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Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Elite Eight: You're Trying Out. What Matters?

Tryouts began yesterday. Over THIRTY girls showed for an hour first session. I only have two eyes. Here's some imperfect advice for players. If we give you the answers to the test, then you have to use them.  

1. "Pay attention." Attention is a prime determinant of learning. "Be here now." Make eye contact. 

2. Be eager. I sat the girls up on the baseline and said, "I need a volunteer." Nobody moved. Fear? Shyness? Does it matter? At camp, practice, tryouts...if the coach asks for a volunteer, you have got to be up like you were shot out of a cannon. "I got this." 

3. Differentiate yourself. You must find a way to stand out among your peers. A few years ago a girl wore "rainbow socks". She stood out. A luminescent yellow shirt isn't a substitution for elite size, athleticism, or skill. But if you're on the fringe, you stand out.

4. Play hard. Run hard. Be aggressive. Get the loose balls.

5. Be aware of your body language. The majority of our communication is non-verbal. If a play doesn't go your way, don't hang your head or drop your shoulders. Stay engaged and positive. 

6. KNOW that talent isn't everything. Intangibles count.

7. Make teammates better. Throw good passes, move without the ball, set good screens, talk on defense. 
8. Be strong. Toughness is a skill. 

Dribble Mania Stolen from Don Meyer with Annotations

Superlative article from legendary coach Don Meyer on using the dribble. DRIBBLE PURPOSEFULLY. 

Here are five KEY POINTS. 

"A good player needs no more than 1 or 2 dribbles to get from the wing to the rim. In all our breakdown drills, we don’t allow our players to use more than 2 dribbles to get to the rim, unless they are using a hesitation move, back dribble, etc. " (Comment: Good players need two dribbles, excellent players one, elite players none.)

"We want our players to drive in straight lines to the rim. We don’t want them veering out. Our goal is to make contact with the defense (make contact with the man guarding you and contact with the 2nd line of defense)." (Comment: Don't bail out! Basketball is not a contact sport; it is a collision sport.)

"Use the dribble to get out of trouble, not into trouble." (Comment: Don't play in the traffic! Bad things happen.)

"The only reasons to dribble are: 
1) To advance the ball up the floor
2) To improve passing angles (especially feeding the post)
3) To get out of trouble
4) To get to the rim"
(Comment: And 1 skills are not a reason.)

Great players typically only have 2 moves with the dribble; the Go-To move, and the Counter move. (Comment: simplify and be great at what you do a lot.)

Monday, October 30, 2017

Seven Deadly Realities and Two Drills

We become more effective through autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Robert Greene wrote the New York Times bestseller Mastery.

He discusses "the Seven Deadly Realities" littering the path to Social Intelligence. And social intelligence (as part of emotional intelligence) parallels effectiveness and performance. We know them when we see them. 

Envy. "Charity rejoices in our neighbor's good, while envy grieves over it." Thomas Aquinas  

Chuck Daly remarked, "Every player wants 48 - 48 minutes, 48 shots, and 48 million." We don't know for sure why Kyrie Irving left the Cavaliers, but envy may have played a part. Be a champion in your role.  

Conformism. We become what we strive to become. Find the continuum between chaos and disruption and creativity. A little chaos is good. Creativity demands discomfort. The Olympic gold medal figure skater endures 20,000 falls to become a champion. Within the team concept, individuals must find their muse. Yes, sometimes we have to go along to get along, like Bill Walton getting haircuts at UCLA, but seek to understand the individual. 

Rigidity. "Be clear about your goal but be flexible about the process of achieving it." Zig Ziglar  

"It's my way or the highway." Even authoritarians like Bobby Knight found ways to cede some freedom (e.g. time of day for practice) to players. Good ideas can come from anywhere. Flexibility allows us to find solutions "out of the box." Steve Kerr adopted videographer Nick U'ren's suggestion that the Warriors go small against Cleveland in 2015. Inserting Andre Iguodala helped lead them to a title. "The last fifteen minutes of a dictator's reign are always his worst" has proven true repeatedly. 

Self-obsession. Ego is the enemy. Ego sees how events affect me not how it distresses us. The African proverb says, "We can go faster alone, but farther together." Ego begets drama and disharmony. Ryan Holiday shares the Bill Walsh line, “Confidence becomes arrogance, assertiveness becomes obstinacy, and aggressiveness becomes recklessness.” Ego takes leadership over the line. Ask General Custer or General Joseph Hooker, defeated by Lee at Chancellorsville. Find ways to build your program not your statue.

Laziness. The Zen aphorism, "Chop wood, carry water" applies. "Take care of your business" on and off the court. Industriousness is one of the cornerstones (along with enthusiasm) of Coach Wooden's Pyramid of Success. "The magic is in the work." I intend to start tryouts with a couple of warmup laps but I'm focused on who doesn't cut corners. 

