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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

GOAL #1: WORK TOWARDS IMPROVEMENT -- NO MATTER THE WEATHER

Yesterday, my friend and colleague Robert Mosley (assistant coach at the University of Georgia) post one of my favorite quotes:

 "The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining."
-John F. Kennedy

We actually shared it with our team yesterday -- thanks Coach Mosely!  We talked to them about what it meant.  We are coming off of three wins in the Maggie Dixon Classic.  By most standards it was a good weekend -- the sun is shining.  But we need some roof repair.  We had too many turnovers and didn't get the job done on the defensive boards.  Our level of execution needs to improve in a lot of areas.  We could sit happy with our 3-0 record or we can be process oriented and climb up on the roof and get to work.

As Coach Don Meyer would say, "Whatever you accept in victory, you must also accept in defeat."  The score can not be the only indicator in our level of play.

A similar concept comes from Lon Kruger: "Prepare for every game like your lost your last game."

It truly is amazing how often we wait for rain to expose the leaks.

The other element is that the best teams are looking to always improve.  The opponent or time of the year has nothing to with that goal -- which should be your ultimate goal.

Most people think Nick Saban's team is preparing for Western Carolina.  Coach Saban is working to improve his team.

Here are some quotes from his press conference yesterday:

"I think the most important thing to do at this time of year is everybody stay focused on what they've got to do. Focus is like momentum. When you lose momentum in the game, it's really hard to get back. So if you don't stay focused on what you need to do to get better, it's not about the other team, it's about what we need to do as a team."

"Are you going to get better that way or not? Taking advantage of the opportunity that you have is much bigger than that. I need to play better. I need to improve. I need to help my teammates play better. We didn't execute these plays properly. We need to start getting these plays right. We've got to do a better job, whether it's covering, blocking, carrying out fakes, catching balls, whatever it is.

"The major thing for me is stay focused on what you need to do to improve, so you take advantage of the opportunity. And that's for every player."

You can see video of this portion of Coach Saban's press conference here.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

COACH AURIEMMA ON THE IMPORTANCE OF PRACTICE

Following in an excerpt from an article on Geno Auriemma and his love for practice.  Have you have known a successful coach that has not loved practice?  I've never seen a Geno run practice but after playing against him about a half of dozen times and watching tons of scouting video I can imagine it is a thing of beauty -- part-method and whole-method with great attention to detail.

His thoughts below on practice are outstanding but you can read the entire article written by John Altavilla here:

When you win as often as Geno Auriemma has in his first 29 seasons at UConn – and let’s face it, a winning percentage of 86.9 percent constitutes a trend - you would think game day might be the favorite time of his day.

That would be incorrect. Auriemma loves practice. He loves to plan them and run. He loves his whistle. And he especially loves to extend practice when he doesn’t see what he expects.

And this year, his 30th at UConn, has not witnessed any diminishment in that enjoyment. But it has been different.

“Every day at practice [last season] was easy because the players on last year’s team never had a bad day,” Auriemma said. “But hey, as has been the case for 30 years, every year there’s a new team and something new to deal with.”

“Anyone who accomplishes great things does it because they want to,” he says. “Anyone who doesn’t, doesn’t because they also want to.

“There are kids who say, ‘Well, when you need me I will be there and if you don’t need me, I don’t need to be there [be ready].’ That’s selling yourself short a little. You should strive to prove that you should start ahead of someone else or play more minutes than someone else. It’s about coming out every day and sustaining [performance].

“If you go to practice for a week and you have two really good ones and five mediocre ones you are probably a mediocre player. If have five really good days and two bad ones, you are probably a really good player.

“Kids need to understand that it’s here [practice] where you learn to be a good player. I don’t want to hear anymore of this crap about how some guys are game players, not good practice players.

“I’ve never met anyone that was a great game player who didn’t have tremendous work ethic and practice habits. The challenge for everyone, at least those who come here, is learning how to practice with such consistency that you know you are going to perform consistently when you go into a game.”

TOUGH TEACHERS

The following is an excerpt that ran in the Harvard Business Review.  It is a review of a book "Strings Attached" written by Joanne Lipman & Melanie Kupchynsky.  The book is about the importance of tough love and how are best teachers in life have been the toughest.  Here is part of the article below -- you can read it in it's entirety here:
     
1. Banish empty praise.
Mr. K never gave us false praise, and never even used words like “talent.” When he uttered a “not bad” – his highest compliment — we’d dance down the street and then run home and practice twice as long.

