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Thursday, August 31, 2017


"One player's selfish attitude can poison a locker room and make it hard, if not impossible, to establish team work." -Dean Smith

Rajon Rondo's Dallas meltdown wasn't one or two plays, but a series of mental and physical breakdowns. 

Diva. Prima donna. Selfishness. One player or executive can ruin a team. You know the African proverb, "it takes a village to raise a child, but one child can destroy a village." You don't want the label of "me-first", "locker room cancer", or "Donald Sterling". 

Adding a 'bad teammate' to a stable environment resembles adding sodium metal to water. Sodium in water combines to form sodium hydroxide (lye), hydrogen gas, and releases heat, which may cause an explosion. 

How do you coaches know? Dan Tudor, of Tudor Collegiate Strategies remarks, "one of the things coaches mention to me might surprise families: They look to see how the prospect treats his or her parents when they visit the school. Are they polite, courteous and respectful towards them? College coaches look for that, because they are wanting mature, respectful student-athletes as a part of their program."

Roy Williams observes how a player treats his teammates while under duress. 

Quinn McDowell discusses 'toxic leadership' at Coaching Toolbox. John Wooden explained, "don't whine, complain, or make excuses" and "never criticize a teammate." Teamwork fails when personal agendas supersede the team. This results in fragmentation, cliques, blame, lack of accountability, and poor body language. "Seniority systems" are another obstacle to team harmony. 

Teamwork failure shows up with poor shot selection, unwillingness to pass, poor defensive effort, leaking out without blocking out, lack of communication and more. Nobody wants to play with "ball hogs", "huns", or "dogs"

Alan Williams wrote Teammates Matter about his experiences as a walk-on at Wake Forest. When a new coach arrived, he had to try out again. He describes how his teammates came to his tryout to support him. 

Great teammates give conditional support. Cal rugby coach Jack Clark notes, "When you start looking at people who are really successful, who are part of successful organizations, the last thing they are is unconditional. We’re pretty highly conditional here." Supporting "the right way" builds strong cultures. 

Good teammates demand 'more' from each other...seeking the challenge. "Iron sharpens iron." 

Coaching younger players, I haven't had much experience with selfish players. Dan Pink, author of Drive, describes motivation under the rubric of autonomy (self-determination), mastery, and purpose. Problem players are most likely to have autonomy issues (self-regulation, coachability). They may be playing for extrinsic factors (e.g. stats, recognition) instead of team. 

Ultimately coaches wrestle with the "Oprah" decision, "am I better with him or without him?" When they find a 'cancer' they excise it. If they feel they can rehabilitate the player, they literally or figuratively place him on probation. Very few coaches sacrifice team culture for one player. 

I tell players, "you don't play for the city, the school, your parents, your friends, or especially for me. You play for each other. Everyone can't be a great player, but everyone can be a great teammate." 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Miscellaneous Basketball Drills

We teach VDE (vision-decision-execution). If we find drills that incorporate those dimensions, then some of our players transform. This has particular relevance for actions within our systems. It's nowhere near perfect. 

Ideally, we teach young players HOW TO PLAY not how to run plays

Dribble handoff with live defense. If x1 overplays, 1 can go backdoor. 4 can handoff into a roll or pop. If she has a good handle, she can cutback. If 1 comes downhill 'clean' then x5 has to help and 1 either finish or pass. 

A different approach to 3 on 2. Coach (or defender) enters ball to 1, who attacks, decides, and executes. 

Another version of 2 on 1, with constraints and scoring. Coach initiates first pass and offense has maximum of one pass and one dribble to score. 

5 Seconds to Glory, down by 2. Shooter has five seconds to win (a three) or tie (a two). x2 defender is tasked to deny the 3 without fouling. x3 handles the drive. 

Alternative closeout drill. Players start shoulder-to-shoulder. Dribbler goes to circle and defender to baseline and closes out. Stop the ball! 

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

"Try Easier", "Pause the Choke", and SLOB Bonuses

You've seen it...the player who flies around at 100 miles per hour, accomplishing nothing. Sometimes, "try easier". Physical fitness combines strength and stamina training. Mental fitness demands attention, self-regulation, and practice. 

