Sunday, June 28, 2009

It's Not Easy

Let’s be honest. Ethics is not for wimps. It’s not easy being a good person.

It’s not easy to be honest when it might be costly, to play fair when others cheat, or to keep inconvenient promises.

It’s not easy to stand up for our beliefs and still respect differing viewpoints.

It’s not easy to control powerful impulses, to be accountable for our attitudes and
actions, to tackle unpleasant tasks, or to sacrifice the now for later.

It’s not easy to bear criticism and learn from it without getting angry, to take advice, and
to admit error.

It’s not easy to feel genuine remorse and apologize sincerely or to accept an apology
graciously and truly forgive.

It’s not easy to stop feeling like a victim, to resist cynicism, and to make the best of
every situation.

It’s not easy to be consistently kind, to think of others first, to judge generously, and to
give the benefit of the doubt.

It’s not easy to be grateful or to give without concern for reward or gratitude.

It’s not easy to fail and still keep trying, to learn from failure, to risk failing again, to start
over, to lose with grace, or to be glad of another’s success.

It’s not easy to look at ourselves honestly and be accountable, to avoid excuses and
rationalizations, or to resist temptations.

No, being a person of character is not easy. That’s why it’s such a lofty goal and an
admirable achievement.

-- Michael Josephson, Character Counts

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Pat Riley's view on the summer

Let’s just say this is your Summer Time Makeover not only as an athlete, but a transformation of your thinking.

In a perfect world, every athlete would have a super attitude. They would all buy into the team concept. Not care who gets the credit, not care who gets the playing time, doesn’t mind taking a back seat to other athletes and never complains about coming off the bench as a sub.

Be coach-able, responsible, and respect authority. In a perfect world, athletes would all work hard on their particular sport, show up on time for practice and meetings, go to class and do the best they can; avoid excuses and overall be a great athlete to coach.

But we know this isn’t a perfect world. It’s a sports world that can be improved though. Self-discipline is the first step, which isn’t easy. It takes work, but it can be done

Self-discipline is the price you pay for success. Without it, you are doomed for failure.

Sure the easy life can be lived by all. You can wake up in the morning and park your butt on the couch, munch on cereal and watch television all morning and into the afternoon. Then you can go swimming or to the beach with your friends. Or you can hang out on the corner and do nothing. At night you can hang out at the mall or go to a movie. Anyone can do those things. This type of life leads to mediocrity.

But it’s the successful athlete who gets up in the morning, has their breakfast and goes to work out. They go running, lifting or to the courts to get their shots up, to work on their dribbling or their ball handling. This type of life leads to success.

All athletes face the same question every day. Should they go and train? It’s the special athlete who breaks away from the crowd, who puts the important things first. Sure it’s difficult to dedicate yourself to becoming the best athlete you can be by training daily, especially when its hot outside and your friends are at the beach working on their tan. But the journey along the way is what makes it most fulfilling come game day. Knowing that you trained hard will pay off for you.

With sports training, to become the best, you have to do things that are unpleasant.

Success comes to those who develop a burning desire to succeed. Greatness is achieved and maintained by those who train and keep on training. If you are on the shore and there is a ship out in the Atlantic Ocean carrying one million dollars and you were told that if you can get to the ship, you can have the money.

Would you start swimming or stay on the shore?

Starting today, dedicate yourself to your sport. Step up your training, step up your commitment.

Push-ups, sit-ups, run, work on your craft. Do something every day to get better. At the end of the day, look in the mirror and ask yourself if you gave it your best, did you give every once of sweat? Did you make the right decisions? Did you do what had to be done?

You have a choice every day regarding the attitude you will take towards your commitment. Reevaluate your goals and realize that you have the ability to improve on your current situation.

Continuous hard work is what gets it done.

Stop blaming others for your lack of success, for your lack of playing time last year on the team. It’s not your coach’s fault, or your parent’s. It’s not where you come from or what team you play for. Stop making excuses. Excuses are for losers, they are a disease. Stop the complaining, the whining and the pouting. Athletes who become successful leave all that stuff alone. Did you ever see the NBA Champions, San Antonio Spurs argue with each other on the court?

Start being a better person, a person who wants to improve all the time. Cut out all distractions and believe in yourself. If you get an opportunity, take advantage of it.

Play your sport with a ‘walk-on’ mentality. Play the game like you appreciate the opportunity to come to the gym, the diamond or the gridiron. If you are controlled by your ego, then you’re not going to recognize any avenue you might have to success.