It turns out he was on to something.  Harvard Business Review readers will recall the landmark 2007 article written by psychologist K. Anders Ericsson, “The Making of an Expert.”  That piece is most often cited for his pioneering work establishing that true expertise requires about 10,000 hours of practice.

But Ericsson also cited two other elements, both of which Mr. K seemed to know intuitively. One is “deliberate practice,” which requires pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone, as opposed to going through the motions.  The other, as Ericsson wrote, is this : True expertise “requires coaches who are capable of giving constructive, even painful, feedback.” And “real experts … deliberately picked unsentimental coaches who could challenge them and drive them to higher levels of performance.”

2. Set expectations high.
There’s a tendency to step in when a less experienced colleague is having trouble. Sometimes it seems it’s just easier to do the work yourself. Or to settle for less.

Not in Mr. K’s world.  His standards were uncompromising – and while at first we students found that intimidating, we ultimately understood it was a sign of his confidence in us.  He never wavered in his faith in his students to achieve more and better.  When he first began teaching me the viola, his most frequent admonition was “AGAIN!” most often marked in capital letters on my lesson assignments. But his students knew that he was hard on us not because we’d never learn, but because he was so absolutely certain that we would.

3. Articulate clear goals -and goal posts along the way.
Mr. K insisted that his students audition and perform constantly. He constantly kept us focused on the next challenge.  How would we prepare, and what would we do to improve the next time?  By articulating these intermediate goals, he encouraged us to continually stretch our abilities a bit further while reaching for objectives that were challenging, but ultimately achievable.

4. Failure isn’t defeat.
Mr. K never penalized us for failure. Sometimes we succeeded at auditions; sometimes we failed. But Mr. K made it clear that that failure was simply part of the process – not an end point, but simply an opportunity for us to learn how to improve the next time. And he transferred responsibility for figuring out the solution to the student. His favorite saying wasn’t “Listen to me!” It was, instead, “Discipline yourself!”

Years later, his former students – now doctors, lawyers and business executives – would credit that approach for instilling self-motivation.  As one of his former students told me, “He taught us how to fail – and how to pick ourselves back up again.”

5. Say thank you.
This is the one we often forget. My old teacher had witnessed unspeakable horrors as a child growing up in Ukraine amid bloodshed and destruction during World War II.  He didn’t reach the U.S. until after the war, as a 19-year-old who spoke no English and had never had the opportunity to learn to read music despite his passion for it.  He never lost his sense of gratitude to this country for the opportunities he had, despite a catalog of horrors in his own life, including the disappearance of one of his beloved daughters.  He passed that gratitude on to us, with a huge heart, empathy for the underdog, and a commitment to public service, taking us frequently to perform at hospitals and nursing homes and then insisting we stay to visit with the patients.

Friday, November 7, 2014

JOHN MAXWELL'S DAILY DOZEN

The following comes from "Be All You Can Be," by John Maxwell:

Examine your life at the moment. The first step toward making your dream come true is to find out where you are right now. That takes close scrutiny.

Exchange all of your little options for one big dream. Every dream has its price.

Expose yourself to successful people. It is true that birds of a feather flock together. Express your belief in your dream. Write it down or talk about it frequently.

Expect opposition to your dream. Every nitpicker who doesn’t have a dream will oppose yours. Regretfully, there are ten nitpickers for every person with a dream. You will never rid yourself of them. As long as you understand that, you won’t let them hinder you. Remember that those who have no dream cannot see yours, so to them it is impossible. You can’t have what you can’t see.

Exercise all of your effort, all of your energy, toward the dream. It’s worth it. Pay that price.

Extract every positive principle that you can from life. Constantly be on the lookout for anything that will enhance that dream.

Exclude negative thinkers as close friends. You’re going to have some friends who are negative thinkers, and no doubt some are members of your family. But if the negative thinking drags you down, which it will, you don’t need to spend much time with them. There are people in my family and in my wife’s family who are spirit-dampeners. We have chosen, for the sake of our kids as well as ourselves, not to spend a lot of time with them. You may need to put some distance between yourself and your negative thinking friends.

Exceed normal expectations to make your dream come true. If you’re to reach your dream, you’ll have to do that which is beyond the normal. Dreams are not achieved by average energy.

Exhibit an attitude that is confident. I believe that if you are outwardly confident, you will become more confident inwardly. The way we act outwardly affects what we are inwardly.

Explore every possible avenue to reach your dream. Don’t let any detour or dead-end street stop you on your way to a dream God has given you. There are more routes up a mountain than just the east side. Go around to the south side. See what else you can do.

Extend a helping hand to someone who had a similar dream, and both of you will climb together. Mountain climbing is not an individual sport. It’s a team sport. One holds the line for the other. As we hold the lines for others, we can all make it to the top, and our dreams can come true.