Relaxation informs focus. I've heard track coaches tell runners not to run with clenched fists, instead running "as though holding a potato chip". 

Players need to find their optimal amount of "arousal". Getting too "high" diminishes performance.

Many players listen to music to adjust an internal "set point". In Performing Under Pressure, Weisinger and Pawliw-Fry discuss this among other regulators. Turn nervousness into excitement. Break large tasks into small ones. Develop your "COTE of armor" - confidence, optimism, tenacity, enthusiasm.  

Professor Sian Beilock describes how acknowledging worries can improve performance. "Dr. Beilock also has found that “pausing the choke,” such as taking a break to meditate or to take a walk during a stressful situation like an argument, can calm us." 

Hard work isn't enough. You can work hard at a menial task and have minimal chance for advancement or opportunity. We need to combine clear vision, skill-building, persistence, and effective time management to grow our careers. Journaling also contributes to success

Modify core values.

 Time is our ultimate resource. Are we investing in ourselves or spending time? 
 Are we maximizing our attention, awareness, and relationships? 
Is excellence our practice or posturing? 

Ask better questions of ourselves. Michael Useem in The Leadership Moment suggests four questions for self-examination: 

What went well? (Even in failure, we find positives. "I took a loss in that trade, but I managed position size and took a small loss.")
What went poorly? (Why did that evolution fail?)
What can I do differently next time? (Was it preparation, personnel, execution, bad luck?)
What are the enduring lessons of the activity? (What did I learn from the process and outcome?) 

Ego and biases can prevent us from seeing ourselves and the world clearly. We choose whether to review our processes objectively. "Work smarter and harder."

SLOB Bonuses:

STS action and momentum for the 1. 

Monday, August 28, 2017

The General Who Never Lost

When we think of "The General", we might think of legendary coach Bobby Knight, George Washington, master of logistics George C. Marshall, or perhaps Douglas McArthur. There are many more worth contemplating. 

But most of us are unfamiliar with Alexander Suvorov (1729-1800), who never lost a battle. A sickly child, he was initially prohibited from a military career by his father. Foreshadowing his career, he was mentored by General Abram Hannibal, entering the cadet corps, learning multiple languages and studying great military tacticians. 

In an early battle against the Prussians, advised to wait for enumeration of the enemy, he responded, “We are here to fight, not to count” and led the attack, annihilating the foreign garrison.

What was Suvorov's "secret"? The best analysis of Suvorov came from (unclassified) the Soviet Studies Office, entitled "Train hard, fight easy". He emphasized training of the individual soldier. "If a peasant doesn't know how to plough, he cannot grow bread." The recruits understood. He "...set out to transform the lives of his peasant recruits, to render the difficult possible and the unthinkable more palatable." 

In battle he prioritized, "speed, assessment, and hitting power". This anticipated John Boyd's aerial combat strategy OODA (observe, orient, decide, and act) by hundreds of years. He published this mantra subsequently in the military classic, "The Art of Victory". 

But his methods deviated from traditional approaches for "raw and illiterate" conscripts. He opposed corporal punishment and imposed a holistic approach of "health, diet, and adequate living conditions." He understood that caring for your troops came with caring about his troops. 

He emphasized "enthusiasm and the positive aspects of a systematic approach to training which instilled self-confidence." His men were in superior condition. "All the secret of maneuvers lies in the legs." 

He was obsessed with speed. "Money is dear; human life is still dearer; but time is the dearest of all." He demanded that his troops load quickly but fire slowly and accurately. In a sense he forecast the Newellism, "get more and better shots than our opponent." 

He advocated pressing the advantage. "A step backward is death." Training was focused and utilitarian. "Troops be taught only that which is necessary in combat." 

His preparation included flexibility and scouting. "Formation and tactics always depended on the nature of the terrain and the anticipated enemy."

He encouraged officers and troops to read. "Without the beacon of history-tactics grope in the dark". We cannot fully comprehend the present without insight from the past. 

