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Monday, June 9, 2014


We've had several requests for our talking points this weekend from Coach Blair's Basketball Camp in regard to our Expectations Seminar that we give our campers.  We do this in our team video room so we can use video and power point as part of the presentation and rotate them in during station work.  Each year we trying to develop a different concept to advance the thinking of the many campers that are repeat campers.  In fact, it is with great pride for our state that so many campers continue to come to our Aggie camps each summer and is a big reason our camp continues to grow.

This year, my topic as you can see was Creating a Culture of Personal Excellence.  This veered a bit from team concepts that we normally talk about. We told the campers that we wanted to focus in this weekend on individual accountability on those things you can control.  And, as it often does, these concepts can not only help you to be a better player but a better student and a better person as well. The three biggest areas that you indeed can control?

We talked about it being the greatest power they had with in them.  They could choose to be happy or sad, passionate or bored, angry or enthusiastic.  Of course developing this power is not easy but it's important to know that you do have it.  You can't always dictate the happenings but you can choose your response.

You certainly can control your effort levels.  Again, we understand this isn't always easy.  There are things that occur that can attempt to drain you of your energy level.  Maybe you had a difficult time in class today...possibly a disagreement with a friend...maybe something is going on at home.  Those that truly excel know that once they step on the floor they must focus on their energy and effort.

Being a Great Teammate
Many players don't give thought the necessary focus to being a great teammate.  But you can control this and it has a wide-ranging effect in improving your team.  It's difficult because it forces you to think more of others that yourself.  We told the campers that often you may have a teammate that is not worthy of you being a great teammate to him/ a great teammate anyway!

Our first ingredient was COMMITMENT.  It is a personal buy-in to being the best you can be.  And the test of commitment is the effort you put forth when no one else is around.  Those committed to being the best they can be max out their energies when they alone, working on their game.  The example was the note above that Annson Dorance wrote to Mia Hamm after driving past her, alone on the soccer field, sweating and working. 

We also took the time to remind our campers that a great part of the equation of growth is studying other great achievers -- regardless of their sport or field of endeavor.  I may not coach soccer but I can learn a great deal from Coach Dorance who's won 21 National Championships...and athletes (or anyone else for that fact) can take notes on Mia who won four NCAA titles and two Gold Medals.

Our next stop was WORK ETHIC.  We spoke not just of working hard but working smart.  The word we wanted our campers to focus on was intentionality -- be intentional in everything you do because it goes towards the final product.  Of course a great example of that is Michael Jordan.  The quote listed was from his personal trainer Tim Grover.  We spoke of how MJ came out of retirement after his baseball career that his first team practice, after Phil Jackson huddled them up and released them, Jordan walked to the baseline and started running sprints on his own.  Intentional.  Of course his teammates came and joined him.

We also gave other examples of great athletes that do extra.  We spoke of LeBron James who has a shooting coach for extra work and Sylvia Fowles who hired a coach to come to Russia while she was overseas to help her develop her high post game.  The great ones invest with hard work -- intentional hard work.

We then talked about having great DETERMINATION.  We absolutely love this quote listed about Kevin Durant above.  He has a determined effort in everything he does.  Another great quote on KD was that "he practices every day like he is on a 10-day contract."  He is process oriented as opposed to result oriented.  Everything is about improving.  He is another one that has a team of people that help him play better, run faster, and get stronger.  But you have to be determined on a daily basis.  You have to be "hungry" each day.

The great ones also constantly STUDY THE GAME.  The best of the best know about the mental part of learning the game.  The fact that KD, one of the top five players in the game, spends time studying King James speaks volumes for his mental approach of improving. 

I also shared the story of Kobe Bryant that was told to me by Shaquille O'Neal.  He said that Kobe rarely went anywhere without his iPad.  He was constantly reviewing video -- watching his last game or studying his next opponent.  If he was getting his ankles taped -- he was watching his iPad.  If he was sitting in the cold tub, he was studying video. 

We told the campers that the best part of studying the game is the era they are living in -- the era of youtube.  They can type in "Chris Paul workout" and see some great drills.  Punch up "Ray Allen game day routine" and see how the best 3-point shooter of all time prepares.  There is so much free stuff on the internet for them.

We also talked about them being the CARETAKER OF THEIR TEAM.  This is more about the role of leadership.  This is an area of making decisions that are best for the team even when they may not be best for you.  The example in the slide shows MJ and Scottie Pippen taking ownership of their team by calling a practice on a day off.  What we talked to the campers about was understanding the next step.  Calling practice because it's necessary is important, but what is crucial is that when you come to that practice that you are giving your best at the practice.  Lip service is not enough.

Being the caretaker of your team means that you have the wellbeing of your team in the foremost part of your thoughts.  Are you strong enough to grab a teammate who is making bad decisions off the court and help them to move forward in a positive direction?  Can you own your team's locker room making sure that it's not a negative, complaining environment?  Being a caretaker is paying it forward.  It will be a legacy.  Legacy means that you leave a place better than how you found it.

Another phase of creating that culture of excellence is COMPETING every day in everything you do. Competing is understanding that if you are doing something, anything, that is of the utmost importance to do it well.  In everything you do "It's win time."  Almost all plays want to win when the ball is tossed up but you have to want to win in conditioning, in a shooting drill, in the classroom.  A competitive fire, the passion to be the best you can be is critically important to achieving goals and realizing your dreams.

We told the story of Michael Jordan who at practice would be on the red team.  Their coach would have them play to 11 points.  MJ's team might be up 8-2 and the coach would stop and put Michael on the other team.  He would then lead that team to a come-from-behind victory.  People that compete do their absolute best regardless of the score or conditions.  Are you competing in the classroom?  Are you competing on the track in conditioning?  Understand that competing is not a part-time job!

Our last stop of creating a culture of excellence is creating your own CIRCLE OF INFLUENCE.  We told each camper that they are the general manager of their own team.  Who they going to "draft" to create a championship team.  We aren't talking about friends.  We are talking about having a select group of people that encourage, challenge you, speak the truth to you and help you achieve your goals and dreams.

One story I shared was from my tenure as men's assistant at LSU under Coach Dale Brown.  About ever four years Coach Brown would take our team to Angola Prison.  One of the activities would be to have a prisoner talk to our players.  I remember on one occasion an inmate talking about joy riding in his care with some "friends."  As he sat in the car, the friends went into a convenient store and robbed it unbeknownst to him.  And now he was serving a prison term for no other reason than he had did a poor choice of choosing his friends.

Who you associate with goes along way in defining who you are.  If you want to achieve great things, seek out those who have already been successful or share in your dreams of greatness.