Tuesday, July 28, 2015


“Discipline isn’t something you have or don’t have. Discipline is something you choose. You choose it. It’s not God-given -- you do the right thing, the right way, the right time all the time.  That’s a choice. It’s a choice for all of us.”

Monday, July 27, 2015


"When you play against those teams that take great pride in being patient, and they are good at what they do there is no easy answer. The question becomes 'How tough are you at the end of the shot clock?' Are you willing in the last 15 seconds of the shot clock to sit down and guard the ball, will they keep seeing both, will they talk on defense or will they give up that back door lay-up at the end that kills you?"

Saturday, July 25, 2015


At Coach U Live this year in Orlando, Brendan Suhr asked Billy Donovan, "What is coaching?" Some of Coach Donovan's responses included:

"You have to want to be coachable yourself.  If you ask your players to be coachable, you have to ask your this."

"Take any player and have them reach their full potential on and off the court."

"It's not about how many games you win, it's about how your players talk about you and the time you spent together."

"Having patience -- the roots may not bloom until long after you're gone.  It could be 5 to 10 years down the road.

Big thanks to USF Coach Jeff Osterman for passing on his Coach U notes to me!

Friday, July 24, 2015


1.       In transition, beat the offensive post player to favorite spot.

2.       Key to defensive post play is footwork.

3.       Defensive post player must communicate her positioning.

4.       Must take away initial path to cutter.

5.       Good defensive post players never lose sight of the ball.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


The following comes from "The Carpenter" by Jon Gordon.  I love this so much I'm going to print it and frame it and put in my office -- constantly reading it to reaffirm it.  I'm also going to print it off and laminate it and place it in each player's locker -- I think it's that good:

The way to success is the way of the craftsman, where you work really hard for years. You show up every day. You do the work. You see yourself as an artist dedicated to your craft with a desire to get better every day. You put your heart and soul into your work as you strive for excellence. You desire to create perfection, knowing you’ll never truly achieve it but hoping to get close to it. You try new things. You fail. You improve. You grow. You face countless challenges and tons of rejection that make you doubt yourself and cause you to want to quit. But you don’t. You keep working hard, stay positive, and persevere through it all with resilience, determination, and a lot of hope and faith. Then you make it! Everyone wants to work with you. And the world says, ‘Where have you been?’ And you say, ‘I’ve been here all along, and hopefully getting better day by day.’ To the world, you are an overnight success. To you, the journey continues. You’re a craftsman who wants to make your next work of art your best work no matter what you have accomplished in the past.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015


My friend Jeff Marx is at again -- writing another book.  This one is book about some people that I've gotten to know and call friends -- some LSU Tigers. He's a Pulitzer Prize winning author and does an amazing job of telling stories.  I'm really looking forward to this book.

It is a small world that we live in.  I actually met Jeff through a mutual friend, Patty Jo Hedges, who at the time was playing for the University of Kentucky in the early 80s.  Jeff stayed in the same apartment building as PJ and we spent a couple of evenings together talking college basketball.  Jeff at the time was working for the Lexington-Herald.  Fast forward about 10 years in the future and our paths crossed again via Dale Brown and LSU Basketball as Coach Brown got involved with Jeff's Wendy Marx Foundation.  Wendy was Jeff's sister, a liver transplant recipient who parlayed her own health challenges into a powerful message of hope for others. Our involvement with Jeff and the foundation had a profound effect -- I have "Organ Donor" marked on my drivers license and encourage others to give thought to organ donation at well.

Among the many books that Jeff has wrote, "Season of Life" was another that spoke directly to me. It is about the relationship between Jeff and Joe Ehrmann of the Baltimore Colts.  For me, Dale Brown was my Joe Ehrmann.  My relationship with Coach Brown and the lessons I learned opened up a great level for my relationship with my father -- except I truly hadn't recognized that until I read "Season of Life."

For those interested, here is some info on the new book from Jeff

Walking with Tigers will be released on September 15. Prior to that, a limited offering of 500 copies will be signed, numbered, and dated by the author. Here is information.

