30 second time outs

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


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."


Wednesday, May 18, 2011


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!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The New Apprenticeships - Playing for Coach-Dads & Coach-Moms (with Top 25 Tips to make it the time of your lives)

My name is Ray... and I Tweet. Yes, I get on Twitter, follow some absolutely great people, have learned a ton and share thoughts with some great "followers". I have built some great relationships with like-minded people who I’ve never met face to face –yet consider friends. It’s opened some doors, and actually led to my being a contributor here. So don't be afraid. Like they used to tell Mikey on the Life Cereal commercials, "Try it… you'll like it!"
My philosophy with Twitter is “Here is what I'm thinking. What do you think?” You can follow me here and try it out.

Those who have read my previous entries (or those who have followed me on Twitter) know that I coached middle-school for 6 years, in high school for 13 years, at the college level for 9 years, but the most difficult coaching I’ve experienced was the 15 years that I coached my children in a variety of youth-sports. As you could imagine, I learned a bunch of “dos and don’ts” during that time.

On the morning of Father's Day nearly a year ago I thought that I would share some thoughts on Twitter for all of the Dads that coach their kids' youth teams. I wrote a bunch in the morning and scheduled them to post automatically throughout the day. This way I could do what I really wanted to do that day… spend time with my four children.

Now that I spend a little less time coaching, I’m fortunate enough to travel the country for Positive Coaching Alliance and have talked to youth sports organizations (YSOs) from Southern California to Toronto to Tampa, and several stops in between. I get to “coach coaches” on ways to have more fun, maximize player performance, build Positive character attributes, and improve the entire Sports Experience for everyone involved.

When I present our Double-Goal Coach®: Winning and Life Lessons Workshop to these YSO’s it’s never lost on me the number of coaches that coach their own child appears well over 95% in every room. I always make sure to spend significant time on this topic, and it never fails to create great discussion and insight from other “Coach-Dads”.
The “Coach-Dad” dynamic (and Coach-Moms too) is a unique relationship that requires some close attention.

Decades ago, when there were far more family-owned businesses, sons and daughters would spend time observing their parents at work. They would see Mom’s and Dad’s set the example of what it took to be successful, and sometimes, how to handle failure or disappointment.Eventually, and sometimes at a very young age, they would begin helping in the family store, doing errands at the shop, or working on the farm. It was during this time as “an apprentice” that they began to learn life-lessons like responsibility, reliability, initiative, hard-work, and commitment.

Those Mom-and-Pop Shops are fewer and farther between in today’s world, and the opportunity for children to learn from their parents has to come from a different venue. I think our courts and fields of play have, in many ways, replaced the businesses as a place where sons and daughters can watch Mothers and Fathers working, leading, succeeding and sometimes failing…while learning how to bounce back from those daily setbacks.
When Mother’s and Father’s coach their child’s teams they are essentially the CEO of that little organization, just like in their businesses. They need to organize the group of parents, teach the players, and make sure everyone enjoys the season. This doesn’t happen without planning, hard work, diligence, and a tremendous amount of teamwork.

When a child get’s to share in the experience of youth sports with their Coach-Mom/Coach-Dad, it can be a great learning experience. In many ways it mirrors the apprenticeships that children use to serve in the Mom-and-Pop Shops of yesteryear. This opportunity is one that can be tremendously rewarding and create an even deeper bond between the parent and child. I’d suggest the opportunity should be taken advantage of whenever the situation is right.

In many youth sports isn’t always necessary for the parent to have vast knowledge of the fundamentals of the sport or have been a tremendous player in their day. Leagues do a great job of providing coach education and there is so much information available on the internet that anyone can learn on the run.

If a parent doesn’t feel comfortable and a head-coaching gig is not what you’re looking for - offer to help as one of the assistants. I’ve always felt the more the merrier when it comes to help, and it lowers the coach/player ratio. This provides more repetitions and learning opportunities for the players. A good head coach will usually provide enough guidance for even the most novice assistant coaches get through the next drill or practice

With youth baseball and softball seasons getting ready to go, and volunteerism in full bloom, I thought that I would share some guidelines for all of the Moms and Dads that coach their children’s' youth teams this spring. I hope I lived up to most of them ... most of the time.

