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Monday, April 21, 2014

OFF-SEASON THOUGHTS -- DAY #4: COACH McGRAW ON PLAYERS' EXPANDING ROLES AND COACHES GROWING IN THE OFF-SEASON

OFF-SEASON THOUGHTS -- DAY #4: During this 10-day period, we are going to load up our blog on thoughts that are relevant to developing or improving your off-season program.  We will delve on off-season topics from player development and drill work to motivation and team building.  It will be our sincere wish that over the next 10 days we can provide you with at least one item or thought that will help you and your program.

The following comes from "Courting Success" which is a book written by Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw.  It was written in 2003 following their NCAA Championship season and is one of my favorites because it delves into the philosophy that she has used to create an elite program. I have added some comments in bold italics:

"A player who refuses to accept her role will be unhappy, and usually ends up transferring.  I also tell them that if they don't like their role, then they should use the summer to change it."

I think this is critically important.  Players don't have to accept a current role as permanent.  They need to know that consistent, deliberate work in the off-season can add to their game and thus expand their role.  The thing that has to happen though is the communication of this concept from the coach.  Year-end meetings are necessary to help give a player motivation and vision for the off-season.  It must be communicated to the player exactly how you see her/his game.  Never assume they know how you feel -- that is a recipe for disaster.  Let them know what they did well and where they need to improve.  The next step is to give them a blueprint.  Be very detailed in the areas you want them to improve and be specific and how they can improve.  We give our players summer booklets that detail what we want them to work on including specific drills for them to use.  Each book is created individually to meet the needs of that particular student-athlete.

More from Coach McGraw:

"Great players work more individually outside of practice than the average players.  The really great players are the ones who come in early, stay late, and come in on their own.  Beth Morgan, Ruth Riley, and Katryna Gaither are examples, and it's obvious why they were the best players.  They knew their weaknesses, and they worked on those weaknesses.  We've had good players who came in and worked hard in practice.  But after those two hours are over, they leave.  The only way you can improve as a player is by what you do on your own.  To that extend, I believe that players are made over the summer.  If you put the time in over the summer, when the coaches aren't allowed to be there, that's when you really see the improvement.  It's very evident who put in the extra effort."

What I liked about Coach McGraw's passage above is that she called out the names of the players on her team that had excelled in the off-season.  As a coach, it's important that you acknowledge those that are dedicated in the off-season.  First, because they have earned your compliment.  And second -- and more importantly -- that you let your entire team know that you as a coach recognize those that are putting in the work.

And as Coach McGraw points out, the off-season is also a time of dedicated work for a coaching staff as well:

"At the end of the season, we begin preparing practices for the next year.  We review our offenses and defensed.  We watch a lot of game film.  Then we try to decide, based on which players will be returning, what will work and what won't next season.  We might talk about introducing new things depending upon our personnel.  It's important to do this because we can spend the summer learning.  We visit coaches and go to clinics.  If we think we'll be able to press in the upcoming season, for example, I'll assign an assistant coach to go visit Rick Pitino to learn more about presses.  In other words, for coaches, summer is for homework."

Again, the obvious approach of Coach McGraw and her staff in the summer is to work and continue to improve.  But the other positive effect to this is that her players see that the coaches are dedicated to off-season growth as well.  There is a reason that continuously successful programs continue to be successful -- it's a year-round occupation!