Norman Dale and Listening to Your Team

Posted on May 2, 2014 | in Basketball, Leadership, Respect For People, Sports | by
Norman Dale hoosiers

Hickory High basketball coach Norman Dale learned the value of listening to your partners.

To continue our deep dive into the Lean principle of “Respect for People” we now take a closer look at a fictional basketball coach in a famous sports movie. In Hoosiers famous basketball coach Norman Dale (played by Gene Hackman) takes over the basketball program at Hickory High School in super-rural Indiana. There are certainly many lessons about continuous improvement that can be pulled from the movie – focusing on fundamentals, finding a way to succeed on the court with limited resources, trusting in your players and partners, fostering a genuine team atmosphere. If you’ve seen the movie, you’ve observed all of these things.

One of the key plot threads is the dictatorial attitude exhibited by coach Norman Dale. He’s a know-it-all, he’s won bigger games than Hickory has even played in their history, and it’s his program. However, with the most critical game possession in the state championship game, we see a major attitude change:

(link to video)

Throughout the season Coach Dale and the team knew that Jimmy Chitwood was “money in the bank” but Dale tried to scheme too much on the last possession instead of letting the team (who all knew better) do what they knew they could do all along. Perhaps in earlier games Dale would have stood firm on the play he calls but he relented and trusted Jimmy Chitwood with the last shot with the game on the line.

The result? A Jimmy Chitwood final shot pure through the rim and a Hickory state championship against the big bad team from South Bend.

As for a real-life example of a coach fully trusting his players, look no further than Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs. As has been written here before, he has been coaching his core group of players for years and they know each others’ strengths and weaknesses as well as talents and schemes. He trusts his players to do what they know has to be done and there’s very little in the huddle he can tell them that they don’t already know.

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