What's your focus? The higher the competition, the more moral ground you lose. The pressure to win becomes greater and greater. I know. I have been a High School coach, then to NCAA Division 1 and then to Professional Head Coach in various countries.
If you want sports to build character, then you have to make it your priority in order for that to happen. You are going to have to be different.
AD's say I don't care what your philosophy is, you better win, or your fired. Just look at this past season with former coaches of the year award winners, fired. It never used to happen in college athletics, but that is the case, just this week with a couple losses, LSU fired their head coach. High School's are now doing this as well.
You have to reshape your focus so that you can stay with this teaching point of character development.
Character drives performance.
The better you are with your character the better you are going to perform because you understand what life is all about and you'll be able to understand failure better, because it comes for everyone.
So what if you were paid to build the character of your players, what would you do? Things would change, because I hear coaches say that they are paid to win. Look the other way when things go wrong, just deal with the task at hand which is win only.
Ask yourself this question.
Why did you get into coaching?
Was it to win titles, to win championships?
Many say that is the only reason, but I don't think so. I believe you probably had a coach in your life at one point who made a difference in your life. I know I did. Coach Fimbres in Tucson, Arizona where I grew up, took an interest in me as a person and developed my character which then led to me becoming a better player because I was taught and developed about what things meant and to keep them in perspective. In essence, to have priorities.
You held those coaches in such high regard because of the impact that they had on your life that you would love to leave a similar legacy to others.
This is why you were drawn into the profession. To make a real difference in the lives of other people.
Many coaches along my journey have said which coach do you want to be? What do you want written on your tombstone? One that says how many wins you had? Or the other than said the impact you left with those that you coached?
Which one would you choose?
Think about who are you becoming? Are you putting the person first, athlete second. The real story that is going to matter is what you become as a coach as a result of being under all that pressure.
Who have you become as a coach?
Who have you become as a result of the chase?
Are you more humble or a bigger ego? More open or more defensive? More stable or more fragile? Happier or less happy?
Who have your players become as a result of the chase in their experience with the sport?
Are they more respectful or less respectful? More grateful or less grateful? More confident or less confident? More open or more defensive?
You have to make sure that your players experience great things along this chase. That's what you are chasing first and foremost. You make this the game. This is how you hold yourself and your players accountable. Wins and losses, come and go, who you become stays with you.
You need to know where are you going? Why are you a coach? That's your purpose? But then you need to know, who are you becoming? That's the real truth.
Help your players find their purpose, help them face the truth, help them do things that get them closer to seeing who they are now and who they want to become ultimately as a human being.
That's the role of you as the coach.
Let me tell you, many coaches just don't really pay attention to this side of the game. But I want you to at least think of how these questions pertain to you and pertain to your athletes.
Ask yourself, do you feel like your identity is tied to your results? Like if you play well, you feel good.
Do you see results out of your control?
Do you see how you are allowing something that is outside of your control to affect the way you feel about yourself as person?
Most of us will have answered this with a yes. This is where we can begin. On common ground to discover truly what people remember.
Ask yourself now who was the leading scorer in the NCAA 3 years ago?
What is the name of your favorite teacher?
Why did you pick that teacher?
You discovered like many of us, we don't know who the leading scorer was in our own sport! That is a common answer. But each of us can pick that special teacher. Usually because the teacher got to know the student. There are many responses that can be had, see if you think of any of these? Supportive, got to know me, made learning fun, challenged me, helped me. Sound familiar?
What was the purpose of those questions? Who was the leading scorer, favorite teacher, how come you picked them? It's a reminder.
What do people forget?
What do people remember?
1. People forget stats.
2. People remember who you were as a person.
How do you want to be remembered?
Value the person more than the player. Our identity, if it's tied to you as a player then you will feel dejected if you miss the shot. If the identity is in yourself as a person, then you will be able to show how to bounce back, how to use the adversity. Totally different way of approaching and looking at it.
Focus on Character skills: There are Performance skills and moral skills. Pick a few. Performance skills such as to name a few: hardworking, resilient, competitive, positive, etc. Moral skills such as: unselfish, trustworthy, respectful, caring, etc.
Ask yourself can these skills be developed?
What about the performance skill you selected, if you developed it, would it make you a better player?
What about the moral skills you selected, if you developed those, would it make you a better teammate?
If you grow these skills it actually makes you a better player and teammate which will lead to better results.
Let's not forget that developing the character of our athletes is more important than the play they run, or the points they score. If you focus in on the character development, you will get better results. The players want the better results, what you as a coach have to develop is the Character Development to help them get there as well as the skill development.
Give this some serious thought. What are your thoughts?
