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Coach Huff’s Offseason Offers

September 19

September 12 


Leadership demands we make decisions that define who we are and how we interact with others.”

Last year around this time, I remember going to a PGC Coaching Clinic that dealt a lot with leadership. We as coaches are leaders although we all do it a different way. We often talk about a leader having a style of leadership, a distinctive way of thinking, feeling, and acting. And all of this is true; coaches do have a style that shapes who they are and what they do. The relationship between style & leadership is expressed as a systematic process in how a coach gets things done & inspires his or her players to be their very best.

I’ve watched, listened & learned from many coaches in action & have seen a distinct difference in two dominant leadership styles: Drivers & Builders. Drivers and builders have two different mindsets & skill sets. Drivers are generally after the impressive achievements (fame, status, popularity or power). We all have some Drivers in us and their is nothing wrong with it. Drivers view success as mastery of the aspects of their sport. On the other hand, Builders commit to their calling & enjoy the human development side of coaching i.e. seeing the development of their teams & players on & off the floor. For Builders, significance is found in contributing to the lives of their players. It’s not that Builders don’t want to win; it’s simply that winning includes building self-confident people who will succeed away from the sport.

The PGC Clinic spent a lot discussing Transformational leaders (Builders) vs. Transactional leaders (Drivers). Transformational leaders (Builders) tend to empower with challenge and persuasion as well as actively engage in supporting & mentoring the development of their players. Transformational leaders (Builders) use the game as an opportunity to teach life skills such as perseverance, character, relationship building & goal attainment. In this day and time, I feel we as coaches need to move towards being Builders (Transformational) and away from being Drivers (Transactional) where we just offer a reward of playing time for desired behavior or result. “The bench is my best teacher”  cannot be the maxim used anymore in a time where more players need relationships so they understand the “WHY”. Please understand I’m not saying the bench can’t be a teacher, but it can’t be the only thing.

This blog may not be what some need or see mainly because being a Driver can be very effective in producing immediate results. However as I can only speak for myself & the program at Duluth HS, we want results that can last a lifetime. We as coaches do many things. We inspire & motivate, we teach & instruct, and we set an example. More important than anything else; however, coaches help student-athletes make sense of some of life’s most important lessons. As we move closer & closer to the season, coaches let’s continue to make an impact as Builders more so than Drivers, yet still having that competitive drive to win.



September 5 

After taking the week to truly dissect the Team Belief Clinic & sharing nuggets I found useful in last week’s blog, I thought this week’s blog should deal with Mental Toughness as we move towards the season with now less than 50 days away. So I was thinking of a boxer and the question that came to mind was “Do you think a boxer goes into the ring thinking he’s not going to get hit?”  And the answer is of course not. he knows he’s going to get punched. Well, the same is true in basketball. Expect the ‘punch’. Many times when my Duluth Wildcats play in hostile environments or even versus some of the top teams in the state; I let them know that the opposing team will try to as I call it ‘Mike Tyson’ them meaning trying to give us the knockout punch/uppercut in the first 3-4 minutes of the game. So we expect it and two things come from: we are prepared to not allow it to happen and/or we take the punch and punch back/keep fighting.

So think of it like this; when the other team goes on a run or your team goes in a slump, follow this advice: “When you find yourself in a hole, the first thing you need to do is stop digging.” Opponents’ runs & your slumps are often caused because you stop doing the little things. Every player needs to immediately focus on being solid:
* Making the right play on both ends of the floor.
* Making the easy pass.
* Boxing out on every shot.
* Setting solid screens.
* Running the floor in both directions.
* Hustling on & off the floor during time-outs.
* Having good body language & eye contact with the coach.
* Contesting all shots.
In many instances, a re-commitment to being solid will end the adversity & turn things back around. These things listed above seem simple or better yet are things players (great teams) should be doing all the time. However, think of what I said meaning in a slump or when the other team goes on a run

Two week’s ago in the blog, I discussed a Winner’s Mentality. Mental Toughness is an attribute winners have as they are able to play through adversity. Many coaches define mental toughness as the ability to tolerate physical discomfort especially during the pre-season. While I agree that it does build it, I would add that mental toughness is simply the ability to play present. To focus on what you have 100% control over: your effort & your attitude, the next play and the process of winning not the outcome. When you play present, you maximize your potential.

August 27
This weeks blog is about the nuggets I picked up from the Team Belief clinic, held in the Paul Duke STEM High School gymnasium this past Saturday. The clinic strengthened the network of HS basketball coaches in the state. The clinic hosted lectures, drill demonstrations and question-and-answer sessions with four historically successful and established coaches — Norcross Head Coach Jesse McMillan, former multiple state championship  coach David Boyd, Pace Academy’s Sharman White and Maynard Jackson’s Doug Lipscomb — in addition to a local head of a referee association, athletic directors and Gwinnett County Athletics Director Jon Weyher. Here are just some of the nuggets as i like to call them of things I picked up Saturday:
 
From Doug Lipscomb: 
“Have an in game checklist with some of the following things:
                               a. SLOB Top 4
                               b. BLOB Top 4
                               c. Special late game SLOB & BLOB
                               d. Go to defense in every quarter
                               e. Defense lste in game when you are ahead & behind
                               f. Offense late in game to get a bucket when you are ahead & behind
                               g. Game on the line play call to score for a 2 or 3
– As a coach his thought was “You & yours against me and mine” and “Take can’t out your vocabulary as a coach.”
From Sharman White: 
– “I coach in practice and make adjustments in games.”
– ‘Your players must understand truth & trust. They must know you will e truthful with them so they can trust you.”
– “Understand no matter the level: HS, college or pro that it is a TRUTH league.”
– “You can only coach them as hard as you love them.”
– “You have 3 types of defensive players: Those that like it, those that love it & those that live it.”
– “As a coach, criticize on defense & encourage on offense.”
– Coach White likes to chart the following during games: how many stops in a row his team can get per game and how many defensive stops period for a game. 
From David Boyd:
– “Save a defense that you show after halftime even after the 3rd quarter has started that teams have to adjust on the fly to.”
– At Brunswick, they don’t take 3’s whether they are up or down in the 4th quarter.
– “Practice for the future.”
– “Work on different special situations daily.”
– “Excuses don’t get the job done.”
From Jesse McMillan:
– “What do you rent & what do you own in your program?”
– “Rent: It happens some days, games, years that you get it. Own: It will happen as you can count on it & people can see it.”
– “How do you know what you rent vs. what you own: Ask yourself, your staff these 3 questions & answer truthfully:
                               a. Where are we right now in our program? 
                               b. Where do we want to go? (There is a difference between goals & destinations.)
                               c. How do we get there?
The answers to these 3 questions by you and your staff can determine what you rent & own in your program if answered truthfully.”
– “Have coaches watch certain things in shell drill to provide not only more insight on the big picture ie closeouts, box outs, rotations, help side, etc., but also to help utilize your assistants.”
– Want to hold your guys accountable; have a “Character Draft” based on social media, respect, grades, attendance at school, classroom behavior, & punctuality. Choose 2 captains and hold each team accountable.
– Think about these 3 categorities in any motion offense: Spacers (little guys & shooters), Runners (non shooters/big guys) & In Between:
                               a. Spacers: screen away
                               b. Runners: rim run and curl if they receive a screen
                               c. In Between: they are able to read the defense and do both 
From Jon Weyher:
– “The most successful coaches learn to change & adapt.”
– “If it’s YOUR team then it’s not about the PROGRAM.”
From Kevin Self:
– Referees Points of Emphasis this season:
                              a. 5 second calls: 5 secs is 6 feet away
                              b. Hand check
                              c. Coaching Box
From panel of Athletic Directors regarding “How to get a job & what they look for”:
– “How are you going to build a program?”
– “What’s your discipline plan?”
– “What’s your why?”
– Each school has a personality. 
– Being a great teacher matters.
– Think about having 3 different resumes: coaching, teaching & fundraising.
– “If you don’t treat your current job like your dream job, you’re not going to be successful.” 
 
