Find your own voice. What does this mean? Many experienced coaches say this and younger coaches don't really understand it. Here is what this means. In the beginning of your coaching journey, you are like that person who was your loudest influence, by that I mean your former high school coach, maybe the person who coached you in college? In the beginning you lean on that loud or impactful voice, but you have to find out and discover who you are.
Who was your loudest voice? What did you learn from them? How did they impact you good and bad?
Sometimes you will have to start from scratch. There comes a point in every coaches life where there has to be an internal question asking what is your own personal measurement going to be. Not the outside pressures. There is one coach at the end of the year who is fulfilled. One person who has won it all. If that's what is important to you, just winning. There will come a time in your career where you are winning so much that it's hard to keep feeding the monster that has been created.
Here is the decision that I believe you need to make. Make the decision to approach coaching with the desire to win the Championship. But the measurement of achievement is going to be: Am I a better coach today than yesterday? If at the end of the year you can say to yourself that you did a better job this year than last year, then you are feeding the monster inside of you, your own personal measurement. It will be rewarding, you will keep your focus on why we do what we do.
So what's your measurement of success going to be?
Ask yourself how does it feel to be coached by me? There have been many times in my coaching career where I have not been who I have wanted to be. You know going through a practice and leaving and not liking yourself that much. After a game and talking to your team and walking out and feeling awful for what you said? It's like this when winning is the thing that is driving you.
So ask yourself what does it feel like to be coached by you? You know the higher the level the more pressure and you feel the entire world is watching, you feel you need to get the players you have to the top, it happens quick and soon you don't even realize what is going on.
Having great people around you is important so that you can be reminded of that little thing, "how does it feel like to be coached by me?" No one is perfect so there will be days when you are not what you want to be. But by being aware it will help you. You will treat your players differently because you will be aware of your own standard, how does it feel, how does it feel to be coached by me?
I know there was a time that you didn't like how you coached someone? How did that feel?
There is power in asking questions. As coaches we usually are the ones who tell them where to go, tell them what to look for, what move you expect, etc. But the real power is when you ask and they answer. Try it, you will discover so much, because at first whatever question you ask they will try to please you the coach. I usually tell my players right on the spot, I don't want the yearbook answer, I want you to tell me right then and there what were you looking at, what were you thinking. I am looking for them to have a conviction in their belief of what they are doing!
Why do you think that coaches don't ask questions?
After the game, those post game thoughts. Writing things down has a dramatic impact on how we process things. Give your players the power to do that, right after a game. To write down what their thoughts are is one way, not a play by play, just a simple analysis of their own involvement in the game. Then respond to each player. Sometimes you have to go backward to gain that common ground before you can move forward!
Advice. One of the best things I have ever done is have those that have experience talk to those that do not. Seniors to freshman, veterans to rookies. "What do you wish you would have known as a rookie?" The usual advice is trust yourself, don't be afraid, let others in, connect to others that you meet. Not once has there been advice to work on your jump shot more, or work on 2 ball drills.
What would you tell yourself if you were 19 years old again?
Winning the championship will require your team to eliminate excuses. There has to be some sort of a message that will convey that no excuses will be allowed on the team. You first have to start with your team having to discuss and discover why they make excuses in the first place. Sometimes it's because we are all a little afraid of going all in. We will make an excuse just in case it doesn't work out. Then we will be able to justify it.
A few times I would have the floor intentionally left dirty to see the reaction of my players as they weren't as quick, fast, and to see what excuses would arise because of that.
Other times, I would leave certain lights in the gym off so that it was darker than usual. All the while, I was asking our players, what are you going to do when we are on the road and these conditions exist?
I wanted to eliminate those excuses early and pose a variety of obstacles in their way. Like intentionally having our basketballs either over inflated or under inflated so that the excuse of the ball could be overcome and we would adjust. I believe in having these situations in your practice to help with the overall message, going forward, all in.
Playing Green, All In.
