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Monday, June 30, 2014

WHAT SABAN TOOK FROM BELICHICK

Big thanks to Zak Boisvert for passing this along via his monthly email newsletter.  If you are on his mailing list, I highly recommend it.  Here's is Zak's email address:  zak.boisvert@maine.edu.  Below is an article he shared that was written by Doug Lesmerises for Cleveland .com on Coach Nick Saban.  You can read the entire article here. All of them are great points but I especially gave thought to quote that I highlighted:

1. Saban took a chunk of his coaching philosophy from Bill Belichick thanks to the four years he spent as the Browns' defensive coordinator from 1991-94 before leaving to take the Michigan State job before the last of Belichick's five years in Cleveland.

"Y'all ran us both out of Ohio," Saban said with a laugh.

But Saban took a lot of Belichick with him.

"He defined everything in the organization. Everything," Saban said. "The standard for personnel, what kind of players we wanted, what he expected from the coaches, what he expected from the players on our team. Everything was defined, clearly defined. We had one sign in the building – 'Do Your Job.'"

2. Saban and Urban Meyer may be able to relate on this point. Alabama was the two-time defending national champion and 11-0 and No. 1 last season before finishing with two losses. Ohio State was 24-0 to start Meyer's career in Columbus before ending last season with two losses.

"I hate to say this, but sometimes a group needs to lose, they need to lose," Saban said. "They lose their respect for winning. And I love our team, I loved our team last year. It's not like we had a bad team, but compared to the championship teams, there was a little bit of complacency in terms of buying in. This year's team has a lot better chemistry. Whether we have the same talent or the talent at the right positions to be capable of that, I don't know. 

"But losing the games helped everybody gain a perspective for winning and not taking things for granted and the importance of paying attention to detail. And maybe that's the only way you can learn."

3.  "Mediocre people don't like high achievers. And high achievers have no tolerance for mediocre people. So if they're going to co-exist in your organization, you're going to fail. You're never going to have any team chemistry because they won't respect each other."

4. "We don't have a sign in our building – never have, never will – that says win championships. We don't have anything in our building that says win the SEC, win the national championship – never have, never have.

"We have a sign that says, 'Be a champion.' Everybody talks about there's no 'i' in team. But there is an 'i' in win. And that 'i' is for individual, because the individual makes your team what it is."

5. "When you raise the trophy up, when you win a championship, as soon as you put it down, you become the target for everybody else that competes against you."

Sunday, June 29, 2014

WORKING YOUR WAY UP

A great story from Coach Rick Pitino from his book "The One Day Contract."  Too many young people think they can just bounce into an assistant coaching position without paying dues and working their way up.  The best way to learn this craft is to start from the bottom and work up.

I remember a handwritten letter by a young man from New Jersey who wanted to learn our system and serve as a student manager. I was the head coach at Kentucky and returned his letter suggesting he would be better served to apply at schools in New Jersey. I informed him that UK was predominantly Kentuckians and he might feel like a duck out of water. I suggested that he look at Seton Hall or some of the other programs in the Northeast. He was not deterred and wrote back that he wanted to study our style of play. I agreed and Frank Vogel was hired as one of ten people who would aid our team on the periphery. Like most student managers, he worked diligently to do all the grunt work with very little recognition, only earning increased financial aid with more time served in the program. This young man was a true student of the game, a good high school player who wanted to learn all facets of our profession. After graduation he became a graduate assistant helping with our video and scouting operation. When I moved on to become coach of the Boston Celtics, he came along as video coordinator. After my departure he stayed on and helped my assistant Jim O’Brien when he took over as head coach of the Celtics. Of course, today Frank is the highly successful coach of the Indiana Pacers. Frank had energy and drive. His strong ambition helped him achieve a level of success that I never could have imagined when I was reading that initial letter. Through hard work, and given just a crack at an opportunity, he crossed that bridge with so many of the managers and assistant coaches I’ve had whose dream was to learn and one day run their own program.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

THOUGHTS ON TEACHING AND TEAM BUILDING FROM TIM CORBIN


I watched a great number of games on the College World Series.  I have become of big fan of Vanderbilt's baseball coach Tim Corbin through Don Meyer.  I love studying coaches that have a passion to teach and care about their players.  The following our excerpts of an interview with Vanderbilt's baseball coach Tim Corbin.  Interestingly it was written in 2011 by Margaret Reynolds for BreakthroughMasters.com.  You can read the entire interview here.  I say interestingly because I think it gives great insight in to what Coach Corbin's philosophy is in some key areas that has culminated with a National Championship last night.  I have added a few thoughts in bold/italics.

