30 second time outs

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

"Magical" Steps to Creating Confident and Coachable Players

The brain registers 20,000 snap-shots (memories) every day. Those memories will be filed as either positive or negative memories. Positive memories Fill our Emotional Tanks while negative memories will drain it. When people (and players specifically) feel better due to full E-Tanks they have a more positive attitude. When we are more positive, we are more open to ideas, more optimistic, and will work harder…with the emotional energy to deal with setbacks. More confident…and more coachable based on how we categorize our memories.
I’ve mentioned in previous posts one of the key principles in the Positive Coaching Alliance’s Double-Goal Coaching philosophy is to Fill Emotional Tanks of the players. The principle is based on trying to achieve the “Magic Ratio” of five positives for every criticism or correction. There is plenty of research to support this ratio in athletics, as well as academics, business, and even relationships or marriage.
Five to one seems like a daunting task to many coaches at first glance, but with some effort is very achievable. We must critique, but do it in such a way that the player is being taught – not scolded. Remember Coach Wooden’s line about taking the time to teach implies confidence, and in some ways that is a tank-filler.
I broke down the statistics on Coach Wooden’s acts of coaching his final year at UCLA. In 1975 Tharp and Gallimore found that 83% of his words and actions were either positive or contained information designed to teach – almost exactly 5 to 1.
This Magic-Ratio is not necessarily 5:1 every play, every day, and not just what you say. Not five warm and fuzzies and one pice of coaching. It is rather the total experience the athlete recieves during their participation on the team. This ratio is achieved by not only what you say, and what you do (nonverbals), but also whatever you provide that will create a positive memory.
What other kind of things can we do as coaches, or parents, to provide positive memories for a child? Things we do like recognition, pictures, videos, awards, nice uniforms, fields, facilities and the like all provide a positive memory that Fills Emotional Tanks.

Remember when we said we wanted to “control the controllables”? There are just some things we can't control that will drain our tank and we can't do anything about them. But we can make up for them.
As a coach, when things go bad or after a tough loss we often tend to over-analyze, correct, and drain our players’ tanks even more. That is the time when we need to do our job and try to make up for that.
I was speaking to the athletic staff at Loyola University of Chicago and Brandon Eitz, the Women’s Soccer Coach, said his team comes to practice every day because of deficiencies in their facilities at the time. He said, “...and I can’t do anything about that right now…so I need to make up for it!
The other very important point about the Magic Ratio, is it is not just the coaches job, but everyone involved: the teammates, parents, fans, all can contribute. As a parent, if the coach has been particularly tough on the players that day, deserved or not, we can’t do anything about that – but we can make up for it.
It is important to encourage teammates to pitch in with positive communication. PCA suggests using the “Buddy System”. Players can partner up with a teammate and spend that day praising their teammate for everything they do well, and their partner can do the same for them. This get’s players to pay attention, think about what’s right and wrong – AND communicate in a positive manner. That only leads to a better practice.
When discussing player-to-player relationships, I like to talk about “The Golden Rule X 2”. Everyone knows “The Golden Rule” is "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you." Good teammates say good things to other teammates. “The Golden Rule X 2” states not to say anything to yourself that a good teammate wouldn’t say to you.
We all have that voice of judgment that, at times, say’s we’re not good enough. That negative self-talk is detrimental to a players’ confidence – and sometimes it’s the biggest culprit. So how do we fight that feeling?
The first step is to recognize that it is just that – a feeling. Most negative self-talk is not true, but the feeling is very real. We talk about “The Power of the Big But.” Yes – that is with ONE “T” not two.
The word “but” makes us think in a way that devalues everything that is said before it. “That was a good paper, but…”, “That is a nice outfit, but…, or “That was a good play, but…” all make us put more importance on what is said next.
 When players’ say to themselves, “I can’t guard that girl” or I can’t block that guy” they probably really can, they just “feel’ like they can’t. So we are going to use “The Power of the Big But” for good instead of evil to give our confidence a shot in the arm.
Since the word “but” erases what is before it, get them to think about the negative as a feeling first. Then insert the big but. “I feel like I can’t (whatever the doubt is)…BUT...(insert the specific coaches instruction here). It might sound like this “I feel like I can’t guard that girl BUT if I stay in stance and pick good angles, I can contain her!”
Essentially, as William James said, “If you want a quality, act as if you already had it.” In a New York Times article “First Step in Becoming a Winner: Act Like One” it says,
It’s a method — a learned skill for convincing your mind that you already are what you want to become. The body follows where the mind leads.
“Act as if you’re a great shooter,” she would instruct. “Act as if you love the drill. Act as if when you hit the deck it doesn’t hurt.” Negativity, even in the form of body language, was not tolerated.
It’s basically a decision. If I’m tired, Act As If I’m not. If I’m hot, decide it’s not going to bother me. If my confidence is shaken, “Fake it til you make it.” Coachability is, in large part, a decision too.
To be coachable a player must open their mind to help and accept they don’t know everything and be willing to listen and do what your coach says. Be able to accept criticism and not get “defensive” every time someone suggests something different is a decision. Being patient and in it for the long haul, not expecting or demanding quick results. Endure the plateaus, the highs and lows, mistakes and setbacks and be mentally tough.
Many people have tried to define “toughness” and I believe it is entirely a mental decision. Toughness is "The ability to mentally focus on, and physically execute, the ONE single thing that's MOST important right NOW!" (Remember What’s Important Now?) Players who are mentally tough are confident they attend to the task at hand and embrace the challenge.
When a Double-Goal Coach® strives to reach that Gold Standard of Coaching they help there players build their confidence, put them in a coachable state of mind by fostering the mental toughness necessary to be a Triple-Impact Competitor®.
If we expect our players to try to be good teammates, listen and try to learn, and give their best effort then we need to work as hard as he expects them to, show that we are knowledgeable, and care about them on and off the court
. We need to acknowledge their efforts and make all players feel like an important piece of the puzzle.
I came across a great piece I adapted for my teams when I sensed some players were questioning their contributions to the team:
 YoX are a ValXable
Even thoXgh my compXter is a beat-Xp, rXndown, and Xgly model, when I Xse it, it works wonderfXlly - oXtside of one key. YoX woXld think that with all the other keys fXnctioning sXitably, one key slipping Xp and not working woXld hardly be noticed, bXt jXst one key oXt of whack seems to rXin the whole effort.
YoX may say to yoXrself, “I’m jXst one gXy. No one will notice if I don’t pXt forth my very best.” BXt it does make a difference, becaXse  a groXp mXst Xnderstand that throXgh every individXal giving their very best is how yXu Xltimately achieve sXccess.
So the next time yoX think yoX are not valXable, remember my old compXter. YoX ARE  crXcial to our sXccess!
THE ONLY THING MISSING IS U
When we can create an environment where it is fun to try, without the fear of failure, kids will begin to give us a little better effort every day. And it doesn't really change much as they get older.
In an interview a few years ago with the Washington State basketball team’s point guard, Derrick Lowe. Lowe was asked why they were having such a great season after being picked last in the Pac 10 preseason poll. The legendary coach Dick Bennett had just retired, and the job was passed to his son, Tony. Both are GREAT coaches. He said, "Last year we tried to play hard because we were afraid of what would happen if we didn't. This year we are playing hard because it's a little more fun, and we are not as afraid of making a mistake."
Just last weekend Frank Gore, of the surprising San Francisco 49ers, was asked the difference in the locker room between this year under Jim Harbaugh and last year’s team who struggled under Mike Singletary, both former Chicago Bear teammates. Gore replied, “instead of being told how BAD we were, we are told WE CAN DO IT"
Whether it is Youth Sports, High School, or Pro, the player needs the coach to help them with their confidence and put the player in a “coachable” state of mind. I know all coaches want confident and coachable players, so it’s in their best interest to meet that Gold Standard of Coaching to maximize the players improvement on the climb to their personal best.
 