 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A LITTLE BIT OF EVERYTHING

Here's some really great stuff from Mitch Cole of the Texas A&M men's basketball staff.  Mitch puts out an outstanding email newsletter and if you haven't signed up for it your missing out.  Email Mitch and request to be on the list and you will regularly get stuff that will help your program.  Here is some of what's in this week's edition:

As I gathered some notes from various clinics, conversations and roundtable discussions this off-season, I wanted to pass on a few random phrases and thoughts that I jotted down as I heard them from different coaches, leaders, and basketball people during the past few months. I thought you might find some of them interesting:


ON LEADING A PROGRAM:

-Fight for your culture everyday.

-Be "relentlessly self critical" as a leader.

-in the off-season, teach the players: 1. How to work 2. How to love one another.

-Most leaders vastly UNDER-communicate their vision.
 

ADVICE FOR COACHES:

-Establish key roles for players that don’t revolve around scoring.

-Coaching is taking a player where he can’t take himself.

-Embrace the other coaches in your department.

-The best coaches continue to learn.

 
ON DEFENSE:

-“I’ve never heard a coach say “hey, you need to dribble more”. Therefore, we want to deny all passes to make the other team dribble more!”

-If you are a help team, the HELP cannot get beat.

-Have your "nose on his top hip" when guarding the wing.

-Always convert on any steal in practice.

-Pressing coaches need to have “amnesia.” You might give up a layup, but forget about it.

-Always Chart contested shots and deflections.

-Use more film, less drills.

 
ON OFFENSE:

-Shot selection is a HUGE factor in offensive rebounding.
 
-Goal is to get 45% of misses back vs Zone Defense.

-2 things that will not be tolerated: 1. Lazy cuts 2. No effort on offensive glass.

-Work on pivoting to finish, and pivoting to pass.

 
ON EVALUATING PLAYERS:

-Need on court and off court selflessness.

-Need players I don’t have to rev up every day. Motor!

-Can he guard his position? More than one position?

-Does he have a realistic view of himself?

-How does he handle adversity?

 
ON DEALING WITH SOCIAL MEDIA:

-Players are now concerned with THEIR BRAND more than their game.

-Confront the disillusionment of a player’s ego.

-Social Media is a privilege. Your BRAND is not bigger than OUR BRAND.

-Most players are not equipped to handle it. If you like taking compliments, you better be ok with taking criticism.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

COMMIT TO DEFENSE

The question today is what are your defensive standards?  What is that you need your defense to do for it to be successful.  I'm a big believer that offense is principle-based while defense is more rule oriented.  At Texas A&M we refer to these as our "non-negotiables."  While your list certainly doesn't have to mirror ours, you need to give some thought to what you standards are going to support your defense.  Make sure you share those with your team on a constant basis.  They should be a part of your breakdown drills and whole method work....point them out in practice.  Make them part of your defensive culture.

Here is another great list via Del Harris from his book "Winning Defense."

Commit to Defense
To instill our philosophy, we drill our team defense to be able to accomplish the following items which we call The Defensive Seven- on a consistent basis:

Have a great transition from offense to defense. Don’t give up fast breaks with quick, easy offensive shots. Make the opponent score five-on-five against a set defense most of the time, not two-on-one or three-on-two.

Push the ball to a sideline in order to establish a good weakside defense as early as possible. A good weakside helps fortify the entry side, puts them in positions to attack penetration, and makes better defenders out of the players on the strong side.

Keep the ball from reversing easily from side to side. To allow the ball to swing easily creates defensive problems for the weakside people, preventing them from giving adequate help angles.

Concentrate on stopping penetration via the dribble and pass. Setting the defense early helps accommodate this.

Prevent a consistent low post attack. Do early work to prevent good positioning inside; challenge cutters and post up people. If the ball does get to a good position inside, it is vital to have a system of attack in terms of helping, trapping, and rotating to reduce the damage.

Rotate to assist a teammate who has gotten into trouble by getting beat on a drive, cut, post-up or by losing his man.

Rebound and pick up loose balls.

Monday, October 27, 2014

MY FAVORITE TEAM

By in large coaches never admit to having a favorite player or a favorite team.  It's probably the politically correct route to take.  When I talk to my teams I let them know up front that I have favorite players -- and I'm not ashamed of it.  They are the players that are the first on the floor for practice...the players that work hard...the players that care about their teammates...the players that take pride in their preparation...the players who understand the importance of an education...the players that want to pass it forward to the community.  You bet I have favorite players.

