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Tuesday, September 25, 2018

BOOK REVIEW: WHY THE BEST ARE THE BEST


One of the most anticipated reads I've had in sometime was Kevin Eastman's "Why The Best Are The Best."  And it didn't disappoint.

I've known Kevin for over seven years and have heard him speak on numerous occasions including at Coach U and to our team at Texas A&M.  Two things are going to happen when you hear Kevin speak -- you are going to gain knowledge and your are going to be inspired.  The same is true with "Why The Best Are The Best."

What is special about the book is that you just don't have to be a basketball player or coach to gain from it.  You can participate or coach any sport and come away better.  In fact, forget the athletic industry as a whole.  If I worked with a group of people in any facet of life, this is a book that would help me to lead and build teams.

The book starts quick with Kevin's "25 Power Words" -- worth the price of the book alone.  Here are just a couple of my favorites: 

1. Truth - The ultimate “must have” for personal and team success; without it we’ll live in the world of frustration and regret.

12. Choices - If I listen to the right voices, I tend to make the right choices. 

16. Habits - The good ones are the most powerful and most needed; they are hard to create and difficult to break.

25. Talent - Overrated, unless we add an e and a d; in my world the e and the d stand for “extra dimension.”

Going back on "truth" Kevin expounded by saying truth needs three things:
       You must be able to live it.
       You must be able to tell it.
       You must be able to take it.

A few more thoughts that hit home that I will share with our team.

Competition:

But competition is more than simply you against me. It is a mindset to bring the best that you have in you each day, no matter how things are going. Competitors get their reputations not from just playing or working hard; those are given in the world of competition. True competition comes in when you are willing to continue to give the best of what you have even when you are losing. 


Some other highlights of the book included:

Kevin shares the 12 pillars in the Boston Celtics Standard Of Excellence.

There is also a section titled “Success Triangles”  that list three words bonded together that make a different in teams and competitors.  Below is the list but the book is a must read for the details Kevin gives on each.  

   ◄Capability, Knowledge, and Team-Ness

   ◄Three dimensions of success: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. 

   ◄Three sets: Skill set, Mindset and Reset.

   ◄Three C’s: Overcoming Complacency, Conceit and Compromise 

   ◄Three bests: The best, my best, our best.

   ◄Three don’ts: Do not dismiss obvious, age and ideas

   ◄Three battles: Combating fear, failure and limitation 

   ◄Three ingredients for success: Respect, Trust, Like

   ◄There ins: All-in, not-in, Give-in 

   ◄Three ups: Showing up, Shutting up, Keeping up 

There is also a section on the power of lists.  If you've heard Kevin speak you know he the master of "bullet points" -- sharing knowledge in short lists...and he shares some great ones in the book


The book also has tons of quotes — many that I will use with our team.  Here are three of my favorite:

“Having respect in this league is one of the hardest things to do. It’s not just about how you perform but how hard you work. Hard work gives you respect.” – Kevin Garnett

“Sometimes you have to put your heart into something knowing that it may be broken.” -Doc Rivers

“We have plenty of talent, but talent is not going to be good enough.”- Steve Kerr

Possibly the best part of the book are the numerous stories Kevin shares to bring home the power of his talking points.  Again, if you’ve heard Kevin speak you know he is a master story teller and an expert at painting pictures.  I’d share a few of those stories but I’d be cheating you — you need to get this book!


Monday, September 24, 2018

INGREDIENTS OF A SUCCESSFUL PRACTICE

I've known Sam Nichols for around 20 years now -- whether he was working our basketball camps at LSU or running into him at Don Meyer's Coaching Academy.  And while he was an outstanding coach, he's saved his best act for post retirement where is Founder and President of Basketball Smiles, a program of free basketball camps in the inner city playgrounds of the Bahamas. Below is a post by Sam with a great list on how to have successful practices:

Recently I had a young coach ask me for some suggestions on how to plan more efficient and productive practices. Here's a few ideas for I came up with for coaches to consider to help you plan your practices. Believe me, during my 33 years of coaching I learned there is an art to designing and executing your daily practices to where they contribute successful team development.

