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Friday, September 24, 2010

Must Read for Coaches: Bill Belicheck Motivational Strategy

Bill Belicheck met with his team shortly before the playoffs. He showed them a video of the Breeders' Cup (horse race) and paused the tape halfway through the race with the outcome still up in the air.

He asked the team "Who will win?
The horse with the most experienced jockey?
The horse who has won the most money?
The horse with the best odds prior to the race?"

The team was puzzled, "No, it's the horse that runs the best race from here on out."

You can't focus on prior accomplishments/failures, you must only focus on the present and doing your best the next play.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Coaching Wisdom from Doc Rivers, Hubie Brown, Nick Saban, and more

-Doc Rivers: "With our ball pressure, we know we're going to get beat off the dribble at times. The only guy that can't get beat is the helper."

-Jay Wright: "Drive like a scorer not a passer."

- "The job of a leader is to rally people to a better future." –Marcus Buckingham, author

-Mike Brown: versus a coach that is a staunch believer in his defensive matchups (doesn't like his matchups to get switched), create a problem for him with your own defensive matchups. Against the Celtics, Brown will put Lebron on Rondo because he knows that the Celtics want Pierce guarding Lebron on the other end and that Paul Pierce 7 times out of 10 won't be able to get to Lebron in transition of a miss.

- "I don't micromanage, but I have micro-interest. I let my people work, but I do care about the details. I want intimate knowledge of what's going on." –Tachii Yamada, president of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

-Jeff Bzdelik: "Before you get into the workings of any defensive system, your team must know how to closeout."

-Bill Self: "When defending a ball screen, the screener's defender should hedge at the same angle in which the screen is set (the defender's feet should be parallel with the screener's—"on the same board"). Hedge defender is trying to get the ball handler coming off the ball screen doing 1 of 3 things: pick the ball up, change direction, or be called for a charge."

-Tom Crean: "Never go beyond the next game ("1 Game Winning Streak"). Look at your next game as the most important game on your schedule."

-Stan Van Gundy spent his year off after getting let go by Miami studying the league and asking himself the question, "What will I do when I come back?"

-Nick Saban: Alabama players were charged with the task of putting together a team affirmation (defined as a "positive assertion repeated by players to keep them focused on all the same things needed to achieve the long term goal of a national title.") For offense the team affirmation was to "strive to be capable of an explosive play on any given snap." The defense's affirmation was to "never give up an inch."

-Hubie Brown: "Don't be turned off from aggressive play by high foul calls in your first year(s) of your tenure. As you start to establish that (aggressive defense) as your style, they (the refs) will respect you and foul numbers will decrease.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

National Championship Coach UNC Roy Williams on Leadership

National Championship Coach UNC Roy Williams on Leadership
As part of the cutting edge Carolina Leadership Academy, UNC national champion men's basketball coach Roy Williams recently shared his insights on leadership and team building as well as some behind the scenes stories during Carolina's run to the 2005 National Championship.

Here are some of the highlights from Coach Williams talk with the Tar Heels captains and coaches:

1. Trust is the foundation of leadership.
Coach William's first goal when he made the transition from Kansas to Carolina was to establish a sense of trust with the UNC players. "You've got to get your players to believe in you." Coach Williams immediately scheduled individual meetings with each of the players to begin the trust-building process. Because first impressions are so important, especially when taking over a different program, Coach Williams wanted to start off on the right foot with each of the players.

2. We'll have a chance to win it all next year...
Coach Williams told the UNC players that if they did exactly what he and his staff asked them to do, they would make the NCAA tournament in the first year and have a chance to win it all in the second year. This inspiring vision gave the players an exciting goal to shoot for as well as a realistic timeline to accomplish it. It set the program's expectations from the onset and gave them a motivating reason for the daily work they would need to do.