Tony Hinkle 5 series entry. 

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Are You in Search of Peak Performance?

How do successful people approach the asymptote of 'peak performance'? Over eighty percent use some form of meditation. 

Google's Chade Meng-Tan offered a class (with a lengthy waiting list" entitled "Search Inside Yourself". The course promoted meditation as a means to enhance "emotional intelligence", critical in all relationships. The mainstream approach offers the more conventional advice like Marshall Goldsmith's What Got You Here Won't Get You There. 

Meditation doesn't have to be burdensome. 

Meng-Tan advises beginners to "do less", so they do not feel that meditation is burdensome and to "make it an indulgence not a chore". 

Why meditate? Meditation has established somatic and neurologic benefits. It reduces energy consumption, reduces anxiety and depression (stress mitigation), and increases both memory (functional) and gray matter in the brain (structural) on imaging studies. 

How do you get started? Here is an excellent summary of Gutaratana's Mindfulness in Plain English. It includes what meditation is and myths associated. The summary provides both depth yet brevity. Here is an excerpt:

"Actual Practice: once you sit do not change the position again until the end of the time you determined at the beginning. Do not change your original position no matter how painful it is.

After sitting motionless, close your eyes. Our mind is analogous to a cup of muddy water. The longer you keep a cup of muddy water still the more mud settles down and the water will be seen clearly. Keep your mind in the present moment. What is present every moment is our breath. Do not verbalize or conceptualize anything. Simply notice the in-coming and out-going breath without saying, “i breathe in” etc. When you focus your attention on the breath ignore any thought, memory, sound, smell, taste, etc., and focus your attention exclusively on the breath. At the beginning both the inhalations and exhalations are short because the body and mind are not calm and relaxed. In spite of efforts to keep the mind on breathing it may wander."

Olympic athletes receive mindfulness training. Mindfulness is the not-so-secret weapon allowing athletes to play 'in the moment'. 

The application 'Headspace' is a good place to start (free with in-app purchases). 

Are you in search of peak performance? Meditation offers the potential of greater focus, clarity, and control. 

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Favorite Slides: Character, Humility, Process

People learn best in differing styles - visual, auditory, kinesthetic. Here are some personal favorites. 

Flanking the top are 'faith' and 'patience'. Belief takes time and time builds belief. But nothing great is ever accomplished without enthusiasm (cornerstone). 

From "What Drives Winning" from Brett Ledbetter

From Steven M.R. Covey, The Speed of Trust...without character, trust is impossible.

Morse code tattoo, Trust the process (TTP)

Pyramid of game development...all values work in concert. 

Preparation and perspiration allow aspiration and inspiration. 

In Michael Lewis' The Undoing Project, psychologist Amos Tversky tells a pontificating Nobel Prize winner at a party, "Nobody is as smart as you think you are." Remember the values of the All Blacks championship rugby program, "Humility, Excellence, Respect". Stay hungry; be humble. 

Friday, August 25, 2017

Fast Five: Zen and Basketball

"Basketball is sharing." - Phil Jackson 

Meditation starts each day fresh, allowing to us clarity and simplicity. Meditation isn't abstract, foreign, or irrelevant. Great players like Michael, Kobe, and Shaq had a meditation coach. Their mindfulness coach, George Mumford said, “Here’s the key, they’re not competing against them, they are competing against themselves… the enemy is within." Being present and being our best is the goal. 

Bryant understood the goal of mindfulness, "To be neither distracted or focused, rigid or flexible, passive or aggressive. I learned just to be.” 

Jason Kidd discussed meditation as an aid to "play the game before the game happened." If basketball is eighty percent mental, do you want your "mind tool" to function at peak levels

"That's SOFT stuff. Real men don't meditate" or "it takes too much time and privacy." 

Really? Be like LeBron. 

Greatness seeks higher level achievement and a sustainable competitive advantage. We know that meditation reduces our energy consumption, anxiety, and increases brain function (memory) and structure (increased gray matter). 

Here are some mindfulness quotes:

"Nothing is permanent. Make peace with this to reduce suffering." 