Flightiness. Attention to detail, consistency, and commitment define us. Southwest Airlines thrives as "the low cost airline." Las Vegas boasts, "what happens here, stays here" but what happens at practice must translate to competition. Flightiness manifests as poor preparation, poor quality products or services, and bad habits. Flighty teams don't have strong cultures and consistent identity. 

Passive aggressiveness. We employ passive aggressive behavior to maintain our status and status quo. The NCAA tried to kneecap Kentucky's John Calipari by short-circuiting the time period in which players could declare for the draft. Players undermine coaches with suspect injuries (Manny Ramirez couldn't say which knee hurt) or by refusing to practice ("It's practice."). Coaches don't cooperate with media. Bill Belichick is the passive-aggressve poster child.     

Each of us can "relapse" into egocentric behaviors. But excellence isn't a foolish consistency; excellence models high performance. Players learn not by what we say but by our example. 

Bonuses: two drills

Manitoba rebounding drill

One-on-one two dribble limit. Catch on the move and attack...

Sunday, October 29, 2017

"Let Me Know"

"You never get a second chance to make a first impression." - Anonymous

My wife and I recently returned to Boston from Atlanta on Southwest Air, "the low cost airline." The plane was a little over half full. 

One steward was particularly gracious and communicative. "Can I get you anything? If you change your mind, let me know." He made a huge impression. I let him know. He answered, "I'm having a good day." 

Service excellence wasn't unexpected; service was clearly his purpose. 

But it made me think, can I work better, communicate better? Three little words showed purpose, personalization, and persistence. "Let me know." 

Patrick Leoncini wrote The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. They apply equally to sport and business. 

Do you trust your teammates? Distrust keeps players from throwing look ahead passes, passing to open players, setting 'thunder screens' and from cutting hard and knowing a pass will come. 

Do you fear conflict? Engage your teammates. "Get back on D" and "know whom you have." 

Commit. Success demands that you care more, prepare more, do the extra sprint, push through the extra lifts, study the playbook, eat right, and get your rest. 

Hold yourself to high standards. Lead at home. The parents of a former player (Kayla Wyland, former League MVP) told me, "she's just as great at home as she is here." Lead in the classroom. "Don't cheat the drill." Be just as engaged on the bench as you are on the court. 

Results mean your BETTER VERSION. Your process defines you. Win the day through consistency and persistence. What's your morning routine? Are you attentive and engaged in the classroom? Have you done your chores right and without complaining at home...your first team? Are you stretched out, physically and mentally ready to go before practice has started? 

"Do the next right thing right" and you'll have no regrets. "Let me know." 

A Woman's Place: Empowering Women Through Sports

Sports empowered many women, some household names and others less known. 

Some women overcome physical disabilities on the path to greatness. Wilma Rudolph, the 20th of 22 children, suffered polio at age 4. She was told she would never walk. She worked tirelessly to walk and became an outstanding basketball player growing up in Tennessee. But track made her famous. She won three Olympic Gold medals in the 1960 Olympics. She became a teacher and founded the Wilma Rudolph foundation promoting amateur athletics. She appears at 2:09 in the video above.  

Some women break gender barriers. Billy Jean King was the queen of women's tennis for five years, won six Wimbledon titles and four U.S. Opens. But she is best known for her defeat of Bobby Riggs in 1973 in three straight sets after Riggs challenged her to a match. The New York Times wrote, "Most important perhaps for women everywhere, she convinced skeptics that a female athlete can survive pressure-filled situations and that men are as susceptible to nerves as women." A Seventeen magazine poll labeled her the 'third most admired woman in the world.' She won almost two million dollars in prize money and founded World Team Tennis. 

Women go where few have gone before. Arlene Blum led a 1978 expedition to summit Annapurna, one of fourteen peaks over 8000 meters in Nepal. Blum's all-woman expedition challenged ideas about women's adventurousness and risk-taking, but exposed them to the same elements and risks of high-altitude climbing. Their climb was particularly challenged by an unexpected number of avalanches. Two team members summited and a second pair died during their attempt. She later wrote, Annapurna, a Woman's Place

Women prove their toughness. Captain Kristen Griest and Lieutenant Shaye Haver were both elite high school runners. Griest played softball in high school and Haver played soccer. Both completed the torturous Army Ranger training, earning the coveted Army Ranger tab. 34 percent of trainees fail in the first four days of training lasting over sixty days. Major Lisa Jaster subsequently became the third woman to finish the training and the first woman reservist to do so. 

Women succeed in fields dominated by men. Michele Roberts is the NBA Players Association executive director. A lifelong Knicks fan an accomplished attorney, she added, "I've got thirty teams now." About being a woman in a man's world, she adds, "My past is littered with the bones of men who were foolish enough to think I was someone they could sleep on." 

