goal setting

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.

Who You Surround Yourself With Matters

I used to have a business partner who was a good friend of mine for a number of years. In our business we were extremely successful and I always strived to be as attentive to all of my clients as possible. My partner was brilliant but unfortunately he had a knack for not returning client phone calls and e-mails. Even though I would go above and beyond when dealing with my clients, the lack of customer service that my partner showed toward clients tarnished my reputation as well.

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With coaching, you need to select athletes for your team that will best represent your school. Also, you need to have assistant coaches that share your philosophy of professionalism as well. Nothing can sink a program faster than having an assistant coach who creates a negative image of your program.

A couple of seasons ago I had an assistant coach with my program who had a pretty solid knowledge of the game and he had experience as a head varsity coach. He brought a lot to the table as an assistant coach and his knowledge of the game proved helpful during games. However, this same assistant coach created drama off-the-court by stirring up issues with athletes and he created a very negative image of the program with our administration based on his lack of professionalism. Even though I did my best to be a professional and positive role model, my assistant coach whom I chose to work with our program brought a slightly negative image to what we were doing. In spite of his great knowledge, we had to part ways a couple of years ago and even though I lost someone with a great knowledge of the game, we have a staff and athletes with great values and are looked upon in a positive light by our administration.

With anything in life, you need to surround yourself with people who are positive and work hard. That same business partner that I spoke of in the opening paragraph used to always speak down to me, be disrespectful of my time, and not treat me with the respect that I deserved. In spite of our past friendship and his great education, parting ways with him was the greatest business and life decision that I have ever made. I know have more self-confidence than ever before, am more relaxed, and have achieved more business success than I had ever had with our partnership.

Your athletes on the team will also reflect upon you as a coach. When picking teams, difficult decisions will need to be made sometimes when you have a student who is talented but may reflect poorly upon your school and program. Even if you are winning ball games having a negative image can potentially cost you a job. I am all about teaching and second chances but tread very carefully when working with students who have attitude issues and don’t mesh well with their teammates (I have lived through this mistake on more than one occasion).

This past season I had some of the nicest young ladies on my team. They worked hard in the classroom, had positive attitudes, and  were very supportive of each other on and off the court. My coaching staff was extremely loyal and did an excellent job of helping to build our program. Even though we were not as talented as years past and we finished slightly under .500, it was one of the most relaxing and fun seasons that I have coached in a long time.

 

Knowing Roles

It is important for coaches and players to all have a role, know their role, embrace their role, and excel at their role. It is easy to sell an athlete on being the leading scorer and taking a majority of shots but you need to have balance on your team. Every time has to have scoring but in order to provide balance to your team, you must have players who can rebound, pass, defend, and bring the ball up the court. Defining roles is all about determining the expertise of each of your athletes and finding a way to cater to their strengths.

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Coaches are no different than athletes when it comes to roles. If every coach is yelling instructions all the time, it will lead to confusion and a lack of efficiency. It is very important to define roles for coaches and I have outlined three roles for me three assistant coaches as follows:

  1. One coach will focus on the defense and report to me on what adjustments need to be made both in terms of personnel and strategy.
  2. One coach will focus on the offense and report to me on what adjustments need to be made both in terms of personnel and strategy.
  3. The other coach will have the same rile but with respect to inbound plays.

By having coaches fill positions much like football coaches who each star in a specific job title, it allows each coach to become an expert in their field and to master one task.

Athletes need to all try and be as strong as they can at every aspect of the game. For example, everyone needs to be the best defender possible. However, only one player can bring the ball up the court, and only one or two players can crash the boards on offense, and finally, only one player can try and be a playmaker on offense.

By defining roles for each player, it allows you to have smooth transition and lots of flow on offense and defense. Roles will also help your team out with having your coaches all on the same page.

 

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.

Fix Off The Court Issues First

I had a team a couple of years ago that was extremely talented and won more games than most teams at the school over the past 20 years. We qualified for the playoffs and had a first round game against a team on paper that appeared to be beatable. The bad news for us was that the team we were playing had excellent chemistry and we had a lot of off-the-court-issues. As I feared, we lost the game although we competed very well in the first half.

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Chemistry will play a big factor in the success of your team. I dealt with a lot of off-the-court issues with what I refer to as my dysfunctional team. Many coaches think that off-the-court issues are not a big deal if players can compartmentalize their problems and learn to work together on-the-court. I can assure these coaches that off-the-court-issues will bleed onto the court.

I spent a great deal of time trying to have players work through the issues but in the end I failed. If I had truly done a better job addressing issues off-the-court and having more communication between athletes through a counseling type session, it might have helped salvage our season.

Whether you are successful or not, it is important to address off-the-court issues and try to fix them. If you want to have your team perform at their highest level, building chemistry off-the-court is where this starts. Once you’ve built chemistry off-the-court, you can then start to work on improving your team on-the-court.

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.

Take Action To Achieve What You Want

I always find it interesting when I hear players talk about specific goals that they want to achieve or ways that they want to improve their game. The interest is not in the goal they have set but rather it is that they do not put in the work necessary to achieve that goal.

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I had an athlete on my team last year who has been starting on my team since her Freshman year and she told me that she wanted to become a better scorer and defender. During the season, she had a good season but not at the level she was hoping for. She expressed to me her disappointment in not developing her left hand as well as she had hoped/ I explained to her that having goals are great but those goals take hard work to achieve and she agreed that she had not committed to skill work in the offseason as much as she should have.

Coaches are in the exact same situation as players in that they have things that they want such as a head coaching job, more wins for their team, more money in their school booster account, etc… Much like the situation with the player that I outlined above, coaches must take action to get what they want.

If you want a head coaching job, step up and take more responsibility as an assistant coach and make an effort to network with other coaches and administrators. Getting more wins is simply a matter of planning and working on making your players each better through skill development and developing your team to be able to execute your game plans (it’s also not a bad idea to really focus on improving your game planning). Fundraising money does not grow on trees and if you want more you need to commit to planning enough fundraisers to meet a goal that you have.

With anything for coaches, you must commit to taking action. If you have any scenarios that you had in mind and would like help in creating an action plan, do not hesitate to reach out to me.