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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

WHO CLEANS YOUR BUILDING?

I absolutely loved this passage from Coach John Calipari's latest book, "Succes Is The Only Option."
A business executive by the name of Walt Bettinger likes to tell the story of the only course in college in which he failed to get an A.  Bettinger, the president and CEO of the Charles Schwab Corporation, was in his senior year and really determined to keep his perfect 4.0 grade-point average.  He had spent hours studying and memorizing formulas for a different upper-level business course.
The professor handed out the final exam and it was on just one piece of paper, which surprised everyone because they had anticipated a test with dozens of questions, as Bettinger recalled in an interview with Adam Bryant, author of the Corner Office feature in the New York Times.  One side of the paper was blank and when students turned it over, so was the other side.  The professor then said to them, "I've taught you everything I can teach you about business in the last ten weeks, but the most important message, the most important question, is this:  What's the name of the lady who cleans this building?"
Bettinger did know the answer and receiver a B for the class but gained a valuable lesson. These were lessons I was taught working for Dale Brown and Sue Gunter.  It's not the X & O's -- it's about the people and how you treat them.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

CHRIS PETERSON ON RECRUITING OKGs

The following comes from Don Yaeger's wonderful book, "Great Teams."  Here are a few segments from University of Washington football coach Chris Peterson on recruiting:
"In the business of recruiting, everybody falls in love with the tape.  But you must remember to fall in love with the kid, not the tape.  We really tried to hone in on the OKGs because not all of the really good guys get the same attention."
What are "OKGs?"  Coach Peterson coined it to refer "our kind of guys."

Yaeger went on to write about specific areas that Peterson looked at to gauge if they were indeed OKGs:
"We just try to do as much history as we can, talk to the kid and the people who surround him," he said.  "We want to tell the recruit what we are all about and find out what they are all about.  I tell them that our place is much harder than other places and our standards and expectations are different than a lot of programs."
Yaeger also said that Peterson "paid close attention to the core GPA of a potential player, because he believed that score painted a picture of that recruit."

Sunday, November 13, 2016

HOW TOM THIBODEAU SPEND HIS YEAR "OFF"

From NBA.com, Mitchell Hansen wrote an article on Tom Thibodeau and in part, how he handled his year away from coaching.  Again, more proof that the best are continual learners and look for ways to improve.

After departing Chicago, Thibodeau took a year off to reflect, recharge and learn before looking for another head coaching job. 
“Last year was a great year. I visited some (NBA) teams in September and October and then went back the last month of the season. I believe I visited 13 teams,” he said. “When you don’t have your own team and you’re not worried about who you are playing next, you have a much broader view on everything. It was a great year and I took a lot from it.”
Along with visiting other basketball teams, Thibodeau branched out to two successful coaches in other sports: New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick and former St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa.
“You’re talking about two all-time greats in the history of their respective sports and to get the opportunity I had to spend some time with them was invaluable to me," Thibodeau said. "What you find out is the winning characteristics are always the same in every sport. When you start to learn about leadership and what teaching is all about, you can learn a lot from those guys.”

Thursday, November 3, 2016

JIM HARBAUGH ON COMMUNICATING AND TEACHING

Remember, it's you content that's important in communication and teaching.  It's not enough to say "bad pass."  You have to tell them why it is a bad pass so they can correct it.  "We've got to throw the ball away from the defense."

It's not enough to say "good pass."  You have to tell them why it is a good pass so they can repeat the action.  "Great job of passing away from the defense."

Here is a Jim Harbaugh talking about that in an article written by Mitch Albom of the Detroit Free Press:

“You can scream at somebody and tell ’em they did something wrong. Or you can pat ’em on the back, tell ’em they did something right. But you’re still not giving them the tools.
“The teacher or coach that can actually give you the tip or the advice to develop you as a player — those are the real special ones.”

TRAITS OF A GREAT COACH

Last week there was a lengthy article written on Bill Belichick by David Fleming of ESPN The Magazine.  You can read it in its entirety here -- and it's well worth it.  In the meantime, here are some takeaways about him from the piece that I think should resonate with good coaching:

Taking Away What Your Opponent Does Best

Bill Parcells: "With the Giants, we were trying to take away an opponent's best players and not let them beat us. Bill has followed suit on that pretty much his whole career."

Rick Venturi:  "Everybody in football wants to take away what you do best. The difference is Bill would go to an extreme to make you play left-handed. That's Belichick's absolute genius: pragmatism. When other coaches say it's important that we take away an opponent's best receiver, only Bill would commit four defenders on a receiver and play the rest of his defense with the other seven."