The clinic was evidence of the rich network of basketball coaches within the state. Hopefully these nuggets/notes from the Team Belief Clinic help some coach as we are 56 days away from the beginning of the season.  
August 21
August 16 
August 7
Last week’s blog dealt with many of the things that needed to be fixed or changed in the game we love. If readers would listen to the Love of the Game Podcast, I had a great discussion with co-host Mandre Allen and Coach Bryce, GA Canes 17U Head Coach and an assistant coach at Creekside HS about the topics and how we can fix it. I also asked many of you how we can fix it and the majority of the responses were it starts with us as coaches. So in this back to school edition of the blog, I wanted to take one of the issues and break it down more The issue of shot selection. Most coaches agreed that teaching shot selection was the hardest thing to help kids understand, although many admitted preaching it daily & the bench were the best teachers. One coach responded to last week’s blog and gave us this nugget regarding Mark Few at Gonzaga: He has players not practicing hold up their hand with a 1-5 shot rating in practice as well as have his coaches watch practice film & chart shot selection and list the next day (5 being a layup with 1 being a terrible shot/contested). Now i understand Coach Few is which more coaches and resources; however, maybe use managers and/or injured players or a coach to do the shot selection in practice as well as film a day each week of practice where your staff then breaks down the shot selection for the next day. After some thought, here are 7 items regarding what is a good shot:
1. A good shot is one expected by your teammates.
2. A good shot is one that you are ready to shoot (on balance, square to the basket, etc.).
3. A good shot is one that you shoot a high percentage on in drills & in practice (it is in your range).
4. A good shot is one that can be rebounded by your teammates.
5. A good shot is one that you can recover & play defense from if it is missed.
6. A good shot is one that is appropriate given the time & the score. 
7. A good shot is one that is taken when you are not closely guarded (excluding shots around the basket).
If you can get your players to understand these 7 things regarding shot selection (a good shot), your team’s shooting percentage& winning percentage can improve. 
As we as coaches think about our players shot selection, we must also think about the teams shot selection or should I say the best shots for our team. So I leave you with this question: “What are the 3-5 best shots team wants and how are you as a coach going to get those shots?”
Lastly players and coaches, I hope we all used our summer well & continued to work. Summer has ended or is coming to an end now. It’s time to turn our attention toward school & the upcoming season. Use this time to clear your mind & refocus on what you want to accomplish & achieve.
July 24
This weekend was another busy one here in Atlanta in regards to the 2nd Live period with events at Lakepoint with the Best of the South by Hoopseen, Westminster and Emory with Super 6 Showcases 1 & 2 by On the Radar Hoops, South Cobb HS with the A O T. Showcase, and Holy Innocents with the Juco Report Top 100. After watching games at all events it is unfortunate that I find some trends that are evident in the game of basketball right now. So in this week’s blog, I have compiled a list of 13 things I saw that can & need to be fixed in the game we love. As I’ve always said, this blog is about growing the game of basketball & it makes no sense to give the problems without the solutions; therefore, I would love for this week’s blog to be interactive so to speak so readers can send their possible solutions to the problems listed and next week’s blog will state those solutions to this week’s problems.
1. There is too much dribbling in the game right now, and not enough ball and player movement (moving without the ball is a lost art).
2. Passing is atrocious. Many players can’t get shooters the ball in the ‘pocket’ nor are players giving teammates good passes that put them in better positions to score or make plays for others. “A shooter is only as good as the pass he/she receives”. 
3. There is no concept of a good shot: 
4. There are no players who want to play roles anymore. Players fail to see the value in not being the main guy or scorer on their team.
5. As athletic as kids are now, basketball IQ is at an all time low.
6. Everyone is in love with the 3 ball; however, shooting in general is down.
7. Players are struggling to guard their yard (defend/keep players out the paint); therefore, more zone is being used at every level.
8. Players don’t believe that passing the ball up the floor is better than dribbling to get easy bucket.
9. Lack of toughness is evident in the game, and I don’t mean acting tough, etc.
10. Too many players look for foul calls and yell “And 1” instead of playing through contact.
11. Players fail to realize that keeping it simple wins games. Everyone wants the big play (the oh ah moment).
12. Conditioning is at an all time low. 
13. Some players don’t want to compete or accept coaching.
Lastly, I am a firm believer that AAU needs to stay as it’s only way kids that aren’t high major can get seen. However, there are some tweaks that I feel need to be made:
       a. There needs to be a limit on number of AAU teams that can play per state which will include the show company teams and non shoe company teams. I don’t know what that number is or if the number is different per state; however, there are many players that are playing in front of zero coaches, some at non sanctioned AAU events. Maybe it means more teams play YBOA or even just work on their skills with their HS coach during the summer to improve.
       b. There needs to be a limit on players on an AAU team. The design for AAU is exposure, and having more than 10-12 guys can be tough many times as players just don’t play for an opportunity to be seen.
       c. How many different events can an AAU team play in during the Live Period? Again, it is about exposure, but exposure can go both ways especially when kids are tired and over used. That word then becomes ‘exposed’.
Basketball community lets discuss and find solutions to these issues/problems/dilemmas that we see in our game as next week the blog will do just that. The final Live Period will have passed as well. Players, it’s one final opportunity to make your mark as again all it takes is one college coach/one program to believe in you as there are offers at different levels to be had.

 

July 20

The first week of the live period of AAU basketball has concluded and it was an exciting time to watch the Peach Jam & Peach State Invitational tournaments in Augusta, GA, the UA Challenge at Lakepoint in Emerson, GA, the Elite 32 by On the Radar Hoops at McEachern HS as well as the JUCO Report Elite Top 150. Watching many games at each of these events had me thinking of this week’s blog. The consistent & constant thought that came to mind was being a great teammate & playing with passion. To help lift your team’s performance look for ways to infuse your team with passion. Help teammates believe in themselves, build their confidence and self-esteem. Search for ways to make your teammates feel important and appreciated. Celebrate and get excited about the successes and accomplishments of your teammates. Make it a daily goal to point out the strengths and contributions of those around you. You can infuse your team with passion by the acting out the following eight principles in your daily activities:

1. Keep Your Fire Burning. Fill your energy tank frequently. Your teammates feed off your fire. Avoid burn-out by regularly relaxing and refreshing your mindset.

2. Take Charge of Your Moods. Recognize your present mental and emotional state and take time to reflect on how your attitudes impact and influence your teammates.

3. Listen to Teammates. Spend time with your teammates and attempt to understand their feelings, perspectives, and experiences. Make it a way of life rather than a onetime event.

4. Be There for Others. Team building is about recognizing, respecting, and appreciating your teammates. Your friendship can be just the encouragement a teammate might need to make it through a challenging time. The smallest gesture, a simple act of kindness, at just the right time can make a big difference.

5. Act with Integrity. Blaming, finger-pointing, and accusing others will lead to negative reactions. Do what you say you will do. In other words, walk the talk. Your attitudes and actions should be consistent with your words.

6. Be Genuine. Your teammates will see right through you if you are phony and superficial. They want you to care about them and help them achieve their goals. Belief in your teammates will breed trust and healthy relationships. Point out others’ strengths and contributions—daily!

7. Refrain from Excuse-Making. Players that are committed to excellence identify what top-notch performance looks like and then take action steps towards that standard, never making excuses for disappointments and failures along the way.

8. Mend Broken Fences. Great teammates are those willing to admit mistakes. Durable and enduring relationships are built by pushing through adversity. Conflict is natural. Restore relationships where conflict has caused tension. Be patient, persistent, and pleasant when restoring a relationship.

