team culture

Keep Your Word

Last week I posted about the importance of being honest with your athletes. In my post for today I am going to keep along similar tones and encourage coaches to keep their word. This includes keeping your word to school administrators, athletes, opposing coaches, and your own assistant coaches. Sometimes it may be difficult to stand by something that you have promised; however, to keep your integrity and any semblance of trust that you have earned, you need to always keep your word.

honest abe

When it comes to school administrators, they are going to ask your help with things. Examples would be supervising school events, attending school functions, and dealing with administrative issues that might arise. It is  good idea to try to volunteer when possible as it is good for the school and your image. However, if you agree to something, you must follow through on the agreement. On occasions I have found myself frustrated because I agreed to supervise a school event ahead of time and had a lot of other things pop up the day of the event. It would look very poorly upon me if I backed out at the last-minute, especially if it was not for an emergency. Do not agree to something with your administration unless you plan to follow through.

When dealing with your athletes, it is always important to keep your word and this can be both for rewards and punishments. When you want to incentivize something for your team, it can be an excellent idea to offer a reward such as a team dinner in lieu of a conditioning workout. If you promise something, no matter what circumstances might change, you need to follow through on what was promised. On the other hand, if you have a punishment in place for violation of a team rule, you need to follow through on this as well.

A great example of a tough situation for me was when I had a player disrespect the crowd in a game right before Christmas. She was assessed a technical foul and to make matters worse, we lost the game by the two points that the opponent earned on the free throws. My rule that year was that any technical foul earned by an athlete for a behavioral issue would result in a one game suspension. The really tough part was that the technical foul was earned by my top scorer. If I sat her out for the next game, we risked losing the opening game of a tournament. In the end, I valued my integrity and keeping my word over winning a basketball game and sat her out. As a teacher, this was a teachable moment where I wanted to show everyone that actions do have consequences.

With your assistant coaches it is a no-brainer that you must be honest with them and follow through on what you promise them. Even when it comes to opposing coaches, you need to follow through on promises made. I had a year where I got a scout tape from the coach of another school and promised to give them any film they asked for in exchange at any point in the year. Sure enough, we ended up playing this opponent in the first round of the playoffs. The opposing coach called in the favor and asked me for a film of my own team. Even though I knew it would hurt my chances, I felt the importance of keeping my word was far more valuable than winning that ball game. We lost in overtime but I kept my integrity and honor in the process.


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.


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.


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.


Know Your Personnel

It is absolutely crucial for you as a coach to know your personnel. When you are game planning and looking at what to do with a specific matchup, you must know the strengths and weaknesses of all of your athletes. In order to make sure to put yourself in a position to succeed you must first know who can help you in certain situations and how they can help you.


With each of my teams I have a set lineup for different scenarios, including set lineups for each of the following:

  1. Shooters to face against a zone.
  2. Quickness to press.
  3. Size to combat a smaller lineup.
  4. Lockdown defenders when I need a stop.
  5. Ball handlers when I am facing a press.

By knowing the strengths of my athletes, I know who will fit best into each of these lineups. It is important for every player on your team to also know their personnel. If they know what each player can do, they can put that player in position to succeed. By knowing if someone cannot shoot the ball well from the outside, they will not pass the ball to that player deep on the outside at the end of a shot clock. Many other similar scenarios exist.

It is not something that you will figure out in a day either. You need to closely watch your athletes and be aware of what they are doing well and struggling with during practices. It is important to focus on the strengths of each athlete as opposed to their weaknesses. By doing this, you know a way to utilize every plyer on your roster.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.