Saturday, October 10, 2020

No Days Off....and why I changed

 I don't remember if it was a t-shirt or a hashtag when I first saw it. At the time I thought, "This is it. This is me and now I'm justified!" I'm like a lot of you. A lifer. A junkie. I love basketball. I struggle at times to turn off my mind. In my early years, I loved walking into a restaurant and knowing, or at least hoping/pretending to think that  "people knew me."  I was basketball 24/7/365 and if you weren't, well then you weren't as passionate as I was. Plain and Simple. 

Then it happened. I got older. wiser. Actually, I saw a Nike t-shirt that disgusted me. I'm a Nike guy. The only pair of shoes I've had in the last 15 years that weren't Nike were UnderArmour and they were given to me at a camp. But there it was. The shirt that changed it all. 

You might remember it....Lazy but Talented

I was appalled. How could Nike put that on a shirt? Why would they? Celebrating the fact someone is lazy but talented enough to succeed? That notion is almost as insane and insulting as....No Days Off. 

I've always been a thinker. So I started thinking about slogans, words, anything that was jargon - good or bad. The phrases you see on t-shirts for teams, words the Coaches use but they don't have a core value or standard behind them. Why and how had we been sucked into hashtags and slogans without thinking about them? Was the phrase No Days Off really what I believed? If so, why did we take days off from practice? I started thinking about our team. I began watching the really talented teams and how they worked. That's when I realized I needed this change more than our team did. So I did and here are 3 things that went into that change.

1. Its Hours Not Days

We give 3 days off from the start of school until October. Every Thursday and every weekend. I know Coaches that cringe when they have to take a day off for something academic or out of their control in the preseason. We take days off and it has benefited the mentality of the Players and Coaches. "I could never give my team a day off. I'm a worker." Well, I and a lot of Coaches are workers. We just work smarter. Ever know a Coach that works just to prove they are working? 

A day off from practice is taking a couple hours off. That's how I look at it. You practice for hours, not days. There are times you and your players need time away from the gym (more on that later). If you feel you can't lose those hours, break them up and spread throughout prior and post practices. Add 10-30 minutes to get them back. 

If you feel a "day off" is going to derail your team, maybe you haven't spent your time right?

2. Happy, Healthy and Here

I keep waiting for a player to be interviewed at the Final Four and they say "I'm just ready for it to be over." We can probably agree that won't happen. You might argue it is because they are winning. I would agree but I'd point out they are still playing because they are healthy, as a team.  We can all think of a team that seems to peak on December 1st. They are in tip-top shape, They have every set play in, Every defense, and they are ready....for a break. Christmas break hits and the players get away for a few days. Then we know what happens. The first day back, Coach decides to "run it off of them". The players are miserable, Coach is mad they had to take a break and now they are going to get it back in 4 hours of practice before playing 3 games in 3 days. 

Happy teams want to practice. Teams that are healthy physically and mentally last longer. Probably the mental side is more important to your team's overall health. You have to find a way that everyone is happy to be attending practice, Coaches included. I despise the word grind. There are times in the year where it is difficult, but we get to do what we love. Even when it's hard, it's still what we love to do. When it's not what we love is when it's time to think about our situation. 

3. Time Away

We are all coming back from an unprecedented time. Some of you are still in a time where you can't practice with your team. I remember the first day back with our team. Our Coaches spent hours planning how it would go. We covered every possible situation for cleaning basketballs, keeping players away from each other. We were going to make the CDC look bad because of all the work we were going to do. And then the Players showed up. They laughed, they talked. They laughed more. We spent more time on getting back to where we were as a program than we did on basketball. We had planned all these great drills and our guys just wanted to talk. So we let them.

Time away is sometimes exactly what we need. Because you remember why you want to be there. You remember why you fell in love with the game. You remember the fun with your teammates. The locker room, the office. 

Getting away is sometimes the cure. If you lose 2 games in a row, take the day off. What you're doing isn't working so maybe give the team the hours off and you discuss with your staff changes. Maybe you take the day off too. Some of my clearest thinking is away from my office. "Well, we just have to work harder." If it is an effort issue, then you would've already made the change. Sometimes you're making great decisions and the result isn't what you want. I try to work smarter than harder in those situations. 

The main thing I want to share is this. We all need days off. Days where we don't spend hours thinking about our job. Days to remember why we love our job. 

It's October. Hopefully, we are going to need a day off soon....and when you need it...Take it. 


Sunday, September 20, 2020

Be the Leader You Want To Follow

 Being a leader is the dream most of us have growing up, we just aren't told that's what the dream is. We all grew up wanting to be something. A Doctor. A Lawyer. A Coach. An Author. Some of us are still dreaming. I know I am. 

Some of us like myself are living the first part of the dream. Some are living it completely. Some of us are doing something totally different. What no one told us with every profession we dreamed of there is some form of leadership.