As we move into the 2nd week of the Live Period, I hope players and coaches can see the value in being a great teammate. So players don’t panic if you haven’t been offered yet. Some coaches may have just seen you for the first time last week. They want to talk & build a relationship to make sure you fit each other. There is value to that. 

July 12

Players today are different than they were when I was growing up, and I still consider myself young in a way. Every generation says that, but it’s true. One of the biggest changes to our society as a whole has been technology… more specifically the internet… and even more specifically… mobile smartphones and social media. What does that have to do with basketball?

Everything.

Basketball has always been and will always be an interpersonal activity that requires human connection and communication. Coaching is all about building quality relationships. As many of you have heard before, “It ain’t about the X’s and O’s… it’s about the Jimmy’s and Joe’s.” But because of things like social media and the ‘everyone gets a trophy’ mentality, the Jimmy’s and Joe’s of 2018 are not the same as they were in 1996. So we as coaches have to evolve and learn how to adapt to the change in our game with our players. The blog this week aims to give you a few tips to think about when coaching today’s players.

Here are 22 tips for coaching today’s players…

  1. Find out how to truly connect with your players. Find out what makes them tick, what motivates them and what is the best way to coach them (in front of their peers and behind closed doors).
  1. Embrace social media and technology… it’s not going anywhere. It’s important to your players, so it needs to be important to you.
  1. Learn to speak their language. The top 2 ways players communicate today is through text message and social media (particularly Instagram and Twitter). Learn to use those platforms.
  1. Understand this: consistency breeds excellence – excellence breeds trust – trust breeds loyalty – loyalty builds a strong program. Be consistent with everything you do. Players won’t respect you if you don’t.
  1. Encourage this 3-step mistake policy with your players – Admit it. Fix it. Don’t repeat it! The first time it is a mistake. The second time it is a decision.
  1. Coach attitude and effort before X’s and O’s. Without proper attitude and effort the X’s and O’s don’t matter.
  1. Clearly articulate your core values, principles and each player’s role. These are non-negotiable. They make up your program’s culture.
  1. Players want to know the why behind everything. So tell them! Explain why you do what you do, why you believe what you believe, and why you expect ABC from them. The higher the perceived relevance, the higher the buy-in. And at the end of the day, a coach’s #1 job is to get buy-in from every member of the program.
  1. Social media has created an abundance of superficial ‘friends’ – make sure your players know you truly care about them (on and off the court). That you have their back.
  1. Don’t try to be ‘friends’ with your players. If you are too close to them personally you can’t hold them accountable. You should be a role model, a teacher and a mentor… but not a buddy.
  1. Players all learn differently. Make sure you can effectively teach each type of learner (audio, visual, intrapersonal).
  1. Players want to show their individuality (shoes, haircuts and especially with pre-game starting line-up announcement antics and routines). Don’t fight it. Have some leniency within your program rules. Respectfully, today’s idols and role models (LeBron, Melo, etc.) are a lot different than MJ and Bird.
  1. Create a climate and culture that values people over productivity. Your players must know you care about them as a human being first and a player second.
  1. If you want to know if you are a good coach…ask your worst player.
  1. You’re either coaching it or you are allowing it to happen. You either accept it or correct it.
  1. Replace ‘but’ with ‘now’ when instructing a player. For example, “I like your release, now try to get your elbow over your knee.” This minor change will make a huge impact.
  1. Focus on what your players can be… not what they are.
  1. Science shows that most people have a pretty firm definition of what is right and wrong by age 13. Hold them accountable. Ignorance is not an excuse. However, learn to choose your battles. Kids will be kids. If a players posts something stupid on social media… don’t condemn them for life. Use it to teach a life lesson. Hold them accountable, but use it to teach.
  1. Players actually want to be held accountable. It shows them that you care and are invested in their success.
  1. Most of the players today have grown up in the ‘trophy generation’ – which has created an immense sense of entitlement. Players need to learn another ‘E’ word… earn. Create a system where players have to earn
  1. Players today want to play immediately. They don’t understand the concept of ‘right of passage.’ Freshman want to play varsity. Young players want to play serious minutes. Learn to channel this desire but keep them focused on the process and the long term.
  1. One of the biggest changes between the players of 1996 and 2018 is with the parents. Parents are much more involved and much more vocal (especially on social media). Parents can be a tremendous support system… or they can be a total thorn.

July 3

In Georgia, this week is officially the Dead Week per GHSA. Take this time as coaches, programs & players to rest. The off-season isn’t over as AAU for many players is next as is strength and conditioning for many others as well as skill work. However, take this time to take care of your bodies & minds. Enjoy a little down time & embrace the time with family. As you do that, take some time to think about building meaningful relationships with your players, program/team. This week’s blog deals with how we as coaches can do just that.

Genuine relationship building takes time. More than ever before, coaches have to really make a conscience decision to develop genuine relationships with their players. The ability to communicate with your players is an invaluable skill. These relationships allow coaches to earn the respect and trust of their players. Once these genuine relationships have been built teaching can take place. After proper teaching takes place, then improvement will surely follow.

Today’s student-athletes use a variety of methods to communicate through Social mediums and platforms. However, that variety does not necessarily make an individual a great communicator. I am a firm believer that coaches must reach their players on a level where they are most comfortable to truly develop a genuine relationship. These levels can be on an emotional, spiritual, academic, or social. It is also important to choose a location where the student-athletes are comfortable, such as school, training table and team meal etc.

Here are some ideas that I have discussed with other coaches and have personally used during my coaching career to develop “genuine relationships” with my players. I am confident that if you try to implement some of these ideas you will be moving in the right direction of developing “genuine relationship” with your players. Theodore Roosevelt said it best when he said, “They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”

  • Get to know their 5 H’s (History, Hopes, Heartaches, Hero and Honey).
  • Work them out and help them to improve their skills.
  • Invite them into your home or out for a meal.
  • One-on-one film sessions
  • Go to their homes to reconnect with their circle of influence.
  • Discuss current events to capture their attention, especially if the event touches them personally.
  • Choose books that you can share with them to read and discuss with them when they finish reading the book.
  • Create a group chat via social media. Throw out a topic and encourage the players to speak on the topic freely and openly.
  • Be observant of what your players do, what they say, what they wear & try to connect.
  • Be a great listener. Allow your players the opportunity to express themselves.

Becoming a better communicator and INVESTING in developing genuine relationships with your players will help lead your team to incredible success. We all want our players to “buy in”, however to obtain this you must get them to “believe in” first. Believe in you, your genuine interest in them, their success and what is important to them. “Believe in” is earned through trust, and trust takes time and effort.Enjoy your holiday!

June 27
Many of us at the HS level here in Georgia have finished our month of June and are moving on into another part of our off-season which are AAU as well as Skill Development sessions for our players This is a very important part of the year. Even though nothing as far as wins & losses are on the line, the strides and gains that are made now will have an important impact on your record when the season does come.

Therefore, you must set player goals.

So the question comes as coaches, how do you approach this next crucial part of the off-season? The very first thing that we do is have an individual meeting with each player in our program. At Duluth, we met with every player to discuss their progress or lack their of during the month of June, where we see them at this current moment as it relates to the team as well as goals for the upcoming season throughout the summer, and how we will look to attack these goals in the off-season.

We like hearing our players’ goals. This allows us to remind them of what they are working for during the off-season. For example: One player might say, “Coach, I want to average 15 points per game and be first team all-region this up coming season.” Which is great!

This communication allows us to be able to remind them of this goal everyday in the off-season, and to help make sure that they are putting in the work required to meet that goal. We understand that all of these goals might not be realistic, and with some guys we try to reach a happy medium. At the very least though, we are re-enforcing on a daily basis that “YOU” are the one who wants this specific goal to happen, so what are “YOU” doing about it?

The next part of us attacking the off-season happens in the weight room. In my experience, most basketball players do not embrace the weight room, especially at a young age, although most could benefit from an additional 10 to 15 pounds of muscle.