Women break the 'glass ceiling.' Laura Sen competed in gymnastics as an adolescent. She became one of Fortune's 50 most powerful women in business as CEO of Fortune 500 company BJ's Wholesale with over eleven billion dollars in sales. She also focused on community service as Chairman of the Board of the Pine Street Inn, New England's largest homeless shelter and housing transition program. 

Sports and success belong to everyone. 

Saturday, October 28, 2017

What Drills "Belong" in Tryouts?

Tryouts have inherent limitations, especially time. Both players and coaches want a "fair" evaluation and a selection process not based on favoritism or politics. I certainly don't have "the way" and always look for "a better way." 

We choose what we want to measure and our beliefs about how to measure it. 

Tryouts must be age appropriate. Testing three-point shooting in sixth grade girls isn't likely to prove much. 

Time constraints demand a fast tempo and simplicity. Action takes priority over lecturing. 

In Carl Pierson's excellent book, The Politics of Coaching, he includes (for high schoolers) speed, strength, and vertical jump testing. Objectivity helps differentiation. 

Observation yields impressions of size, athleticism, skill, and intangibles (attitude, decision-making, effort, toughness). Many younger girls (I've always coached girls) are reluctant to communicate, to lead, or to embrace contact. 

What skills do we want to see and how can we best measure them? I wish I had that perfected. 

Physical and mental toughness are skills and hard to measure, especially in a couple of hours. 

This review suggests 15 basketball tryout drills

"You're not Kyrie." I discourage "dribbling the air out of the basketball." I want to evaluate players' capacity to space, pass, cut, and screen. Defensively, I want to assess ability to pressure the ball and understand off-the-ball defensive principles. In middle school girls, both are works in progress. 

Here are five I like and my rationale. I'm still thinking about using "shell drill." 

1. Three dribble layups from half-court. When my daughters tried out for middle school AAU, the coach tested TWO dribble layups from half-court. That was ugly for 6th graders. This tests maneuvering speed, dribbling, and finishing. It's all relative. 

2. Full-court five on five, no dribble. Can you pass and cut, move without the ball, pressure the ball? I also will want to watch some four on four half-court with only one dribble per player. 

3. Dribble tag inside the arc...test with both dominant and non-dominant hand. 

4. Three lines, two balls. 

Pass and cut, with no traveling (right). Outside passers dribble with their outside hand. This tests passing and movement. 

5. UCONN shooting. 

I'm asking a friend and former coach to act as another set of eyes. I want to get a look at "bulk" shooting (off the catch)...I expect maybe twenty girls to run the drill at both ends. I've already been warned to expect no height...

I'd love to hear your suggestions. 

Friday, October 27, 2017

Fast Five: Tryouts Deep Survival

“The maddening thing for someone with a Western scientific turn of mind is that it’s not what’s in your pack that separates the quick from the dead. It’s not even what’s in your mind. Corny as it sounds, it’s what’s in your heart.” 

― Laurence Gonzales, Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why: Who Lives, Who Dies and Why

Do you want to survive tryouts? How will you show the coaches and your potential teammates that you belong? 

1. Radiate purpose...specifically, how do you impact the game (offense, defense, rebounding, energy)? If you don't have some combination of size, athleticism, and ability, "what is your skill?" Defense is a skill. Grinding is a skill. 

2. Make your teammates better. Scoring speaks for itself. But communication, moving without the ball, setting screens, spacing the floor, blocking out, providing energy, taking charges, being able to help your teammates without the ball informs them that you understand the process. Make good decisions and limit mistakes. 

3. BE coachable. Listen and follow instructions. Show attention and awareness. Practice with high tempo. Be fired up and ready to go, be "into it," demonstrating that basketball is important to you. I measure engagement during tryouts by asking for a volunteer for a drill. By the time "I need a volunteer" is heard, somebody has got to spring up. I respect your time. Respect everyone's time.

4. Differentiate yourself. Show us the WHY. Are you here because your parents want you to play, or because of your drive, the intangible blend of AUTONOMY, MASTERY, and PURPOSE in life? Basketball is a game demanding individual excellence within a framework of constant sacrifice. We had a sixth grade girl show up with earrings, eye shadow, makeup and designer gear. My daughter asked me, "is this supermodel practice?"

5. Have energy. Find a way to play under control "with your hair on fire." Don't cut corners. I ask players to take a couple of laps just to SEE WHO CUTS CORNERS. There's no shortcut to success. Bring energy and energize your teammates. You can lead even if you're young. Show the game some love. 

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Repost (Updated): Baggage

We all carry baggage. We might carry baggage from our childhood, relationships, failure, and success. How can success deposit baggage? The classic is Hoosiers, where Coach Dale wants to run the "picket fence" instead of putting the ball in the hands of his star. 

We may "play it safe" because aggressiveness led to failure in the past. Baggage weighs us down when it interferes with 'doing the right thing.' I know a physician who shared that his surgeon father called it a bad day when he didn't make two nurses cry. 

