A New View on Being a Coach

Propaganda of Humble Beast.

Propaganda of Humble Beast.

“Knowing the reason you were given a gift and a passion was for someone else’s platform.”

I recently viewed a spoken word piece from rapper Propaganda titled, “Was It All Worth It?” Propaganda is from my favorite group of musicians known as Humble Beast (one of the main sources of inspiration for the Salem Hoops Project). This specific piece by Propaganda caused me to reflect on myself as a coach and the purpose behind why I do it. I looked back on where my mind was a few years ago and the direction I wanted to go in coaching. My ambition was to build myself up as a great coach and trainer so that I could enable myself to earn a high position bringing me more recognition and a larger income. In other words, I coached to make myself look great rather then help my player become great. My desire to see players succeed actually stemmed from my selfish ambition to be seen as one of the greatest.

“What if you knew that greatness would never come, just struggle?”

Somewhere in the last year and a half I finally reached a new level as a coach. This had nothing to do with accolades, but with mindset. I finally understood that my job as a coach was to help others reach their goals while sacrificing my ambition for lofty achievements. I’m sure many coaches can relate to the trap I was in where I viewed my players’ achievements as a reflection of my own ability rather than the product of their growth and maturation.

I define #GrindRepeat as the consistent output of positive decisions and diligent actions. The end result of this is open to interpretation and dependent on your view of success. My new, personal challenge as a coach is to view my work as a means to help my players achieve their goals. In other words, understanding that the reason I was given a passion for the game is to be someone else’s platform.

“Would you sign up for little league knowing you’d never go pro?”

My challenge to players and coaches is to think about why they put everything they have  into the game. Would you do it even if you knew that the result might not benefit you as much as it did others? Propaganda ends his piece by saying, “it’s a good thing we can’t see the future, cause we’d ruin it every chance we get.”

What I Learned at TedXPortland

Nong Poosukwattana speaks during TedXPortland  at the Keller Auditorium.

Nong Poosukwattana speaks during TedXPortland at the Keller Auditorium.

I started watching Ted Talks a couple years ago. I was intrigued by the diversity of topics that I found when I browsed through the videos. When I found out TedXPortland was approaching, I had to get tickets. Although the ticket price seemed steep at the time of purchase, the value at the end of the conference was more than legit. The amount of knowledge that the speakers shared throughout the day was a more valuable way to spend money than to buy any tangible item. Here are some key thoughts I came away with.

Chase meaning instead of avoiding discomfort

 The most impactful speakers reflected this thought in their stories. Without a meaning to what you are doing, it is easy to quit at the first sign of an uncomfortable situation. But when the meaning of what you are chasing is significant enough, no amount of discomfort will make you hesitate.

 Never overlook the need to play

 Of the speakers, Cody Goldberg was perhaps the most influential for me because of his work with Harper’s Playground and the connection it drew for the Salem Hoops Project. One of his big emphasis was the many benefits that playing has: it’s the highest form of research, inspires vitality, generates optimism, makes perseverance fun, leads to mastery of skill, and fosters empathy. Many of the speakers indirectly credited what they did for play turned into their craft and created their future.

 Giving and receiving love fuels the art of life

 No speaker more clearly displayed his passion for love than Frank Moore, the 91-year-old WWII veteran who stormed the beaches of Normandy. He said that the ability to give love was the most precious gift we have, and learning to receive love can be of the most productive things we ever do. Indirectly, Zalika Gardner’s presentation about listening also reflects giving and receiving love. She discussed that our inability to listen to others is fueled by assumption, arrogance, and fear. When we do not listen to people, we are telling them, “you don’t matter.” Listening involves us to quiet our own experience to make room for someone else’s, or in other words, to show them love.


Highlights From the Stronger Team Huddle

McKay athletes perform a speed drill with Henry Barrera.

McKay athletes perform a speed drill with Henry Barrera.

I had the opportunity to attend my second Stronger Team Huddle a couple weeks ago. Even though I went to the one in the fall, it’s always valuable to sit in on a group of experienced trainers and take in any nuggets of information I can. The Stronger Team Huddle was led by Alan Stein and Henry Barrera on the Nike World Headquarters campus. Here are three main ideas I took away from the experience.


Redefine what “basketball athleticism” is


They showed a picture of Steve Nash and Dwight Howard side by side and asked the group who was the better athlete. It was unanimous that Howard was by far the dominant athlete in the minds of the attendees. However, the Stronger Team discussed that a case could be made for Nash if we redefine what “basketball athleticism” is measured by. The obvious characteristics are speed, quickness, and vertical leap. But in addition, important tools of being an athlete in the sport of basketball include coordination, balance, and reaction time.