Up next will be the Twenty-Five “Coach-Dad” Tips I shared on Twitter nearly a year ago. At that time one of my other "tweeps" suggested I compile them to share as set with others, and this is as good a time as any.

Tips for Coach-Dads (and Coach-Moms)

Here are the first ten Coach-Dad tips that I posted on Twitter some time ago. At the beginning of this spring season of youth sports, I think it’s a good time to get some ideas on how to manage this relationship. These tips could be guidelines for Coach-Dads (and Coach-Moms) that are venturing into this realm for the first time… OR for those who might notice, “Hey – that’s me!”

(Grammar disclaimer: Keep in mind Twitter is limited to 140 characters, which may lead to some interesting grammar, abbreviations, and/or contractions that I’ve basically chosen to leave – just for effect)

Coach/Dad Tip-1: Have a conversation BEFORE the season and ASK if the child wants you to coach them. For best success it should be on their terms.

After coaching my three older children for a long time, it was time for my youngest son to enter youth sports. Each season, for a couple years, I’d ask prior to registration, if he wanted Dad to help coach his team. Each season I’d get an answer something like, “Well…there are some other good coaches” or “You could help me at home then I could have two coaches”. He was too polite to say no – but clearly he wasn’t excited about it.

Coach/Dad Tip-2: Explain to child when earning playing time/positions he/she must clearly *be better* at position. Ties go to the other player!

This was always my personal philosophy. Children are always a little better in their parent’s eyes, even in Coach-Dad’s or Coach-Mom’s. When it came to my children I wanted to make sure the difference was very clear when I decided on positions and playing time. Of course some coaches are different, and feel the time they put in gives them certain rights. Former Marquette University Basketball Coach Al McGuire once explained that while other players may be “just as good”, his son was starting because… “he IS my son.”

Coach/Dad Tip-3: Build leadership by explaining to your child they must set an example. Eyes are on them & teammates may follow their lead.

Making sure that the Coaches’-Child lives up to all the expectations of the team is of utmost importance. The culture of the team will be quite a bit better if they are the well-behaved and hard workers that you expect others to be. This certainly isn’t a bad thing to strive for in your child anyway and sports provides the perfect venue to teach those lessons while under your supervision as Coach-Dad.

I’ve been pretty fortunate to watch that translate into a life-lesson that I’ve observed my grown children continue to demonstrate on the field, in the classroom, or at work. The end result to date is Summa Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa, Summa Cum Laude for my three oldest college graduates and my youngest daughter graduated first in her class at the University of La Verne! (shameless Dad-brag. that doesn’t put any pressure on my youngest son - does it?) I feel very strongly that these are among the habits that can be learned through sports.

Coach/Dad Tip-4: On scale from "gets special treatment" to "on 'em all the time"-be just*a bit*tougher than ave. Avoids nepotism & builds leadership

I was always a little more demanding on my children than other players, and almost all coaches who I speak to say the same thing. However, the perception is different among other parents in the stands. They think the Coaches-Child gets “extra benefits”.

Bob Hurley, the legendary basketball coach form St. Anthony High School in New Jersey coached his sons. This relationship was touched on in a CBS 60 Minute segment very recently that gives some insight in Coach Hurley. In the video his son Bobby says,

"Yes, and I think almost everyone on my team would say that my dad went out of his way to be harder on me just to kind of send the message that there was no favoritism on the team."

My oldest son, and I had the process down pretty good and he knew that there were even times when I would remind or correct him when I wanted to get the point across to the rest of the team. I remember a baseball play when he was 13 when I said something to him that was clearly meant for the player next to him. In between innings he said, Dad, can I talk to you?” We went for a walk and he said, “That time… you were really yelling at Nathan weren’t you?” I replied, “Yes, but Nathan’s real sensitive…and his Dad is CRAZY!”

Coach/Dad Tip-5: But can't be TOO tough on them...they may need to take care of us someday !:?)