Marcus Smart determined to overcome childhood baggage. Marcus' friend A.J. Luckey remarked, "I never saw him go half speed on anything; even during drills that weren't meaningful."

But we can learn. I had a patient almost twenty-five years ago who told me during a followup appointment that I didn't seem worried about her cold. That taught me that a patient's "minor" illness isn't minor to them. She sacrificed her time (and money) to see me about her concern. I still care for her today. 

Here's the 'original' Baggage piece...including Nick Saban borrowing from Bo Schembechler. Saban owns "perfectionist" baggage from his childhood. 

"Don't feed the monsters;" let go of our baggage. 

Bonus: "Game Winner" SLOB 'give and go' with options.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Fast Five: Just Like Me and Two Bonuses

In Meng Tan's Search Inside Yourself, he discusses the science and practice of mindfulness. No stickler for grammar, he recommends this exercise, which he calls "Just Like Me." 

Here's an excerpt:

"This person has a body and a mind, just like me.

This person has feelings, emotions, and thoughts just like me.

This person has, at some point in his or her life, been sad, disappointed, angry, hurt, or confused, just like me." 

Phil Jackson advises, "basketball is sharing." Effective players impact the game favorably and make teammates better. How can a good player alienate a teammate? 

Tan distinguishes being angry from being indignant. Anger occurs when we feel powerless but we are indignant when we can change the situation. 

1. Lack of engagement. When a player disengages in transition defense or doesn't know her assignment, we feel indignant. 

2. Shot selection. When a player takes a situationally inappropriate shot, a "my turn" shot, or a (Doc Rivers term) "shot turnover," we are indignant.

3. Ball stopper. When a player won't pass the ball (distinguish can't from won't), especially ignoring an open teammate, we are indignant. 

4. Lack of communication. Help your teammates. When a player doesn't talk, she isn't helping her teammates. Talk "early, loud, and often." 

5. Personal agendas. When a player is more concerned about her 'numbers' and 'minutes' than about her teammates, we are indignant. But remember, "This person has feelings, emotions, and thoughts just like me." We need to find out why and whether we can solve the problem. 


Hubie Brown on pre-shot preparation..."step, T, reach." 

Hubie Brown's version of "America's Play." 

Monday, October 23, 2017

Quality Control

Football is well-known for having Quality Control coaches. Many of us could benefit from similar input. I consider myself a “career assistant” in a low-leverage head coaching position. I enjoy learning and teaching more than game management, substitution, and administration. 

How might we study quality issues?
  1. What are our points per possession close and late (e.g. four points or less, four minutes or less)? 
  2. How can we improve practice? 
  3. Do we have a “competitive matrix” where players are constantly challenged and graded? 
  4. Are we using our assistant(s) effectively?
  5. What is the status of our communication?
  6. What are our trends in shooting percentage differential, turnovers, rebounding, and free throw differential?
  7. How many passes do we make per game?
Time is our ultimate resource and QC coaches could improve our self-assessment and time allocation.

There is always room to do more, give more, and be more.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Alcohol and the Adolescent Brain

“But there’s nothing else to do” or “everyone else does it.”

Alcohol has powerful depressant effects, initially decreasing inhibitions. Alcohol adversely affects many organs, including the esophagus and stomach (gastritis), pancreas, liver (fat deposition, inflammation, eventually scarring/cirrhosis), heart (high blood pressure, rhythm disturbances, muscle damage), nerve (damage), and brain (cognition).

The adolescent brain suffers numerous toxicities from alcohol. The New York Times shares classic information about teen alcohol risks. Aside from impaired judgment and driving risks, teen alcohol use predisposes to alcoholism and impairs brain centers responsible for learning, memory, and spatial relationships.

Peer pressure often overrules both prohibitions and common sense, even when athletic suspensions are policy.

But why should student-athletes particularly care? A single night’s alcohol use impairs hydration (alcohol is a diuretic), muscle recovery, healing, and can cause memory deficits for three days. Alcohol damages sleep. It limits absorption of key vitamins. It decreases endurance.

Teen girls are at even higher risk.  Sports require both coordination and complex spatial processing. Studies showed decreased brain activity in relevant areas (by neuroimaging with functional MRI).

Alcohol use by teen athletes compromises central (brain) and peripheral (muscle and organ) function, some of which can be irreversible. Alcohol use manifests extreme selfishness as athletes hurt themselves and their teammates. Exceptional performance demands exceptional behaviors, persistent commitment, and special discipline. Science and facts not opinion inform excellence.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Horns Quick Hitter Against 2-3 Zone

Horns has a myriad of applications and some advantage against the 2-3 zone. Horns stresses the low defenders who must make coverage choices.

Friday, October 20, 2017

What Do Patients (Customers) Value?

