“Leaders create more leaders.”
Chapter 20 Reflection: What challenges do you face with a coaching staff or lack of coaching staff? How might you see these as opportunities?
Our staff is presumably similar to many high school staffs across the country. We have one head coach per team (Freshman, JV, & Varsity) within our program. Practices typically are scheduled with Freshman going separately, while JV and Varsity share a gym. The challenge with any short staff is the amount of visibility during practices and weariness of a particular roster hearing one coach throughout the entire season. As coaches, we have a tendency to repeat ourselves despite our best efforts to avoid it. A challenge at the high school level is the overlap that can take place in athletics. To be fair, I am an active advocate for multi-sports. However, selfishly my playing days are over and my sole focus is towards our basketball program. So, it can be a challenge when members on the staff also coach another sport, particularly in the fall prior to the start of your season. There can be overlap in culture characteristics. There can be a sense of burn-out from back-to-back seasons (depending on the success).
On the flip side, having so many multi-sport athletes that play in the fall allows coaches from your staff to have an early pulse on future members of the basketball program. There is nothing more revealing than a competitive environment. And there is value for coaches to get an early gauge of how certain athletes are responding to start the school year. Where do they stand academically? Depending on the age, how are they embracing a new role on the team? Certain things that I would not be privy to from an outsiders perspective I can gain insight from having a coach in the locker room.
“What is naturalness bias?”
“Prejudice against people who have achieved by working for it and preference for those who appear to have achieved with natural talent or gifts. Essentially, people think they have value effort, but they don’t. They value and admire what is easy or comes naturally.”
Chapter 21 Reflection: How have you selected players in the past? Are your values reflected in the players you choose?
Our tryouts are typically a 2-day process that encompasses evaluation on skill, conditioning, and competitive response. Following evaluation of on-the-court performance, our staff will have a discussion of program fit based on academic, character, and commitment. Have all of our decisions met our core values for what we intend to identify as a program? Not as well as I would have intended. We have had kids within our programs that we have embraced that were a “work-in-progress” from a character standpoint, a commitment standpoint, and academic standpoint.
Subjectively, I would like to think we haven’t compromised our culture by inviting a student-athlete to be a part of our program despite some red flags. However, as a coach, I feel that I am in a position to enable an opportunity of learning experiences for kids intending to commit for improvement. Unfortunately, I have learned from having some kids on the roster that later confirm my initial apprehensions correct. And I have had others that I doubted turn a corner to make a significant step in the right direction. I don’t know that there is a right decision one way or the other. I do know that our decisions on staff are always prioritized with the best interests of the student-athletes within our program. Previous experiences are simply indications of still figuring out the right methodology.
“It’s one thing to say we value something or to believe in mindset, but sitting here and facing this decision and then having to live according to that truth is a whole other thing.”
Chapter 22 Reflection: How can you implement a “selection process” to test your team’s mindset while bringing them together and strengthening commitment to the team?
The challenge is to consistency and authenticity while being demanding to the extent that you know it prepares them for any situation. My selection process has been relatively the same each and every year. We have a limited amount of time prior to the first actual game of the season, so tryouts provide little time to waste on merely testing the basics. There is actual implementation on day one of tryouts, and this in itself is a litmus test for the aptitude of athletes and potential retention moving forward. Where we could look to improve is creating an environment that challenges mental fatigue more that reveals true responses during times of struggle. Like, I had said, in effort to remain authentic in style I refrain from simply implementing conditioning just to see people run. So, our practices have to be strenuous in nature to produce adversity for the staff to evaluate. The objective is to have a uniform try-out that gives an equitable opportunity for athletes to showcase their fit for the program that upon final decision our roster felt strengthened by affirmation of selection.
As far as the “selection process” for leadership roles or representation of our core values as a program, they have been the same each year. If you had a chance to read my perspective on qualifying captains, then you will know where I stand on the value I place on labeling any student-athlete a captain versus depicting them as leaders. Leadership is a character trait developed over time. Recognized as a leader is earned.
“A trophy in and of itself means nothing. You all want to earn a championship, not be given one. See, it is not about the destination, but about the journey – the experience.”