The book: Walking with Tigers is an unconventional collection of LSU sports stories. These stories are not about games. They are about people and their lives. They are about the powerful reach of LSU sports and the passion that comes with a long history of excellence. You will find new material about Tiger greats Alex Bregman, Dale Brown, Kimberlyn Duncan, Leonard Fournette, Bert Jones, Mikie Mahtook, Raph Rhymes, Stanley Roberts, Jimmy Taylor, and many others. You will also find entertaining stories about the Bengal Belles, a lucky can of corn, and an LSU sports bar in New York City.

The author: Pulitzer Prize winner Jeffrey Marx is the author of two New York Times bestsellers – Season of Life and The Long Snapper. This is his sixth book. Marx is a native New Yorker who now lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

To order now as part of this limited offering: Please make your check for $23 per book (price includes shipping) payable to “Walking with Tigers” and send it to:

Walking with Tigers
8262 S. Harts Mill Lane
Baton Rouge, LA  70808

Please enclose a note with the address to which your shipment should be made. Also, if you want your book(s) personalized, include name(s) for inscription. Please note: Books will be mailed in early September.


Monday, July 20, 2015


How far would you go to effectively communicate with your team?  We probably all say we'd go the distdance -- communication is essential to teaching and motivating.  But would we learn another langauge?  That's what St. Louis Cardinal manager Mike Matheny did -- and it's paid dividents.

In an article on FoxNews.com, Stan McNeal writes about how what started as a college course for Matheny at Michigan became much more in part to his college coach who knew Matheny was destined to advance his baseball career.

As McNeal writes:

Matheny was directed to Spanish classes by Wolverines coach Bill Freehan, who caught 15 seasons in the major leagues and saw a professional future for Matheny. He instructed Matheny to take Spanish every semester so he would be able to better communicate with the growing number of Latin players in the game. Matheny not only finished his education with the equivalent of a minor in Spanish, he continued to seek opportunities to speak the language after the Brewers drafted and signed him in 1998. All these years later, he still does. The key, he said, is to speak with those who know the language.

"Even if you're not perfect with it, you can see that your effort is appreciated," Matheny said. "It helped me develop a trusting relationship with a lot of pitchers over the years, or at least made that relationship easier to build."

Matheny's ability to speak Spanish never has been more helpful than this offseason. Since the death of Oscar Taveras, Matheny has spoken regularly with young right-hander Carlos Martinez to help him cope with the loss. Taveras was Martinez's closest friend on the Cardinals and, according to media reports, Martinez had invited Taveras to visit him at a resort in the Dominican Republic on the weekend of the fatal car crash.

You can read McNeal's entire article here which details Matheny handling a press conference in Spanish.

Thursday, July 16, 2015


We're going to veer a bit off the beaten path this afternoon.  My boss, Gary Blair, is a Hall of Fame basketball coach.  He is also a retired Marine.  He sent me this email which is just finished reading.  It is a grave and somber reminder of the unthinkable and unimaginable sacrifices made by our military men and women, and their families.  I sincerely hope you will take the time to read it all:

Burial at Sea
by Lt COL George Goodson, USMC (Ret)
In my 76th year, the events of my life appear to me, from time to time, as a series of vignettes. Some were significant; most were trivial.

War is the seminal event in the life of everyone that has endured it. Though I fought in Korea and the Dominican Republic and was wounded there, Vietnam was my war.

Now 42 years have passed and, thankfully, I rarely think of those days in Cambodia, Laos, and the panhandle of North Vietnam where small teams of Americans and Montagnards fought much larger elements of the North Vietnamese Army.   Instead I see vignettes: some exotic, some mundane:

*The smell of Nuc Mam.
*The heat, dust, and humidity.
*The blue exhaust of cycles clogging the streets.
*Elephants moving silently through the tall grass.
*Hard eyes behind the servile smiles of the villagers.
*Standing on a mountain in Laos and hearing a tiger roar.
*A young girl squeezing my hand as my medic delivered her baby.
*The flowing Ao Dais of the young women biking down Tran Hung Dao.
*My two years as Casualty Notification Officer in North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland.

