Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Planning Part II

I've had a few people contact me in regards to my "Have a Plan" posting last week. There has been some confusion as to what I was referring to. Just as we have game-plans for our teams, we must also have a life-plan. That life-plan must take into consideration all of the members of our programs. Some simple things to consider:

- Work with the women's team coach to come up with a master calendar of practice times.

- For college coaches, have a master recruiting calendar of games you or your staff would like to see. This is a simple task that can allow the rest of your staff to plan ahead. If you designate a recruiting coordinator, this should be one of his tasks.

- If you choose to proctor study hall sessions for your team, explore times and locations early so that your team and staff are able to plan around them.

- Share a team calendar with your staff, players, support staff, and other important people involved such as professors, academic advisors, tutors, library staff, janitors, etc. This will eliminate the need to improvise. If you employ the player notebook system, players can keep this calendar in their notebooks.

- Post your team calendar in places your team will see it. Outside your office and in the locker room are two very obvious places.

- Conduct individual player meetings to discuss time-management and organization weekly if possible. Include this in the players' calendar.

- Communicate changes in the schedule as early as possible. Have a plan of how to communicate changes and confirm that the message is received.

I think we can all agree that when plans are not made and "last-minute" rules the day, we become extremely frustrated. These are just a few ideas to get the wheels turning. The goal should be to eliminate as much of the "last-minute" through thorough preparation.

Defensive and Supportive Climates

This past weekend I had the opportunity to visit with my very good friend, Dr. John Masterson. Dr. Masterson is the former provost at Texas Lutheran University, co-author of Communicating In Small Groups; Principles and Practices, and one heck of a lead guitar player (check out http://www.theharleys.org/). We were discussing how coaches communicate with their teams and he mentioned a book entitled Defensive Communication by Jack R. Gibb. The following is a quote from Dr. masterson's book giving a list of behaviors that Gibb describes in his book as fostering defensive and supporting climates:

DEFENSIVE CLIMATE (Dr. Masterson says, "Don't do this...")
  • Evaluation: Use of "you" language calls into question the worth of another person
  • Control: Efforts to get others to do what you want them to do.
  • Strategy: Planned communication - for example, saying something nice before criticizing someone.
  • Neutrality: Emotional indifference - the unspoken attitude that "you'll get over it."
  • Superiority: Attitude that you're better than the other person.
  • Certainty: Taking dogmatic, rigid positions; "Don't bother m with facts, my mind is made up." Those who behave this way are usually more interested in winning an argument than solving a problem.

SUPPORTIVE CLIMATE (He says, "Do this.")

  • Description: "I" language describes your own feelings and ideas.
  • Problem Orientation: Communication aimed at solving problems: "Let's find a solution that works for both of us."
  • Spontaneity: Here-and-now orientation; being honest rather than planning how to manipulate.
  • Empathy: Emotional involvement; nonverbal behavior is important.
  • Equality: Communication based on mutual respect; "I'm okay, you're okay."
  • Provisionalism: Openness to receiving new information; showing some flexibility in the positions you take.

I think this is important to understand that our communication with our respective teams can and should utilize these techniques. Your players will take ownership in the program. Most coaches refer to their teams as family, then if we are true to our word, we must treat them in that same regard when communicating with them.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Dr. Donald Christian "People who drive me crazy"

I think we can all agree that in coaching, we find people whether they are players, fellow coaches, administrators, or parents that drive us nuts. We spend a considerable amount of time with the people in our respective programs that we get to know their idiosyncrasies so well they can push us to the point of insanity. I mentioned Dr. Donald Christian in my previous post. Don is the Dean of the College of Business at Concordia University Texas and is an instructor of the freshman orientation course at CTX, Life and Leadership. He wrote in his blog (I highly recommend it: http://www.thinkingaboutleadership.blogspot.com/) about this very subject:

Think about the people who drive you crazy...not the TYPE of people who drive you crazy, but the ACTUAL people who drive you crazy. Go ahead and name them out loud for a moment (or not, depending on where you are reading this...it could get you in trouble). But for a moment, consider a few thoughts on the people who drive you crazy:

  • WHY do these people drive me crazy?

  • Are they REALLY so different from me - or maybe too much alike?

  • Does their BEHAVIOR push me out of my comfort zone?

  • Is it a VALUE issue...or is it a PERSONALITY issue?

  • What can I LEARN from these people?

  • What are the PATTERNS among the different people who drive me crazy - both today and in the past?

As I consider the different people who drive me crazy, several things become apparent very quickly:

  1. their strengths are very different from mine

  2. they tend to not back away from conflict

  3. they seem to spend more time at their desks than walking around and talking with people

  4. they would rather talk about operational approaches rather than strategic approaches

  5. they tend to see the glass as half-empty rather than half-full

  6. they would rather blame others than take on the responsibility for change

  7. they make more statements than they ask questions

The difficult part of making this list is that I have to come to the realization that each of the above behaviors can be a great advantage to an organization:

  1. different strengths allow for different ways of looking at the same issue

  2. ideas need to be challenged in a strong manner

  3. data needs to be collected and shared, which takes time to put together

  4. things need to get done - vision without action is only a dream

  5. the realities of the organization need to be named and talked about

  6. people who mess up need to take responsibility for their bad work

  7. decisions need to be made after asking the right questions

OK, I get the point. I understand that it's good if there are people in the organization who drive me crazy. I may not understand how they think...I may not like how they act...I can disagree with their behaviors and attitudes...but I need to embrace them as important to the organization and try my hardest to work with them. Here's to those who drive me - and you - crazy!

