Misconceptions about coaching with Phil Jackson

August 5th, 2016

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Eric Spoelstra and Empowerment Coaching

May 23rd, 2014

When most people imagine a coach, they picture a commanding presence who controls the team environment. They picture a coach pacing on the sidelines screaming directives to players.  Read the rest of this entry »

The Characteristics of Great Coaches

May 28th, 2013

In my Introduction to Coaching course, I used the following presentation by John Stoszkowski as a guide to help the students write out their coaching philosophies. Read the rest of this entry »

Do your players know why?

September 4th, 2012

In this presentation, Simon Sinek asserts that the great leaders starts with the why and work to the how and the what, rather than starting with the what and moving to the how. Do your players know why? Do you? Read the rest of this entry »

Steve Jobs, CEOs and Basketball Coaches

October 10th, 2011

In 2009, I asked if CEOS and basketball coaches were similar. I cited an article by Stanford professor Bob Sutton who wrote:

Jeff Pfeffer published a paper in 1977 in the Academy of Management Review showing that leader’s actions rarely account for more than 10% of the variation in organizational performance, and often, account for much less. Read the rest of this entry »

We should all have a coach

September 26th, 2011

In his article, “Coaching a Surgeon,” Atul Gawande writes about the use of a coach for himself, a world-reknowned surgeon, and wonders why more people do not have a coach. When describing the coach, starting with the sports professions, Gawande writes: Read the rest of this entry »

Beginning the Coaching Process: Think, Plan, Do

March 17th, 2011

Clive Woodward is the British Olympic Association’s Director of Elite Performance. Previously, he led England to the 2003 Rugby World Cup. After the World Cup victory, he wrote Winning! about the experiences leading up to the triumph.

“Think, Plan, Do” was something of a personal mantra or philosophy that he used whenever presented with a new opportunity. When he accepted his first job coaching a club rugby team – Henley – he writes: Read the rest of this entry »

Defining a Good Coach

December 26th, 2010

I taught an undergraduate class titled “Coaching Basketball” in the fall semester with a curriculum based on the Level 1 Youth Basketball Coaching Association certification.

On the final exam, one question asked the students to describe the qualities and characteristics of a good coach. While not a scientific study, and possibly influenced by what the students felt the professor wanted to hear, the most common responses were:

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Learning from NFL Coaches

September 5th, 2010

Coaching in the NFL and coaching youth basketball differ in innumerable ways. However, a youth coach can learn from players’ comments about the best coaches in the NFL.

Sporting News recently rated the NFL coaches and asked a player to comment on his coach and his position in the rankings. What types of characteristics and qualities do NFL players like about their coaches and associate with their coach’s success?

  • Tom Brady about Bill Belichick: “In terms of his work ethic and his preparation, he’s as diligent as he’s ever been.”
  • Drew Brees about Sean Peyton: “I would say, more than anything, the way that Sean Payton is able to complement and combine that very disciplined, fair but stern attitude, with, ‘Hey, we’re going to have fun, and we’re going to enjoy what we do,’ (is what makes him a great coach).”
  • Vincent Fuller about Jeff Fisher: “He is the longest-tenured coach, so he has the respect there. And he takes care of his players.
  • London Fletcher on Mike Shanahan: “He’s a proven winner. His approach to the game, the way he handles this team, is great. … He treats us like men .”
  • James Farrior on Mike Tomlin: “His first year, he was a little hard on us, but he learned from that and the next year he changed a couple things and we were very successful. ”
  • Jim Leonard on Rex Ryan: “Look at the X’s and O’s. He’s as good a coach as there is in this league.”

A few interesting points:

First, as the list continued, comments moved further from personality traits or qualities and concentrated more on wins as evidence of one’s coaching ability. This easily could say more about the player than the coach, but the players speaking about the coaches at the top of the list were more effusive with their praise of the coach’s process, not just their results.

