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Your Community Will Determine Your Growth

During a spring workout last week I was able to observe something very special. As I was running, a local Army group was participating in a team building activity. There was one member who was on the track completing a physical assessment. One of his higher ups was running with him throughout the entire assessment, constantly encouraging him and giving him tips for success and improved performance. I finished my sprints and began walking out of the track when I noticed that the entire group was now running around the track. What I saw was a great moment to witness as a coach. The group had started to run because their teammate was behind pace entering his last lap of his assessment. Each member of the team was motivating him and helping him overcome any doubt he had, helping him to succeed and meet his time.

Community is one of the most important things that we can develop to improve ourselves. Surrounding ourselves with the right people is a crucial part of who we are becoming and what type of people we are developing into to. Here are some questions to consider when thinking about your community.

Who is around me?

For a team to reach it’s full potential, all members must have a shared vision. Each player must do their job for the team to be successful. How are you doing your job to add to team success?

Who am I around?

There is a popular quote that we are the average of the 5 people we spend the most time with. The people we are around have a strong influence on who we become, whether we realize it or not. Think about the people you’re around and if they are helping you constantly grow as a player and as a person.

Who is leading me?

One of the most underestimated parts of life is seeking a great mentor. We like to think that we always know what is best and do not need help from others. The truth is, all of the greats had mentors who helped them see things in different ways and approach things like no one else did. Consider the leaders in your life and think about who you could ask to become your mentor.

Who am I leading?

Developing people and helping them thrive in new roles not only helps them, but also helps yourself grow. Producing fruit is a crucial part of our life. Learn how to become a leader and help others achieve their goals.

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Lessons From My 10th Year at Willamette Pro Hoop Camp

I just finished my 10th year of working at Willamette University’s Pro Hoop Camp. This camp was founded by Jack Ramsey as “Pro Classic Hoop Camp” and then passed down to former Willamette University head coach Gordy James. It is now directed by current Willamette head coach Kip Ioane. It’s amazing how much things have changed since I was growing up. Camps are no longer as popular as they once were. There are many factors to this. I believe the primary reasons that camp attendance has declined is the growth of AAU and the increase in the use of private training. There are too many youngsters playing year-round AAU basketball. Even at the high school level, I would say that 90% of the kids playing on a traveling team are wasting money on unfulfilled promises of college scouting while also limiting their improvement in regards to fundamentals. Much of the camp population from about 10 years ago has now gone to AAU teams.

Each year in July I learn things from other coaches and the players I coach at camp. Here are three things I took away from camp this year.

Players STILL don’t want to use their off-hand

After over 100 years of basketball, 9 out of 10 young players can not effectively use their off-hand at game speed. It boggles my mind that this has not changed. I think it’s more of a human problem than an athletic problem. We are born with a dominant hand. However, with all that we know through the game of basketball and all the resources players and coaches have, I am amazed that we are still coaching players who can’t use both hands by the time they graduate high school.

Sharing the ball is hard to teach young players

Every year at camp, the games are played a similar way. In the youngest age group, the most talented player dominates the ball, players try and launch three’s, and 3 out of the 5 on the floor rarely get to touch the ball. Even as you get to the middle and high school groups, you are lucky to see more than 2 passes before someone gets a shot up. Players are reluctant to play the game the right way. Each kid wants to get their own shot. What are some things we can do as coaches to teach players to sacrifice a bad shot for a teammate to have a better shot? Or even more, to make a cut that, while they may not be open from, opens up a chance for another teammate?

Find success in improvement

Despite the two negative I listed, the best part about camp was seeing players realizing that what they improved on during the week was their success. In three weeks, I had a team win 1 game and I also had a team go undefeated. Both teams had a successful week because of their improvements, not because of their record.


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.


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