Rick Venturi: "Early in the week, before the X's and O's, you meet for hours upon hours as a staff breaking down personnel to come up with a game plan. Once Bill decided what to focus on taking away, he always ended that meeting with the same saying: 'And I don't want to have this discussion on Sunday.' Basically, he was saying, 'This week, not letting their No. 1 receiver catch any balls is one of our Ten Commandments, and no one better break it.'"

Work Ethic

Phil Savage: "Saban might be the greatest college coach ever, and I can honestly say in the last eight years at Alabama I have never once seen him tired. But in Cleveland, under Bill, he'd go slump down against a wall and stutter, "I gotta get out of here, I can't function anymore." Bill could outwork all of us."

Bob Quinn: "I'd get to the office somewhere between 6 and 6:30 every morning and he was always there. In 15 years I could probably count on both hands the number of times I pulled into the parking lot and he wasn't there. When the leader of the organization does that, it's really easy for everyone else to kind of take that mentality too and say, 'If he's doing it, we all should do it.'"

Rick Venturi: "His philosophy from the beginning was 'No stone left unturned' and 'No envelope unpushed in order to win.' And the result of that was you worked to exhaustion. But he never asked you to do anything he wasn't doing. I look back on that first season as the greatest year in my coaching life."

Caring For Those You Work With

Jon Robinson: "After my daughter was diagnosed at 6 with Type 1 diabetes, a week later on my desk there was a little teddy bear, with a Belichick hoodie on it. And he had written a little note: 'I know this doesn't cure it, but just something for Taylor to know we are thinking about her and praying for her.' She knew it was from Coach. She named her bear Hoodie."

John Harbaugh: "Bill called our owner at like 3 in the morning to recommend me for the Ravens job. I was just really grateful and I couldn't believe it. I called Bill up and thanked him right away. He just said, 'Ah, don't worry about it, you should've had the job three days ago.'"

Jim Schwartz: "He did a great job of coaching coaches. It wasn't just the players. He coached the coaches."

The Importance of Details

Jim Schwartz: "Probably the biggest thing I learned from Bill is that there isn't anything that is not important. Anything that touches the team is important. That philosophy of 'Don't sweat the small stuff'? Yeah, that was never his philosophy."

Phil Savage: "He proceeds to go through all these little intricacies on the game film ... and it's 20 minutes on one play. Twenty minutes! In my immature mind I'm sitting there in the dark doing the math: Three games to break down on each side of the ball, 60 plays in each game, 20 minutes a play means I can get through three plays in an hour. My god, I'll never sleep again. And I didn't."

The Culture of Teaching

Phil Savage: "Most coaches specialize on one side of the ball. But he's one of the few out there who have a global perspective of the entire game and all 22 positions. He's a true coach of all 22 positions plus every specialist. That's a rarity. He's one of the few coaches out there who, if you dropped him on the staff at Drake University and said, 'Hey, be the tight ends coach,' he could absolutely coach those tight ends to the nth degree."

Adam Vinatieri: He knew what was going on in the building at all times. He controlled which doors we went out of. The way in and out of our locker room to our cars was right by his office. I think when they built it, there was probably planning involved."

Rosevelt Colvin: "The dude's a walking football encyclopedia. He can give you the history of the spread formation or the single wing. I tell people all the time, if you ever had a conversation with him about football it would be one of the greatest conversations you ever had in your whole life."

Kevin Faulk: "We prepared for everything. Not saying we perfected it, but we prepared for everything. There's no second-guessing or hesitation when you play for Bill. When you have to think on the field, it slows you down. When you know exactly what you're doing and how to do it and why you're doing it, that allows you to play faster, and your talent flows freely. It's like being in class. They hand you a test, you open it up, look at the questions and go, 'Wow, I know all the answers already.'"

Don Jones (Patriots Safety, 2014): "Tuesday they would give us the scouting report, and on Wednesday morning Bill would go around the whole room -- from Tom Brady down to the bottom man on the roster -- and ask everybody about the person they were going against. You really didn't want to be the one not to know."

Heath Evans: "Those Q&A's could get really, really stressful because he could ask you anything and you'd better know it. [Former Patriots tackle] Matt Light always sat right behind me, so any time Bill did ask me a question early on, Matt would be whispering in my ear all the wrong answers."

