Saturday, August 19, 2017

What Makes a Good Team?

Winning is not synonymous with having a good team...but it helps. Relationships will always matter

Seamless talent, work, and leadership are dimensions of a good teamTalent without work gets wasted. Work without talent earns respect but seldom excellence.Talent and work without leadership creates chaos and dissatisfaction.

Good teams have superior leaders. Leadership requires reciprocation. It flows up, down, and across organizations. In The Hard Hat, Jon Gordon describes the life of a Cornell lacrosse star, George Boiardi, who tragically died in a lacrosse match. Boiardi was the consummate teammate who is remembered even today with an annual dinner. Gordon described George as a "come with me" teammate. 

Good have good followership,too. Coach Starkey reminds us about the '30-second rule'. Inspire immediately. 

In Above the Line, Urban Meyer explains that he expects elite players to drag teammates into the top ten percent. To work out, players must bring a teammate along.

Effective leadership sets clear expectations, roles, and discipline. It requires respect and fairness. Anson Dorrance tells a story about a conversation he overheard between a player and her parent about playing time. The parent implied, "Anson doesn't like you." The player, getting frustrated finally said, "Don't you understand, Mom? Kristine is just better than I am." Players know when they are treated fairly and respected. 

Everyone can't have the role they want, but good teams have players performing their roles at their best. Dorrance says that a team grows according to the average of the relationship between the best and happiest player on a team and the worst and most dissatisfied player. In Teammates Matter, Alan Williams relays a story about not getting a black and gold 'WF' basketball bag (with his number) as a walk-on at Wake Forest. He then found a bag in his locker, with the number of the star player. The star had taken care of him when the equipment man did not. 

Good teams practice well. Buffalo Bills' coach Sean McDermott provides clarity, "That's what it gets back to in terms of earning the right to win. How we meet, how we talk, how we workout, how we practice when we do practice, how we play - that's the standard we're trying to get to every day." It's always about detail. "Pete Carril reminds us, "No drill is any good unless it’s used in some form in the game. There is no transfer of learning." Coaches say, "Play purposefully." It starts with practicing purposefully. 

We have limited control over our teams. We struggle because of lack of knowledge, lack of execution, and lack of caring. But we oversee the development of team culture, character, player autonomy, and accountability. If we add enough value and get enough buy-in, we can have a good process and a good team, regardless of our record. 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Morning Routine

We help players by providing tools that yield sustainable competitive advantage. We know that adolescents need eight hours of sleep. Can they benefit from a morning "program"? It's about developing YOUR program.

I have the luxury of a 3-5 minute morning commute. 

I offer the following...

1. Wake up early (5:45)

2. Make the bed ( wife does this, but I'm going to help.) 

3. Coffee. Recent studies report coffee decreases mortality. "After a 16-year follow up, researchers found those who drink one cup of joe per day had a 12 percent decrease in mortality. Those who consumed two to three cups reflected a reduction of 18 percent mortality risk."

4. Morning planner. What two things have to be done today? 

5. Morning stretch. Dynamic stretching 8-10 minutes.
- Hip flexion leg lifts
- Hip abduction (side stretch)
- Hip flexion (knee to chest) walk
- Truncal/neck rotation
- Shoulder rotation (circles and cross stretching)
- Jumping in place
- Hip flexion/knee flexion (butt kickers)
- Karaoke (I have about a 50 foot hallway including the family room )

6. Meditation (5-10 minutes). Refresh the mind. Chade-Meng Tan (employee #107 of Google) is an engineer and meditation resource. He advocates for having a meditation 'buddy', doing less meditation than you can (make it an indulgence not a chore), and taking one breath a day. "Take a breath." He also preaches to spend ten seconds wishing happiness to two random people a day. 

7. Reading (30 minutes). I favor nonfiction as long as it's well-written. However, I recently read a non-fiction work The Handmaid's Tale and Brian McCormick's 21st Century Practice. 

8. Writing. Complete/review blog entries. I edit almost every piece, seeking brevity and clarity. 

Productive people cultivate productive habits. They model greatness. Tim Ferriss' Tools of Titans shares a panoply of productivity ideas and interviews with highly effective people. 


Halfcourt shooting warmup, shooter rebounds own shot...passer runs to half court  and becomes next shooter. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Lo Siento (No Mas!)

"Lo siento." I don't want to hear it. I don't speak Spanish and neither do my players but I explained the meaning at workouts recently. 

I don't want to hear it in your 'business' sense, your 'basketball play' sense, or your 'botched it' sense. 

Business. Take care of business. That means get your homework done right and on time. Finish your chores on time and done well. Get enough rest. A "non-sleepover" at your friends translates to sluggishness at practice. 