What some coaches don't realize and what most players fail to see is how early the process starts in developing a championship culture.  Fans see the game winning home run, the buzzer beating jump shot, or the last second field goal in a championship game and think that is the defining moment.  Championship cultures are created long before the championship is won and Coach Corbin addressed that here:

I think that the key to success of where we are right now and how we got to Omaha stems from an event that happened back to 2003. I mentioned this to the kids last fall. I was trying to explain to them how I thought that they were in the position to win a National Championship. I think it stems from a home run that was hit by this young man named Worth Scott in 2003 that sent us to the SEC tournament. Why that was so big was that Vanderbilt had not been to the SEC Tournament in 11 years. Why that moment was so big is that it gave our program a ton of confidence and propelled us to a Super Regional the next year. Why that was big was when we went to that Super Regional in 2004, just our second year in the program, it gave us a major lift in recruiting. Because of the recruiting it propelled us two, three, four years forward into the situation that we were in last year. I think the reason we were in that situation last year is because we put together a lot of very nice freshman, sophomore players that played a lot early in their career and we felt we could take this group of guys and develop a championship team with them. Then from there, we really tried to continue that type of thought process. Once we got a good group of kids together, we came back year, by year, by year improving both mentally and physically. We talk a lot about rehearsing victory and in a way each year was a rehearsal for the next. Once we knocked down one door, we went for the next one. The door to Omaha had been opened long ago; we just finally blew through it.

Some coaches want to pretend that great teams are egoless.  I've certainly never been involved with one.  The key is how to channel those egos to perform towards team goals as Coach Corbin talks about:

Being self centered is a good thing from that fact that you have to be self centered, selfish and driven in order to be a very successful player. That is a truism for a lot of players. What you have to do is take that selfish part and intertwine it into the team. That internal strength and confidence could either be a hindrance to what we want to do or it could be productive, enabling us to be stronger as a group.

Here is a great excerpt with Coach Corbin talking about molding a team and developing roles and more importantly, making each role important:

The part that has to be taught is how you can take each individual, with their strengths, and bring them into one group, especially knowing there are 35 of them but only about a third of them are going to have an opportunity to show their skill on the field at any one time. The other part of that is making sure the kids that don’t get to play on a day to day basis feel like their function is worthy, that they have some self worth and what they do is just as important as anyone else on the team. I think that is the puzzle that a coach has to work through when he is trying to put a team together. It isn’t very different in some ways than the military. You take people from all different experiences, backgrounds and skill levels, and throw them into one group of people—whether that is the Army or the Navy for example—and mesh them into one core group working towards one goal. It is the part of college athletics that can take the most time if you let it go and leave it to chance; chances are it could take your team over. I think through good leadership, you can teach that. The desire or willingness to do it is often innate. We teach it and talk about it every day. We get the kids to move in that direction where they think, ok, it is important for us to drop some of the things that we want to do and ingrain ourselves into the team. It is a very difficult thing to do in order to get it just the way you want it and in order for a team to be very successful like this one was.

