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The Kingfisher

A restless, sleepless night.

A coach tosses and turns, his mind swirling. Processing information. “What ifs,” intangibles, game planning, mistakes, decisions made, decisions not made, rattle around his brain. Involving offensive and defensive strategies, calculated gambles, substitution patterns, play calls, rotations.

In the end, nothing changes. A crucial regional playoff basketball game still finishes in crushing defeat. A frantic comeback, necessary due to a sluggish, error strewn start, forces an overtime period but little more. A glorious chance to advance goes begging.

Instead, a season comes to an abrupt, painful, and early conclusion.

Yet, on the periphery of the coach's fractured dreams, a series of ever brightening colours slowly emerge. Eventually, brilliant blues and greens, part of a vibrant plumage, cover an orange breast. A tiny bird comes into sharp focus.

It is a kingfisher, full of spirit and symbolism.

And perhaps an omen of sorts.

Indeed, kingfishers represent freedom, courage, and audacity. Searching from the sky to the waters below, they zoom in on fish to feed on. Their persistence and judgement not only important qualities but often rewarded.

They are brave in equal measure. Though vulnerable to predators, kingfishers are utterly fearless in their natural habitats. By refusing to shy away or hesitate, they prove the value of chasing their desires without dwelling on the consequences.

The images leave the coach much to ponder. Are his plans, his instructions, sufficiently bold and daring? Or is the team too cautious and careful, hamstrung by uncertainty or fear of failure?

Surely, the kingfisher’s indomitable energy indicates that growth and success lie in always moving forward, never staying stagnant. That action, not safety or hesitation, is invariably the best course.

Some time later, smudges of grey seep through the bedroom curtains. A dull, dreich morning arrives on the heels of a tortured sleep. The coach takes stock.

In the end, he ruminates on the essence of leadership, of that espoused by the famous TE Lawrence (“Lawrence of Arabia”) in the autobiographical account Seven Pillars of Wisdom. That, in all things, nine-tenths of tactics and techniques are certainties, pretty much the same from battle to battle, or, by extension, from game to game. Learned in manuals, or by rote and by experience.

However, and if the coach of a team may be compared to the general of an army, it is the irrational final tenth that invariably proves so challenging and, on many occasions, so elusive.

So take heed of the irrepressible kingfisher, flashing with blinding speed across a pool of water. Nothing ever an absolute certainty, but always ready to snatch a prize. Always ready to seize an opportunity.

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