Monday, October 24, 2016

COACH MEYER: THE NOTE TAKER

The past few days I've been rereading "How Lucky You Can Be," by Buster Olney which is a wonderfully written book on the life of Coach Don Meyer.  I came across a story that made me laugh out loud but at the same time displayed what made Coach special and great:

Don Meyer was the worst fisherman that Ron Vlasin had ever seen.  Years before Meyer's accident, Vlasin and Meyer had gone out on Lake McConaughy, Nebraska's largest body of water.  Shortly after the two men had dropped their lines, Meyer asked Vlasin a question about the high school basketball team that Vlasin coached.  With his back to Meyer, Vlasin started answering the question keeping his voice low for fear of disturbing the fish.  After a few minutes, Vlasin had glanced over at Meyer at the other side of the boat and saw that his friend had put down his rod, had pulled out a notebook, and was writing everything that Vlasin had said.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

THE PREPARATION MINDSET OF CHAMPIONS

The following comes from "How Champions Think" by Dr. Bob Rotella:

I heard a story from Brad Faxon recently that illustrates the way champions are single-minded. Brad is a New Englander and a big fan of all the New England teams, including the Patriots. He’s become friends with Tom Brady. A couple of years ago, New England pulled out a big win against San Diego in the final minutes. On the day after the win, Brad called Brady. “Congratulations. What a great win!” Brad said. “Man, that must’ve been some party on the flight home.” “Brad, we have a no-drinking policy on our flights,” Brady said. “By the time we got on the plane in San Diego, every player had a computer at his seat with next week’s opponent broken down position by position. That flight home is the best five hours we’re going to get to prepare for next week. Monday will be taken up with a lot of physical rehab. Tuesday is taken up with a lot of PR and endorsement stuff. If we waited until Wednesday to start getting ready for next week, we’d have already lost. There wouldn’t be enough time.” That’s what single-mindedness looks like on a team level.




Monday, October 17, 2016

JIM JABIR: BUILDING YOUR CULTURE

We were blessed this weekend to have Jim Jabir as our guest speaker at the Gary Blair Coaching Academy. Coach Jabir had two sessions with our coaches, one on Building Your Culture and the other on The Phoenix Transition Offense.  Here are a few notes from his lecture on culture.

Goals vs. Process

Goals can cause you to lose sight on what you need to be doing at that moment.

It's like climbing a mountain.  If you are constantly looking at the top of the mountain as you climb, you're going to misstep and fall.  They key is to keep your eye on each single step and step by step you'll arrive to the top of the mountain.

What do people see when they see your team?

You must have a philosophy/program of substance -- it must be bigger than the game.

Coach Jabir wants his program to represent unselfishness, intelligence and playing hard.

Important to control what you can control.

Greatest compliment he's received as a coach was at a recruiting event.  He was on another court when someone came up to him and told him there was a "Dayton player" over on court 1 -- meaning there was a player that displayed the characteristics that this person related to being a Dayton player.  When Coach Jabir went to the court to check the player out, it turned out to be one that had committed to him earlier.

First thing he did when getting hired at Dayton was write "FAMILY" on the board and then outline all that it meant.

"Greatness comes from being consistent in your belief system."

Coach Jabir wants kids that love each other and will win because they want to win for each other.

It's a game of trust.  You can't love someone you don't trust.

We talk about "what" but we don't talk about "why" enough.

Great leaders inspire action.

It's not enough to give a kid a role -- you have to help them understand it and it's importance.

Has had the opportunity to observe Geno and the big thing with him is that he challenges them every day.

You can't be good at everything...what's your team equipped to do?  Work on that.

Are you "complaint" or are you "compelled."

Everyone says they want to play fast but do they want to do all that it takes to successfully play fast...painful work...discipline.

Archie Miller sign in locker room "Do Your Job" (Patriots)

Don't hype your opponent -- be factual.

Advancing in the post season is believing in what we do.

Coach Jabir doesn't use conditional statements -- doesn't say "if."

You need a certain level of stress to succeed.  Create stress levels in practice but reward them when they get it right.

Be in the present!

Can't be afraid of making a mistake.

Great players aren't great by coincident. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

WHY ALABAMA RARELY FLUCTUATES

There is one thing noticeable in process-oriented coaches -- they remain the same regardless of the outcome of the game with their team.  The final score has little say in the evaluation of the team's performance.  And this makes an impact on the the players and their own evaluation.  They just aren't satisfied with winning.

This was brought out in a recent New York Times article on Nick Saban and the Alabama football team.  After defeating #20 Southern Cal 52-6, Saban said, “If you want to know the truth about it, I wasn’t pleased with the way we played.”

Running Back Damien Harris has obviously bought in the process-oriented culture when he said, “At the end of the day, if we’re not playing our best, then it’s not a good game.”

Coach Saban is interested in dominating your opponent individually and collectively one play at a time.  The result of that type of philosophy is a player like Calvin Ridley saying “We have to get better and keep working,” after a 34-6 victory over Kentucky.