Regular readers know that I study cross-disciplinary patterns. Here's a slide imaged from a Quality Assurance forum I attended today...assessing what patients value.  

Press Ganey (Patient satisfaction polling company) CEO Tom Lee shared this slide. Doctors may have a slight intrinsic edge over coaches because patients want to give us the benefit of the doubt (competence). Focus on the right edge of the slide, let's call it the 3Cs. 

1. Confidence. If patients had high confidence in the physician, only 1.9% failed to recommend them. Confidence parallels trust and loyalty...just like on your team. 

2. Communication (Teamwork). The average patient in a hospital for 5.5 days for heart failure meets over 63 different people (nurses, technicians, aides, physicians, dieticians, et cetera). Patients (think players) don't want to get mixed signals or confusion. When teamwork reigned, patients were satisfied. 

3. Caring (Empathy). Our patients (players) want to feel valued to feel that we are concerned about their welfare. 

No, it's not rocket science but when we treat people right, communicate, and care...they notice. We make their experience better. 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Fast Five: Winning Isn't Everything**

**Winning isn't everything in developmental programs. 

Middle school basketball creates a platform for sport-specific knowledge, skill building, social skills and relationship building, emotional breadth, and positive psychology. Or it can devolve into an Ivan Drago-esque world of winning at all costs. 

How do you "win at all costs?" Coaching involves player selection, individual and team development, motivation, strategy, and game management. 

Player selection. Tryouts aren't only about selecting the "best" players or the most "promising" players. Some coaches don't select a full roster, so they have no "weak" players. We regularly see teams with ten or fewer players. That's their prerogative, creating more repetitions for fewer players, addition by subtraction. That also applies to playing time, not just the "my kid plays more" but "the best players get the lion's share of time." 

Skill building. I won't deny the "less is more" philosophy regarding reps. And maybe these communities have B, C, and D teams and 'rec league' where participation comes first and competition second. Maybe that's just vanilla and chocolate, preference not style or substance. But the player selection track parallels how the playing field is leveled. The best programs we face practice four times a week. We practice twice. Children have school and other activities including music, drama, and student government. 

Team development. We have something called, "Sixth Grade State Championships." Maybe that's a good idea, but we're never going to win one. I won't bury weaker players on the bench as sacrifices on the altar on victory. One of my favorite teams had a competitive player (became a four-year varsity player) crying and apologizing to the team after a loss. Multiple teammates consoled her, one hugged her and shared, "we win together, we lose together." She got it and is in college now. 

Motivation. Motivate to your values - teamwork, improvement, accountability. Motivate to your process, fundamental skills and small-sided games to evolve to part-whole teaching. Motivate to shared experience. The league asks for nominations to an "all-star" team at the season's end. We don't participate because we're avoiding emphasis on the individual and focusing on contributions to the team. 

Strategy. Most of the "elite" or at least toughest teams we play employ zone presses and fall back into zone defense. I won't deny that's the best way to win at this level, as weaker teams struggle with pressure and zones put a premium on perimeter shooting, better ball reversal, and inside-outside actions that younger players usually lack. Whether it's the ideal way to grow players is debatable. I contend that the best individual assignment defenses use pressure on the ball and zone principles away. So maybe I'm splitting hairs. I do weary of some players asking why we don't play zone. It's not enough that we'll struggle defending the pick-and-roll, but do you have to teach moving screens, too? I don't teach flopping or how to draw charges by pulling players down on top of you, but teach how to avoid having that happen to you. 

Here's my long-winded answer. Because. 

Game management. My least favorite part of coaching (after cutting players) is substitution. No, we don't have "blue" and "white" teams like Carolina did or allow players to sub themselves in or out as Dean Smith. The easiest way to keep it 'fairer' is to draw up lineups and substitute at regular intervals to distribute minutes somewhat equitably. Yes, it's flawed and maybe less competitive. Do I use timeouts to scream and yell at the kids? No, but I've seen it...plenty. That's not the model I trust, and those aren't the memories and values I want to impart. Have I ever dressed down the team? Yes, one memorable time, I told them you cannot back down and let the other team push you around. "You live your life as you play the game." If you let others abuse you, then you are a willing victim. 

Do we win enough? That's not my call and it's absolutely not my calling. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Schepp Screen Games

Success is defined by decision-making and accuracy of execution (vision, decision, execution). 

Kirby Schepp is a well-known Canadian coach who emphasizes fundamentals. "Teach them how to play." He emphasizes communication, movement, and decision-making. 

2-on-2 with off-ball screener...initially no shooting, then scoring. 

3-on-3 with off-ball screener...

We can adapt these by varying the constraints (e.g. dribbling, space) and scoring them. 


True story: the team enjoyed an excellent season, ready to launch a deep playoff run. But just before the playoffs, a player "hijacked" another player's boyfriend. The team fractured and suffered an early exit, ending a promising season in disarray. 