Match the game in training – - energy and movement


Two important aspects of training they identified were matching energy requirements and movement patterns. Basketball is a game of quick bursts followed by short rest. Thus, effective training should match that. Jogging 3 miles does not simulate the way basketball is played because the game does not require you to go half speed for a long period of time. In regards to movement, using the Functional Movement Screen is beneficial for finding your map to athletic mobility. However, strengthening specific movements can help you with your agility on the court. The Stronger Team mentioned that lunging is one of the most important movements in basketball because of the amount of times that pattern is mimicked.


Teach the athlete before you train the athlete

Everybody wants their athletes to get stronger and faster, but it’s important to teach them how to move properly first. Focus on form and execution before you encourage strength gains. The number one priority in any training program is safety. Correct form on exercises sets the basis for a safe program and allows for the program to develop your athletes the right way.

Thoughts on the NCAA Tournament – - Rebounding

It's not easy keeping Patric Young off the boards.

It’s not easy keeping Patric Young off the boards.

This has to be one of the most competitive NCAA tourneys I have seen. So many games have come down to final possessions. In my observation, one of the most important factors for teams that came within minutes from moving on was giving up offensive rebounds. It really got me thinking about the game in general and why this is such a problem for some teams? Here are some of my thoughts.

Raw athleticism does not always determine a rebounding advantage

Some evenly matched teams have lopsided rebounding numbers, and some teams lacking size outrebound their opponents. Simply having a more athletic or bigger team does not guarantee keeping teams off the boards.

If the best college players in the nation can’t perfect it, how can we raise the level of high school players?

Sometimes we call it a simple thing. We tell players take care of the things you control, like rebounding. But if the top 8 division 1 teams in the country are giving up boards in crucial times, can we really control it at the high school level?

Can rebounding be taught?

Does it all come down to heart and desire? Do you need the ball to bounce your way? I have tried numerous different ways to teach blocking out and the fundamental of defensive rebounding. Yet, the outcome is really game to game, never concrete evidence that the drills are paying off.

Is blocking out bigger than a ‘little thing’?

As coaches, we like to use the term ‘the little things’. Offensive rebounds can be the fine line between losing and winning in many cases. Is it time we stop referring to blocking out as a little thing?

These are just my thoughts after watching a small amount of college basketball these past few weekends (maybe more than a small amount). I would love some feedback from your point of view. Join the conversation on Twitter using #SHP.

Your Offseason Approach

I have seen a number of our players with a newfound motivation to get in the gym and work on their skills. While I am happy to see them with the desire to improve, their improvement will not be guaranteed by motivation. It’s easy to be motivated immediately after the season when your program had a little success for the first time since you began attending the school. The hard part is the process of improvement. Here are some tips as you head into the offseason.

1. Identify your weaknesses

Be honest in your critique of your own game. What skills do you need to improve on? If you are not a good ballhandler, find ways to improve. If you can’t use your weak hand, swallow your pride and work at it consistently. If you’re not able to do something, it can be hard to try that skill in practice because you are afraid to look bad. Take time to focus on your weaknesses and push past initial failure.

2. Take your coaches advice on what you NEED to give the team next season

As important as it is towards your individual development to work on your weaknesses, it might be more important for your team development to work on the things that fulfil your role on the team. Even though you want to shoot threes next season, your coach may want you to be able to attack the basket. Focus a majority of your time on your ability to penetrate and make plays, since it will benefit the team the most. But don’t neglect the other skills that help you become a complete player.

3. Play open gyms/spring leagues purposefully

One of the biggest frustrations about open gyms for coaches is the quality of play. As players becomes fatigued, the level of play decreases allowing for the development of bad habits. Focus on improving during open gyms. Take the input from your coaches about what you need to be able to do in order to increase your role and help the team, and apply that towards your effort in open gym.

4. Improve off the court

Every young athlete has something they can improve off the court. It might be your performance in the class, it might be your nutrition. Two things that most athletes can improve on in my experience are water intake and sleep patterns. (Click here for some quick tips you can try)

Learning From the Class of 2014

The 11 seniors on senior night.

The 11 seniors on senior night.

We finished our season at McKay High School with a loss in the first round of the playoffs. And while the loss was disappointing, the deepest emotions came from realizing that there would be no more practices with the 11 seniors on the team. No more summer league trips. No more team dinners.

I came to be an assistant at McKay in 2011 when they were sophomores. In that first season, wins were hard to come by at times, but the bond built between coaches and players will last longer than any achievement on the court would. We climbed the standings from 6th in their sophomore year, to 3rd as juniors, and finally to 2nd as seniors.

As a coach, you are often measured by your ability to produce wins, titles, and playoff appearances. This can cause coaches to focus solely on the results as opposed to the process. It’s within the process that relationships are built and expectations are established. These players knew the expectations of the program and held each other accountable.

Through this process of 3 years, the players have helped me tremendously in my growth as a coach, as a person, and as a Christian. They have also helped me gain a better work ethic and an increased selfless attitude.