"When you live in complete acceptance of what is, that is the end of all drama in your life." - Eckhart Tolle

"If you understand, things are just as they are; if you do not understand, things are just as they are." 

"What you don't have cannot help you; what you do have needs no help." - Mooji

"All the gods, all the heavens, all the hells, are within you." - Joseph Campbell

If we want to be our best, we must condition ourselves to be the best. Will we shut out training used by the best, because we know better

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Fast Five: Practical Domains of Basketball and Breathing

"Life's not the breath you take, the breathing in and out, it gets you through the day, ain't what it's all about, you just miss the point, trying to win the race, life's not the breath you take, but the moments that take your breath away." 

Over eighty percent of the most successful people in the world meditate. And meditation is focused around breathing. In 1970, a study showed during meditation subjects had decreased oxygen consumption and heart rate. Meditation decreases blood pressure and the 'stress hormones' epinephrine and cortisol. Meditation changes brain structure and function. It increases brain blood flow, grey matter, and memory. If we want to change the world, then we have to change ourselves. 

Attention is fatiguable and meditation mitigates fatigue

Athletes use this to their advantage. Jason Selk, sports psychologist, wrote Ten-Minute Toughness. He outlines a series of components including breathing exercises, identity and performance statements (affirmations), and mental imagery (highlight reel). The identity statement encapsulates "this is who I am" and performance statement summarizes "this is how I play". 

Free throws are among the 'easy' shots we don't want to allow or miss. I advocate controlled breathing during shots, as breathing is included in the pre-shot preparation. A final breath in and out before the shot prevents breathing motion DURING the shot. 

Breathing Reserve = MVV - VE 

Breathing reserve is the difference between actual and projected maximal voluntary ventilation (usually calculated as 35 times FEV1 - forced air out in one second). For a healthy young man, FEV1 might be 4-5 liters/second...meaning the projected capacity is 140-175 liters/minute. During a cardiopulmonary exercise test, we measure the actual liters per minute. Normally the breathing reserve exceeds 15 liters/minute. Patients with lung disease (e.g. emphysema) rapidly approach their maximal ventilation, producing pathologic (abnormal) shortness of breath (dyspnea). 

Asthma and exercise-induced asthma are relatively common in athletes. Exercise-induced (EIA) asthma is more common in some sports (hockey, track, basketball) than others (e.g. water polo). This relates to heat and moisture loss from airways. Fortunately, there is preventive and pre-activity treatment for players. Obviously, players need specialized testing to evaluate for a proper diagnosis, as dyspnea can reflect respiratory, heart (e.g. cardiomyopathy), metabolic (anemia, thyroid, kidney disease), or neuromuscular disorders (e.g. myasthenia). 

But we don't really care as much about physiology as effectiveness and efficiency. Fartlek training combines speed and endurance training. The Gerschler Fartlek makes most sense for basketball. It has similarities to previously discussed Tabata training. 

Breathing problems hold a place in sports legend. We hear about players "sucking wind", "choking", "needing a breather", or worst of all, "choking". Combining knowledge of a little physiology and athletes' physical and mental resources can improve our coaching. Coaching is an eclectic activity and what we don't know can hurt us. 

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Fast Five: On Punctuality

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

The Navy was an "on time" organization. If a meeting scheduled at 0730, it started at 0730. Punctuality provided consistency although some discomfort, even when a meeting began on time. Morning Report (a.k.a. Morning Distort) began, where interns and residents summarized or presented new admissions in detail. The Chief of Medicine (or his designee), specialty staff, and the Chief Resident held court. Morning report epitomized applying and handling pressure, albeit academic pressure. 

It wasn't always pretty or truthful. I knew one colleague who always looked cool and prepared. His wife told us a harsher truth...pressure and time spawned an ulcer. Time and pressure turn black dust into diamonds. 

Punctuality is part of preparation, heralding success. James Kerr shares this anecdote in Legacy. "J. P. Morgan, the banker and philanthropist, was shown an envelope containing a ‘guaranteed formula for success’. He agreed that if he liked the advice written inside he would pay $25,000 for its contents. Morgan opened the envelope, nodded, and paid. The advice? 