You will hear excuses such as “It messes up my shot” or “I don’t want to get too big.” Those are just excuses though, and unless your blessed with great size and athleticism, it’s a must. This extends to conditioning as well. You will rarely find a good team that is not also in great shape. Why wait until the season to begin this? There are several different methods in attaining this, but the concept is all the same. So we still do weight training and conditioning 3-4 times a week during the month of July.

At Duluth, how we work our guys in the off-season will be different than how we work them during the season. During the season, our players will only get shots or work on facets of their game that coincide with what they will do for us in our system. If you can’t dribble, were not going to work on pick-and-roll shots. If you’re a big man and can’t score facing up than were not working on that, and so on.

In the off-season though, we will work on multiple areas of skill development with all of our players. We will do ball handling with every player on the roster and we will also get into breaking down every individual players shot. It starts with form shooting and then we move out to a spot that is more realistic, and we help to develop a consistent shot for that player.

Our players will do triple threat moves, Mikan drill, and different rebounding drills regardless of position. We will also have our guys play in 1-on-1, 2-on-2 and 3-on-3 situations with a structured set of rules such as a two-dribble limit to help with different facets of the game. This also makes it more game realistic.

As June concludes, the off-season is such an important time for players, and just because they move into the AAU session in July; it’s not over. We all need breaks from time to time, but once you have gotten past that, attack this time of the year with your team. The regular season will bring a wide variety of challenges, but the more prepared your players are going into the season, the better chance of success you will have. Attack this off-season!

 

I have talked to a number of different coaches in regards to their players playing pickup in the off-season, and I have heard many different opinions on this topic. Because of our location we have gotten lucky, and we almost always have current and former professional players around as well as current and former college players.

These guys know how to play the right way, and it really helps with the quality of the games that are being played. Be open to having the good players in your area around your gym, and always be willing to have your former players come back to help the current ones out. All of the basketball drills that the kids do are great, but they are intended to be applied in a game setting. Playing pick up allows them to work on all the things that they have been working on.

 

Attacking the Off Season Conclusion

The off-season is such an important time for players. We all need breaks from time to time, but once you have gotten past that, attack this time of the year with your team. The regular season will bring a wide variety of challenges, but the more prepared your players are going into the season, the better chance of success you will have. Attack this off-season!

June 21

As the month of June winds down for high school basketball here in Georgia, I believe every coach and player can say their job was to get better whether it be as a team or individual. I stress to my team that every day is an opportunity to improve. That being said as coaches we must work at “Getting Better at Getting Better” ourselves. Below are some thoughts on how I think we can do that:

* Getting better doesn’t happen on its own without a coaching staff being intentional about it
* To achieve your potential, you must try have a 4:1 ratio of practices to games
*You have to take time to consciously think about & plan how every important aspect of your program is going to get better> This post season I focused on offensive execution and evaluation of players while last year it was defense
* Practice makes permanent, not perfect, so as coaches, we must set up systems so that our players are practicing the right way
* Be good at the things you do a lot in your system/style. At Duluth, we play with 2 goals in mind: get a quality shot every possession on offense, and on defense, don’t give up a quality shot.
* Can your players verbalize what you care about as a coach
* Remember it takes 2 minutes to prepare and plan
* Properly prepare so you don’t have to repair
* Find ways to help narrow your players’ focus in practice. The way we do it at Duluth is there is always time on the clock for every drill and 90% of our practice is about competition
* Feedback is huge huge for today’s players. Make it immediate, honest and actionable
Again as we gear down here for summer basketball, I hope these thoughts refocus us as coaches on “Getting Better at Getting Better” because to be significantly better, you need to be significantly more productive for every minute you practice. “Even relatively small, but significant changes, can increase the rate at which people develop by a striking degree.”

June 14 

After watching a couple weeks of summer basketball and the NBA Finals, I am still a firm believer that “Players make Plays”. As basketball coaches, we must develop players that have the ability to create and finish plays. We want players to be able to make a variety of plays anywhere on the court against top competition. In order to have those players make plays, they must possess the skills necessary for making plays, and their skills will only be as good as our level of mastery of the techniques that make up the skills. I say this to say that the summer is a perfect time for us as coaches to add to our bag so to speak and learn from each other. Our desire to have our players become the best player needs to be channeled towards us as coaches mastering techniques to help our players succeed. If our techniques are sufficient, the players skills will be sufficient to make the play. If enough plays are created and finished within our team framework, our team will win enough possessions to win games. I challenge us as coaches to get together and practice with other teams & coaches and learn. This week here at Duluth we traveled over to Brookwood with Coach Daniel Bowles to practice and it was a great setting to learn and see why he is successful. We will continue to do this throughout the summer as we travel to Seqouyah and North Clayton. We also enjoy the time getting better in the GaHoopCircle Summer Explosion Series Skill Sessions as our guys have gotten better as well as my coaches by learning some new tricks from one of the best trainers around in Coach Eastmond, yet still having the level of competition as other teams such as Riverside Military and others have joined in.

So this process of developing our players so that their individual play-making ability starts with our desire as coaches to improve and learn. We must then channel that desire towards mastery of the techniques of efficient and explosive execution of drills & skills. The play-making effectiveness of these drills & skills is dependent on how much we as coaches continue to learn & grow so that we can teach our players how to perform them as the game is ever changing. Visualize the plays your team needs to make to win games in your region, classification or game. Then identify the skills that will make those plays so you can help your players develop the techniques necessary for efficient & explosive execution of those skills.

Remember the summer is an extension of your postseason or off-season development. For us at Duluth, it is also an evaluation period for our players and us as a staff. Coaches as the summer heats up remember this: Love of the game produces a desire to improve and win which must be focused on a mastery of the techniques of efficiency & explosiveness producing a high skill level which combined with position, vision & anticipation enables players to make plays that win possessions and ultimately wins games.

June 5

As I have been watching games this spring on the AAU circuit as well as early this summer watching high school teams at team camps, I begin to think of the competitive spirit in athletes. Competition comes from the Latin word competere, which means “to come together or strive together”. I saw a quote that spoke of competition: “The joy of playing does not need to be sacrificed in the name of competition. On the contrary, the joy of playing includes winning & performing at your highest possible level. Sports ask for all of your mind, body, and spirit to win the game. It also demands that it be done with virtue. Accepting anything less transforms play into selfish work.” Sadly, competition in today’s sporting culture seems more divisive than unifying. It is more about dominating or conquering others instead of striving for excellence.

At the top of John Wooden’s pyramid of success was ‘competitive greatness’. He defined it as, “A real love for the hard battle, knowing it offers the opportunity to be at your best when your best is required.” He understood the importance of that spirit and knew it was about being your best; not about being better than anyone.
As coaches, how can wed develop the spirit of competition? Not as our current sporting culture defines it, but as the origin of the word describes. Here are 5 things I believe we as coaches can do to facilitate this:
1. Model SportsmanshipAs a coach, consider being the first person in line while your assistants remain in back of the line to help avoid any unforeseen issues as you take time to truly congratulate & shake each opponent’s hand at the end of the game. 
2. Communicate Respect: Don’t demoralize or speak poorly of an opponent in an effort to motivate your team. Respect everyone, but fear no one.
3. Be Grateful: Instead of blaming referees, we should be thanking them, along with the administrators, timekeepers, scoreboard operators, etc. Consider texting, calling or writing a letter to the opposing coach or team to offer praise. Just this season, Cuonzo Martin, the head basketball coach at Missouri, went as far as visiting the opposing team to praise their effort after a hard fought game. 
4. Create a Competitive Practice Environment: Iron sharpens iron. Create a competitive cauldron wherein nearly every aspect of the practice is competitive. While competition can drive a wedge between players & foster a fixed mindset, when it is implemented & reinforced with the right message, it will do just the opposite. It will bring players together as they strive to become better.
5. Value the Process: Don’t demoralize losers & glorify winners. What matters is who your players are as a person & who they are becoming through the process. Create a mission for the people on your team to grow as athletes & as people by using sports and competition both in practice and games to learn and grow. 
 
