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Jim Zorn’s Three I’s

In June, I had the opportunity to attend the Fellowship of Christian Athletes event titled “Difference Makers.” While Tony Dungy was the headlining speaker, he was unable to attend due to a family health problem (he did Skype in to address and interact with the audience). Dungy called his longtime friend Jim Zorn as his replacement speaker. Zorn has spent multiple years in the NFL, both as a player and coach. He shared his story and how he came to living a life for Christ. Here are his three “I’s” that he reminds himself of daily.


Athletics is not necessarily a spiritually driven area. It is usually ridiculed when athletes share their faith (i.e. Tim Tebow). Zorn discussed how his integration of occupation and spiritual conviction allowed him to grow more as a man and as an athlete.


Athletes tend to find their identity in their sport. It’s why many players become coaches, broadcasters, or in some cases never move on. When our identity is found in sports, we are left with nothing when that part of our life no longer exists. Also, it magnifies the sport to become the most important thing. What if you never were to play your sport? What would you be left with?


Regardless of our area of interest, we are each in need of the people around us. Whether we are influencing them or they are influencing us, people will make a difference in our lives. Think about the people in your life you are influencing and those who are influencing you. Does that influence surpass the athletic world?


The Foundation of Goal Setting

Goals are important. Every athlete should have goals. At the end of last season, we asked our players to set goals for the following season, both individually and for the team. Some goals were realistic, others made no sense for where our team is currently at. One things that most young athletes don’t understand about the goals they set is that there is a direct correlation between the preparation and the result. When you set your goals, make sure you consider how much time and effort you are willing to sacrifice to achieve them. This is the foundation of goal setting.

The higher your goal is, the more preparation will be needed and the more work will need to be put in. Goals need to be realistic in relation to your work ethic. If you want to be a 40% three-point shooter but don’t plan on getting shots up until October, you may need to rethink your goal. Or, better yet, rethink your process of achieving it.

The same is true for team goals. A young team may have a goal of going .500 during the year. If only three players are consistently putting work in the off-season, the chances of this happening may already be doomed.

If you want to set your goals high, make sure you are ready to attack them with the preparation necessary to get you to your highest level.

Make the Most Out of Summer League

Summer league is a great chance for coaches and players to improve on the court and develop their relationships off the court. We are about halfway through our summer schedule. As with any season, there have been positives and negatives. However, players have the ability to take ownership on their improvement individually and also as a team. Here are three things you can do this summer to take the next step as a player and leader.

Show up

It sounds easy, but any coach will tell you that there are a number of players in their program who do not take advantage of the opportunities they are given. If you are a player who tells your coach how great you want to be and the lofty goals you have for the team, you must be able to show your determination by the way you prepare. If your coach is providing workout opportunities, show up to everything you can.

Keep track

How do you know you are improving? Make it tangible. Keep a journal of what you are doing and what you are learning. Every time you workout, practice, or play a game, write down at least one thing you improved on and one thing that you will continue to emphasize. To take this a step further, write down some action steps you can take to help you improve on what you wrote down.

Check in

If you are a leader of your team, it’s important to motivate your teammates to stay involved in what’s going on. If you have a teammate that has talked about how much they want to improve, yet they are not showing up to anything, check in with them to ask where they have been. For a team to reach its full potential, it is crucial for each player to develop great habits. Also, the more players involved in off-season activities, the better the chemistry of the team will be.

Coach Popovich knows how to prepare his players for their future beyond playing basketball.

Developing Players Beyond the Game

A few weeks ago, I was able to hear Rob Ketterling speak about his book, Change Before You Have To. He shared a story of when he began to realize his physical health was slipping. In his next doctor’s appointment, he told his doctor to treat him like he just had a life threatening heart attack. He wanted to take prevented action steps before anything devastating happened.

While this is a great message and an inspiring thought, it was a minor note in his presentation that caught my attention in regards to coaching. He was giving a room full of pastors some “change before you have to” steps in regards to church operations. One of his suggestions was to continually develop leaders and prepare them for greater roles in the future rather than limit them to an individual talent. Prepare them to be in charge one day.

I started to think about the last time I tried to prepare current players for a possible future as a coach. Most coaches were once players. Some played beyond high school, others did not. And while we observed coaches while we were playing, I don’t think it’s too common for coaches to develop future coaches. What are some ways we can prepare our players in the case that one day they end up being coaches?

This can be a valuable way to further mentor players. Earl Watson of the Portland Trailblazers was recently quoted regarding the way he was mentored by the coaching staff this season.