This is something that I've heard Duke's Mike Krzyzewski talk about.  He once was asked about "repeating" as National Champions and Coach K explained that it is impossible to "repeat."  Each team, each season is unique and you must realize this to coach them properly as Coach Corbin shares:

Next year’s team will be a different team than last year. It will have its own personality. It is like children; they are each different. This particular team will be a different child and have its own personality. That is good. It will have its own path. It will be as successful as it wants to be. I think the thing that is left for us is to try to get back to the College World Series again, try to win a National Championship, try to become that team that does everything at a high level. I think the experience we just had as a group will help us. It will give us visual pictures and feelings of what is possible when 35 people and a support staff jump in the middle of something and hold hands and won’t let go for an entire year. There are a lot of great things that can happen so I am looking forward to doing that with this group. I don’t know what the expectations will be of us. I tell the kids “expectations of others never matter; our expectation within our own group is what matters most. We are going to achieve exactly what we think and what we see we are going to achieve.” If we don’t see it, or talk about it and move toward it, then nothing is going to be achieved with this group. I look forward to moving a step forward from what we did this last year.

COACHING/TEACHING THOUGHTS FROM JOHN CALIPARI

Here a couple of thoughts I found interesting in Coach John Calipari's most recent book "Player's First" --

·         You can’t have a whole team with just runners, rebounders, and defenders. You need shooters.

·         On defense our priorities are the converse of what they are when we have the ball. Guard the basket. Guard the three point line. Force turnovers. Rebound every missed shot. We’ll take our chances getting beaten by teams hitting midrange shots.

·         Thinking about how you would try to beat you own team goes with the job of being a coach you put yourself into the mind of another coach as he looks at film of your games. Where are we vulnerable? What defenses have we struggled against? At what speed don’t we like to play?

·         One thing I have to guard against is the tendency of my kids to look to far down the road—and also to take certain things for granted rather than pausing for reflection. I have to remind them that here is where we are. Right now. Focus on what we’re doing in the moment. And don’t be afraid to stop to honor the milestones you’ve already achieved.

·         What’s the expression? You don’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been? I believe in that. I also believe that if you don’t slow down and take stock sometimes, you’re never going to feel good about yourself.

·         There are coaches who will try to make their guys hate my team. We’re winning that game every time. It works for them for a couple of minutes, maybe even a half, whatever. But when you play with a sense of rage, you don’t respond well to being challenged.

·         I write out an index card that I have with me during the games that has on t what we’re going to do on offense, how we’re going to guard certain things. It’s basic. Here’s what we do if they go zone. Here’s how we break their press. Here are our baseline out-of-bounds plays. I have it with me to refer to, because in the heat of the moment sometimes you want it.

·         I never want one of my kids to be held publicly responsible after a big loss.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

LAWRENCE FRANK DAILY DEFENSIVE DRILLS

Good list from Coach Frank.  The question is, do you have a daily defensive to-do list?

1. Closeouts and Individual Defense
2. Transition Defense
3. Pick and Roll
4. Post Up Defense
5. Catch & Shoot
6. Rebounding
7. Scramble/Disadvantage Situations

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

THE UNIVERSAL TRUTH IN EVERY GAME

"The lowest common denominator every performer shares is the execution of the next task. What has happened and what might happen will very with each athlete and each circumstances.  But the next task must be made: a block, a tackle, a pass, a pitch, a stride or shot.  It is a universal truth within every game."

H. A. Dorfman

PLAYING AS A TEAM -- THE SPURS WAY

Monday, June 16, 2014

THE DEFENSIVE SEVEN

From "Winning Defense" by Del Harris

1. 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.

2. Push the ball to a sideline in order to establish a good weakside defense as early 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.

3. 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.

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

5. 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.

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

7. Rebound and pick up loose balls.

WHAT QUESTIONS ARE YOU ASKING OF YOURSELF AND YOUR PROGRAM FOR GROWTH (PART II)

Yesterday we shared portions of an article from Inc. on questions to be asked of an organization in regard to self-evaluation.  It made be ponder what would be good questions for us as coaches to ask of ourselves and our program.  At Texas A&M, we've been involved in this process along side of our administration for the past two months, meeting each two weeks to have discussions.  It is going to be an important part of our growth.  Here is the list I came up with that I think are worth asking (in random order):

1. How can we increase our relevance within our department, university and community?

2. What are we doing in the off-season to support and grow our fan base?

3. What is one strength for each player that they can develop for them to continue to grow?  Do you have a plan to assist them?