It was late 1967. I had just returned after 18 months in Vietnam. Casualties were increasing. I moved my family from Indianapolis to Norfolk, rented a house, enrolled my children in their fifth or sixth new school, and bought a second car. A week later, I put on my uniform and drove 10 miles to Little Creek, Virginia. I hesitated before entering my new office.  Appearance is important to career Marines.  I was no longer, if ever, a poster Marine.  I had returned from my third tour in Vietnam only 30 days before. At 5'9", I now weighed 128 pounds - 37 pounds below my normal weight. My uniforms fit ludicrously, my skin was yellow from malaria medication, and I think I had a twitch or two.

I straightened my shoulders, walked into the office, looked at the nameplate on a Staff Sergeant's desk and said, "Sergeant Jolly, I'm Lieutenant Colonel Goodson. Here are my orders and my Qualification Jacket."

Sergeant Jolly stood, looked carefully at me, took my orders, stuck out his hand; we shook and he asked, "How long were you there, Colonel?" I replied "18 months this time." Jolly breathed, “ you must be a slow learner Colonel." I smiled.

Jolly said, "Colonel, I'll show you to your office and bring in the Sergeant Major. I said, "No, let's just go straight to his office."  Jolly nodded, hesitated, and lowered his voice, "Colonel, the Sergeant Major. He's been in this job two years. He's packed pretty tight. I'm worried about him." I nodded.

Jolly escorted me into the Sergeant Major's office. "Sergeant Major, this is Colonel Goodson, the new Commanding Office. The Sergeant Major stood, extended his hand and said, "Good to see you again, Colonel." I responded, "Hello Walt, how are you?" Jolly looked at me, raised an eyebrow, walked out, and closed the door.

I sat down with the Sergeant Major. We had the obligatory cup of coffee and talked about mutual acquaintances. Walt's stress was palpable. Finally, I said, "Walt, what's the hell's wrong?" He turned his chair, looked out the window and said, "George, you're going to wish you were back in Nam before you leave here. I've been in the Marine Corps since 1939. I was in the Pacific 36 months, Korea for 14 months, and Vietnam for 12 months. Now I come here to bury these kids. I'm putting my letter in. I can't take it anymore." I said, "OK Walt. If that's what you want, I'll endorse your request for retirement and do what I can to push it through Headquarters Marine Corps."

Sergeant Major Walt Xxxxx retired 12 weeks later. He had been a good Marine for 28 years, but he had seen too much death and too much suffering. He was used up.

Over the next 16 months, I made 28 death notifications, conducted 28 military funerals, and made 30 notifications to the families of Marines that were severely wounded or missing in action. Most of the details of those casualty notifications have now, thankfully, faded from memory.  Four, however, remain.

*MY FIRST NOTIFICATION* My third or fourth day in Norfolk, I was notified of the death of a 19 year old Marine. This notification came by telephone from Headquarters Marine Corps. The information detailed:

*Name, rank, and serial number.
*Name, address, and phone number of next of kin.

*Date of and limited details about the Marine's death.

*Approximate date the body would arrive at the Norfolk Naval Air Station.

*A strong recommendation on whether the casket should be opened or closed.

The boy's family lived over the border in North Carolina, about 60 miles away. I drove there in a Marine Corps staff car. Crossing the state line into North Carolina, I stopped at a small country store / service station / Post Office. I went in to ask directions. Three people were in the store.   A man and woman approached the small Post Office window. The man held a package. The Store owner walked up and addressed them by name, "Hello John. Good morning Mrs. Cooper."

I was stunned. My casualty's next-of-kin's name was John Cooper! I hesitated, then stepped forward and said, "I beg your pardon. Are you Mr. and Mrs. John Cooper of (address)?"

The father looked at me-I was in uniform - and then, shaking, bent at the waist, he vomited. His wife looked horrified at him and then at me. Understanding came into her eyes and she collapsed in slow motion. I think I caught her before she hit the floor.

