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Monday, February 8, 2016


I thought I'd spend a few minutes telling you about the first coach I looked up to -- my uncle, Joe Hartney.  Other than my father, Joe was my first role model.  My grandfather made sure of that by telling me about every positive trait Joe had -- and there were many.  My grandfather took me to watch him play fastpitch softball where he was a catcher and outstanding player.  And he took me to watch him coach.  He coached at all levels but when I was young it was watching his team dominate at Hayes Junior High School that stood out the most.  And it didn't matter -- playing softball and working the sidelines as a coach, I watched his every move.

Unlike me, Joe was an outstanding athlete.  He was all-state in baseball and football and won the West Virginia Golden Glove Boxing title.  He of course played collegiately.  He was also incredibly tough.  As an outstanding football player at Stonewall Jackson High School, he broke his arm during the season.  The next game was against their cross town rival Charleston High School.  Joe cut his cast off before the game and lead his team to victory. His parents didn't know until the next morning when they picked up the paper and read of his heroics.

Joe had a quiet confidence about him.  He carried himself differently than anyone I had known at that time.  He spoke softly but again, with confidence.  I wanted to be my Uncle Joe.  I saw how he coached and how his players responded to him.  As a young boy in elementary school I thought it would be great to be a coach -- like my Uncle Joe.

I last saw Joe this summer at my father's funeral.  I had given the eulogy and afterwards, not very mobile at all, he made his way to the front so we could talk -- so he could talk and I could listen.  What he said to me that evening will remain private but I'll never forget it.

My Uncle Joe died this morning after battling cancer for nearly a decade.  Many didn't know he was in pain all these years because he didn't broadcast such things -- part of his toughness.  Even in passing he has taught me.

How amazingly blessed I was to have such a great role model at such a young age.

Sunday, February 7, 2016


With our team playing a nationally televised game today, ESPN's Sue Bird is in town to do the game.  To try and put it in perspective, Sue is a consummate champion.  She has won two National Championships at Connecticut, two WNBA titles and three Olympic Gold Medals.  So we had an Aggie team locked in when Coach Gary Blair asked her to say a few words to our team after practice today. 

Here are some great take aways that she shared with our team:

"The difference between good and great are the little things.  Little things that I'm still learning about."

Some of the little things she spoke of was nutrition and working out at a high level.  She told our team that even though she is on the road a lot covering games for ESPN that she very often asks the coach of the arean she is covering a game in if she can get shot shooting time in while she is in town.  She spoke of the amazing amount of video that pro players watch on their own.

"The great ones know how to play in the moment.  They are not still thinking about the previous player or possession.  They realize that the next possession is everything because its the only one they can control."

Of course this reminds me of Coach Don Meyer who always said you had to be an "NBA" player -- meaning that you concentrated only on the "Next Best Action."

Sue also spoke of personal accountability in terms of being a professional player.  You were responsible for so much that in college you hadn't had to worry about because a coaching staff took care of it for you.

She talked about when you move on to the next level that you won't be your pro team's best player.  This means you aren't their first option offensively.  So her question was "What are going to do to separate yourself from the rest of the squad if you want to make the team?"

Coach Blair asked her where she and her Connecticut team got their confidence from.  Without any hesitation she replied, "Practice."  She went on to say that their practices were so difficult and demanding that the games were easy and they couldn't wait for the games.

She also told our team that confidence can't come from coaches.  It has to come from the work you put in and the level of your effort in practice and workouts.

Nothing like a great message from a great player to start our day!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016


The following is an excerpt written by Mark Jannsen for  It speaks to Kansas State's coach Bill Snyder and his philosophy of 16 goals for success -- which he got from his mother. You can read the entire article here.

Simplistic words like: commitment, unity, unselfishness, enthusiasm, responsibility, improve. Generic phrases like: great effort, never give up, expect to win, no self-limitations, and so on.

Lumped together, and bought into, Snyder summarizes, “If each player achieves each of these goals, we, as a team, will always be successful.”

Snyder declines to accept invention of his pet words/phrases, but instead says, “They come from my mother (Marionetta). The foundation comes from how she raised me, and what she meant to me. How you buy into those values is who you are.”

Growing up in a single-parent home in St. Joseph, Mo., Snyder said, “My mother was a stickler for having everything in its proper place and doing things right. Our apartment wasn’t much, but it was always clean. It was small enough that when my area was a mess, then her area was a mess. There wasn’t my space and her space. It was our space.”

