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Saturday, February 28, 2015

4 CULTURAL KEYS FOR COACH POPOVICH

Coach Don Meyer would often talk about how "successful people leave clues."  It was his way of suggesting we should study those that have accomplished what we seek.  This past week, there was an excellent column on FoxBusiness.com written by Michael Lee Stallard who took an inside look at San Antonio's Gregg Popovich and came up with what he believes are four cultural elements to the Spurs success.  It's interesting that Fox Business is writing about a basketball coach but it speak to Coach Meyer's believe that you study all that are successful regardless of their field.  Here is an excerpt from the column but you can read it in it's entirety here.

Like all great leaders, Popovich creates a culture that produces sustainable superior performance.  Here are four factors that contribute to making the Spurs’ culture a source of competitive advantage.

1. Intentional About Connection
Gregg Popovich is intentional about connecting with players and staff to develop relationship excellence.  He stated it this way:  “We are disciplined ….  But that’s not enough.  Relationships with people are what it’s all about.  You have to make players realize you care about them.  And they have to care about each other and be interested in each other.” 

His intentionality begins with recruiting players who are selfless and who value teamwork.  If a player becomes selfish on the court, he doesn’t last long with the Spurs.

2. Cares for Players and Staff as People
Popovich cultivates relationship excellence by maintaining an attitude of valuing players and staff as people rather than thinking of them as means to an end.  He invests the time to get to know them.  He’s interested in their lives outside of basketball.  Tim Duncan, the Spurs’ center says, “He’s been like a father figure to me. He cares for us not only on a coaching level, but on a personal level and to have someone like that in your corner means a whole lot.”  The Spurs’ point guard Tony Parker added, “…it’s not just about basketball. And it’s very rare in our business to have somebody like that.”

Popovich wouldn’t have it any other way stating, “You can only get so much satisfaction out of the ball going through the hoop. There’s gotta be more, and because … they let me get involved in their lives, it’s a real joy for me.”

3. Gives People a Voice
Another element in the Spurs’ culture is that players and staff have a voice.  Stated another way, the Spurs culture has the character strengths of honesty and open-mindedness.  Popovich is known for saying what he thinks.  He expects and respects candor in his players and staff.  They know he wants to hear their opinions and ideas.  Popovich’s open-mindedness allows him to consider the ideas and opinions of others.  This creates an environment that encourages frequent conversations to identify the best solutions.  Once Popovich believes he has sufficient information to make a good decision, he makes it and the team moves on.
  
4. Has a Passion for Task Excellence
Watching the Spurs play is like watching the basketball equivalent of a Swiss watch. The precision movements, speed and coordination of the Spurs players is beautiful to behold.  Many coaches throughout history have mastered task excellence; however, it is rarely sustainable.  Popovich understands that without relationship excellence, task excellence and superior results are built on feet of clay. Because he intentionally develops relationship excellence among the team, the Spurs are able to achieve task excellence and sustainable superior performance

Friday, February 27, 2015

THE BASKETBALL DIARIES

I usually re-post this each year.  Four years ago, while coaching at the University of Central Florida, Greg Brown, then the Associate Head Coach at UCF, came up with an idea that we dedicate our blogs for an entire week to what we as assistant coaches do.  It was a serious and massive undertaking to do in the detailed fashion that we chose in the middle of the season but we thought it would be something worth sharing.  It gives a 7 day, minute by minute of everything that a coach does and it is one of the most popular posts I've had in terms of hits.

We've decided to post it again for those who may have missed it the first time.  As we mentioned, it's extremely long.  It includes charts, videos, and graphics of everything from practice, games, scouting, travel, team meetings and a little more.

If you visit, you'll want to scroll to the very bottom and work your way up.  The first entry of the week is at the very bottom.


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

GREG BROWN'S "THE BEST THINGS I'VE SEEN IN COACHING

After tweeting a picture of Greg Brown's recent book "The Best Things I've Seen In Coaching," I've been flooded with request for information on the book can be purchased.  I certainly understand all the request -- Greg, who worked with both Coach Don Meyer and Coach Pat Summitt has penned a book with a large collection of notes he took during his tenures at Lipscomb and the University of Tennessee.

There are three reasons why you MUST purchase this book:

#1 It will make you a better coach.
There is so much information in these pages about teaching, motivation and organization from two of the best that have ever coached and Greg has done a magnificent job he formulated the book.

#2 It will improve your team.
Within in this book is so much material that you can share with players individually or with your entire team.

#3 The proceeds go to two great charities.
Proceeds from the book will be divided among the Meyer and Summitt Foundations.

For ordering information, click HERE.