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Mortar

If you are a frequent visitor to this site you are quite familiar with John Wooden's Pyramid of Success. The "Pyramid" may be the most complete description of what individuals need to strive for in their pursuit of success, which Coach Wooden defines as, "peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming."

Interesting that Coach feels you should look at success, not as something concrete you achieve or attain like a championship or certain status, but simply by being "at peace with your efforts." Coach spent years trying to decide what qualities individuals must possess if they are really going to give their very best effort. This became "The Pyramid"

Many people are able to rattle off the fifteen "Blocks" of the Pyramid. The Cornerstones of Industriousness and Enthusiasm with Friendship, Cooperation, and Loyalty making up the rest of the Foundation. Self-Control, Intentness, Alertness, and Initiative make up the second tier while Condition, Team Spirit and Skill are at the Heart of the Pyramid. The above qualities may help someone develop Poise and Confidence and a person who possesses all of those qualities may achieve Competitive Greatness.

While I believe Coach Wooden was looking, primarily, at an individual's success - this also can apply to a team or organizations pursuit of that peace of mind. Different people in the group may exhibit some of those qualities in a more developed manner. I believe that as you are creating your team, this is important to keep this in mind. Someone, maybe multiple someones, need to fill each of these roles in order for the group to approach success.

However, what I really want to spend some time on is an oft-overlooked and under-rated part of John Wooden's Pyramid of Success. In addition to the qualities the Blocks represent, Coach also felt there were a series of necessary traits that, I think, may help develop and maintain the qualities of the Pyramid to an even greater extent. Wooden calls these ten traits "The Mortar" of the Pyramid. Mortar is what holds together any structure, and without it even the strongest materials (the Blocks) could fall apart. We should all concentrate on working on these traits, to solidify the work we do on developing the blocks of the Pyramid.

The Pyramid is held together by Sincerity and properly focused Ambition. There are plenty of people who are ambitious, but who choose to cut corners or bend the rules in a belief that the end justifies the means. Sincerity with others as well as a Honesty, in all ways, should guide ones' ambition. Achievement attained any other way, is not really much of an achievement at all.

On any journey there is bound to be obstacles to overcome and adjustments to the game plan. One of Coach Wooden's (and my) favorite quotes is "Things work out best for those that make the best of the way that things work out." In order to fully embrace this philosophy one must have tremendous Adaptability and Resourcefulness in any situation.

In any of those cases an individual must continue to Fight, but it is important to fight with Integrity. Do the right thing because it's the right thing to do and show some Reliability. When others depend on you, as teammates depend on each other, that reliability is what builds trust. This trust allows each individual to do their job, because they know the other member  will do his. When that breaks down on either side, there is a subconscious (and sometimes conscious) tendency to not live up to one end of the bargain.

The two most emphasized traits in "The Mortar" are Patience and Faith. Anything worth being successful at does not come easy and will take time to build. It is impossible to get there without these two traits. Patience and Faith does not mean just sitting back and letting things happen. Generally those are the people that end up asking, "What just happened"?

Patience and Faith are both active processes. Patience is progressing at the appropriate rate, and not trying to get somewhere too soon. Often people are in such a hurry to achieve  "success" they try to rush. It is vital to go through the proper progression and at the proper rate. e prepared for when the time comes, but don't rush to get there before being prepared. This is probably one of the most common reasons for failure in any group, team, organization or business. Too many people think, "God grant me patience...but I want it NOW!"

I believe that Faith is pretty close to the "peace of mind" John Wooden pursues in trying to attain success. When someone knows they are giving their best effort to do the things they need to be doing, it's much easier to have faiththat will happen. If an individual is doing those two things they must understand that things will work out about as they should.

This is true in life, and on the scoreboard. Absolutely believing in this, is having Faith.