“This is the only coaching staff that actually prepared me to coach,” Watson said. “Like, every day they would quiz me. Every day they would push me. Every day they would teach me. They kind of held me accountable for that next step in life. They did a good job, all of them, each and every one, of preparing me for that next step.”

While most high school players are not mature enough to step into a leadership position directly after graduation, we can still give them valuable lessons on how a coach sees the game and what a coach values in their decision making. Our job is to assist in the transition from adolescence to adulthood through the game of basketball. Limiting this to physical performance would be limiting our potential as coaches.


Salem Hoops Project Summer Camp

It has been a great spring for the Salem Hoops Project. Through weekly clinics for elementary and middle school we were able to provide training opportunities for nearly 100 kids in the NE Salem area. Our summer camp will run from June 16-18. It is for boys and girls in grades K-8. The elementary camp (K-5) will be from 9-10 am and the middle school (6-8) will be from 10:30-11:30 am. Please consider grade level in terms of the recent school year, 2013-14. For more information, email me at salemhoopsproject@gmail.com . Also make sure to check out the Salem Hoops Project on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram!

Miami Heat v Milwaukee Bucks - Game Three

Playoff Notes: Part 2


A teams fate can be decided by which team they play. The Blazers, who seemed to be playing well, found themselves to be outmatched by the Spurs. Yet, the Mavericks had just taken the Spurs to a seven-game series. Had they been able to win that series and send the Spurs home, we might be looking at a conference final with the Blazers playing OKC. And as David Thorpe recently wrote on ESPN, had Lillard not made the series-winner against Houston, the Rockets quite possibly could be in the conference final against OKC because of the matchups they create with the Spurs.

The little things never change

It’s a constant struggle to improve on transition defense and defensive rebounding at the high school level. Throughout the conference finals, it’s obvious that these problems aren’t something that teams grow out of. No matter the caliber of players you are dealing with, the small details of great teams remain the same. It also shows that a solution to the problems that we deal with season after season are not as simple as we hope.

Producing Good Fruit

“Even now the ax of God’s judgment is poised, ready to sever the roots of the trees. Yes, every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire.” Matthew 3:10

The thought of producing good fruit has been in my mind for quite some time. I have always thought of the fruit of my labor as the end product of what I do. Recently, I started thinking about the fruit we produce in a different way.

Rather than focusing on the end result, producing good fruit requires a meticulous process in which we are consistently caring for its development.

Being a coach, our fruit is typically seen as wins or the caliber of players. To an extent, this might be valid. But it’s more important to focus on your process of preparation than to have our eyes fixated on wins and what other will think of us.

Think about what will be best for the long-term development of players as people before we compromise their character for the sake of a couple of wins. Model the work ethic and habits we want our players to obtain. Remember that development of coaches, players, programs and teams is a race that requires patient endurance and persistence as opposed to a quick sprint. Produce good fruit through an intricate process of development.


Playoff Notes: Part 1

Going into the playoffs, I thought the two most exciting series’ would be Blazers/Rockets and Warriors/Clippers. Neither have disappointed, but with 3 out of 4 games going to overtime, I think the Blazers and Rockets are producing the most exciting (not most well played) series of the 2014 NBA Playoffs. Two players have caused me to think about some things that can have direct implications for players who are looking to increase their role or to have a breakout season this coming year.


Wesley Matthews: Hard work and desire can overcome physical limitations


To a point. Matthews is not a bad athlete. However, I would be confident saying that in addition to a size advantage, James Harden is faster, quicker, a better leaper, and more talented than Matthews. And although harden is averaging 27 points per game, anyone watching the series knows that Matthews defense has been a difference maker. Harden is shooting 35% inside the arc and 26% from three. Compare that to 45% and 36%, respectively, in the regular season. Take note on the intensity in which Matthews guards Harden as the series progresses. Can you duplicate that effort?


Troy Daniels: All you need is an opportunity


As a coach, Troy Daniels makes me think about the countless players who I either did not put in games or whose roles I limited. Some players only need an opportunity in the right situation to thrive. Daniels is the perfect example. The work he put it through many years prepared him for the moment when he was finally given an opportunity on a big stage. With his performance, I am sure he will be able to get a contract and have the chance to be a role player. Are you giving up because you are not getting playing time or opportunities to thrive? Keep working so when your moment comes, you are prepared.


Propaganda of Humble Beast.

A New View on Being a Coach

“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.”

Nong Poosukwattana speaks during TedXPortland  at the Keller Auditorium.

What I Learned at TedXPortland

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.


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