Love your sport, work hard, pay attention to detail. Have a hunger, be relentless, have a passion for your sport. Time - Work - Sacrifice…Nobody can do it for you.

“You have to have a mission, a desired state. Have the courage to put aside ego for the common good. You must give up something to get better in the future. You must be an active participant in your own rescue…Determination conquers every fear and failure.”
-Pat Riley, head coach Miami Heat


I once asked a very good colleague of mine, Larry Cordaro who is an assistant coach at Southeastern Louisiana University, for a quick hit recommendation "sound-bite". He wrote that I was a "people-picker" which the following poem summarizes:

One day as I was walking around my home town,
I saw a group of men tearing a building down.
With a “heave” and a “ho” and a mighty yell,
They swung a huge steel ball and a tall building fell.
And I asked the foreman, “Are your men skilled?
Are they the ones you’d hire if you were going to build?”
“Oh no,” he laughed, “Oh no, indeed!
Just unskilled laborers are all I need.”
“These men can easily wreck in a day or two,
What it takes skilled builders many years to do.”
And I asked myself as I walked away,
“Which one of these roles do I want to play?”
Do I want to be known as one who constantly tears down,
As I waste my time spreading negativity around.
Or do I want to be known as one who skillfully builds with care,
I hope that my team will always be glad that I’m there?
Carefully using a positive plan
And putting it into practice the very best that I can.
Or am I a wrecker who roams the town,
With the intent of just tearing it down.
-- Anon

Summer Off-Season Thoughts

When a thing is done, it's done. Don't look back. Look forward to your next objective.
- George C. Marshall

A player who makes a team great is better than a great player.
- John Wooden

If you wait to do everything until you're sure its right, you'll probably never do much of anything.
- Win Borden

One day your life will flash before your eyes. Make sure its worth watching.
- Unknown

The only sure thing about luck is that it will change.
- Bret Harte

Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Make your life a mission - not an intermission.
- Arnold Glasgow

What we plan we build.
- Conte Vittorio Alfieri

You know, Willie Wonka said it best:'We are the makers of dreams, the dreamers of dreams.' We grew up as kids having dreams, but now we're too sophisticated as adults, as a nation. We stopped dreaming. We should always have dreams.
- Herb Brooks

Saturday, June 13, 2009

6 Secrets of Change

From Michael Fullan's 6 Secrets of Change. This is easily transferable to your team:

1. Love your employees - Show your team how much you actually care for them!

2. Connect peers with purpose - Constant communication with your staff and players. Make sure they are all working towards a common goal!

3. Capacity building prevails - Capacity building has to do with constant learning. I always try to have my players read something that will stimulate their mental/psychological being. Staff members need to keep learning new and improved techniques.

4. Learning is the work - On the job learning in context is the best way to learn. Clinics and seminars can provide some new information, but applying it is the only way you'll know if it works or not.

5. Transparency rules - Be accessible. Stay in touch with your players. Constant communication of goals and review of statistical proof will provide a trusting environment.

6. Systems learn - Delegating duties to staff members and players gives them ownership of the program. Multiple leaders insure consistency throughout the program over time.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Balanced Life

"Don't let making a living prevent you from making a life" -John Wooden

I have been wrestling with the idea of life balance for quite a while. This world is filled with mixed messages. For example, a few years ago I was driving a colleague of mine from San Antonio to Austin to see a former player of his while the Final Four was in San Antonio. On our trip up I-35 we saw three consecutive billboards: a Jack Daniels ad, an ad for a car dealership, and finally an ad from the Texas DPS saying “You drink, you drive, you go to jail!” I thought to myself, this is mixed messages at its best!

We constantly hear that to get ahead in any profession is total dedication to the job, working long hours, constant focus on our personal work, etc… On the other side we hear that the true road to happiness is focusing on family, loving deeply our family and friends, caring for others, etc… Another example of the societal mixed messages we receive.

I spoke recently with Rob Hutton, President of the Central Texas division of D.R. Horton Homes. Rob is constantly seeking new and better ideas and sources to improve his leadership. More importantly, Rob is very giving and willing to share his knowledge with others. Rob and I spoke about how balancing three aspects of your life is extremely important: your faith, your family, and your work. Rob says that to be truly effective leaders we need to understand that there is a greater world than simply what we all do for work. Understand that our employees (or in coach’s cases our players as well) have a greater commitment to God and their families. While work is important, and we want to get the best out of our employees (and players) we should consider all three aspects in balance.