We as a staff always needed to show our team what it looks like for us to be in an all in situation. I would look for pictures of us playing in tough situations, mainly of us going through tougher situations through my 12 week conditioning program. I always wanted them to have a visual of what it looked like to be all in. A variety of methods, like stop lights, with Red light, Yellow light and Green light was used to describe what it looked like to play in a Green light situation. I even used a particular shooting drill to prove this point by calling it Green Light Shooting. I wanted them to know that you had to be all in to get the goal, but once you did, then in the game you would have the
Green light to shoot. Talk about a confidence booster!
We all have situations where there are players who aren't on the same page. How can you get them trust each other. Over the years all coaches have used many methods to get this done, I have. One that I have used that is dramatic but gets the point across I used with my HS team one year on a retreat I took them to in Palm Springs. I paired up the players and had them swim one end of the pool to the other, arm in arm, using one snorkel, they had to stay underwater. Very difficult indeed, one that required us as a staff to first show them that it could be done and how. Once they saw that we as a coaching staff could do it, they were more inclined to believe and get it done as well.
It's customary to have teams eat together but how can that be used to build trust? Early in the preseason we had our teams have their wrists tied together and eat. This made them have to take turns helping each other eat. They had to rely on each other.
I am a huge believer that how the players acted when they came out of the game would establish that culture that we were always talking about, pushing for one another. But you have to pay attention to it. There are more players on the bench than are playing in the game. I wanted them to know on the bench that they were the energy of the team and to be supportive of those in the game. Also, I paid close attention to the body language of anyone who got subbed out and how they came to the bench. This provided us with excellent attention to what we were emphasizing since I taped it and reviewed it often with our players and coaches to make sure that we were all in.
We should be able to talk candidly about our coaching perspective. We all can agree that if we have a player who is driven, you must realize that you are in a position of power. They will do anything you say. They also will accept abuse in anyway that you deliver it because they desperately want the success.
When you have those players that are extremely driven they are the ones that are most at risk, because they are the ones willing to do anything, sacrifice everything and do whatever is necessary and take whatever you dish out to them because you hold the key to what they are seeking!
If you get players into survival mode as I stated earlier in another blog, then you will have them fighting like dogs. That anger subdues choking, it subdues fear. That chemistry of fear and anger can't live together. Some coaches believe that if you make the player angry that they will then play better. You can call them names, infuriate them and all the nerves go away, that's what the screamer coaches realize. It's manipulation as opposed to allowing them to figure things out and how to control their own nerves.
Is there a different way?
Humans tend to perform much better when they are driven. When they see the opportunity to do something extraordinary for a cause much bigger than themselves. They respond in a special way when they realize all of their hard work and suffering isn't about them anyway.
Great coaches know this power, the power of fighting for a loved one. They do it for a cause that is more than their own validation, or their own self interest and thus more sustained results.
Coach Wooden was very tough. He was a taskmaster. However, he always had his players best interest in mind. It was never about him. It was about the players and what he did with them, how he taught them, would affect them the rest of their lives.
This is what he told me how he would determine what a success he had been later in life, 10 years from the time that they left his supervision.
The real report card. This is when the season is over. As much as all of us want to be at the top and accepting the championship. The real sense of satisfaction is going to come later. Like at the reunion, the wedding of a player, etc. This is where you know it was a truly meaningful experience, one that shaped their lives and that they are grateful for. It's at this moment where you will not feel any better as a coach.
Sometimes the job gets in the way however. We just get into the mode of winning games. We forget how to value moral character. How can you prove you value character if you don't measure it and reward it everyday? How could you implement into your practice today? Start by recognizing that person that was most unselfish, encourages the most and reward that person. That person doesn't have to run at the end of practice for example because this was measured, rewarded. The players will see that this is a value to you and they will try their best to achieve it.
During one Final Four that I attended, I heard a coach say to another, "You can tell what a coach values by what they are willing to lose for." So true because we are always afraid of what can happen if we don't get the wins. We are tested each day. How much do I value winning and how much do I value developing people?
This comes back to your perspective. Are you playing for today? Or are you playing for a perspective that is going to ultimately determine the success of those under your supervision as a person.
Ask your players: How can you tell if a coach values winning over developing people? I am interested in learning what you discover?
This blog post is not going to sit well with some of you due to the mature and harsh language that will be used, so I urge you to use caution when looking at this. However, there are coaches who have humiliated others, publicly and privately.