After coaching my oldest son, when I coached my oldest daughter I was hit with a revelation. Children… and daughters, are different. There was a situation at practice where it became clear my daughter was taking “coaching” a little more personal than my son had. Whether it was or not, she was “feeling” that way and feelings are real. So we developed a “signal” to let me know when she was “feeling” that way.

Anytime she began to get upset she would either fix her helmet, visor, pony-tail, or pat her head to remind Coach-Dad to “keep his head!” Over several seasons in multiple sports we only used it a couple times, but recently she shared a revelation with me. I encourage any Coach-Dads/Moms that have issues with children who are emotionally affected by their coaching techniques to give something like this a try.

At a holiday get together we were discussing our signal and she shared it’s benefits. She said having a “safety-mechanism” actually allowed her to endure a bit more “coaching” because she didn’t want to use it too often and appear “soft.” This created the mindset that correction leads to growth and enabled her to play for coaches that were much tougher in the future.

Coach/Dad Tip-6: Love them unconditionally. NEVER let them think for a second that your love & support is related to their performance

As a coach there can be games where we are emotionally invested, are rehashing the game in our minds, and even sometimes not in a great mood after a poor performance. It’s important that we separate those feelings from our relationship with the child – especially if they didn’t perform so well either. We don’t want them to think our relationship is dependent on wins, losses, hits, or errors.

Coach/Dad Tip-7: CAN'T give them special treatment! Everyone will already think you're favoring them - whether you are or not.

I don’t think you’re doing the Coaches’-Child any favors by doing them any favors. There definitely will be times in their life when they need to do just a little bit extra to get noticed, and this could be a time to learn that. They know you love them, so resist the urge to go overboard, but don’t shortchange them of recognition they deserve either. This is a sensitive topic for some coaches who have explained that they also “need to go home and answer to his mother!”

Coach/Dad Tip-8: Brings up a good point. Discuss w/other parent the rewards & pitfalls of coaching your son/daughter & come to an agreement

Jack Bennett, the Two-Time National Championship Basketball Coach at Wisconsin-Stevens Point coached his son’s and his wife told him early on she viewed herself as a mother first and the coaches wife second. She said, “99.9% of the time I’m going to side with them.” Her point was they’re young and still forming their philosophy so they needed unconditional love. Jack was unconditional as a parent, but when the jobs blend it’s sometimes hard to do as a coach too.

Coach/Dad Tip-9: We had "The Driveway Rule." When pulling out of the driveway on the way home-avoid discussing the game unless THEY bring it up.

In order to try to “leave the game on he field or court” we used the driveway of wherever we played or practiced as the line of demarcation - then we’d try to leave the game there. This helped avoid the dreaded “post-game analysis” in the car on the drive home and give everyone a cooling off period after the game. I have to admit...sometimes after games we'd sit in the parking lot a little bit longer than others - before we pulled out of the driveway!

Coach/Dad Tip-10: If THEY bring up the game, like a court of law-they opened the door & you can "cross-examine", but that way it's on their terms!

When the child knows the topic will not be broached unless they bring it up, then when you do have a conversation it is according to their “emotional schedule.” This creates a safer environment and I found it actually encourages them to talk even more. My older children almost always wanted to talk about something… and they still do. My youngest – not so much….yet!

Coach/Dad Tip-11: You can't be "Coach/Dad" 24/7. You wear two hats-Coach & Father. Separate the two. Spend time just being DAD!

With coaching as a profession, I’m not sure I did this is well as I’d like to have. While I didn’t stew for too long by bringing the games home with me, it was a big part of our lives. In one of my final years coaching, I tried to make every game of all three children playing eight different sports, a 2-year old at home, and realized our schedule was ruled by “the schedules”.

As I was watching a men’s and women’s collegiate doubleheader, with my son playing for the University of La Verne and my daughter playing for the University of Redlands (and I had to wear a shirt that had both schools colors in it (hard to find maroon and forest green – but I did). Another coach in attendance suggested I count how many games I attended that year. Between their multiple sports, my team, and all the offseason games and tournaments, we figured I attended in excess of 300 games in a calendar year!

Coach/Dad Tip-12: Try to resist the temptation to talk about other players’ performance, or about what positions they should be playing.