Competere! Strive together for excellence

May 29 

Georgia High School coaches the summer is here. What better time to develop a positive team culture then out the gate this summer. This week’s blog I want to look at the Coach’s Role in Impacting Team Culture in aspects such as can it be established, reinforced & even reinvented through your team’s basketball practices. 

 
A simple formula I’ve thought of is the following: Successful Team Culture = Procedures + Progressions + Precision + Patience

* Procedures are actions which have to be executed in the same manner in order to obtain the same result. Establishing procedures within your program allows you to maximize your time as a coach. While this can create some temporary inconveniences, it will lead to permanent improvement. For example, we name every drill we run at practice, so when we call it out at future practices players know exactly what to do, where to go & what is expected.
 
* Progressions are a series of activities/drills with a definite pattern of advancement. It’s important for coaches to progress through drills in a way that will make sense to the athletes. During our summer basketball program at Duluth, I find it especially helpful for basketball players to progress through teaching using this model: 
     * Give instruction that describes the organization of the drill. Provide rules for the drill. Give them points of emphasis. Remind them of the intangibles (how to lead themselves, enhance the drill & ignite their teammates).
     * In providing your athletes with the points of emphasis, stick to the rule of 3 & explicitly state what you are looking for.
 
* Precision means having a ridiculous attention to detail. As coaches, we have to understand: “we teach what we emphasize”. In my experince, it’s quite apparent that the best coaches demand a high level of exactness from their basketball players at all times, and not just when they are on the court.
 
* Patience is required once the above 3 items are put into play. Be honest..what drives you crazy as a coach? Every coach has a list. So essentially the thought is: don’t put yourself through a whole season being irritated by the things you failed to explain. It’s our job as coaches to teach with clarity & ensure we communicate exactly what we want at all times. Have persistence to your patience. Model the qualities that you want to see embodied in the culture of your team.
 
I encourage you as either a coach to consider implementing some of these key thoughts above into your summer practices & workouts. It will take some time, it will take some persistence, but most importantly it will take a commitment to be someone better than you already are. 
 
Lastly, remember respect isn’t given because of a title; it’s earned because of a relationship. Build meaningful relationships with your players and staff. Teach life lessons that go far beyond the court. Person first, player second! When this relationship is built, mutual respect will flourish. This is why “Developing a Positive Team Culture” first starts with us as coaches. 6 time state championship coach, David Boyd had a quote this weekend I would like to share: “Trade those rings in for another chance to impact young lives.” Start impacted & building your team culture NOW.

May 21

“The time between now & October/November is not the “off-season”; it’s the stop making excuses, get better & improve season for both players & coaches. You must find ways to get better both individually and as a team.”

I was able to attend the Nike Basketball Coaching Clinic in Las Vegas this past weekend in my quest to be better for the Duluth basketball program. Although all the speakers were knowledge and gave great points & nuggets that I could bring back, I truly enjoyed hearing Shaka Smart. Here 3 things that stood out to me regarding his presentation on drills:
– Great Energy: His energy was contagious not only to the coaches listening, but to the players from the NAIA school that was used to be the demonstrators for the weekend.
– Emphasized implementing multiple effort drills in practice
– Names his drills after NBA players so they can correlate with the player and what the drill is requiring of them

Coach Smart’s drills were about aggression and effort. Therefore, it made me think about our teams and players and how we can foster aggression. Here my thoughts:
1. Inch by Inch: Too much aggression from you, another player, assistant or anyone else will drive away the very thing you are asking him/her to do.
2. 5 To to Three Minute Drills: Short drills show the player how to be assertive. Coach Smart had an example of a drill: you hold a ball out in front of you, squeezing it tightly & the player must snap the ball out of your hands, front pivot and attack the rim/shoot. This teaches him/her how, what, why, when, where, to be aggressive.
3. Self Evaluation: You can do this with your players at the beginning or end of a workout or practice. Ask them what are they going to give you today on a scale of 1-10. Hold the player accountable to the number they give you and if the number doesn’t match the level you need/desire then let the player know.
4. Film: Get some clips of other players that show your player an “aggressive act”. Then film your player doing an aggressive act; this reinforces the very behavior you are after.
5. Patience: All this takes time, but is well worth the wait. A player doesn’t just become aggressive because you yell at them or if they do it will be short term.
6. Peer Support: Teach and encourage your players to bring along the less aggressive using a balanced approach.
7. Game Balls/Hard Hat: Occasionally as an acknowledgment to the player who demonstrates the very behavior you want give out a hard hat award for aggression.

I hope this can help you as we move into the moth of June and summer basketball here in Georgia. Remember my purpose here isn’t to say everything or write in a way that I am all knowing. I just want to stimulate thought and share some ideas as we all continue to help build and grow the game we love.

May 15

I was able to check out some EYBL action this weekend at Lakepoint as well as some of the action at Shun Williams On the Radar event: Atlanta Classic and I noticed the gap between elite and good is substantial as it was very easy to see.
One of my big takeaways from the teams and outstanding players I saw was mental toughness. The last few week’s blogs have dealt with “Building a Great Team”. As much as the other elements discussed help build great teams I feel mental toughness is an area that is a definite must for great teams. In this week’s blog, I wanted to give coaches things to think about when it comes to mental toughness as they think & evaluate their teams as the summer is fast approaching. Here is a Mental Toughness Evaluation so to speak, as you think of your team. This evaluation will help you understand what it truly means to be “tough’. There are 31 items as each discusses an element of basketball that would be defined as an act of toughness on the basketball court. After reading consider your team if you would agree that your team consistently succeeds in the element discussed:
1. Set a good screen: The toughest players to guard are the players who set good screens. When you set a good screen, you are improving the chances for a teammate to get open, & you are greatly improving your chances of getting open. Good screens force teams to make a mistake.
2. Set up your cut: The toughest players/teams make hard cuts, & set up their cuts. Basketball is a game of deception. A hard cut may get you a basket, but it may also get a teammate a basket.
3. Talk on defense: The toughest players talk on defense, &* communicate with their teammates. It is almost impossible to talk on defense & not be in a stance, down, and ready, with a vision of man & ball. At Duluth, we want our talk to be “ELOC”: early loud, often & continuous.
4. Jump to the ball: When on defense, the tough defenders move as the ball moves. The toughest players move on the flight of the ball, not when it gets to its destination. The toughest players also take away the ball side cut & don’t let cutters cut across their face.
5. Don’t get screened: No coach can give a player the proper footwork to get through every screen although at Duluth we spend time on defending different types of screens. Tough players have a sense of urgency not to get screened & get through screens.
6. Get your hands up: Tough players play with their hands up to take away vision, get deflections & discourage a pass in order to allow a teammate to cover up. At Duluth, we chart deflections during a game. Usually we are successful as team the more deflections we have.
7. Play the ball, see your man: A tough defender plays the ball & sees his man.
8. Get on the floor: We call these 50/50 balls and we chart these as well. It is a direct correlation of how bad your team wants to win. The team that gets on the floor first usually gets the ball & the win.
9. Close out under control: A tough defender closes out under control, takes away a straight line drive & takes away the shot.
10. Post your man, not a spot: Tough post players are posting their man as they are always open, working to get the ball on the proper angle from a post feed, sealing on ball reversal, calling for the ball & continuing to post strong even if their teammates miss them. The toughest thing I believe for guards at the high school level is post entry passes.
11. Run the floor: Tough players sprint the floor, which drags the defense & opens things up for others. Tough players run hard & get easy baskets, as easy baskets are hard to get.
12. Play hard: I am a firm believer that playing hard is a skill. Tough players play so hard that their coach has to take them out to get rest. Tough players don’t pace themselves.
13. Get to your teammate first: When a teammate lays their body on the line to dive on the floor or take a charge, the tough players get to him first to help him back up. Tough players are great teammates.
14. Take responsibility for your teammate: Tough players care for their teammates well-being.
15. Take a charge: Tough players are willing to give up their body & take a charge.
16. Get in a stance: Tough players are down in a stance on both ends of the floor.
17. Finish plays: Tough players don’t avoid contact; they finish through contact.
18. Take and give criticism the right way: Tough players can take criticism without feeling the need to answer back or give excuses.
19. Throw yourself into your team’s defense: A tough player fills their tank on the defensive end, not on offense.
20. Work on the pass: Tough players work on fundamentals. A fundamental that is lacking in today’s player is passing. A tough player gets down, pivots, pass fakes & works to get proper angles to pass away from the defense and deliver the ball.
21. Show strength in your body language: Tough players project confidence & security with their body language.
22. Catch and face: Tough players don not just catch & dribble; they catch and face. The less dribbles the more efficient a player is.
23. Be alert: Tough players are alert & active. They understand the best teams play five as one.
24. Concentrate, and encourage teammates to concentrate: Concentration is a skill, and tough players work hard to concentrate every play. Tough players go as hard as they can for as long as they can.
25. Not my shot; our shot: Tough players don’t take bad shots nor worry about getting my shots. Tough players work for good shots, as they understand it’s not my shot but our shot and they celebrate when we score.
26. Take responsibility for actions: Tough players make no excuses.
27. Eye contact: If you ever want to see if a team is locking in, check out the eyes in the huddle.
28. Move on to the next play: Tough players don’t waste time celebrating a good play or lamenting a bad one. They move on to the next play, which is the most important play.
29. Be hard to play against, and easy to play with: Tough players make their teammates’ jobs easier, and their opponents’ jobs tougher.
30. Make every game important: Tough players don’t categorize opponents and games. They value winning. They compete.
31. Make getting better every day a goal: Tough players come to work every day to get better.
Think about your team after looking at the aforementioned list. Remember toughness has nothing to do with size, physical strength or athleticism. I heard Tom Izzo say, “Players play, but tough players win.”

