Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Inspiring Teamwork Through Movies

This week, our team is spending a tremendous amount of time on the road. Being that we are still trying to build a team identity, a true unit thinking as one entity (I gave my "I could beat Mike Tyson in his prime" talk after our game last night), and that our guys will watch movies on the bus, I wanted to combine those two. I wanted each movie we showed on the bus to have a message; something that will inspire unity and selflessness.

This is the list of movies I came up with:
1. Glory Road - Obvious
2. Hoosiers - Obvious
3. Coach Carter - Obvious
4. The Godfather (Parts 1 & 2) - Once you're part of the family, you're always part of the family. Do anything against the family and there are consequences.
5. Goodfellas - See The Godfather.
6. Italian Job - Team unity can be built around a common goal.
7. Pursuit of Happyness - Quitting isn't an option. Continue pushing towards the ultimate goal. Complete selflessness to protect the future of the family.
8. Jerry Maguire - There are those that will lie, cheat, and steal for the glory. Inspire others toward a shared vision!
9. Braveheart - Total dedication, leadership by example, mentorship. Unrelenting commitment.
10. Bull Durham - Leading through mentoring.
11. Groundhog Day - If you don't change something, it will always be the same.
12. Miracle - An obvious choice. Team building.
13. Remember the Titans - Building a team in the wake of change and extreme adversity.

So a quick Google search unearthed a fantastic list of movies that portray leadership qualities and is already sorted by those qualities. It can be found HERE.

If you spend time travelling with your team and watch movies with them, I would encourage you to think about inspiring them at the same time.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Education of a Coach - A Research Study

I was asked by a very good friend and former college basketball coach, Pete Van Mullem, to assist with a research study he is conducting. I know that he would appreciate it tremendously if you would take 10 minutes out of your day to quickly take his survey that follows.

To all current and former coaches:

You are invited to participate in a study, examining the learning process and educational methods used to develop coaching knowledge and a coaching philosophy. In addition, this study will provide you with the opportunity to reflect on how you acquired the skills necessary to become a coach. It is estimated that participation in this study will require about 10 minutes of your time to complete a short survey.

Please click on the following link:

The study is open to all current and former high school and college coaches (head or assistant). As former coaches at the high school and collegiate level, we sincerely hope you consider taking part in the study. If you have any questions or would like more information, please feel free to contact us. Thank you for your time.

Pete Van Mullem, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Graduate Coordinator, Sport Management
St. Cloud State University (MN)

Heather Van Mullem, Phd.
Associate Professor
Lewis-Clark State College (ID)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Arkansas Little Rock - Collaboration!

Last week, UALR was in Dallas to play SMU. Our head coach here at UD, Jarred Samples, is good friends with UALR DBO, Chris Lowry (bottom right picture). My good friend, Joe Golding (bottom left), is on the UALR staff as well. They needed a place to practice and we gladly offered our facility.

Being that SMU runs the Princeton offense and our first opponent, Southwestern, also runs Princeton, it was a perfect situation for Coach Samples and I to pick the brains of Steve Shields and Joe Kleine as well as our friends on how to stop it. Needless to say, it was a lot of fun to share ideas and hold a mini-clinic of sorts.

Obviously we were all on the same page when it came to not letting them beat us on backdoor layups. Coach Samples and I had talked about using the terminology "Gap it up". Essentially we wanted our players to clog up the gaps between the offensive players. I liked Coach Shields' terminology of "Loosen up". He wanted his players, especially on any screening action, to give the cutter's defender room to go under the screens.

Coach Kleine talked about playing "Below the line". Not just below the passing lane, but below the imaginary line that runs parallel with the baseline and midcourt line through the offensive player. Almost like being in a help position the entire possession: butt to baseline, seeing both ball and man. This gives the defender the advantage of already beating the cutter to the basket.

Coach Golding and I talked about ball pressure. Sure, we wanted our players to loosen up and get below the line, but only far enough where they could quickly apply tremendous pressure once their man caught the ball. We didn't want the ball handler to be able to see the entire floor and pick us apart. I teach our players the "Where the ball is, a hand is" in any on ball defensive situation. Coach Golding's terminology was "Get under him" as they wanted their players to get low and into the offensive player's body.

By loosening up and playing below the line, cutters are now forced to run through the defender. This alters their path and essentially jams up the continuity and timing. This is simply playing percentages. Both staffs were in agreement that we were not going to get beat on open layups. If they were going to beat us, it was going to be on contested perimeter jumpers.

Just for the record, we both won our first games. We only gave up 1 backdoor layup.

Another teaching point I took away from Coach Shields is jump stopping on screens. His players jump stop hard on all of their screens. He drills it where the players' almost drive the bottom of their feet through the floor and make a loud thud. Due to the fact we got called for a ton of illegal screens in our scrimmage, we instituted the jump stop screen. Our terminology is "Hear the feet". The cutter or ball handler can't come off the screen until they hear the screener's feet.