The owner took a bottle of whiskey out of a drawer and handed it to Mr. Cooper who drank. I answered their questions for a few minutes. Then I drove them home in my staff car. The store owner locked the store and followed in their truck. We stayed an hour or so until the family began arriving.

I returned the store owner to his business. He thanked me and said, "Mister, I wouldn't have your job for a million dollars." I shook his hand and said; "Neither would I."

I vaguely remember the drive back to Norfolk. Violating about five Marine Corps regulations, I drove the staff car straight to my house. I sat with my family while they ate dinner, went into the den, closed the door, and sat there all night, alone. My Marines steered clear of me for days. I had made my first death notification.

*THE FUNERALS* Weeks passed with more notifications and more funerals. I borrowed Marines from the local Marine Corps Reserve and taught them to conduct a military funeral: how to carry a casket, how to fire the volleys and how to fold the flag. When I presented the flag to the mother, wife, or father, I always said, "All Marines share in your grief." I had been instructed to say, "On behalf of a grateful nation...." I didn't think the nation was grateful, so I didn't say that.

Sometimes, my emotions got the best of me and I couldn't speak. When that happened, I just handed them the flag and touched a shoulder. They would look at me and nod. Once a mother said to me, "I'm so sorry you have this terrible job." My eyes filled with tears and I leaned over and kissed her.

*ANOTHER NOTIFICATION* Six weeks after my first notification, I had another. This was a young PFC. I drove to his mother's house. As always, I was in uniform and driving a Marine Corps staff car. I parked in front of the house, took a deep breath, and walked towards the house. Suddenly the door flew open, a middle-aged woman rushed out. She looked at me and ran across the yard, screaming "NO! NO! NO! NO!"

I hesitated. Neighbors came out. I ran to her, grabbed her, and whispered stupid things to reassure her. She collapsed. I picked her up and carried her into the house. Eight or nine neighbors followed. 

Ten or fifteen later, the father came in followed by ambulance personnel. I have no recollection of leaving.

The funeral took place about two weeks later. We went through the drill. The mother never looked at me. The father looked at me once and shook his head sadly.

*ANOTHER NOTIFICATION* One morning, as I walked in the office, the phone was ringing. Sergeant Jolly held the phone up and said, "You've got another one, Colonel." I nodded, walked into my office, picked up the phone, took notes, thanked the officer making the call, I have no idea why, and hung up. Jolly, who had listened, came in with a special Telephone Directory that translates telephone numbers into the person's address and place of employment.

The father of this casualty was a Longshoreman. He lived a mile from my office. I called the Longshoreman's Union Office and asked for the Business Manager. He answered the phone, I told him who I was, and asked for the father's schedule. The Business Manager asked, "Is it his son?" I said nothing. After a moment, he said, in a low voice, "Tom is at home today." I said, "Don't call him. I'll take care of that." The Business Manager said, "Aye, Aye Sir," and then explained, "Tom and I were Marines in WWII."

I got in my staff car and drove to the house. I was in uniform. I knocked and a woman in her early forties answered the door. I saw instantly that she was clueless. I asked, "Is Mr. Smith home?" She smiled pleasantly and responded, "Yes, but he's eating breakfast now. Can you come back later?" I said, "I'm sorry. It's important. I need to see him now." She nodded, stepped back into the beach house and said, "Tom, it's for you."

A moment later, a ruddy man in his late forties, appeared at the door.  He looked at me, turned absolutely pale, steadied himself, and said,  "Jesus Christ man, he's only been there three weeks!"

Months passed. More notifications and more funerals. Then one day while I was running, Sergeant Jolly stepped outside the building and gave a loud whistle, two fingers in his mouth...... I never could do that..... and held an imaginary phone to his ear.

Another call from Headquarters Marine Corps. I took notes, said, "Got it." and hung up. I had stopped saying "Thank You" long ago.

Jolly, "Where?"