This intense pressure needs to be addressed and I am going to as my son asked me this weekend as we were watching ESPN and the interview with Jadlow and his new book and the issues with Bobby Knight. My son asked me if I ever had a coach like that? It forced me to dig deep into trying to help coaches understand what resides in their control.
You have to remember that as a coach at any level, you have extraordinary power in the lives of the athletes that you interact with, or as I like to say, those under your supervision. Your position in their life, your presence; you hold their dreams in your hands. You are the person who is going to help them fulfill what they believe to be their destiny.
If you believe in them, if you support them, if you reach deep inside of yourself and give them a sense of empowerment, they can and will do extraordinary things. You will be an enormous force in their life. However, with that same power, you can tear them apart just the same and in some cases they are never going to be the same.
Listen to the interview Todd Jadlow and Bobby Knight life out of control.
Bobby Knight Halftime Speech
There is also an extremely powerful movie that I have seen from time to time to remind me and others of what happens when you are out of control. The movie Whiplash is intense and the scene that I am about to provide, has intense scenes, language, and should be viewed in light of what it brings to you, the emotions that are evoked.
Remember a couple of poignant facts that the coach is pushing them to be all that they can become. And in the movie when he draws the line in the sand by saying this is what winners are and what losers loo like well that was for his own needs. You see many coaches do this to feel that they are successful. For their reputation. It's wrong. I speak about this all the time here in US and in other countries where it is looked upon that a coach who yells and screams must be a good coach.
Most coaches have no clue of the power they have in the lives of the people that they teach.
Remember that every word, behavior, tone you use goes not just to the one person that you are directing that to, it's to the entire team, whether they are being spoken to directly or not, including staff members who listen to it as well.
I agree with the premise that most coaches believe in pushing their athletes beyond their limits. That process is difficult to say the least, but it doesn't have to get abusive. Couldn't you challenge another way? Couldn't you challenge your athletes without using fear?
One thing to keep in mind in the movie, the drummer is driven, even if the coach wasn't there. But it was so extreme, he was driving himself crazy.
When you coach players that have this drive that is over the top because they want to be successful, the question you need to ask yourself is, is that drive from within because they are trying to be something? Or is it to make themselves feel more important because there is something lacking inside of them?
Why do people endure the emotional abuse in order to get to the next level?
That answer that my son asked me, was yes, I did play for a coach like that, who challenged me, pushed, demonstrative. But I took the time to know him, to learn that he had care for me, that he loved me, and that he accepted me for who I was. This was demonstrated off the court by him taking the time to talk to me, put his arm around me, be there for my Dad's funeral as I was one year removed from his coaching me. Thus I was able to understand that his ranting and raving on the sidelines was only pressure and that I was able to withstand that better knowing that I could be the one having the calming effect on him.
I would be the one to accept responsibility for the actions of our team. This allowed me to help them simply play for each other on the court. It allowed my coach the outlet for his frustration to me, as I was able to take it. No one ever said it would be easy, but we all found a solution that worked for us all.
What do the best teams have?
First you have to help your players learn how to separate what they do from who they are. They have this idea that if they perform well then they are loved and if they don't perform well, then they are unloved.
I was asked this question the other day, what are the best teams that I have been around and what are the characteristics of those teams? They have Love, Care and Acceptance.
This takes you as the coach to show your vulnerability. What do I mean by that? How do we get our players to open up and talk and share their feelings with each other, to get to the truth? Teams that have problems are going to have a lot of judgement going around. I make it a point to learn the story of our players. To try to know where they come from. You will discover things you never knew, internal pain perhaps. We ask our players as coaches in general to trust and invest in a team, but to many of them, this trust is the major issue. They might not know how to become a good teammate, how to trust and open up. I learned that I needed to have weekly meetings to help facilitate this. The most important thing I ever did was show them how vulnerable I was in the discussions as well. I spoke about the challenges and things in my life that have held me back as well.
Having empathy is a huge component. There are going to be many of your players who will be holding themselves to a high standard, being compared to others. Empathy is huge, especially when your team begins to open up. That love, care and acceptance will help those players feel accepted by their teammates even if they don't live up to the expectations others place on them.