60-or-so years ago, a writer named Joseph Campbell traveled the globe researching the greatest "Heroes" in our history: People like:
People like that. Legends.
Mr. Campbell broke down the common paths that every single one of those Heroes followed on their way to legend-status. And created what we now call "The Hero's Journey."
Here's the basic idea: At some point in our lives, we are all "called” to do something.
It might be to travel. It might be to write a book. Or, it MIGHT be… Basketball.
We are ALL hard-wired to feel this "call" deep down inside of us. Something pulling us into action, pulling us to become who we are "meant to be."
We don't have a choice in this, either.
It's been programmed into us through decades of rituals where:
This "call to action" happens to everyone, whether we like it or not.
Those who REFUSE the call never get to go through their own personal series of trials; Never conquer their own "Hero's Journey.” And are now stuck in purgatory for the rest of their lives:
Never quite becoming who they ARE, deep down. Never quite realizing their dreams. Never experiencing the life they could have lived.
Actually, here are Mr. Campbell’s exact words:
"Often in actual life, we encounter the dull case of the call unanswered; for it is always possible to turn the ear to other interests. Refusal of the summons converts the adventure into its negative. Walled in boredom, the subject becomes a victim. His flowering world becomes a wasteland of dry stones and his life feels meaningless. Whatever house he builds, it will be a house of death. All he can do is create new problems for himself and await the gradual approach of his disintegration.”
- Joseph Campbell
The Hero with A Thousand Faces, 1949
Harsh - and wise - words.
And here's where you come in:
Someday, you're going to be "called" to do something.
I can't tell you what that thing is. But if you're here, reading this right now, I'm guessing you've already had your first call and it won't be your last.
The future holds many, MANY more adventures.
And when those calls come, just remember:
The journey is NOT optional.
Not for a True Elite.
But your journey today:
Finding the best training and coaching available seeking out the best players to match up against. Like this Saturday at J Serra High School at 10 a.m., where we have NBA players, college and high school players all playing on the court; on their quest to be the best. Exposing yourself to high pressure game situations drilling yourself every single day, alone, in the gym never backing down from a single challenge along your path. And, finally becoming the player (and PERSON) you're meant to be.
Like I said:
If you're here, right now, reading this. Your call to action has already come!
All you have to do now is take it.
We have a few of our players on that Hero's Journey right now, Gage, Luis, Ivan, Gianni, Ryan, Andre, Clarissa, Julia, Spider, Amazon.
Yesterday, I had a great conversation with several of our coaches on Orange County Magic who are navigating their respective High school teams and their formation and organization challenges that are going to come up. How many players to keep on a team?
Now each coach has their own perspectives on their formation of their teams and why they do what they do. I personally didn't want to carry more than 12 players. I wanted the team to have enough to count on each other, keep rooming lists even, and to make sure that I had the 12 that were committed to the team. But there are some interesting ideas as it relates to this as I posed with my experience in High School and then going to the PAC-10 conference where I heard this term, minutes.
Before I go into that, I want to share with you what I shared with Coach Sean and Coach Ron. Some questions that I asked them to ask of their players. I did this when I was a high school coach and also with my individual meetings with players in the PAC 10 and my professional teams abroad to get my own perspective so that I could get to the heart of things as we entered into the season.
Teams are fragile. If for example you carried 12 players as was usual with my team, here is what I discovered, see if this is true with your own experiences?
Players 9-12 want to play. Players 6-8 want to start. Players 4-5 want more shots. Players 2-3 want to be the best player. And the best player wants to play at the next level. This was true of my high school teams, NCAA Division 1 and 2 and of course, even my professional teams abroad.
There is nothing wrong with this as you have been teaching your players all along to want more, to strive. It becomes a problem when it outweighs the teams needs. You know everyone needs to sacrifice for your team to be successful. Your players need to see this and feel that they are part of the solution.
Here is how I got to the heart of the matter. Try this. Ask your players these questions and see what you discover.
1. How many minutes will you average this year?
So of course, this varies if you are a high school coach because the maximum amount of minutes that you can hand out is 160 minutes (5 players x 32 minute game), if you are a college or overseas coach the maximum you can hand out is 200 minutes ( 5 players x 40 minute game). Ask your players this question, how many minutes will you average this year and then add up all those minutes. I usually discovered about 300 minutes was the norm. OK, that was impossible.
2. Next question that I would ask. Will you start?
In basketball you can only start 5 players, but the responses were usually around 9 players who believed they should or would start. Again impossible.
3. How many points are you going to average?
When I added this up, we were always going to be the highest scoring team in the country, :). I tell you. Usually added up to nearly 160 points per game. Again not impossible, but you know.
