team values

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.

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.

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.

Accountability

It is important to hold your players accountable and to hold yourself accountable as a coach. If you start to lose that fire and love for the game, call yourself out and get back on track with doing what needs to be done. If you are not getting the job done as a coach: recognize it, find a solution, and resolve the issue. It is most important to lead by example as the leader of your program. I make it a point to come to practice everyday earlier than every player on my team and to stay until every player has left. Going above and beyond with my game preparation is another way for me to lead by example. I’m not going to name anybody specifically, but I have witnessed another coach of a different sport skip out on entire off-seasons of practices, posting pictures of them partying with alcohol on social media (that students have the ability to see), and then call out players for not being committed to the program.

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Holding players accountable will gain you the respect of your athletes. It is important to make sure that expectations are made clear to your athletes. A coaching mentor of mine who was also a high school teacher told me that he only had one rule for his students and athletes, “Do what you are supposed to be doing, when you are supposed to be doing it”. This rule was made clear to his students and athletes through constant repetition. He rarely had anybody question him when he would call them out for not doing what they were supposed to be doing.

No matter which athlete is violating a rule that might be in place, it is important to stay consistent with the way that you enforce your rules and hold that athlete accountable. If your star athlete does something that violates a rule, the punishment must be the same as it would if this was any other athlete.

Making accountability a priority will help your program become one without off the court issues and instill the discipline needed to help your athletes after they graduate high school.