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Thursday, July 8, 2010

Top 5 Lessons the Military Can Teach Coaches

The military can teach many lessons from what to do during a chemical attack to how to clear a room. Those are military jobs and skills. What are some of the leadership lessons that a basketball coach can use to better improve their coaching or their love of the process? These are a few that I have learned along the way and have learned to adapt to my perspective on coaching.

1. Be a Follower First then a Leader - One of the great lessons taught by the military is the fact that you must first learn how to be a great follower before you can expect to become a great leader. The idea that leaders are born and not made does not apply in the military. In other words, you do not simply walk in and announce you are the next coming of Patton. Instead you are taught about chain of command and your place in it.

When you first enter the military, your place is the splinter of wood on the bottom of the ladder - a fact you will be reminded of daily as you scrub toilets, do pushups until you cannot move, and other fun human games unknown to Milton Bradley. Remember, great leaders are born through the fire of daily discipline and correct character choices.

Your time will come be the follower that you will expect your followers to be.

2. Suck Scum - Be the guy that is willing to do the things that others will not do.
When you are coaching basketball this means working your tail off in the July recruiting period, getting up early to work out your players, and all the little things involved in preparation. In the military you have no choice. You accept the job given to you and work hard to accomplish it in the most efficient way possible. Period. There is no room for emotions - only execution.

When you coach basketball, so many times, people expect good things to happen because they work hard. Hard work does not guarantee success - it is only the ticket to the party. Suck scum and work hard because you do not deserve success without paying this price.

3. Stay Fit to Lead Effectively - Leaders in the military are in physical shape. You know this because you cannot stay in the military without meeting a standard of physical fitness. Also, you cannot rise in rank without paying your dues which takes time. That being said, you know that those leaders in the military are disciplined and expect you to perform at a level that they have already surpassed.

In basketball coaching, I believe that your ability to coach most effectively is diminshed when you cannot demonstrate these physical skills. At the same time, if you know that you cannot physically demonstrate certain movements or skills, it is wise to have someone on staff that can. Stay fit, sweat with your players, and reach new heights of coaching effectiveness.

4. Expect More - Please coaches remember that no matter how much you demand from your players that they are always capable of more. The Navy SEALS teach that the average person can do 10 times more than they think possible. They demonstrate this through a week long trial by fire where the longest they are even allowed to sleep is 4 hours - most are awake in 72 hour shifts.

Translate this to the basketball court and push your players physcially to their limits. Most high school kids do not even know their limits because they have never been pushed to that level. For these players, their first introduction to this is in college. Please do not let your player go to college without any idea about the price they must pay physically. Remember, fatigue makes cowards of us all and physical toughness is a prerequisite for mental toughness.

You cannot be mentally tough without forging your body the way through the fire of your will.

5. Disciplined Emotions - If you look at the most successful coaches in basketball like Tom Izzo, Coach K, Brad Stevens, Roy Williams, and others, you will notice that they have total control over their emotions on the sidelines. Even though they may rant and rave during the game at officials and players, these are calculated manouvers designed with a purpose. They are translating emotions to give these tactics power and command, but like the great actors, deep inside they are calm and collected. This is much like the military where the leaders have been forged through the fires of combat and pressure situations. They must have control over their emotions to make decisions where life and death hang in the balance.

While everyone is still human, I believe the great leaders - in the military and on the basketball court - have command of their emotions and are able to act upon them when needed for the most effect.

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