4. What is one weakness for each player that you need for them to improve upon?  Do you have a plan to assist them?

5. What one thing can you do for each player this off-season away from the game to help them grow as people and show them how much you care?

6. When people hear the name of your program, what is the one word that comes to their mind?  What one work do want them to hear?

7. Can your players write down on a piece of paper what they believe their program stands for?  What is your culture and do your players recognize it?

8. Do you have at least two events planned this summer for your team together away from basketball to develop and grow your team’s chemistry?

9. What one thing can you do for each staff member to help them grow professionally and or personally?

10. What one phase of the game are you going to pick to study on this summer?  How will you go about doing that?

11. Do you have a summer book reading list?

12. How many former players can you reach out to this summer with a phone call or note?

13. Is there a retired coach in your area that you can take to lunch and talk some basketball?

14. Are you going to a clinic or visiting with a coach or staff to grow your knowledge?

15. Have you made plans to spend time with your family to sharpen the saw?

16. Does our system of play afford us the opportunity to compete with the best in our league?
 
17. What is your social media strategy?  I think you need one and we will post why later.
 
18. What are you doing this off-season to promote your program?  With your fan base? With the media?  With the community?
 
19. What is one area of our offensive system that we need to improve upon?  What is our plan for improving it?
 
20. What is one area of our defensive system that we need to improve upon? What is our plan for improving it?
 
21. What is one area of our transition game that we need to improve upon? What is our plan for improving it?
 
22. If you are a head coach, what are you going to do this off-season to invest in your staff?  What can you do to help them  grow professionally?  What can you do to help with your staff chemistry?
 
23. What needs to be done to improve our facilities and equipment?  Do we have a plan to make that happen?
 
24. If fundraising is a component to our program's success, what can we do this summer to raise money or set up fundraising strategies for this upcoming season?
 
25. How can we improve you Team Notebook?

 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

WHAT QUESTIONS ARE YOU ASKING OF YOURSELF AND YOUR PROGRAM FOR GROWTH (PART I)


I was fascinated by an article in Inc. titled "100 Great Questions Every Entrepreneur Should Ask."  The magazine asked some of the leading CEOs and leaders around the nation what should we be asking of ourselves to grow and improve.  It really got me to thinking.  In fact, I've created a list for coaches that I will share tomorrow.  But for today, here are a few of the questions from the article that resonated with me.  You can catch all 100 here.

3. If energy were free, what would we do differently? -Tony Hsieh, CEO of ZapposHsieh explains, “This is a thought experiment to see how you would reconfigure the business if you had different resources available or knew that different resources would one day become available. Another question might be, what if storage was free? Or what if labor costs half as much or twice as much?”

4. What is it like to work for me? -Robert Sutton, author and management professor at Stanford

5. If we weren’t already in this business, would we enter it today? And if not, what are we going to do about it? -Peter Drucker, management expert and author 

6. What trophy do we want on our mantle? - Marcy Massura, a digital marketer and brand strategist at MSL Group Massura explains, “Not every business determines success the same way. Is growth most important to you? Profitability? Stability?”

8. What counts that we are not counting? -Chip Conley, founder of Joie de Vivre Hospitality and head of global hospitality for Airbnb 

11. What prevents me from making the changes I know will make me a more effective leader? -Marshall Goldsmith, leadership coach and author

12. What are the implications of this decision 10 minutes, 10 months, and 10 years from now? -Suzy Welch, author

13. Do I make eye contact 100 percent of the time? -Tom Peters, author and management expert

15. Are we changing as fast as the world around us? -Gary Hamel, author and management consultant

23. What one word do we want to own in the minds of our customers, employees, and partners? -Matthew May, author and innovation expert May explains, “This deceptively simple question creates utter clarity inside and outside a company. It is incredibly difficult for most people to answer and difficult to get consensus on--even at the highest levels. Apple = different. Toyota = quality. Google = search. It’s taken me three years to get one of my clients, Edmunds.com, to find and agree on their word: trust.”