Coach/Dad Tip-13: When the child wants to talk "strategy" try to be general rather than specific when it comes to teammates performance.

Coach/Dad Tip-14: Avoid putting your child in the "uncomfortable" position between you & teammates. You don't want them to have to "keep secrets."

My children were pretty cerebral players and would really think the game, so there were plenty of times when we’d talk strategy, The important thing to remember is to refrain from giving specific opinions about other players strengths and weaknesses or very much “inside information” that players should not be privy to.

Coach/Dad Tip-15: Because you have to correct as Parent and Coach - SEARCH for all opportunities to praise to get you to the 5:1 "Magic Ratio"

Coach/Dad Tip-16: Your entire relationship needs to approach the "Magic Ratio"of 5:1-positives:corrections. You have to correct. So correct wisely!

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.

The brain registers 20,000 snap-shots (memories) a day, and essentially drops them into a “Positive Tank” and a “Negative Tank”. When it comes to anything, the positives should outweigh the negatives by 5 to 1 in order to maximize performance and feel good about that activity or relationship. The Magic-Ratio is not necessarily 5:1 every play, every day, and not just what you say. It is rather the total experience the child has when it comes to, in this case , their Coach-Dad or Coach-Mom relationship.

Coach/Dad Tip-17: As a coach, parent, boss, or leader-*Reward Desired Effort*. Relentlessly! You're staying positive by rewarding them when they're trying to do what you want

In the Coach-Dad dynamic, there are naturally built in criticisms and corrections that are simply part of the job description. Most are necessary and you can’t do anyhing about them, except to deliver them in the most receivable manner possible, but you can make up for them. Coach-Dads need to go out of their way to create positive memories any chance, in any way possible – between and outside the lines.

Think of ways to recognize and reward the Coaches’-Child. They are going to “feel” you are very critical because corrections, even when delived in the most constructive way, can register as a negative. When young players fail to deliver in competition, they can feel as if they let their coach and team down. They also can feel as if they let their parents down. Coach-Dads/Moms are BOTH. Imagine the potential internal trauma that “double-whammy” can cause.

Coach/Dad Tip-18: Seize teachable moments & avoid non-teachable moments. If they're not ready to listen - you're wasting your time.

I remember a rough game my son had he looked at three straight strikes without swinging. His first at-bat and his second time up, he looked at the first two strikes, again, and responded to “C’MON BUDDY, SWING THE BAT !”. . . by swinging at a bad pitch way out of the strike zone. After the game, I went thru a drive-thru to bring home dinner while Mom drove him home to start his homework. As I waited in the drive-thru line the following text message exchange occurs (…and I was IN the drive-thru lane – so it was safe!).

Mom: Tyler’s upset-said it was a bad game
Dad: That’s OK. Means he cares
Mom: Told me to leave him alone
Dad: If he’s not ready-he isn’t listening anyway
Mom: I don’t do well w/ “leave me alone”
Dad: Remember...his Emotional Schedule
Mom: What about MY emotional schedule?!?

We left him alone and an hour or so later we looked at a bunch of pictures taken of that days’ game that showed great swings, nice plays in the field and a bunch of Little Leaguers smiling. Soon he forgot the two strikeouts and remembered how much fin he had. We couldn’t do anything to make the memories of the two strikeouts go away – but we could make up for it by providing other positive memories – that sometimes open the door for even more conversation.

Coach/Dad Tip-19: Look for opportunities to show them that their hard work is paying off & what they've been practicing is helping them improve.

As the Coach and the Mom or Dad it’s really important how you frame your feedback, even during successful efforts. While we’ve said truthful and specific praise is good, it needs to be truthful and specific. Never tell them they did a good job if they didn’t, but search for something good and then tell them exactly what it was.

It’s also vital that we create the proper mindset in our children. When they do well Coach-Dads and Moms can fall into the trap of telling them how “good” they are (“you’re crushing the ball – you’re such a good hitter”). This creates a “Fixed” Mindset where they feel they succeeded because they were talented. They may, at some point, face an obstacle and end up feeling “Well, I’m just not that good” and they plateau there.