THE ULTIMATE COACHES' CLINIC: BOBBY BOWDEN

In 2008, Pat Williams, the GM of the Orlando Magic and a tremendous motivational speaker put out a book, "The Ultimate Coaches' Clinic." It is a fascinating book because of the style Pat utilized. He surveyed over 1000 coaches and administrators for insights to what is important to successfully do their job. It is a great book to own and I highly recommend it. Here are some thoughts from Bobby Bowden:

I think the big thing that I learned in the last 27 years is that when you begin to build a program, you begin to build a reputation. When you talk to kids and say, “Son, this is what I’m going to do,” well, he’s going to determine whether “This guy’s a liar or this guy always does what he says he’s going to do.” And so you establish a reputation.
 
There’s a debate among coaches about what motivates you more, the determination to win or the fear of losing. I say, I’ve got to win because I’m so afraid of losing. I hate that feeling of losing so much I’ll do just about anything to escape it.
 
I tell my coaches when they look at my list of requirements every year, the first thing I’ve got is loyalty. We’re gonna be loyal to each other. I’m gonna defend you. You’re gonna have to defend me. It starts there with loyalty.
 
You can take all the X’s and O’s and the fancy formations and the hidden defenses, but if you don’t block and tackle better than the people you’re playing, you’ll lose.
 
Some coaches are just teachers. Some are mainly motivators. The best coach has a blend of both. It’s hard to find those who are good at both teaching and coaching.
 
I tell my players, “If I have faith, trust, and commitment, then we’re gonna win a heckuva lot of games. I think God is looking for the same ingredients in each of us: faith, trust, and commitment.”
 
I believe in discipline and enthusiasm in everything you do in life, and you coach what you believe. If we can be enthusiastic in the little things we do, it will carry over to a winning season.
 
If you put two teams on the field on any given day, one with great physical ability and the other with less physical ability but great motivation, the team with the greater physical ability will win almost every time. But if you have two teams equally matched in ability, that’s what the hard work, discipline, and motivation can make the difference.
 
Never be too proud to change.
 
You are never any better than your next game.
 
It’s more important to build character in young men than to win the national championship.
 
You’ve got to risk losing to keep on winning. There’s just no way around it. To win constantly, you’ve got to put yourself in a position where you’re liable to lose.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

RUSSELL WILSON'S SECRET: TREAT EVERY DAY LIKE GAME DAY

I found the following in an article on Inc.com that ran the weekend before the Super Bowl. It is well-written by Ilan Mochari and you can read it in it's entirety here.  The primary concept is that Russell Wilson, like so many other successful people, do so through intentionality and taking care of details on a daily basis.  As Mochari's article states at the beginning: "Trainer Jonathan Brooks says Russell Wilson treats everyday is if it was his game day."

1. He practices the art of getting out of his comfort zone.  "I was amazed by how quickly he adapts to the different environments that he's put into," says Brooks

Though Wilson's powers of acclimation impressed Brooks, the trainer points out that adapting to new environments is a skill Wilson works on actively.

For example, anyone who has watched Wilson play knows he is quite comfortable using his speed to create operational space and improve throwing angles. Therefore, heading into last off-season, Wilson wanted to train for in-game moments when he could not use his foot speed to create angles and openings. In other words, he aimed to improve in situations where his mobility was limited or unavailable as a bailout mechanism. 

So with Brooks and the EXOS team, Wilson conducted vision drills emphasizing hand-eye coordination and quick decision making. The idea was for Wilson to use his mind, rather than his legs, to make the correct decision under pressure.

For instance, Brooks would run a drill in which he had multiple balls of multiple colors thrown toward Wilson. While the balls were in the air, Brooks would shout out a particular color. It was the balls of this shouted-out color that Wilson had to catch. At varying intervals, Brooks shouted out different colors, forcing Wilson to hear-see-move at a moment's notice.

"The goal is to work on that vision that you need to have on the field," explains Brooks. "It's about his continuing to open his vision and identify patterns and schemes, and progressing with his anticipation and reaction skills."

2. He challenges himself and others to be at their best, even though it is technically off-season training. "He prepped for every day as if it was his game day," says Brooks. "His approach was a lot different from what I've seen, based on his self-motivation and his leading others." 

As an example, Brooks says Wilson would constantly build up his EXOS cohorts (Tate, Ward, and the other pros training with them) so "they'd go up to his level." Early on in the sessions, Wilson led by example. He was the first one in the weight room each morning and the first one back from water breaks.

Later on, once rapports and personalities were established, Wilson, like any leader with people skills, used more vocal encouragement with those whom he felt it would motivate. "He would speak with guys individually before a session started, and he would encourage them," says Brooks. 

Interestingly, Wilson's encouragements are reminiscent of a practice habit that Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has shared.