He would add, “She worked hard. If my work ethic came from anyone, it came from my mother.”


Commitment … to common goals and to being successful
Unselfishness … there is no ‘I’ in TEAM
Unity … come together as never before
Improve … every day as a player, person and student
Be Tough … mentally and physically
Self-Discipline ... do it right, don’t accept less
Great Effort
Eliminate Mistakes … don’t beat yourself
Never Give Up … never … never … never
Don’t Accept Losing … If you do so one time, it will be easy to do so for the rest of your life
No Self-Limitations … expect more of yourself
Expect To Win … and truly believe we will
Consistency … your very, very best every time
Leadership … everyone can set the example
Responsibility … You are responsible for your own performance

Tuesday, January 12, 2016


In honor of Alabama's National Championship, here are a few of our favorite Nick Saban blog posts:

Coach Saban on the Illusion of Choice

Intelligence + Work Ethic = "A Good Combination"

Coach Saban on Building a Team's Identity in the Off-Season

Learning Your Role, Earning Your Time

Good Process Produces Good Results

Coach Saban on Team Chemistry and Practice Motivation

Thoughts on Player Discipline

The Secret of Nick Saban

Are You Impressing or Impacting

How Alabama Utilized Guest Speakers to Grow Their Team on and off the Field

Coach Saban on Trust and Communication

Coach Saban on Creating a Culture of Accountability

Coach Saban on Why the Mighty Fall

Coach Saban on Leadership, Complacency and Preparation

The Process of What it Takes to be Successful


You will fail.  Especially in the beginning.  You will fail.   And that's not just OK, it's essential.  Without resilience, the first failure is also the last -- because it's final.

Those who are excellent at their work have learned to comfortably coexist with failure.  The excellent fail more often than the mediocre.

They begin more.  They attempt more.  They attack more.  Mastery lives quietly atop a mountain of mistakes.

The exceptional artist throws away hundreds of photographs.  The exceptional writer wears out the eraser. The exceptional investor puts money into losing ventures.  If every risk you take pays off, then you probably aren't actually taking risks.  We don't want to excuse recklessness and foolishness as "just taking risks," but we should understand that those who have build true excellence in their lives are always fighting at the edges of their ability.

What distinguishes the exceptional from the unexceptional?  A willingness to fail, and an exceptional ability to learn from every failure.

From "Resilience" by Eric Greitens

Tuesday, December 22, 2015


Another great passage from Coach Urban Meyer's book "Above the Line."  We read this one to our team last week.  Players all want more playing time, more opportunity, but what are they doing to maximize that opportunity when it arises.  This is a great story:

The outcome is that you are prepared to make the play when your number is called.  There is no better example than Kenny Guiton.

In 2012, Kenny was a junior backup to quarterback Braxton Miller.  Throughout all of our practices that fall, Kenny was the most mentally and physically engaged player on our team.  When Braxton was running players, Kenny was 10 yards directly behind him, make the same reads and checks, executing the play mentally.  Then, when the ball was snapped to Braxton, Kenny would perform the correct motions just as if he were taking the life rep.  That was our culture at work.  He was preparing in case his number would be called.

That October, Kenny's number was called.  We were down against Purdue by 8.  On the last play of the third quarter, Braxton went down and was injured for the rest of the game.  Kenny game in.  It was the final drive of the game and down by 8 points with 60 yards to go, forty seconds left on the clock, and no timeouts left.  He led the offense down the field, and threw the game-tying touchdown pass to receiver Chris Fields with only three seconds left in regulation.  On the very next play, Kenny tied the scored on a perfectly executed pass play to tight end Jeff Heuerman for the 2-point conversion.  After taking the game into overtime, running back Carlos Hyde dived over the line for the game-winning score.

We won that game and kept our undefeated season intact because Kenny Guiton fully embraced our culture of competitive excellence.

Our third core believe is power of the unit, and it means that our players have an uncommon commitment to each other and to the work necessary to achieve our purpose.

People see the remarkable performances of these players on Saturday, but they do not see the tireless work that those players and their unit leaders put into training and preparing to compete.  And they did the work not knowing when, or even if, their numbers would be called.