3. Coaching is about adjustments. Your game plan is only good for the first six minutes - the rest is all about adjustments. According to Coach Williams, coaching (and playing for that matter) is all about adjustments. You can and should formulate a game plan going in, but much of your team's success depends on your ability to make efficient and effective adjustments. As a coach you must be able make the strategically adjustments, but just as important, you must help your team make the mental adjustments that need to be made to manage the momentum of competition.

4. You can push them but you can't go personal.
Many thought former North Carolina coach Matt Doherty was excused because the Tar Heel players thought he was too tough on them. Interestingly, most Carolina insiders note that Coach Williams is much more demanding of his players than was Coach Doherty. The primary difference lies in how Coach Williams is tough on them. Coach Williams insists that you can and must push your players - but you can't make it personal. Much like effective parenting, coaches should criticize the behavior, not the person.

5. Regardless of how hard you work, I will be working harder. It all starts at the top. Coach Williams talked about how his passion, commitment, and work ethic must set the tone for everyone in the program. He has to continually demonstrate in his actions the standard necessary to achieve success. The players see how much he invests in them and the program and are naturally inspired to give a high level of commitment back to him.

6. I'll take a person who is a little short on ability and academics, but I will not take anyone who is short on character. For Coach Williams, character in recruiting is a non-negotiable factor. He flat out refuses to sign anyone who is not a person of character. "You can't consistently win that way, and it certainly is not as much fun." This bedrock principle was especially satisfying to hear in light of today's Terrell Owens-type athletes.

7. Be on the lookout for the little things in recruiting.
While he is a very personable guy, Coach Williams directly tells people not to chit-chat with him over the summer when he is recruiting. From the time he walks into the gym before games start to the end of the day, he is on a mission. Coach Williams meticulously watches EVERYTHING a potential Carolina recruit does. He especially watches how kids act before and after games, how they interact with coaches, teammates, parents, and officials. He even watches water breaks closely.

He related a story about current Atlanta Hawk and last season's ACC Freshman of the Year Marvin Williams: Marvin fouled out near the end of a close AAU game. His coach called a time out to talk with the rest of the players. Marvin ran to the end of the bench and filled cups of water for each of his teammates who were still in the game as a way to contribute even though he was on the bench with five fouls. "I don't want the kids who are too cool. I want guys who are focused on how they can help the team. I absolutely love it when the best player on the team is also the best leader."

8. Winning TEAMS get the individual awards and rewards.
Coach Williams continuously stressed to his players that the end of the year individual awards and rewards go to the teams that win the most games. Player of the Year and All-Conference Awards almost always go to players on the teams that win the most. Thus, Coach Williams team approach would yield the collective rewards of a championship season as well as the individuals awards.

9. Team vs. Talent - that's a welcomed insult.
The media billed the Illinois vs. Carolina national championship game as Team vs. Talent. Coach Williams took great offense to this characterization and bombarded his team with it in the 48 hours before the game. "Everyone thinks we're too selfish to win a championship. They think we are just a bunch of superstars who aren't willing to play together to win. Let's show them that they're wrong and we can win this thing as a team."

10. Illinois is too good of a team not to make a run - I've got to be the calmest person in the crowd when they do. Going into the championship game against the #1 ranked Illinois' high-octane offense, Coach Williams realized that there would be a point when Illinois would get on a roll. He knew that his composure during this run might be a critical factor in the game and prepared himself ahead of time to deal with it.

Sure enough, during a nine-minute span in the second half of the championship game, Illinois made 60% of their three-pointers to close within one of Carolina. As his panicked players came to the bench for the media time out, Coach Williams got their attention and calmly reminded them that everything was okay. "Hey guys, we're fine. Illinois is a great team; they've been ranked #1 most of the year. You have to expect them to hit some shots. But as the game goes on and the pressure mounts, they'll start to tighten up. And there's no way that they will make those jump shots." By preparing for and remaining calm in a potential crisis, Coach Williams effectively refocused his team and helped them weather the inevitable storm of adversity that too often spooks other teams.

