“I would rather inspire them to work harder than control them with fear.”
Chapter 24 Reflection: What steps can you take to offer autonomy to your team? Do you feel as if your team members can see and feel their growth?
I have had the opportunity to work with experienced head coaches that seemed to demonstrate a willingness to open the floor for student-athletes to be expressive within the program. As an observer, I found the approach to improve leadership skills, in addition to shaping better lines of communication between teammates and staff. With our program there are a few different things I have tried to embed to establish autonomy amongst our own athletes:
- Captains are player chosen based on 3 qualifications to be ranked amongst teammates
- Intentional with our language to try to be inclusive in all conversations – “our” program or “we” (fill in blank)
- Prior to the start of every practice following dynamic warmups everyone gets together arm-in-arm and mentally/verbally prepares their teammates to be at their best for the day
- Often during timeouts or in conclusion of games, asked “What do we see?” or “What did we do well? / Where can we improve?”
These are just a few examples where we look to provide ownership of our performances, leadership, or program. I have found that the majority are comfortable giving feedback, which is positive. The challenge honestly has been able to receive that feedback and look to interpret it, or to help guide them in the right direction following it. Understanding that at the high school level there can be a pretty decent gap in either maturity or basketball IQ we started to emphasize the term substance. We defined it to the team simply as speak with clarity and intent to improve. Found that with inviting everyone to voice their opinion can be encouraging when more speak up, but are they being constructive? So we focus on the substance of the message if you intend to critique or challenge others, and to do so in a way that everyone understands you. This absolutely goes for me, where I still have a tendency to speak in either jargon or convolute the message by saying it multiple times in different forms.
“I remember hearing Brad Stevens say his number-one piece of advice for coaches was to be yourself. If it isn’t natural, then aren’t we being fake?”
Chapter 25 Reflection: Write out your favorite maxims. How does this represent your culture?
First and foremost we finish every huddle with “Together.” I want our program to understand the value in being connected on the floor, off the floor, and as a program. It is important that they understand our staff has their back and it should be a brother’s keeper mentality within the locker room/hallways/basketball court/etc.
Other maxims that can often be heard:
- Can’t start transition offense without a rebound
- Look up. Fly it up.
- If your actions don’t match your expectations, don’t be surprised by the results?
- Go get it – how we breakdown pregame conversations
- Come to a jump stop
- Don’t let it stick
- On-time, on-target
- Positioning is your help – see and be in both
- Do your work early – hands ready, feet ready
- If you’re not talking, then you are thinking about yourself
These are just a few, would be interested to hear/see what some of our guys came up with in response.
“… I want you to know that I’m not only trying to serve these young men by becoming a better leader, but I want to find ways to support all of you in your most challenging life task – that of parenting.”
Chapter 26 Reflection: How can you help create a transformational experience for the parents?
As an assistant at one of the Division III programs, I had been a part of invited the father’s (or individual of choice) during Senior Night to take part in all-day festivities. They would be there for morning breakfast to shoot-around and finish it off by providing the pre-game speech. The entire experience was memorable to observe. The head coach who has been doing it for quite some time always had reservations because it would make him uneasy of the level of focus prior to the game. In the end, he as always thought it to be profound and one of the more impactful things families would come to appreciate during their time.
Not sure I focus a ton toward this objective. My priorities tend to reside with my student-athletes within our program, subsequently, it is my hope that parents take pride in the experience that their child has being a part of it. Notwithstanding, our program owes a tremendous amount of gratitude towards the parents for the sacrifices that they consistently make with regards to transportation and reinforcement of character. The example provided in the book about inviting parents to observe and even participate in practice is a good idea.
“When I say to you, ‘ACT, don’t react,’ what I’m saying is that you need to: A-be aware of your feelings and focus, C-compose yourself by focusing on the controllables, T-take action on the controllables.”
Chapter 27 Reflection: Think of one small intentional step you can take to start training the following: character, mental toughness, and leadership.
This has been a major topic of contemplation and conversation for our program throughout the summer. How are we developing future leaders?
- To model program standards
- Reinforce & effectively communicate culture-driven values
- Provide positive peer pressure within the locker room promoting healthy competition
Last year we started “Sunday School” which was an invitation to captains to meet 20-30 minutes prior to our morning film room sessions to discuss a variety of topics relative to team dynamic and direction. While I think it was well-intended my observation was that it did not provide much growth for any involved. Much of the responses were vanilla (group-think). And I didn’t think I did a good enough job providing direction or actionable instruction following conversation. This is still a work-in-progress, but I think the Sunday School meetings can prove to be beneficial potentially creating objectives for incremental growth in the following areas: leadership, mental toughness, character, player development, etc.
Mental toughness has always been an internal battle with me as a coach. My personal opinion towards the verbiage of mental toughness has always been inclined to believe it as a scapegoat for poor performance or preparation. It would make sense to think that poor preparation from the coaching staff will lead to poor performance. And the easy excuse is to consider the athletes soft, or mentally weak. However, in somewhat contradicting statements poor preparation from coaches could enable (or fail) athletes during pressure-filled situations. So, I think it mental toughness is more a reflection of situational coaching than it is athlete-disposition. There are going to be athletes that seem more unfazed than others during big moments, but if our preparation is consistent and clear the actions should be done with confidence. We will just have to live with the results. This tangent is a long-winded way of saying I need to do a better job simulating pressure situations during practice. And to be very clear what to expect, how to handle it, and the contingency in place for anything deviating from the plan.