I was recently listening to an episode of the Secret to Success Podcast with Eric Thomas and his cohost CJ and CJ said something that really resonated with me. If you aren’t familiar with Eric Thomas, stop reading the blog now, open another tab and Youtube him. Watch any of his T.G.I.M (Thank god it’s Monday) series or one of his speeches and then come back.
Did you do that? Are you now pumped to finish this blog? Alright, let’s go then.
CJ was talking about what it’s like to be around ET and whether he was always as energetic as he is during his speaking engagements. He would go on to say ET was like a cell phone battery. You see AA batteries are great, they are universal, go in many electronics but as they wear down they don’t give you the same results. We’ve all had that moment with the TV remote where we are hitting it, switching the batteries around or pushing the buttons harder in an effort to change the channel. A cell phone battery in contrast gives you the same production at 100 as it does at 1. Even at 1% you can still do everything on your phone from Facebook to Angry Birds. That battery gives full function until it hits zero.
I thought what a great analogy to use on the court. In practice, how often do you give the same level of energy to each drill? Are you running lines at the same speed at the start of practice as you are at the end? How about your effort, is it the same throughout, or is it more like the AA it comes and goes and as you get more fatigued your effort wanes?
A championship level practice requires players to bring Cell Phone Battery energy every time. By giving that 100% effort regardless of your level of fatigue you are not only pushing yourself to be better you are pushing your team to be better as well. Then when it comes time to perform in a game situation you are better prepared.
Some of the reasons I've heard players choose to take a AA approach: They want to conserve energy for the more difficult drill or timed run they know is coming, they don’t really like that drill, other players on the team are giving low energy so why should they give a lot, among other things. To me these are all excuses. Great players approach each drill with a champion’s mindset of being the best at each drill as possible. They aren’t worried about whether they like the drill or what the next drill will be because they are too focused on “winning” that drill. As for overall energy in practice, don’t let others energy level affect yours. All it takes is one person to start a movement of good energy, take the initiative to be that spark. You, as an athlete, can choose to allow excuses to define your energy level if you are content with being good enough but know that you’ll never be great with that approach.
One of my favorite Eric Thomas quotes is ,”Good enough is the enemy of Greatness.” Don’t settle for good enough.
Take a moment to think back on last season and decide whether or not you were a Cell Phone or AA battery. If I walked into your practice, not knowing you, what would I see?
My challenge to you as you go into off-season training is give each workout that Cell Phone battery energy. Don’t be a AA that only works fully some of the time. Push yourself on each repetition of each drill to do it at your absolute peak ability. Then carry that momentum right into next season. I believe if you do the results will speak for themselves.
As always let me know what you think. What are some ways you can think of to make sure you keep giving that cell phone battery energy?
“I wish my players would talk more.” “I wish we had better teamwork” “Man our team does great until something goes wrong and they just can’t seem to bounce back.” “We don’t have a team leader” “They’ve accepted losing as an inevitability.” Have you ever found yourself saying anything like this? Thinking about your team and just wondering what’s missing. You can see some individual talent and skills but for some reason they just aren’t succeeding in the way you thought they should. If you answer yes to any of that, my next question is, have you done anything to intentionally develop your team’s leadership skills?
If you answered no to that question, don’t worry I don’t think you are alone. I have been involved in the game through playing and coaching for nearly 20 years and none of the teams I played on had leadership specific training and neither did any of the ones I coached or assisted coaching with. Like most of you, I’m sure time is limited. Perhaps you only get 90 to 120 minutes a day to practice with your athletes, 5 maybe sometime 6 days a week during preseason and then once the season begins you only have 2 – 3 days to practice because you are playing games on the other days. That’s not a lot of time to go over offensive sets, defensive sets, rebounding, sideline out of bounds, baseline out of bounds, breaking pressure, applying pressure, late game situations, shooting, dribbling, etc. Trust me I totally get that. It always seems like we could use a little more time to work on something else. Let me ask you this though, what % of the game relates to leadership skills? For the sake of this questions we’ll define leadership skills as the following communication, ability to rebound from adversity, accepting and giving good feedback, accountability and responsibility, empathy, listening, and being a part of something bigger than oneself.