Some things we can do to keep these in balance is to be prepared and organized. An example for coaches is to plan your calendar well in advance. Give your staff and players an opportunity to plan for time off and vacations. Plan and stick to your Christmas break time off. Your players and staff members will appreciate it as will their families. In the summer, plan out your recruiting trips and communicate them to your staff a month in advance to give them ample time to make arrangements. Especially at the D-III level many coaches wear many hats and have additional duties. This creates additional strain on the balancing act. If leaders understand this balancing act, they will be far more effective leaders.

I am not condoning laziness or a lack of commitment by any means. What I am proposing is to take a look at what you got into this business to do. Are you in it simply to win games? Are you in it for personal gains? Or are you in this business to enrich the lives of others? Are you in this business to build character and teach life-long lessons? If you answer yes to the former, you probably don’t care about balance and there is only one goal: your own. If you answer yes to the latter, you probably consider leading a balanced life and assisting your players and staff with leading a balanced life as well.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Kareem Abdul Jabbar

Another JA Adande gem on ESPN about Kareem and the hook shot. Being that I love the art of post play and coach the post players here at Concordia, I was very interested in this read. I, too, remember watching Kareem as a kid. The "sky hook" (or maybe horizon line hook in my case) was my bread and butter so to speak. I wasn't physically gifted. I wasn't quick. I wasn't very strong. But that hook shot could not be blocked.

"We can thank George Mikan and Cliff Hagan for the origins of Abdul-Jabbar's hook shot. Abdul-Jabbar doesn't have memories of watching Mikan, the Minneapolis Laker who was the NBA's first dominant big man. But he did use the drill that was named for him and consisted of shooting a hook shot from the right side with the right hand, then a hook from the left side with the left hand and repeating while slowly moving further away from the basket. Abdul-Jabbar did see Hagan use the hook shot as a player for the St. Louis Hawks, a reminder that the hook could be used effectively at all levels of the game."

"When you shoot it, you force people to wait for you to go up," he said, " And if they wait until I started to shoot it then they'd have to judge the distance and time it, and it's gone before they can catch up to it. That's, for me, the beauty of it. You're in control because of when you're gonna release it and where. The defense has to see that and calculate everything before they get an opportunity to block it."

"If a defender overplayed him to the right to take away the hook, he would just spin back around to his left to shoot a jump shot or, in later years, a lefty version of the skyhook."

"(Shaquille) O'Neal calls the skyhook "one of the most effective shots" in the history of the game, which makes you wonder why he never adopted it himself. 'My father made me shoot it all the time,' O'Neal said. 'Being a hip-hop kid, I didn't want to do it. We're different. We like to be a lot cooler.'

Abdul-Jabbar concedes "it's not a macho shot,"

"I used it to become the leading scorer in the history of the NBA," Abdul-Jabbar said. "There has to be something about it that works."

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Interesting ESPN Article

Found this article on today. Thought it was an interesting read. It shows just how different we can be as coaches; styles, philosophies, teaching, delivery, etc. One thing that keeps coming to mind is the word BALANCE.

Coach Wooden speaks frequently about the need for balance and moderation. I had planned on (and still plan on) posting on the subject of balance, but this article seemed to spur me into action.

Phil Jackson and Stan VanGundy represent opposites in so many ways. Their physical appearance alone is nowhere near alike. Their backgrounds are different; big city vs. country. Their experiences have led to a tremendous difference in philosophy.

I feel like the NBA Finals this year has given a great opportunity for us as coaches to really evaluate what we believe in. What works for our respective teams? Is it the zen-like approach that Phil Jackson takes? Is it more intense and directing like Stan VanGundy? What does my approach bring to the team? Does it make us better? Worse?

I see merits in both approaches, but I see far more usefulness in balancing a combination of both. Trust in your players is critical and we should let them discover their own mistakes and correct them. Explore. Experiment. Take a risk. That's half of the fun of playing this game. But it is also good to know your history and statistical breakdowns to find an advantage or an edge anywhere possible.

JA Adande wrapped up this article the best with his last statement: "VanGundy has studied Finals history. Jackson has lived it."

Monday, June 8, 2009

Individual Development Strategies

I was reviewing some old files and came across some notes I took at a clinic a few years back. I find that the summer is always a great time to go back and dig for ideas that will fit your personal and/or team goals for the next season.

These are some notes I took listening to former Whitworth head coach, Warren Friedrichs, on the topic of coach's personal development.

- Develop relationships with your players. Let them know who you are. They are more likely to return the sentiment. Use age, enthusiasm, and knowledge to establish the relationship. Players want communication and respect foremost.

- Be a positive coach. Find what they do right. Use what they do - help them to be successful. Provide/explain a role for them and the team. Paint a picture for them and the team.