The sign in the North Carolina Women's Soccer room reads, There Is One Agenda: Excellence. The irony slaps us upside the head. UNITY starts with "un" because unity is uncommon, uncultivated, and unappreciated. 

Chuck Daly opined,"players want 48 - 48 minutes, 48 shots, 48 million." Same story, different day. 

What agendas arise in sports? Ego, publicity, money, endorsements, and power. 

Ego. You have the rare athlete, e.g. Sandy Koufax in baseball, who is almost reclusive. But many athletes want and need the spotlight for both the attention and their brand. At the extremes, consider Johnny Manziel, ego becomes destructive. In other cases, ego drives championship performance, as Bill Russell said, "My ego demands - for myself - the success of my team." Wrestler Dan Gable's ego drove him to excesses of training...and championships. We don't entirely know Kyrie Irving's motivation to get out of Dodge Cleveland, but most believe he wanted to leave the shadow of LeBron James. Bill Belichick's separation from Bill Parcells worked out well for the former. 

Publicity. Publicity, branding, and merchandising go hand in hand. LeBron James' "The Decision," came early in his career. LeBron didn't regret his move to Miami, but acknowledged that he would probably redo it differently. Players work their craft and craft their images. Despite one year of college at Cal, Jaylen Brown cultivates a cerebral persona and makes no secret of his wishes to become the Celtics' union representative. Muhammad Ali forged an outspoken brand of brashness "I am the greatest" but also was convicted of draft evasion for his conscientious objector beliefs

Money and endorsements. Exceptional athletes can literally become billionaires by combining performance and pitchman status. Billionaire Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods are synonymous with Nike. Rob Gronkowski boasts of never spending any of his millions in NFL salary as he sponsors everything from video games to coffee and donuts. He has garnered a fortune in appearance money from everything to celebrity cruises to birthday parties. 

Power. Power comes in a myriad of forms - role, influence, social responsibility, politics, and relationships. Some consider LeBron the de facto general manager in Cleveland, with major input on hiring (coaching) and personnel. Coaches may tread lightly to avoid disrupting the mercurial relationships with their stars. Billy Martin and Reggie Jackson went into all out war. Michael Jordan was Jiminy Cricket to Dennis Rodman's Pinocchio. In Knight, Coach Bobby Knight shared his disgust for lack of appreciation for raising tens of millions for Indiana University. The recent NCAA basketball recruiting scandal shows the destructive potential of the aphrodisiac of winning and its concomitants.

Power can manifest in team role, minutes, and as Daly remarked, "shots." Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen coexisted through a championship although later the relationship soured. Kevin Durant transitioned to Golden State with a championship or outward rancor about roles. 

Athletes become entrepreneurs. Ulysses "Junior" Bridgeman manages a restaurant empire worth hundreds of millions. Magic Johnson is a Los Angeles Dodgers owner and fronts a conglomerate of enterprises. Dave Bing owns The Bing Group. Roger Staubach owns real estate worth over half a billion dollars. 

Some athletes champion social responsibility. Jim Brown, Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Ali had vital roles in the Civil Rights movement. J.J. Watt recently helped raise over $30 million for Houston hurricane victims. Pat Tillman joined the Army after 9/11 and died from friendly fire in Afghanistan.  

Athletes may enter politics. Rhodes Scholars Bill Bradley and Tom McMillen became a United States senator and congressman, respectively. Jack Kemp and J.C. Watts became Congressmen. Vikings defensive lineman Alan Page became a justice on the Minnesota Supreme Court. Kevin Johnson was mayor of Sacramento. Scott Brown had a hardscrabble life in my home town and became a US Senator and is ambassador to New Zealand. 

But sometimes 'control' controls you. After interviewing for the Lakers' coaching job, Jerry Tarkanian returned to Las Vegas to find his agent with a bullet in his head in the trunk of a car. The message was clear - stay at UNLV. Athletes, like many others, go off the rails into crime, too. 

Athletes succeed through skill and will. They leverage those into opportunities - good and bad - in society. As coaches, we can help channel those into powerful positive forces. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Core Concepts for Youth Basketball

Fresh (middle school) faces arrive for their introductory basketball education. Where do we start? 

Overarching priorities are:

1) the player experience 
2) player and team development 

The "player experience" includes fairness, respect, communication, and overall process. "Never be a child's last coach" encapsulates player experience. Development means fundamentals and learning the game. Pete Newell described the coach's responsibility helping players to "see the game." Winning comes as a bonus but not the highest priority. Are we playing "the long game" or "the short game?" 

Set expectations:
   "Take care of your business." 
       - Family obligations - responsibilities and chores
       - School - Academics "no ability without eligibility"
       - Basketball 

Create your culture:
   "Play the game right."
       - Respect the game, officials, teammates, coaches. 
       - Put the team first. 
       - Create opportunities for your teammates and yourself. 
       - Compete. Create the "competitive cauldron." 