Monday, August 20, 2012

TIME

People all around the world have different lives, different, jobs, different cars, different homes - but we all have one thing the same and that is TIME. Every day- everyone has the same amount of time. 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, 24 hours in a day. 86,400 seconds. How those 86.400 seconds are used often defines our lives. If you've been reading often you know I'm an old John Wooden disciple, so get ready for some "Wooden-isms". One of Coach Wooden's most famous quotes is,"Don't mistake activity for achievement." Many folks get caught up in going, going, going and "appear" really busy. Often times those people are in a a hurry - and we all know to "Be Quick - but Don't Hurry". I See people rushing around all the time because they are in one of two extremes. They either lack planning or preparation and "Failing to prepare is preparing to fail." And "if you don't have time to do it right - when are you going to find the time to do it over?" At times people are at the other extreme where they micro-manage and work far harder than they need to. The key, sometimes, is to work smarter not harder, and that often involves organization. At times it is important in the organization process to just stop and think. Take the time to develop your thoughts and plan accordingly. Slowing down to think makes some people uncomfortable because they feel like they aren't doing something. Many times when I'm reading, browsing, or even "tweeting" I'll be asked what I'm doing. I do those things because I like to know stuff. I guess formally they'd call that learning and education. That accumulation of knowledge, while folly to some, is preparation to me. I'm not always sure what - but I have faith that someday - that knowledge, however trivial it may seem, may come in handy at some point and I want to be prepared for that. Abe Lincoln said
"Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe."
I look at these times simply as "sharpening the axe". If more people spent time "sharpening the axe" it might be easier to "chop down their tree". Metaphorically speaking, of course. So we need to train ourselves to accept the fact that just thinking is good. There have been plenty of recent studies that show this may be your most productive time.One of the most oft-repeated quotes comes from Bill Bradley, star NBA guard for the Knicks and American Politician who quoted in his book Values of the Game,
Somewhere someone is practicing. If you're not and you meet them in competition, all other things being equal, you will lose!
I’m wondering if MAYBE the following statement is just as true...
Somewhere, someone is resting and recovering. That will revitalize them to the point when they take the court again, they will work harder, longer, and with more focus . This periodization of training leads to a more productive practice regimen. And when and you meet them in competition, all other things being equal, you will lose! --Coach Lok
I think the same thing applies to our work and our everyday lives. The key may be to look at work just like training. You can't go 100% all the time. There needs to be some "periodization" involved. So whatever you're doing, whether it's working, recovering, or "sharpening the axe" - do so with a purpose. And put all 86,400 seconds to good use.
"If you can fill the unforgiving minute, With sixty seconds' worth of distance run - Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it..." --Rudyard Kipling's "IF"
How we "fill the unforgiving minute..." always reminds me of the wonderful poem "The Dash" by Linda Ellis which she eloquently describes as the little line between the date of someones birth and the date their death which represents all that has happened between...how that life has been lived.. You'll enjoy spending some time watching "The Dash movie" too. What are we going to do to make sure our "dash" represents what we want it to? It's good to think about what we want our dash to represent, and what we are going to do to ensure that happens. Set some goals, work to achieve them - then if you"re derailed, keep plugging away without being discouraged. "Now" just may not be the time. I remember a comic strip, I think it was Frank & Ernest, where one of them was praying and said "God, how long is a million years? "A voice from above said, "To me, it’s about a minute." The man asked, "God, how much is a million dollars? "The voice bellowed, "To me, its just a penny. "In the next frame the man smiled and asked, "God, can I have a penny? " God answered, "In a minute." I think of this all the times when something doesn't seem to be happening on MY schedule or as fast as I want it to. In the coaching profession so many coaches are looking for that next job, or how to "move up". Life's not always on OUR schedule. Keep working. Do the right thing. Make the big time wherever you are. Be patient. Have faith. An often overlooked feature of John Wooden's Pyramid of Success are the sides of the Pyramid - which is the mortar that holds the 15 blocks together. Notice the mortar at the top of the Pyramid is "Patience" and "Faith" Stay tuned for next month when we'll discuss the "mortar" that holds the Pyramid of Success together. Until then..be patient.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Positive Parent Involvement

Coaches often look at parents as a potential problem in a program - and they can be if you let them, but they can also be your biggest resource. When you communicate and can get them on your side, there is no stopping the places you an go. Laying out expectations early on and getting the parents to "buy into" your system is a major step in creating a Positive culture where everyone is working towards a common goal to improve the program.

There are far too many potential jobs or duties to run a successful team, and that can become burdensome for any coach or staff. Convincing parents the value of assisting in these responsibilities creates some ownership and much can more can be accomplished. At worst, it will follow the old adage, "keep your friends close, and your enemies closer".

I like to take all the potential duties and find something every family can contribute to. For example, on a youth baseball team of twelve players, you could have: 1)Manager 2) Assistant Coach 3) Assistant Coach 4)Scorekeeper 5) Pitch Count 6) Team Mom 7)Snack Schedule 8)Fundraising  9)Team Photos 10)Team Parties 11)Field Maintenance  12)Field Maintenance. When everyone pitches in and pulls a little bit of weight there becomes a much greater sense of camaraderie. This togetherness trickles down to the players and can only help.

As a parent, be involved in a positive way. Attend your child’s games as often as you can. Cheer for all the kids on the team.  If you’re not sure how to help, ask the coach. There are a bunch of ways to be a good team member and a good parent at the same time. Help with fund raising. Assist with logistics. When the larger definition of team is working well, the experience can be wonderful for everyone involved. People who see your program in action will want to be a part of it. Parents looking ahead to when their child will be old enough to participate at that level will want to fit in and help. This kind of teamwork perpetuates itself. Once it gets momentum, it can be quite a force. It just takes parents who care...and a coach who enables them by getting that momentum started.
Please don’t talk bad about the coach in front of your child. The worst thing a parent can do is take pot shots at the coach, criticizing decisions, and complaining about his leadership. Support the coach and stand behind his decisions.

