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I am currently reading “Leaders Eat Last” by Simon Sinek. Thus far, it has been one of the greatest books on leadership I have come across. There is one passage I would love to share. It comes from the former Under Secretary of Defense, who spoke at a conference in consecutive years. The first year, he was given a first class ticket, greeted with a limo at the airport, greeted with a hotel suite, then hand delivered a ceramic cup on a plate for his coffee. The second year, he was no longer in his role as Under Secretary. He flew coach, picked up a taxi at the airport, then checked himself into his hotel room. When he got to the conference and asked for coffee, the attendant pointed to a cart where he could pour his own coffee into a styrofoam cup. That year at the conference, he shared his story, and pointed this out:
“It occurs to me that the ceramic cup they gave to me last year, it was never meant for me at all. It was meant for the position I held. I deserve a styrofoam cup.
This is the most important lesson I can impart to all of you. All the perks, all the benefits and advantages you may get for the rank or position you hold, they aren’t meant for you. They are meant for the role you fill. And when you leave your role, which eventually you will, they will give the ceramic cup to the person who replaces you. Because you only ever deserved a styrofoam cup.”
Developing a sense of entitlement can be one of the most detrimental things we do to ourselves. When we believe that we deserve certain perks because of who we are, we begin to erase the memory of how we got to a certain position and the people who helped get us there.
No one person is more important than other in the game of basketball. Each player does his/her job to help the team reach its potential. When players begin to think that they deserve more playing time or more shot attempts, the team chemistry begins to disappear. As you approach this coming season, remember that you are but a player on the team. There are no titles, only the position of teammate. You deserve nothing, but you can contribute to everything.
Last Sunday was my final weekend attending Salem Alliance Church due to moving out of the area. It was a significant moment for me. I usually do not find things like this so important or meaningful. But this change, to me, is a huge change because of the growth I have experienced in my 2 years of attending.
Change can be hard for coaches because of our drive to reach consistency. There are many types of change that coaches can see, from new jobs, new players, and also new offensive or defensive systems. While some changes are exciting and easy to make, others can leave us in a place of resistance.
When we grow as individuals and make life-lasting relationships through an experience, change can be seen as an attack on who we are becoming. I talked previously about my experience with the McKay Hoops class of 2014. Seeing that group go was hard because I became a better coach and person during my time of coaching them. But with a mindset of welcoming the change of a new group, I have been able to start the process again, with myself and with the players. On the contrary, when we are stagnant in a situation, all we can think about is what else is out there and how we can change.
If I ever leave McKay and coach elsewhere, I am sure that my feelings will be similar to that of leaving Salem Alliance Church; grateful for what it has done to me, and excited to see what lies ahead. When change comes to your current situation, even if you think you’re situation is ideal, think about the possibilities rather than sacrifice. Consider that a big change could continue to help you develop in all parts of your life.
I am not a gamer. As a kid, I enjoyed playing Mario Bros. and also got into NBA Jam and Mortal Kombat. The last time a video game really sucked me in was the first Tony Hawk Pro Skater. This past weekend, I got a chance to play Madden 15 on the new XBox system that my brother has. I got to admit, I was pretty amazed with the graphics of the game. I was also amazed at how hard of a time I had playing!
My experience with playing one game of Madden got me thinking about the importance of developing instincts within the world of athletics.
When reacting to the defense and making reads (with or without the ball), every split second matters. During my game of Madden, I continually looked at the controller to find the button of the receiver I wanted to throw to. This resulted in a sack instead of a huge passing gain.
To be able to make quick decisions in the game of basketball, it’s important to be a student of the game. Drills in practice that seem meaningless and boring are often the most effective at building your basketball IQ. Not only is active participation in practice important, but watching games and seeing how great players respond to their defender is important, too.
Develop your instincts as a basketball player. With and without the ball. And don’t waste your time developing your instincts on Madden.
Thanks to a connect from my guy Henry Barrera, I was fortunate enough to be a big part of Nike’s LeBron 12 Shoe Launch media event. The best part was not the free gear I got, but the fact that I was able to watch LeBron James do a full workout. It’s not every day you get to see an elite athlete’s training regimen, let alone one of the best players to ever do it.