1. Every morning write a list of the things that need to be done that day. 
2. Do them.

Dean Smith championed punctuality. To this day, his point guard Phil Ford, sets his watch ten minutes fast, to Dean Smith Time

Gandhi was called the most punctual man in India. He believed that we are "trustees of time". Legend has it that his one dollar watch stopped upon his death. 

Nick Saban demands punctuality. Punctuality reflects commitment and "shows you care". Punctuality represents another standard of excellence. Bill Belichick will send a player home who is late for practice. 

"Time and tide wait for no man." Control the controllables. Be on time. 

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Fast Five: Transition Defense

I expect to have a 'new' team with no experience this fall. Good news! That means a blank slate. Challenge players to keep it simple with necessary detail. 

The defensive priority is NO EASY SHOTS - HARD 2's/ONE BAD SHOT

What are easy shots - transition baskets, layups, putbacks (offensive rebounds), free throws, and uncontested shots.  

I believe that you cannot allow more than 3 transition scores per game. It's unreasonable to expect that good teams won't score in transition, but you see the best teams (post-season) surrender few transition baskets. Have you ever seen a good team that had bad transition defense? 


1. Get ahead of the basketball. Beat your assignment to half court. 
2. Protect the basket
3. Stop the ball. Delaying the offense means more time to organize the defense. 
4. Shape up (two back "I", three back 'triangle')
5. Communicate 
6. Keep the ball on one side. 
7. Getting back physically is half the battle. Mental engagement is critical

Five Dos and Don'ts. 

  • NO Buddy Running. Beat your girl don't run with her. 
  • Focus. The last play is over. Immediate conversion from offense to defense. Don't look at the bench, the coach, the referee, your friends and family in the stands.
  • Talk "early, loud, and often." 
  • The ball scores. Don't lose track of the ball or the 'shooters'. 
  • Know your assignment. Some teams, e.g. the Celtics under Doc Rivers, emphasized transition defense over offensive rebounding. Many coaches assign both guards back on the shot. 
Five Quotes:

"SPRINT don't run."
"Basketball isn't a running game; it's a sprinting game." 
"Stop the ball." 
"Don't back down." Good teams will "take it to you." Good defenses fight.
"No paint." No paint equals no penetration, no middle, no layups.  

Fast Five: Rituals

"You make your habits and your habits make you." 

Words into deeds. James Kerr writes, "ritualize to actualize." Rituals become reality.

Rituals are personal. Bill Russell vomited in the locker room pregame. Cardinals reliever Al Hrabosky held psych up sessions behind the mound. UNC women's soccer wears 'pinkie tape'. Kevin Garnett meditated and pounded the basket. LeBron James throws chalk in the air. 

I asked a former NFL player's wife if he had any pregame rituals or superstitions. She said, "sharpening his gouge his opponents' faces". They don't call it the No Fun League for nothing.  

"Pinkie" tape (left hand). 

Rituals help athletes and teams prepare for competition. But they require meaning, personal significance. Repping the haka in suburban Boston would be out of place unless a connection existed. 

In the horse-racing trade, trainers often placed goats with a horse for the calming effect. Unscrupulous trainers would sometimes steal the goat, leading to the expression, "getting your goat", as their horse became disquieted. 

We make a difference. "The stories get passed on." We own our narrative. 

Monday, August 21, 2017

High Performance Culture: "Legacy" and the All Blacks

Organizations flourish or die according to their culture. James Kerr's Legacy describes the reinvention of the New Zealand 'All Blacks' rugby club into a superpower that won world titles and 86 percent of its matches. 

Richie McCaw, All Blacks captain

Here are quotes from the first few chapters. Kerr shares the All Blacks championship ethos and the reasons behind their renaissance.

"The challenge is to always improve, to always get better, even when you are the best. Especially when you are the best."

"Sweeping the sheds. Doing it properly. So no one else has to." (It is such a challenge to get players to leave the gym better than they found it. I bring a towel for the floor because I'm tired of coaching in a swamp.) 