What this proved to me and my coaching staff was that we needed to really address the players that sacrifices were going to have to be made by all, roles were going to have to be embraced and rewarded, recognized by the coaching staff.
This type of early discussion allowed everyone to feel that they had a role and an important part that was going to be rewarded and recognized. These were daily efforts on our behalf to make sure we paid attention to all these little details in terms of player relations on and off the court to make sure we were centered and ready to drive toward our goals together as a team.
Before the other distractions come, you know outside expectations :)
Here is Coach Bill Parcells, I know it's a football hall of fame speech, but the message is clear about the locker room, the sacrifices that a team makes, why it is special and how winners and losers handle things. Enjoy.
Bill Parcells What Makes a Team Great
Let me know your thoughts. I love hearing from you.
I begin this post with the notion that there is always a solution. It is too easy for many to just say no. Ideas get shot down by people who just don't want to think outside the box, so they say no. But the true discovery comes when you are open to finding a solution, to be curious, to not settle, to find a way. This weekend, I was at my son's Karate tournament and I am going to share a story about being resilient and helping others find a solution.
As tournaments go in the world of sports they are difficult to put on and conduct regardless of whatever sport it is. Karate tournaments require a coach, require focus with all the distractions of music, performances, and generally people in the stands or walking around, excitement, cheering, you name it, it's all there. These tournaments last the better part of the day so there has to be a preparation beyond the physical as there is a mental component attached as well.
Here is the story that I want to share with this weekend with my youngest son, Sebastian. In this tournament my son was scheduled to compete in a kata and also sparring for his age group and black belt division. No problem, there is a lot of competitors, there is musical form katas that are being performed, weapons, artistic, traditional, sparring, team, you name it. There are also many rings in which to have these competitors perform, not to mention having to have usually 3 volunteer judges per ring. Now there are also people that are on a microphone saying what ring for competitors to be at, each age division, each belt rank, there is also the music being played for those performing their routines with music, the people in the stands, cheering or watching, there are the other competitors so it can be easy to not hear all the time what is being said via loud speaker or via a judge who perhaps just saying something with his or her voice as to who should be at the next ring. You get my point, there is a lot going on, many distractions.
Now at these events the members usually are represented by their coaches. Which is a tremendous help as the role of a coach as I define it is to provide structure, guidance, encouragement but also to protect the athletes and be their voice especially in situations like this where there is a nervousness and anxiety with each and every athlete, regardless of the status of their belt. In essence their leader. This has always been the case with my son and his dojo. However, not always the case in large tournaments like this can you pay attention to all the competitors as you are split between going to support one individual while maybe another is competing in another part of the arena.
Here is the teaching moment that presented itself to me this weekend with my son at this tournament and what I know we all want our children to be able to do. My son was waiting 5 hours and had not been called up for one of his events, we sat near the ring where we thought that he would be performing along with entire team and never heard anything, so something must have gone wrong. Did he miss the event and not hear it? Did we all miss it and not hear it? This is our responsibility, not anyone else. But here is the situation that is in front of us. I am agitated that this has occurred as this is not the only time that this has happened at one of these tournaments, keep in mind that we have been doing these for years and this happens frequently to many competitors. With so much going on, you can see how things like this can and do happen often.
I want my son to learn to be responsible and to discover for himself what happened. He is young, scared and not really sure what to do, but I want him to go and explore nonetheless. I sent him to talk to someone at the desk, the announcer who can perhaps give him an answer. Sebastian, tells him the situation and the response was that it was called, you missed it.
OK, I then tell him to go and find the Shihan that is in charge of the event, he goes to locate and doesn't find. Next solution is to find his coach and have him go with you to discover what happened and again told that it was called and missed.
Now, I am deciding how can I provide a teaching moment for my son. I take him with me, we both walk to the gentleman that was at the desk, I tell him that I wasn't looking for a refund, that I just wanted to find a solution and that one was to locate an empty ring, find 3 of the volunteers to sit there and judge the young man on his kata which is what he came to do. No awarding of a trophy, none of that matters. I just wanted to help find a solution other than leaving the site with a refund and a waste of time and a bad taste. This was done. My son was nervous as he could tell again that I was agitated but what I don't like are when adults are not always willing to find a solution. It's too easy to just say no, there was no added time, pressure or responsibility that was to be put on any of the judges or the Shihan of the event as I did not want to get the refund as was suggested, all I wanted was to have Sebastian perform and get his opportunity to do that.