Don’t blame the coach for your child’s problems or lack of playing time. Your child´s struggles to succeed are your child’s problems. Let him work them out without your interference. A player has every right to ask a coach what needs to be done to earn more playing time, for example. But a parent stepping in to demand playing time is another thing altogether.

One of the biggest lessons we can give our children is empowering them to Have an adult conversation with a figure of authority about something in which they disagree. Not a "whiney/I didn't get my way" kind of conversation, but a mature one that presents a concern, discusses the problem, and ultimately accepts the answer or decision.

If a player is not prepared to have that conversation, prepare them with a little role-play. Then send them to the coach to have the conversation. If they still don't want to have that conversation it may just be more important to us than it is to them.

Please don’t harass the refs. Parents that loudly harass the referee are embarrassing to the player and the team. When a parent makes a spectacle of himself at a game, the player is embarrassed. If the ref is being yelled at by a parent for a bad call (by definition, a bad call is any decision made against the parent’s child), what does the player learn? He learns that the mistake wasn’t his fault. It was the result of poor officiating. This is a bad habit to get into. Don´t encourage your child to place the blame for their failures upon others. One of the benefits of playing sports is learning to accept responsibility instead of making excuses. Sometimes a call is hard to take for whatever reason. Such times are tests of emotional control. If a player can learn to bite his lip and move on, a parent can learn to sit quietly for a moment and let the emotion pass. Learning to cope with disappointment is a valuable life skill.

Please don’t razz the other team’s players. The other team's players should be considered off limits. Yelling at or deriding someone else’s child is a shameful practice for an adult at a sporting event. Parents who intend to disrupt, distract or upset players exhibit the worst of poor sportsmanship.
Here are some guidelines for parents to give their children who participate in sports. Three simple rules: First, once you start, you finish. Do not allow your children to quit a team for any reason (oth than personal or psychological safety). It may feel good at the time, but quitting has a long standing effect.  Second, the coach’s decision is final. Do not intercede or interfere whether you like a decision or not. Third, teach the player do whatever it takes to make the team successful. Personal glory pales in relationship to team success.

The following  guidelines are adapted from Positive Coaching: Building Character and Self-Esteem Through Sports by Jim Thompson, the founder and leader of the Positive Coaching Alliance.
Coach-Parent Partnership
Research is clear that when parents and teachers work together a child tends to do better in school. There is no reason to think that it is any different in youth sports. The following are some guidelines for how parents can contribute to a Coach/Parent Partnership that can help the athlete have the best possible experience.
Recognize the Commitment the Coach Has Made: For whatever reason, you have chosen not to help coach the team. The coach has made a commitment that involves many, many hours of preparation beyond the hours spent at practices and games. Recognize his commitment and the fact that he is not doing it because of the pay! Try to remember this whenever something goes awry during the season.
Make Early, Positive Contact with the Coach: As soon as you know who your child’s coach is going to be, contact her to introduce yourself and let her know you want to help your child have the best experience she can have this season. To the extent that you can do so, ask if there is any way you can help. By getting to know the coach early and establishing a positive relationship, it will be much easier to talk with her later if a problem arises.
Fill the Coach's Emotional Tank: When the coach is doing something you like, let him know about it. Coaching is a difficult job and most coaches only hear from parents when they want to complain about something. This will help fill the coach’s emotional tank and contribute to his doing a better job. It also makes it easier to raise problems later when you have shown support for the good things he is doing. And just about every coach does a lot of things well. Take the time to look for them.
Don't Put the Player in the Middle: Imagine a situation around the dinner table, in which a child"s parents complain in front of her about how poorly her math teacher is teaching fractions. How would this impact this student’s motivation to work hard to learn fractions? How would it affect her love of mathematics? While this may seem farfetched, when we move away from school to youth sports, it is all too common for parents to share their disapproval of a coach with their children. This puts a young athlete in a bind. Divided loyalties do not make it easy for a child to do her best. Conversely, when parents support a coach, it is that much easier for the child to put her wholehearted effort into learning to play well. If you think your child"s coach is not handling a situation well, do not tell that to the player. Rather, seek a meeting with the coach in which you can talk with her about it.
Don't Give Instructions During a Game or Practice: You are not one of the coaches, so do not give your child instructions about how to play. It can be very confusing for a child to hear someone other than the coach yelling out instructions during a game. As in #4 above, if you have an idea for a tactic, go to the coach and offer it to him. Then let him decide whether he is going to use it or not. If he decides not to use it, let it be. Getting to decide those things is one of the privileges he has earned by making the commitment to coach.
Fill Your Child's Emotional Tank: Perhaps the most important thing you can do is to be there for your child. Competitive sports are stressful to players and the last thing they need is a critic at home. Be a cheerleader for your child. Focus on the positive things she is doing and leave the correcting of mistakes to the coach. Let her know you support her without reservation regardless of how well she plays.
Fill the Emotional Tanks of the Entire Team: Cheer for all of the players on the team. Tell each of them when you see them doing something well.
Encourage Other Parents to Honor the Game: Don"t show disrespect for the other team or the officials. But more than that, encourage other parents to also Honor the Game. If a parent of a player on your team begins to berate the official, gently say to them, "Hey, that"s not Honoring the Game. That"s not the way we do things here."
For more tips from Positive Coaching Alliance, visit http://www.positivecoach.org/our-tools/tools-for-parents/

This Coach-Parent Partnership is not a one way street by any stretch of the imagination. It is not only parents who need to give.  Many coaches, I believe, view this partnership as an adversarial relationship from the start and try to minimize communication - which may be the worst thing to do.
All too often, the root of all problems becomes discussions over playing time, and coaches try to avoid this conversation like the plague. I like to re frame that conversation from "why isn't my son/daughter playing" to "what can my son/daughter improve on so they can earn more playing time".  I'll have that conversation any day.

