Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Pregame Preparation

During my Christmas break here in San Antonio, I had the opportunity to catch up with a former player of mine now working for the Spurs as a strength coach, Mike Ekanem. It was a proud moment for me to be shown around the AT&T Center by Mike. I loved hearing the other coaches and employees say what a great guy and valuable asset to the organization Mike was. Being that I don't have kids of my own yet, this was as close to a "proud dad" moment I've had.

Mike got me on the floor for pregame. Every moment is orchestrated. Players are on a tight schedule of individual attention before every game. Richard Jefferson was the first player on the floor. He worked out with Jacque Vaughn, getting a myriad of shots off; dribble handoffs, penetrate and kick, spot ups, reshape catch and shoot, etc. DeJuan Blair has a 2-on-1 game that he plays with a coach and an intern that simulates draw and kick situations. Players came and went, all working on various parts of the game in personalized quick spurts.

As Mike and I sat watching, he said to me, "Coach G, after seeing these guys show up 2 hours before tip-off and getting a workout in, I wish I had done it when I played for you." I loved it! He was now seeing through coaching eyes. Another proud moment for me!

Here are a few things I took away from the experience:

It's Business!
- When you cross over the lines, it is all about basketball
- Take the floor with an intense focus on improvement
- There is no time for jacking around

Analyze the game
- Where are shots going to come from?
- Work on the specific aspects that are applicable in a game
- Look at the angles passes and cuts are going to be coming from

Keep it short and intense
- Have a plan or goals to accomplish even in pregame
- Get in, get after it, and get out - No need to over-do it
- Work at it! - Get a sweat and go game speed
- Compete - Play a game to get the competitive juices flowing

Coachability - What It Takes

This past weekend, our team took a tremendous shot to the chops! We had just taken a full week off for finals and had only two days to prepare for a very talented basketball team.

During those two days, some of our players were not interested in what was being taught. There was a lot of selfishness and poor attitudes. When we were instructing, the most common response was, "I know" but very little was being done on the floor to prove that they knew. They had closed themselves off to accepting instruction and as a consequence had turned their backs selfishly on each other.

After the embarassing blowout on Saturday, we talked to the players about allowing themselves to be coachable. I was reminded of a great piece of wisdom by Ray Lokar of the Positive Coaching Alliance in Creighton Burns' Basketball Newsletter. The following will be posted in our players lockers waiting for them when they return on December 26th.

What Does It Take For A Player To Be "COACHABLE"?
1. Knowing you don't know everything
2. Willingness to do what your coach says
3. Being more interested in learning than looking good
4. Willing to listen
5. Accepting constructive criticism as part of the package
6. Not getting defensive every time someone suggests something different
7. Being patient with yourself as to achieving results
8. Being in it for the long haul, and not expecting or demanding quick results
9. Surrender to the teacher, or coach, and let go of the need to be in control of every situation
10. Surrender your will so someone else can instruct or coach you and entering the gym with the mindset,
"TEACH ME COACH - I want to learn!"

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Recovering from Setbacks

In coaching, playing, and even in life, setback will happen. Although a setback such as a loss may kill momentum, remember that with a positive attitude and unrelenting work ethic it is only temporary. You have the ability to not let it keep the ball from rolling! Here are three tips for getting back in the saddle after a deflating setback from Success Magazine’s weekly E-newsletter.

Step One: Pout or Punch. Do What You Have to Do to Feel Better.

Allow yourself to be an utter mess, SUCCESS columnist Mel Robbins says. “I gripe. I cry. I feel insecure. I punch the wall. I exercise. Then, it’s out of my system and it’s over,” she says.

Take the time you need to process what happened. Whether it’s life-altering like a layoff or an unforeseen obstacle in a big project, it’s okay. Really. Accepting the setback is an important step toward moving forward. It’s one more thing you can put in the “I know not to do that next time” column.

[My wife will argue this one with me until the cows come home! We all have a “grieving process” that we need to go through. I put a limit on mine. I do not allow myself to be upset once a new day begins. 12 O’clock midnight and I’m on to the next game/day/practice/etc.

I think this is important for us to understand as coaches in regards to our players. They, too, have their ways of dealing with setbacks. While I don’t condone destroying property, I do try to keep in mind that they may need some space and/or time after a hard fought gut wrenching loss.]

Step Two: You’ve Got to Move It (Move It)

Pardon the maddening tune, but the next step to recovery is taking action. Any action. Write down your proudest accomplishments and remember how you achieved them. Journaling your accomplishments will help you realize how powerful you really are. Recognizing your power, you can move forward confidently without second-guessing your every step.

[This is simply remembering where your strengths lie and what they are. Another great lesson for the players on your team. A sniff of success however small can trigger greater successes in them.]