"A collection of talented individuals without personal discipline will ultimately and inevitably fail. Character triumphs over talent." 

"Character begins with humility."

"The challenge of every team is to build a feeling of oneness, of dependence on one another,’ said Vince Lombardi. ‘Because the question is usually not how well each person performs, but how well they work together.’"

"The really clever teams build a culture that drives the behaviours they need." (Coaches are teachers and education changes behavior.) 

"Though every organization thinks they have unique problems, many change issues are centered on one thing... the ability – or inability – to convert vision into action." (VDE - vision, decision, execution)

"Our values decide our character. Our character decides our value." (__________ doesn't build character. _______________ reveals character. Fill in the blank, whether it's sports, leadership, high office. Matthew points out the value of a contributor, not an agitator.)

"Humility allows us to ask a simple question: how can we do this better?" (It can always be better.)

"Humility does not mean weakness, but its opposite."

"What else is a legacy if not that which you leave behind after you have gone?"

"Never be too big to do the small things that need to be done."

Four Stages for Organizational Change: 
° A Case for Change; 
° A Compelling Picture of the Future; 
° A Sustained Capability to Change; 
° A Credible Plan to Execute. 
(need, vision, commitment, process) 

"A winning organization is an environment of personal and professional development, in which each individual takes responsibility and shares ownership."

"The military have an acronym: VUCA: Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. VUCA describes a world prone to sudden change." (Losing my top player to injury last season was the VUCA gut punch but gave other players more opportunity.)

"OODA Loop. OODA stands for Observe, Orient, Decide and Act." (John Boyd's fighter pilot acronym...)

"‘It is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change.’ Charles Darwin"

"Go for the gap." It’s about adapting quickly to change by creating an adaptive culture.

"Sustainable competitive advantage is achieved by the development of a continuously self-adjusting culture." 

"Organizational mantra, Better People Make Better All Blacks"

"They started with purpose. "They needed a theme. The first came from Shakespeare’s Henry V: ‘for he today who sheds his blood with me shall be my brother’."

"Good leaders understand this and work hard to create a sense of connection, collaboration and communion."

"Viktor Frankl used research, "Asked what they considered ‘very important’ to them now, 16% checked ‘making a lot of money’; 78% said their first goal was ‘finding a meaning and purpose to my life.’" (I keep a copy of Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning on my wife says I have EVERYTHING on my desk.)

‘Self-actualization,’ he concludes, ‘is possible only as a side-effect of self-transcendence.’ (This meshes with Gregg Popovich's caution to players, "get over yourself.")

"Mike Markkula, Apple’s ‘Employee Number 3’, had told Jobs. ‘Your goal should be making something you believe in and making a company that will last.’" (Steve Jobs philosophy was to build a company that makes a 'dent in the universe'. Regrettably, this explains Apple's fragile cables...they LOOK good.)

"Inspired leaders, organizations and teams find their deepest purpose – their ‘why?’ – and attract followers through shared values, vision and beliefs."

"As Nietzsche said: ‘He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.’"

"Leaders who harness the power of purpose have the ability to galvanize a group, aligning its behaviours to the strategic pillars of the enterprise."

Note: readers of Legacy will find dimensions from many other authors and leadership books within. But James Kerr weaves a seamless tapestry of ideas, with many threads from Maori culture. 

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Dribbling Drills from a Dinosaur Coach

"Good players need two dribbles, excellent players one, and elite players don't need to." 

I sell a core message that "basketball is a game of cutting and passing.

Truth be told, I favor limiting dribbling when possible. Play with purpose, dribble with purpose. Self-awareness includes not immediately putting the ball on the floor, not failing to look ahead, not dribbling into traffic (your parents told you not to play in traffic), and not "dribbling the air out of the ball". 

We practice press breaking 5 on 7 without dribbling and play 4 on 4 half-court no dribble.

Dribble to advance the ball, attack the basket, avoid five second calls, and improve passing angles. Don't dribble because you enjoy dribbling. 