24. What should we stop doing? -Peter Drucker, management expert and author

30. What do we stand for--and what are we against? -Scott Goodson, co-founder of StrawberryFrog

34. What did we miss in the interview for the worst hire we ever made? -Alberto Perlman, CEO of Zumba Fitness

35. Do we have the right people on the bus? -Jim Collins, author and management consultant  

44. How can we become more high-tech but still be high touch? -James Champy

45. What do we need to start doing? -Jack Bergstrand, CEO, Brand Velocity

69. In the past year, what have you done (or could you have done) to increase the accurate perception of this company/brand as ethical and honest? -Robert Cialdini 

70. To whom do you add value? -Dave Ulrich and Norm Smallwood, co-founders, The RBL Group

71. Why should people listen to you? -Dave Ulrich and Norm Smallwood

74. Are your clients Pepsi or Coke drinkers?” -Marcy Massura Massura explains: “This is a symbolic question that gets at how deeply you have researched your target clients. Business leaders can find out more about their customers than ever before thanks to the ability to collect data on a grand scale. Such detailed information allows the company to interact with targets in new ways and to assess current product development and marketing roadmaps.”

85. If you could go back in time five years, what decision would you make differently?  What is your best guess as to what decision you're making today you might regret five years from now? -Patrick Lencioni

 

Saturday, June 14, 2014

SUCCESS = MAKING THE COMPLEX SIMPLE

"I think Coach Belichick’s one of the best coaches I’ve ever been around and probably one of the best coaches the game’s ever seen. He’s extremely thorough. He’s extremely disciplined in his approach. He’s simplistic and complex at the same time. Some people take the simple and make it complex. Bill takes the complex and makes it simple, and I think that when you’re able to do that and do that for your players, they can function better mentally and physically and that’s the goal. The goal is to reduce the amount of mental drag on your players so they can play the game fast. And finding players that can do that is an important quality that we all look for.”

-Trent Baalke, San Francisco 49ers General Manager

THE WAY OF THE NAVY SEAL: TOUGHNESS, COMPETING, TEAMWORK, LEADERSHIP, ACCOUNTABILITY

The following are a few notes from the book “Damn Few” written Rorke Denver, former Head of Basic and Advanced SEAL Training:

Our program is unique in four ways: what we teach, how we teach it, who teaches it, and who we teach it to.

What we teach is pure SEAL.  The lessons are simple, clear and well-defined: They come right out of our basic values.  Winning pays.  Losing has consequences.  Nothing substitutes for preparation.  Life isn’t fair and neither is the battlefield.  Even the smallest detail matters.  We are a brotherhood.  Our success depends on our team performance.  And we will not fail.

These precepts are driven home constantly as we make new SEALs.

Whether the students know it or not — and mostly, they don’t — these powerful ideas are behind almost everything that happens in training.

A boat race isn’t just a boat race.  It’s a way of teaching the culture of winning.  A room inspection isn’t just a room inspection. It’s an excuse for the instructors to get all over the students and teach the life-or-death importance of sweating every last detail.
 
TOUGHNESS TRAINING
“We should remember that one man is much the same as another and that he is best who it trained in the severest school.”
-Thucydides
 
SELF ACCOUNTABILITY
“Every SEAL must learn to run his own jump.  You pack your own chute.”
 
LOVE OF A CHALLENGE
“The Spartans don’t ask how many are the enemy but where they are.”
-Plutarch
 
TEAM
“Remember upon the conduct of each depends the fate of all.”
-Alexander the Great
 
COMPETE
“SEALS never miss a chance to compete.  If we don’t have something to compete over — don’t worry, we’ll dream something up.  If there SEALs are going on a run, it’s not a run anymore.  It’s a race.  SEALs get bloody noses during pickup games of Horse.”
 
