Written by Darren Douglas

The topic off-court development is one of the most vital discussions in sports and I feel as if it’s one of the lesser prioritized topics in many programs.  If you look deep into the majority of the elite programs in sports, business and many other fields you will see that personal development is a facet of their core values.  In the book Legacy by James Kerr (If you haven’t, read it.  Read it ASAP! It’s that good!) in recalling a defining moment at the beginning of the New Zealand Blacks decision to change their culture, Kerr states:

 “Pondering the strategic objective – to create ‘an environment . . . that would stimulate the players and make them want to take part in it’ – he came up with the six words that would define the efforts of the next eight or so years:

—— Better People Make Better All Blacks

That is, by developing the individual players and giving them the tools, skills and character that they needed to contribute beyond the rugby field, they would also, in theory, develop the tools, skills and character to contribute more effectively on it.”

Legacy by James Kerr

I can remember the first time reading that passage and having a clear shift in thinking. It became less about what sets we were running and more about we were going to set our players up for long-term success as people.

For this topic, I will share some of the things we do in our program to foster off-court development.

How do you look to develop student-athletes off the court within the program?

We use a variety of processes to develop student-athletes in our program.  The majority of these processes derive from our core values which are: Kaizen, Dependable, Tough.

Kaizen is a Japanese term meaning the act of continual self-improvement. Our student-athletes are required to self-assess daily on their performance in the classroom, hallway between classes and how they are as a teammate.  We measure this core value by circling up at the beginning of the day and players will state how they will “kaizen” for the day, and at the end of day we circle up and guys will give themselves a grade (1-3, 1- not good, 2- good, could improve, 3- excellent).

Dependable is self-explanatory.  We constantly remind our players of the importance of dependability and how it can help them throughout life. They will be husbands, fathers, co-workers and much more in life and the more dependable they are the better those relationships will be.

Tough is our final core value, we don’t define tough by being the strongest or the loudest, but by choosing to do something that may seem hard to them. If you choose to chase discomfort, you will have more comfort than you will if you choose to stay in your comfort zone always.

We constantly talk about these concepts and wrap it all up with a weekly session that we have called “Warrior Academy”.  In Warrior Academy, we have weekly discussions and assignments that the players complete.

Describe characteristics off the court that are fostered within your program.

As if referenced in my previous article “Leaving a Legacy” here on Coachs Climb, our mission statement at Grovetown is:

We seek to develop young people who are courageous in the face of adversity, compassionate to those less fortunate, can identify their strengths, weakness, and values, then demonstrate those values in their speech and actions. These traits will help these boys transition into great sons, great husbands and fathers in the future.

We use our Core Values to drive the behaviors in our mission statement.  While we may have our student-athletes while they are in school, they will one day have to utilize the things that we teach them on their own.

Do you feel that these traits are taught or inherent to the culture?

These traits are intentionally taught on a daily basis. While some student-athletes may exhibit some of the behaviors our culture demands, they still have to be taught and exhibited by everyone in the program.

We do a lot of explaining why.

Example: We have a thing in our culture where we require our player to transition to class like they are trying to be the first student to class between bells.

We tell our guys:

“We don’t want you to get to class first for us, we do this so you can develop the habit of being where you need to be on time and that can help you long after you leave Grovetown.”

Are coaches responsible for the growth of student-athletes beyond academics/athletics?

Coaches are most definitely responsible for the growth of students beyond academics/athletics in my opinion.  Coaches are around kids more than their parents in season and it would be a shame if all they learned from you is how to shoot!

When you foster your student-athletes growth outside of academics/athletics it comes back tenfold.

Building self-awareness and positive growth will bleed over in all aspects of their lives including your basketball program!

If anyone would like to see any examples of our resources, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at darrendouglas6@yahoo.com or my Twitter @CoachDougHoops.


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