May 8

The past two blogs have discussed “Building Great Teams” and what I feel is necessary in doing so. this week I want to look at another crucial and important component to having a great team and that is “Establishing Player Roles and Soliciting Buy In”. Remember that you as a head coach will decide what players make your team each year & what role each player will be assigned.

During the “off season” (spring through fall), try to expose your players to as much philosophy & technique stuff as you can. Use this time to indoctrinate your team. let them know your standards & expectations and try to solicit as much buy in & acceptance as possible. Don’t wait to discuss roles, expectations and standards once the season has started. Start now. How do you do this? Get to know your players through observation & scrutiny while evaluating each player during this time while trying to develop a rapport & healthy coach/player relationship with each of them at the same time. How do we do this here at Duluth? We do it in multiple ways as I allow each assistant to have a day to completely run workouts through the spring and fall. This allows me to do the things such as observe and evaluate all while building & fostering a relationship with players. In addition, during the summer, I allow my assistants to run practices and coach many summer games where I take copious amounts of notes about the team and players. Head Coaches please know that “buy in” & roles isn’t just important for your players, but for your coaching staff as well. I believe this gives my assistants opportunities to continue working on their skills so they can become head coaches as well as allow the players to hear from them. The evaluation, observation & scrutiny of the program throughout spring & fall allows me to get to the following priorities usually done in the fall:

1. Identify the Potential Cancers on your team & the players you can’t trust: Any prospective players can cause trouble for your team.
2. Identify your Leaders & your Workers: Your team is selected based on ability along with their ability to trust & be trusted, desire to win, willingness to work & take direction and unselfishness. Once you have your group identified (you don’t have to have final cuts made, but you should basically know who you want on your team) by the fall you should know what each player can do & what basic roles you think each player should have, but don’t hand out or discuss roles just yet. At this point, turn the attention of your players towards the things they (as a team) want to accomplish during the upcoming season & ask them to consider what reputation & identity they want to have as well as a list of what is going to be necessary to accomplish the goals & establish the stated reputation. The next step is to have each player make a list of 3 things they are willing to individually sacrifice in order to help the team achieve its goals. After this & in context of the team that you get down to distributing individual player roles. each player role is going to be predicated on affecting the goals of the team (winning). Then visit with each player individually, have them bring the goals & what’s necessary lists as well as their individual sacrifice list to the meeting. Take the time to thoroughly go over each player’s role with them, answer their questions, make necessary adjustments & be very clear what the expectations are & how important it is for the team that their role is carried out to the best of their ability. Then ask the player for 3 things they are willing to commit to that will help their team achieve its goal. This list will be made of every teammate so that they can hold each other accountable as all players must understand & appreciate not only their own role, but the roles of each of their teammates as well.

What you want to create from spring through fall up until you choose your team is an environment where it is not the comparison of roles that is important but the execution of each role. Each player’s value should not be defined by the role they get, but rather opn how well they perform their roles.

Our motto for the Duluth Wildcats this past season was “Believe In, Buy In , Lock In, All In.” Although we didn’t win a championship, we had guys buy in to their roles as the meaning of our motto was evident. As coaches move towards the summer, I hope this helps in “Building a Great Team”.

 

May 1 

This weeks blog is a continuation of last week’s blog on “Building Great Teams. Last week we discussed the 4 fundamental reason for team building along with 4 things that help build teams. This week we look at other things that help you build your team. Here are 7 attributes to think about & consider when trying to “Build a Great Team” as I am a firm believer that team building starts as soon as offseason workouts begin and definitely during the summer even though wins and losses aren’t the major concern as far as I am concerned.

1. Positive Reinforcement, Recognition & Praise: Through our team building process here at Duluth, we stress the significance of each individual role & emphasize the importance of each individual player’s contribution to our team. We try to create a climate of mutual respect & equality. We stress the idea that no one player is any more or less valuable to our team than any other player. We encourage our players to recognize each others contributions & praise one another both privately & publicly. We create a shared shared value system where each player appreciates the contributions & hard work of every one of his teammates. Thus, you may feel we at Duluth “flood your timelines” with information regarding our players accomplishments on and off the court. It is our example of what we want our players to do.

2. Preventative Troubleshooting & Being Prepared: A principal I once worked for say a teacher must be “proactive not reactive”. An important part of our team building process is being proactive. We start this discussion during summer practices and games & re-visit it during one of our early season workouts/meetings. We talk about a list of things that we can’t control and what can get in the way of us achieving our goals. We discuss strategies on how we can prevent them & how we will handle each thing if it should occur. As a staff each coach has a group of kids that are his own so that we can again be proactive. So if we see a pattern of behavior starting or his demeanor after practice is down, I tell that coach if he hasn’t already done so or mentioned it to me to reach out to that player and talk with them. One of our core beliefs in our program is being prepared. Thus, we have to be prepared for any and everything, Being proactive helps with this mindset.

3. Team Covenant and Individual Binders: Everything generated from our team including team handbook or covenant is put in written form. The player, his parents & I sign the covenant & it becomes a guiding document for our season. This year I plan to take this further by giving each team a binder with the covenant in side as well as our schedule, practice calendar and game scouting reports as the season progresses. We will issue them this at the beginning of the season. We are firm believers in writing things down, doing things with a purpose and staying organized. Again, it’s more than basketball but life skills as well.

4. Outside Support and Guest Speakers: In order to support and enhance our program, we call upon guest speakers to speak to our players on relevant issues. We seek speakers who have similar values as ours, yet are able to get the players to see things differently. These speakers are very important to what we are trying to build here at Duluth: “Men through the game of Basketball”.

