In any sport, it would be foolish for participants to go in without a certain level of belief in themselves. Obviously, strength of body is challenged, but to do battle against others, the first hump to surpass is the inner struggle that goes "Tingin mo kaya mo ba talaga?"
It's the age-old question of confidence, and one that has routinely popped up through various stages in the 2013 FIBA Asia tournament. We put the players aside for now, and take a look at the coaches—the commandants of these soldiers going to war—whose demeanor steers the team.
In the beginning, though the teams may have had their tune-up games and done their scouting, I'm pretty sure they've only scratched the surface of what they actually know about each other. So as not to spill too much information out, but at the same time let everyone know that they won't be pushovers, they give safe, steady statements.
Consider the one by Kazakhstan head coach, Matteo Boniciolli, “We live to compete, respect our opponents, but we’re here to win,” which I'm sure is pretty much the sentiment of most coaches in the preliminary stages. It's confident but grounded in humility, and never makes the players feel, "Eh kayang kaya naman pala natin 'to eh." Such a general statement also makes sure that they’re not getting ahead of themselves.
In this statement, you hear how they're trying to establish their presence while recognizing the competence of others too.
Next, there is the kind of confidence backed by facts. It's kind of like saying, "Hey, other teams, we're not saying we're good, but check out our resume." This is best exemplified by head coach Memi Becirovic of Iran who has yet to lose any game in this tourney. He said, “I am coach of the best Asian team in the competitions. We won William Jones Cup last month. And it shows we are on the right track.”
This is the kind of confidence I’m indifferent to. I’m not really put off, but neither am I impressed by it. It's a statement of fact, but the way it's said might seem boastful to some.
Then there is also that confidence that emerges from being able to acknowledge the strengths of opponents, akin to saying "Okay, you're pretty good. And I have no problem admitting that because we're secure with what we can do." In a field that is equal parts mind and physical games, having to acknowledge the greatness of others pushes a team to recognize what they're missing, and what they should build upon.
A good example is the head coach of the only team that has beaten Gilas up to this point, Chinese Taipei’s Hsu Chin Che. He remarked how all players of Gilas can play, and how the team has excellent shooters, post players and point guards, and added how supportive the Filipino fans are.
But he reiterated that however skilled the Philippines may be, and how well-supported our national team is, he reminded his own to “not to think about the Philippines too much.” He just stuck to what needed to be done: “If we hit our outside shots it will be easier for our big men to score.”
Have Gilas tell you all about that one.
And as you go through the challenge of a tournament that requires you to play almost every day, you'll most likely go through...the slumps. Which we also like to call around here as the abrupt crash of confidence.
Look at China, the defending champion. Considered by many as one of the strongest teams in the tournament, they have shown an unexpected weakness after their bad loss against Iran. Then their top gun, Yi Jianlian, had to sit out a couple of games due to an injury. “We have some bad moments tonight. We lost the rebounds by a lot. We gave up a lot of free throws. We made a lot of mistakes. It's difficult to play basketball with these difficulties.” Without even actually seeing head coach Panagiotis Giannakis, it's easy to picture him—head down and eyes on the floor—when he said that.
NEXT: Obviously, we're rooting for Coach Chot!