 11 ½ months of warm weather every year. 

Our coach in Montenegro wore this big, long coat all the time. He wore it during practices. He wore it throughout the games. I’d see him walking around town and he had that coat on. I don’t think I ever saw him not wearing it. 

The coach was smart to wear his coat: it was as cold in the gym as it was outside. 

Montenegro sits on the Bay of Kotor, which feeds the Mediterranean Sea. It doesn’t get bitterly cold there; the winter month temperatures settled in the 40-50 degree range. 

But, think of how you’d feel in an un-heated building when it’s 50 degrees outside. 

Early in my time there, my teammates told me to “bring a sweater” to practice, since it was “sometimes cold in the gym.” 

The snobby, entitled American I was, naturally, I asked why the heat wouldn’t be turned on in a brand new facility. 

This question was met with shrugs. I never got an answer to this. 

So we practiced with hoodies and sweatshirts most of the time. Most mornings the lights weren’t even turned on in the gym; we practiced by the daylight coming in the big windows at either end of the building. 

One day our coach has us doing a version of the shell drill, a defensive positioning exercise. The coach told me, through a translating teammate (oh yeah — the coach didn’t speak English) that I was moving too slowly through the drill. 

He was right: I was moving gingerly through the drill so as not to pull a cold muscle in the cold gym. 

I replied to him in English. 

“That’s because it’s fucking cold in here!” 

That didn’t need to be translated. Coach clearly understood what I’d said. All the players laughed. 

Then the coach said, translated, “yes — but everyone else has to do the drill, and they’re cold, too.” 

I didn’t have a comeback for that. 

Sometimes a situation is not set up to your liking, and there’s no logical reason why it can’t be adjusted. 

Yet, nothing changes. 

At that point, you have but two choices: 

  1. Underperform as you complain about the circumstances
  2. Deal with the bullshit the same way that everyone else has to and do your damn job. 

I talked about these choices in the following: 

#1210: Don’t Complain — Play The Game!

#352: No One Pays For Mediocre

#362: How To Win The “Road Games” Of Life

#598: Sometimes, Sh*t Is Just F*cked up

#618: Your “Hard Work” May Not Be Hard Enough

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