5. Team Meals & Road Trips: Food is very important for teenage boys. Prior to every game, we have a team meal. What we have done here at Duluth is make our home team meals a “Family Gathering” for our team as we go in a room and eat together. This allows our players to bond and fellowship together before the game. It is also a way of showing our appreciation for them and their hard work. Please note that we as a staff take part in this team meal as well so that we can truly see the impact of “family”. In addition, I think road trips whether done in the summer or the season (Thanksgiving/Christmas) are great ways to focus on basketball & on developing your team free from distractions. They help develop team unity & chemistry as road trips are some of our players most memorable experiences.

6. Community Service & Social Consciousness: Every year we have our players volunteer their services with some activities throughout the year. This season at Duluth we were able to fill a tractor trailer worth of supplies for the Hurricane Harvey victims. But our support didn’t stop their as we actually went to Houston one weekend to help past out these supplies. These experience plus countless others we do helps our players develop a sense of responsibility & leadership. In supporting community service projects, our players become more aware that “there is more to life than basketball” & it helps them develop a social consciousness.

7. Attitude of Gratitude: Our program depends on a lot of volunteers to raise funds, operate the scorer’s table, stats, video games, etc. Our players begin to identify with the people that volunteer to support them & the basketball program. Consequently, this identification helps our players develop grateful attitudes. We do not want our players to take anything for granted. One way we try to do this especially for our teachers is through “Teacher Appreciation Day” at one of our home games where every player in our program chooses a teacher that has meant a lot to them this year and they are presented with a certificate and called out to center court during pregame among other activities that day.

Being on teams can be some of the most important experiences in our players lives. Our goal here at Duluth is to provide significant team experiences for the young men in our program. Thus, we have attempted to create a systematic approach to Team Building which I have outlined in last week’s blog and this weeks. Being a “team” is much more than “making a team”. It is a process that builds character, creates life long friendships, and provides important lessons that can be used throughout not only our players lives but our own as coaches.

Lastly, I want to leave you with some great nuggets I received while attending the MCAofGA Spring Live Period Coaches Clinic this past Thursday & Friday. In case you missed it, it was a great event of networking, learning & growing. All the coaches who attended can attest to the great experience they had.
*”Players are being evaluated at al times, up 20 or down 20, walking into timeouts, pouting, etc.” Penny Collins (Head Coach Tennessee State University)
*”The more you seat in training the less you bleed in war. Practice should be harder than the game.” Joni Taylor (Head Women’s Coach UGA)
*”The best people in your life are the most consistent.” Will Wade (Head Coach LSU)
*”If you are an assistant coach, be a head coach of an area & coach that area.” Will Wade (Head Coach LSU)
*”We are in a daily battle for the hearts and minds of our players.” Will Wade (Head Coach LSU)
*”Go from a routine to get you in the game to a commitment that gets you a win.” Tom Crean (Head Coach UGA)
There were lots more, but just a few that really got my mind going.

April 23

“New Monday, New Week, New Goals”!!!

As most of us in Georgia are a month away from summer vacation and the start of summer practices, I thought long and hard about this week’s blog especially after watching the On the Radar Sweet 16 Live Period Event at McEachern this weekend. And the thing that jumped out at me with the summer rapidly approaching was the concept of “Team Building”. In every situation whether with your team or in a business setting where groups are necessary to produce a product, generate revenue or provide services, the groups that work best together and possess a sense of shared common purpose tend to be the most effective and efficient. Therefore, I thought the this weeks and next weeks blogs should deal with “Building a Great Team”.

These are the 4 fundamental reasons for team building:

  1. We want the experience of participating on the team to be the most satisfying & enjoyable experience it can possibly be for every individual member of the team.
  2. We want each individual member of our team to experience as much personal growth as possible in context of being a member of our team.
  3. Participating on a team affords the members of that team to form meaningful & lasting relationships. The relationships we develop while participating on teams can be wonderful & lifelong.
  4. Team building is to ensure that our team is as competitive as it can possibly be; that we play the absolute best basketball that we are capable of playing, win as many games as we can, compete for championships & advance as far as we are capable of in post season play. 

Now that we have the reasons for team building in my opinion; let’s dive into “Building a Team”. We as coaches promote the concept of “the cause over self” & profess that individual achievement will be accomplished through the giving of one’s self to the goals & welfare of the team. Therefore, unselfishness & self sacrifice are two of our programs core values here at Duluth. Here are 4 things to do to help “Build a Team”:

  – Leadership by the coaching staff: As adult leaders we determine what kind of program we want to run. At Duluth, we decided to involve our players in as much of the decision making as possible because we are building men through the game of basketball. We want to achieve the highest degree of ownership & commitment as possible and we want our players to be accountable to one another & to their coaches with regard to the standards we have set for our program. As coaches we see our primary responsibility as that of helping our players establish realistic goals & expectations, then doing everything in our power to help them achieve those goals & expectations.

  – Collaboration, Ownership and Commitment: Prior to and at the beginning of the season, we at Duluth conduct a series of meetings where our players & coaches engage in discussions along with agreements on almost every aspect of our program. We look at things such as our values, behavioral expectations and consequences. We discuss the role of the coaching staff & the role of the players. We also discuss our goals for the season with benchmarks that are placed in and around our locker room. As the season gets underway, we develop an identity statement that epitomizes the kind of team we want to have for that season. It isn’t a slogan we just say here or there, but something that embodies the heart & soul of our team. This past season our team decided on: “Believe In, Buy In, Lock In, All In.”, and if you watched us play at all and truly paid attention tho the bench and interactions of the players I would say this years slogan was a representation of the Duluth Wildcats. Coaches we have to remember that players are accountable to each other, not just their coach. They live up to a set of standards & attempt to accomplish goals that they help develop, not ones imposed upon them.

  – Individual Roles: Once we have established our goals for the season as well as discover our team’s identity, we then as a staff work with each individual player to establish individual player roles. We base these roles on the specific attributes each player has in relation to the team’s goals. This part of team building is critical. The more players align his personal goals with the goals of the team & establish his role on the team accordingly, then we will have a much better chance of having a great team. This comes back to words I used earlier: unselfishness & self sacrifice. We tell players that roles can change as the season progresses as we allow him to work on the areas he would like to improve upon. However, he must be focused on & committed to his initial role. Once all of these things happen, we also somewhere in the season sometimes have what I like to call “A Come to Jesus Session” where players are reminded about roles as well as having them write down 3-5 things they can do help our team succeed. Many coaches know that this is needed at points in your season as the “outside noise” can distract a player from the ultimate goal. 

  – Communication and Reminders: Communication is an area that is essential & vital for the effectiveness of all groups. Teams that communicate on the court are normally most effective at what they do. We encourage our players to communicate on & off the court. We have them constantly give each other reminders. A great help with that is adding your team to a GroupMe Chat that they can communicate through. In addition, each member of the coaching staff has a certain group of players that he develops a relationship with on a deeper level. This communication can reiterate messages, focus a player or even head off problems before they occur. We try to reinforce communication in practice by having players call the players name many times throughout drills and on the bench during games. Once our players understand how important communication is, they normally buy in to it & take ownership for being good communicators. 

In next weeks blog, I will expand more upon the aspect of “Building Great Teams” as I watch more of the AAU Live Period as well as learn, network and grow at the MCAofGA Spring Live Period Basketball Coaches Clinic this Thursday & Friday. Coaches I hope you are able to come out and make this event GREAT!