According to Bruce Feldman's superb book The QB: The Making of Modern Quarterbacks, in 2013 Rodgers was watching Purdue quarterback David Blough during a drill. "Well, what do you think I need to work on the most?" Blough asked him. Rodgers replied:

You're staring down your target. You're throwing one-on-ones, so, of course, you're gonna stare down your receiver, but challenge yourself. You've got all the arm talent in the world. You know you're throwing to this guy, but why not stare down the middle of the field and know what timing he's going to be on, and then, on your last step, look over at him and deliver the ball. Find a way to challenge yourself even if it's on a little routine drill or routes-on-air (against no defenders).

Aside from the chief takeaway of Rodgers's advice--challenge yourself--note the manner in which he delivers it: He compliments Blough and says he grasps why Blough had not been challenging himself previously. In other words, he teaches without reprimanding or preaching.

3. He remains mindful that it is still the off-season, and that intense training must not lead to burnout. "He also works hard in the recovery state of things," explains Brooks.

That is, on recovery days, Wilson would not slack off. He would diligently show up for massage treatments and therapy sessions. "He'd still treat it as a normal training day," says Brooks. 

As a trainer, Brooks knows one of his primary goals--and ongoing challenges--is upping intensity without upping the risk for injury. A key component to it, for Wilson and the rest of Brooks's athletes, is taking time away from the sport before the season officially begins.

Another component is sleep: between seven and nine hours a night, making sure to consume no food in the two or three hours before turning in. 

It's in categories like these--daily habits ensuring rest and reducing burnout--that the parallels between training athletes and training executives are most apparent.

For example, many entrepreneurs need to be reminded about the importance of time off. Left to their own devices, they'll work long days and burn out, even though countless studies suggest they'll be more effective if they sleep long hours and take regular vacations. 

The key, as always, is to know the difference between working harder and working smarter. Of course, mastering that difference is one reason why entrepreneurs often work with coaches too. It's something to keep in mind as you're watching Wilson on Sunday night. Whether the Seahawks win or lose, you know this much: Come the off-season, Wilson will be at it again. 

KNOWING WHO AND HOW TO COMMUNICATE

I came across a great article on Coach Gregg Popovich and the way he communicates to his players.  The article was written by Michael Erler for www.sbnation.com.  Here are just a few excerpts from the column but you can read it in it's entirety here -- Erler really did his homework in putting this piece together:
 
We've read in hundreds of columns about the Spurs and heard it in countless interviews. For example, here's Tony Massenburg dishing to Ric Bucher, then of ESPN: The Magazine, back in 2005...
"This is the first team I've been on where everybody is treated the same," says reserve Tony Massenbrug, who has been with a record-tying 12 NBA teams. (His Christmas present was a book on how to survive after 40; he's 37.) "Usually a coach will yell at the man next to The Man to make his point," he continues. "Pop gets in Tim's face and Tim takes it. That lets everyone know when Pop chews you out, it's strictly about what you need to do to get better. He can do that because of Tim- the most laid-back superstar I've ever known."
and here's Kurt Thomas, giving the goods to ESPN.com's Marc Stein, for an excellent Duncan-Pop story that wound earning Stein the 2014 PBWA (Pro Basketball Writers Association) Award for best feature...
"If you see the way he talks to Tim Duncan, you don't have a problem with him getting on your ass. If Tim can take it, you can take it. From the top guy all the way to the bottom of the totem pole, he treats them all the same."
But right below that was this quote from Manu Ginobili:
"He's very honest and straightforward," Ginobili says. "He says what he thinks, but usually what he thinks is not out of nowhere. If he unloads on you, it's because there's a reason. He knows who to unload on, too.
It's that last sentence that struck me -- "He knows who to unload on, too." It could've just been one of Ginobili's trademark affectations (English is his third language after all, and while his vocabulary would put many journalists' to shame, Manu is known for using malapropisms from time to time). But I think Ginobili meant, "He knows who is psychologically wired to respond to being unloaded on." The inference being that Pop  also understands who can't be yelled at, either.
 
I don't think anyone is lying or being purposefully misleading about Pop being egalitarian in his blistering critiques of his players. I think he is democratic, in a way, but it has more to do with what the individual's mental makeup is than their status within the team. I don't think Pop treats Duncan and Ginobili the same as Parker and Green, but it's not because Pop likes them more or thinks they're more valuable to the team. I think it's just because he's found that Parker and Green will respond to be cajoled, constantly -- whereas with the others, negative reinforcement doesn't work the same.
 
Then there's Duncan. I believe he likes to be coached hard, like everyone says. But one thing I've seen, especially as the years have worn on, is that Duncan's had less and less patience for being chastised publicly. Pop can get on him all he wants in practice, but not during games and definitely not with the press afterward. Seems like nothing bothers Duncan more than Popovich questioning his effort  --even if it's in the collective sense-- after a loss. It visibly annoys him, when almost any other type of question gets the famous Duncan poker face. From everything I've read and heard behind the scenes, whenever Pop and Duncan have their annual two-week divorce, it stems from Pop accusing him of not playing hard enough. Maybe it's how to push the big man's button to ramp him up for the stretch run.
 