Ganon Baker - Notes from Frisco TX

A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of observing Ganon Baker at work. Ganon is the most intense and energetic person I have ever been around. The Energizer Bunny has nothing on this guy! If you haven't seen him, either in one of his best-selling videos or in person, it is well worth it to say the least.

A good majority of Ganon's workout with the players was ball handling skills. Some of the things Ganon had these kids doing (most of them just attempting) were really innovative. The most impressive were the skills he was teaching with the use of tennis balls. The first was pounding the basketball, drop the tennis ball, and then punch through and catch the tennis ball. He showed the attending players how that is just like shooting your shoulders by a defender. The other impressive drill was players stood tall and extended the tennis ball high above their head. On the drop of the tennis ball, the players had to perform a pound dribble move (in-&-out, between the legs, etc.) while getting their shoulders lower than the bounce of the tennis ball, ultimately catching the tennis ball right before it touches the ground.

Here are some notes from Ganon's camp/clinic:

- 4 Ways to Finish Off Two Feet: 1) Jump Stop, 2) 1-2 Step, 3) Step Back, 4) LeBron Drag Step

- Get to the midline on penetration: More fouls called, Better chance of getting offensive rebound, Higher shooting percentage.

- When attacking in the paint, it's a high jump not a long jump. Up not out!

- It's a shoulders game. When attacking off the dribble, you must get your shoulders at or below the level of the defender.

- Player Ready = 10 fingers to the sky.

- Shooting teaching point: Hand to the sky, the ball will go high.

- Shooting teaching point: Freeze your followthrough!

- "The only way to change your life is to change your work ethic."

- Kill Boxes
Kobe Bryant calls the highlighted areas "Kill Boxes" because if he gets to any of these boxes, he's going to kill the defense.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

It's All In the Feet

Late last week, as I was making my drive to campus, traffic was really bad. Dallas traffic during morning commute time is already a mess and this day was worse than normal. I pulled up next to a guy on a fully loaded and tricked out Harley chopper.

This machine was a thing of beauty! The custom black paint job sparkled in the sunlight while the huge V-twin rumbled like an active volcano. It was truly a biker's bike.

The man riding the thunderous two-wheeled demon was clad in riding leathers. His jet black leather jacket was emblazoned with various rally patches and Harley logos. He donned a German army style helmet over a black bandanna covering his head. Fingerless leather gloves with metal studs on his hands as he gripped the handlebars. His legs were covered in leather riding chaps. All signs pointed to this man being one hardcore rider. A loner. A rebel. Free to ride wherever the road takes him.

There was one sign that totally dispelled any of those perceptions. The man was wearing fur-lined tan house slippers. It was clear to me at that point, this was just a normal "Joe" out for a trip to the grocery store and felt like taking the bike instead of the Clark W. Griswold Wagon Queen Family Truckster... or the soccer mom minivan.

It was such a striking reminder that in the game of basketball (and probably multiple sports) feet tell the story. Like film, feet don't lie. Feet can determine success or failure.

In regards to shooting, feet are first on the list for a successful shot. Being shot ready, or as Mike Krzyzewski calls it being "loaded up", the feet come first. Toes pointed to the basket. Shooting foot in front of the other foot in a toe/instep relation. Shoulder width apart. Building a balanced base in order to drive through the shot and land in the same place. Balanced in order to not drift or float.

Feet are the telling tale on defense. Again, balance is the key. A wide stance with one foot slightly in front of the other in a heel/toe relation. The feet should act as a boundary to the shoulders. When the shoulders stray outside of the feet in a lunging fashion, the player becomes off balance and slow. Toes point slightly outward allowing for the player to bend his knees and sit in a stance.

Feet also tell the story of preparedness. Flat feet says that player is slow, unprepared, and about to get beat. With heels slightly off the ground, light, and constantly moving shows that a player is prepared, attack ready, and has the ability to react quickly. Kevin Eastman would tell our players at Washington State, "Don't get ready to be ready." Players' feet will demonstrate whether they are ready or not. Coach Eastman has some great video on YouTube demonstrating proper foot readiness on offense.

Just like my weekend warrior friend in traffic, a player may dress the part with the newest gear, headbands, wristbands, etc., but his feet are going to tell you the truth. We must continue at all levels to teach in the fashion of Pete Newell. Footwork is the key to success!

John Wooden - 13 Important Principles

From the 1975 Medalist Notebook

1. Basketball is a game of habits, and it takes time and patience to develop proper habits and to break bad ones. One of the greatest faults of most beginning coaches is likely to be a lack of patience.

2. The coach and the players must never become satisfied, but must work constantly to improve. Have perfection as the goal though it can never be attained.

3. Remember that it is not so much what you do, but how well you do it. Do not give them too much.

4. Do not tie them down so rigidly that you take away their initiative. They must have some freedom of movement, but must react to the initiative of a teammate in order to keep floor balance.

