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Thursday, July 2, 2015


Here is an excerpt of an article written by Lindsay H. Jones for USA TODAY.  You can read the entire article here.  It speaks to one of the more profound changes in teaching over the past decade.  I grew up (true I'm getting up there in the years) when a player or child asked "Why" and they were told "Because I said so."  But the ability of someone to understand the why can go a long way in creating better understanding, trust and execution.  Here is just a part of Jone's column:

Over the past two weeks, new Denver Broncos coach Gary Kubiak has gotten used to one word coming from the quarterbacks' meeting room: Why?

As Kubiak works to install a new playbook, quarterback Peyton Manning wants to know the reasons behind everything. Every new play and each new idea must have a purpose.

"Great players ask why," Kubiak said Tuesday after the first day of the Broncos' first veteran minicamp.

To Kubiak, seeing the five-time MVP in the front row of the classroom reminds him of his first years as an offensive coordinator in Denver, when quarterback John Elway and tight end Shannon Sharpe, a pair of Hall of Famers, were the star pupils asking the same question.

"Believe me, they asked why a lot," Kubiak said. "That's what great players do. You better have those answers for them so that they can go compete. That's what you want."


Several years ago, Steve Smiley wrote a book which details his relationship and all the lessons he learned from his college coach, Don Meyer.  The lessons were both on and off the court and it's one of my favorite books.  It's been out of a print recently but Steve has some on hand for those interested.  It's an outstanding book for coaches or players.  If you're interested, you can contact Steve via twitter or Facebook.

From "Playing For Coach Meyer" by Steve Smiley:

Great men do great things. Coach Don Meyer is a great man who does great things. Everyday he works on giving his gift of knowing the game of basketball and player development away to anybody who will listen, and anybody who asks him. Coach Meyer takes pride in sharing his love and passion for the game of basketball and player development each and every day. It doesn’t matter if you are a 7-year old putting up jump shots in the gym all by yourself, or a successful coach yourself who has been coaching for 20 or 30-plus years, Coach Meyer will go out of his way to help you become the best player, coach or person you can be.

We all know that Coach had won a ton of games but that’s not what I’m going to remember about him after my career is over. I’m going to remember his desire to get better everyday and the way he pushes his players to improve not just on the court, but off it as well.

Coach Meyer made this point simple enough when he said: “As a player, you are always doing one of two things. You’re either bringing energy to the team, or you’re sucking energy away from the team. On our team, we want energy givers, guys that bring energy to the group.” This is a simple enough concept, but Coach Meyer would constantly ask us what type of player we were on an individual level. Was I an energy giver or an energy drainer during the last practice? Did I make the team more energetic, or did I bring the team down? Constantly Coach Meyer would question every player on the team, and as my career progressed I began to see how important the concept was.


The following comes from "How Champions Think" by Dr. Bob Rotella.  Rotella is a renowned sports psychologist that has garnered much of his reputation for working with golfers.  But the mind is the mind and the ability to help someone with the mental aspects of athletic skill has carry over as shown in Rotella's story of his time with LeBron James:

It may surprise some readers to learn that the suggestions I gave to LeBron involved a lot more of what most people would perceive as plain hard work than they involved what most people would consider sports psychology. I did tell him that I thought he could benefit from one of the standard methods of sports psychology, visualization. I wanted him to see himself making three-point shots. I suggested that he ask the Cavaliers’ staff to make a highlight video for him, about eight to twelve minutes long. This video would be a LeBron James long-range shooting montage. It would have LeBron making threes off the dribble. It would show LeBron catching the ball and making threes spotting up. It could have some of LeBron’s favorite music in the background, helping him to attach the good feelings associated with that music to the act of shooting threes. He would watch it every night. As he fell asleep, he could conjure up images of himself making three-point shots against tall, quick, tenacious defenders. He could let them fill his dreams. All of this would help him improve his three-point shooting, because it would feed the right sorts of images to his subconscious, helping him become a more trusting, confident shooter. But if improvement were as easy as watching videos, the NBA would have a lot more great three-point shooters. It isn’t. The mental game is a big part of sport, but it must be combined with physical competence. So I suggested that LeBron hire a shooting coach and work with that coach every day. I told him he needed to make maybe two hundred three-point shots off the dribble every day, imagining the best defender in the league guarding him. I told him he needed to make another two hundred catch-and-shoot three-pointers. I told him I didn’t care how many shots it took to make those four hundred three-pointers, or how long it took. If he wanted to be great, he would find the time and find the energy. The actual number of shots I suggested was not as important, in my mind, as the idea that LeBron would set a practice goal for himself, commit to achieving it every day, and wait patiently for results. I told him patience was essential because I had no way of predicting how long it would take to see improvement in his shooting statistics if he took my suggestions. But the patience and tenacity required were factors that could help him separate himself from his peers. A lot of athletes might undertake an improvement regimen like that one I suggested to LeBron. But not many would stick with it. After a few weeks, if they weren’t seeing immediate results, they’d find a reason to quit. Maybe they’d decide the extra practice was wearing them down. Maybe they’d decide that they just didn’t have the talent to be a great outside shooter. They’d find a way to talk themselves out of it. To encourage LeBron to persevere, I told him about my belief that great basketball shooters, like great golfers and great baseball hitters, are for the most part made rather than born.