There is going to be a daily battle with human nature. You see human nature is being lazy, selfish and self centered. That is the battle each day. How do we fight that battle versus human nature. You must lay out a plan that demonstrates to the players that human nature vs championship nature. by that i mean playing Xbox v. studying for a test. Eating fast food v. eating healthy.
Are you prepared to lose big and win big? Sometimes as a coach you have this goal to maximize your teams ability. So during a game you think all is going well, "we are OK, , don't change." But you know that your team can be better if you just one player to do this or that, or if you can change something. Then that thought enters your mind, "what if it doesn't work, are we going to take a step backwards?" Last night the Cubs manager, took that risk, it was hard to argue what he was doing with his pitchers, but he was believing that he had to leave it all on the line and stick to what he knew, by either losing big or winning big. He had to take the risk to get his team there. If you want to win at the highest level you have got to be prepared to make those decisions. I believe that you have to be a risk taker to get your team to maximize it's fullest ability.
I am a huge believer in confronting the truth with my players. Not in the scream, yell in your face type. Mainly by addressing the elephant that is in the room. Addressing it before it grows into something more. For example, with my team this weekend in Phoenix at a showcase, I addressed their lack of effort in the first game, not whether the ball went into the basket, more to come on that later. However, it was my way of adding to them that I valued the effort we would give more than the ball going through the basket, because I know this is what we can control.
All my teams, I provide immediate feedback from the goals that I have, wanting to know their player performance rating, to see how efficient they are during the course of the game, so that I can talk to them individually about it. Example going to a stat line and seeing a player down and disappointed by going 2 for 11 from the field in 38 minutes played during a 40 minute game. I would try to put this into perspective by asking questions," how many shots did you miss? " "How long does it take for you to shoot the ball?" "How many seconds did you play?" So taking the answers the player gave me, I try to put back to them in a way they can relate what is really at stake. They missed 9 shots, taking 1 second to shoot, and that 9 seconds affects the rest of the 37 minutes, 51 seconds that they played? This is truth I put in front of them. They must understand that they will have the ball less than 5% of the time that they play in a game. The game of basketball, 95% of the time is played without the ball in your hands. Yet the newspaper will focus on who the leading scorer was, how many points, the 5%.
This weekend I asked one of our players who maybe played 25 minutes how long did he think he had the ball in his hands? He responded 15 minutes. I was loud by saying, no one has the ball for 15 minutes~! All players get caught up in that 5%. And that 5% takes them on emotional highs and lows based on whether the ball goes in the basket. You see a player who makes a shot, will scream yes, but when they miss, you don't see that same reaction?
Making shots will come and go. The things you actually have control over is the things you do, 95% of the time. Focus on being great at that. That is the purpose of me showing them how efficient they are during the game so that they realize that they can control the outcome of the game by focusing on things that are within their control.
I leave you with this final thought. What's your legacy? What do you become as a result of the chase? When you are going through this chase, are you bitter, do you have resentment, frustration, are you not a good person? You hear coaches say all the time, that they tunnel vision, that they are sacrificing their family for the team.
There are many things that get exposed as result of pressure. I believe that through this chase you get a chance to become a better version of yourself. It's a way of finding out about yourself. I challenge coaches to answer what is their purpose in coaching? It can't be about material things, or about winning, having money, or earning trophies, It has to be what do they do each day, the value that are they bringing each day.
So what is your calling? What is your mission in coaching? There is an enormous amount of freedom that comes with being who you want to be as a coach without worrying about the results. We don't control the results. We do have control over the process. And we do control who we become as a result of the chase. Our legacy won't be about how many championships we won or titles. Our legacy is always going to be measured by how our players talk about us after we are gone.
When your players have their own children and their children ask them: Who did you play for? What was he like? I watched recently on HBO a documentary about Dean Smith that illustrates this point. Coach Dean Smith Legacy and I also read this morning about the legacy of Coach John Wooden: Coach John Wooden Legacy.
When your former players talk about you, that's your legacy!
You know that we all have fear and failure. Sometimes we get fixated on just winning championships and while we are very proud of that, sometimes those wins are empty. As I suggested in the earlier blog, what do we become as a result of the chase? How did you get there? How did you treat your players during that time?