We in coaching have all read, heard and shared the first two verses of Law of the Jungle from Rudyard Kiplings' "The Jungle Book":
Now this is the Law of the Jungle --
as old and as true as the sky;
And the Wolf that shall keep it may prosper,
but the Wolf that shall break it must die.
As the creeper that girdles the tree-trunk
the Law runneth forward and back --
For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf,
and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.

I've always loved this passage because it speaks so much to the value of team.  This morning I got the following passage from my dear friend Joe Carvalhido which puts even more value on being a part of the pack:

"A wolf pack: the first 3 are the old or sick, they give the pace to the entire pack. If it was the other way round, they would be left behind, losing contact with the pack. In case of an ambush they would be sacrificed. Then come 5 strong ones, the front line. In the center are the rest of the pack members, then the 5 strongest following. Last is alone, the alpha. He controls everything from the rear. In that position he can see everything, decide the direction. He sees all of the pack. The pack moves according to the elders pace and help each other, watch each other."

Saturday, December 12, 2015


As a follow up to the "The Price That Must Be Paid," here are some great thoughts from John Maxwell on "The Price of Teamwork."

There can be no success without sacrifice. James Allen observed, “He who would accomplish little must sacrifice little; he who would achieve much must sacrifice much.”

Time Commitment:
Teamwork does no come cheaply. It costs you time-that means you pay for it with your life. Teamwork can’t be developed in a microwave time. Teams grow strong in a Crock-Pot environment.

Personal Development:
Your team will reach its potential only if you reach your potential. That means today’s ability is not enough.  Or to put it the way leadership expert Max DePree did: “We cannot become what we need to be remaining what we are.”  UCLA’s John Wooden, a marvelous team leader and the greatest college basketball coach of all time, said, “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”


“When you give your best to the world, the world returns the favor.”
-H. Jackson Brown

And if you give your best to the team, it will return more to you than you give, and together you will achieve more than you can on your own.


The following is a great passage from the book "Toughness" written by Jay Bilas which speaks to the mindset of a player in regard to practice.

How many players start practice with the intention or goal of simply “getting through” practice? Instead of “getting through” a workout, players need to “get from” a workout-to get the most from it, and the most from themselves. No player ever got better by just getting through something. True toughness is competing through the end of a practice or workout after having prepared yourself mentally to compete. That is a key mind-set of the toughest players.

A key question for us as coaches is how can we help our players with this process? There are several things that have served me well and here are a few.

We often begin the day in our film room or meeting room.  We might watch some video clips or go over things and I've found that notebooks are a tremendous way to get a point across to a team and have them hold on to it because they are writing it down.  We never have one of these sessions before practice that we don't outline a couple of objectives for practice.  Here is an older post about the topic of Notebooks.

This is a short period at the beginning to do position work.  It's also quality time between a coach a small, select group of players.  As a coach, you can set the tone in terms of what needs to be accomplished as a player and a team for this particular day.  Here is an older post about the topic of Pre-Practice.

We believe this is a great way of focusing a team's attention for a practice.  Picking a phase of basketball or an intangible and making that a special focus for that day.  We will have specific drills to highlight it as.  Here is an older post about the topic of Emphasis of the Day.

If its going to be important, find a way to measure it.  We keep practice stats everyday.  We might keep a special stat on a specific day to compliment a particular emphasis -- and we share it with our players...often in the middle of practice to let them know how they are doing.  Here is an older post about the topic of Practice Stats.

Something I started last here with our freshman post player Khaalia Hillsman was to have an individual practice goal.  I created some cards for her and placed them in her locker.  Each day she has to pick something that she wants to give extra concentrated effort on.  I let her pick it...she writes it down...she gives it to me when she first comes to practice.  I then make sure I am watching her to see how she is doing.  I compliment her when she is successful and remind her when she falls short about her goal.  After practice, I give her a grade on her goal and from time to time support that grade with video.

Friday, December 11, 2015


Good teachers care less about proving they have a great system than about finding the best way to make each student grow.  "This one needs a spur," said Plato, one of history's great teachers, about a student who seemed a little too lazy and self-satisfied.  "That other one needs a brake," he sad about a know-it-all too eager to rush ahead in his lessons (who happed to be Aristotle).  Extraordinary coaches also know that sometimes the same person who needed a spur last week needs a brake this week.  Good coaches cut through clutter and chaos.  They direct your attention to the details that make a difference.

From "Resilience" by Eric Greitens