With LeBron, I also talked a lot about Bill Russell and Michael Jordan. Unlike golf, basketball is a team game. An essential part of being a great player is, in my mind, playing and conducting yourself in ways that make your teammates better. That, far more than scoring average, is the hallmark of a truly great player. Jordan and Russell were the players LeBron was Chasing, because in addition to being great individually, they were players whose teams won many championships. They were great leaders. I suggested that LeBron read about Russell and Jordan and talk to them about leadership whenever he had the chance. I was very impressed with LeBron James. He was attentive. He asked insightful questions. It was clear that he was disciplined and that he set very high standards for himself. He was more than just a superstar. He was a very coachable athlete on a mission to see how great he could become.

I have noticed a few things since I spoke with LeBron. One is that his three-point shooting has improved dramatically. It’s now roughly 40 percent. A one-third improvement over his rookie year.

Friday, June 26, 2015


Another great email newsletter from Coach Mitch Cole of our men's basketball staff here at Texas A&M!  I've posted a couple before but I strongly encourage anyone that has not signed up to get these monthly emails from Mitch to do so -- everyone is packed with great information.  Email Mitch and request to be on the list and you will regularly get stuff that will help your program.

Here is a sample from the one that was sent out today -- timely because it's about summer improvement:


More and more, coaches are finding that the summer is when the most improvement can occur for our players and our teams. Every level from High School, to AAU, College, and the Pros, there are limits to what coaches can and cannot do regarding time spent with our athletes. Regardless of the limitations, coaches need to find the best approach within the rules to insure that the players are developing and improving throughout the summer. 

Below are a few Categories with questions/ideas that staffs should consider regarding PROGRAM GROWTH in the summer:

Skill Instruction
Do we have a plan for our players Development this summer?
If we can’t work with them, have we effectively communicated which areas they need to grow in and improve?
Is there a way we can get our older players to initiate time in the gym with the rest of our team?
Recognition, awards and charts can be a good way to provide incentive for improvement in the summer.
Strength and Conditioning
Are we measuring improvement from our athletes? Do we have checkpoints every 6-8 weeks? (Recognition for summer improvement could be a way to keep them motivated during the off-season.)
Are the methods we are using productive, but still interesting and fresh to avoid burnout?
Do our athletes understand the importance of rest, nutrition and safety in training?
Send them interesting articles on pro athletes and their testimonials on how they achieved greatness through hard work!
Open Gym
Is there a regular time for the players to shoot and play pick up games? 
Are the pickup games competitive? (Lost are the days when you played in a packed gym of players dying to get on the court, but knowing if you lose, you may sit 3 or 4 games waiting to play again!) Can we create that environment?
Most pickup games hardly resemble a real game. How can we make open gym more game-like? Consider shooting Free Throws for fouls, starting possessions at half court, extra points for put-backs, etc. 

Basketball Camps
Do our camps provide a healthy balance of fundamental skills teaching, shooting competitions, and 3v3 or 5v5 games?
Are our older players engaged in camps, willing to participate and impact the younger kids in the area?
Are we working to build our camps and promote the program in the community? 
T-Shirts and gear are natural Billboards for your program. Buy T-Shirts in bulk and provide as many as possible!!!

Are we aware of the “at-risk" guys in our program that might need to recover classes or get ahead in the summer? Losing a player due to grades can be a program killer!
It’s been said that most students fall behind in the summer in Math and Reading. Can we incorporate a plan that might stimulate our players to read, write, or be engaged academically? 
Weekly communication with links to articles, or book suggestions followed up with conversations could be useful.
Team Building
Is there a time in the summer to get together as a team and cast a vision for next season? 
A short trip to a baseball game, a Team Camp, a mid-summer “Weekend of HOOPS,” a Sand Volleyball game, BBQ? 
Weekly communication with positive messages or articles on TEAMWORK and STRONG RELATIONSHIPS
Are we thinking through how to eliminate distractions to our team’s growth? 
Staff Development/Rest
Are we growing in knowledge as a staff each summer? 

Challenge each coach to think through a few new ideas that might help in each of the above categories. Have someone on the staff take different categories like Motivation, Offensive and Defensive Concepts, new and improved Strength and Conditioning ideas, work a different basketball camp, or read a few books on leadership development, etc.
Lastly, is the staff taking time to get away? Sometimes great ideas begin to form when we have removed ourselves from the day to day activities. Recharge the batteries before the fall arrives! 

Monday, June 22, 2015


Absolutely love this -- good for everyone in your organization: staff, players, managers, trainers -- everyone!

And Then Some

These three little words are the secret to success. They are the difference between average people and top people in most companies.

The top people always do what is expected...and then some...

They are thoughtful of others; they are considerate and kind...and then some...

They meet their obligations and responsibilities fairly and squarely...and then some...they are good friends and helpful neighbors...and then some...

They can be counted on in an emergency...and then some...