If we, instead, praise them for their efforts (you’re hitting the ball so well because you’re really focusing on the fundamentals we’ve been practicing”) they develop a “Growth” Mindset, where they equate success with hard work. When they face a challenge in the future, they know if they work a little harder they can overcome the adversity. This theory is presented in Positive Coaching Alliance National Advisory Board Member Carol Dwek’s book “Mindset”. It is a great book for coaches, parents, or teachers – and in this case, those who are all three. You can hear me talk about it here.

Coach/Dad Tip-20: Ask them - don't tell them. Most of the time they know. Telling them is "tank-draining" lecture. Asking them creates "thinking player" (and son/daughter!)

This has worked out well for us, because it’s sort of the style of communication in our family anyway. We’ve always asked questions and created some banter about everything we discuss. When you ask them to express their thoughts, do so in such a way that doesn’t plant a seed as to what you think (So…what did you think about that umpires call?).
Ask open-ended questions, not leading-questions that could be objected in a court of law, so that you get their thoughts – not those they think you want to hear.

This conversation style creates some spirited conversations to this day when we all get together (a Holiday meal is an experience in the Lokar household!). They certainly have developed “a voice”, are thoughtful, and express it well. My youngest daughter went on to be a member of the nationally recognized University of La Verne’s Debate Team and has competed successfully with them around the world. I win far fewer arguments today for sure!

Coach/Dad Tip-21: Your kids listen to you 7 days/week. Sometimes "Ask Permission" such as, "Want some Tips on your swing?" They usually say YES

Coach/Dad Tip-22: When I'd feel like they weren't listening, I'd say "When you’d like to know what's wrong with your pitching, come and ask!" Always did!

If you are constantly telling them what to do it drains their Tank. So flip the script and get permission or entice them to ask. If they ask you for help & you give it to them - it fills their Tank. So you tricked ‘em!

Coach/Dad Tip-23: Try to have more *conversations* as Coach/Dad. That means two people talk. If it's only you- it's just another lecture. They may turn off!

Coach/Dad Tip-24: Sometimes they hear you so much, it may seem like they tune you out. Develop strategies to get them to listen. Trial and Error. Patient & Persistent.

One thing I know for sure is that nothing is going to work 100% of the time. The trick is top have as many different “clubs in your golf bag” as you can. You can’t effectively use a putter off the tee or a driver on the green – and you have to have a bunch of special clubs in between. Generally, if we keep trying in a non-confrontational way, they’ll talk. If they don’t want to, it could be more important to us than it is to them – and that never should be the case when it comes to youth sports. This is their time – not ours.

Dad Tip-25: If you have multiple children, and they agree to it, make sure to coach all of them as much as you can!

My single biggest regret in coaching youth-sports is this one didn’t work out for me quite as planned. I have three older children that were all a couple/few years apart and had it all planned out when I would coach each of them. I was set to coach my youngest daughter for her final few years of youth softball when the league cut that age group after my first year as her coach. The best laid plans…

So I didn’t get to share the Coach-Dad experience with my youngest daughter enough. That’s a time in a child’s life I can never get back, so I have my work cut out for me. I can’t do anything about it – so I need to make up for it.

This is a chance for a Mom or Dad to have a once in a lifetime experience with their child. I strongly encourage anyone who has the inclination, and whose son or daughters are interested, to become a Coach-Dad or Coach Mom. It can be a rewarding experience for all and create a bind that will last a lifetime.

My son’s are clones of each other at the same age. It’s like looking at Dr Evil and Mini-Me. Well, not really, but you get the picture. Because of this I’m reminded daily how very fast the time goes – and it can be the time of their lives. They go from 5 yrs old to 6’5” 250 in the blink of an eye. Take advantage NOW!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Bob Hurley, the Sage of St. Anthony

CBS 60 Minutes did a fabulous piece on Hall of Fame Coach Bob Hurley, from "Miracle on St Anthony" fame. Coaches that are a little "rough around the edges" (to borrow a good friends phrase) can be very polarizing in circles that evaluate their, performance, effectiveness, and quality of the players' experience.