Step Three: What’s the Takeaway?

From every misstep, there’s a lesson learned or a key takeaway that you can apply to your next project. So think on two levels—literally and figuratively. What’s the literal lesson from what happened and what larger, overarching principle can be taken from this experience? View your challenges positively. Easier said than done, but just thinking to yourself, “Okay, it can only get better now” is the kind of positive affirmation you need.

[This is why we watch film. It is why we keep practice plans. Analyzing what went wrong. Recognizing it. Instructing our players on how to correct it. Perfecting the proper way of execution through repetition. The mindset has got to be on improvement and the environment has got to be free of egos and negativity.]

You Are A Player When...

You are a player when:

1. You don't care if you are the one who sets the screen or the one who hits the winning three, because fulfilling your role, whatever that role is, is most important.

2. You have a desire to excel for the benefit of the TEAM.

3. You have an unquenchable need to exceed past your limitations.

4. You play and know, without a shadow of doubt, that you competed like a champion.

5. You understand your commitment to your teammates.

6. You understand that basketball is a TEAM sport.

7. You finish playing and only your body leaves the floor; your heart and soul are captured within the game.

8. You will exchange your blood, sweat, and tears for the benefit of the TEAM.

9. You understand the irrelevance of individual awards.

10. You would rather encourage a teammate to success than benefit personally from his mistakes.

11. Your respect for the game and those involved in the game outweighs your personal pride.

12. You make mistakes and use them to learn from and improve rather than use them as excuses.

13. Your ability to make your teammates better increases each time you take to the floor.

14. You do the little things right even when nobody is watching.

15. You act to serve your teammates with unselfish motives.

16. You have a clear understanding of your role and strive to perform it better.

17. You have done all that you can and still fell that you can contribute more.

18. You know the difference between pain and injury; playing through the pain without creating a scene.

19. You give more than what is asked and take less than what is deserved.

20. Your effort is constant and your play is consistent regardless of the situation.


Thursday, December 9, 2010

75% of Success is Being Positive

In a recent interview with Success magazine publisher Darren Hardy, Harvard professor and author of The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor, breaks down success into 25% academic learning and 75% positivity.

The 75% breaks down into 3 categories:

1. Belief that your behaviors matter - What you are doing will make a difference.

2. Positive social support network - The law of association. Surround yourself with positive people.

3. View stress as a challenge not a threat - A positive attitude towards stress will activate your brain to get past it and find intellectual resources to make it happen.

Positive Leadership Produces Greater Results
1. Recruit positive people - College level coaches can do this. High School coaches can select the positive players and cut the negative players.

2. Be positive yourself - Easier said than done. We are most often our own worst critics. Stop the "stinking thinking".

3. Recognize others for their achievements - Achor recommends starting the day with recognizing someone for something positive they've done. I am going to make it a point to start each practice this way; give someone, or all, a positive from the day before.

4. Prioritize happiness in the present - Happiness is not a "When I get to [blank], I will be happy." You either ARE or you're NOT. Invest in your social network in times of stress.

5. Praise the process - This will increase the team's success. Don't praise the outcome as long-term success will decrease.

10 Things Players Can Do When Not Playing Well

On Tuesday, I was reading an article by Seth Davis. In it he says, "A player should be able to play well when he's not playing well." So I asked my players what it means to them to "not play well." An overwhelming majority of answers had to do with not being able to score and/or poor shooting. In that regard, remember Coach Eastman teaching similar to the Davis' quote at Washington State and suggesting that a player go 3-4 possessions on offense without a shot to get his mind off of the mini slump.

Here are 10 things players can do when they aren't "playing well":
1. Become the best passer - Distribute the ball to teammates. It gets the entire team in a flow and can allow you to feed off that flow.
2. Become the best screener - Get others open with solid screens. You will find that you will be open for easier looks as a result.
3. Be the hardest cutter - Cut hard and draw the defense with you. This will contribute to the team flow but may also allow for an easy basket.
4. Go after every offensive rebound - Gain another possession for the team. You may even find yourself scoring chippies.
5. Be the first down the floor in transition - Both on offense and defense. Offensively you can get a lay-up to break the slump. Defensively you can thwart easy baskets by opponents.
6. Become the best box out player - Concentrate on not letting your man get rebounds.
7. Be the best helpside defender - Turn your attention to getting stops as a team.
8. Get deflections - Work to hit the pass when on the defensive end.
9. Become the best communicator - Talk loud, talk early, and talk often. Put everyone on the same page.
10. Become the most positive highest energy player - Bring the juice! Bring some enthusiasm to the entire team. It is contagious and the rest of the team will feed off it.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Exciting News - New Partnership!