The teaching point that I wanted to impart was to show my son that there is always a solution, sometimes you have to help guide others by providing them with the option so that they can realize that it's not going to inflict any additional time, commitment, or pressure on them. We then had to turn into a very diligent athlete, I had him ask question after question as to where is the next event that he is to perform, what ring is that going to be in, to then go to the table, turn in his competitor card, and ask again and again is this where it is going to be at. Now, how to provide the next teaching moment?
The next event was sparring and Sebastian had to change his focus ASAP to able to get over what he just went through and stay in the moment, to recover quickly and bounce back. This requires a bounce back mentality, next play, internal talking. I wanted him to now focus on what was in front of him, big, quick, athletes who were taller. A strategy that his coaches have provided him for years was now going to be needed to be heard. He was going to have to rely on self talk to achieve the result of scoring points. He did, he had a great event, finishing 2nd place in the sparring competition and left the building, satisfied that he was able to overcome and bounce back. He was very pleased with his performance as was I.
As a parent and as a coach that is what we are all looking for, teaching moments. Pay attention to the teaching moments that present themselves and be prepared to teach on the spot so that your athlete can perform, feeling that encouragement, support, and guidance so that they can learn from you. As a coach, as well as a parent, you are a role model. We are here to help those who are under our supervision to help them perform and learn life lessons and to discover that there is always a solution.
Pursue your Passion!
OK, so where do we begin the season? How do we make sure that we are teaching our players all that they need to know for a successful season? How do you stay on track?
You need to start. You need to create a master plan so that you have a reference point to look at. Really, to keep on track and stay on track. Sometimes we as coaches tend to focus on a few things and run out of time during the season and don't cover something and wish we had.
I learned how to get this done as I was a high school coach and visiting clinics and hearing NCAA coaches at UNC and UCLA talk about it, but how did they put it together? That was never shared? How much time did they spend on things? I asked them for information and dug deeper as I had a thirst for how to become the best coach that I could become.
Here is what I put together after gathering information from many coaches across the country.
Coach Saintignon Master Plan for Basketball
I used this especially during the season to make sure that I was staying on track. One thing you will have to keep in mind is that you will always have to modify, adjust and adapt. This is true in all things.
University of North Carolina Practice
Coach Bobby Knight Indiana University
*Please note that there are typos, this was a document sent to me, so I had no control over the spelling.
This gives you a little idea to help you during your season in your preparation phase. Should anyone want more, please email me at email@example.com and I would be happy to help in anyway that I can.
So we are at that time of year where as a coach and player there is the talk about winning and losing and the results that are being produced is at the forefront of many discussions. There are many things that can derail us as coaches, players that I want to see if I can remind to see if this helps a bit.
As I stated before all of us can get off the rails so to speak and get caught up in disappointment because of the thinking that we can win, or deserve more. We can lose sight and turn away from what is most important during the course of the season.
We all experience success, we all have an ego that say we deserve this or that. We believe that maybe we are talented enough that we can maybe take it easy here or there, ease up on some of the development that should be occurring or the training that should be happening.
One of my greatest moments of coaching was the time that I spent learning from Coach John Wooden. As I was coming up and winning, thinking that what we did was a direct result of my teaching, etc., Coach spoke in parables, quotes, and with poems. One in particular that has become my favorite that he usually recited to me to make his point, was "IF" by Kipling. I was reminded that winning and losing were impostors. To treat them both the same, according to Coach Wooden, he used to tell me that you are not as good as people say you are and your not as bad as they say either. The players that you work with on a daily basis, they are why you coach. They are under your supervision and are you giving them the attention that they deserve and not just only talking about winning or losing and the end game, the results. Are you concerned with them as individuals as this is a short lived game, it doesn't last forever, but your relationship just might.
I began to change as a coach each time as I am sure everyone who came in contact with Coach Wooden, did change. It's easy many would say coming from someone who won National Title after Title and UCLA with the best of the best. But he was pointing out to all of those who looked for his advise, what was important.
I once had a team that I was playing against in a tournament, I believed that we were good, I saw that the talent level on the other side of the floor during warm ups wasn't that great and noticed that our own players thought that they were just going to run them over as well. We weren't serious as a staff and also as players during the warm up. I didn't address the situation as I should have right then and there, as a result, we ended up getting beat that night because we didn't approach the game the same as we would have had it been the championship round of the tournament. We were the better team, only on paper that night. I was so frustrated, furious as I knew we should have been better, I second guessed myself, took it out on the team, coaching staff, when I knew all along that it was my fault, period. So to this day, I take every opponent serious, as all the championships that I have won as a coach, were formed during that lesson learned that night.
The bottom line is that when you experience success we all think that we can cut corners from time to time and still achieve the end result, the win. Many of us get caught up thinking that we are bigger than the game. This comes from us only focusing on winning. We can get caught off the rails and make it so that we believe it's all about the X's and O's and not about the Jimmy and Joe's.