Obviously the abilities to dribble, pass, shoot, and defend along with a person’s athleticism make up a good portion of the success in basketball pie, but how much do you assign to leadership? 10, 20, 30%? With that percentage in mind would it be worth it to spend 30-60 minutes a week trying to develop those skills? For a team who only has five 90 minute practices a week, committing 30 minutes a week towards leadership would be 6.667% of their total time leaving 93.333% for everything else. So I wonder can you afford not to spend that time on leadership.
This past season, I decided I was going to add a leadership development component to our season. Our team had lost all 5 starters from the previous year’s State Championship team and we only had two returning players who played during our payoff run. Over our summer basketball I could tell we were lacking a leader on the team. Speaking with my assistant coach it wasn’t clear who would become that leader either. So we decided the best bet was to work to develop everyone and see who emerged and best case scenario we’d end up with 12 athletes who were all better leaders.
As part of my job I teach leadership skills often. I’ve worked with college students, corporate executives, tissue paper mills employees, grocery store managers, hospital employees and more. I don’t share this to brag but to give you a baseline of understanding about my abilities. Even knowing my own skill and experience in the field I decided to use a program called Lead Em Up. If you are not familiar with it, check out their website www.leademup.com. This was a 12 week program that included leadership topics and relevant games designed to fit the topic and further the growth of your team. It was a financial commitment on my part as our program had no budget for this type of thing, so I paid out of pocket. It was totally worth it.
I could not have asked for better results. Our team grew in leaps and bounds over the year. While our record was much worse than the previous year, what you could see in these athletes is a developed belief in themselves and their teammates. An empathy for their teammates circumstances, an ownership of their success and failures and always focusing on what was next. This was not the same team that I had over summer, this was a group of young athletes growing into men over the course of a year.
I don’t write this blog to sell you on Lead Em Up. That is the program I chose to use and I am thoroughly happy with it and would choose to use it again in the future. I’m writing this to convince you of the value of committing less than 10% of your total time to develop your athletes into leaders. Whether you choose to use Lead Em Up, create your own leadership program, or borrow from someone else the benefits will certainly show on the court but even more importantly they’ll show off it. And isn’t that why we coach anyway? To develop young athletes into future leaders in whatever path they choose once the sport ends.
Let me know what you think. I’d love to hear what your program is doing to develop leadership. Also would love to answer any questions you have about my experience with Lead Em Up.
Your team is up 3 late in the game, and now you have a decision to make, do you foul or don’t you? It’s a question with no universal answer. Ask 100 basketball people and they’ll likely be split 50-50 on what their philosophy is. Today I want to share my philosophy and reasoning behind it in hope it might help you cement your own strategy.
I’ll start by saying I support the Foul side of the argument. The simple reason is this, if you choose not to foul the other team only needs one thing to go right, a made 3, for them to send the game to overtime. If you foul the other team needs at least four things to go right, a made first FT, a perfectly missed second, offensive rebound, and made basket, to send the game into overtime.
Now ask yourself this, how often do athletes practice shooting game winning 3’s? How many days and nights have been spent with that internal clock running down, counting out 3, 2, 1 swish? Think about your own time as an athlete, how often did you do it? I know for me, as an athlete, from the first time I ever picked up a basketball I mentally practiced that shot. I’d never finish a shooting session without putting up a few “game winners”. It is ingrained in our athletes to want to make that big 3 to win a game. You might never have the athleticism to make the highlight reel dunking or having a monster block but anyone can make that highlight reel with a game winner.
On the flip side, how often do athletes practices missing FT’s? How much time is spent working on offensive rebounding a purposely missed FT? I know for my program it’s something we never work on, and as an athlete playing I certainly never practiced missing shots.