Yes, we warm up including dribbling. We often start by "dribbling the 3 point line" (spacing line) with straight, crossover, hesitation, spin, and combination (e.g. hesitation/crossover or vice versa). 

We play dribble tag, usually in a confined area (e.g. inside the three-point line) and even then add constraints like must crossover every three dribbles or must dribble with the non-dominant hand. 

I like this multipurpose/combination drill with backdribble/crossover action to teach trap avoidance. 

Kentucky layups. The team does a lot of speed dribble with layups counted over two minutes. Sometimes we can get into the fifties. 

Etorre Messina shell penetrate and pass drill. 

Most of the "extraneous dribbling" comes via 3 possession scrimmages which usually start off free throws, BOBs, and SLOBs. That affords us practice on special situations that continues into live play. 

McCormick Layup 'chase' drill

And you can dribble against "The Gauntlet" but I don't advise a lot of you get into 2 on four boundary situations and the ten-second clock. 
As for cones, chairs, and such, I seldom use them.  

Yeah, I'm one of those dinosaurs who watched the old Celtics and the Lakers "Showtime" teams fly around and score with limited dribbling. And this Klay guy scored 60 points with 11 dribbles. So maybe you can score a lot without dribbling. 

Fast Five: Setting Standards

"What is unacceptable in defeat is unacceptable in victory." - Don Meyer

In James Kerr's Legacy, he describes the ethos and culture of the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team. One of their standards, borrowed from another club is "No Dickheads". They do not tolerate low character teammates. They borrow the V - formation of birds who work together for aerodynamic efficiency but signifies the life-giving power of the spearhead. Individual accountability reigns central to "better people make better All Blacks."  

Dynasties have accountability as a primary value. Accountability means to hold yourself to a high standard. Bill Walsh had his "Standards of Excellence" with the 49ers. Phil Jackson taught tribal priorities with team achievement valued over individual excellence. He advocated a "one breath, one mind" approach. Nick Saban has his famous "Process". The New England Patriots have "do your job". 

Another element of standard setting is continuous improvement, the Kaizen of Japan. Continuous improvement demands tracking relevant metrics. At one extreme you have Anson Dorrance's 'competitive matrix' that he developed inspired by Dean Smith. At the other, new Marlins co-owner Derek Jeter is not an analytics adherent but strongly believed in sports psychology...I met his sports psychologist at a trading conference. 

Improvement comes via detail and compounding small gains. Darren Hardy's The Compound Effect is the classic reference for incremental gains. But compounding increasingly enters professional sports. Most NBA teams have analytics programs seeking an edge. The Patriots bought a pair of Boeing 767s to improve players' rest returning from road games. The Red Sox installed a sleeping room to allow players more rest. McLaren's F1 "marginal gains" program is designed to save 'tenths' of a second. They micromanage assets of fuel and aerodynamic efficiency. British cycling leveraged gains in strategy, cyclist performance, and incrementalism into multiple Team Sky Olympic golds

Sir Dave Brailsford commented, "We had three pillars to our approach, which we called “the podium principles.” The first one was strategy. The second was human performance; we weren’t even thinking of cycling, but more about behavioral psychology and how to create an environment for optimum performance. The third principle was continuous improvement."

Teams are even leveraging real-time technology. Fluto Shinzawa describes how the Pittsburgh Penguins use iBench, real-time video to score more power play goals. They can show players how opponents are defending using video during TV timeouts. The Penguins scored on over 20 percent of their power plays, which they believe reflects real-time adjustments. 

But in our programs, can we convert concepts into durable gains? What areas lend themselves to macro and micro gains? Some obvious choices are field goal and free throw percentage, turnovers, and rebounding efficiency. Dean Smith described scoring scrimmages according to shot selection (e.g. layups and open shots counted more, and poor quality shots and turnovers scored negatively). When we have tracked individual and team shooting percentage and turnovers, we have seen improvements. 

But Brailsford's critical message is aspirational. "Perhaps the most powerful benefit is that it creates a contagious enthusiasm. Everyone starts looking for ways to improve." 

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.