- Encourage and assist with off-season development. At the D-III level this is a challenge, but this can be achieved by having your players work camp, take the team on a foreign tour, open gyms, and weight training class.

- Foster upperclassmen ownership of the program. Use them in decision making like what shoes to wear, uniform design, where to eat on the road, have them mentor younger players, change the rooming list every trip, teach stations at camp, etc.

- Since off-season workouts are not allowed at D-III, at least 30-45 minutes of practice should focus on individual skill development.

- Teach shooting development and offensive footwork every day in practice.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Rule of Three

I mentioned in a previous post we would explore why 3 is a magic number (who remembers SchoolHouse Rock on Saturday mornings?). This was shared with me by Creighton Burns:

The United States Marine Corps believes strongly in what they call "The Rule of Three." They've found that implementing this rule saves lives, gets more done faster and more efficiently.

An article on The Corps in INC. magazine says, "The rule dictates that a person should limit his or her attention to three tasks or goals. When applied to strategizing, the rule prescribes boiling a world of infinite possibilities down to three alternative courses of action. Anything more and a marine can become overextended and confused. The marines experimented with a rule of four and found that effectiveness plummeted."

I've always believed that three is a powerful number. We find it in some very significant places. The most powerful physical structure is a triangle or pyramid. In fact, it's the building block of Buckminster Fuller's geodesic domes and the Great Pyramids of Egypt. For Christians - It's the Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And then, of course, we have mind, body, and spirit. Three is a powerful number metaphysically - a number of completion.

As we become immersed in the ocean of information, possibilities, directions and the like, it becomes even more important for us to focus on the things that are truly important to us - the things that will make a difference in the quality of our lives.

Three things can easily be remembered. Any more than that and retention suffers. We can all sharpen our focus and get better results by using The Rule of Three in our daily lives.

List the three most important values in your life. What's really important to you? If you make this list, you'll place yourself in the top one percent of all the people on the planet because very few ever do this. your decisions will become infinitely easier because your values are clear.

What are your three primary missions? These are different than goals. Goals can be measured. They can be completed. A mission is your vision of something that you'll never say is one - at least not in this lifetime.

Make a list of your three most important goals. It's great to have lots of goals, but which ones are worthy of your best attention and efforts? Remember, you can have anything you want in your life. You just can't have EVERYTHING you want.

What three things would you like to master? Three things at which you want to become an expert. Maybe it's speaking in public. Perhaps you want to learn another language. Or maybe you want to become a masterful parent. It's your life and you get to decide.

By making good use of The Rule of Three, you'll sharpen your focus, increase your effectiveness, and experience greater fulfillment in all that you do.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Defensive Principles

Communication - Essential and detrimental to our success on defense. Everyone has got to be on the same page. Something I learned by working with Kevin Eastman was "Talk loud. Talk early. Talk often!" Kevin's work with Doc Rivers and the Celtics has added the rule of three. Verbalize things three times, "Pick right, pick right, pick right!" or "Switch, switch, switch!"

Transition - Must quickly change gears once the opponent has secured possession of the ball. Responsibilities: Ball stop, Ball side denial, Opposite help, Up big, and Basket big. Guards verbalize their responsibilities. Bigs sprint to half court, communicate up or basket, and play up the floor from there.

Ball Pressure - Tremendous on ball pressure! We want to turn the ball handler 3-times before half court. Defense determines where the offense is allowed to go. Where the ball is, a hand is! We want to get deflections. Deflections lead to steals. Steals lead to quick baskets. Quick baskets lead to us repeating the process.

Early Help - Force the ball handler to put the ball on the floor and "Early Help" to make him pick it up. Jab and retreat at a dribbler from deny and help positions. If the dribbler gets out of control, take a charge from deny or help positions. Do not leave your teammate on an island! On ball defense is much more effective if the on ball defender knows he has help.

Front the Post - We aggressively defend the paint like our lives depended on it. 3/4 on the high side when the ball is in the middle third of the court. "Knock down elbows" and step through to front. Hands up and take up space. Treat this as if you were posting up on offense. When the ball is reversed, spin off the shoulders around to the 3/4 deny. (I will be talking more in-depth about how I want my players to defend the post later)

All 5 on a Side - When the ball has chosen a side of the floor, we want all 5 of our players on ball side of the midline. We want to aggressively keep the ball on one side of the floor. The only option for the offense to reverse the ball is by skip pass. No reversal and no paint!

Rotate - Sprint to spots and communicate spots. I will be discussing various defensive rotations in later posts.