Here's some of the best advise that I can share with you that was shared with me a long time ago. Know that there is a 1/3 of the people that you meet that will be trying to drag/bring you down. They will be trying to take the life out of you. Selfish people, trying to only look out for themselves.
There is also the middle 1/3. These are the ones who just go with the flow. At the beginning of the season for example they are at the top 1/3. When you are undefeated, when everyone is starting the game, going to be all league performer, they love the coach, the team, the school, the whole world!
But during the middle part of the season it isn't going so well. That middle 1/3 now go to the bottom 1/3. A person not starting anymore, goes to the bottom 1/3. Your at the bottom of the conference race, they go to bottom 1/3.
Then you have the top 1/3. These are the players that go out and give you all they have each day, they give you energy every day.
You must learn to build armor. Protect yourself from the bottom 1/3, the people that talk negative, the school administration, maybe even your own team. Don't bring that bottom 1/3 home with you. Everything that you have done that day is going to be second guessed by the bottom 1/3 that day.
Key to remember to enjoy your coaching:
A. Don't let the bottom 1/3 drain the life out of you.
B. The middle 1/3 are interchangeable, they will go with the flow.
C. The top 1/3 will always give you the energy on good and bad days.
Ask yourself who are you going to protect yourself from personally and professionally?
How are you going to do that?
Each of us have a strong voice and weak voice. I was thankful that early in my life I was surrounded by people who taught me to believe in myself. You have to master this ability to have a strong voice to stay at the top of any profession. But each of us has a dark side that we have, that weak voice. Things like I want to quit, I am horrible, I don't look good, we can't win, etc.
Ask yourself are you contributing to your players weak voice?
How can you help them build that strong voice?
So here is the trick, to know when this is happening to the player and give them a solution on the spot so that they can correct during each of their moments in their lives. For example, I provide each of my players during a workout for example, when things are tough, I want them to ask themselves a better question. I want them to listen to the weak voice, I don't want them to ask themselves bad questions, like why am I missing the shot? Their weak mind will tell them dark things, like you are too slow, not quick enough, you don't want to be here, why are you here? Instead, I want them to ask themselves a better question. Such as, what can I do to make this basket? Now their mind will listen to the strong voice, the one that is providing solution, it will come up with solutions, like shoot the ball higher, snap the wrist, quicker.
Our real goal is to provide our players with a belief in themselves. We have to create conditions for them to do that. We have to give them a blue print to follow. We must convince them when they can't see yet.
I know each of us have done this in some form or fashion, you probably didn't realize it, but you were giving your players a blue print for how to handle things, like the creating of belief in the pressure moments: Something like this has gone on in each of your locker rooms.
We have been here before. This helps your players reflect on the past and to know what each of them do well.
You are here again. Reminding them of their good , why they have earned the right to be proud of where they are at.
Now let's go out there and show them. Let's have some fun. Giving your players the right to belief, and know that everyone will celebrate on the other side of reaching this success.
I also spoke in one of the earlier blogs as well about failure and how much of a role I believe it played into each of my practices, learning from it daily. We as coaches get comfortable talking about winning no problem, but we can't really talk about the failures with such ease.
I wanted to make sure that each day in practice there was a built in disadvantage in practice where we were going to have to focus on failure recovery. We had to learn how to handle it, not only by being placed in difficult situations but to each other, by saying my bad, next play, and perhaps a fist pump to signify that we are moving on, teammates saying, we got you.
I used a 2 minute drill in practice where there was going to be a clear failure recovery system in place and the pace would just dictate day to day who was feeling better, who shot better, attrition was in place, you name it. If you want more details just email me and I will send to you: Coach Saintignon email
The last thing I want to leave you with is the notion of leaving a lasting legacy. We all hear of this? What is it? You know that we each get a sentence out of our life that will be summed up by our players. Think about someone who has died, and you walk up to them and ask them who was it, they will give you and entire life of that person who lived, summed up into one sentence. Coach Bob, he was a great coach. So you get the idea, we only get one sentence.
I have been on the journey. You will be remembered by how you treat those players that were under your supervision. How you think, act, speak, that is your pattern of behavior. That becomes your character and thus your legacy.
What's your sentence going to be?