We talk all the time as a staff about coaching the way we would want our son or daughter to be coached. We call this "Parenting the Program". We would expect the coach, first and foremost, to be fair. We would want the coach to display patience and understanding with our child and the team. We want to be clear and concise in how we teach, giving the player the know-how to perform, and then help them towards improvement, while encouraging them all the way and Relentlessly Rewarding Desired Effort.

Most of all we want to treat the player with the same respect that we ask of them. Scold and discipline when necessary, but re-teach and praise immediately following. We never want a player to leave the gym with a negative impression of how the coaches feel about them. We all would like to win (PCA's first goal), but as a Double-Goal Coach we need to recognize the self-esteem and life lessons our players are learning (the second goal) are far more important.

Every Sports Parent should consider the  obligation of being a Second-Goal Parent an d focus on the life-lessons your child is learning. Leave the winning and performance up to the players and coaches.  Remember, even if we have the worst coach on the worst team and finish with the worst record - it can still be a positive and productive season if we focus on the life-lessons learned. Prior to next season take a look at this Parent Pledge, committing to the supportive behavior of a Second-Goal Parent. Be a Culture Keeper and contribute to the positive environment that every child deserves when they play sports. We're all in this together.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

THE POST-GAME HANDSHAKE

The "Post-Game Handshake" has come under a lot of fire recently due to some confrontations, poor acts of sportsmanship, disrespect, or simply the percieved lack of sincerity in the process. Some organizations and leagues have discussed and/or actually eliminated the practice. A nice discussion started on Twitter after my friend @ClarenceGaines2 shared that @CoachFinamore had called into a show on the topic by @HeyCoachTony on his show, aptly named, "Hey Coach Tony"

Coach Tony, whose show originates from Conneticut, provided an opportunity for my friend Steve Finamore, a successful high school basketball coach at East Lansing High School in Michigan and opened the door for discussion with a couple guys from SoCal. How great is Twitter? Their premise that handshakes have become meaningless, empty gestures and create an opportunity for some conflict isI actually one I largely agree with agree with. However...

The fact that a situation creates a potential conflict is not reason enough to outlaw  it, but rather creates another teachable moment we can use to allow another life lesson to be learned. It takes a certain amount of character to do your best, fall a little short and congratulate the victor with dignity and grace - even when you are disappointed and may not feel like it. This doesn't happen only in athletics, this happens in life. Whether it's who got an "A" in a class, won the talent show, made  the big sale, got the job promotion, or even when a decision doesn't go your way after a good debate.

Network TV is full of reality shows that are competition based like the talent driven "American Idol" and "X-Factor" or shows where a winner is chosen, such as "The Apprentice" or even "The Bachelor". Producers apparently feel it is good TV to zoom in on the losers and every time I see one who is irrate, disrespectful, or devasted to tears,  I think to myself, "that person must not have played sports". What a valuable lesson can be learned to help the player quickly recover from setbacks.

Players need to learn to accept the fact that, while it is often much more fun to win, it is entirely possible to be dissappointed in a result, but proud of your efforts. When a player can face the fact that the gave their best Effort, executed what they've learned, and managed Mistakes - yet still came up short - they have done all they could do. This recognition can deaden some of the sting in a difficult loss, but the point must be consistently reinforced by all those involved - teammates, parents, and coaches.

The reality is that if you have done all those things, and the opponent was still able to defeat you...they must be pretty darn good and deserving of your respct. By congratulating them, you are reallycongratulating yourself by telling them that they must have had to really "bring it" that day if they were going to beat you.

Think about what the disappointment and tears after a loss really means. It's not a stretch to understand they come from the exact same place in your soul as tears of joy. All of the work that caused you to care so much that makes losing so difficult is something a player should be really proud of. All that work must have created a whole lot of joy along the way while you were preparing to play that game. There usually is not great dissappointment after a loss until players have endured the real rigors of preparation to compete that day and have felt the great thrill of victory at some point in the past.

Instead of eliminating "the Post-Game Handshake" because of a potential conflict or the"empty gesture" that it often is,  Double-Goal Coaches should work towards filling this moment with meaning, rather than simply participating in a well intentioned ritual of sportsmanship.

I'm always very impressed with Roy Williams and Mike Kzryzewski who consistently appear to have very sincere comments to opposing coaches and certain players after their games, win or lose. There are some coaches who might need to follow their lead and be a bit more sincere as well. If coaches can learn to exercise this practice, certainly players can too.

Athletes should be taught to always pay attention to what their opponents are doing during the competition, as that helps them strive to compete their very best. If a player can recognize ane remember  positive aspects of an opponents play, that is precisely what they should  appreciate the foe during the Post-Game Handshake. A simple, truthful and specific statement to an opposing player after the game to acknowledge good shooting, nice pitching, or great hustle is honoring your opponent's good efforts. I know players would be honored if an opponent said that about them, so do unto others...

In several of our Positive Coaching Alliance Workshops we show a famous picture of Aaron Afflalo helping up a distraught Adam Morrison after a game. UCLA had just come back from  a 16pt deficit to win in the final seconds, ending Morrison's career and catapulting UCLA into the Final Four.

It always amazes me that at that precise moment in time, the rest of the Bruins were celebrating in a dogpile and getting ready to cut down the nets. Rather than joining in the celebration,  in the great display of respect, Afflalo stopped to help his fallen foe. 

The intesting thing about respect is it is earned, not just given. By competing in such a way that makes an impression on your opponent,  a player is much more likely to get that same respect back. Afflalo and Morrison battled for the entire game, and possibly several times earlier in their career. They had earned each others respect.