His workout consisted of segments of skill drills with coach Damon Jones broken up with strength and mobility drills led by trainer Mike Mencias. What impressed me most was the efficiency he performed his workout with. Granted, this is easier to do with 2 coaches ready to serve your every need, but it’s still something that can be replicated by players of any level. Here are 3 important things I observed from LeBron’s workout.
1. Fundamentals never quit
LeBron’s workout was not flashy. There were no secret drills or breakthrough techniques. He worked on footwork in game-like situations. Every rep looked identical. When you are performing skill workouts, focus on how you are moving and the footwork you are performing each drill with. Whatever your focus is for that drill, make an effort to master it on each rep.
2. What you do after the workout will increase your gains
After his workout was finished, he spent a good 30 minutes stretching and performing low-impact mobility work. Again, stretching is much easier when you have a trainer doing it for you. However, this is not a reason for a majority of young athletes to overlook this portion of their athletic development. Create or find a flexibility/mobility routine and stay diligent and consistent.
3. Don’t expect a perfect result every time
I have seen countless young players vocally and emotionally display their frustration during workouts when they go on a streak of missed shots or lose the dribble during ball handling work. Although it’s common opinion that LeBron is not a pure shooter, he is still one of the greatest in the game. He made shots during his workout with efficiency. Yet, he still had streaks of misses (I counted 6 at one point). This did not shake his mindset. He wasn’t happy with himself, but he remained consistent in how he performed the drills.
The season is only a short 2-months away! What could be more exciting? As a player, I always enjoyed this time approaching the season. As each week reached completion, I felt my skills sharpening and my body becoming stronger and stronger. Once the season came, I was in the best shape I could possibly be in. If you are a player who has high expectations and takes the game seriously, there is no excuse to come into the first week of the season unprepared. If your team does not have any organized workouts, you can still take initiative to make sure you are ready for day 1. There is a ton you can do in 8 weeks! There are a lot of great resources available to help you get ready. Here are 3 easy steps you can take to help you prepare for the first day of tryouts.
1. Consistent sprint workouts
Gone are the days of running for miles at a time to get in shape. Research has proven that high intensity sprint workouts will prepare a basketball player in a much more efficient manner than long distance running. The standards of your spring workouts should be high-intensity, short distances mixed with limited recovery periods. This builds your body to be explosive while also prepping your energy systems for the demands of a basketball game.
2. Get your shots up
Skill workouts are outstanding. However, they can be inefficient if not performed right. It will do most players better to get in the gym and shoot. Make sure your reps are at game speed and with game focus. Keep track of your sessions and measure your improvement at different spots on the floor. If you can shoot the ball, you increase your chances of making a team and earning more playing time. Coaches always need shooters on the floor!
3. Develop positive habits
Once the season hits, new demands are placed on your body. A full day of school, two hours of practice, and then homework on top of that can shock your system. It’s important as a serious athlete to start prepping your mind and body for the season now. Develop a great sleeping pattern, be sure to start blocking out time for studying, and pay attention to your nutrition level (an easy start is to start drinking water throughout the day).
I have been fortunate to watch a few of Team USA’s games during the FIBA World Cup. Obviously, they are dominating. Yes, they are more talented, but statistically, they are proving that there are 3 things teams can do to win games. (Using stats through their first 3 games)
Make more free throws than the other team shoots
Being aggressive offensively puts pressure on the defense. Soft teams settle for jump shots, not necessarily because they are good shooters, but because they don’t want to work for a shot closer to the basket. Team USA has made 56 FT’s compared to 49 attempts for their opponents. This is primarily because of dribble penetration, but also a product of getting out in transition and attacking the offensive glass.
Win the rebounding and turnover battles
Two things that are so obvious. If a team can consistently do these two things, they are going to be in position to win ball games. Team USA is dominant because of the way they control these two categories. They out rebound their opponents by 9 boards per game. This is extremely helpful to their ability to hold teams to 37% shooting. In addition, their +11 forced turnovers margin allows them to get easy baskets in transition.
Score off the pass
Team USA is getting 21 assists per game, while making nearly 40 field goals per game. This means half of their baskets are coming off the pass. Scoring off the pass takes advantage of help defense and also helps to avoid forced shots. This is quite impressive considering that the players play in a league dominated by isolation plays.
During a sprint 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.
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.
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?