Me, "Eastern Shore of Maryland. The father is a retired Chief Petty Officer. His brother will accompany the body back from Vietnam...."

Jolly shook his head slowly, straightened, and then said, "This time of day, it'll take three hours to get there and back. I'll call the Naval Air Station and borrow a helicopter. And I'll have Captain Tolliver get one of his men to meet you and drive you to the Chief's home."

He did, and 40 minutes later, I was knocking on the father's door. He opened the door, looked at me, then looked at the Marine standing at parade rest beside the car, and asked, "Which one of my boys was it, Colonel?"

I stayed a couple of hours, gave him all the information, my office and home phone number and told him to call me, anytime. He called me that evening about 2300 (11:00PM). "I've gone through my boy's papers and found his will. He asked to be buried at sea. Can you make that happen?" I said, "Yes I can, Chief. I can and I will."

My wife who had been listening said, "Can you do that?" I told her, "I have no idea. But I'm going to break my ass trying." I called Lieutenant General Alpha Bowser, Commanding General, Fleet Marine Force Atlantic, at home about 2330, explained the situation, and asked, "General, can you get me a quick appointment with the Admiral at Atlantic Fleet Headquarters?" General Bowser said," George, you be there tomorrow at 0900. He will see you.

I was and the Admiral did. He said coldly, "How can the Navy help the Marine Corps, Colonel." I told him the story. He turned to his Chief of Staff and said, "Which is the sharpest destroyer in port?" The Chief of Staff responded with a name.

The Admiral called the ship, "Captain, you're going to do a burial at sea. You'll report to a Marine Lieutenant Colonel Goodson until this mission is completed... "

He hung up, looked at me, and said, "The next time you need a ship, Colonel, call me. You don't have to sic Al Bowser on my ass." I responded, "Aye Aye, Sir" and got the hell out of his office.

I went to the ship and met with the Captain, Executive Officer, and the Senior Chief. Sergeant Jolly and I trained the ship's crew for four days. Then Jolly raised a question none of us had thought of. He said, "These government caskets are air tight. How do we keep it from floating?"

All the high priced help including me sat there looking dumb. Then the Senior Chief stood and said, "Come on Jolly. I know a bar where the retired guys from World War II hang out."

They returned a couple of hours later, slightly the worst for wear, and said, "It's simple; we cut four 12" holes in the outer shell of the  casket on each side and insert 300 lbs. of lead in the foot end of the casket.  We can handle that, no sweat."

The day arrived. The ship and the sailors looked razor sharp. General Bowser, the Admiral, a US Senator, and a Navy Band were on board. The sealed casket was brought aboard and taken below for modification. The ship got underway to the 12-fathom depth. The sun was hot. The ocean flat. The casket was brought aft and placed on a catafalque. The Chaplin spoke. The volleys were fired. The flag was removed, folded, and I gave it to the father. The band played "Eternal Father Strong to Save." The casket was raised slightly at the head and it slid into the sea.

The heavy casket plunged straight down about six feet. The incoming water collided with the air pockets in the outer shell. The casket stopped abruptly, rose straight out of the water about three feet, stopped, and slowly slipped back into the sea. The air bubbles rising from the sinking casket sparkled in the in the sunlight as the casket disappeared from sight forever....

The next morning I called a personal friend, Lieutenant General Oscar Peatross, at Headquarters Marine Corps and said, "General, get me out of here. I can't take this anymore." I was transferred two weeks later.

I was a good Marine but, after 17 years, I had seen too much death and too much suffering. I was used up.

Vacating the house, my family and I drove to the office in a two-car convoy. I said my goodbyes. 

Sergeant Jolly walked out with me. He waved at my family, looked at me with tears in his eyes, came to attention, saluted, and said, "Well Done, Colonel. Well Done." I felt as if I had received the Medal of Honor!

A veteran is someone who, at one point, wrote a blank check made payable to 'The United States of America for an amount of up to and including their life.'