The MCAofGA Spring Coaches Clinic has a great lineup both days that can help each of us improve whether it is the various College Coaches that will be speaking or the College Coaches Roundtable on the “State of the Game” or the High School Coaches “Chalktalk” featuring Head Boys’ Coach Darius Hodge of Hiram HS, Head Girls’ Coach & newly crowned state champion, Cedric King of Lovejoy HS, Head Boys’ Coach Allen Whitehart of Milton HS and Head Boys’ Coach & multiple state champion in Florida, Matt Anderson. Please coaches go register at www.mcaofga.com or  https://www.eventbrite.com/e/2018-minority-coaches-association-of-ga-spring-live-period-basketball-coaches-clinic-tickets-44653502829 as the cost is $75 if you pre-register or $85 at the door. The MCAofGA is all about helping us get better and growing as you can see below that the line-up coming to Atlanta on April 26 & 27 will do just that so see you there coaches:

The 2018 MCAofGA Spring Live Period Basketball Coaches Clinic & Roundtable
When: Thursday, April 26, 2018 (5:00pm-10pm) & Friday, April 27, 2018 (8:00am – 3pm)
Where: Peachtree City Hotel and Conference Center, 2443 Highway 54 West, Peachtree City, GA 30269 (Click HERE for MAP)
Cost: $75.00 (in advance/pre-register) and $85.00 (at the door) 

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Thursday, April 26th: Check-In/Registration 5-6pm

6:00pm-7:30pm College Coaches Roundtable “The State of the Game” featuring:

Aki Collins (OKC Scout & former assistant at Memphis, Marquette among others) 

Grady Brewer (Head Coach Morehouse College)

Penny Collins (Head Coach Tennessee State)

Bruce Capers (Head Coach Gordon State College)

7:40-8:30pm Terri Flournoy (Head Women’s Coach Auburn) — “Full Court Pressure Defense”

8:40pm-Until “ChalkTalk & Coaches Social” featuringCedric King (Head Girls Coach Lovejoy HS), Darius Hodge (Head Boys Coach Hiram HS), Allen Whitehart (Head Coach Milton HS), Matt Anderson (Head Coach Lincoln, FL HS)

MCAofGA Live Period Coaching Clinic Friday, April 27th9:00am-3:00pm

9:00am-9:50am Richie Riley (Head Men’s Coach South Alabama) — “Building and Re-building a Program”

10:00am-10:50am Tom Crean (Head Men’s Coach UGA) — “Offensive Concepts that work

11:00am-11:50am Will Wade (Head Men’s Coach LSU) — “Pressure Defense”

12:00 Noon LUNCH (Included in cost)

1:00pm-1:50pm Steven DeMeo (Head Coach Northwest Florida State College) — “Having Success with Ball Screens”

2:00pm-2:50pm Joni Taylor (Head Women’s Coach UGA) — “Building a Game Like Practice”

April 18 

As we get closer to summer practices and for some games, I as a Head Coach begin to think more about what I can do to get my practices better and more efficient for my players. Here is something I thought of when it comes to the impact of making practice better for your program. :

When I think of practice, I think of it as a 3 point system as it is a great way to ensure the activities you are doing in practice meet the current needs of your team as first I try to analyze WHY I am doing a various practice activity because whether we like it or admit it; our players are asking the question WHY when they are doing it. I try to be systematic about planning practice and using the right tool to teach a given aspect of the game. Many times we as coaches go to clinics and see such great drills, etc. for practice; however, we must evaluate every drill we see as to whether it can be used for our players to get them better or whether it actually impacts our practice to make it more efficient and better. In my opinion, any team activity outside of warm-ups fall into one of these categories:

1. TEACHING
– When you are showing your players how to do something, you are in the teaching phase of practice.
– This is usually categorized by instruction, demonstration, & players doing the action at a speed of 75% or less.
– It is time to move past the teaching stage when players can verbalize or explain the action you are teaching & can also do the action correctly

2. TECHNIQUE
– Technique accounts for most traditional drills. Anything where players are performing a given aspect of the game & really focusing on technique.
– This stage is identified by it’s focus on performing a single action repeatedly between 75% and full speed.
– I know it’s time to move past technique when players can correctly perform the action in the drill setting at game speed repeatedly (85%-100% correct).

3. TRAINING
– Training is any full (5 on 5) or small sided game in practice with rule modifications used to focus the game on the skill you are using. It also can be games in general that allows players to apply the skill in a realistic game setting.
– This is the type of activity to use when players can perform a skill in drills, but seem to forget or not be able to perform it in a live game.
– This is where you get the carry over from practice to games.

The key to these three stages/categories is to look at everything you do in practice & understand why you are doing it. If your players can’t tell you how to do something, then you need to teach or re-teach. If they can correctly explain the skill & perform it at game speed in a drill then they need to spend time in training activities. At the same time, you can’t jump into training activities before players can perform the movement correctly. It’s important to strike a balance in your practices. My rule of thumb is if they don’t know then I teach, if they know, but can’t do it then we drill it and if they can do it correctly in a drill but not in a game then we train.

Hopefully, this is useful for you when it comes to practice planning for the summer as well as the upcoming season. I have found it very beneficial & I think it applies directly to making me a more efficient coach.

Lastly, we are two weeks away from an opportunity as basketball coaches to get better, to network and to grow as the MCAofGA Spring Live Period Basketball Coaches Clinic is taking place April 26 & 27, 2018 at the Peachtree City Hotel & Conference Center. The MCAofGA Spring Coaches Clinic has a great lineup both days that can help each of us improve whether it is the various College Coaches that will be speaking or the College Coaches Roundtable on the “State of the Game” or the High School Coaches “Chalktalk” featuring Head Boys’ Coach Darius Hodge of Hiram HS, Head Girls’ Coach & newly crowned state champion, Cedric King of Lovejoy HS, Head Boys’ Coach Allen Whitehart of Milton HS and Head Boys’ Coach & multiple state champion in Florida, Matt Anderson. Please coaches go register at www.mcaofga.com or https://www.eventbrite.com/e/2018-minority-coaches-association-of-ga-spring-live-period-basketball-coaches-clinic-tickets-44653502829 as the cost is $75 if you pre-register or $85 at the door. The MCAofGA is all about helping us get better and growing as you can see below that the line-up coming to Atlanta on April 26 & 27 will do just that so see you there coaches:

The 2018 MCAofGA Spring Live Period Basketball Coaches Clinic & Roundtable
When: Thursday, April 26, 2018 (5:00pm-10pm) & Friday, April 27, 2018 (8:00am – 3pm)
Where: Peachtree City Hotel and Conference Center, 2443 Highway 54 West, Peachtree City, GA 30269 (Click HERE for MAP)
Cost: $75.00 (in advance/pre-register) and $85.00 (at the door)
Thursday, April 26th: Check-In/Registration 5-6pm
6:00pm-7:30pm College Coaches Roundtable “The State of the Game” featuring:
Aki Collins (OKC Scout & former assistant at Memphis, Marquette among others)
Grady Brewer (Head Coach Morehouse College)
Penny Collins (Head Coach Tennessee State)
Bruce Capers (Head Coach Gordon State College)
7:40-8:30pm Terri Flournoy (Head Women’s Coach Auburn) — “Full Court Pressure Defense”
8:40pm-Until “ChalkTalk & Coaches Social” featuring: Cedric King (Head Girls Coach Lovejoy HS), Darius Hodge (Head Boys Coach Hiram HS), Allen Whitehart (Head Coach Milton HS), Matt Anderson (Head Coach Lincoln, FL HS)
MCAofGA Live Period Coaching Clinic Friday, April 27th: 9:00am-3:00pm
9:00am-9:50am Richie Riley (Head Men’s Coach South Alabama) — “Building and Re-building a Program”
10:00am-10:50am Tom Crean (Head Men’s Coach UGA) — “Offensive Concepts that work”
11:00am-11:50am Will Wade (Head Men’s Coach LSU) — “Pressure Defense”
12:00 Noon LUNCH (Included in cost)
1:00pm-1:50pm Steven DeMeo (Head Coach Northwest Florida State College) — “Having Success with Ball Screens”
2:00pm-2:50pm Joni Taylor (Head Women’s Coach UGA) — “Building a Game Like Practice”

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