Saturday, July 6, 2013

Ignore the Experts: Why Everyday is more important than Experience.

   I'm a young coach. I'll turn 36 in August. (I'll accept gifts from now through November for your convenience though). I've coached high school basketball since 2000. My first coaching job was at the YMCA as a high school senior for a 5 year old team. Wow. I haven't thought about that in a long time. I was a head high school coach at 22 right out of college at a small school here in Arkansas. I heard early in my career that I wasn't experienced enough to be a head coach? When you think about it, when are you experienced enough? Is there a secret chart somewhere that shows when you achieve the desired about of experience? Is it age related? I definitely think not but it appears to be the norm.  Shouldn't experience be the final assessment of a career, not what future success is based on? Are we still calling the winner of the 1976 100meter dash the fastest man on the planet? No, because someone currently is better than he was at the time he was the best. Granted what he did is a great accomplishment but does that guarantee he is good now or will be later? So does good ever wear off? Is there an expiration date on success?   So why is it that we try to judge future success on the past experience of someone? Here are a couple of my thoughts on what the experts think about experience.    

1. Wisdom doesn't come with age, it comes with work
   If longevity makes you a master at something, they why don't companies promote the doorman or a custodian with 20 plus years experience with the company to CEO? They've put in the time. They've earned the right, right? I know a lot of older coaches who still think like they did when they started. The wisdom they've acquired is a routine. Nothing changes for them. I agree that a routine is important to a program but the game has changed in the last 2 years, so if your ideology is from the 70s, 80s you're mistaken about what is taking place around you. 
  To be a leader, you have to be a learner. I read about everything I can when it comes to leadership & basketball. Does it change my mind? Sometimes. More times than none it just makes me think. Thinking is good. It causes us to grow. 
  One of the wisest basketball people I listen to is 13 years younger than I am. Drew Hanlen works hard at being the best. It'd be real easy for anyone to scoff at the idea of learning from someone his age. I dealt with the same thing as a head coach at that age. However, when you see his work ethic, attention to detail, & the amount of work he puts in, that's where you see his genius at work. Another too young to be this good guy is Alan Stein. He has transformed the way people think about basketball strength training over the last 6 years with the birth of the StrongerTeam.  A revolutionist. Kids everywhere now can't wait to work out and prepare. When the masses thought there was only one way, Alan found a better way. 
2. Experience is a polite name for excuses
   If been fortunate to speak to a college class the past two years of future coaches. We talk about interviews, what the "real" job consists of. I explain to them that adding the first job is the hardest. Your résumé is looked at as what would qualify you for the position, not what qualities you have that you would bring to the position. Experience means you've made mistakes. 
   Lets say I offer you a candy bar. i then set two of the same type in front of you. One has definitely had a bite taken out of it & there is a note that tells you how good it is. The other appears brand new but It's note says no one has tried it yet. Which do you choose? Why didn't you prefer the experienced bar? 

3. Believe in yourself
   A lot is being said about the Celtics hiring Brad Stevens. He doesn't have any NBA experience. He also never had any Head Coach experience when he was selected at Butler. He had never coached in the Final Four so he led the Bulldogs to back to back appearances in the Championship game. Based on his experience he shouldn't even be a Head Coach. After all, he was a volunteer to start his career. His experience should have never allowed him to be hired as an assistant & an assistant without previous head coaching experience shouldn't be hired as a head coach, correct? The expert opinion would be find a coach that was a head coach with previous success because that's the smart thing to do.
  Coach Stevens knew he good be a great coach. He just needed a shot. His shot came when he quit a job to take a non paying volunteer spot. He figured out the number of days he could survive on Ramon noodles. It's true. He was prepared to do anything. That preparation is why today he's the head coach for the Celtics. 

Ignore the experts. Believe in yourself. Focus on what you can do & are doing versus what you've done.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Practice: Don't Waste Your Time

   Practice. I can't hear that word without seeing Allen Iverson. "We talking bout practice man." Needless to say some of us have probably felt that way. As a player you've been through some tough practices. It's hard for any of us to remember a practice UNLESS something happened memorable. Usually a memorable practice involved something you wish you could forget. 
   Practices are the lifeline of any program. Talent is the blood. Put them together & you have a chance if the practice is productive. IF.  That's where some people miss the purpose. Practice has to be productive. Just because you're practicing doesn't mean you're getting better or getting something accomplished. A lot of the time all you end up accomplishing is wasting your time. If you aren't practicing properly you are not going to get better. 
   Some summer teams try to cram an entire pre-season into 5 days. Here's a hint: SELECT BETTER PLAYERS. Get players committed enough to work on their own. Players should play, not prep to play in the summer. Find kids that will condition on their own so you can work on skills at game pace. You can't get a team game ready in a couple days. Same can be said for when you get your players from football. They can't be ready to play 32 minutes by practicing 3x a day. 
   Practice with a plan. What can we do today to make my team better tomorrow? Here are my 3 thoughts on how to ensure you don't waste a practice. 

1. Practice to improve skill &/or athleticism
Practice time is sacred, or it should be treated as such. Don't get through practice, get from practice. I love the movies Hoosiers. "My practices aren't designed for your enjoyment."  When Coach Norman Dale tells his team that every coach loved it. I'm not a sunshine guy. I have to work at staying positive. I also know that with today's player if they don't want or like practice they won't come. It's too easy for them to quit & just play pickup or on a summer team. Basketball players have the longest season. Practices have to be to improve. Don't waste practice time. If a team or player can't do a drill correctly pick another drill. If a play isn't working, do you keep running it in the game? I love my job. I love practices. That's why I'm not going to endure a miserable practice. Use that time to improve. If you're not improving, end it. It's that simple. 

2. Anyone can make someone sweat
I have had the pleasure of watching some of the greats practice. I've attended practices at Duke, North Carolina, Indiana & Butler all in the past 3 years. They get it. I've also had the misfortune of watching some really bad practices. Sadly, most of those occur on youth or summer level. Those types of teams are when & where players are suppose to be improving. I've attended practices where at least thirty minutes of their hour and a half practice was spent with the team running while their "coach" is screaming, enjoying it. ANYONE CAN MAKE SOMEONE SWEAT. Heck, I can run anyone until they're sick. That doesn't mean they got a good workout or any better. That means the time you could've spent on skill work they spent throwing up. Did they get better? How about the team? Our program conditions. We don't just run to be running. We have a purpose. 

3. Practice isn't to show what you know but to pass what you know on. 
Have you ever been to a practice that served as a "look or listen to what I know session"? Practice is about the team. The Coach's time has past. Practice is about passing on what you know. Show them. jump in a drill to let them see how to do it then get back to coaching.  Teach them. Tell them what to do but practice is about player improvement, not coach reliving the glory days. If your players are struggling with a drill or concept, maybe you aren't doing a good job teaching it? I catch myself all the time realizing I could've done a better job explaining something. 

                            Players need to know the why, how & when in practice. 

I'm not against conditioning. Check this out. Conditioning 
Every program that is worth anything has players in game shape. 
I just don't see the point in wasting time or ruining a great practice with mindless conditioning.