Monday, August 21, 2017

Trash Day: What Can You Get Rid of In Your Program and In Your Life

It's early last Wednesday and I'm up for my morning cardio. Wednesday is a walk/podcast day after a lot of miles 17 actually, Sunday through Tuesday.

And it's trash day. Forgetting trash day is the worst isn't it? To be honest that wasn't my first thought. I first worried about the smell. I would estimate their are 100 homes in my subdivision. I have an over active imagination for a 40 year old so I pictured it awful at first. Then I started thinking about the money just in my neighborhood.

We all need a trash day. At least once a week we get rid of things. This should be true in our personal lives and in our program. I'm not saying once a week but maybe once every 3 months; definitely once a year. What can you live without? I made the decision to take the TV out of my bedroom. I have started sleeping better already. I also decided to stop watching the news. Not because I don't want to be informed, I just don't need to be reminded of all the negative things in the world.  I check the weather and sports. That's it. 

So what can you get rid of in your program? How about in your life? We live in a society of excess. 

Here are 3 things to get rid of

1. Things that don't work

Sounds simple right. If it doesn't work why keep it? Shooting drills that don't fit your offense are a waste of time. Drills that don't fit your concepts are a waste a time. Here's something else to look at. You know that play you love but it never works...yeah..time to trash it.

Trashing something takes courage. The most important words in coaching are this: "Crap, this isn't working!"
Be brave enough to end things that don't benefit you. 

2. Things that inhibit growth

The game hasn't changed, we just forgot how to teach it. Coach Tates Locke is the most influential man in my basketball philosophy. I've been fortunate enough to spend some quality time with him. He has forgotten more than I will ever know. 

We, coaches 45 & younger, don't know how to teach the game that well. We got caught up in the "newest, hippest offenses and drills" and lost our way. I swear, some skill guys and coaches act like their drills are a dive meet and the degree of difficulty makes the drill better. Keep it Simple. Stick to Repetitions. 

Another thing that inhibits growth is our stubbornness. Can every team play Man defense? Yes they can. Can every team win playing Man defense? No they can't. I'm a firm believer in teaching the right way to play but when it comes down to games give your team a chance. "I'm going to run the dribble drive because I like it." 
Umm, Coach, you don't have a guard that can get downhill. Do what works, not what you want to work.

 Find the shoe that fits your foot, not the one you like on the shelf.

3. Half Your Stuff

Could you live on half your salary? Odds are no. Could you live in a home half the size of what you have now? Odds are yes but it would be very uncomfortable. Most of us Coaches could live without half of the stuff in our program. If we focus on less we would get more. I was guilty of working on things that we never were going to do because "you're suppose to do this". 

If we eliminate things we aren't going to us we can focus and improve on things we know we are going to need.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Where'd the Multi-Sport Athlete Go?

I was talking to a friend of mine this week about multi-sport athletes and I started thinking about my own coaching career and what I've witnessed as a Coach. The Multi-Sport High School athlete is dying. Let me rephrase that. The football/basketball athlete's are becoming very rare. Football/Track and Football/Baseball athlete's are still around but what is happening to the Football/Basketball player? I have a few thoughts on it.

#1. August isn't Special Anymore
Football just isn't that special anymore. Now before any football Coaches want to publicly stone me let me finish. Football is the King sport, especially in the South. I love Friday nights and all day Saturdays of College Football. I'd rather sit on my couch all day on Saturday than attend a game because I just like to watch it all.

But Football is losing it's prestige and here's why: It never stops anymore. Games August through early December, take off for Christmas and Off-Season lifting begins. Then Spring Ball. Then 7 on 7.
August use to mean two-a-days and getting ready. Football Athletes literally are getting close to the dreaded AAU system that High School and College Football Coaches are trying to get keep out of their game.

#2. Forced to Choose
Summer use to be for baseball and summer vacation trips. Now Athletes are going from summer basketball team camp to 7 on 7 football to lifting weights 4 days a week. Factor in that cute Blonde that wants you to go to the lake and something is going to lose. Summer overload is real.
A friend of mine told a story of his nephew having to find a gym on vacation and get his workout card signed by the manager each day so he would get credit for his football workout. I know of kids that go to team camp with their high school team only to leave a day early to go play in a weekend tournament with their summer team.

#3 Selfish People
Let's face it. There are some selfish people involved in sports. The problem with youth sports isn't the youth...or the sport. Basketball Coaches afraid that their kids will get hurt. Football Coaches saying that the kid needs to lift weights.
Would I be lying if I said I didn't mind if my entire team was in the gym? Who wouldn't like that but here is what I find: BURNOUT is real. Coaches get tired of Players. Players get tired of Coaches. Both get tired of Practice.

