New Year, New Semester, New Goals

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Breaks in your season, when there is no practice, is the time to get caught up and recenter your focus. The time after the players finish their semester or the holiday breaks  gives you the much-needed time to reassess and reevaluate. This “check-and-balance” is needed to see if you are hitting your more broad goals. Every coach has small and attainable goals but are you hitting the “big picture” items that you want your team to be known for. That is the question that each coach should ask themselves during this time…”Are we becoming what we want to be?”

If you are, then you need to elevate the standards and try to “rinse the cottage cheese” to be even better. Where are you missing opportunities or giving up points? What lineups maximize our strengths? If you aren’t becoming what you want to be, then why not?  How are we measuring up against the goals that we set at the beginning of the season? Is personnel in flux? Who are are best 5?

In both situations, the big goals need to stay the same but the the smaller ones need to change. The smaller goals should be refined and address to where you need to go. For example, my team currently is leaving to many points on the table (finishing around the rim). One of our new goals for the new year needs address our overall field goal % along with how many of those times are we getting to the free throw line. I believe that if we address these weaknesses we will be putting ourselves in position for more winning opportunities.

Each team is different and each team has a different road to take to success. No matter what road you have to take, it is so important to maximize this time to get a barometer reading of the team and where they need to go. Happy holidays and here’s to a great 2017!

The TEN “Tough Times” To-Do’s

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When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade.

You drive a car looking out the windshield not out the rearview.

Tough times don’t last but tough people do.

When life throws adversity at you it’s imperative to stay in the present. During tough times, if you look back in the past  there is only regret and if you look in the future there is only fear. When you are struggling whether in life or in athletics, you must have a plan to fix it. A real blue print that is analyzed down to the last detail that articulates where you need to go. My team right now is in this phase and we are getting better everyday. We are still not where we want to be but we will get there. The important thing is to continue to strive for progress and focus on the process. A good thing that I have uses to recenter my team and get them on track is the below to-do list. This is a checklist that I use for myself so I don’t let the team or myself go into that dark place. Sure, I could write a novel on each one of them but these 10 things should help any struggling team get back on track if you stick with it.

The TEN Tough Times To-Do’s

  1. Stay Positive-Negativity doesn’t do anything and it only breeds more negativity.
  2. Be a unit– Toughest thing to do is not to point the finger.
  3. No excuses– Take ownership. Everyone has a stake in our successes and short-comings
  4. Have a Vision-What do you want your team to stand for and where do you want to be?
  5. Communicate with your team-They need to know how much you care and be honest with the situation. Have individual and team meetings.
  6. Define Roles-Everyone must buy-in. Communicate these effectively.
  7. Set Small and Attainable Goals-Your team needs to measure successes when there can be “L’s” on the stat sheet
  8. Do the little things– Ex. Have a clean locker room. Be early rather than on time
  9. Chart and Be Competitive-Chart drills to show progress and have the activities always be competitive.
  10. Act like a Champion-Champions are champions at everything they do

 

 

Avoid Getting Cut By Being Indispensable

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Monmouth University’s excitable subs, nicknamed “The Hawks’ Nest” began getting noticed in last season for their bench celebrations.

Too many times I see potential in my current players (or potential players) that goes untapped. It is never the “basketball skills” that most often lag, it is all the things outside of making a jump shot. Every coach will say that “Cuts” are one of the toughest days of the year. The truth is, if you have good roster competition this is a necessary evil. These decisions are never taken lightly. After all, despite what outsiders may think, we  are all parents and teacher. Letting someone go goes against what we fundamentally believe in. However, not everyone should get a medal and not everyone trying out should make the team.

The name across your chest has to mean something. Those last couple spots on a roster most likely will never play in a game. Hence, these are your bench players. My assistant, Conor Smith (NYU ’15), has a great saying when deciding what bench players to keep and which ones to let go. “We are looking for players that are indispensable at a dispensable position.” We want players that bring so much of the intangibles that is is impossible to let them go. They are INDISPENSABLE. It takes someone special to be that indispensable player. Although these players may not be the the ones that fill up the box score, they are equally (if not more) important as your leading score. They are the ultimate teammate.