Some quotes from the story really caught my attention. First, Coach Hurley doesn't sugar coach anything and players. They absolutely know what they're getting into. Coach Hurley says,
"I'm still one of the most demanding people that the kids are gonna come across"

But at the same time, that demanding nature comes form a great place.

" I think everybody can be better than they think they can be."

And being a former Parole Officer in New Jersey, he's used to working with a tough crowd.
"I'm dealing with adolescent males," Hurley said. "And in order to get them to perform on a regular basis, this group of people, I have to drive them. There's no question I have to drive them. Even the best teams I've had, there has to be times when you know you have to really push the pedal."

To ensure they live up to his expectations Hurley makes the kids sign a contract when they join his program.
"Don't know that it's legally binding, but you know, when I have to mete out justice, it's as far as I'm concerned, it's a legal document."

Asked what some of the items on the contract are, Hurley said,
"Alcohol, cigarettes, narcotics is one.... Some of them are haircuts, short haircut. No tattoos. Jewelry has to be basic. You know, a ring, a watch."

As with all coaches, he has had some players buck the system.
"Yeah, that's why I think that's why there are hinges on doors. You know? This is not meant for everybody,"

Clearly, Hurley get's results. Not only in the form of wins and championships, but off the court as well.
"I've only had two kids in 39 years that have not gone to college. And we're extremely proud of that, because we think that we've opened up doors in kids' lives that they didn't know that they could do. Their families certainly didn't know that they could do it. And it's because of education, it changes the direction of their life,"

Sunday, March 20, 2011


Close games become a way of life for coaches and teams on all levels. Successful teams are prepared for end of the game situations. It is often this five or ten minutes a day which coaches spend on end of the game situations that makes the difference between a district title, a berth in the state tournament or a disappointing trip home. It is very important to not assume that your players know what to do! Try to work on special situations every day.

Here are some questions all coaches should ask themselves. The answers will vary according to your personal philosophy and your team’s strengths. Then share those answers with the team and prepare them to execute:

Do you push the ball and play or call a timeout to set up the last shot?

How do you intentionally miss a free throw?

With a three-point lead, do you want to foul before a three-point shot is taken?

Do your players know when to foul? How to foul?

Do you have a sign or call so your players know to foul without alerting the other team – or the officials?

When do you start taking 3’s in order to catch up?

Do you have a hurry- up offense designed to get you quality shots in less time?

Do you have an offensive system to "milk the clock' and protect a lead?

Do you save your timeouts or do you use them early to keep your team in the game? Do the players know how many you have left?

Do you want players to call a time out to save a possession early-or fight their best to preserve it and let you call the time-outs?

Do you have last second plays for each time and score?

Do ALL players know ALL positions they may play in crunch time?

Do the players know whether or not you want to call a time-out after a score?

Do you have your list of special situation plays on the bench with you so you can refer to them in pressure situations - so YOU don't forget?

Most importantly...

Do they know the rules?

Monday, February 21, 2011

1-4 vs Zone

We used to play a team that did a great job mixing M2M and Zone Defense, especially coming out of time outs. To battle that we went to a 1-4 set that was effective vs Man or Zone Defenses

A side benefit of this is it built confidence among the players as they knew what they were going to run was appropriate for the defense we'd see, and it gave the players confidence in the game pan the coaching staff developed.

One of the worst things possible is coming out of a time-out or running a set play and needing to change because the defense is in something else. There are times you can see the players deflate in front of your very eyes when they feel as if they were "out-smarted". This way, they feel in control of the situation and are more apt to perform with less anxiety and more confience.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Man-to-Man or Zone for Youth Basketball

When it comes to youth basketball at the U10 level, I believe my thinking might be a little different than most. Young players get their fun from offense, and this fun determines whether they stick around the sport long enough to "get good". In my opinion, then, rules should be adapted to teach the game with the intent to develop basic offensive skills and enable young players to have as many opportunities with the ball as possible and with as much success as possible. In order to do this, I think it is necessary to restrict a little bit of on ball pressure and allow the player with the ball to focus his/her attention on handling the ball as opposed to being distracted by the defensive pressure. A novice basketball player is not yet skilled enough with the ball to execute most dribbling moves while seeing teammates if they have to also worry about intense defensive pressure.