If an athlete wants to play another sport, encourage it.
Here are the only times I discouraged an athlete playing another sport;
and it was actually my sport.
You know they aren't going to get in your rotation
You know that they can help another sport more.

If you're on the High School level, chances are you don't have to worry too much about your win loss record being what effects your job. (If you do, ask your admin to take you out of the classroom and provide you with the same players as your opponents.)  High School is about an experience. Let kids experience as much as they can.

I close with this: One of the best kids I every coached was at a 4A school in Arkansas. He was All-State in Football, Baseball, and should have been in Basketball except this Coach put his undeserving player higher in the voting - YES I'M STILL BITTER
He was going to be my best player regardless if he was full time basketball or not.

If a kid wants to play more than one sport, encourage it. Pretty Simple.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Player Development: What A Coach Needs to Stress

The late summer & early fall months are a great time of year for player development. Coaches anxiously await to see who will put on a couple inches & to see who is working on their game. In most instances their Coach sees them at open gyms, team camps or other workouts. Some players spend quite a bit of time traveling & when they return it will be a surprise; either a good one or bad one. Players that get "out of the system" tend to develop habits that their coach isn't to fond of. A lot of that is based on what is being stressed. 
I believe that every player, regardless or height or position, should be working on their complete skill set while having a focal point on their strong areas of their game. When I say complete skill set, that includes the cognitive & leadership aspects on the game as well.  Here are the 3 areas I think are important to player development. 

1. Create Reactions and Habits
I love teaching the Ball Screen System because it stresses reading the defense and creating habits. Some would argue that I'm building robots by putting them in a system. I would argue habits create players. 
Do you know what a habit is? A habit is what you return to in a time of stress. When a player is under stress, they return to their habits. Maybe that's a player shooting a layup with their right hand on the left side. When we are continuously stressing, teaching & most importantly practicing reactions to certain situations, you'll eventually eliminate any bad habit & have a smarter player in the long run. 

2. Actions & Words, not just Words
If you only lead by words, you're a poor leader. Your "vocal leader" needs to be an "active leader". This is not an actions speak louder than words situation but an actions speak louder WITH words. There isn't a coach anywhere that doesn't want his team to be more vocal. What we should be stressing is be vocal & active. A talking defender is an active defender, both mentally & physically. If we teach players to verbalize what they are doing, especially at a younger age, they will automatically be mentally engaged & develop a better skill set. You need the leads in the locker room to be leading with this principle. It is almost imperative that the guy talking can do the walking. Heck, Rudy didnt give any rah-rah speeches. Neither should your 15th man. The voice has to come from a top level player. 

3. Be the Thermostat, Not the Thermometer
I use this a lot with our top players, especially our Point Guard. Don't wait to get a feel for how you should play or what your body language should be based on how your teammates are playing or behaving. A really good player is the thermostat. He controls the temperature instead of just measuring it. Whether the intensity needs to be turned up or if when a  tight situation occurs & a cooler head is needed to prevail, being able to control the environment separates a great player from a good one. 

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Smile Like Slykhuis

Smile Like Slykhuis. That was the #40 piece of advice I gave to myself on my birthday. For those of us in the basketball world lucky enough to know Jerry Slykhuis, "Slyk's" smile is as synonymous with Snow Valley as Cutthroat. 
Jerry loved everyone and everyone loved Jerry. I honestly don't think Jerry slept during the weeks at Waverly and until this year we didn't realize everything he did. Jerry's best friend and partner Don Showalter said it best: "We have to all be at our best this week just to be at Jerry's level." 

There are a lot of things that I'll remember about Jerry. Jerry had an energy that was unexplained. For those of you that have never been to Snow Valley, I describe it as this. "It is the most exhausting, fulfilling week of basketball in my year." I've never ran a marathon-don't plan to-but I would compare the feeling on the last day to that. You love the time there, your body hurts, but the reward is worth it. The one constant throughout that week: Jerry's smile.

I didn't know he was a Hall of Fame Coach until after he passed away. Jerry was a great coach, no doubt about it but I didn't know his record proved it. He never mentioned it. He was just Jerry.

Jerry had a tough side too. He could convict you with a comment. One summer, he asked me about player development. Before I could answer Jerry said "How much time do you spend with the worst guy on your team?" I froze. He said "How much time are we spending with the worst kid at camp?" Jerry had a way of getting you without getting you.

Jerry had a sense of humor as well. He could give it out as well as he could take it. Whenever you saw Jerry and Tates laughing you would be tempted to walk up but you risked getting a full on assault from those two.