The other aspect involved is showing some  compassion and empathy. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. It is much easier for an individual to win with grace when they have also experienced losing with dignity. For that reason we need to take special care in not "protecting" our players from losing by arranging for them to be on certain teams, or jumping from a team that struggles to another that wins. There are plenty of great lessons that come from losing...if we manage them properly.

It turns out that I know for a fact that Afflalo understood and was able to share Morrison's feelings. A couple years earlier Afflalo was a great high school player competing for a championship in an early game at the Anaheim Pond. It was a tremendous game with several lead changes, a last second shot to go into overtime, which was ultimately lost be Afflalos team. I personally witnessed him handling the defeat then with as much class as he handled their victory a couple year later.

I was present at that game because we were scheduled to play for our divisions championship next. We had just upset the #1 seed, Artesia, and our opponent, Palm Desert, had knocked off the #2 seed in the semis. Palm Desert was coached by a very good friend of mine,  Don Brady, who I served with on the Executive Board of the Southern California Interscholastic Basketball Coaches Association for several years.

Our children were around the same age and as they were kids growing up Don coached his kids, as I coached mine. We often discussed their progress as student-athletes and the trials and tribulations of being "Coach-Dad".  My son had just graduated and I had the fortune to coach him in high school. Now Don was living that dream with his son, Donald Jr, in a championship game.

Donald Jr, was the starting shooting guard, had a great basketball IQ, and was the ultimate "coaches kid." he had the best game of all his teammates that day but, fortunately for me,  we played a great "Fourth Quarter in March" and pulled away for the first California Interscholastic Federation Championship in our schools history.

While my guys met at mid-court and I was congratulating my staff...I thought of Don. While we were experiencing the "Thrill of Victory" he was feeling the "Agony of Defeat". I had been in his shoes as the Runner-Up twice before and knew exactly how he felt. So I cut the celebration a bit short and proceeded to start the "Post-agame Handshake Line"

Don and I exchanged congratulations, because they had a magical season too.  When I reached Donald Jr I stopped and explained what a special year it was for him and his Dad, something he's been dreaming about since you were in the 3rd grade and a time they should never forget. He got just a bit more "misty" but we exchanged hugs and moved on to the next person in line.

In an interesting turn of events, he went to University of of Redlands and was classmates with my daughter. They became both played basketball, became great friends and he was actually a teammate and roommates with her future husband. The topic of our game would come up periodically and he told them he was handling the loss just fine until that point in the handshake line. But it was a special moment none-the-less.

I still watch my own son, who has become a college assistant coach, in handshake lines. When the game ends I am tansfixed to his exchanges with opposing coaches and players and am proud at how he manages that situation, win or lose. I see the progression from Hand Slap to Hand Shake to Hand Shake plus a Shoulder Slap to Hand Shake and a "Bro-Hug or all the way to the full man hug when you feel the ultimate respect.

I currently see this practice of respect in many handshake lines among a few players that are particular standouts, friends, or with opponents who they may have been matched up against each other at some point in the contest. However, players can be even more diligent in their observations of all players and, if if nothing else to say comes to mind - thank them! 

Without  an opponent we couldnt play the game, and a quality opponent is a special gift. Nothing is better than a close, hard-fought game. However, those are also the games that get the most tense and, at times, lead to players being disappointed, upset, angry, and holding grudges...which makes the handshake difficult. But in reality, those are the kind of games Triple-Impact Competitors really love to play in. So at the very least solid  eye-contact, a firm handshake, accompanied by a sincere "Thank You!" might truly be in order.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

TWELVE WEEKS OF BASKETBALL CHRISTMAS

I always get players (and coaches) asking for how they can improve any number of different skills or strategies. Everybody`s "wish list" is a little different -some are thoughtful and some are...interesting. Players usually want to know how to increase their vertical, or dunk in no time flat. Rarely do they ask how to execute a proper jump stop, bounce pass, or mid range jump shot off the glass. Some coaches want that one drill or play that will turn their team into championship contenders. It's good to add drills and plays to your arsenal - as long as we don`t forget to simply teach players HOW to play.The amazing thing about the game of basketball is that there are NO short cuts. Your daily efforts are what lead to positive results.

It`s different than Christmas. There is nothing "magical" that is going to happen one day, nothing that is going to show up under your Christmas tree that will make you instantly better. Santa Claus is not going to bring you an amazing vertical or a pure jump shot. Kris Kringle will not make your team a group of turnover free, tenacious defenders. There is no one tip or one special play that will make a player or team instantly better. Just hard work and repetitions with a specific goal in mind. Over and over again. The right way. With positive coaching feedback and NO slippage. Practice makes perfect? Or the quest for perfect practice makes perfect? Mistakes, failures, and setbacks will occur, how you manage those mistakes determine your progress.

In keeping with the Spirit of Christmas I thought I`d leave you with a little song, sung to the tune of "The Twelve Days of Christmas"

Monday, September 26, 2011

Marriage is Like Basketball

"Marriage, and life, is like basketball.
You need to develop a game plan.
And try to give your very best effort every day.









Have patience...but not too much...
Sometimes you need to take time out to talk.
Then make some adjustments.

Manage your mistakes and deal with setbacks.
Then come back the next day even more determined.
But most of all you need to care enough to make the commitment.

Each and every day.
To yourself...and your teammate,
To be selfless enough to do your very best
To try and never let them down.


All these lessons you learned through basketball
Will help you while you move forward
In life... as Husband and Wife."

- - Ray Lokar, as Father of the Bride
in Toast to Mr. & Mrs. Dave Thomas

Congratulations to Heather and Dave!

September 24, 2011

Friday, July 01, 2011

Why Play DIII Sports

I coached basketball for 9 years at Pomona-Pitzer College and our D3 athletes played for the right reasons. They did not play for a scholarship or dreams of pro career. They loved to compete - but also wanted to be students - and I had some tremendous mentors that allowed them to do so.