Basketball. Don't apologize for playing hard. If you commit a charge or set a legal "thunder screen" (you don't see it, you hear it) that's a basketball play. Sure, help the girl up, but maintain your space. There's no apologies for basketball plays. 

Botches. Backcourt, line violations, 3-seconds. Be aware of boundaries Shot turnovers. Know good shots for yourself and each teammate. Passing fancy? The bigs don't want the ball at their ankles or three feet over their head. Don't let passes go awry because you didn't finish your cut, weren't looking at the ball, or don't come to meet the ball (shorten the pass). Ida Know. Whom are you covering? You can't seriously want to play and not know. 

Do the next right thing right. I don't want to hear "lo siento"...unless you're Linda Ronstadt. 

Bonus: McCormick Layup Chase drill

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Mindfulness (Take a Breath)

"Mindfulness carves out new pathways for relieving stress...and is proven to improve performance." - Mindfulness Goes Mainstream (PBS)

Serious coaches leave no stone unturned searching for a sustainable competitive edge. Physical, technical, tactical, emotional, and psychological education merit attention. 

Many will simply blow off the 'mental experience' training, considering it soft and unmeasurable. How is that going to help me to higher performance? Without high level mental function, high performance is impossible. 

"Meditation improves mental health, improves heart and lung function, and improves focus." We can use it to manage anxiety, stress, and depression. Mindfulness training induces neurophysiologic change. Mindfulness training elevated golf trainees' national rankings relative to those in a control group. 

"It is a competitive advantage at work."

"Freedom from worry and regret...mindfulness is about bringing the state of awareness...into your daily life." Mindfulness is the opposite of being "out of our minds". 

"Meditation is hard because you have to stop everything." You can start with one breath a day! We can use mindfulness to clear our minds and make more resources available to us in the moment. "Mindfulness can help individuals recognize the first negative just a thought." - UMASS Professor Jon Kabat-Zinn

George Mumford worked with Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Shaquille O'Neal during their NBA careers. “George helped me understand the art of mindfulness,” Bryant said. “To be neither distracted or focused, rigid or flexible, passive or aggressive. I learned just to be.

Graham Betchart works with a host of young NBA stars like Aaron Gordon, Zach Levine, and Karl Anthony-Towns. He also wrote, Play Present: A Mental Skills Training Program for Basketball Players.

Even the NCAA, with eyes on every dollar, is spending resources on studying mindfulness for student athletes. 

"Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan could care less about their last present."

"Anyone can go 0 for 5; you have to be really good to go 0 for 10." 

"My next shot IS good." At the end of the day, it is about investing in yourself. "When do we practice focusing? Right now." Your "next play speed" is how quickly you can return to the present...ideally it becomes continuous. Heaven can wait; improvement cannot. 

We can change how we experience life. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

What Actions Make a Difference?

"Do more of what's working and less of what isn't." 

Repackage that as "do what's good for the kids." The counterstory? "Are we building a program or a statue?" Make life and basketball differences. 

Establish priorities and emphasis. 

Life priorities. "Take care of your business", schoolwork, extracurriculars. Be consistent in each area as model and supervisor. "I cannot hear what you say over what I see you do." Read at least 30 minutes daily. Learn about our world

Positive attitude and action...demonstrating commitment to our craft, both the science and art of coaching. 

Basketball emphasis. Education changes behavior. Be clear, consistent, and detail-oriented. 

Kevin Eastman says, "KNOW your NOS" no paint, no penetration, no bad closeouts, no second shots. Translate symmetry into offensive actions - paint touches, ball reversal, quickness and anticipation on the offensive boards. 

"Movement kills defenses." Brian McCormick argues coherently for random and expansive practice. He argues for constraints and small-sided games. That doesn't mean you can't drill competitively (see below). 

Teaching players the value of separation (during the small-sided games) leading to easy shots (e.g. give-and-go, ball screens and slips, advanced cutting, off ball screens) requires patience and repeated demonstration. 

Sometimes it's painful, literally. At practice, I modified the "Rollouts" drill, with the defense rolling out the ball...and I played, demonstrating the on-and-off ball screens, cuts, and VDE (vision, decision, execution) scenarios. I also modeled the value of communication about screens, cutters, and help. 

But you have to finish (make shots). 

Repeat with one dribble move into shot (left, then right)...a reasonable way to shoot competitively and get up 54 shots. "It pays to be a winner." Consider having a daily practice winner. 


Sunday, August 13, 2017

Dimensions of Improvement

Nobody ever acknowledges disregard for improvement. But improvement demands self-awareness, self-regulation, and an improvement process. 