Traits to being INDISPENSABLE

  • Be early in everything you do.
  • Be loud on the court (ex. count out makes out loud in competitive shooting or “Help” on defense)
  • Communicate effectively off of the court
  • Get GREAT grades
  • Accept your role and do it to the best of your ability
  • On the flip side, work hard to expand your abilities (ex. Do individuals, lift after games, watch film with the coaching staff)
  • Ask questions and provide honest feedback to the team in practice (Hold yourself to that standard)
  • Give Hi-Fives and be the most enthusiastic teammate
  • Dive on looseballs
  • Provide servant leadership
  • Point to the person who passed you the ball that you scored (UNC Style)
  • Be in the best shape/condition you can be.
  • Have the courage to be a trailblazer
  • Never quit even if you fail something (keep running even if you’re not going to make the time standard)
  • Be the last one to leave the gym
  • Take care of your body
  • Get sleep and have good nutrition
  • Smile. Have an “Aura of Positivity”
  • Always get extra repetitions
  • Lift after games (if you don’t play). You can not afford a day off.
  • Value your position on the team above everything else

How Do NBA Teams Promote Competition?

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Successful people are fueled by competition. It’s why we all play or coach. If your not competing then chances are you aren’t passionate about what you are doing. Passion and competition are interconnected. How do you promote competition in your daily practices? Simple, almost every drill you do should have some sort of time element or goal with standards to met.

Recently, I was fortunate to take in a training camp practice with the New York Knicks. Everything they did (except the X and O work) had a competitive element to it. They started right after their warm-up with a simple 5 man weave drill where they had to make 6 trips in 36 seconds and they couldn’t end the drill until they made it in 34 seconds. They were driven to excel by competition. I think too many times professional basketball players are portrayed as lazy but here they were busting their hump to make the weave goal of 34 seconds. Why? Because they are fueled by competition.

Throughout the practice, there was nothing earth-shattering about the drills but common trends observed was the fast pace the Knicks want to play at and that everyone competes. Even a simple 3 man 2 ball shooting drill became competition when Jeff Hornacek gave them goals (ex. 4 jumpers in a row, 8 corner 3’s, 15 makes). It was great and refreshing to see pro’s like Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose embracing each drill like it was their first drill in high school. Why? Because they are fueled by competition.

These professional basketball players and coaches are elite at what they do. However at the end of the day, basketball is basketball. There are universal truths to the game (and life). Competition brings out the best in all of us and how you promote within your program is integral to it’s success. No matter what the level though, competition only happens when you are passionate about what you are doing. You can not have one without the other.

P.S. I’m a Celtics fan at heart but I gotta believe that this could be a special year for the Knicks (barring injuries of course).

Success of Any Team Begins and Ends with TRUST!

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The toughest and most important thing that a leader has to develop within their teams is TRUST. In life, we are always in competition. Whether it be for that next job, the quarterly bonus or who gets the shot when the game is on the line. We live in a society that makes us want to be selfish (i.e. the person with the most money can have the most “stuff”). Basketball is no different. It is an inherently selfish sport. Only 15 people make the team. Only 8-10 play in games on a regular basis. Only 5 “start.” Only 1-2 are the go-to players in crunch time. As you can see, you can easily get caught up in fighting to make your own claim and mark your territory. Competition is natural and necessary but having the team understand that those decisions are not in their control is the first step to breaking down a barrier of trust. Furthermore, there is no specific blueprint to developing trust. Each group and team has its own issues to overcome. That’s why they pay the managers, directors and in this case the head coaches the big bucks (ha ha!).

If there is one thing that I want my team to develop this preseason is trust between one another (and when we take the court in October this extends to the coaching staff). To me this is more paramount than how many jump shots they take or the number of sprints you do. Trust is a fundamental characteristic of any successful team. For us, it is the one quality we must have to be successful in our identity. See my previous post on our program’s identity- https://coachrejbasketball.wordpress.com/2016/08/24/establish-your-team-identity/  You must have trust to be a relentless defensive team. 5 men must function as 1 on the court. You must have trust to play team basketball. One person can not do it on their own. Finally, you must have trust to be a great rebounding team. All 5 men working hard toward the common goal of obtaining the basketball.

Trust takes time and consistent effort to cultivate it. We want our team to be well-ahead of the curve when we see them on the court because trust will fuel our successes. A team that doesn’t trust becomes divided easily and resorts back to selfish tendencies. One thing we believe that fosters this trust with one another is brutal honesty. This interaction happens between all factions of program (coach-player, coach-coach, player-player). When I give critiques, I want my team to understand that I believe the issue is important. On the flip side when I give compliments, I want my team to know I’m genuine. If you sugarcoat as a leader the person will just “taste the sugar” and never understand what you are really trying to tell them. Honest communication is not easy all the time but must happen for trust to be established.

I tell my guys, that in order to trust you must be vulnerable. For 18-22 year old men this is about the most difficult thing to ask of them personally. However, you have to put yourself out there and “extend the olive brach.” As we move forward in this preseason, the hardest thing for any coach is to TRUST their players to lead themselves when their off the court. I am no different. However, I trust in my ability to vet high-quality student-athletes that are self-motivated and driven. After all trust starts and ends with leader at the top.