I had the honor of being able to volunteer at my son's high school, Mater Dei High School to assist in a wonderful program that they offered which was called Senior Interviews. It is a huge undertaking requiring parents to come and volunteer to sit and listen to a senior who is in professional dress and must come to the table to personally interview with you.
We all want to have our son/daughter be the highest performing player. But I want to ask you, what do you want them to get out of the sport?
Winning Championships is going to take a dedication to building people along the way.
Start with a theme. Do you have one? I have used many: One year I wanted us to be a unit, playing the same type of music, so I used one sound, one beat. I went off of what an orchestra sounds like, so we kept trying to keep with that theme. Another was coming to work every day. So I had to figure out ways to get that done.
Punch in and punch out, time card, blue collar worker, hard hats, lunch pail, a stone cutter mentality. You get the point. This is what I talked about daily, but I also had to show our players the same. I did this with companies as well, when I would walk in and show their employees how to get everyone to buy into what you are trying to establish.
I hear of every business, team, saying that we are building a culture? We are changing the culture? What does that mean? How? By making them work harder? There has to be more to it? For example we clocked in every day, even brought a hard hat to symbolize as well as having a rock at practice to show the process over and over again, to reinforce what the message was to be. We even had our players clock in, with time cards, to let them know that we wanted no distractions upon entering the gym floor, prepare for what we were going to do for the day.
What's your theme for your team?
When I was recently in China speaking, I told the audience of coaches about the lunch pail and what it symbolized and why we chose to use it. In the box, I know my own boys, like it when I write something in there from time to time or put a nice treat for them. But I also know when you see the people with a lunch pail in their hand, they are going to work, blue collar, usually outside, tough conditions.
For my players, I would put things in their lunch pail to help them remember and feel good and reflect upon things that will help them during the season. Like a bouncing rubber ball, to symbolize what I have been trying to promote to them all along, being resilient, having a next play mentality, bounce back!
We would as a staff, put in definitions so that our players would know what it meant, like Resilient: Bounce back from Adversity, move to the next play. And then images, of our own players if we had it, or others that we could find that would capture the moments.
You think you could use this with your team? Your company and employees?
One of the best exercises that was ever given to me was by one of my college coaches during my senior season at UCSD. I was struggling, trying to help others, to fit in, to not shoot too much, to get everyone else involved. My coaching staff wanted me to shoot the ball more and score more points so that there would be a triple threat on the team and make us a difficult team to play against. I was not sure how I was fitting in. My coach told me to go back to my house during the break that was offered for 2 days and go back to the place where I fell in love with the game. To remember the smell, the sights, the inner self talk, and it was just remarkable for me to do that. It brought me a smile, it reminded me of why I loved the game, why I played it. Needless to say, I returned for our December Tournament and was selected MVP of the tournament and helped our team to win the championship.
I tell my athletes and others when they struggling to put that in the lunch pail to remember what that is like, even though physically don't have to travel there, mentally can be done.
In closing, just ask your players/employees what they want to be remembered for? Remember earlier I talked about in a previous post about the performance skills and moral skills that are necessary. Have them decide which ones they would like to have, now you do the same. What would you like to be remembered for as a coach?
Are you like the many who believe that reaching success brings you happiness?
All of us having something that is missing from our lives. We think that if we achieve the hole will be filled up and we will feel better about ourselves. We think people will look at us differently, or we are going to get to a level where we feel complete as a person.
But really what happens is the more success you have the more driven you become for the wrong reasons, you become unhappy. Chasing the championship doesn't happen right away, so when you finally do win it all after taking years of work, you might reflect and think that you were looking at it the wrong way.
Achievement brought me for example, to think more about my purpose in life and what I was doing as a coach because once I began to win, it didn't fill the void of what I thought was going to come of it. I thought I was going to feel differently.
You can get to a point of now what enters your mind. You might think of a parade coming for you and really it's just back to getting ready for the next season all of a sudden. You ask yourself, now what?
I read a book on University of North Carolina Soccer Coach, Anson Dorrance, who has won so many national titles, more than 20. I read where after they win a title, a symbol that he gives his players, is a rose. To symbolize that the feeling of winning the title won't last long. Think back to your last achievement? How long did that feeling last?