5. Try to devise a balanced offense that provides each position with an equal number of scoring opportunities over the course of a number of games.

6. Do not overlook the little details as it is the little things that may make the difference.

7. You must prepare to win to be a winner, and you cannot prepare others without being prepared yourself.

8. Convince your players that condition is often the deciding factor when teams are evenly matched and properly prepared. However, if the better conditioned team is able to take advantage of their condition they must keep the pressure on early in the game in order for it to pay off in the later part.

9. Stress offense without the ball and defense before your man gets the ball.

10. Give public credit to your playmakers and defensive men at every opportunity.

11. The coach should do the criticizing, and it should always be constructive. Permit no players to criticize, razz, or ridicule a teammate in any respect.

12. Insist that the scorer acknowledge the passer whose pass led to his score and that all acknowledge any teammate who makes a nice play.

13. Be constantly analyzing yourself as well as your players and be governed by the result of your analysis.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Hustle Board

This is an idea I picked up from notes that Kevin Eastman took from talking to Herb Sendek in the mid 90's. Herb used a small board in the locker room to keep track after every game of their leaders in various categories. They would post the Best Teammate (subjective), Best Assist/Turnover Ratio, Best Defender (subjective), Most Offensive Rebounds, Most Deflections (must have assistant coach or manager track during the game or by watching film), and Most Charges Taken (again, either during game or afterward on film).

When I got to Eastern Washington and worked under Ray Giacoletti, he had his dad (a marvelous woodwork craftsman) build him a similar leader board. We called it the Hustle Board. We only tracked 3 stats: Charges Taken, Assists, and Rebounds. The difference between Herb's version and Ray's version is that Ray wanted to track cumulatively over the course of the season as well.

In the picture, you'll notice that the right column is already labeled for the season. In that column, affix three nameplate brackets for each category. Some may wish to use Velcro, but I find that Velcro wears out rather quickly and doesn't look as sharp. Sliding nameplates looks classy. The left column is for the last game played. The top bracket is for the opponent, and only the top 2 for that game in each category makes the board.

I love this tool! It creates a sense of pride in doing the little things that actually have a tremendous impact on the outcome of the game. I posted the toughness essay assignment we did with our team, and this is one way we can hold the players accountable for what they wrote.

Principles & Laws of Learning

This post is one of those unexpected and unplanned joys. I was looking through some old notes trying to find some inspiration and creative ways to get my post player to stay in a defensive stance. Just like "mystery money", you know... that $5 bill you find in the pocket of your pants before you throw it in the washer, I was excited to find this brilliant piece from Fred Litzenberger.


1. We learn better when we are "ready to learn". Have an open mind. Have the "will or desire to learn". Recognize a problem and see the need to learn.

2. We learn better when the subject is presented: in small bitesize doses and in logical order.

3. We learn better when we: Go from simple to complex. Don't move on until it becomes a habit. Hear the same terminology every time.

4. We learn by doing - Learn technique first then add speed and quickness. First in practice. Then in game situations (Drills must be game-like). Mental learning helps physical learning - Understand the subject.

5. We can only develop skill through perfect practice. Perfect repetitions. Helps when you learn it right the first time. Fixes your learning.

6. We learn better and fast when: We have some success (Build success into all drills). We feel good about ourselves (Which comes from success). We feel we are learning something that will help us.

7. We retain our learning better when: It has time to "soak in" / it becomes habit. We can see some success.

8. You can evaluate progress (skills) when: Everyone is taught the same technique (With some allowance for individual ability). The teaching is in a logical progression.

John Wooden - Essential Traits and Abilities of a Coach

From the 1975 Medalist Notebook:

Essential Traits and Abilities For the Coach

1. Industriousness. Work as hard as the players.
2. Enthusiasm. Must be from the heart.
3. Sympathy. Must have feeling for youngsters and must be very considerate of their needs and feelings.
4. Judgment. Use common sense and discretion. Don't be emotional.
5. Self-control. Keep your poise.
6. Earnestness. Must be sincere and honest in every phase of your work.
7. Patience. Don't expect too much, too soon.
8. Attentiveness to Detail. Perfection of details can be difference between success and failure.
9. Impartiality. Give each player treatment he earns and deserves.
10. Integrity. A coach who is not sound and honest won't last long.

1. Affability. Must be friendly and cordial.
2. Appearance. Be clean and neat.
3. Voice. Speak clearly and firmly in order to hold attention.
4. Adaptability. Be flexible and able to adjust to the occasion.
5. Cooperativeness. Be a good co-worker with all.
6. Forcefulness. Be firm, but not "Bullheaded".
7. Accuracy. In judgment, technique, reactions, and choices.
8. Alertness. To weak and strong spots of your team and of the opponents.
9. Reliability. Be dependable.
10. Optimistic Disposition. Always think positively.
11. Resourcefulness. Use each individual as he is best suited.
12. Vision. Provide your team with a realistic incentive, a picture of the possible.