Key Takeaways:

  • Learning Styles
  • Deliberate Practice
  • Decision-Making

It can be debated that beyond the element of relationships – or team chemistry; the aforementioned takeaways from this week’s Book Club are the most significant ingredients for a team to have a successful season. Ask the following questions considering the different times coaching teams that have been successful versus underachieving.

  • How well did our players learn our system? How well did we teach our system?
  • Did our practices consistently challenge each other to improve upon performance?
  • Were our mistakes habitual or lingering?

For the four seasons I have been a head coach – and even during the times as an athlete or assistant – there is a stark difference between our teams that competed for championships and teams that fought through inconsistencies. What I have found to be central to all of those questions was transparency. Roles seemed to be better defined during the successful seasons. Practices are remembered as more consistently productive likely due to collective competitiveness and leadership. And finally, successful teams tended to have a better understanding of the right decisions to make when they are supposed to be made. Or possessing timely amnesia when mistakes were made. Move on to move forward.

Our objective reading Water The Bamboo remains the same: to optimize growth during the course of a season. Starts with a PLAN and a set of TOOLS, then it is time to PLANT the seed to incrementally move forward. This is how I interpret the progression of Water The Bamboo. And as it relates to some of the other books from our Book Club during the Fall – compound interest yields the highest results.

Learn to Learn

Our effectiveness to teach depends on our ability to identify the different learning styles amongst the team. This is likely heard from conversations that may circulate with other coaches discussing whole-part-whole methodology or the piecemeal (“Part-Practice”) approach. Other debates exist related to doing drills on-air compared to teaching everything with the presence of defense attempting to simulate the unpredictable nature of an opponent. However the approach to teaching, the foundation lies with what resonates most with the students. The four prominent learning styles referenced by the author:

  1. Visual – Use of visual aides
  2. Auditory – Prefer verbal cues or messages
  3. Kinesthetic – Looks to sense the movement and positioning
  4. Tactile – Wants to touch or experience activity

Our program has provided notebooks in the past for each of our Varsity student-athletes that come with handouts of early-season notes. As the season progresses, each player will contribute notes of their own from film sessions or meetings to use as a reference. The hope is to complement the learning styles of others by actively using film for visual learners or allowing hand-written notes from meetings for auditory learners to emphasize what they feel is the most important. Following either session, we will go straight to practice to apply what we had just discussed or watched keeping the content/concept fresh for the kinesthetic or tactile learners.

You can make learning easier by honoring your unique learning style.


Deliberate Practice

If you haven’t had the chance to read The Talent Code I would highly encourage it. In short, author Dan Coyle breaks down the development of skill via deep-practice capable of enriching our impulses, or myelin. Water The Bamboo embraces a similar sentiment with different verbiage defining “deliberate practice” as a systematic form of practice designed to improve performance.

The key is to approach these skills with a desire to improve rather than just getting your work done.

PAGE 103

Taking from what we have learned, or are in the process of learning there can’t be a means to an end during a drill or practice. Water The Bamboo author Greg Bell distinguishes going through the motions and deliberate practice as a challenge to our comfort zones and empowerment zones. When you take risks or push yourself to the point of possible mistakes then the capacity for skill-development stretches. Thus, empowering you with experience or untapped capability to continue to grow. A quote that I have appreciated from a peer, “Don’t teach them to the point where they get it right. Teach them until they can’t get it wrong.” The message is to avoid the mentality of checking off a box during the practice, as opposed to establishing confidence of unconscious competence that exists by being able to do something habitually.


This is where separation can lie between two talented teams. If one group can’t walk into a gym and simply overwhelm the opponent by skill; discipline and decision-making are often the difference during the game. All things being removed (i.e. nerves, crowd, officiating) our decisions are often indicative of our deepest habits. For example, our program strives to instill the value of coming to two feet on drives without a clear scoring opportunity. It can be a very hard habit to break for guards that are prone to leaving their feet to make a decision – I can personally attest to this from my own playing days.

The world is largely unscripted; therefore, it is important that you learn how to make sound decisions.

PAGE 124

What you come to find out as a coach as opposed to an athlete seeing the game in a tunnel is the accumulation of decisions impacting the future actions out of habit, particularly during pivotal moments. Again, speaking from a personal standpoint as a player, my coaches would get on me for making jump-passes even if they were executed leading to an assist. Their issue remained on the habit of trying to make a plan mid-air versus coming to a pivot where all options still exist: pass-pivot-score.

*Side-note: I am not anti-jump-pass, moreover anti-planning. Takes an understanding of angles, visions, and physical limitations to creating the best pass for the situation.*

Nonetheless, discipline and decision-making likely go hand-in-hand with program values. Some coaches accept certain shot selection, while others encourage patience. Some coaches want to run through passing lanes to increase turnovers, while others want to protect the gaps to limit disadvantages.

An important question needs to be addressed when making a decision: Does this course of action fit your – or the organization’s – core values, vision, and goals?

PAGE 124

At the end of the day, the seed which we plant is cultivated daily by how we teach, the decisions we reinforce, and the practices that are designed. When we talk about Water The Bamboo we are talking about the effect of compound interest, or lack thereof during our season. From this section of the book what we find out is the connection between the three and how it can impact our cumulative growth.


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