Key Takeaways:

  • Values
  • Vision
  • Goals

Our season (’19 -’20) did not go according to plan, even prior to COVID. We struggled to find a rhythm early and despite coming together towards the end of our season from a competitiveness standpoint; we still had a hard time finishing games down the stretch. At the end of our season, one of our conversations in the locker-room was about “Watering The Bamboo.” It had been briefly mentioned following a loss about our time spent now will impact our experiences in the future – little did we know to the extent. The message being, if our dedication the latter half of the season extends into the offseason our odds to compete at a higher level can improve based on continuity, cohesiveness, and player development.

Then everything shuts down.

Our program has had to deal with the same amount of uncertainty as to the next. Yet, the opportunity to read Water The Bamboo is more fitting for today’s environment than it was following the end of our season in February. From quarantines to shutdowns, who knows what’s to come for basketball this winter. Only one thing can be certain, doing nothing will prevent any growth. Author, Greg Bell a former basketball player at the University of Oregon wrote this book about growth, trust, and patience while using the metaphor of bamboo farmers planting a seed that may or may not sprout despite years of cultivation. But, when it finally breaks the surface it becomes an unstoppable force.

Time Spent Reveals Values

A little bit different than other leadership books with all testimonials and anecdotes; there are simple exercises provided to engage the reader. How’s the saying go – a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step? The beginning of any season often comes with the communication of core values. Like John Wooden teaching his kids to tie their shoes before the first practice. This is an actionable representation of attention to details from a coach so highly regarded for doing anything fundamentally sound.

Identifying and talking about your values is the easy part; living up to those values is where the work begins.


One exercise in the first chapter:


  1. Dependable
  2. Persistence
  3. Love (Supportive)


  1. Dependable
  2. Ambition (Competitiveness)
  3. Community (Together)

There are some really good notes from a Coaching Clinic with Larry Shyatt about Mastering the Billy’s. For me, dependability is all-encompassing and paramount for any coach/program. Being dependable is being accessible. It also assumes responsibility through punctuality, sport-specific discipline, or off-the-court behaviors. Persistence as a coach relates to the job we have and the job we may pursue. This career can be cut-throat just as much as the lucky bounce, persistence is pivotal in the profession. Possibly numbering the list isn’t indicative of where they rank, but equally as important is the love and support provided in the program. Some of the best experiences I have had as a coach are seeing what former players or staff members are doing after their time in our program. The opportunity to write a letter of recommendation or witness transformational experiences on and off the court have been some of the most rewarding times. Over the course of a season and career, these are characteristics we hope to equip our student-athletes with moving forward.

Vision & Action Plan

Three aspects of a vision: visible – vivid – viable. Based on the core values previously identified, the next steps are developing a detailed actionable plan with the vision at the forefront.

  • How will our team look one week into the season? One month?
  • What will be our strengths to start?
  • Where will we need to spend the most time improving?

The vision isn’t intended to be a fantasy, thus the viability component is vital when planning. As of note, one thing that I have been reading and seeing from a lot of other coaches is the conditioning concern when athletes have returned to campus. It is one thing to have been consistently running on a treadmill or controlled weight-lifting, as opposed to demanding the body to cut like it had been accustomed to or physically crashing into teammates at a high speed again. So potentially keep in mind that the athletes will not be returning to game-shape as of Day 1 or even Week 1 back in the gym.

After visualizing what success will look like for you and your program this season, SMART goals have to be put in place.

What gets measured gets done.


First, it’d be remiss on our end not to consider the mental state of our kids. Having been removed from the gym for nearly 9 months; this has been the longest hiatus I have had in my career as a player or coach. One of the first things I look to accomplish is re-connecting with our group of kids: to hang out and listen to what this time has been like for them.

As we progress back into basketball conversation, the second priority will be about time. As we know, nothing is guaranteed. Our time is our currency and what we choose to spend it on with what we have available is the most important thing to start. There is an expectation for less time available for the season, whether it is based on the duration in the gym or the number of weeks prior to the first game. Our goals will have to adjust accordingly by being efficient and effective.

As it relates to practice planning, drills or activities might have to simulate a “Super-Set” in the weight room. Having to blend the concepts without losing the focus on fundamentals will be the challenge. For example, our warm-ups before any game likely include simple layups to get going followed by dummy defensive routines (5-spot closeouts to 4-man shell), then finishing with 1-more shooting. This may be something we teach at the onset of our preseason because it blends foundational concepts. A goal to start could be to complete all phases similar to a typical game warm-up with limited instruction to force active communication and accountability. Possibly add a timing component to measure our progress. This is just an example of considering concepts with core values while trying to foster a competitive (measured) environment.

As we progress throughout the book, the aim is to put a tangible plan in place that reinforces what matters most to our program and how we can consistently take the steps necessary to be successful. Next week, we will identify the “Tools Used” to Water The Bamboo.


2 thoughts on “Water The Bamboo: PLAN

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