Popovich has always been lauded for his ability to quickly judge people's character and find out what makes them tick. He speaks of players needing to "get over themselves" to fit on the Spurs and to be coachable, But he understands different people need to be told things in different ways.
In the end Pop does coach everyone the same ... even though he doesn't.

Friday, February 13, 2015

A GREAT STORY OF WORKING HARD UNTIL YOUR OPPORTUNITY ARRIVES

One of the things I enjoy when I can is listening to Coach Mike Krzyzewski's "Basketball and Beyond with Coach K on SiriusXM."  Coach K always has great guest and ask the best questions.

NESN.com provided some excerpts of his upcoming interview with Patriots head coach Bill Belichick discussed scouting Malcom Butler. The full interview airs Thursday at 6 p.m. on SiriusXM channel 91.  What I found fascinating was that Butler was on and off the roster the entire season.  We constantly talk to our players about staying in the moment -- about preparing for your opportunity.  Butler could have many times fold the tent up.  First he wasn't drafted.  Then he was invited to camp.  Then there were a few games he was deactivated.  But he obviously maintained the work ethic and attitude needed for Belichick to keep him around.

Here is a brief look at Coach K's conversation with Coach Belichick:

Krzyzewski asked Belichick, “How do you find Malcolm Butler? How is he in that play in the Super Bowl from where he was, where he came from?”

“You know, Mike, that’s a great question,” Belichick said. “When we scouted him at West Alabama the information on him wasn’t accurate and somehow or other his times and kind of athleticism got lost in the shuffle as sort of a slower corner that was just an OK athlete.

“After the draft we signed a lot of free agents, and we had really no spots on our roster, and we invited about 20 players who weren’t drafted in for a weekend workout. He was one of those players and in order to sign him to our roster, we had to release somebody that we had already scouted and put on our team. But we just thought that Malcolm would be able to be competitive based on his athleticism and ball skills and how quickly he picked things up in the couple days that he was with us.

“So we didn’t even have a roster spot, we created one. He came in and he played well in the spring, carried that over into training camp, ended up making the roster and was on and off the roster at different times during the year. There were a couple games he wasn’t active for. He kept competing, he kept getting better, and from West Alabama to Arizona and the Super Bowl is a long way. But he did it with a lot of hard work and he had an opportunity and he took advantage of it so it is really kind of a dream story for him and, you know, for all kids that play sports.”

Thursday, February 12, 2015

10 CONCEPTS THAT HURT A ZONE VIA MIKE DUNLAP

Earlier this week I spoke of a great resource. Brooklyn Kohlheim is an assistant coach at Nova Southeastern University.  She puts out an email blast periodically every few weeks -- AND IT IS OUTSTANDING!!! It includes PDFs of plays and drills, links to great articles and videos.  Doesn't matter what level you coach on, there is something outstanding in each mailing. Click here to see how you can sign up.

Here is yet another example of some of the stuff you can receive via email:


10 CONCEPTS THAT HURT A ZONE FROM MIKE DUNLAP
 
1) Quick and consistent ball reversal.
 
2) The inside-out attack with ball movement.
 
3) Dribble penetration, which makes two defenders guard one. Additionally, when this
occurs, pitch for open 3's.
 
4) Teams that pound the boards to either finish, kick out for open 3, or get fouled.
 
5) The full reversal, which means that the zone doesn't mind the quick reversal from wing --‐ point--‐ wing, but hates the same reversal and the ball is passed to the corner? Why? This flattens the zone out, frequently exposes the 5 man, forces zone to bump, and opens up the top of the zone for a shot or penetration.
 
6) Cut and replace. I believe excessive cutting is easier to guard than a well timed cut and replace action. My point here is the players need to think "attack" instead of multiple cuts....give me a quality set (e.g. 1-3-1 versus 2-3 zone), big spacing, and quick, "full" reversals over a continuity attack any day....too much cutting numbs the player and does not allow him to really see and think about scoring!
 
7) Screening. I always say one quality screen is worth three poorly executed screens. The zone does not like to be screened, especially the weak side.
 
8) Set Plays. Always nice to know you have a package to use for a specific shot from a certain player. It is important to remember that offense is only move and countermove.
 
9) Dribble chase. A dribble at forces the zone to bump and this involves communication, which is exactly what defense does poorly in most cases.
 
10) 4 around 1 or 5 out. A big box set, get ball moving...NO CUTTING ....same with 5 out....show a 2-1-2 set with 5 at nail/free throw line and just pull him/her straight out, above 3 point line.....and get the ball moving...then go to your attack set.