Jerry had compassion. In 2015 I was going through my divorce. I was at camp and needed to leave. Jerry helped arrange an earlier flight home, stayed up with me to take me to the airport at 4:30am, and gave me great wisdom on that ride. He text me that day and for several days afterwards. The next summer at Snow Valley, my sons were with me and that is one smile I will never forget.

So one of my goals is to Smile like Slyk.

Below are a couple of Facebook posts about him and a picture of that smile.

We love Jerry. We miss him. But when I think about him I smile. 

December 21, 2017

Spent last night talking to & around some of the people I love & care about the most in my life. I smiled a lot and went to bed thankful.
This morning was hard. I, along with others received the news that Jerry Slykhuis & his wife Jane were killed in an automobile accident.
People that know me know my happy place is Waverly, Iowa. That's where Snow Valley Basketball School is held. The last 5 years I've spent a week there learning and teaching. For those that don't know. You get up around 5am, teach basketball from 6:30am-11pm with 3 breaks...and do it again for 4 more days. It's the most fulfilling exhaustion ever.
I made some of my strongest friendships there. I talk to SV guys 365 days a year.
I also went through some life moments there too:
I was hired as the Head Coach at Gravette while I was there. I told Tates, Dave, Show & Jerry. Jerry shook my hand and gave me a hug. They shared in my happiness.
When I was going through my divorce, I went there but needed to leave. Jerry drove me to the airport at 4am and gave me words of encouragement I'll never forget. He text or called a lot that month.
When I accepted the West High job, I sought out advice from SV guys. Especially Jerry.
This last summer Hayden & Evan got to meet Jerry. He treated them like they were the reason they had the camp.
Jerry loved everyone. And we all loved Jerry.
I smile when I think about and go to Snow Valley. I'm going to miss Jerry's smile this summer. I'm so thankful for the time I had with "Slyk".
Rest easy Coach. Thank you for impacting not just my career but my life.
Love your Arkansas buddy,

July 30th, 2017

A week ago right now I was driving somewhere in South Iowa/North Missouri. We just finished our last of 5 days at Snow Valley. It is my favorite basketball week of the year because of the relationships and atmosphere.
I wasn't looking forward to going this year since last December when we loss Jerry Slykhuis.
Jerry was the first smile, hand shake and hug I got every time I arrived. I knew he wasn't there but I caught myself on the first day about to ask what he was doing.
For whatever reason I've been through some of my life's highs and lows while I'm at Snow Valley and Jerry was always there with a smile to celebrate or give an encouraging word. I missed that this week.
This year was one of the best staffs I've been apart of Snow Valley
There was an incredible energy all week.
We all miss Jerry but we what a great week in his honor.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Rebounding: The Third Skill in Basketball

Every summer I spend at least 5 days in Waverly, Iowa on the campus of Wartburg College for Snow Valley Basketball School. It is by far the best thing I've done as a Coach. I get the chance to learn and talk basketball with some of the best basketball minds in the game.

This past session one of my clinics was on Rebounding. A typical clinic at Snow Valley is 45 minutes to an hour on a topic. There are 3 types of drills in basketball: Individual, Team and Camp. Designing drills for 70 campers is a task at times but something that I feel makes you a better Coach. 

Tates Locke says there are three skills in basketball: Shooting, Passing and
and Rebounding. I agree with him. Before you think "What about Dribbling?" I would agree that Dribbling is a habit. 

Rebounding is the only skill that Toughness and "Want To" comes into play. Just because a Player "Wants To" be a good shooter doesn't mean they will be. There is a definite skill in rebounding. Here are what I think are the 3 points on Rebounding.

1. Prevent or Pursue

"Shot is taken, shot is missed. Shot is taken, shot is missed." Every player except the shooter should be thinking this thought. On average, from point of release to contact of rim is two seconds. This gives you plenty of time to assess the situation. Answer these questions:
  • If on Defense, is my assignment attacking the class? 
    • If so, Prevent by blocking out
    • If not, Pursue the ball - Think Point Guard situation 
  • If on Offense, is my defender preventing me from the ball?
    • If so, Try to take them under the basket
    • If not, Pursue the ball
      • Attack a shoulder. Most Players are taught to step with a forearm and spin
        • Go to the "elbow side" 
        • Swim move over that shoulder
Are you going to attack the glass or are you going to stop transition baskets? The easy answer is do both but the fact is you're not going to be able to be good at doing both. 

2. Know Where the Miss is Going and Who is Shooting

This is the easiest but most often overlooked part in rebounding; knowing where to rebound. If you're in the "target area" be prepared. If you're not, prevent your assignment or your defender from getting it. Is it a good shooter? Then the miss will probably be fewer and softer. If not, can get wild. 