Wednesday, July 15, 2015


This past spring I had the privilege of presenting at A Step Up Assistant Coaching Symposium with Tennessee assistant Kyra Elzy.  Her topic was "The Principles of Being a Great Assistant Coach" and she absolutely nailed it.  Here are my notes from her presentation

1.   #1 job is to make HC look good
           Help your boss execute his/her vision

2.   Loyalty
          Keep your program’s business in your program

3.   Hard work
          Work like you’re going to get fired

4.   Reliable and responsible

5.   Trustworthy

6.   Energy and great attitude

7.   Consistent
           “What gives you the right to be moody?”
           Ride to work-mentally -- prepare for work
           Come to office ready with a servant heart

8.   Keep personal life personal

9.   Mentally and physically fit
           Need an outlet

10.  Always remember you represent your boss and your university at ALL times

11.  Think and anticipate what is next
           Plan ahead
           Know what the HC schedule looks like

12.  Know your head coach

13.  Nothing is beneath you
           Don’t have an entitled attitude
           No one wins if everyone has a privileged attitude
           Get your hands dirty

What value do you bring to your head coach?
Be so good that your boss doesn’t want to lose you.


I've just finished reading an excellent book "What Drives Winning" by Brett Ledbetter.  He gives a ton of examples of outstanding athletes and the work they put into being great.  He also shares a lot of motivational ideas he used over the years to help players and teams.  One story from the book that we shared with our team is:

Here’s something that Kevin (Durant) told me he started doing as a freshman when he played basketball at the University of Texas: "One thing I try not to do is be a guy that goes into the gym and wants to be the only guy in the gym. I don’t want to be the guy that says 'I was working today, what were you doing?' I want to pull my teammates into the gym with me. If I work hard and we all work hard, I know only good things can come out of it."


I was driving in early this morning for conditioning with our basketball team and was listening to Mike and Mike on ESPN radio.  I tuned in half way to Dick Vitale passionately talking about the battle kids face when diagnosed with cancer.  There are few people in the world today that are carrying water up the hill to battle cancer more feverously than Dick. 

Following him as guests on the show were the parents of Lauren Hill, Brent and Lisa.  Many will remember her as the basketball player who died of cancer.  I will remember her as someone who courageously made an impact on life like few others have -- even though her time here on earth was much shorter than most.  I personally was inspired listening to her parents talking about Lauren's decision to go public and see if she could make a difference -- and that she did.

It reminded me of a story someone told me, or maybe I read somewhere, about the "dash."  You see every event has a starting date and an ending day.  A basketball season has a first practice -- last game.  A coaching career has a first game -- last game.  A life has a birth date -- a death date. 

But it's the "dash" in between the two dates that's significant.  There is actually a poem entitled "The Dash" written by Linda Ellis.

Our team this summer has been reading "The Hard Hat" by Jon Gordon which tells the inspiring story of George Boiardi, a Cornell lacrosse player who lost his life on the playing field.  Jon's book goes into detail of the legacy he left in a short time by being an amazing teammate.

It wasn't about George's birthdate, or even the day he passed.  It was about the dash.  It was all about the time he put in between the two dates.

This past year, our season ended with a disappointing 1st round loss in the NCAA tournament.  To help motivate our players in this off-season, we created a motivational passout that detailed the journey of last year's Duke men's basketball team. In 2014, they too had a lost to a mid-major in the first round of the NCAA tournament.  Of course, a year later they were cutting down nets as the 2015 National Champions.  The key for the Blue Devils was of course, what had they done to fill in their dash.

And that stand for all of us -- in so many ways...what we are doing to fill in our dash.  It is process-oriented thinking.  Don't look down the road at an ending date.  Put your work in now.  In the words of Lauren Hill:

"Anything can happen at any given moment.
What matters is right now."


Friday, July 10, 2015


I've wrote before about how much I absolutely love Coach Greg Brown's book "The Best Things I've Seen In Coaching."  But I was rereading parts of it this week and thought I'd share some more thoughts about why this book is essential for all coaches on all levels. First, just to get insight into the teaching methods of Coach Don Meyer and Coach Pat Summitt makes is must-have book. Add to the fact that all the proceeds from the book go to charities for the foundations of both Coach Meyer and Coach Summitt and you have something very special indeed.  Ordering information will be at the bottom of the post.