I encourage coaches, athletes, and parents to concentrate on the most valuable parts of the athletic experience. Set your goals high, but focus more on the process than the result. It’s within the process that growth happens. Growth that will last longer than any result could.

Improve Your Nutrition

Nutrition was the key for my athletic development.

Nutrition was the key for my athletic development.

I had the honor of speaking at my dad’s release party for his most recent book. Because his book is about young athlete’s and their stories of success, he wanted me to share some tips on nutrition for athletes and parents supporting their children.

Starting from when I was 9 years old, I steadily became more and more overweight. As someone who loved basketball and desperately wanted to succeed, this was quite a hindrance to any success on the court. It was in my junior year while I was playing on the JV team when the varsity coach told me I could play a significant role the following year if I was able to improve my athleticism. This started with a change in my nutritional habits.

Most athletes and parents of athletes are willing to put in mass amounts of time and resources into performance training of all kinds. And while hard work in the gym is crucial to improvement, proper nutrition can restrict progress. However, it can also accelerate progress.

Here are 5 tips that you can start today.

1. Drink water

My guess for any young athlete is that they are not drinking nearly enough water. Water allows the body to function. It is best to drink water consistently throughout the day as opposed to waiting until you are thirsty. Proper hydration aids in digestion, immune strength, and energy levels.

2. Eat vegetables

The popular phrase for gaining more energy is “carb loading.” Most people reach for pasta or other grain-based products. Yet, most people neglect vegetables as the ideal source of carbohydrates. Many veggies have higher carb levels than breads and pastas. Also, grain based carbs spike insulin in a hurry, which lead to a crash shortly after (i.e. the Thanksgiving nap. Despite popular belief, it’s not the turkey’s fault).

3. Pack a lunch

School meals were developed for low cost and quick disbursement. Nutritional guidelines are shaky, for example including pizza as a vegetable serving because it contains tomato sauce (isn’t a tomato a fruit, anyway?). Pack your own lunch containing whole foods. A school lunch eaten on a daily basis will compound into decreased health and performance throughout the school year.

4. Take fish oil

Fish oil was made popular for its benefit on heart health. In addition, the omega-3 content it provides is crucial for cognitive development and joint health. This is a safe supplement for all ages.

5. Sleep BETTER

This doesn’t necessarily mean sleep more. Sleeping better means raising the quality of your sleep in addition to getting 8-9 hours per night. Better sleep involves a consistent routine of sleep/wake times along with your activity before you hit the bed. Try to avoid any electronic stimulation at least 30 minutes prior to bed. Yes, this limits falling asleep while tweeting or snapchatting.

Salem Hoops Project – February Clinic


The Salem Hoops Project is on a mission to provide boys and girls of all ages free basketball training in Northeast Salem. Throughout the summer and fall, over 80 high school kids were able to participate. During the winter, we have offered free clinics for kids in grades K-5. So far, nearly 40 children have been able to participate. Our next clinic is this coming Monday, February 17th at Noon. Email salemhoopsproject@gmail.com to register your child.

We are also looking for people or businesses who are willing to provide funding for t-shirts. These shirts will be given to participants and volunteer coaches. Our volunteer coaches are local high school athletes. Their time and contributions have been unmeasurable!

You can get your name, business name, or logo on the back with any size of contribution.

You can get your name, business name, or logo on the back with any size of contribution.

“Stay Positive”…But, How?

The Oregon Men's basketball team is currently facing a point in their season where they can easily turn it in and not reach their potential.

The Oregon Men’s basketball team is currently facing a point in their season where they can easily turn it in and not reach their potential.

Basketball is a long season. Throughout the course of the year, there are ups and downs. It’s easy to stay motivated and disciplined when your team is doing well and the wins are racking up. However, many teams experience times during the year when it seems like nothing is going right. No matter what you do, you can’t find a way to win, and you can’t find a way to fix it.

The popular phrase from any coach is: stay positive.

I’ve said it many times as a coach, whether I was part of a team that lost many consecutive games or a team that lost a game they should have won in the midst of a successful season. But to fully critique how a player might understand it, I finally put myself in the shoes of a player.

What would I think if a coach told me to stay positive?

The first impression, and the one coaches don’t want their players to get, is to be happy and cheerful regardless of their situation. Personally, I don’t want my players to feel like winning is the only measure of success. However, I also don’t want them to be happy with losing. There is a difference between the two. Each game provides a chance for self and team evaluation.

Did I do my job to help our team have the best chance of winning? Did my team play together and play the game the right way? Was there a lack of trust between me, my teammates, and the coaching staff?

And this is where staying positive comes in to play during a rough stretch in the season. Staying positive means continuing to do your job as a player day in and day out; continuing to do your part to make sure your team reaches its full potential and plays at its highest level once the end of the season comes.

In the end, that’s how success as a team is found. Not by wins and losses, but by a cooperative effort between coaches and players to reach their highest ability as a team.