Forge your identity: 
   "This is who we are and who we are not."
       -Match your style to your teaching and personnel.
       -Accept no deviations - selfishness, laziness, dirty play.
       -Our teams' character should reflect who we are.
       -Energize every evolution - meeting, practice, game. 


    Model exemplary behavior. "Your actions speak so loudly I cannot hear what you say."
       -The loudest voice isn't necessarily the most worthy one.
       -"Plan your trade and trade your plan." 
       -A "performance-focused, feedback rich" environment creates sustainable advantage.
       -Make players write it down. 
       -Create leaders on the court and in the classroom.
       -Details inform results. 

Learn from other disciplines. Ray Dalio shared his in Principles. Peter Drucker set standards in The Effective Executive. Books like HBR's 10 Must Reads on Leadership guide good leaders to become excellent ones. Here is a comprehensive summary

It's too easy to cloak ourselves in platitudes "I'm really good at what I do" instead of doing the hard work, chasing our better versions. 

Monday, October 16, 2017

The Head Game and Harvey Dorfman

We talk about Inside Baseball, the Head Game, or The Game Within the Game. Yogi Berra famously said, "ninety percent of baseball is half mental." Summarize that! But what processes initiate resilience training?

This diagram might define the challenge to our students. 

Or this mantra from Polynesia.

But shortcuts to mental toughness don't exist. Teams don't perform to the level of their education; they perform to the level of their training. Remember the "Undefeated General" Alexander Suvorov, "He set out to transform the lives of his peasant recruits, to render the difficult possible and the unthinkable more palatable."

Master communicator Harvey A. Dorfman wrote Coaching the Mental Game

I share some quotes from Chapter 5:

"Good relationships are established through effective communication..."deal with them" or "establish effective relationships." 

Frank Robinson improved as a manager because he changed. "I try to always leave them with something positive."

Bill Belichick changed after an ineffective stint in Cleveland. "His was an act of will, not of personality."

Donovan McNabb said of Andy Reid, "if you have a coach you can talk to, not just about football, but about anything, that's all you want."

The poetic parable of John Saxe discusses six blind men and an elephant, variably describing a snake (trunk), a rope (tail), and a tree (leg). Their lack of communication produced a poor description of the animal, although each was partly right. 

Some wisdom never changes. James Thurber wrote in 1961, "Precision of communication is important, more important than ever, in our era of hair-trigger balances, where a false or misunderstood word may create as much disaster as a sudden thoughtless act."

"An athlete communicates...behavior that may be based on a lack of understanding, lack of self-confidence, or lack of listening skills...the coach may interpret the athlete to be resistant, uncooperative, selfish, or stupid." 

Billy Donovan said, "the most important  the players to believe the coach is being fair. There has to be constant communication."

"Perception is not necessarily the same as reality. The more the coach communicates with the athlete, the closer the two can come to understanding what is real to each."

My comments: Education changes behavior, but only when the recipient sees value and feels valued. Sharing the truth demands immense trust. How we achieve that is the art of coaching. 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Personal Favorite Blog Posts

"One man's meat is another man's poison." - Lucretius

Thank you for your time. I've shared over 1200 blog posts. A few actually contained original thoughts...

Teaching Aids A non-comprehensive suggestion of resources

Handouts Information worth sharing to players...I got a lengthy note from a former player's mother. The player is a student at the Naval Academy. Her Mom told me the "Pyramid of Success" went with her daughter to school in her gym bag every day from sixth grade through high school. 

Summer Workouts "Can't" and "Try" are failure words disallowed in our program. 

Practice with "Not Enough Guys" Self-explanatory

The Answer Man  The ballet of vision, decision, and execution and "We Have One Agenda: Excellence" 

Dual Track Thinking: Decisions and Execution Paddy Upton on contemporary coaching

What Keeps You Awake at Night? There is no cure for coaching insomnia.

Championship Habits Impact the game and impact your teammates. 

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Made to Stick: The Power of Stories

Leaders have great stories. We value and admire leaders as leadership drives both the performance and perception of organizations. While managers organize and execute in complex situations, leaders are both problem solvers and agents for change.  

Stories change history. The origin of today's NBA "Superteams" doesn't begin with LeBron James bringing his talents to South Beach. Baseball all-star Curt Flood challenged its "reserve clause" that restricted player movement and ultimately constrained player salaries. Flood's rejection of a trade to Philadelphia and subsequent January 1970 lawsuit set the stage for elimination of the reserve clause and the labor movement within both Major League Baseball and subsequently all major sports. 

How do we direct and refine our storytelling, to move beyond "making our point" to changing hearts and minds? 

