Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Communicating with Players...

With the season started for most of us now, things are in a different gear. Recently I watched Michigan play and Coach Juwan Howard was motivating his players by holding up a photo. The photo was of PJ Tucker from USA Basketball. It's famous for this reason.
 Click here to watch

It got me to thinking about how we communicate with our Players. It also got me thinking about when we do it. We would all agree that communicating is a huge part of success with any organization. We would all also probably agree that most problems can be avoided with clear, concise communication. We ask our Players to talk more on the court. In order to achieve that we Coaches need to teach them how to talk-not just to each other but to the Coaching Staff as well. 

 One of my goals this year is to be efficient. The definition of efficient is achieving maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort or expense. 

So in the next few minutes I hope to effectively and efficiently share some ideas to help you with communication.

These are three things we talk with our players about and that I have worked hard on myself about doing efficiently.

1. Don't ask a rhetorical question UNLESS it is to check for understanding.

This simple rule can help you avoid a lot of the "back talk" and defensive player reactions. Putting a Player on the spot after a mistake is a great way to get attitude and defensive behavior from a Player. They know they messed up. You know it. Their teammates know it so addressing it publicly doesn't do any good unless it is a learning moment for everyone. Then, make sure you make it about the action, not the Player. At times, I will ask a question that they all can answer about a situation as a way of checking for understanding. This takes the focus off the one and back on the whole.

2. When you ask a question, let them answer...and "I don't know" is an acceptable answer.

Give Players a chance to talk. Let them take some ownership in things. I often ask a Player "What do you see?" When I do this, I want them to (1) be honest, (2) be confident in answering and (3) be able to explain it because that helps in their understanding. Choose your questions so that "I don't know" is a rare answer. When a question permits an IDK answer, then use it as a chance to teach to the individual and also the group.

3. A statement about a situation to a Player should only be answered with a "Yes Coach, Yes Sir or Yes Ma'am".

There are times when the Coach's word is the last thing that needs to be said about a situation. I would encourage you to avoid statements that can be answered by No. The word No does something to your brain. Don't believe me, read the attached article.

Players need to understand that sometimes the only acceptable answer is Yes. Then move on. Don't keep beating a dead horse.

And 1!

4. Don't waste a timeout to gripe.

The mistake happened. Coach calls a timeout and then spends the sixty seconds complaining about instead of fixing the issue. The bench is the best place to correct issues you're upset about. Timeouts need to be beneficial for the team, not for us Coaches.

Here are a few quick things we use with our program.

1. Coach in tweets, not in blogs. - Say what you need to say fast.

2. The first person to talk on defense is right. - This one eliminates a lot of issues on Defense.

3. Have a conversation on Defense- Saying help over and over loses it's intensity. Saying "Dave, I've got your help" gives Dave confidence and lets him know someone is actually ACTIVELY there!

4. You can't coach mad-You don't think clearly when you're angry.
Get mad. Get over it. Get back to coaching.

Good luck to you all this season. Keep growing and protecting the game.

The Most Dangerous Word in the World

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

The Worst Day of a Coach's Year....

Welcome to basketball season! There is a lot of excitement but for some players and Coaches there will be a lot of stress over the next few days. That stress isn't about Ws and Ls yet. For some it's about making the roster.

Tryouts is a part of coaching basketball. It is one of three of the absolute worse days in coaching. (The other two would losing the last game of the year & inventory day.) For some, the argument is not to cut anyone, and while I agree with that on some levels of play, doesn't work due to  logistics, strategy and being competitive on the "school level". I am against cutting kids before the 8th grade. That's my personal take on it.

To me, the optimal number of Players for practice is 16 but that is because I want to be able to play 4x4 Snow Valley Cutthroat. You also have to take into consideration what is allowed by your state. (Our state limits your roster to 15 for the state tournament so that is what we do for Varsity.)

Another factor in tryouts is where you are located. In the great state of Arkansas, you can practice with your team all but two weeks in the Summer and 3 days at Christmas. This means we do our tryouts in the spring and have our roster for the summer. This is a major issue with move-ins. The cause is we have an athletic period and classes are built. Again, not idea but that's what we have. I'd rather have that headache than what some states deal with.

Back on topic...How do you handle tryouts and cutting players?

I was against the posting a list but this past season I did that because of time restraints and multiple days. Wasn't my favorite and here's why: EVERYONE sees it, sometimes before the one getting the news. They are forced to deal with some raw emotion in front of people.

I've also done it where I read the names of the "chosen few" aloud and had them go to the locker room while I address the ones that didn't make it.

Again, neither are really great models. I feel like we've gotten a better way planned for this year with the help google classroom.