But until now, I've never shared my favorite team.  God knows I've been blessed with some great teams -- some can even be labeled as special.  But I'm going be honest -- my favorite team without question is the men's team I was blessed to be a part of at West Virginia State College in 1987.  From the outside-in many would say it was because we achieved so much -- winning the regular season WVIAC title and the WVIAC conference championship before losing in the National Championship game 79-77.

But it wasn't the championships that made that team special -- it was the champions that played for it.

They are college graduates...husbands and fathers...they are business owners, administrators, educators, coaches...one worked in city government, one on Wall Street and another for NASA.  These are student-athletes, many who came from difficult backgrounds and certainly battled financial hardships.  We didn't have scholarships at West Virginia State College -- their Pell Grant money went to cover what work study didn't.  There were no charter flights, but beat up university vans with bald tires and windshield wipers that didn't work half the time.

We played in a dingy gymnasium that wasn't quite regulation in length.  During Christmas break, the college turned off the heat which meant our practices usually were held in 50 degree temperatures.  In the morning, as you felt your way across the floor to get the light breaker, there would the occasional crunch of a cock roach.  Meals during the holidays were at Shoney's...over and over and over.

And they played...and played...and played.  We found out several were playing intramural basketball during our season (and running away with the league until we halted that).  We once called off practice because we thought they looked tired after a sloppy win only to later found out that our captain called a night practice himself and that went for three hours.

Too often in sports, terms like family, brothers and sisters are utilized far too easily and undeservedly so.  But this group of men meet the criteria and beyond.  We just recently passed the 25th anniversary of our NAIA run and for many teams that gather for such occasions it's incredibly special because they haven't seen each other in a decade or more and it's a chance to catch up on what's going on with each other's families.

But that just isn't close to the case with this team.  Each year they meet in Institute, West Virginia at homecoming and have their own private reunion.  But it's not really a reunion -- because they are constantly in touch with each other.  They visit each other...call each other...and certainly social media is helpful.  They are already planning next year's fall trek to West Virginia State. No team I've ever coached has been more loyal to each other and had each other's back -- for 25+ years now!

I'm blessed to be a part of this unique family.  They keep me involved as well.  Doug Hobson came to visit us in Baton Rouge as did Wayne Casey.  James Washington brought his daughter to our summer basketball camp.  An east coast game allowed me to spend some time with Larry Gaines. West coast swings gave Ruben Noles and Jeff Woods a chance to attend some games.  While at UCF, Omar Booth attended our game against Seton Hall and last year while playing in Madison Square Garden I got a big bear hug from Ron Moore who was there to see us play.  And there's phone calls -- I especially love the ones from Ronnie Legette who's gonna get a few cracks in on me.  Or the note from Joey Oden who still loves to tease me about my fear of flying.

This was a team that averaged over 100 points a game during 1987 but is still one of the best defensive teams I've ever coached.  But my favorite time with them was at practice because practice was an all out war -- they came everyday and competed at such a great level.  My second favorite time was driving the van after a win and listening to them crack on each other -- and me at times.

And still I know I can't fully appreciate everything they overcame to achieve greatness.  It was not easy being an all African-American team in the late 1980's.  I saw and heard things directed at our team that disgusted me.  But they got closer and played harder -- something they have continued to do in life.

I could mention some great games -- monumental wins...there were some amazing individual performances...outstanding season stats for players and the team...but I want to keep the focus on these men...these men who remain close to each other almost 30 years after coming together.  They came from New York (Brooklyn, The Bronx, Harlem and Syracuse)...they came from Pittsburgh and Seattle...New Jersey...and of course West Virginia.

And they bonded -- like no other team I've ever been associated with and in a fashion I've never been a part of -- at a strength I've never seen. 

And not all of us are still here.  We lost Andre Burrell unexpectedly and far too soon.  But he's still with us in spirit because these brothers constantly remind each other that he is still a part of us.

For me, as a coach, you hope that some of what you taught rubs off on your team -- but this team has taught me more than I taught them.

And today, to the best team I've been a part of, I just want them to know how proud I am of them and how honored I was to have been their coach.

I love you guys!

Friday, October 17, 2014

DONOVAN, GATORS USE "INSIDE THE ROPE" TO KEEP TEAM TOGETHER

 
I came across a good website today - www.BetterBasketballTribe.com.  And I came across a great post by Kyle Gilreath -- you can read the entire post here.  What I love about this motivational technique that he describes is that it gives a strong visual with the physical presence of a prop.  We have used various props in the past and it makes a big difference.  Here is what Gilreath was a part of at Florida.