If you are a regular visitor to my blog, you may have noticed a "redesign" a couple of weeks ago. I did create a logo for the blog a while ago, but couldn't find a time to incorporate it into the blog itself. I figured with this partnership, it was a great time to introduce it. I am really excited to partner with a great company that provides quality products and services for basketball coaches.

Being that Baden and I are both Evergreen State products (let's hear it for the great State of Washington!), this just makes sense. I have used Baden basketballs since I can remember. We currently use the Lexum Perfection Elite at the University of Dallas. These balls last forever! Some of our players actually prefer the balls from 2004 over the new ones. Unlike their competitors, Baden's balls don't absorb moisture which makes the balls lighter, easier to grip, and ultimately last longer. My good friend Jerry Hink at Baden is passionate about basketballs, volleyballs, baseballs, and even broomballs (yep, there is an official broomball). In dealing with Baden, you are going to get first class treatment from their staff with prompt service and responses. Again, you've probably already ordered your basketballs for the season, BUT if you run a camp or a summer league give them a shout! They do great custom camp balls at great prices.

Click on the link to the right to check out Baden. I think you'll find something you like and will be pleased with the results so much you'll keep coming back to them for years to come.

Handling Blowouts

I found an article yesterday about the Houston Yates HS game against Houston Chavez HS. For those of you outside the state of Texas, Yates now holds the record for most consecutive games scoring 100+ points. I've posted about Yates before along with an article from Rick Reilly at ESPN. I know as a college coach, this is a risky move and I may not ever get a player from Yates, but I am also a believer in humility, basketball karma, and no one deserves to be absolutely humiliated by a score of 170-35 (actual Yates game final score from last season). One of my mentors that recently passed away this summer, Les Eathorne, was adamant about NOT scoring 100 points on an opponent unless it was absolutely necessary; if the other team had 99 and they had to score 100 to win was the only acceptable time. Coach Eathorne felt that triple figures on the scoreboard was too demeaning and unnecessary. I digress.

With the game already decisively over, Chavez HS alters their game plan. Their coach decides to give the team a new goal: they are going to keep Yates from scoring 100 points. So instead of attacking on offense, Chavez pulls the ball out and runs a delay game (my guess is a version of the old Dean Smith designed North Carolina 4-Corners). A brilliant move. There is nothing to be gained at that point by attacking. Why not work on something else? Why not give the team something to be successful at that night? Why not give them something to be proud of when the final buzzer sounds? Chavez could walk off the floor with their heads held high because they accomplished something successfully together as a team.

In their book Basketball Coach's Survival Guide, William Warren and Larry Chapman share this story in regards to handling a blowout:

Even in the worst of blowouts, all is not lost if you can keep your head and focus on positive steps that can improve individual and team play. A coach told us he believes that, because they're so much like nightmares, blowouts aren't real. And because they aren't real, such games should be treated as open scrimmages with fans watching.
"Look at the scoreboard," we overheard the coach telling his players during a timeout. The players did so, gloomily and with great reluctance. It wasn't a pretty sight. "Take a good look at it, because it's the last time you'll look at the clock tonight - if you want any more playing time this season, that is." (We suspected he was exaggerating a bit here - but if we had been playing for him, we would not have made that assumption.)
"Now we're going to forget the score," the coach went on. "The score no longer exists, because this game doesn't exist. Neither do the fans, the other team, or anyone else except you, me, and [the assistant coach]. We're going to practice the same things we work on every day."
Then the coach applied his carefully prearranged zinger, a gimmick he borrowed from Ohio State's fabled football coach Woody Hayes. He calmly took off his wristwatch, held it up for the players to see, and then dropped it on the floor and stepped on it.
"See?" he said, smiling as the players gaped in amazement at the shattered watch, "we don't need a clock. All we need to do is forget everything else and concentrate on running our patterns with precision, the way we do at practice."

In essence, Chavez did the same thing. Their focus was no longer on getting their butts whipped, it was now on perfecting their delay game. The focus was to work together on maintaining possession of the basketball.

The absolutely most disturbing part of the article (found HERE), are the comments at the bottom. Read them. Most are truly unbelievable (probably from soft armchair/Monday-morning quarterback geeks who don't have a stinking clue about athletics and enjoy the anonymity of the Internet). BUT coaches, these could be our future players and their parents making these crazy comments. Shoot, these could be some of your players or their parents already. Is sportsmanship dead? Has it really come to beating someone down to the point of humiliation?

I like to win! No question about that. I like to win convincingly. BUT, I also understand being on the other bench. I will use the bench. I will call the dogs off. I will work on other things once the game is out of reach and victory is assured.

On the other hand, we've been blown out a couple of times this year already. In those cases, I don't worry about what the other team is doing. I concentrate on what MY guys are doing. Like Chavez HS and the story above, it is important to refocus on a positive and be able to find even some small success.