THE NEXT BATTLE
Killing Osama Bin Laden… “Mission Complete”
 
LEADERSHIP
“Ten soldiers wisely led will beat a hundred without a head.”
-Euripides
 
 
 

Friday, June 13, 2014

THINGS I KNOW BECAUSE I PLAYED

It's funny how life works -- especially in the coaching profession.  Several years ago I was in Phoenix to visit with one of my players Temeka Johnson who was at the time helping guide the Mercury to a WNBA Championship.  While attending a practice session, a young man came up and introduced himself to me.  His name was Bret Burchard.  Bret works for both the Mercury and the Phoenix Suns organization.  He told me he knew of me through his college coach at Taylor University, Paul Patterson.  Coach Patterson and I are connected through our friendship with Don Meyer.  Since that time, Bret and I have remained in touch.

Fast forward to a few weekends ago when I traveled to Nashville for Coach Meyer's Memorial Service at Lipscomb where I ran into Coach Patterson.  Those that know coaching and teaching know Coach Patterson.  Bob Knight once called him the best coach in the state of Indiana -- while Knight was coaching the Hoosiers.  After the service we were talking and Bret's name came up.  Coach Patterson told me he had wrote something amazing.  He went on to tell me that Brad Stevens had actually read it to his Boston Celtics team.

I asked Coach Patterson to send me a copy which he did.  He was right -- it's amazing.  I then reached out to Bret to ask his permission to put it on our blog and he was glad to share.  He's one of us coaches that want to share and help.  In fact, his newest venture is developing a program to help athletes/coaches separate who they are from performance in competition and overflow excellence.  You can find out more about that at: http://championshift.com/.

It's a bit lengthy but well worth the read.  As did Coach Stevens with the Celtics, we are going to share this with our team as well.

THINGS I KNOW BECAUSE I PLAYED
By Bret Burchard

The thing I now appreciate the most about my basketball experience is the fact that the game, or competition itself, is always honest. Every day you step on the court the game will tell you the truth. There are winners and losers every day, every game, every practice, every drill, every possession. If you didn’t do the work the game will tell you about it because you will probably lose. If you took shortcuts or you took the easy route, the game will tell you about it. If there’s selfishness in your heart or there’s arrogance about the way you approach the day, the game will tell you about it. If your goals are set for mediocrity, you will probably get mediocre, and if your priorities aren’t in line with your goals then you will be left disappointed. If you’re putting yourself first when you should be last, and I’m not talking about the tournament standings here, then you’ll hear about it in your results.

I believe in the value and place of an academic education, but it doesn’t compare to the real life, applicable lessons that are taught through athletics and competition. The trick is you have to be paying attention to learn. Before learning anything most guys will get their butts kicked everyday and blame it on someone else or on circumstances out of their control. At some point they will get tired of losing and take ownership of the results. Then they get serious about what they are doing and start paying attention. That’s when competition reveals life and spiritual lessons that are taught in a way unique to any other avenue.


I respect athletes that are pursuing excellence because they put themselves on the line everyday. One of their faults could cause them to lose. And in basketball, a team sport, they could cause 12 other guys to lose too, all because they weren’t paying attention when the game was trying to teach them something. And it’s a crappy feeling to go to class the next day or go back to the dorm when the whole school watched you cost the team the game, all because you weren’t paying attention during preparation. But, because you put yourself on the line everyday, you are getting an education that most people don’t get. So stick with it because the lessons learned will come back well after you’re finished playing. If the program you are involved in is challenging you enough you’ll be like me and find times when you want to quit. Don’t quit. The best decision you’ll ever make is to keep going. Keep working and enjoy every step of the journey.

When most people finish their athletic careers they talk about the things they wish they knew while they were playing. The truth is, they could have known those things but they were too stubborn, selfish, or arrogant to realize them. I put it nicely. Coaches will say they had their head to far up their butt to see the truth.

I’m writing this to say there are things the game was screaming at me every single day but I didn’t immediately recognize it, and the game is screaming those same things to everyone else that is serious about being good at what they do. You just have to be paying attention. The sooner you can humble yourself, the quicker you will learn these same lessons and approach your full potential.

Humility

This is without a doubt the most pivotal lesson an athlete will learn during a career. I entered college as a freshman thinking I knew everything and left knowing I have a lot to learn. This is a common pattern amongst any athlete going through college. As I learned more about humility I became a better asset to my team and my whole athletic experience was more enjoyable.

