classroom

Lead By Example

If you are going to ask your athletes to do something it truly helps to lead by example. I have learned through experience that if your athletes see you as the hardest working member of the team, it makes it hard for them to question what you are doing or complain. This has been a great area of growth for me over the past couple of years, especially when it comes to strength and conditioning. I first want to preface that although it helps if you have been around the game of basketball, it is not crucial that every coach have played the game of basketball growing up.

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My first couple of seasons at Ontario, I was horribly out of shape and it was difficult to get my athletes to completely commit to our strength and conditioning program. A couple of years ago I committed to fitness for myself and lost over 150 pounds and am now in the greatest shape of my life (shockingly, diet and exercise actually works). Now when we have conditioning before or during practice, I will get out there and do the workouts with my athletes and I no longer get any complaints and notice a guilty look from students who sit out a conditioning workout that I am doing with the team. This is just one example of a way that I have been able to lead by example.

Another great way to lead by example is make sure that you are at the gym before any of your athletes and you are the last one to leave. I make an effort to be in the gym reviewing game film when my athletes arrive and stay in the gym after practice to meet with my assistant coaches. Athletes notice these things and will respect you more if they see that you are committed to working hard and devoting time to the program. Being knowledgeable about your offense and defense will help them respect your knowledge of the game as well. Whenever a question gets brought up about something we are doing on offense or defense, I make an effort to give a solution or answer that has depth and shows that I am in complete understanding of what we are doing, how we need to do it, and what the expected outcome is.

Overall, it’s a great idea to lead by example because you are a role model to these athletes and it will help you be more successful as a coach. I am always open to suggestions so if you have any ideas, suggestions, or questions, please feel free to comment on this post or send me an e-mail.

Playbook

Every year, I give athletes on my team a playbook and encourage them to study it as early as possible. Our boys basketball coach thinks that I am overdoing it by providing these playbooks to our athletes because they likely won’t really put the time into studying it. My response to him is always, “My job is to put these athletes in the best possible position to succeed and that requires me to go above and beyond what other coaches are doing”. At Ontario, the stigma has always been that basketball is not a priority and that these athletes cannot play at an elite level. My attitude is always that I will not treat an athlete at Ontario any differently than I would an athlete at a program competing for a State Championship.

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In the playbooks that I hand out, they come with 5 tabs, labeled as follows:

  1. Administrative
  2. Defense
  3. Offense
  4. Out of Bounds
  5. Press Breaks

Administrative- In this section I have a copy of our team contract for the year, a list of team rules, team goals, and an expectation for each athlete at their position. Other items that fit the needs of your program can go into this section as well.

Defense- This section includes all half-court and full-court defenses that we will be running that season.

Offense- This section includes all offenses against man or zone that we will be running. I always include a transition offense in this section as well.

Out of Bounds- All baseline and sideline out-of-bounds plays are included in this section and I like to include plays for situations that put us at odd angles (ball is tipped out of bounds).

Press Breaks- This section includes my press breaks against man and zone presses.

This level of organization will not only help your players be put into a position to succeed but it will also put you in a position to have an understanding of what plays are available to you and put you in a position as a coach to succeed. It always helps me to keep a play chart with me that shows what we have available and what it will work against.

What you put into your playbook will be different based on the needs of your team and I will be posting about this at a later date.

Basketball IQ

Moving on from some of the off-the-court issues I have discussed, we now delve into some on-the-court topics. Basketball IQ is a great trait that you hope your athletes have before they get to you. It is especially helpful to have a point guard who has a high basketball IQ. Unlike some coaches, I believe that you can build basketball IQ in your players over time through training.

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It is first important to note that basketball IQ has nothing to do with overall intelligence or how smart your athletes are. Basketball IQ is based on the understanding of the game and ability to see things on the court before they develop. I have had some athletes with a 4.8 GPA who did not have a great GPA and at other schools have seen athletes with a low GPA who have very high basketball IQ.

Some coaches think that a player either has a high basketball IQ or they don’t. They base this upon the amount of basketball a player grew up playing and watching. Additionally, some coaches think that youth coaching plays a role in the basketball IQ of an athlete. I agree with the assessment of the coaches who see IQ as a result of upbringing; however, I believe you can still grow basketball IQ in a high school athlete.

I have seen a software being marketed that claims to be able to improve the basketball IQ of athletes through the use of a computer game. At my school, we use twice a week to participate in a basketball classroom setting where we teach concepts and ideas about the game. Also, by providing scouting reports to athletes, they are given something to use as a study aide and tool for learning. In my first two years I saw a mild amount of growth when it came to IQ but this year the growth is off the charts. As with anything you remain persistent about (see my post from yesterday), you can see improvement if you commit to a plan and adapt that plan over time.

The effect of higher basketball IQ will be an ability to improve on the court. Your players will be able to execute game plans and also do things on the court that they could not do prior to having a high basketball IQ. As an overall result, you will see your teams win more ball games over time.

Be Persistent

Those of you who read my story on what t took for me to break into coaching know that I showed persistence. I encourage all coaches to show persistence when it comes to finding their first job. It is not just finding a job that requires persistence. When it comes to improving your team both on and off the court you must be persistent as well.

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Here are just a few examples of situations that require persistence:

  1. Getting a job.
  2. Improving team chemistry.
  3. Getting students to improve performance in the classroom.
  4. Improving skills of your players.
  5. Winning basketball games.

Persistence requires hard work and a dedication to achieving a goal. Refer back to my coaching journey for an example of persistence when it comes to getting a job. Team chemistry is a topic that we covered last week and I gave examples of ways to being persistent about improving off-the-court. Improving in the classroom will require you to monitor students grades and then work with them to improve. Skill development requires work every day in practice. Winning basketball games requires planning and hard work over a long period of time.

Overall, persistence is a key with every aspect of your team and it is a trait that will benefit you and your teams. Persistence always seems to pay off in the long run.

In The Classroom

This is not going to be a very long post but it is an important one. I want to make sure to emphasize that a coaches primary job is to be a teacher. Emphasizing academics is a key aspect of coaches that I believe is undervalued. With most rules calling for a minimum 2.0 GPA, coaches simply do what is needed to make sure their students are eligible.

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If your primary objective is to be a true coach both on and off the court to your athletes, you need to show them the importance of academics. Last year I implemented a 3.0 minimum GPA and this year I have implemented a minimum 3.5 policy. Typically I have one or two athletes fall short of the minimum GPA but a 3.3 GPA that falls short is far better than a 1.8 GPA.

Here are some things that I implemented into my program that have helped us rise from a large number of students not being eligible for college prior to my arrival at Ontario High School to a team that had the 26th highest GPA in all of Southern California:

  1. Weekly Grade Checks.
  2. Team running at the end of the week for all athletes under the minimum goal.
  3. Setting higher expectations with GPA and behavior in the classroom.
  4. Assigning each athlete an academic accountability partner.
  5. Partnering the highest academic achievers with those that are not doing as well in the classroom.

Lastly, remember that if your athletes are achieving good grades, it will allow more colleges to recruit your athletes.