Hopefully, these thoughts will be helpful - here they are, in no particular order:

1. You can't be good at everything.
I heard Jim Calhoun say this at a clinic years ago. He said, "As a coach, pick out three things that you want to excel in, and focus on them. And your practices should reflect these three priorities. Another coach should be able to walk into your practices and be able to pick out those three things based upon what you're doing in practice."  Set priorities for your program and organize your practices to reflect your priorities. One of my favorite quotes: "We always find time for the things we put first." Decide what's important to and frame your practices around those priorities.

2. Coach both the "What" and the "Why"
Don't just tell your players "What" to do, tell them the "Why." Fundamentally, people "buy in" to the "Why" of anything, and if you take time to explain to your players the logic and reasoning behind your press or offensive philosophy, I believe your practices will be more fruitful.

3. Remember the 90-10 Rule
This comes from one of my mentors - Coach Dale Brown who always told me, "Be careful and not talk too much in practice - let them practice their skills 90% of the time and you talk only 10% of the time."  There's a difference between teaching and overcoaching.

4.  Have some part of practices stressful with consequences
Frankly, basketball is a game of performing under pressure and some segments of practice must be framed with pressure with resulting rewards for performing at a high level and consequences for poor performance.

5. Situational Segments
I learned the value of this from my Dad who, as a baseball coach, had us practice "situations" every day. Coaches cannot do all of the thinking for their players, nor make all of the pressure-packed decisions for their players - players have to think for themselves, and situational segments develop the confidence in players to where they believe they can make good decisions in games, because they have practiced similar situations in practice. Set up game-like situations on a regular basis and make them a routine - it will pay off!

6. Don't just work your starters together during situations
Shuffle your lineup during situations - late in the game, chances are, not all five of your starters will be in the game for one reason or another, so work situations with different lineups.

7. Make your players think for themselves and get themselves out of trouble  
In a loud gym in a meaningful game, your players won't be able to hear you "coach every dribble," so, especially in situational drills, keep your mouth shut and don't blow your whistle to correct every mistake. Instead, be quiet, and make your players work together to come up with a solution. Pat Riley says, "You must be a participant in your own rescue." Make them think - get themselves out of trouble - it will build their self-confidence and sense of teamwork.

8. Praise Extra Effort
If you want your players to play hard in games and give extra effort, you must praise and reward it on a daily basis in practice. As Don Meyer was fond of saying, "Your players will reproduce what you emphasize."  I encourage coaches, "Catch your players being good!"  Unfortunately, we all do a much better job catching them making mistakes. Let's balance that by intentionally praising extra effort. As you do this, that extra effort will be contagious.

9. Focus on You and Your Stuff
During the season, especially during Conference play, it's a great temptation to spend a disproportional amount of time on your opponent's offense and defense, out-of-bounds plays, etc.  The result - you neglect your stuff - your press break, your offensive sets, your defensive, then of course, on game day your execution suffers.

10.  Drills should relate to your offense and defense, and not just be "trendy" drills
As my Dad was fond of saying, "Know why you're doing, what you're doing." Practice time is too precious to waste, so don't just run drills that you saw at a clinic - run drills with a purpose. Utilize drills that have a direct correlation to your offensive and defensive schemes.

11. Understand there will be good practices and bad practices
Don't get overconfident and complacent when you have a good practice and everything clicks, and don't overreact and burn the gym down when you have a bad practice. The season is a grind and there is an ebb and flow to practices - you'll have some great ones, and from time to time your practices will, frankly, stink. A great coach knows that every day is a new day - build on the great practices, and flush the bad ones.