There are many misconceptions of what it means to be humble and so most people shy away from it. Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less. It is realizing the world does not revolve around you and there are a lot of things going on besides your desires, needs, wants, expectations, and beliefs. Humility is being last, and I’m not talking about being the worst player on the team. I’m talking about putting other’s needs ahead of your own.

Humility is also about accepting the truth. I have already discussed how the game reveals the truth every day. The arrogant player won’t pay attention to those facts and will continue to believe he is something he’s not. When he keeps fighting the truth he just makes life harder and limits the possibility of becoming the best player he can be.

Unfortunately, when we think of being the best player we can be we automatically think about how many points we can score and how many moves we have in our repertoire. Being the best player means playing to our strengths and recognizing our weaknesses. It’s humbling to admit our limitations, but recognizing them is the first step in exceeding our potential. Humility is about knowing who we are within the context of what we are doing.

If you happen to be the team’s best scorer you need to realize you can’t score without the help of your teammates. If your strength is not scoring you use your strengths to get those that can score open shots.

When we recognize our limitations then we play to our strengths and we avoid our weaknesses. By understanding our limitations we actually become a greater asset to the team and ultimately exceed any limitations others put on our potential because everything we do helps the team rather than hurt it. And it is a team game. And we are in it for the success of the team. And each individual is judged on the success of the team.

Humility is also about taking responsibility for your actions. When you mess up you admit to it, accept the consequences and move on. You don’t blame others. You worry about what is in your control and do not blame your mistakes on external factors.

Preparation

Preparation is imperative in whatever you are doing. You don’t just show up on game day and win the championship. The wins and championships are a result of the preparation done beforehand. I have found this to be true in everything. You don’t just show up on test day and expect to pass because you are awesome, or you need it or for some reason you believe you deserve it. You pass the test because you went to class every day of the semester, you did the homework, you understood the material and asked questions when you didn’t understand. You pass the test because you spent time studying and reviewing the material before test day.

It’s true in public speaking as well. You don’t just show up to speak to a group of people and expect them to listen because you are awesome. You prepare to be awesome. You understand your audience and grab their attention and prepare points you want to get across.

Preparation is imperative.

How you prepare is important too. There’s an old saying that tells us we should practice like we play, but the inverse of that statement is true as well. We play like we practice. If you prepare for mediocre then that’s what you’re going to get. If you prepare to beat the worst team in the league, that’s all you will do. But if you prepare to beat the best team in the league, your chances are better. If you practice things that won’t come up in the game within your team’s system of play, you are waiting your time. That’s poor preparation.

Excellence

Excellence is a word thrown around so often it has lost its meaning. People use it to offer the appearance that they are working hard and are committed to something when in fact the fruit of their work is mediocre.

I don’t claim to have achieved anything of excellence but I did play for a coach that has a solid vision of what excellence is and understands what it takes to achieve it and he demanded that from us every day in every activity. Whether we responded or not is a different discussion.

What I have discovered about excellence is that it’s not a one time thing. You don’t have a good day and call it excellent. It is called excellent because you did excellent work day after day, possession after possession, time and again. You don’t do one thing and say, “That was excellent.” You look back on a season, on an entire career and call the result of great work excellence.

The other thing about excellence is you don’t get to judge it or get to pick who judges it. Excellence will be called excellent no matter who judges it. We all think pretty highly of the work we do ourselves and we all can find a mom or girlfriend to tell us how “awesome” and “excellent” we are. But when your work is truly excellent there will be no doubt. Anyone that sees it will recognize it. It won’t take convincing. You won’t have to sell your product. The results will speak for themselves.

Commitment

Our generation has nearly lost the value of commitment. We don’t give ourselves completely to what we are doing. We are told to be well-rounded and get involved in many different activities. I believe in the necessity of balance in life. But well-rounded is another term whose meaning needs to be reestablished.

When we tell kids to get involved, they sign up for three or four different activities. Now they are doing a lot of things but aren’t committed to any of them. They don’t have priorities. When you are committed to something, it becomes your number one priority all of the time.