Jim Collins' Good to Great examined corporate greatness, including Level 5 leadership as one his five core dimensions. The leaders' stories blended humility and ambition, which he initially called "fierce resolve." In the NBA, leaders depend heavily on player and team "buy in," the story that requires ability (teaching, system development, and motivation) and the humility to understand that the players drive the bus and are the product. 

We articulate our message using techniques shared in the Heath Brothers classic Made to Stick. Chip and Dan Heath cite the acronym SUCCESs (simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional, story). Memorable stories rivet our attention and capture our imaginations. The best teams, coaches, and players write the best narratives. 

Vince Lombardi was the hard-nosed Italian-American underdog who believed the system prevented him from getting coaching opportunity. He seized it when it came with the Green Bay Packers and built a dynasty, selecting players for their toughness, ability, and 'chip on their shoulder' attitude. 

He never had a losing season in the NFL, winning five championships in a program built on simplicity and execution. He rejected the NFL's racism and called players "Packer green." One of his themes was "Nothing But Acceptance," setting a standard that players who mistreated teammates would be off the team. That applied to racism, interracial relationships, and harassing gay players or front office personnel. He informed local businesses that any that refused one of his players was off limits to his team. 

Trustworthiness of the storyteller also matters. A non-credible person seldom can represent an authentic story. We know from the TED Talk experience that additional key components include the "wow factor" and humor, especially self-effacing comments. 

Isiah Thomas became a perennial all-star in the NBA. In addition to a pair of NBA titles, he was also misunderstood for a brief perceptual feud with Larry Bird. Some had suggested that Bird was a self-made superstar and somehow that Thomas had a gifted experience. Nothing could be further from the truth. Thomas grew up in hardscrabble poverty, in a single-parent family. He often went hungry, with an itinerant childhood looking for change or scraps of food on Chicago streets. His early dreams were not of stardom but a full refrigerator. In The Fundamentals: Eight Plays for Winning the Games of Business and Life, he wrote, "My earliest dreams were not-as you might imagine-fantasies of playing professional basketball…. My boyhood dreams were mostly about well-stocked refrigerators: huge refrigerators that were bursting at the hinges with mouth-watering roast chickens, heaping plates of spaghetti, and thick juicy steaks.

Conversely, Bill Bradley was the rare 'rich kid' who flourished at the highest levels. He recognized that he had limited innate athleticism, and developed a program of training at age 12, three hours daily on weekdays and eight hours on Saturday, honing his vision, decision-making, ball-handling, and shooting skills. He helped lead Princeton, the Ivy League champion, to the Final Four (setting a scoring record in the consolation game), and became a champion on the Knicks. He earned a Rhodes Scholarship, became a US Senator from New Jersey, and ran for President, ultimately knocked out of the race by a bitter defeat in New Hampshire. 

Each or our narratives will likely never reach the heights of Lombardi, Thomas, or Bradley, but we can still impact our players and community. Communicate better, inspire, and become an agent for change. 

Friday, October 13, 2017

Good Biases

Google defines bias as "prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another, usually in a way considered to be unfair." All bias is not bad. We have everyday biases about risk and safety, work versus recreation, saving and spending, and potential relative to past performance. 

What "good bias" informs our better versions? 

Solution Bias 

Leaders find solutions not problems. Why would someone dwell on problems, if they found solutions? If we don't get the promotion, the position, or the opportunity we want, how do we respond? Successful individuals and teams "figure it out." 

Accountability Bias 

Accountability means to adhere to a high standard. The opposite is often 'attribution bias,' blaming outcomes on external factors - weather, officiating, administrative issues, unfair conditions. We can improve our accountability (and results) through better planning, preparation, and training. 

Optimism Bias 

Weisinger and Pawliw-Fry discuss the value of optimism in Performing Under Pressure. Their four tenets to immunize ourselves against pressure are their "COTE of arms," CONFIDENCE, OPTIMISM, TENACITY, and ENTHUSIASM

President Reagan told the story of a child who goes out to the back yard on Christmas and finds a pile of horse manure. She grabs a shovel and starts digging furiously, "I know there's a pony in there somewhere." 

Optimism correlates with better health outcomes. Optimism reduces anxiety and depression. Optimism may slow atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and prolong survival with cancer. Optimism improves quality of life. Oprah's quote, "you don't always get what you want, you get what you believe," has substantive truth. 

Abraham Lincoln described an optimist as "finding opportunity in every difficulty." Martin Seligman has represented the 'optimism' school in psychology. Studies have shown optimistic teams win more. Seligman reported more underachievement and feelings of helplessness in pessimists. Seligman emphasized factors of personalization (individual control of results), permanence (resilience after adversity), and pervasiveness (consistency of belief, as in personal fortitude) across life events and disciplines. We create our belief systems. 

Our internal voices tell us "I can recover from this" and "setbacks happen to everyone" or we accept defeat. I say, "we choose whether to be upbeat or beat up."