Improvement requires physical (my body is fit and powerful), technical (this is how I play), tactical (this is how we play), and psychological (this is how I am affected) proficiency. How can you conceive of expanding your role ("become more to do more") if your component skills shrink? Therefore, even if you don't enjoy every part of the game, that doesn't excuse you from understanding and improving those areas. 

Players determine their level of aerobic conditioning and strength. Even if you are working with a position coach, they may not have the depth to suggest aerobic program or a weight program. If you're lucky, your high school has a training program. In our community, they offer a "bigger, stronger, faster" program. Girls are sometimes reluctant to participate because of a perception as becoming "manly". But having power for finishing, rebounding, and establishing position advantages girls as well as boys. 

As great as some players have been offensively, they may be ridiculed for lack of effort or interest defensively

For example, we see players who become one-dimensional, as they "fall in love" with their outside shot and retreat in other areas (ball-handling, driving, passing, etc.). They develop technical 'imbalance' as well as tactical limitations. Even 'coordinators' (e.g. in football) require extensive knowledge of their opposing domain. A defensive coordinator must understand core offensive principles to defeat them. 

To improve, you need coaching (mentoring), role models (patterns), and individual workouts. 

I was fortunate to have coaches who were candid in their assessment and criticism of my play. And I had a role model (via television).

As a young player, I had offensive deficiencies that limited my opportunities. I put masking tape on the bottom of my eyeglasses to overcome looking down. I dribbled a ball when going for walks. I practiced shooting in the driveway wearing gloves to enhance my 'feel' for the ball. I duct taped a tennis racket to a step ladder to simulate shot blockers. That allowed a certain level of competence (if not excellence) to emerge.

There wasn't any option for individual instruction, AAU, or personal training. But we had the library, the playground, and the driveway. Coach Wooden preached, "Never let what you can't do stand in the way of what you can.

You make yourself a better version and reinvent yourself every day. As Tracy Noonan Ducar, former USWNT goaltender remarked, "if you want to be the best, the responsibility lies solely with you." As a player, what are you doing today to improve?

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Fast Five: The Answer Man

"When I was in high school, we had a coach I learned a lot from - all negative...our coach believed that the answer to everything was drills and conditioning, but the only tragic flaw in his system was that when we lined up, we didn't know what the hell we were doing." - John Gagliardi in The 21st Century Basketball Practice by Brian McCormick

There's the old story about the coach holding a basketball, running his hand over the surface, telling players "this is what there is to know about basketball." He then takes a Sharpie and draws a tiny circle on the ball. "This is what you know about basketball." 

Henry Finkel happened by my office one day, looking for another doctor (I am NOT his doctor). I said, "It's great to meet you Mr. Finkel. I've never met an office furniture magnate before." He laughed. I replied, I know "27 points a game, All-American at Dayton." He said, "how do you know that?" I replied, "it's disturbing." 

I do not have all the answers, by a long shot. But like Diogenes, I'm looking. 

We find some answers at practice. But summer workouts bring a degree of frustration...a small number of players get some instruction and the tetrad of explanation, demonstration, imitation, and repetition (EDIR). But it's a seminar not a lecture hall of eager students. 

Developing and implementing a basketball curriculum is a tremendous challenge, amidst competition for student's attention from a panoply of other opportunities. And teaching "the science" of sport, without the application won't get us far. 

As Brian McCormick writes, "do my drills focus on technical skills or do they include the tactical decision making similar to a game?

Clearly, players need fundamental offensive (dribbling, passing, shooting, rebounding, pivoting, and cutting) skills but need "applied fundamentals" to flourish. 

I call this drill, "10 seconds to glory". 3 needs to learn how to read and use screens to get open. The drill runs on a countdown after entry to 1. If 3 can get open on the wing, she can shoot, get 'iso' if the post relocates to the elbow, play "two-man game", get a side pick-and-roll, dump the ball to a post on the cross screen, or (rarely) get a give-and-go with 1. If 3 can't get open, a post has to flash to the ball and set up a new set of possibilities. But the "clock" is running. Defenders have to decide whether to lock and trail, overplay, switch, et cetera. 

I'm realistic. Middle school girls don't SEE most of these as possibilities. And when they do, the execution seldom is eye-catching. But I'm still carrying the lantern. 

Finding a balance between teaching fundamentals and game action and the ballet of VDE (vision, decision, execution) determines our progress. Even having a process gets stymied by summer reality. Blending the 'science' and the 'art' into a creative success, possession by possession, drives our agenda. 

The UNC Women's Soccer program had a sign in their locker room, "We Have One Agenda: Excellence."