30 second time outs

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


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" 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.

Lok's Ledger