Of all the extracurricular activities I was involved in on campus basketball was always my number one priority because I had made a commitment to it before I ever stepped on campus (and it was paying for my school too). And everyone was aware of that before I became involve in another activity. If there was ever a conflict, basketball always took precedence. I still did good work for the other activities but basketball always came first. I didn’t do anything to interfere with my performance in basketball because I had made a commitment to the program and to my teammates. I never scheduled a late night meeting the day before a game. I never scheduled events immediately following practices or games that may take my focus off of basketball. When it was basketball season, I was committed to basketball.

Commitment, done the right way, also builds toughness. We have encouraged kids to get involved so much that when one activity beats them down they just move on to the next one. If they fail in basketball today, it’s okay because they will have a soccer game tomorrow. There’s something to be said for being beat down one day and coming back again the next day. That kind of commitment will force you to swallow some pride and accept the truth. That will build some humility. When you respond positively to negative situations, that builds toughness.

Toughness

Society tells us toughness is gaining power and being the biggest, strongest guy and beating people up. Those are just lies.

Toughness is about doing hard things well and doing them the right way. It’s not about taking cheap shots or cutting corners. It’s about doing the necessary to be successful. It’s about getting up when you are knocked down.

If you get undercut while going up for a layup, fans will call you tough if you retaliate by punching the guy in the face. That’s not toughness. That’s stupidity. Toughness is standing up, knocking down the free throws, guarding him on the other end, and then your team scoring on him the next offensive trip. Toughness is not letting that cheap shot throw off your focus. It’s doing the things necessary to be successful.  You become tough by doing tough things.

Winning on the road in a hostile environment is hard. If you want to succeed you better be tough. You better be disciplined in the things you do well and be trained to focus on your strengths, the game, and your game plan.

Toughness is about not quitting. Not giving into fatigue. Not giving into the temptation to cut corners and take the easy way out. We will use the excuse, “My body just couldn’t go anymore,” but that’s a lie. The truth is our mind wasn’t tough enough to not quit.

It’s about doing the hard things that no one else is willing to do in order to be successful. That level of toughness will separate the good from the great, the mediocre from the excellent.

“Winning isn’t everything”

Here is another phrase whose meaning needs to be reestablished. The people using this phrase are the ones not winning. It’s their excuse to being mediocre. They usually follow it up with lines like, “We’ve learned so much from our adversity,” and “It’s all about the lifelong relationships we’ve built.”

That’s bull crap.

First, you haven’t learned anything from your adversity if you keep getting the same results. You haven’t learned something until it changes you. If you want something different than you’ve been getting, you have to do something different than you’ve always done. Losing can be a powerful teacher. But you don’t learn more by losing more.

Second, I’ve built lifelong relationships with people that are striving for excellence. I’m not too interested in sustaining friendships with people that drag me down and settle for mediocrity. I want a lifelong friend that is going to be excellent in what he does and will challenge me to do the same. A friend that settles for less than his best and will allow you to do the same is a lousy friend.

That’s another excuse we like to use: “We did our best.” That’s bull crap the majority of the time too. It’s typically an excuse to accept losing.

John Wooden’s definition of success is the self-satisfaction in knowing you did the best you possibly could to become the best you possibly could-or something to that effect. If you lay your head down at night and are satisfied that you did everything you could to help your team win then good for you.

But typically, Mom tells little Johnny, “You did the best you could,” to make him feel better about losing. Who said it was a bad thing to feel bad after a loss? Losing should hurt. If you pour yourself into what you are doing it will hurt when you don’t win. That’s okay. Get up and do it again.

I’m all for doing the best you can and being satisfied in that. But let’s not use that as an excuse to not do our best. We typically tell people we did our best to cover up the fact that we could have given more or we tell them that because we are ashamed of losing.

I agree with the idea that winning shouldn’t be the ultimate determinate of success, but it’s an important one. No one wants to lose all of the time. If you are going to commit to something and sacrifice for it, and if you are going to apply yourself and work hard at something, you should find a way to achieve some success.