For that reason I am not opposed to zone defenses at the youngest levels. Often times against a man-to-man defense, it becomes more of a dribbling game than learning how to move the ball and use your teammates. The best players who can dribble by defenders (who also haven't developed the quickness or balance to stay in front of them) usually take the ball and drive to the basket out of what, essentially, becomes an isolation type offense. In my opinion this is not teaching kids team offense, but rather a 1 on 1 style game.

Allowing a zone defense, and even restricting the point of defensive attack, takes a little pressure off the ballhandler that allows additional freedom of movement. Players can then learn to pass and cut, penetrate gaps - but stop when help is there (as they would against a good man-to-man), and move the ball from side to side a little easier. If I was the "basketball-czar" I might even institute a "no steal" rule from the ballhandler. You could intercept passes, but on ball you'd have to learn to move your feet and stay in front of the dribble instead of hounding them and forcing a turnover.

Any zone defense that is used, should not have built in double-teams or traps. "Junk" zone defenses like a Box & 1 or Triangle & 2 should also be avoided. Strategies such as this are obviously with the intent to give a team a better opportunity to "win the game", when the goal should be teaching kids to play the game. That being said, I also think there is a time to introduce man-to-man principles and would not be opposed to a quarter or a half of that - and certainly could play any zone with those principles in mind.

No player wants to leave the gym feeling inadequate with the ball - especially a 9-year old. When young players build some confidence through practice and repeated success, then we can gradually turn up the defensive heat so players can progress in the development of their offensive skills. It's not bad if offensive skills are a step ahead of defensive ones at the youngest ages. As long as youngsters demonstrate hustle, a nose for the ball, and the willingness to defend, they'll pick up man-to-man principles when the time comes

Your thoughts? Comment here or follow me on Twitter @CoachLok

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Mismatch Etiquette Redux

Managing blowout games is always an issue in youth and high school sports due to the great disparity in the skill level of players, goals of each team, first round tournament match-ups of top vs bottom seeds, and imbalanced leagues that cause these games to occur. I've written about this a couple times before, and my most recent post on "Mismatch Etiquette" is here

In an attempt to handle those blowout situations a youth basketball league has implemented the following rule:
12.1 REMOVAL OF TOP PLAYERS - If the mercy rule
is in effect at the start of, or any time during the
5th period, it is mandatory for the opposing
coach to select a maximum of three (3) players
to sit out the balance of the game or until the
difference in the score of the game is 15 points or
less. Eligible substitutes must be available and
the removal of players cannot force a team to
play with less than five (5) players.

I asked for some opinions of this rule and my friend Matt Grahn (who writes a GREAT blog "Matt Grahn's Basketball Coaching Workshop" ) sent me a note asking, "Has sportsmanship slipped to the point where it has to be mandated by rule?" My thoughts are the same. We shouldn't have to devise rules to "make" sportsmanship happen we should educate coaches on doing the right thing because it's the right thing to do. At Positive Coaching Alliance we train Double-Goal Coaches™ nationwide about the responsibility of striving to win while teaching life-lessons in order to develop Triple-Impact Competitors™ through establishing a positive culture, creating dynamic practices, and making the games meaningful for all who are involved.

I feel it is the winning coaches responsibility to exhibit sportsmanship and find ways to manage the situation in ways that are mutually beneficial for participants. I don't think it's a great situation when an opposing coach tells a youngster, who he/she may not know, that they are not going to allow them to play in the last period of a game. This, however, is a great opportunity for that players own coach to teach the players and handle the situation him/herself.

When an opposing coach removes the "Top Players" as outlined in the rule, those players may think "I'm so good the other coach won't let me play". Possibly worse than that, they may take it personal and feel the other coach does not like them, creating a wedge between that player and coach that may never be able to be removed. Another detrimental message being sent is to the players who are allowed to play. It tells them that they are not as good as the other players - and may further widen that perceived gap. None of this can be good for the mental and social growth of either group of players.

I'd love to hear some thoughts on the rule and some suggesstions on how best to manage a most difficult, and all too common, situation.

Lok's Ledger