Here is just a portion of what you can find in this book:

A look at the “Cornell Notetaking” system as taught by Coach Don Meyer.
Coach Pat Summitt talking about the components of “The Tennessee Way.”

Greg’s notes (he’s a prolific notetaker) following the Lady Vols games in which Coach Summitt meets with the team.  This includes post game notes from non-conference opponents like UConn as well SEC rivals.

Greg’s notes from John Maxwell as he addresses the Lady Vols.

Coach Summitt’s post-season meetings with players following the 2004 National Championship game.

Coach Summitt’s practice expectations.

Sections with Coach Summitt’s thoughts on responsibility, attitude, discipline, competing and communication.

An absolute great section titled “Put The Team Before Yourself.”

Coach Meyer’s core values: Team Attitude.

A great section with Coach Meyer’s principles in regard to planning and organization.

Coach Meyer’s views on self-improvement and being resilient.

An amazing section on Coach Meyers thoughts about leadership.

Coach Meyer’s formula for building a team and building a program.
For information on ordering "The Best Things I've Seen In Coaching" click here.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015


The following comes from Jeff Janssen's great book "How To Build And Sustain A Championship Culture."

Another great exercise to help you evaluate your present culture is called Start/Stop/Continue. Ask your Leadership Team to share their thoughts on the following three questions:

To build a championship culture, we need to START

To build a championship culture, we need to STOP

To build a championship culture, we need to CONTINUE

“No matter the size of your team or the challenges you face, it is the job of leaders to help their people understand why it’s not acceptable to remain where you are, that you must move toward a better future, and why it’s safe to do so, much safer than not doing so.” –Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton, Authors of "All In"

Thursday, July 2, 2015


Here is an excerpt of an article written by Lindsay H. Jones for USA TODAY.  You can read the entire article here.  It speaks to one of the more profound changes in teaching over the past decade.  I grew up (true I'm getting up there in the years) when a player or child asked "Why" and they were told "Because I said so."  But the ability of someone to understand the why can go a long way in creating better understanding, trust and execution.  Here is just a part of Jone's column:

Over the past two weeks, new Denver Broncos coach Gary Kubiak has gotten used to one word coming from the quarterbacks' meeting room: Why?

As Kubiak works to install a new playbook, quarterback Peyton Manning wants to know the reasons behind everything. Every new play and each new idea must have a purpose.

"Great players ask why," Kubiak said Tuesday after the first day of the Broncos' first veteran minicamp.

To Kubiak, seeing the five-time MVP in the front row of the classroom reminds him of his first years as an offensive coordinator in Denver, when quarterback John Elway and tight end Shannon Sharpe, a pair of Hall of Famers, were the star pupils asking the same question.

"Believe me, they asked why a lot," Kubiak said. "That's what great players do. You better have those answers for them so that they can go compete. That's what you want."


Several years ago, Steve Smiley wrote a book which details his relationship and all the lessons he learned from his college coach, Don Meyer.  The lessons were both on and off the court and it's one of my favorite books.  It's been out of a print recently but Steve has some on hand for those interested.  It's an outstanding book for coaches or players.  If you're interested, you can contact Steve via twitter or Facebook.

From "Playing For Coach Meyer" by Steve Smiley:

Great men do great things. Coach Don Meyer is a great man who does great things. Everyday he works on giving his gift of knowing the game of basketball and player development away to anybody who will listen, and anybody who asks him. Coach Meyer takes pride in sharing his love and passion for the game of basketball and player development each and every day. It doesn’t matter if you are a 7-year old putting up jump shots in the gym all by yourself, or a successful coach yourself who has been coaching for 20 or 30-plus years, Coach Meyer will go out of his way to help you become the best player, coach or person you can be.

We all know that Coach had won a ton of games but that’s not what I’m going to remember about him after my career is over. I’m going to remember his desire to get better everyday and the way he pushes his players to improve not just on the court, but off it as well.