Always looking for improvement.

As written by Marc Tracy:
“We have to get better and keep working,” wide receiver Calvin Ridley added after a 34-6 win over Kentucky on Oct. 1 during which Ridley, a sophomore, caught 11 passes for 174 yards and two touchdowns.
Saban’s perpetual dourness is only somewhat surprising. The coach, among the best in college history, preaches “the process,” one that takes apart complex goals, such as winning a game or a national title, into their smallest possible units and perfects them. For the Tide, that means emphasizing the flaws in single plays over more salutary final results, such as the four national championships Saban’s Tide have won in the past seven seasons.
Although Saban’s personality is anything but Zen, his outlook can seem rather Eastern, reminiscent of the koan that states: Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water; after enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.
“What we try to do with our players is be very technical about the things that they did well and get them positive self-gratification with those things,” Saban said recently. But, he added, the team does not overlook mistakes “just because we won the game.”
Harris said the players imbibed this message.
“That’s how he is, that’s how he coaches us, and that’s how we are as a team,” he said. “We enjoy our victories, but at the end of the day, we watch film, we see the mistakes we made, and we’re not satisfied.”

And then there’s this from Greg McElroy, an ESPN commentator who played quarterback on Saban’s first national title team at Alabama, in 2009, who said it helped to know that nothing would alter Saban’s disposition — the same things would be demanded no matter a game’s result.
“He’s the same guy after a big win as a crushing loss,” McElroy said. “That’s why the team never really fluctuates.”
He added: “I’m not kidding when I say this: We could be playing Texas in the national championship game or Western Carolina, and it was the same guy.”
Or as an enlightened Saban might put it: Before beating Auburn, practice hard, study film; after beating Auburn, practice hard, study film.


Tuesday, September 27, 2016

RICHARD SHERMAN ON THE PROCESS ORIENTED MINDSET

I love the PlayersTribune.com!  It gives great insight directly from those involved -- the athletes.  They share so much in an open forum that can benefit your players as well.  We share many of them with our team.

One example is the most recent post by Richard Sherman, cornerback for the Seattle Seahawks titled, "On To The Next."  It's a concept that we constantly talk to our players about.  The best move on to the next quickly -- instantly in fact.  On to the next shot...the next possession...the next day...the next game.  Live in the present -- the past and future are irrelevant.  Be process oriented.

Of course it is much easier said than done -- even for veteran professionals.

Sherman opens the article with this:
Earl Thomas was sitting in front of his locker after the game, and I could tell he was frustrated. Then he stood up, put his backpack on, left the locker room and walked out to the parking lot. He didn’t really talk to anybody. He just got in his car and went home.
That was in Week 1.
After we won.
That’s one of the things that makes Earl great. Anybody who knows him knows that he holds himself to an incredibly high standard. That day, he felt he didn’t play up to that standard. We got a win, and that was great. But Earl understands — like everybody else in the locker room — that just because you win doesn’t mean you did everything perfectly.
And conversely, just because you lose doesn’t mean you did everything wrong.

That's process oriented thinking.  It's not the result that makes a difference in the evaluation of your level of execution.  This is the mindset of the best that allows them to grow and improve as opposed to becoming complacent.

As Sherman than points out, this is the outcome of that type of thinking:
That’s one of our many mottos: Control what you can control. That expression was why Earl came in the next morning — after walking out of the locker room on Sunday frustrated, without talking to anybody — and went on to have a great week of practice. Because he knows that come Monday morning, you can’t control what happened on Sunday, and every minute you spend living in the past and dwelling on it is a minute you won’t be spending looking ahead to the next week and the next opponent. And that’s an easy way to lose back-to-back games.

Sherman goes on to talk about the culture of the Seahawks that allows them to hold themselves accountable in part due to the philosophy of Coach Pete Carroll:
Our coaches are probably tougher on us after a win. Coach Carroll always tells us that he wants us to be ourselves, because that’s why he brought us here. Because we’re competitors. We’re the kind of players — and the kind of people — he wants on his team.
Part of being a competitor is being self-motivated. We don’t need a coach to get on our ass after a loss. I’ll get on myself about it, and so will each guy in our locker room. Like I’ve said before, we have a crazy team with some chaotic dudes — a bunch of alphas. Take Earl, for example. He’ll do everything he can to get better, even after a win, because that’s how Earl is. That’s what makes him great. He’s never satisfied, even when he plays well.

The result is a process-oriented mindset displayed in this great quote by Sherman:
"Was I angry that we lost? Of course. Winning never gets old and losing always sucks. But you have to treat those two impostors just the same."