Some of the arguments against the fouling philosophy are; fear that an athlete will foul an active shooter, there is now a possibility you could lose in scenario that tip out after second FT miss leads to 3 for other team, and if there’s too much time your team may have to inbound against pressure and hit their out FTs after. My theory on those things are it comes down to practice. If you are going to have a system philosophy that fouling will occur if up 3 late then you need to practice when to foul and how to foul. You need to spend time everyday focusing on securing defensive rebounds off FT’s, and you need to have confidence in your practice and team that they will execute these things when they matter.
My last argument for fouling is very simple, I’ve never seen a team lose when doing it. Now that’s not to say it has never happened. I’m quite sure it has but I don’t believe it’s occurred at the same frequency as a made 3 has. That is something I’ve seen far too many times to want to take my chances with letting it happen.
Let me know what you think. I’d love to hear from you whether you agree or disagree and why you stand on that side of the discussion.
What are you doing to promote your team culture? If you don’t have an immediate answer, you may want to spend some time this off season coming up with a plan. While it is common for most teams to outline expectations at the beginning of season, building the culture you desire takes constant promotion. Daily reminders to athletes to ensure they are staying on course.
My suggestion today is a simple yet effective tool to celebrate athletes who are displaying the characteristics you want in your culture. Rubber Wrist bands. For less than fifty cents a band you can not only recognize positive culture moments at the time they happen but your athletes will then be wearing a constant reminder of what is expected of them.
Imprint something on them that is meaningful to your program. I used two things this past year, BLUE DEVIL PRIDE and SCHAPE. SCHAPE I borrowed from PGC basketball as the guidelines to what we expected of our team. For those of you unfamiliar with the acronym it stands for Spirit, Communication, Hustle, Approach, Precision, and Enhancement.
Whenever an athlete displayed one of these traits, whether it be in the locker room, bus, practice, school, or game I would make note of it and at the end of practice (or at the next practice in the event it happened outside practice) we would give out our bands. It was a good way to focus on the behaviors and actions we are looking for in our team. Suddenly you began seeing more and more athletes displaying those same behaviors. They also began to take ownership of the process and were handing out their own bands for actions they observed.
What are some things you use in your program? Let me know in comments below
Throughout our lives various mentors in our lives have always been sure to tell us to think before we speak. Whether that person was a parent, grandparent, teacher or some other at some point I’m sure we’ve all heard that phrase. So it seems we are more cognizant of the power of our words and have a pretty good understanding of how to choose our words wisely. But what you may not be aware of it that when it comes to communication, the words we use only make up 7% of what we are communicating to people.
So what determines the other 93% of your communication? Well 38% is the tone you use and 55%, over half of your message, is being communicated by your body language! But no one ever warned us growing up that we needed to watch our body language so how would we know? For many of us we may have never even considered what out body language is communicating to others. I know for me I never was conscious of it until taking my first Communications course in college.
Not sure what I mean when I say body language is communicating a big message? Try this: While watching the NCAA tournament, watch how players react to being subbed out of a game. Are they walking to the bench hunched over, head down? Are they jogging over high-fiving the incoming player and pointing out who they had? Do they interact with other people on the bench on the way by? How about the interaction with the coaches do the make eye contact and listen or are they looking away? What is the story this athlete is telling.
When a call goes against the player what do they do? If they don’t get passed the ball during an offensive possession how do they react? When getting beat on the defensive end? When a teammate gets beat? How about after a mistake by a teammate or themselves? All of these moments our body language is conveying a message.
Then think about yourself. What do you do in those situations? What message is your body language telling your teammates, coach, and those watching. You may think this isn’t very important but the message you are communicating tells people what kind of person you are.
To get you started on the road of improving your body language here are five tips:
There was under a minute left to go in the game and we were down 5 with a baseline out of bound at our hoop. We set up a play that was our go to play for getting a quick 3. As the ball was inbounded it was clear from the sidelines that the other team was prepared for it and they defended it well. The ball swung to the player who was supposed to get the shot out of the play and he was closely guarded by two defenders. He shot the ball anyway, and immediately you could tell he knew he shouldn’t. His hands went right to his head and then head down as the shot missed and the other team got the rebound.