I grew up knowing I wanted to be a coach because of the game and how our Coach interacted with us. I never once thought about his responsibilities as a leader and also the people that were his leaders. I knew, loved, and respected our Principal, Superintendent, and members of our School Board-mainly because I always saw them. My Mom was on the school board, worked the football and basketball concession stands. I knew those people deeply cared about my school which in turn made me want to be a Coach. I judged their actions without considering all the decisions they faced. 

Yesterday, (Saturday, September 19th) I gave an hour presentation to the Missouri Basketball Coaches Association on the topic of Effective Communication. The topic is about how to communicate with your staff, your team, and other aspects of the coaching life, especially how to improve yourself. Every time I've given this talk, I come away wanting to be better myself, mainly as a Leader. 

At the root of Leadership is communication. You communicated your philosophy during the interview to get that position. You communicate your philosophy to those that work closest to you to keep you in that job. You probably share it with the largest share holders too so they feel included. But what about everyone else? What are you(we) as leaders doing to include everyone? Think about it for a second. How many of us have custodians that know the mission statement for your school or your program. 

"If your mission statement requires a pause for air or a drink, 
It's probably not getting the desired impact you want." 

Here are three things we all need to consider as a leader.

1. Don't lead from the window

Look outside. If it's raining, imagine just a clear, sunny day. Now, without looking at the calendar, or clock, or prior knowledge, tell me how it feels outside. Being a leader is about getting into the environment. Knowing what your people are going through. Know how they feel and what they are feeling. It could look like a nice 75(23 C) degrees day from my view and I step outside and it's a chilly 40(4 C) degrees or a scorching 101(38 C ) degrees. 

Assuming it is how you perceive or worse, 
How you hope it is are two of the biggest dangers as a Leader. 

2. Ask For Feedback 

Since March, I've been lucky enough to have several conversations with Annie Duke. Annie is one of the smartest people I've ever spoken to and learned from. Her book Thinking in Bets saved my career. Her new book How to Decide should be the curriculum for leadership.

On one of our Zoom calls with Annie, she described leadership in a setting I'd never considered. How many of us have walked into a meeting and asked for feedback in a group setting? All of us. You know who speaks up? (You are all thinking about those people right now) It's the usual people. It's one of these people:

The Choir - The ones who agree because they think that's what you want.
The Always has a question - The one who has a question that the rest all know the answer
The Cynic - The glass is half empty and actually has a crack in it
The Thinker - The one with a great idea...but it doesn't meet the policy so it isn't going to matter.
The Texter - The one who is texting to everyone what they want to say but won't say it out loud. 

Who'd I miss? Annie said this. "If you want true and real feedback, meet individually, and ask the question." You are going to get better feedback in that setting. Then have the group meeting. 

If you're a Coach reading this, most of our staffs aren't too big that this isn't an issue. If you're a Principal (and I know we have a few that follow) Meet with your Assistant Principals, Department Chairs. Have the Department Chairs meet with their Department first. 

Now, here's the best part. Go talk to someone "without a title". <GASP> Want to know how transportation is doing? Ask a driver. Want to know how your science department is? Ask the teacher with 2 or 3 preps. 

Coaches, ask your assistants. Then talk to your captain. Now talk to the player that never plays. Ask your manager about the climate of the team. 

We are going to ask our players this week how they want to be coached as individuals. 

Stop asking people the question you need to be answered
 that will answer how you want them to. 

3. Appreciate Your People

Thomas Powell has worked with me for the past 4 seasons. I coached him at my first job. 

If you look up the definition of appreciation, like I did, you get two. 

1. Recognition and Enjoyment of the good qualities of someone or something. 

2. In general terms, Is an increase in the value of an asset over time.

Think about something you have you appreciate. I think about my friend Mike Neighbors when I typed that. He has some of the greatest things in his collection. You know how I know? He showed me. When you appreciate something you protect it but you want to show it to people that are important to you to. 

Remember when your mom use to put your homework on the refrigerator?  It was a way to show appreciation for your hard work.

Remember your first trophy? That might be the only thing in my room I ever dusted. I wanted it to shine. I even polished it once. 

Here is my 10 word standard for Appreciation.

Treat people like they are irreplaceable and watch their performance

What you will find is the people you appreciate will work harder for you. How do you appreciate them?

1. Their Time
2. Their Opinion
3. Their Actions

If you're worried about entitlement, that's where the polishing comes in. I'm never going to get to where I want without my people that "Red team" me from time to time. We all need to be polished.

I hope this helped you as much as it helped me sharing it. 

Take care of yourself and the ones you are leading.


Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Welcome Back....

 Labor Day weekend has come and gone. That means most schools across the United States are back in session in some form. We are starting week three this week and it's gone better than I expected. I tweeted this thought this week and it's been pretty spot on...