Coach Meyer made this point simple enough when he said: “As a player, you are always doing one of two things. You’re either bringing energy to the team, or you’re sucking energy away from the team. On our team, we want energy givers, guys that bring energy to the group.” This is a simple enough concept, but Coach Meyer would constantly ask us what type of player we were on an individual level. Was I an energy giver or an energy drainer during the last practice? Did I make the team more energetic, or did I bring the team down? Constantly Coach Meyer would question every player on the team, and as my career progressed I began to see how important the concept was.


The following comes from "How Champions Think" by Dr. Bob Rotella.  Rotella is a renowned sports psychologist that has garnered much of his reputation for working with golfers.  But the mind is the mind and the ability to help someone with the mental aspects of athletic skill has carry over as shown in Rotella's story of his time with LeBron James:

It may surprise some readers to learn that the suggestions I gave to LeBron involved a lot more of what most people would perceive as plain hard work than they involved what most people would consider sports psychology. I did tell him that I thought he could benefit from one of the standard methods of sports psychology, visualization. I wanted him to see himself making three-point shots. I suggested that he ask the Cavaliers’ staff to make a highlight video for him, about eight to twelve minutes long. This video would be a LeBron James long-range shooting montage. It would have LeBron making threes off the dribble. It would show LeBron catching the ball and making threes spotting up. It could have some of LeBron’s favorite music in the background, helping him to attach the good feelings associated with that music to the act of shooting threes. He would watch it every night. As he fell asleep, he could conjure up images of himself making three-point shots against tall, quick, tenacious defenders. He could let them fill his dreams. All of this would help him improve his three-point shooting, because it would feed the right sorts of images to his subconscious, helping him become a more trusting, confident shooter. But if improvement were as easy as watching videos, the NBA would have a lot more great three-point shooters. It isn’t. The mental game is a big part of sport, but it must be combined with physical competence. So I suggested that LeBron hire a shooting coach and work with that coach every day. I told him he needed to make maybe two hundred three-point shots off the dribble every day, imagining the best defender in the league guarding him. I told him he needed to make another two hundred catch-and-shoot three-pointers. I told him I didn’t care how many shots it took to make those four hundred three-pointers, or how long it took. If he wanted to be great, he would find the time and find the energy. The actual number of shots I suggested was not as important, in my mind, as the idea that LeBron would set a practice goal for himself, commit to achieving it every day, and wait patiently for results. I told him patience was essential because I had no way of predicting how long it would take to see improvement in his shooting statistics if he took my suggestions. But the patience and tenacity required were factors that could help him separate himself from his peers. A lot of athletes might undertake an improvement regimen like that one I suggested to LeBron. But not many would stick with it. After a few weeks, if they weren’t seeing immediate results, they’d find a reason to quit. Maybe they’d decide the extra practice was wearing them down. Maybe they’d decide that they just didn’t have the talent to be a great outside shooter. They’d find a way to talk themselves out of it. To encourage LeBron to persevere, I told him about my belief that great basketball shooters, like great golfers and great baseball hitters, are for the most part made rather than born.

With LeBron, I also talked a lot about Bill Russell and Michael Jordan. Unlike golf, basketball is a team game. An essential part of being a great player is, in my mind, playing and conducting yourself in ways that make your teammates better. That, far more than scoring average, is the hallmark of a truly great player. Jordan and Russell were the players LeBron was Chasing, because in addition to being great individually, they were players whose teams won many championships. They were great leaders. I suggested that LeBron read about Russell and Jordan and talk to them about leadership whenever he had the chance. I was very impressed with LeBron James. He was attentive. He asked insightful questions. It was clear that he was disciplined and that he set very high standards for himself. He was more than just a superstar. He was a very coachable athlete on a mission to see how great he could become.

I have noticed a few things since I spoke with LeBron. One is that his three-point shooting has improved dramatically. It’s now roughly 40 percent. A one-third improvement over his rookie year.