My oldest son had the opportunity to play basketball AND baseball at D3, before ultimately deciding on just hoops where he was a starter and a captain- graduating Summa Cum Laude at the University of La Verne. He also met his wife at the college and 9 years later they have a beautiful little daughter.

My oldest daughter majored in biology, played hoops, started for two years (is still in the record books), was the Fellowship of Christian Athletes campus rep, worked in Intramurals AND in the Athletic Training Department getting a great introduction to her career - as she is a few months from completing her Doctorate in Physical Therapy after graduating Phi Beta Kappa at University of Redlands.

My youngest daughter ran Track and Cross Country, majored in Liberal Studies, minored in Drama, acted in plays, Studied Theater abroad in London AND competed on the International Debate Team traveling to Oxford, Turkey, and around the United States... She was a Resident Advisor in the dorms and also graduated Summa Cum Laude and first in her class in the College of Education, also at ULV.

The older two had grant-in-aid offers at higher divisions and chose to attend a school in which they could successfully compete in collegiate athletics AND be involved in campus life to achieve their academic goals without pressure from a coach to put their academic pursuits behind those of the program. The youngest played three team sports in high school (as did her older sister) wanted to be involved in campus life and was not going to compete - until the Track Coach convinced her to come out... assuring here she could still meet ALL her educational goals.

The three could NEVER have had that breadth of collegiate experiences at any other level of competition. THAT'S why they play D3.

The following poem was shared at one of my daughters team meetings:
"It's not about getting a scholarship, getting drafted, or making SportsCenter. It's a deep need in us that comes from the heart. We need to practice, to play, to lift, to hustle, to sweat. We do it all for our teammates and for the student in our calculus class that we don't even know.

We don't practice with a future major league first baseman; we practice with a future sports agent. We don't lift weights with a future Olympic wrestler; we lift with a future doctor. We don't run with a future Wimbledon champion; we run with a future CEO. It's a bigger part of us than our friends and family can understand. Sometimes we play for 2,000 fans; sometimes 25. But we still play hard. You cheer for us because you know us. You know more than just our names. Like all of you, we are students first. We don't sign autographs. But we do sign graduate school applications, MCAT exams, and student body petitions. When we miss a kick or strike out, we don't let down an entire state. We only let down our teammates, coaches, and fans.

But the hurt is still the same. We train hard, lift, throw, run, kick, tackle, shoot, dribble, and lift some more, and in the morning we go to class. And in that class we are nothing more than students. It's about pride - in ourselves, in our school. It's about our love and passion for the game. And when it's over, when we walk off that court or field for the last time, our hearts crumble. Those tears are real. But deep down inside, we are very proud of ourselves. We will forever be what few can claim ... college athletes."
--author unknown

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Post Season Recognition in Youth Sports

There is always plenty of discussion and varying opinions when it comes to post season trophies in youth sports. There is a great thread in the "Ask PCA" page on the Positive Coaching Alliance website Some leagues choose to give "participation awards" to everyone, while others award the top finishers with varying size trophies. I tend to think that initially all players should get a participant trophy. Youngsters get excited at that's what it is ALL about at that age.

As players get a bit older there are many life-lessons that sink in and "earning" awards becomes much more meaningful. This might be at U10 or U12. This is an opportunity to reward hard work and achievement and, in a way, encourage those who didn't get an award to come back and work even harder next season. However, even at that, I believe each player should get some token to commemorate the season. Maybe that is a smaller medal, pin, or even a framed team photo.

I got an idea from my daughters high school coach who would go to the 99¢ store and buy a "gag gift" for every player. Maybe a box of band-aids for the player most often injured, miniature furniture for the player who "did the little things", or sunglasses for a youngster whose "future was bright", etc.

During her high school years some of my daughters most prized awards might be a rock she got as a sophomore because they were "going to build their program on this rock" and a toy "Warrior" she received as a junior for playing thru injuries.

Coincidentally, her college hired a new coach her senior year - and he gave the same kind of recognition and printed "Certificates" such as "Most Likely to Commit Assault" for a girl who fouled too much, and other similar awards. Of course they both talked about how they improved and some good moments on the year too.

Recently, I coached my youngest son's U10 basketball team. I decided at the end of the year to go the "gag gift" route. So I trekked to the 99¢ store and walked the aisles trying to figure the most appropriate "award" for each youngster. It turned out to be a great exercise that I might suggest any coach at any level think about doing.

It was almost like the infamous Survivor "Rite of Passage" that the finalists go through on each season. The remaining Survivors go on a hike and come across the torch of those who have been voted off. At each stop they reflect on each participant. My trip through the store was similar.

I walked up and down the aisle and ended up buying a formula one race car for our quickest player, a megaphone for the kid that cheered the loudest, a calculator for the player who always had something to add, and a game of "Topple" for a big kid who needed to work on his balance. It gave me time to really consider the contributions of each and every player and it embedded a memory of them in my mind forever. We had a great time and a lot of laughs at our postseason Pizza Party Banquet as we passed out these "awards".

Finally, some thoughts about individual awards. Most coaches at higher levels give an MVP, Hustle, and you could maybe go with defense, or a "Coaches Award" which gives you some leeway to make something up for that deserving player who doesn't fit into a category. However, here's something for everybody to think about. Many times I think that we spend so much time preaching *TEAM* and the value of every player... and then at the end of the year we say who is *Most* Valuable???

One of the best coaches I've ever coached for (has over 700 victories) has had 3 of the top scorers in California's Southern Section history (over 600 schools) and doesn't ever give any individual awards at his banquets. Every single kid gets a really nice framed photo with his locker plaque at the bottom. All the same. Each player has equal value. Those who were primarily defenders, rebounders, screeners, or cheerleaders... or the leading scorer in section history.

Something to be said for that.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Why Coach/Teach?