So ask yourself? What are you doing each day to make your players better people. Is your message only about the sport? Only about winning? There is much more to this than just getting the W. That night we lost I should have addressed the importance of respect for each opponent and that we owed it to ourselves to give our best effort regardless of who we were competing against.
We can become consumed with winning. We can forget about getting home to your significant others. Your family, children. We make up excuses that we don't have the same talent, we don't have the same facilities to compete with others. We need to practice longer, stay in the office so others will notice that we are giving all to this team. We can think that we need every advantage to achieve what we want and the thing that we usually sacrifice first is our family.
There are incentives to winning as well that have been placed, with bonus structures, raises, etc. This has now become a performance based industry. Including AAU. Winning supports your ego, yes, it also allows for those players to come to your programs, which leads to them going to NCAA., which allows players to continue with your program. So it's now come to this, winning is everything. Here's the problem. 99% percent of us aren't winning the ultimate national championship in the sport. So here's the question. How do you want to be remembered? Maybe the focus from winning should be to developing people. And make that the national championship that you are trying to create. Coach Wooden told me that he knew he did a good job, 10 years later, when those that were under his supervision, were doctors, lawyers, parents, businessmen, etc.
The lessons learned from sports are lifelong. What lessons are you imparting to those under your supervision? Make this season your best, use your own definition of the results your looking for.
I look forward to helping.
The other day I had a meeting with someone to help with OC Magic and just talk and it was suggested that people might not even know who I am, so it led me to this discussion point. Recently, I had an interview on a podcast that I am sharing with you about that very subject, who is Coach John Saintignon.
I hope that you enjoy listening in and learning more.
I begin this post today with a question that has been asked over and over again especially during this point in time during the season. What are you doing to prepare that is any different than others? I certainly know that my role as coach is more than just x's and o's. I have a unique opportunity to help shape a young person for the rest of their lives. I want them to remember that playing for me was more than just winning a basketball game as I am certain that is case with many of you coaches as well. So beyond getting a team in shape, lifting/running, court exercises, putting the ball in the basket, etc., how much of your time is spent on teaching them about their decisions, and moreover, how are you providing them with solutions.
How am I to foster winning from the Inside? I believe that it will start with their character. We all talk about this, but really what is it? There are 2 types, performance character, which dictates how you are as a player, tough, determined, focused. This relates to your performance only. There is another type and that is your moral character. This affects others, your teammates, coaches, administrators, fans, parents, alumni, donors, sponsors.
How do you get your players to buy in to what you are talking about? You first must buy in yourself.
Begin with this question. What is the goal of a team? How would you answer this question? Usually it's the first thing, Win. But it's really to maximize your teams ability. Because if you do this, it will lead to winning.
What are the top 3 things that can get in the way of maximizing your teams ability. Think of your roster, think of the top 3 things that can come in the way, injury is outside of your control so leave that off.
Usually it will look like this? Selfishness, impatient, no trust in one another. If you take the poll with your own coaching staff, and you reflect, you will notice that there will be human related hurdles that you will have to overcome. I doubt you will see much performance related things to overcome, usually.
So you must spend time on this to maximize your teams ability to perform. Here's how I do it.
I ask our players/coaches to provide me with 3 things that we believe stand in the way. I then take the top answers, provide a glossary of the performance and moral skills. We as a staff can make this as easy or as complicated but we chose to just take the checklist and pair the character skills with the struggles. Now you have a road map. For example, like selfishness that would be paired with unselfishness and the definition that we can provide without it being so long, just short and to the point, so in this case, it would be putting the team first. This is done with just about 3 things of course, you will discover that along the course of the season, conditioning, practice, wins/losses during the season, struggles will continue to arise, but you will need to help yourself and your coaching staff to know that you have a great responsibility and this is to help your players get through this.
I discuss all the time prior to taking the court daily, during practice and post practice. I want our team to always be aware of what I am emphasizing so that we can reach our maximum potential.
Character development needs a road map, discuss the goals of a team, what is going to get in the way, what does your team think, then take the list and pair the character skills and pair with the struggles listed. Build team awareness, discuss often.
I spend a lot of time in this area of development, I want my players to be aware. First impressions, to how they dress and act and how they will continue to progress using basketball as a tool to get their education.
So ask yourself what are the 3 things that are potentially getting in the way of your team maximizing it's ability? Talk about it with your team, show them examples of what it takes to not be selfish with images, video, stories. Provide them with a road map so that there is nothing in the way that prevents your team from maximizing their potential.