A Column: In Three Parts

What does it take to develop perseverance?

I’ve been having this conversation a lot recently. When raising kids, and in our education system, one of most important things we can teach them is perseverance; the ability, willingness, and desire to fight through a challenge and find success. But that’s not as easy as teaching someone how to block out, or shoot a free throw. So, how do you do it? How do you teach a kid to have grit?

It’s a process, but the most important factor is struggle, or failure. Kids have to be put in a position where they can safely fail, struggle through correcting the mistakes they’ve made, and find success after the struggle. This may sound like I’m advocating putting Luke Fischer in at the point guard against Aaron Craft. That is not what I am advocating, because kids also need to be put in positions to succeed. It’s not easy.

You have to put kids in a position to succeed to build their confidence, but also allow them to struggle to build their grit. It’s a tough balance to strike, so you try to find safe spaces where they can fail. You don’t want to put a kid behind the wheel of a car without training so they fail and learn from their mistakes. You want them to fail in a space where no one will get killed. Science experiments are great for this. Most science experiments done by actual scientists are massive failures. Either the conditions were wrong, or the hypothesis was wrong, or there was some unknown factor involved that causes a result you were not expecting. That’s how scientists make discoveries. Through hours and hours of failure.

And as I have watched us play these first 15 games (13 plus the 2 exhibitions), against mostly terrible competition, I wonder if finding this balance isn’t exactly what has been going on with this team. Crean has certainly played enough players, in enough combinations for enough minutes to give guys the chances to succeed and against lesser competition and fail in a safe place. It’s been frustrating to watch at times, but I wonder if this is the only way to true growth. And True Grit.

We’ll see.

I still haven’t found what I’m looking for

Indiana basketball may have tried to appropriate “Where the Streets Have No Name” as their “Sirius,” but the more appropriate U2 song for Tom Crean and this team is the above mentioned, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” The starting line up has not changed much from game to game, with the notable exception of Jeff Howard getting the nod that one time Jeremy Hollowell played really well. But Tom Crean has substituted with such insane frequency that one thing is perfectly clear at the midway point of the season.

The reason I have no idea if we’re any good, or what line up is our best option, is that the head coach doesn’t know either. And that being the case, I’m glad he’s still looking. This endless searching is part of what led to the emergence of Evan Gordon as a legit scoring threat, and it has given any number of players valuable in-game experience that should benefit them moving into conference season.

I’d love to see this settle into a steady rotation of 8 guys, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. Add to our standard starting five, Gordon, Davis, Perrea, Fischer, and Robinson who have all shown themselves to deserve at least some amount of playing time, and Etherington who I really thought would be more of a factor this year who will still see the floor with some regularity, and you have 11 guys getting regular minutes. Who do you cut from that list to get down to 8?

Luke Fischer made this a little easier yesterday by deciding to transfer, which was either surprising or completely predictable depending on which part of Tom Crean’s response you choose to believe.

It’s possible some separation will occur over time, but based on what I’ve seen so far, I can’t tell you which is the milk and which the cream.

Everything looks too hard.

I am away from the hard drive holding the screen captures I wanted to show you to illustrate this point, but onward we go. We are all aware that turnovers are a problem for this group, but of a slightly larger concern for me is that even the things that work seem too hard.

We discussed previously our difficulty in getting good shots and how exhausting it is to work that hard on every possession to get a good shot, but it’s more than that. There were two moments in the Kennesaw game that worked very well, but looked overly complicated. The first was the entry pass that went into Luke in the post that was just slightly behind him. He had to catch it against his butt, get it free and shovel it to a cutting Troy Williams, that pass also not landing exactly as intended, for Troy to score cutting along the baseline. It was a give and go that resulted in a score, but dear lord did it look sloppy.

Equally as effective/sloppy was the turnover Yogi attempted to take up the court in the second half. First is bounced behind him, then between his legs and against his butt, then he had to dribble it a few times while the defense collapsed around him before he got control of the ball and drove the lane for the basket. Again, the result was a fast break basket. But the process was a confused mess.

In review: The fact that we don’t have anything approaching a set rotation, and that everything right now seems like a colossal amount of effort, may all just a part of the process of allowing for struggle and failure in order to develop true grit. The hard part is that we won’t know if it worked before we have to watch it all unfold, and the unfolding might be unpleasant.

Jeff Taylor