An old man going a lone highway
Came at the evening cold and gray
To a chasm vast and deep and wide,
Through which was flowing a swollen tide.
The old man crossed in the twilight dim
That swollen stream held no fears for him
But he paused when safe on the other side
And built a bridge to span the tide.

"Old man," said a fellow pilgrim near,
"You are wasting strength with building here.
Your journey will end with the ending day;
You never again must pass this way.
You have crossed the chasm deep and wide;
Why build you the bridge at the eventide?"

The builder lifted his old gray head,
"Good friend, in the path I have come," he said,
"There follows after me today
A youth whose feet must pass this way.
This swollen stream which was naught to me
To that fair haired youth may a pitfall be.
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim.
Good friend, I am building the bridge for him."

--Anonymous

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

SOME RANDOM THOUGHTS ABOUT PRACTICE

Coaches need to constantly discover ways to improve their drills or get the most out of them. All coaches have their own sets of drills that teach their basketball philosophy, but there are many ways that you can create more intensity, enthusiasm, discipline, etc. This can be done by evaluating all the factors involved in a drill. Drill what fits your own offensive or defensive philosophy. Believe in what you are doing. Practice things you'll be trying to do in actual games.



Give all drills a name so players can identify the procedure and purpose of each drill. For example, "Two-Ball Power-Ups" drills on inside power moves, using two balls in the lane area. Don't waste time on the floor going from drill to drill. Discipline your players to sprint to the next drill station. You don't want to find yourself spending too much time explaining how to run a drill. Demonstrate all new drills on chalkboard prior to practice or give the players a page for their playbook the night before, to avoid confusion on the floor. 



Break down drills and design them so that all your players are working. Take full advantage of the gym's side baskets and your assistant coaches. Many times you can use players not in certain drills as outlets or feeders. Or have them shoot free throws. Obviously, though, there will be times when you'll want them to just watch and listen to all instructions and criticisms. Always do drills on both sides of the court, so that footwork, ball-handling and vision are properly developed. 



Never allow players to complete a drill without having done it properly at least once. Coaches must demand proper execution before we can progress with any amount of success. Having players do a particular drill right a few times builds confidence that they can do it. Repeat all drills throughout the season. Repeating drills correctly, with intensity, develops habits that are hard to break.



Never allow your players to become bored with a drill or to lose their intensity because you stay with it for too long a time. Come back to that drill the next day rather than have your players lose interest. Talk about critical mistakes made in the drill in pre-practice chalk talks, rather than on the court.



We all have players who ask questions during drills in order to take a break. We encourage questions and suggestions from our players about how we might do things better, so long as it done off of the court. To help this we have "teaching drills" where questions and explanations are encouraged and "competitive drills" where it is more game like and the players need to self correct and make adjustments on their own.



You must communicate on the court to be successful and organized. Be sure all coaches and players speak the same language. For instance, some teams may use the word "Go" when switching; other programs may just use "Switch." Constantly be aware that the same words trigger different reactions from different people. Be sure all players understand exactly what your key words mean.



Try to make all drills as much like a game as possible. Using the scoreboard AND calling fouls create game-like situations and may help your players react better in actual games. All players love drills with something on the line, such as a sprint or push-ups. This competition generates enthusiasm and intensity. End all drills with a rebound, turnover, basket, foul, offensive charge or transition. All fouls should be called during practice and offenders penalized as in a game. We like to assign a few push-ups to a player who commits a foul. This reinforces our concern for playing tough defense without fouling. Develop transition into your half-court drills so your players will react to turnovers and push the ball up the court. It also motivates the defense to force errors and capitalize. Also, players seem to enjoy transition basketball.



Keep statistics in practice. This added pressure forces players to concentrate. Evaluate daily stats and post them in the locker room. Keep cumulative stats as well, to provide goals and weekly standards. It's extremely important that your players be aware that you're constantly checking their numbers on field goals and free-throw percentage, rebounds, assists and turnovers.



If you videotape your practices, you'll be able to see the whole court and evaluate how all your players performed at practice. Taping your practices also allows you to evaluate the effectiveness of your drills.



Add options to all drills that will give each a different look and a different emphasis. These additions will generate enthusiasm among your players.



Going 3-on-3 and 4-on-4 puts added pressure on the defense because you remove weak-side help in most cases and force the defense to cover a larger area of the floor. Setting drills so the defense or offense is at a disadvantage forces tremendous intensity and execution to complete the drills successfully.Demand that all drills be run at full speed. Constantly check defensive positioning and talk about breakdowns as they occur.



Never put players in situations where they're consistently getting scored on, or constantly being stopped. Do everything possible to build confidence for both the offensive and defense.

Always demand a maximum effort from your players, both mentally and physically, in practice drills. This will prepare them to face all game situations successfully. Drills should be your best conditioner. If you demand hustle and push your players to execute properly, they'll be in condition to play full games.

We believe in the following rules for our players during practice: go at full speed; never criticize a teammate; always try to compliment a teammate; be positive and enthusiastic. The same goes for our coaches, with an additional rule: Give constructive criticism ("Liked your effort, but here's a better way").

Reward your players daily and weekly with positive verbal reinforcement, plus actual awards of some kind, such as: Weekly Rebound Award ("Chairman of the Boards"); Weekly Free-throw Award; Draw The Charge Champion; Defensive Player Of The Week.

Be able to take time for a "fun" drill each practice session. This will help boost team morale and create a positive practice atmosphere. As coaches, we can better prepare our teams for the tough grind of a season through the effectiveness of our drills. We can make it so our players enjoy drills and practice more through the constant evaluation of our practice sessions.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Lifelong Learner

If you're visiting here then you're probably like me and have a thirst for knowledge. There are so many great sites to visit -and here's one you should definitely give a look to.

HoopsU.com is giving away 5 yearly memberships to Hoops U. Insider as part of the Hoops U. Relaunch Event! Click your way over right now to get in on the fun!

Lok's Ledger