We fouled immediately to send them to the line. The shooter was walking up the court head down in hands, clearly dejected that he had made the mistake, when the captain of our team, the individual who had taken the ball out, ran up from behind gave him a pat on the head and butt and simply said “We got this”.
That confidence and support gave the rest of the team a boost that there was still enough time to win that game. We did end up winning that game, scoring 6 points in the final 30 seconds to send it into overtime and winning in overtime, but it was a simple gesture that sparked the whole thing.
The ability to control ones body language and be cognizant of its power on the message we are trying to deliver is arguably one of the most valuable communication skills one can master. This is especially true on the basketball court. As a player, your body language is often the only thing that is communicating to those in the crowd , your teammates and coach. Focus on telling the story you want.
In life we get mixed messages about dreams. As a kid we are told we can be whatever we want to be when we grow up -- and then as we start growing -- we get told a lot of reasons why we can’t be what we wanted to be when we grow up. Those who impart these words of advice to chase more practical plans are usually very well intentioned. Perhaps they themselves had someone steer them off their very own dream so they feel it is best to “Save you” from the heartache of failing. But dreams are such delicate things.
I had one of these childhood dreams. I wanted to coach basketball. I had fallen in love with the game as a third grader and never looked back. There really was nothing in the world greater than the game of basketball.
Signing up for classes for my first semester in college I saw an Introduction to Coaching course, that I was promptly denied entry into because it was only for students in that program and you couldn’t take it until junior year. As a 19 year old college student, I was accepted into the Coaching/Administration undergrad program and I was finally going to be able to take that coaching course.
In the Spring semester of my sophomore year I had a meeting with the head of the program to discuss what I wanted to get out of the program. This individual was a Hall of Fame soccer coach who had won over 400 games in his tenure, one of only four coaches to amass that total. I left that meeting having received one message from him,: Having not played college basketball, I’d never coach at that level. Immediately I gave up on the dream.
I ended up changing schools, and going into Sports Management. I stayed involved in coaching at the youth level all the way through school. Then upon getting a job back in my hometown I was able to start coaching at the high school level. It was then that I realized my dream never died; it still burned deep inside. But I could still hear that voice in my head that it would never happen.
With that in mind, I stayed on course with what I was doing. Continued to work full time in my position at the local community college and coached the high school team.
One day as I was teaching one of my classes, we were discussing dreams and the importance of writing them down and making a plan. I started the lesson with a motivational video that had a mix of speakers including Eric Thomas, Les Brown and Tony Robbins. During the video there was a line that stood out, “if someone else in similar or worse circumstances has accomplished it, then so can you.”
It was in that class that I announced to the group I would become a college basketball coach.
You see several Division 1 College coaches have never played college basketball; Tom Crean, Marvin Menzies, Steve Hawkins, Scott Drew, Frank Martin, Bruce Weber, Bob Marlin, Cliff Ellis, Mick Cronin, Rick Majerus, Mark Few, Buzz Williams, Will Wade, Frank Haith, Greg Gard, Chris Beard, and Matt McCall to name a few. Why not me?
So here I am now, one year after reconnecting to my dream to coach as a career, and I’ve officially left my job. I am taking a leap of faith that I can -- and will -- make this happen no matter what.
As I take this leap, I think back to that meeting with the advisor and realize that what I took from that meeting wasn’t exactly what he was saying. I can hear him now, telling me it wouldn’t be easy, that I would have to get involved in as many ways as possible, be it officiating, as a manager, a GA, or with the high school team. He wasn’t actually telling me it couldn’t happen, but that’s what I heard on that day.
The lesson I hope you take from this is don’t give up on your dreams. Know that there will be perceived detractors along the way but don’t let them deter you from chasing it. And if you listen closely you might realize they aren’t necessarily trying to change your path they are just giving you a difficult road map that it’s going to take to get there.
Lastly if you truly want something, know that it will not come easy and there will be sacrifices and tribulations along the way. Keep fighting.
State championship winning basketball coach, Chris Woodside, shares his journey of going from varsity boys coach, to becoming a men's college coach, to currently coaching girls varsity basketball as well as life lessons learned on + off the court.