If your team is a set play team, do you design your set with offensive rebounding in mine?

Defensively, the weak side rebound is what kills your team. We send 2 players to double team the backside offensive rebounder. This is usually a guard "cracking down" from the top  

3. Rebound in "Live" Situations

We only do one Rebounding Drill - Get 1, Get 2, Get 3 (attached in the .pdf) for this simple reason. EVERYONE IS AN ALL-AMERICAN REBOUNDER IN A REBOUNDING DRILL
We will teach technique, do a couple 1 v 1 reps then assign a coach to watch rebounding in a live scenario (shell drill) or in the drill mentioned. 

Here are the drills I used during the Snow Valley clinic.
Click Here

Thursday, August 3, 2017

40 for 40: Random Advice for Myself (and You) about Life and Basketball from a 40 Year Old Coach

It's been 3 years since I've posted anything on  A lot has changed for me in that time. For you first time readers let me explain how this started, who I am and who I am now.

I'm a kid that grew up in a school with 512 kids K-12. I knew I wanted to be a Coach when I was 12 years old. I've coached on every level from kindergarten at the YMCA, to the AAU National Tournament. Been a Head Coach for Junior High and High School. Coached at a school with 100 kids and currently coach at a school with 600 kids a class. I love the game of basketball. You'll soon figure that out.

My good friend Alan Stein convinced me to start this blog 5 years ago in an attempt to share some thoughts on the game. I honestly never imagined that anyone else would read it. I was going to use it as a journal to get my thoughts out of my head so I could focus on other things.

Since my last post, I've had 3 different jobs, Associate Head Coach at Springdale High School, Head Coach at Gravette High School and now currently the Head Coach at West High School in Bentonville, Arkansas. I've traveled to some amazing camps, spoke at some clinics and really tried to grow as a Teacher of the Game. My personal life has changed as well. I am now a divorced father of two teenage boys who live with me primarily and also play for me. (That's a topic I'll be covering soon). I live a great life and it keeps getting better.

Today is my 40th Birthday. Normally I break every topic into 3 parts (3 from the Corner. I live in the Northwest corner of Arkansas and 3 points- see what I did there😉) but I've made a list of 40 things I think are important to me about life, the game of Basketball, and some that are as random as I am.

  1. Happiness is Important - If you're happy don't mess it up. Don't take a new job, don't buy a new house or a new car. 
  2. Find yourself a good group of friends - at least 6. It takes 6 to carry a casket. These 6 should be the last to let you down...Literally.
  3. Never Stop Learning
  4. Be True to Who You Are
  5. Teach Man to Man Defense - Doesn't mean you have to play it.
  6. Find a friend that you can quote movies and song lyrics with. 
  7. Cry - It cleanses the soul
  8. Read
  9. Shower Beer - Water as hot as you can stand it. Beer as cold as possible. You'll thank me later
  10. Listen to Country Music. It is acceptable Memorial Day to Labor Day for EVERYONE. Year round too.
  11. Laugh at Yourself
  12. Work out - I just really started this last year and your body deserves it.
  13. Forgive
  14. Know what your Favorite Movie, Song, Color, Food, Book are- Saying I don't know is boring
  15. Don't Coach Angry - You can't do anything but fight mad
  16. Watch "Friday Night Lights" (the TV Series on Netflix) the GREATEST series ever {post coming on it}
  17. Ask Questions
  18. Tell People You Love Them
  19. Just Be Dad at Home - The Office can wait
  20. Don't Spend So Much Time Yelling at Officials
  21.  Stress is okay - Means that it means something to you but you have to manage it.
  22. Don't Stress over Stress - Read #21. Worry doesn't make it better
  23. Listen to Tupac 
  24. Get some "Water Therapy" - Something about time on a lake or at the beach with friends and family that is good for the soul
  25. Watch a Sunrise and Sunset in the same day.
  26. Eat Dessert
  27. Take the TV out of your bedroom
  28. Play Xbox with your kids - or whatever else they want to do
  29. Trust Your Intuitions
  30. Find a Mentor
  31. Pray
  32. Stay Humble 
  33. Don't Let Your Job Title Define You
  34. Stay Up Late and Get Up Early
  35. Sing "Bohemian Rhapsody" by yourself and use every voice
  36. Teach How, When, & Why for each basketball skill
  37. Take A Chance
  38. Most Things Aren't As Bad As You Think They Are
  39. Think - But Don't Over-Think -That leads to #22
  40. Smile Like Slykhuis