12. Practice doesn't happen in a vacuum
As much as we would like to have our players total focus and attention, we have to remember that they (and you) bring the sum of their entire day with them to practice. Develop relationships with your players so, hopefully, you can identify when one of them is having a bad day with issues maybe unrelated to basketball, but is affecting their performance.  It's also important to know yourself - if you're tired, on edge, etc., it can make you a miserable coach during practice.  I heard Coach K say one time, "When you are tired as a coach, you fall back into bad coaching habits."  So true!

13. Know When to Quit
Some days, your practices get bogged down and it's better to just shut down and call it a day! It's not your fault, it's not your players fault - as I said, the season is a grind, and there are times it's not going to be a productive day, so shut it down and re-group the next day. For sure, some days, when it gets bogged down, you have to push through and keep going, but that's where you must know your players and use good judgement. But, don't be afraid to know its time to send them home for today!

14. The Three Laws of Learning - Repetition, Repetition, Repetition 
Not every player “gets it” the first time or the tenth time, and if something is important, you must organize your practices where repetition of that skill ii systematic. You can’t teach skill development on a “every now and then” basis – if you want your players to learn something, you have to teach it over and over and over again! Repetition is the key to knowledge.

14. "See everything - overlook a great deal - correct a little" - Pope John XXIII 
This is one of my favorite quotes of all time and I had it written on every daily practice plan because I tended to "See everything - overlook nothing - correct everything."  I finally discovered that seeing every mistake and correcting it was counterproductive to what I was really wanting to develop in my players - individually and as a team. When I learned to relax and show some mercy, patience, and understanding, the entire atmosphere in practice improved and so much more was accomplished. I found a balance - I could still hold my players to a high standard of accountability, but I could do that with a lot less pressure on me and them!  We all enjoyed that so much more!

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

THE EGG, A CARROT, AND SOME COFFEE BEANS


A few weeks ago we started the school year off with Jon Gordon speaking first to our coaches and then to our student-athletes.  He shared a story that I had not heard before about a carrot, an egg, some coffee beans and some hot water.  It's a pretty good story to share with your team:

Once upon a time, the daughter of an old gardener constantly complained about her life and about how difficult it was to continue. She was tired of fighting and did not feel like doing anything. When a problem was solved another one came up and that made her give up and feel defeated.

The gardener asked his daughter to come closer to the kitchen of his cabin and take a seat. Then he filled three containers with water and put them over fire. When the water began to boil, he put a carrot in one pot, an egg in the other and poured some coffee beans into the last one. He let them boil without saying a word while his daughter waited impatiently without understanding what her father was doing. After about twenty minutes her father turned off the fire. He took out the carrots and put them in a bowl. He pulled the eggs out and placed them in another dish. Lastly, he ladled the coffee.
He looked at his daughter and said, “What do you see?” “Carrots, eggs and coffee,” was her answer. He brought her closer and asked her to touch the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. Then her asked her to take an egg and break it. She took the shell off and observed the hard boiled egg. Then he asked her to try the coffee. She smiled as she enjoyed its sweet aroma. The daughter then asked “What does this mean, dad?“

He explained that the three objects had faced the same adversity: boiling water. But they had reacted very differently. The carrot went into the water strong and solid; but after passing through the boiling water it had become weak and easy to break up. The egg had been fragile, its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior; but after sitting through the boiling water, its insides became hardened. The coffee however was unique; after being in boiling water, it had changed the water.

“Which one are you?” he asked his daughter. “When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot that seems strong, but when pain and adversity knocks, do you become weak and lose your strength? Are you an egg that starts with a malleable heart ? Do you possess a fluid spirit, but after a death, separation, or a layoff, become hard and stiff? On the outside you are the same, but how have you transformed on the inside?

Or are you like the coffee? The coffee changes the water, the element that causes it pain. When the water reaches its boiling point, the coffee achieves its best flavor. If you are like the coffee bean, when things get worse you react better and make the things around you better.

And you, which one of the three are you?