During my time at the University of Florida I was very fortunate to be part of two of the best teams in college basketball history. After winning the 2006 National Championship, three amazing men (and lottery picks) decided to return for their Junior seasons. After running through the regular season with only a few minor bumps in the road we received the overall #1 seed in the 2007 NCAA Tournament. However, at the same exact time the “Distractions” started coming out.

As soon as the morning practice was over before we headed to New Orleans for our First Round match-up vs. a very good Jackson State team, Coach Donovan pulled out this enormous yellow rope. He handed one end of the rope to one of the players and told everyone (players, coaches, & staff) to form a large circle; then he instructed everyone to get on the inside of the rope and take hold of a small area. By this point, the rope was just large enough for everyone to fit inside…then Coach Donovan said, “This is our family inside this rope, don’t let ANYONE else inside our family, don't let ANYONE inside our rope, STAY INSIDE THE ROPE!"

This was one of those goose bump moments I will never forget for the rest of my life. This phrase became the motto for the rest of the season and was preached 24/7. “STAY INSIDE THE ROPE”! This message became such a meaningful part of the team that it was inscribed on the 2007 NCAA Championship ring.

Every team typically has a motto each year and they are printed on the back of their shirts or practice shorts, and more times than not they are “Hard Work”, “Toughness”, “Play Hard”, “Defense Wins”; these are all great and wonderful but if you have to preach to your kids about working hard everyday, that is taking time from your practice. Implant something into their heads like “Stay Inside the Rope”, make it something unique that applies to them and will keep them focused and ignore the distractions.

ATTRIBUTES OF THE TRULY COMMITTED

The following comes from the book "Monday Morning Choices" by David Cottrell:

1.       They do what they say they’ll do because they have made the commitment to do it. You can count on them every time. When they tell you they will do something, you can consider it done.

2.       They believe so strongly they can achieve a goal that they can envision themselves crossing the finish line. They can vividly see success.

3.       They write and verbalize their commitments. This doesn’t mean sitting around talking about what they plan to do. They put their goals into words and then get busy.

4.       They’re realistic. They don’t over-promise and under-deliver. Whatever they say, you can believe it.

5.       People who choose commitment invest in achieving their goals. They may invest the classroom time necessary to earn a college degree, energy on the basketball court practicing three-pointers, or hours at the computer pounding out that first novel. When they commit, they invest.

6.       Committed people don’t beat themselves up for falling short. They use that experience to learn and continue the process.

7.       People who choose to commit always plan their lives around what it takes to achieve a goal. They are focused, and they make their success a top priority.

8.       Most committed people don’t understand the term “fail.” They think it means “one step closer to success.”

9.       People who commit themselves to a goal have an impact on the lives of those around them. Enthusiasm and commitment are contagious.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

MICHAEL HYATT: 4 WAYS TO KEEP INSPIRATION ALIVE

One of my absolute go-to blogs to read  is written by Michael Hyatt.  It is hard for me to believe than anyone, no matter their occupation, could not improve their craft by regularly visiting Michael's site.  He deals with everything from organization, time management, motivation, teamwork and much more.  He should also be a must-follow if you are on twitter.

Here is an excerpt from one of his blog posts (you can read the entire post here) titles 4 Ways To Keep Inspiration Alive:

As a leader, here are four ways you can keep inspiration alive in your organization:

1. Connect people to the larger story. People want to know the organization they work for matters. They want to know it is making a difference in the world. For this to happen, you must connect them to the larger story.

Why was your organization founded? Why does it exist? What would happen if it disappeared? What is really at stake? You can’t talk about this too much.

2. Remind people why they matter. It’s one thing to understand the organization matters. It’s another thing to understand they matter—and they do. But they must be reminded and affirmed.

They must understand how their actions contribute to the overall mission. While this might be clear to you, it is probably not clear to them. Your role as a leader is to help them “connect the dots.”

3. Resist creating new policies. I have seen this over and over again in organizations. Someone makes a mistake. Rather than dealing with the problem—which is likely an exception or an anomaly—the leaders create a new policy.

Over time, these policies slow an organization down, like the ropes that rendered Gulliver immovable. The better tactic is to deal with problems and people head-on and only institute a policy if the behavior happens repeatedly or spreads beyond the original situation.

4. Set the pace for what you expect in others. This is ultimately your most important leadership tool. You cannot create an inspiring organization without being an inspiring person.

If you want people to be positive and upbeat, you must be positive and upbeat. If you want people to be flexible and embrace change, then you must be flexible and embrace change.

Like it or not, your people will mimic your priorities, values, and behavior. To quote Gandhi, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”