I am thankful for people like this, for they make the world more livable, Their spirit of service is summed up in these little words...and then some!

Carl Holmes

Wednesday, June 17, 2015


The following comes from "Developing the Leaders Around You," by John Maxwell:

Coach Bear Bryant expressed this same sentiment when her said: “I’m just a plowhead from Arkansas, but I have learned how to hold a team together—how to lift some men up, how to calm others down, until finally they’ve got one heartbeat together as a team. There’s always just three things I say: ‘If anything goes bad, I did it. If anything goes semi-good, then we did it. If anything goes real good, they did it.’ That’s all it takes to get people to win.”


During an interview for a job he was then seeking as a minor league manager in the Oakland organization, Bob Boone was asked to speak about the reputation he had as a catcher who so effectively “handled” pitchers. Boone, now having managed in the major league for a number of years, responded at that time, “I didn’t handle pitchers, I established relationships with them.” His point was that he intended to do the same as a manager.

Good relationships are established through effective communication. Boone’s use of the term made a distinction between manipulation and arbitrariness on the part of the message sender and the mutual respect and understanding between the sender and the receiver of whatever is being communicated.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015


The following guidelines for effective passing comes "Coaching Basketball's Blocker-Mover Motion Offense," written by Coach Kevin Sivils.  I've known Kevin for many years.  He is a student of the game and in fact, the teachings of Coach Don Meyer and Dick Bennett are major part of his inspiration for penning this book.

Use Hand Targets to Communicate With the Passer

Passing requires communication between the player in possession of the ball and the player who desires to receive the ball.  Verbal communication can be misunderstood or not heard during the chaos of game.  Visual signals with hands cannot be misunderstood and for this reason is a more effective method of communicating a cutter's intent to the passer.

Three basic hand signals must be learned buy all players, allowing the cutter/shooter to communicate intent and the passer to anticipate where to pass the ball way from the defense.  The first is an extended open hand, indicating the direction away from the goal the cutter/shooters intends to cut towards.

The second hand signal is the clinched fist, indication the shooter/cutter intends to cut "backdoor," in the direction of the goal.  This cut is used when the defense is applying intense overplay denial defense, a common tactic used against excellent 3-point shooters in the desire to prevent the shooter from receiving the ball beyond the 3-point arc.

The third and final hand signal is used to indicate the shooter is open and ready to shoot upon receiving the ball.  This signal is indicated by the shooter having hands in the shooting pocket, knees bent ready to shoot and being squared up to the goal.  The shooter needs only to catch the pass in order to shoot if the passer makes and accurate pass directly into the shooting pocket.

Pass Away From the Defense

Turnovers due to intercepted passes are usually a result of passing the ball to a teammate.  Sounds silly, but it is true.  Unless the teammate is wide open for a shot, the ball should never be passed directly to the teammate.  Instead, the ball must be passed away from the defense.

Shorten the Pass

Not only must the passer pass the ball away from the defense using a frozen rope, the cutter/shooter must "shorten the pass" by stepping the direction of the oncoming pass to meet the ball.  This decreases the chances of the defense intercepting the pass and increases the likelihood of a foul on an aggressive defender.

Pass the Ball Where it Can Be Caught

It is not enough to pass the ball away from the defense.  The ball has to be passed to the receiver in a location the receiver can safely catch the ball.  Passing the ball where it can be caught entails two different concepts.  The first concerns the receiver physically being able to catch the ball.  The second involves court and defender location.

Sunday, June 14, 2015


In honor of Coach Pat Summitt's birthday, here are a few of our favorite blog posts on Coach:

Great Thoughts On Teamwork from Pat Summitt
This came via Greg Brown's book "The Best Things I've Seen In Coaching."

Ultimate Coaches Clinic: Pat Summitt
A great list of philosophical thoughts from Coach Summitt comprised by Pat Williams.

Coach Summitt on Mental Toughness
An excerpt from her book "Reach for the Summit"


A column by Monte Poole for showed two great leadership messages from the Golden State Warriors Steven Kerr.  You can read Poole's entire column here, but this is what made an impression on me in regard to Kerr.:

With his team losing two straight games to fall into a must-win situation, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr on Thursday heeded the advice of a trusted member of his staff to put the club back on track in the NBA Finals.

The advice came not from veteran assistants Alvin Gentry and Ron Adams, nor did it come from young assistant Luke Walton. It did not come from player development coaches Jarron Collins and Bruce Fraser.

No, the advice came from further down the organization chart, from video-scouting specialist Nick U’Ren.

He suggested that Kerr change his starting lineup, replacing 7-foot center Andrew Bogut with 6-7 forward Andre Iguodala, who hadn’t started a game all season.

“It was his idea,” Kerr said of U’Ren. “He brought it to us this morning. We had debated some other things the other night after Game 3, but you always want to let these things simmer before you make a decision.

The first lesson in leadership is to utilize all the resources available.  You have to respect the fact that Kerr listened to his video-scouting specialist and obviously listened emphatically.

The second lesson in leadership is that Kerr didn't hesitate to give credit where credit was due.  This makes an incredible healthy working environment for those in the organization.