Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Coaching: When Less Becomes More

I remember when I first started coaching, I felt like I needed to "joystick" my athletes during the entire game.  I felt like it was my job as coach to tell them exactly what they had to do and when they had to do it.  And as a result, my athletes only performed as well as I coached, if not worse.

With so much of the beauty of athletics lying in the creativity, flow and personal ownership an athlete or team has over the game, why would I ever want to limit my athletes to doing and thinking only what I say or think?

(Side note:  Think for a moment about the irony in even trying to control every action and thought of one teenage kid during high intensity, emotional activity, let alone the thoughts and actions of many teenagers!)

I saw the chart pictured above a few months back, and it immediately struck a chord with me.  It made me reflect back on my attitude as a coach, and how it has evolved.  Today, teams I coach receive very little direct instruction while games are being played; and during timeouts and at quarter breaks, I try to keep things simple.  I limit general team adjustments/ reminders to three or fewer, and individual adjustments/ reminders to only one.

I now believe that the most important part of my job exists in practice, in preparing my kids' for their biggest moments in the game.  If I've done my job, the game will take care of itself -- athletes can think and act according to habit, knowledge and experience.  And having personally experienced games where my athletes do think and act correctly on their own, I can say that those games give me the greatest satisfaction as coach, regardless of the outcome or the score on the scoreboard.

Until it Hurts, book, Mark Hyman
Recommended Reading
Re-read the above, substituting the words "life, parent, kids, son, daughter" for "game, coach, athlete" and so on.  Do you see a connection between sports and life?  Which lesson is more important that kids learn: those that are sport-specific, or those applicable to both sports and life?

As you can see, I like to relate coaching philosophies back to life, and to the role of a parent.  Our kids, inevitably, will find themselves in precarious situations where difficult decisions have to be made.  Often, it will be up to our kids, entirely, to make their own best decisions!

In sports, as in life, if we as parents and educators have done our job correctly, (most of the time) our kids (we hope) will make the best decisions possible.

I have to add, I feel very fortunate to have a majority of team-parents in full support of this idea. Lucky me :)

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Teaching Character: A Team-building Activity

movie, rudy, sprots, film, character, teacher, team-buildingNo doubt you have read the letter below.  And if you have not, well, now is the time.  Simply put, this letter from a college coach to a prospective recruit highlights the worst characteristics of high school athletes with the most potential.

As humans, we are a competitive species.  From the time we walk, we challenge one another even in the most basic ways.  (Think about the game of "Tag!")  Unfortunately, that means we also have the tendency to be competitive in the negative, just as we are in the positive.  So when we ask our leaders (each of our student-athletes is a leader) to engage with the content in this letter, let's put a positive spin on these otherwise negative concepts.

Teaching Character Team-building Activity
Step 1:  Divide your team into 8 small groups.  Have student-athletes work in groups to read and annotate the letter below, asking them to change each of the negative characteristics to positive.

Step 2:  Assign one debriefing prompt to each group.  Have each group share out.  For each prompt, have groups (1) identify at least two parts of the letter that relate to their topic, and describe why, and (2) identify three teammates who they feel best exemplify the positive character trait, and describe why.
Debriefing prompts:
steve nash, nba, inspirational quote, character
Steve Nash, 2x NBA MVP
   a.  Attention to Detail
   b.  Maturity
   c.  Communication 
        (Verbal and Non-Verbal)
   d.  Media/ Cell Phones
   e.  Consistency/ Positive Energy
   f.  Team Rituals/ Culture
   g.  Celebrating Team
   h.  Personal Accountability/ 
        Mistakes are OK

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Leaving a Legacy

Allen Iverson, Tim Duncan, NBA rivalry, NBA legacy
Fast forward a few months.  Your season (career, semester, etc.) is over.  It is important to know where you ultimately want to be before you head out on your way!  To help you identify your personal and team goals, think about the legacy you would most like to leave behind.

In thinking about your legacy, consider athletes who put personal goals ahead of the goals' of the team.  Allen Iverson won a handful of scoring titles in the late-90's and early-2000's.  But people remember him most for his clearly selfish comments about missing team practice:  "We're talkin' about practice?"

More likely, when reflecting about NBA basketball legacies, people talk of the selfless team game of Tim Duncan and his San Antonio Spurs.  Duncan and his teammates brushed aside ego, scoring titles and individual accolades, and even accepted lesser salaries and lower-paying contracts, all in honor of their team.

In setting your personal and team goals, consider the following: