Be Like Coach
Youth Basketball is in serious trouble in this country. I
have been involved in a group called "Be
Like Coach" which is patterned after the teachings of Coach John Wooden. He
along with many like minded professionals were very concerned about the
direction of youth sports in America. Thus he helped us form "Be
Like Coach" to address the concepts and ideas to take youth sports in a
better direction. We have formed a national board of directors who were tasked
with John Wooden's blessing to "evolutionize" youth sports in America. For the
past eight years we have been studying the problem and possible solutions to
take youth sports, especially basketball, in a better direction.
One of our basic concepts addresses the primary problems
identified by youngsters who are dropping out of youth sports at record numbers.
The first reason given for this high drop out rate is that young people are not
having fun in our sports programs. We have begun to address that problem first
by defining and understanding what fun consists of and how to make it an
integral part of all youth sports programs. We have developed a new description
of fun for youth sports: Laughing Fun and Learning Fun. Laughing Fun is what we
have always felt attracts young people to sports and play in the beginning.
Learning Fun is a higher level of fun that happens in worthwhile youth sports
programs where young people satisfy their natural curiosity for learning. All
youth are naturally curious and sports that are participated in voluntarily
seems like a natural place for young people to satisfy that curiosity through
satisfactory learning experiences.
The second reason given for a high drop out rate in sports
is lack of quality coaching. We believe this goes hand in hand with learning
fun. If qualified
coaches are doing their job of teaching fundamental skills in basketball,
participants will enjoy becoming better players through learning those
In summary, we believe that a key in all of youth sports is
the combination of Laughing Fun and Learning Fun that is produced when
qualified, competent caring coaches are charged with youth sports programs.
The Important Things In Coaching and Teaching
We should always remind ourselves that coaching and teaching is primarily
about relationship building. In order to build relationships that last, the
focus needs to be on the student/athlete. I have always used this reminder to
reinforce the concept that coaching and teaching is not teaching is not about us
but is and should always focused on the student/athlete.
What is a Student/Athlete?
- A student/athlete is the most important person ever in this building -
in person, or by mail or by telephone.
- A student/athlete is not dependent on us - we are dependent on him/her.
- A student/athlete is not an interruption of our work - he/she is the
purpose of it. We are not doing a student/athlete a favor by serving him/her
- he/she is doing us a favor by giving us the opportunity to do so.
- A student/athlete is not someone to embarrass or deceive - but someone
who we focus on to earn their respect.
- A student/athlete brings us his/her needs and goals. Our job is to help
them develop and grow - their contact with us should touch their lives with
Life Lessons from the Master Mentor
John Wooden exemplifies the master teacher who always put the student or
athlete first. In fact, he believed that students don't care what you know until
they know that you care. One of the most important coaching lessons he gave us
was the use of life lesson slogans. We offer some of his most telling slogans
that are important relationship building tools. Some of these follow:
A coach is someone who can
give correction without causing resentment.
Be more concerned with your character than your
reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your
reputation is merely what others think you are.
- Be prepared and
Be more concerned with
your character than your reputation, because your character is what you
really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.
Consider the rights of others before your own feelings,
and the feelings of others before your own rights.
Don't let what you cannot do interfere with what you can
- Failure is not fatal,
but failure to change might be.
- If you're not making
mistakes, then you're not doing anything. I'm positive that a doer makes
- It isn't what you do,
but how you do it.
- It's the little
details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.
- It's what you learn
after you know it all that counts.
- Never mistake activity
- Success is peace of
mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your
best to become the best you are capable of becoming.
- Things turn out best
for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.
- What you are as a
person is far more important that what you are as a basketball player.
One of the common challenges for coaches and players today is on the floor
communication between players and players, and also between players and coaches.
It seems that the high tech world we live in does not encourage face to face
personal communication, that is the skills of speaking and listening. In fact,
most players use instant messaging and cell phones more than they speak and
listen. Here are some tips to get all of us thinking how we can develop the
necessary communication skills that are so critical when players are on the
One method that we have used with our teams for many years is the use of
"echo calls." This technique consists of one of the coaches communicating
directly with a soft voice and low volume to one of the team members during
practice sessions. This should be done intermittently and with all team members.
Upon hearing the communication from the coach the player is then responsible for
communicating the message to the rest of the team members. To signify that the
message has been receive and understood, all other team members must echo the
message back to everyone involved. The use of this technique allows the coach to
monitor individual and team progress on listening and communication skills. For
example, a coach might state a message of "stay in your stance" and the closest
player would communicate "stay in your stance" to the whole team and the team
members would echo back that message. The use of this echo call technique
requires the coaches to teach in sound bites and to use the essential "critical
cues" that we advocate as an important part of becoming a master teacher. This
method is also useful during timeouts and game action as well, as it encourages
team members to take responsibility for both speaking and listening for every
A variation of individual mentoring is also useful to increase the
communication for your team members. Your could assign an experienced player
with a less experienced player and put the responsibility for the communication
of both players on the more experienced player. One method that we have used to
apply this "pairs" mentoring technique is during game competition. The players
on the floor that are playing the game are linked directly to their substitute
position players on the bench. Important communication on offense and defense
are the responsibility of the bench partners at their position. For example,
point guard substitutes would be responsible for constant communication with the
point guard who is actually playing the game. This would include defensive talk,
reminders and offensive/defensive calls.
One other suggestion would be to use questions during practice. Instead of
just communicating what is intended all the time, the coach could communicate
and follow up periodically with specific questions to test listening skills. For
example, a coach could emphasis a critical cue and shortly thereafter stop play
and pose a general question to the team about that point of emphasis. The
question should be directed to the whole team, and not to an individual player.
Then the coach should pause and ask one specific player for the answer. This
requires all players to believe that the question was intended for them and
forces them to work on their listening skills.
All coaches and players should be looking for other ways to increase their
speaking and listening skills that are so necessary for good teamwork and
communication on and off the court. Some coaches are prohibiting cell phone use
in and around practices and games in order to encourage players to develop their
face to face communication skills.
Matter, Part 2
aspect of coaching today's athlete that seems more pronounced than ever before
is related to their approach to the game. There is much evidence to point out
the fact that Generation Y players are not as motivated to play basketball i.e.
they do not have a high "love of the game" quotient. The AAU teams/teams
camps/style over substance emphasis of today focus players more on individual
than team as well as extrinsic rewards. This is coupled with family unit
breakdowns which result in different players that are playing the game today.
challenges of coaching today include coaching technical basketball as always
plus an increasing need to "inspire and motivate" basketball players.
always needed to inspire and motivate their players and teams but not to this
extent. It is my opinion that we need to move this task into a more prominent
position and come up with innovative ways to increase our players love of the
Some tips I
have found to be helpful are:
on intrinsic rewards such as "earned praised" and shared, meaningful
experiences that are enjoyable (plain fun or hard work that result in an
emphasis on team over individual. This could be shared experiences and teammate
appreciation sessions. Develop an "attitude of gratitude" within your team.
Become inspired yourself.
Enthusiasm and love of the game
is caught and taught. Use
people, ideas and knowledge to
get and keep you going.
Malcolm Gladwell, in his book
"Outliers," reinforces the need for
inspiring players to reach their
potential. He believes that success
is much more dependent on time
invested than genetic gifts (time over talent). In fact, he asserts that it
takes 10,000 hours of
purposeful practice (game moves
at game speed) to reach our full
potential. In my opinion, those
10,000 hours of purposeful practice
should be mostly devoted to
fundamental skills (as opposed to
just playing games). John Wooden
believed that "proper and quick
execution of fundamental skills in
the key to basketball development".
So, our task today is simple. To be
successful is to:
Inspire and motivate young
people better (coach players)
Aspire to become a master teacher
(teach basketball well)
MATTER is the tentative title for the "in process" book that is being developed
and tested in coaching clinics for the past three years. The goal has been to
identify factors that can be grown and developed by coaches to intentionally
assist them in developing players through sports.
focus so far has been on and around the creation of a teaching-learning
community while keeping in mind John Wooden's admonition that all coaches need
aspire to become master teachers.
One of the
areas of investigation has been mentoring. We believe that parents, teachers and
coaches have the best opportunity to become mentors to athletes. They meet some
of the basic requisites for a mentor: a mutual bond between mentor and mentee, a
love of the sport, and significant amounts of time spent together on and off the
remains as to how coaches can intentionally amplify the mentoring effect. Some
of the factors to be exported are:
Could coaches increase time spent with players on and off the court? How can
a coach increase the quality of time spent with athletes? What ways can
coaches use their mutual love/interest of/in the sport to increase the
Mentee Bond - How does a coach enhance this bond while mentoring? What
techniques can be used to increase the trust relationship?
Numbers - How many athletes can a coach mentor? What are optimal numbers for
mentoring? Should all coaches divide the team into an equal number of
mentees to mentor? Why should the head coach mentor? Assist Coaches? Is
basketball team size optimal for mentoring? Should all team members be
mentored by all coaches?
Increasing the Mentoring Effect - What techniques or activities can be used
to amplify the mentoring effect (both on and off the court)? How do mentees
increase the effect?
Assessment - How do we measure the mentoring effect? What measures can be
used before, during and after the athletic team experience to assess the
exploration of an issue begins with identifying the questions about this issue,
then the above questions are starting points for knowing, understanding and
applying mentoring to athletics. What can we do as coaches to intentionally use
mentoring to develop players physically, mentally, emotionally and socially? it
seems imperative to explore mentoring ass an essential tool for coaching.
Coach of Significance Part IV
present time we have formed a national task force to address some of the
challenges and problems of youth sports in this country. During this process, we
have developed a number of essential concepts that seem to be necessary for
youth sports as well as becoming a coach of significance. Coach John Wooden
insisted that we include these basic guidelines in our attempts to improve youth
basketball in the United States. The first concept centers around the
development of a teaching and learning community. The basic premise is that
every person is a teacher to someone (spouse, child, co-worker, or athlete). The
natural extension to this concept is that coaches who hope to become significant
in players lives need to aspire to become master teachers. Thus all coaches are
teachers who are continuously open to learning in the quest to become a master
Secondly, youth basketball must focus on fundamentals and fun. This
concept implies that youth sport coaches know how to teach fundamentals or the
basic skills while structuring an environment where players learn by doing and
at the same time have fun.
Thirdly, youth sport coaches need to be able to
develop a sequential, progressive approach to their teaching of basic skills and
developing their team. Sometimes the game needs to be modified in terms of
equipment, rules, and the enforcement of those rules as young players learn how
to play the game. A coach of significance will be able to adapt the game age
appropriately. In my view, it is important that coaches of significance lead the
way to improve youth sports in this country and develop the skills to form a
teaching and learning community, master the teaching and learning of
fundamentals and provide an atmosphere that is conducive to youngsters learning
to love sports and basketball.
a Teacher of Significance
“I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great
artist and that there are as few as there are any other great artists. Teaching
might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and
spirit……” John Steinbeck
basic belief is that the essence of coaching is teaching, the next question is
related to the need for every coach to enhance their teaching effectiveness. In
fact, Naismith Hall of Fame Coach John Wooden has stated that every coach should
aspire to become a master teacher. It can be argued then that it is a requisite
condition to become a master teacher in order to aspire to affect players lives
in a positive way, i.e. a necessary prelude to becoming a coach/teacher of
So let us
focus on some aspects of becoming a master teacher who changes lives. We
believe that the following C characteristics are essential to becoming a
is the key to serving and leading students. Athletes need to willingly follow a
coach who respects each athlete. Tom Osborne, former University of Nebraska
coach and master teacher has said that as he matured as a teacher, he came to
replace motivation by intimidation and fear with love and respect. “The secret
of education is respecting the pupil,” stated Ralph Waldo Emerson. Credible
coaching/teaching is achieved by leading as a servant leader, respecting each
athlete, earning their respect and assisting athletes in developing
need to develop their character first; always seek to do the right thing, be
completely honest with athletes, and develop life lessons in their athletes.
Lincoln believed that one of the biggest tests a person faces is the power of
leadership. How do you treat people who can’t repay you or those who you have
power over and can’t fight back? Credible teachers are character based and are
honorable people with high ethical standards.
closely follows character in the master teacher. The teacher/coach knows the
art and science of teaching as well as knowledge of their sport. In order to
become competent, credible teachers know their sport, how to teach their sport
(many methods or a deep bag of learning tricks), allow mistakes of their
athletes (necessary status and progress reports on learning), are humble as well
as courageous and become lifelong learners (never stop learning). Competence,
through necessary, has little value unless coupled with character.
to teaching and learning allows coaches to develop a successful vision for
practices, games and each athlete. Teaching/coaching your sport and your
athletes should become a personal and professional passion. Coaches should be
committed to careful planning and working hard to ensure that each player and
team achieves success in terms of potential. It has been said that hard work,
commitment and enjoyment all become one when you achieve passion. Be committed
to your athletes and fellow coaches.
students don’t care what you know until they know you care. Caring with
competency means commitment to an athlete’s success, both on and off the court.
Athletes know they can count on a master teacher for advice and support for the
rest of their life. Athletes will remember you when you care about them. Your
relationship with your athletes will depend upon your caring. You should care
about athletes as people and be willing to help them to develop their potential
in all ways possible. Caring goes far beyond the court.
effective master teacher builds confidence through belief, setting high
standards of excellence (not perfection), by supporting and encouraging and
appreciating effort as well as skill development. Focus on actions/what
students do and avoid personal attacks, sarcasm and belittling methods. It is
better to center on solutions, not problems. Coaches need to inspire and
motivate. “They may forget what you say, but not how you made them feel.” (Carl
Teacher/coaches also need to develop as communicators; speaking, listening,
reading, writing, non-verbal skills and technical skills (text, email, etc.).
Good communicators are open, honest and direct as they focus on success.
Involve and empower your athletes as you value their input. Open your mind to
becoming a good listener (two ears trumps one mouth) and knowing each athlete.
Address concerns and conflicts proactively.
master teachers are consistent; they have a sound philosophy, are flexible, but
firm, bring a positive consistency each day (attitude, actions, and responses),
demonstrate moderation and balance, tend to have few rules but apply them fairly
and consistently, and take planning/organization seriously. Credible teaching
is something you are, not just what you do.
coach of significance who changes lives in a positive way is a daunting
challenge and awesome responsibility. You are challenged to become a master
teacher who possesses high levels of character and competency, is passionate and
committed but caring, is renowned as a confidence builder who communicates well
and possesses consistent behavior. Where do you stand on these seven traits?
where you are now that is important but what direction you are moving.
All basketball programs today should recognize one of the major challenges
facing coaches is to know, understand, and educate parents on their role in
providing the best basketball experience for young people. All parents are
well intentioned in wanting their child to have the best sport experience
possible. However, this generation of parents is different - almost all of
them have had some sport playing experience themselves. This causes them
to confuse the proper role for them to support their child. They should be
focusing on becoming the best spectator they can be for their son or daughter.
Instead, they tend to stray into the other sport roles of playing, coaching, or
officiating. We have developed a specific sport management program for
coaches and parents that allows them to understand how to provide the optimal
playing experience for young people. For further information, you should
access the video: Basketball Skills and Drills
for Younger Players Volume 11: The Role of Parents in Athletics or
Basketball Skills and
Drills for Younger
Players DVD - Vol 3
The NABC's Youth
Basketball Coaching Handbook also devotes a full chapter to the proper team
roles in sport as well as having a parent assessment checklist. We believe
that it is imperative that coaches develop a proactive parent management program
and that parents also educate themselves on their best role to maximize their
children's sport experience.
Coach of Significance Part III
Becoming a coach of significance literally means putting your personal stamp
on a professional career so as to maximize the impact you have on the lives of
the young people you are privileged to coach. This will depend upon the
breadth and depth of your coaching knowledge (the science of coaching) but to a
larger extent upon your ability and skills to relate to and develop the
potential of each person/player you contact. I call this the art of
coaching; a creative interactive process that has no blanket prescription.
It always will be a complex interaction between a mature coach and a developing
but more immature young person. Thus, there is no precise formula for this
ever changing process. Coaches must strive for a lifetime to become up to
the task of growing in their coaching art in order to assist young people in
their quest to develop their life potential through the exciting medium of
sport. What a grand opportunity; become a coaching artist and develop
Coach of Significance Part II
One of the critical steps in maturing as a coach is to progress from being a
basketball coach to becoming a coach of significance who teaches basketball and
affects lives in a positive way.
One of the most important areas needed to reach this goal is the use of
modeling as a coaching tool. An effective ways to teach and
influence players is through modeling. Behavior modeling is setting your
best example for players on and off the floor. Research has shown that
players tend to emulate who they respect 24/7, on and off the court. I
feel that most players need coaches to respect and admire; real people who avoid
hypocritical behavior. They tend to follow and learn from genuine coaches
who are the real deal.
Another neglected and underutilized form of modeling is skill modeling.
Skill modeling is teaching basketball skills by proper demonstration of those
skills by the coach. This enhances coach credibility as well as speeds up
player learning rates. It is my belief that all coaches not only can
become an excellent skill modeler but should strive to incorporate
demonstrations into their teaching of skills, whenever possible.
So, in order to become a coach of significance:
- give players the gift of your best example
- constantly improve your skill demonstration for teaching
Coach of Significance Part I
possible to be a coach of winning teams and become significant? All of us
strive to have winning teams. How many coaches also have a plan to become a
coach of significance, i.e. affect each of our player’s lives. After all,
coaching really is about relationships that we remember for a lifetime. How
many players remember and are affected by a coach’s offense, defense or other
It is my
contention that coaches of significance can also enhance their team’s chances to
be more successful in the win column. Coach John Wooden is probably the best
example of this; he seldom mentioned winning but instead focused on doing one’s
best to reach their potential. Wooden certainly qualified as a coach of
significance. Most of his player’s attest to the fact that their lives were
positively affected by their UCLA playing experience.
challenge for all coaches is to develop a plan to intentionally become a coach
of significance. Are there ways we can enhance this affect or methods we can
use to ensure that our player’s lives are positively affected by playing for us
in our sport programs? In the next Coaches Corner, I will offer my
recommendations for just such a program. The challenge to you as a coach is to
develop your own guidelines to accomplish this goal purposefully.
One of the most challenging basketball and life lessons is to control our
response to basketball/life happenings so as to ensure the best and most
First, let's examine the nature of basketball and life. There are many
things out of our control that we only have a choice of responding (not
controlling) to what is happening. For example, we have little direct
control of parents actions, teammates attitude, teachers actions or another
coaches style of play. However, we do have sole control over our chosen
response to those things. We might have a habitual reaction based on our
personality, environment or past. But we do choose our responses, whether
they be positive or negative, emotional or resound, volatile or calm. I
contend that we learn to take a moderate, balanced middle of the road path in
responding; generally positive, between emotional and reasonable and a response
that generally takes us in a forward direction with a positive slant.
The most difficult responses are to failure and negative situations.
These negatives tend to produce a negative spiral of failures. In
basketball, consistency of performance is marked by moderation; no ups and
downs, the absence of "two mistakes in a row or one error leading to another."
the mind controls body actions (verbal and nonverbal) to produce the best long
term results. In shooting, I ask players to control their self - talk to
each shot; remember the makes and forget the mistakes. This means to
reinforce each made shot and on a miss, analyze and then forget the mistakes.
This is a controlled response designed to build shooter confidence.
One of life's important lessons is to learn to make a reasoned response to
failures and successes. As Abraham Lincoln has said "Things turn out best
for those who make the best of how things turn out."
December 15, 2005
Coaches often state their claim as teachers who are
commonly charged with the primary role of developing young people. Development,
to me, is the essential focus area of all who claim to be coaching educators
that bring coaching under the teaching umbrella.
But what a place to be! Who indeed, with the exception of
parents, have the respect and potential to actually influence young people in a
If development or learning is an essential life goal, then
how can coaches enhance learning/development in our coaching?
First, coaches can sell their players on becoming life long
learners – tell them why it can enhance their life:
- Progress – move forward, you must be committed to
- Learning from the Past – learning can be prevent us from
repeating past mistakes.
- Performance – players can improve over time in
basketball and life.
- Learn from Others – Coaches can share their wisdom
(knowledge + experience) to help players learn.
- Use of Time – Learning is a valuable way to use your
time, on and off the court. It can develop habits needed to become a lifelong
- Openness – Habits of listening and learning can develop
curiosity and a respect for other people’s views.
No matter what the reason, each person can find some reason
Other concepts that can be helpful to teach lifelong
learning are such things as:
- Develop an “attitude of gratitude” or an appreciation
for the value of learning. What you learn, know and remember becomes a
permanent part of you and will be the basis of wisdom in later years.
- Learning can allow everything to become a positive
experience. If you can learn from good or bad experiences, from wins and
losses, learning can always make it a positive experience.
- Admit your ignorance and acknowledge your mistakes –
this must happen before you can learn. Admit mistakes, ask questions and move
on. Learning almost always begins with questions. Today is only a starting
point for what you know today and learn for tomorrow.
- A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. Don’t let
what you know be an obstacle to learning right now. What knowledge you have
is just a learning launching pad. You must be humble enough to watch and
- Take responsibility for learning – both for yourself and
others around you. Coaches and players both are responsible for their
learning and that of the team. Develop a learning synergy.
- Learn from your mistakes – have the courage to make
mistakes and learn from them (a mistake mentality). Acknowledge mistakes,
correct them, and learn from them.
- Seek first to understand – put more effort into
understanding others and less effort into worrying about whether you are being
- Learn from experience – it often can be the best teacher
when you evaluate that experience. Ask what went right and what went wrong –
learn from examining and assessing the experience.
- Learn by teaching – one of the best ways to learn
basketball is to teach others. Players can enhance their learning and give
something back to the game by teaching skills to others especially younger
Finally, both coaches and players need to know that
learning can be enhanced greatly by skill modeling and life/role modeling. We
often learn more by what people do than what they say. It has been said that
one of the greatest gifts (learning) one can give is their best example.
Making the World Better
October 1, 2005
Coach Krause was inducted into the Eastern Washington University (EWU) Athletics
Hall of Fame on October 1, 2005. The following is his acceptance speech:
Everything has a beginning and an end, a start and a finish - in sports we
have games, seasons, careers and lives. My EWU career started in 1967 and
ended in 1992. We have to remind ourselves that the important part is what
you do in between the start and finish of anything. I want to share my
thoughts on the lessons I have learned from this journey. One of my
coaching friends, Clarence "Big House" Gaines, once said "Coaches and records
come and go, success is when you touch people's lives and make them better.
You help student athletes become their best." When I started in 1967 at
then Eastern Washington State College, I was looking for a school that would be
a fit for me as a coach and person. One of my classmates gave me that
answer. Frosty Westering wrote a book called "Make the Big Time Where You
Are." So, to me Cheney became the big time when I was hired as a
teacher/coach. This is what I would describe as being a coaching educator
who coaches student-athletes who happen to play basketball where we both can
teach and learn life lessons through that sport. Today as we reflect on
this Hall of Fame ceremony, we are inductees who have gone from the "good
looking" stage of life to the stage of life where people comment "You are still
looking good." I probably have a unique distinction as a Hall of Fame
coach in being fired as a coach at a University and later being inducted into
their Hall of Fame. This forced me to make difficult choices and the road
that I chose to take went from being bitter to becoming better. I chose to
teach my players to develop an attitude of gratitude. This also applied to
my situation for I became focused on being thankful for what I have rather than
what I have experienced or what I've lost. John Wooden, Hall of Fame coach
and player, has said that our reputation is what other people think we are and
our character is what we truly are. My hope is that my Hall of Fame
selection was based more on my character than on my reputation.
I am thankful for the student-athletes at EWU that I have been privileged to
coach, 81 percent of whom became college graduates. More than the
wins and losses, this figure became the most important measure of my success as
a teacher/coach. One message of this journey with my athletes was to know
yourself (a lifelong quest), develop your unique talents and serve others and
give back to other people. People have asked me why I teach and coach, and
I always reply "Where else could I find such great company?" When I began
I remember people who became teachers and coaches like Wayne Gilman and Jack Cleghorn who became Hall of Fame coaches, doctors and lawyers, like Dave Henley,
Al Sims and Tony Chrisman. There were athletes who became business leaders
like John Alaniva, Jim Boxley, Mel Bradley, and Paul Hungenburg. And
finally more people that I mentored as teachers and coaches: John Wade, Ed
Waters, Darryl Harris and Ron Cox. And they asked me why I teach and coach
- the answer is pretty obvious. I am also thankful for the colleagues who
shared this journey, especially those that had honor and integrity. There
were administrators like Jack Leighton, Bob Anderson and Jerry Martin.
There were teachers like Peggy Gazette, Maxine Davis and Brad Cardinal.
Also come to mind are numerous assistant coaches such as Mike Parker, John Wade,
Dan Hays, Jim Conn, and Ron Vlasin. Finally, I'm thankful for my Gonzaga
family of administrators and coaches who have accepted and supported me
throughout my time with them. We should always be thankful for our family
and friends that have shaped us. My origins came from the Great Plains of
Nebraska where I grew up at the end of the great depression. My mother died from
childbirth when I was 7 days old, and my father remarried to provide a new
mother for the five children in our family. This didn't work out and when
I was four he committed suicide. My stepmother selected two of my siblings
to raise and two of us were headed for an orphanage. The oldest brother
was on his own and fortunately an aunt and uncle decided to raise my sister and
me. Unfortunately, my uncle was an alcoholic and my aunt was an emotional
abuser. So you can get the picture and see why teachers and coaches and
sports were literal lifesavers for me. The lesson I learned from this was
that we can't control many things that happen to us but we always can choose to
lead and serve with a positive attitude, actions and responses and do so with
courage and humility. I would also like to acknowledge the Harold and Mary
Kay Meili family who have become my Washington family. In closing, I
remind myself that I am not what I ought to be, not what I want to be, not what
I'm going to be, but I'm thankful that I'm better than I used to be.
The Big Time is Where You Are
Frosty Westering, College Football Hall of Fame coach from Pacific Lutheran
University, coined the phrase "Make the Big Time Where You Are." This
important reminder is a life lesson as well as a basketball lesson.
The grass often looks greener on the other side of the fence but seldom is
just that. Our attitude always makes the difference - it seldom matters
where you are (team, family, home, school, location). You always have a
choice - it isn't about your school, team or family. Make the choice to be
the best you can be in the situation you are in. Become the best you can
be - it doesn't matter whether you are from Cleveland, Seattle or Omaha.
It matters little that you are a ZAG, or a Wolf or a Tarheel. What matters
is that you do your best and make your team as good as possible, you help your
coach do his/her best, you make your family the best family possible.
Not only should you be content with where you are you have a responsibility
to effect change and improve wherever you area. So, don't look around for
the big time. You are already there.
Develop Your Coaching Style
Coaches are often accused of being control freaks and many adopt an
authoritarian style of coaching. Much can be said for allowing all players
and coaches input and voice into the leadership and decision making of a team.
There are many ways to coach and all coaches are encouraged to build their
coaching style around their true personality. Players today insist that
coaches be themselves (be real and not be something you are not). However,
in this ever involving quest to develop a coaching style you should focus on
factors over which you have control.
One component of your coaching style is to teach your athletes and model for
them a focus on controlling the important things in basketball (and life) in
order to be successful. Many athletes (and coaches) tend to waste time and
effort on areas that are not under their control and become frustrated and
concerned with these uncontrollable factors.
Every person can be responsible for and take charge of three things:
- Attitude - Everyone can chose a positive attitude in even the
toughest of circumstances. The positive, optimistic approach is a strong
factor related to success. Faith and hope propel people forward and
upward with possibility thinking. Always choose a positive path.
- Actions - Choosing correct and positive actions can also contribute
to success. The friends you choose and the environment you surround
yourself with are also important success factors. You always can choose
to work hard to improve and give your best effort.
- Responses - Life will knock you around if you let it. But you
don't have to let it. Life and basketball are full of challenges.
Most of which you will tend to have automatic reactions with that often will
be negative and disappointing. Choose to make a learned positive
response to all that happens to you, good and bad.
You can't always control what happens to you. You can, however, decide
what to do about it or how to respond. There is a positive,
forward-looking way to respond to whatever may come your way in basketball (such
as a turnover) or life (such as a mistake).
Teach yourself to act/respond with positive purpose to each setback - find
the value within. Choose a response based not only on the situation but
also on who you are and who you want to become as well as where you want to go.
So, a life/basketball lesson to teach and model for players is to develop to
develop your coaching style around your unique personality. Empower
yourself and your players to focus on control of attitude, actions and
responses. Take responsibility for these three critical factors for
Teaching/Coaching Younger Players
Coauthor Bruce Brown and I are very concerned with how younger players are
exposed to basketball and learn the game. In our opinion, there are too
- Untrained coaches
- Over-involved parents
- Over-organized programs.
We are developing a comprehensive basketball package for parents and coaches
in youth basketball. This package has been developed in cooperation with
the preeminent basketball coaching organization in the United States, the
National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC), whose motto is "Guardians
of the Game."
We advocate youth basketball focused on fun and fundamentals with coaches who
primarily are interested in developing kids through sound basketball
programs. Parents are given information to evaluate youth basketball
programs as well as prepare those parents who choose to coach teams in youth
basketball. In these programs, all players are encouraged to practice and
play and be successful at some level.
The NABC instructional packet for youth basketball will consist of:
- Two Foundation Books
- Basketball Skill
Progressions - a book focused on skill development (what to teach,
when to teach skills and modifying the game for youngsters).
- Beyond the Backboard - the complete handbook on youth
basketball for parents and coaches (philosophy, planning, motivating,
practicing, teaching, playing basketball)
- Thirteen Videos (will also be available in DVD format)
Our hope is that parents and coaches will be able to develop worthwhile
feeder programs for young people that will:
- be challenging and enjoyable
- improve skills and allow successful experiences for all players.
- assist youngsters in developing physically, emotionally and socially
Lessons from the Legends
One lesson passed on by many coaching legends was presented in my February/March,
2004 coaching tip - to leave a coaching legacy. This means to know
yourself, develop your unique talents and serve basketball / others by passing
on that unique legacy.
When noticing that most outstanding coaches do indeed leave a special legacy
to their players and the sport, I was struck with the idea that those worthwhile
legacies were often lost or at least diminished when that coach left coaching or
completed their career. One of my former players went on to become a Hall
of Fame coach himself but tragically died from cancer prematurely in his
coaching/teaching career. From these ideas come these conclusions:
- Outstanding coaches lave special legacies. These I
call "lessons from the legends" of basketball - worthwhile ideas
concerning basketball and life that are worth learning. This concept
could be called "getting the best ideas from the best people in
the coaching/teaching field." Hall of fame coaches of any era can
be mentors for us all!
- It is a worthwhile lesson to undertake the good of preserving the
"best from the best" legacies. It is my intent to
gather and preserve as many basketball coaching legacies as possible in a
series of "Lessons from the Legends" books. The first three
books in the series is at the publisher and will be available soon - Lessons
from the Legends of the Naismith Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame.
- All coaches need to be open to learn the knowledge/experience
lessons from successful coaches past. What better arena to
learn - get the best ideas from the best people in our field.
Leave a Coaching Legacy
Know yourself, develop your unique talents and serve others has been my
personal and professional mantra for some time. To use this means:
- Know yourself - identify your strengths and weaknesses then
develop an action plan to build on those strengths and overcome
weaknesses. This growth plan is a process and takes time.
- Develop your unique talents - every coach has a special
personality and unique coaching style. Be yourself (some say become
your best self) and don't try to evaluation some famous coaching style or
personality. No one should or will be able to coach as you do - this
is your coaching legacy.
- Serve others - ultimately, the coaching profession at it's
best is about service. Coaching/teaching is about helping others to
develop - physically, psycho-socially and emotionally. When the
effectiveness of your coaching is measured, it will depend on the
development of your players in basketball but more importantly, as future
citizens and leaders (person power). After all, relationships will
One way to ensure your coaching legacy or specific imprint upon your players
is to develop a special basketball passion. Mine has been fundamental
skills - the players and teams I have coached are acutely aware (sometimes
painfully so) of my positive/insistence upon basketball basics. They have
literally heard me say "capture and chin the ball" hundreds, sometimes
thousands of times during a career. What you teach and emphasize is what
you get in coaching. Players notice/learn your emphasis/passion.
Enthusiasm is caught and taught. Identify, develop and show your
basketball passion. Your players will learn to remember and appreciate
it. And it will become part of your coaching legacy; passed on and
remembered by your players, hopefully as a positive factor in your lifelong
SUBSTANCE OVER STYLE
In my opinion, there is a basketball trend today that emphasizes style over
substance. It can be seen at all levels of basketball, but is especially
prevalent at the professional level. unfortunately, because of the vast media
exposure of the NBA and to a lesser extent, the college level, there is a
definite trickle down effect to all levels of basketball. It seems to be style
plays that attract the most media attention. What do we see on ESPN Sport
Center- the spectacular dunk shot or the great pass, an outstanding defensive
play, and diving on the floor for a loose ball. I believe you know the answer to
It seems to me that coaches are the only possible hope in reversing this trend
that can affect the integrity of basketball as a team sport. Who else can affect
- administrators- possible but not likely, they tend to focus on $ and the
bottom line of winning and losing.
- players- most tend to be attracted to the spectacular, the quick fix over long
term fundamental foundations. Would a player be known for shooting layins or 3
point FG's, for the dunk shot or a reverse layin off the glass, for a steal or
preventing penetration with great footwork.
