UWM coach Pat Baldwin writes about the process of overcoming adversity

February 20, 2020

By Pat Baldwin
Men’s basketball coach
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

UWM men’s basketball coach Pat Baldwin believes that maintaining the right process is the key to getting through difficult times.

One of the more popular catchphrases in sports today – you hear it all the time from coaches and athletes – is “trust the process.” As in, “We’ve just got to trust the process and we’ll get through this adversity,” or “I’m trusting the process and seeing improvement.”

What does it mean, exactly, and how can it be applied in jobs or occupations that have nothing to do with bouncing, hitting or throwing a ball?

Trusting the process simply means trying to do what you believe is right, every single time. I think it’s easy, as we go through struggles or adversity, to get off track. The trust comes from knowing you’re moving in the right direction, doing it the right way and not compromising your belief system.

In January, we had a stretch where we won five out of six games and beat some good teams, including Green Bay and Youngstown State (in overtime). Then we lost three in a row, though we had a chance to upset Horizon League-leading Wright State.

Every team is going to go through lulls, periods of cold shooting and tough losses. That’s when it’s important to trust the process. How do you handle adversity? Do you have the mechanisms, people and support in place to push through it? It starts at the top.

It starts with leadership, whether it’s me or my staff. We always try to figure out what’s the best way to get through a period of struggle. We don’t try to reinvent the wheel. We try to stay the course. And then it’s the leadership on your team. We’re dealing with 19- to 23-year-old men. Are your older guys able to stay strong during periods of adversity?

I had breakfast with our seniors recently, just to make sure they’re relaxed and not putting too much pressure on themselves. What I want them concentrating on is having fun and playing as hard as they can.

You look for guys that are resilient in times of stress. When I played, my coach used to say, “How do you respond to chaos?” Recently, we experienced chaos from the standpoint of not getting the wins that we wanted and expected. So, can you be resilient, can you fight through it? But also, can you remain calm during the storm? That’s trusting the process.

I think basketball is a metaphor for life. You have to persevere. If you’re a salesman, there may be times when you make 25 calls and hear “no” 25 times. Or, you’re in a board meeting or a sales meeting with your colleagues and you’re comparing what other companies are doing versus what you’re doing. You just have to believe in your product, you have to believe in your co-workers. And there has to be a strength in the core in order to get through slumps or sales lulls.

I believe strongly in the vision for our program here. I believe we have the capabilities and resources to build a championship program, but it takes time. If I show any doubt, or if there’s any wavering on my part, our guys will recognize that right away. If I don’t trust the process, how can I expect my players to buy in?

We talk constantly about the fight that you have to have and the importance of maintaining an eagerness to want to win. I will always have that, no matter what.