1. Have Students sign up for the Google classroom.
    This is a way to communicate clearly and a discreet way to deliver the initial news.

2. Don't drag out the process. I have done this in the past. It's excruciating for everyone. A lot of times you know off the "eye test". You're a professional. Trust yourself. We have come up with 5 tests that give us a really good idea if the player can play at our level. They are:
         1. Form Shooting - Just watch a player shoot. Especially for a 9-12th player. Odds are if it doesn't look right...
         2. Lane Slides - :30 seconds (18 is the average)
         3. Box Drill Drop Step Layups - :30 seconds (7 is the average)
         4. Mikan Drill - :30 seconds (16 is the average)
         5. Catch and Shoot - 5 shots from 5 spots (13 is the average from 3)
These give us a pretty accurate idea if we want to bring the player back for competition days. These also take minimal time to chart. You could even allow them to go twice (we don't.)

The main thing is this: Protect the player by how you handle it and protect yourself as well.


Saturday, August 3, 2019

Year 42 -

Well today is my 42nd birthday. If you forgot to send me a card, good news is I'll accept gifts through Labor Day so you still have some time. The 42nd birthday shouldn't be a special time to celebrate but that number got me to thinking a lot this week. 

For me, 42 is a sign of hope and achievement. Let me explain.

Bill Clinton was the 42nd President. President Clinton is from my hometown, Hot Springs, Arkansas. (please don't get political. just read) This taught me that a kid from a small town could make it to the top. 

42 is the number that Jacki Robinson wore. Jacki broke a barrier most thought couldn't and honestly a majority didn't want to see broken. Through his perseverance and talent he paved the way for a lot of African American baseball players in the major leagues. So to me, 42 is a symbol of strength and toughness.

42 is also the ultimate answer to Life, The Universe and Everything. If you don't know what I'm talking about, look it up.

I also learned that....

The Titanic was traveling 42 km/hour when it hit the iceberg.

On page 42 in "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" Harry learns that he is a wizard.

Sadly, Elvis Presley died at the age of 42.

Looking back, I learned a lot of things about myself last year.
There were events I dealt with superbly and things I would have done differently.
Opportunities I took and some I passed on that I might eventually regret.
I learned that what my Mom told me before she passed away,  "You are living this life to help someone who will walk a similar path after you do", came true again.

“ You know that road to success all your teachers and coaches talk about? Just remember, for every mile of road, there are two miles of ditches” 

I read that quote yesterday in the Mike Neighbors newsletter. (If you aren't signed up for that, do it here.) I had seen it before as he mentions but it really made me reflect on the past year of my life.

Ditches. They are there and we can't control them.
Sometimes you have to go to the ditch. Someone or something runs you off the road.
Sometimes it's yourself. Not paying attention and bam! There you are.

 I'd be lying if I said in year 41 I didn't spend some time in a ditch. 
I think I drove in the ditch for a mile or two this year.....but with the help of mentors and some great friends, plus a reminder from Coach Locke about why I am one of  "The Last of the Cowboys". I found my way back.

If you find yourself in a ditch, just know it won't last forever and if you need help getting out, talk to someone. Message me. Trust me, We've all been there.

So here's to 42.
 I'm thankful for
Two great Sons in Hayden and Evan
Great friends (too many to name) old and new
Mentors I can call on to tow me out of a ditch every now and then.
And I'm even thankful for ditches. Thanks for keeping me on the right track.

 So from now on I'm planning to live my life somewhere between Mr. Rogers and Doc Holliday. 

"It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood and you can be my neighbor if you want...Or I can be your Huckleberry."
- Greg White 

And how cool is this...
"Wanna wish a happy birthday to the last of the cowboys @gregwhite32 
If my sons could play for any ball coach in the 🇺🇸 I would want them to play for Greg. Good Coach, better person, Great American. But we are never moving to Arkansas so there is that. For every person Coach offends on social media he inspires about 10. I’m one of those people—-keep it up brother! Cletus please leave the ball.#BTC>#YBC #Go Browns #winnerswin" - Captain Babe Kwasniak.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

How to Win when You Shouldn't...

If the Title alone didn't intrigue you, I'll try to not lose you in the first paragraph either. Before we go any further this isn't directly about how to X and O your way to win. It's about ideology and a couple examples I've witnessed and been directly apart of.

The toughest question to answer in coaching has to be How do we win with less talent? Whether you are coaching 5th grade or a Pro team, at some point you are going to find yourself facing a team with more talent than you have.