So , what can coaches do to develop an
emphasis on substance over style?
- Focus on fundamentals and fun in basketball programs. I agree with John
Wooden who proposes that a dunk shot should only be worth one point because it
is only a style/ athletic play as opposed to a substance/skilled lay in shot.
- Reinforce great team plays rather than individual plays.
*screens ( setting and using)
*great effort plays
*positive attitude, character plays
- Focus on team before self.
- Emphasis on service to team ( servant leadership) and team roles and goals.
- Reward substance with playing time.
“Become your own best guide”
In the media/information age of toda, there are literally
hundreds of choices for basketball materials – books, pamphlets, videos, CDs,
DVDs and software. It is important
for each coach to select materials that are right for them.
Some important criteria for this process are:
– to identify top quality educational material it is necessary to evaluate
the coach(es) producing them. What
is the track record of teaching for that coach (not just their win/loss
record)? Have these materials
lasted over time (more than one edition)?
Are coaches satisfied who have used these materials?
Another tip for determining quality is to consult professional
reviews of the materials.
– Is there breadth and depth for the materials?
For example, do the materials fully cover the subject; descriptions,
demonstrations, explanations, teaching/coaching cues and drills?
Are the materials easily understood and implemented (user friendly)?
– in cost and use. Are the
materials guaranteed? Is
replacement possible for faulty products or materials?
Is the cost within the accepted range of price for similar materials?
Can you convince your school to purchase these products for
professional advancement? In
other words, do they pass the professional growth test?
Be cautious of getting materials from “name” coaches.
The best products are the best regardless of who produced them.
Find materials that fit you and your program.
Apply the K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple / Simple)
It is more important to focus on what your players know, understand and
appreciate. Remember, it isn’t
what you know but what your players know that is critical.
Find ideas that you can adapt to your philosophy and system – not adopt
total packages (unless you are a beginning coach with limited knowledge).
A final reminder: become your own best guide related to
other peoples opinion of your program and coaching.
The only test you need to pass is the mirror test – be able to look
yourself in the mirror each day. Remember
to not take criticism personally – it is only someone else’s perception of
what is going on. You have to listen
to others with an open mind but need to become strong enough and confident
enough to do what is truly right (in your heart and mind).
"Balance is perhaps the most important word for a player or coach to
keep in mind."
Coach John Wooden, Hall of Fame Player and Coach
One of the keys to success in basketball and life is balance.
Balance and quickness should be emphasized in every basketball situation.
There are many types of balance that must be attended to in order for any
player to be effective in reaching their potential. Some of the most
important areas are:
- Basketball Balance
- Physical - Players must learn how to get in a quick stance and
maintain a quick stance with balance in order to attain maximum
- Offensive and Defensive - Both individuals and teams must
strive for balance between scoring and preventing opponents from
- Transition - On offense, teams must strike a balance between
offensive rebounding and establishing their defense, especially having a
safety back on defense. On defense, teams must establish a balance
between gaining possession of the ball (primarily through rebounding)
and pushing the ball up the court on the fast break.
- Inside and Outside - Again, players and teams should strive
toward achieving a balance between inside scoring moves and plays and
outside scoring opportunities.
- Players - A team should have a balance of players that can
excel at the primary basketball skills; ball handling, shooting,
rebounding, and defending.
- Team and Individual - Even though the primary focus in a team
sport such as basketball must be on team play, there should also be a
balance between that team play and individual play.
- Life/Personal Balance
- Emotional - One of the most challenging balance areas requires
us all to keep things in perspective in order to achieve
- Mental - Basketball is a game of finesse and reason, even
though quite physical in nature at times, therefore mental balance is
required for optimal achievement.
- Work and Play - The time honored balance between doing what is
required and what we prefer to do is always a struggle.
- Self and Others - One of the great lessons of a team sport is
to reduce the importance of self in order to serve others.
- Einstein was four years old before he could speak.
- Isaac Newton did poorly in grade school.
- Beethoven's music teacher once said of him "as a composer he is
- F.W.Woolworth got a job in a dry good store when he was 21, but his
employer would not let him wait on customers because he "didn't have
- Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team. Boston
Celtics Hall of Famers Bob Cousy and Bill Russell suffered the same fate.
- A newspaper editor fired Walt Disney because he had no good ideas.
- Winston Churchill failed 6th grade.
- Steven Spielberg dropped out of high school in his sophomore year.
He was persuaded to come back and placed in a learning disabled class.
He lasted a month and dropped out of school forever.
Somewhere we all must meet someone who sees greatness in us
and expects it from us. How will you see your players this month?
"Win with humility and lose with dignity"
John Wooden stated an important maxim "Win with humility and lose with
dignity." Kipling reminded us to treat triumph and disaster exactly
the same as they are both imposters. From a coaching standpoint, this is a
strong reminder for us as coaches and to teach our players this principle.
In order to achieve consistent performance, we all need to keep things in
perspective. This coaching tip is one way to develop consistency.