Have A Plan

As a coach, we are given the ultimate in leadership responsibility. John Maxwell describes leadership as "influence. Nothing more. nothing less." I tend to agree more with Dr. Donald Christian, Dean of the College of Business at Concordia University Texas, when he describes that leadership "is about two words: people and influence. Of course, the other aspect of that is that one needs to influence people toward something, i.e. shared goals." The most important part of leading, or in our cases coaching, is people. We must not forget the people that play for us and work with us on a daily basis.

"Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now."
-Alan Lakein, Author

The personal touch is just the reason that planning becomes even more important. We must remember that our players at the collegiate, high school, and middle school levels have lives outside of athletics. They are in school to get an education first and foremost. That education is in the classroom and time spent hitting the books, studying, reviewing notes, etc..., but it is also in their social development; spending time with friends and family, developing relationships. We have a tremendous opportunity to teach these young people the value of time management in order to fit all of these things into a busy day. This opportunity carries with it the responsibility to be well organized and have a plan that our players are able to schedule around.

"You need a plan to build a house. To build a life, it is even more important to have a plan."
-Zig Ziglar

We must also take into consideration those that work with us and our own relationships. Without a clear plan or schedule, our families and the families of the staff will suffer. You may have a plan, but if it is not clearly communicated early, it will seem to those around you like you don't have a plan at all. This goes back to the definition of leadership by Dr. Christian above, it is about people. Coaching carries with it numerous responsibilities to lives other than your own. Early organization and communication of your plan is a critical component to serving the others in your program.

"Planning is a process of choosing among many options. If we do not choose to plan, then we choose to have others plan for us."
-Richard I. Winwood

I definitely understand that situations "pop up" and we must be able to be flexible. That is not the point of this. The point is to organize, plan, communicate, and execute a course of action within your control as early as possible. This breeds less contempt and frustration within the program. The members of the team are more likely to learn the value of time and be able to manage it. The byproduct of all of this is respect from those involved in your program from support staff to coaches to players and all of their families.

"At first, we couldn't be establishment, because we didn't have any money. We were guerrilla marketers, and we still are, a little bit. But, as we became number one in out industry, we've had to modify our culture and become a little bit more planned."
-Phil Knight, Nike founder

As you and your program become more successful, it is even more important to plan ahead. Flying by the seat of your pants will end up biting you in that same location. When you're on top, you've got to have a strategy to stay on top. A foundation is good, but what you build upon it must be structurally sound in order for it to stay standing. An absence of a plan can produce a sense of confusion, leading to discontent, which ultimately can tear down what you have built.

"Failing to prepare is preparing to fail."
-Benjamin Franklin

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


Friends in basketball, I once again apologize for not posting last week. We were on the road, my laptop battery was dead, and I left my charger at home. Doesn't mean I couldn't post another day of the week, but I like to reserve Wednesdays for right now as a posting day. The day before the first game of the week is a great time to reflect on what I feel is important in my own philosophy and to share with you.

That stated, I don't remember where I was reading about the use of terminology in the past week, but this past weekend it really hit home. One of our young, less experienced assistant coaches had the responsibility of scouting and doing walk-through on one of our opponents. During the course of the walk-through, he used terminology that was inconsistent with terminology used in our program as well as just flat out incorrect terminology. I could sense that this young coach was losing the team; slowly but surely. The team was trying hard to listen, but I could see that this coach was losing credibility with every misspoken word. Without any fanfare or drama, I quickly alerted this young coach to his mistake.

So my best suggestion is to meet as a staff, especially early in the season, and determine what terminology the staff will be using. Come up with a glossary of terms that will be frequently used in teaching your own team. Case in point: some coaches prefer the term "pick-the-picker"while others prefer "screen-the-screener". Both have the same meaning, but can lead to confusion when one member of the staff uses the former and another member of the staff uses the latter.

It is also important to define other terminology. One of the big mistakes this young coach made last week with our team was that he was calling a stagger screen on the baseline, a "double ball screen." The players KNEW it wasn't even a ball screen, but the coach continued to use the term. Because of this coach's inexperience, he was nervous and just picked a random term. When I notified him, he was embarrassed, but realized his mistake and remembered our terminology.

Some things to think about when putting your glossary together:

Keep it consistent. Once you choose your terminology, stick with it. Don't deviate. You don't want to confuse your players.

Keep it simple. Don't over complicate it. Stick to simple words; the fewer syllables, the better.

Define areas of the court. As with the "screen" or "pick" situation above, determine what you and your staff will call parts of the floor. Is it the "key", the "lane", or the "paint"? Is it the "hash mark" or the "28-foot line"?

Share your glossary with your players. Make sure that they know what it is you are trying to communicate.

These are only a few ideas. I challenge you to think about the terminology you wish to use with your players and staff.