This season I watched Coach Mike Neighbors' team do something extraordinary in the SEC tournament. They beat South Carolina and Texas A&M in back to back games to reach the SEC Championship game. The staff did an amazing job of preparation. Chelsea Dungee also had the best scoring tournament of anyone ever in that league. But that wasn't the takeaway I got from watching this team. It was this:

1. Coach Neighbors asked each player to do 1 more thing. That was it. Just do 1 more thing.
Get one more rebound than you normally do. Get one more loose ball you normally wouldn't get. Just do 1 more. As simple a notion as it sounds, That was the difference in winning. One more.

2. Ask your team to do one less.
As a team, can we have one less turnover. Can we limit them to one less offensive rebound? 
Keep the focus on 1.

3. Everyone has an Achilles. 
Every team has a weakness. Yes, even the Warriors. Your job as a Coach is to find that weakness and use it to your advantage. Are they bad shooters? 
<Sidenote 1>
I have been on the losing end when I decided to leave their worst player wide open 
and he made 2 3s.
 We lost by 4. 
Remember, that's a HUGE rim up there 
and if Air Bud can make a basket, their worst shooter can too.

Do they have a small guard? Can you change your offense?
<Sidenote 2> 
Here is something we've all seen. 
Team A has a small guard. Team B decides to post that guard up. 
That's all fine and dandy as long as you've practiced it. 
Who is making the entry pass? Have you worked on post moves with that guard?
If you have, do it. But realize this: That guard has been small THEIR ENTIRE CAREER. 
They've probably been posted up before. So if you haven't worked on it, it may not work.
The main thing is this: Don't get outside of what you do UNLESS you've worked on it. 

4. Attack their Star
Make their best scorer defend and defend multiple actions. Most "Star" players don't like contact. Make sure you have contact on every screen, every block out. Every drive, you try to draw a charge. Nothing dirty. Just a lot of contact. 
Now, this can back fire and you could find yourself on the bad side of a 30 point performance if the Player has a little MJ or Mamba to them. 

5. You don't have to be Perfect.
I've never been apart of or even seen a game where a team was perfect. You are going to miss shots. You are going to foul. You are going to turn it over. The key a lot of times is how you react as the Coach. Train your Players to focus on you and your staff. (That's another topic too). When things are going wrong, and they will, Players need something or someone to recenter their attention.

True Story: We were about to play a team that normally presses a lot. I knew I couldn't mimic their pressure in practice. So we showed it on film....and then we watched Ricky Bobby get in the car with a cougar.(edited for content of course) 
On my game card there was a picture of a cougar. During a timeout I told them "gotta drive with a cougar in the car. Players laughed."  We ended up losing but the pressure never bothered us and  wasn't the reason. The purpose was to focus on what we could control and know that at the worst we would still be fine. 

So that's how you do it. Pretty simple, right? We are all planning on an undefeated season next year, right? 

I'd love to hear your thoughts on how to win when you "shouldn't" as long as it isn't about stalling. 
you can always reach me at

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Tossing out your SLOB plays...Well almost all of them

How many of you have a lot of SLOB (Sideline Out of Bounds)plays? How many of us practice them and get mad when players forget them? In this post, you'll hear my argument to scrap your SLOB plays and let time dictate it.

Let me start by saying I love BLOBs. I had a team once that we struggled to score so bad I secretly hoped for BLOB situations because we could really execute then. It was going 75 feet and into a set that we struggled with. We actually won a game that year by dribbling the clock down, (I know, I'm a shot clock guy and I dribbled for :45) driving to lane and calling time-out.

I feel BLOBs are places to score. I feel SLOBs can be but usually not with the same effectiveness. Maybe that's just my belief but I rarely score on them.

Here are my 3 points to on SLOBs:

1. Just get it in and run your stuff

Why spend time naming and practicing a SLOB when you could be practicing a set play or option in your motion? Players forget the play. You forgot to practice on both sides of the floor or with your best player sitting out in foul trouble.
   *You should be running at least 5 minutes of practice with your starting PG or leading scorer out        of  the lineup to see if you can survive.
Don't waste the possession on a quick shot because you are running a SLOB play that you haven't ran all game or sometimes all season.

2. Press Offense, not a SLOB vs Pressure
One of the most common SLOBs in the backcourt is when a team is pressuring and fouls. This needs to be part of your press offense, not your specials teams. The mistake most of us make is any SLOB beyond mid court we treat differently than a press offense.
     *Work on sideline press offense, from both sides, when you are preparing for a pressing team.
If it is a must get a shot situation, That falls in the next point. If not, just use your press offense. Remember, less is more with your players. Less to remember = Less to forget.

3. Time Dictated Situations
This is something I'm going to be better at. Special Teams section of practice. Finish or break up practice working on situations like last second shot, full court, no time out and they miss the FT. Stuff like that.