Second, the bolded adjectives give an idea of the traits and qualities one needs to be successful as a coach at any level:

  • work ethic
  • preparation
  • diligence
  • diciplined
  • fair
  • stern
  • fun environment
  • enjoy what we do
  • respect
  • takes care of players
  • treats us like men
  • changed approach (flexibility)
  • X’s and O’s (knowledge)

This is not an exhaustive list for successful coaching. However, it hits several key points:

  1. Successful coaches show players respect and earn their players’ trust.
  2. Successful coaches are prepared and demonstrate the same work ethic toward their craft as they expect of their players.
  3. Successful coaches are fair toward all players, though they do not necessarily treat all players the same.
  4. Successful coaches create an environment where players want to be there, and they enjoy the hard work.
  5. Successful coaches know the game.
  6. Successful coaches are not afraid to admit mistakes and make changes when necessary.

By Brian McCormick
Author, Cross Over: The New Model of Youth Basketball Development
Director of Coaching, Playmakers Basketball Development League

Things that Great Coaches Think

June 2nd, 2010

The big story in women’s basketball over the past couple days has been the culture of fear and intimidation created by Oregon State University women’s basketball coach LaVonda Wagner, who ultimately was fired.

Perhaps Wagner could have learned a lesson from Stanford professor and management expert Bob Sutton, author of Weird Ideas that Work. In a recent article for the Harvard Business Review, he listed “12 Things Good Bosses Believe.” The 12 things provide a good starting point for a discussion of coaching and a coach’s relationship with his or her players.

6. I strive to be confident enough to convince people that I am in charge, but humble enough to realize that I am often going to be wrong.

This is an important aspect of coaching, and one thing that many coaches never grasp. If a coach appears unconfident, players will not follow his lead. However, a coach who believes that he is never wrong will lose his players as well.

As a coach, I am willing to admit mistakes and tell players that I do not know everything. I often seek players’ input and advice before making decisions. I do not ask for players’ opinions because I have no ideas of my own, but because I am willing to admit that they may see something differently, and possibly better, while on the court than I do on the sideline. I may feel that our mistake is one thing, but when I ask the players, I find that it is something entirely different. If I stubbornly tried to fix the problem that I saw, I may have never solved the problem and the players may come to doubt my ability. Rather than showing weakness, I feel that empowering players through the decision-making process illustrates confidence – unconfident coaches tend to take the “my way or the highway” approach to silence any chance of dissension. I embrace different ideas because I want to find the best one, not my favorite.

8. One of the best tests of my leadership — and my organization — is “what happens after people make a mistake?”

My coaching philosophy basically boils down to this question. I run practices and teach in a way that prepares players for imperfection. I do not expect everything to go as planned during a game, so I need to prepare players to adjust and adapt to mistakes. If I stop practice every time there is a mistake and solve the problem, how will players solve the problem in the game? Practices may look disorganized sometimes, but so do games. It is better to have players prepared to deal with the disorganization, than to run a neat and tidy practice.

11. How I do things is as important as what I do.

This is another big part of coaching. We often focus so much energy on the plays that we run and our defensive adjustments that we forget that what we do on the court is not as important as how we do it. I often tell players that it is better to make the wrong decision aggressively than to make the right decision passively because the aggressive play is tougher to defend than the passive play. As a coach, it is often not what you say to a player, but how you say it.

If you take a player away from the group and critique a performance, you are more likely to have success than criticizing the player in front of the group, where he ignores the information present in the critique and thinks that the coach is picking on him.

This year, I wanted to emphasize competition, so we scored each drill. To make the competition meaningful each day, the day’s winner avoided post-practice conditioning. Rather than punish the losers, I rewarded the winners. Essentially, I did the same thing – the top scorer skipped conditioning and the bottom scorers did the extra conditioning. However, rather than feeling like they were punished, the girls congratulated the daily winner – they focused on the positive, not the negative because of how I introduced and approached the conditioning.

The other nine ideas complement the coaching process as well. I’m curious which things other people think fit most closely with coaching.

By Brian McCormick
Director of Coaching, Playmakers Basketball Development League
Author, Cross Over: The New Model of Youth Basketball Development