"If your search for information includes reading books, researching data, & talking with people you respect, you can feel safe about the decisions you make. If your search for information is found in the narrative of main stream or social media, you might never feel safe again."

We all know the importance of acquiring information, but we have to search the correct places to get it. With us being back closer to a traditional pattern of our daily life, there are a few things that I want to encourage you to do that I will be doing as well. 

1. Gain Knowledge (Read More)

My friend Mike Neighbors says it best: "Reading is the easiest way to get close to smart people." Set a reminder to read thirty minutes a day. It'll change your outlook on things and the input you receive from books, blogs, and articles will help you along your coaching journey. If you don't like to read, consider audio books or podcasts. I'll be sharing my personal reviews on books I've read, re-read and the ones I'll be currently reading.

2. Take Care of Yourself

Find a way to be active. Find something that will challenge and change you. I had taken a hiatus from the game of golf while my sons were younger. I didn't find the time to practice or play and I was making sure I was putting them first. When it came time to purchase new clubs I felt selfish about using that money on myself instead of them. (I know a lot of Coaches that can relate to that because they've told me) Now that they are older, and thanks to meeting Gabe from Stix Golf  I'm going to get back to playing because I need that challenge of prioritizing time. It'll push me out of my comfort zone for sure. I, like a lot of you reading this, don't like to struggle or not be good at something. I'll keep you up to date on that. If it's not golf, find something that is intentional-Don't count walking to your classroom as cardio. Be intentional. 

3. Don't Return to Normal or accept "The New Normal"

We all heard and probably said "I can't wait to get back to normal." Some of us have probably even said "This is the new normal." Let's look at two things. All of us should return better than we entered the shut down. Some people treated it like a sentence. I and some of my friends used it as a sabbatical. I tried to learn as much about myself, the game of basketball, business, anything I could read. It was a chance to hit reset. 

In Tim Elmore's latest book "The Pandemic Population"  he describes what we are going through as a Blizzard, Winter and an Ice Age.
Main Idea: We Can't allow a blizzard to turn our winter into an Ice Age. 

As an Educator/Coach/Administrator/Leader we have to fight for our Students' safety but also fight for their experiences. It is important to remember that above curriculum or the scoreboards are the experiences that come from being at school with their friends, being involved and participating in whatever interests them. Those memories and lessons will last longer than anything else. I don't remember a lot of the lessons I learned from class but I remember being in the classroom with those Teachers. We need to encourage and be understanding. We need to do everything possible to ensure this generation has a safe, traditional experience.  

So welcome back. Saddle up. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Last of the Cowboys Podcast

This week I started on something new that I hope you will all enjoy. I will try to talk about and discuss the game with Coaches that will inspire and provide information on various topics in our game.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Wednesday Mornings...& Kobe

For me as a Coach, Wednesday mornings are the worst. Whether we win or lose, I'm exhausted. Get home late, eat something awful, try to sleep. You all know the drill.

Last night. We lost to a team that was 0-5 in our league last night. I could kinda feel it coming. To me, they didn't play like an O-for team.

Last night was the first time I've slept soundly after a game in a long time and I really can't explain it. Maybe it was seeing another Coach and team have genuine excitement after a win versus relief. Some of you know what I mean. The joy of winning has been replaced with the relief that we didn't lose.

After the game, I was able to speak to the 3 officials and thank them for working. Visited with 5 College Coaches in attendance, Spoke to the Head Coach and his wife-tell them how happy I was for them and actually mean it. Spoke to their Athletic Director who always has words of wisdom for me.

Today started off like most Wednesdays. I opened my laptop to start on the next game. This morning I open my email and I have an email from a student in my class. She is on the debate/forensics team. They have a competition this Friday night. They need judges for these. I'm guessing she was instructed by her sponsor to ask her teachers if they'd like to volunteer; so she did.

My first reaction was "how crazy is it to ask a basketball Coach to be a judge knowing that we have a game?!" But then it hit me. She doesn't know. Probably doesn't care.

If you're reading this, you're probably a basketball person. Half of you reading this lost last night. The other half won. And She doesn't care. Honestly, a lot of people outside our bubble don't. That's a hard truth for Coaches because of our ego but the hard line fact is this:
 Not as many people care as we think do or hope they to. 

Too many of us allow outcome decide our feelings about this game. If we got into just to win, either we have never lost or have no clue how this thing works.

 I love the competition. I love teaching basketball. I don't know how much I love coaching basketball in this day and age but I do know I still love the game of basketball. I love it enough to find joy for another Coach in my own loss.

As for my student, If I could get out of my game on Friday night I would. Because without knowing it, even though she didn't know or doesn't care about basketball, She  taught me a lesson about basketball and life. It's bigger than a game and a lot bigger than the outcome.