11. You can coach someone and still see 30 years later the impact you had - whether good or bad. Not many outside of Asheville, NC have ever heard of high school basketball coach Buddy Baldwin. But without his example and influence decades ago on an impressionable high school hoopster named Roy Williams, Coach Williams would likely not be coaching today. "Coach Baldwin was the first person to give me confidence that I could do something. And I really enjoyed how good he made me feel. And I thought that coaching would allow me the opportunity to help other people feel as good as Coach Baldwin made me feel about myself." Although seemingly insignificant perhaps at the time, Coach Baldwin's leadership legacy lives on through Coach Williams - who has made thousands of Kansas and Carolina players and alums feel good about themselves.

Finally, all coaches will take some comfort in knowing that Coach Williams' first season as a high school coach his team went 2-19. Ouch! From an inauspicious start to the pinnacle of Division I men's college basketball, Coach Roy Williams has always stayed true to himself and his roots and is clearly one of the class acts in coaching today.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Mental Toughness: Are You a Baby?

For those that follow my blog, you know I am the proud father of 6 month old twin sons, Luke and Jack. While I am not 100% certain (haven’t had them actually tested), I am confident they are geniuses. I’m serious!

Why? Because they have already figured out the 6 keys to success:

1) Persistence: they never quit. Ever. When they want something… to be fed, to be changed, or hold a toy… they do not stop until they get what they want. Right now they are learning to crawl… and they spend hours and hours “practicing.”

How persistent are you in getting what you want? How relentless are you in your development?

2) Communication: they speak their minds. Granted, it’s in the form of crying, grunting, laughing, and Gibberish... but they do communicate. And they are attentive listeners. When Mr. Wiggles is talking, my boys are listening! They communicate with me (coach) and they communicate with each other (teammate).

Does everyone on your team know their role? Their strengths and weaknesses? The team’s goals? Is this being communicated among coaches and players?

Quick side note: My wife is the Head Coach of our family; I am a lowly assistant.

3) Enthusiasm: they have a passion for everything they do! When they are happy, they bounce around and their faces light up the room. When they aren’t, they flail their limbs and they cry like wild hyenas.

How much passion do you have for the game? Is your enthusiasm contagious? Do you raise the level of those around you?

4) Structure: they are on a schedule. They go to sleep at the same time every night, get up at the same time every day, and eat (and nap) at scheduled intervals. They have a consistent routine.

Do you have a daily routine? Do your workouts/practices have structure or are they haphazard?

5) Uninhibited: they don’t care about looking cool. They will (literally) crap their pants while staring at directly at you. They don’t care if they fall on their face or if they have vomit on their shirt. They are comfortable being themselves. And they aren’t afraid to make mistakes.

Are you worried what others will think if you make a mistake? Do you only practice the skills you are good at so you don’t look bad?

6) Imagination: they think outside of the box. They can spend an hour playing with a ball of tissue paper. They make the most of what they have.

How much imagination do you put in to your own workouts/practices? When you are doing drills, do you imagine there is a defender… or do you just do the drill?

So there you have it, Luke and Jack have figured out the 6 keys to success. Now, it’s my job as their father to make sure they maintain these traits as they get older.

If they go through life with persistence, can effectively communicate, have an unbridled enthusiasm, have a consistent daily schedule, aren’t afraid to make mistakes, and can think creatively… they will be successful in whatever they choose to do.

I have my fingers crossed its basketball.

Just kidding.

No I’m not.

I will leave you with this…

Your answer to the question I ask at the beginning of this video clip will determine how successful you will be:

Please let me know if I can ever be of service to you for your program. You can email me at

Train hard. Train smart.

Alan Stein

PS: I will be speaking about proper pre-season and in-season strength & conditioning at basketball coaching clinics in Columbus, OH (September 27), Orlando, FL (October 1), and Houston, TX (October 2). If you live in one of those areas, I hope to see you there!

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