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29 years coaching experience/ 7 years as a varsity boys' basketball coach, now assisting

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Winning a Championship....What Does it Mean?

Recently we won the Springs Valley Tip Off tourney at SVHS.  Great tourney run by class individuals at SVHS.  Not only that, but the other teams there have class coaches who seem to be doing it, coaching, for the right reasons.  We have played there two years in a row and played in the championship game both years.  This year we defeated the host team and the players did a great job of doing what we wanted done. Many of the guys did things that were needed for us to win from scoring to timely defense and rebounding, it truly was a team win.

Jim Matthews, former coach at New Washington and Madison high schools and winner of over 400 basketball games often said that winning a championship reinforces what you are doing.  I can agree with that, but it is amazing to watch kids go out and do something that hasn't been done all too often where I coach.  It is 100% about what they accomplished, they made the plays, they showed the toughness.  Hopefully, we put them in positions to be successful and when you win a championship it helps to answer some of those questions.  Especially questions by you, maybe the players and definitely members of the community.

It is nice to win something this early in the year, but it is also more important that we stay focused.  It is a long season and winning a championship now is nice, but it will be even nicer at the end of the season.  We are in a nice place now, but we are only as good as our next game which is Tuesday.  We have a lot to work on and I can't wait to get into the gym to work on those things.  Enjoy this for tonight and tomorrow (Sunday) and Monday it is back to work for the rest of the season.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

First Games are Good for Many Things...Not So Much for Other Things

Every year when we play our first game of the year, we have had 13 practices to prepare.  It is actually a disservice to the fans and players for this to occur, but the IHSAA changed the start date for practice a few years back to put football schools on the same start date as non football schools.  What you get, often, is not very good basketball until mid December.  With us, we start the year off against a bigger school, more athletic team who usually gets into us defensively.   Some say that we don't have to play that first Tuesday of the year, but it has become a Thanksgiving tradition and there is a lot of hype heading into it...good or bad that's how it is.  Also, we could have two a days, but I would rather our guys sleep in and come to practice fresh and ready to go than to practice at 6 AM, go to school, then practice after school.

No matter how much you work on anything when that game comes around it gets simplified greatly.  You hope that the shellshock of playing in front of 2400 people doesn't rear its ugly head and you hope you can get something going on offense other than one or two guys doing most of the movement (the noise level is so loud that they often can't hear me, but they need to be able to do things on their own, it comes just rarely after 13 practices).  Last night was no different.

Probably the hardest thing as a coach (and trust me...there are many) is that many people don't understand what's happening sometimes, mostly because they are not at practice.  They very well could have great basketball knowledge, but if they don't know what the staff is trying to get accomplished, they can be confused.  I have had a couple of people through the years come to practice and have a different appreciation for what we try to do after actually being at a practice (we have one open practice per year).  Believe it or not what happens on the court is not always what the coaches want done, but that is expected from kids, it is something I have come to accept as a coach. 

I can handle the criticisms, as I have gotten older and more experienced, it bothers me less (it would be like me showing up to a job and critiquing without really knowing what was going on, I have critisized basketball coaches in the past until I fully understand what they are trying to do)  The problem is that criticisms get generated at kids sometimes intentionally, often not. What we have to deal with as coaches is many things.  We have to get 7-9 guys to buy into what we are doing reinforcing that about two hours a day.  Meanwhile they are attending school, going home, and spending time on social network sites/message boards and we can only hope that positive reinforcment is going on there too (anonymous message boards are horrible at least with facebook the opinion is associated with a name).

Last night I was concerned about a few things.  Our free throw shooting.  We were 17-31, we hit more at key times and the game is closer.  We have worked on free throws many times and we even do a drill that I call "competitive FTs".  Players pair up and both "teams" shoot 20 free throws.  The other team tries to get into their heads by talking to them, waving their hands, etc.  This allows for our guys to shoot with pressure individually, but also by being part of a "team".  Our shot selection.  Not only some of the shots we took (I am going to let our best players shoot hopefully fewer and fewer bad shots as the year goes on, but they have to feel comfortable shooting, call that wrong, I am ok with it), but our not being able to get some flow on offense, again 13 practices, but I really thought any of our guards could drive their guards at any time and that allowed for more one on one action from all of our guards.  Our shot selection part 2.  Not getting the ball to open guys when they were open and not working smarter to get open all things we will emphasize in the next few practices.

Things I saw positive were many.  We competed.  We didn't turn the ball over many times against full court man to man.  We got to the free throw line 31 times.  We rebounded well (lost some key defensive rebounds though...has to be all the time), and we had a group of guys, at least superficially who were cheering and supporting each other.  Hopefully that stays the same as we get positively reinforced.

We have worked on these things many times in the previous 13 practices and will continue to do so.  At some point what we are trying to convey has got to get through to the players.   We look at stats and watch tape so they can see what we are talking about and have a better appreciation for what we are doing.  I don't get too worked up by what happens or doesn't happen after Game #1 because we find out a lot more to work on from that game than we do any given day of practice. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I Love My Children, But....

I spoke recently to someone about our roles as fathers, teachers, coaches, husbands, mentors, counselors, etc...and probably the biggest fear we have is not being good enough dads.  His quote "I am just worn out by the time I get home and my kids are good, I just don't want to deal with them being 6 and 3".  I understand exactly what he is saying.

Our jobs (I am talking about men right now, I understand that women deal with some of the same issues) keep us from being home especially in the winter.  When we get home the last thing I want to do is deal with a spoiled rotten kid.  We see so many negatives during the day from "bad" kids to kids who are spoiled and do "bad" things.  When I get home the last thing I want is to see any of the same type of behavior in my own children.  So what I end up doing in the 2 hours I have for them in the day is punishing them....or not.

If I punish them I am afraid that I will be reinforced as angry, mean daddy who punishes us all the time.  If I let them get away with stuff then I become the father that allows their children to be spoiled.  To be real honest, I don't mind too many things unless my wife gets upset over their behavior (she teaches and deals with the same issues I do) or they throw an absolute fit.

I have always made them my top priority and I rarely take anything from work home.  From grading to basketball, it gets done at school so when I get home I am able to mess with the kiddos and then get some decent sleep...or watch game tapes.  But as hard as I try, I sometimes wonder if it is crazy for me to want to put them up for adoption (purely a joke, I would never do that).

It is amazing how much you can love someone and yet get so frustrated and yet never want them to be gone.  They are the greatest love I have ever had.  Nobody's hugs, kisses, or attention is the same.  One day....one day they will be grown and gone and I will wish for this time back.  One day they will be gone and I will long for this time.  One day they will be gone and I will feel guilty for not having read to them that one time I was tired, guilt for not listening to that story one more time, guilt for not dancing with them in the living room, guilt for not lying down with them when they are going to bed, guilt for not doing many of these things that one time when I could have and now I have them no longer.

The Words We Use

I have read often about motivation, what can I do to motivate someone whether it be a basketball player or a person?  Even myself...what words can I use or say to motivate myself?  I have found that words are powerful.  When coaching the words you use can pump a kid up or break them down (sometimes they both are necessary).  The words you use can leave an indelible mark on someone when you don't even realize it and I think that is why we need to be careful and think about this.  We need to make a concentrated effort because we not only are tearing a kid up, but we offend others when we don't even realize it.

With the advent of social network sites, now the written word can have as much motivation as the spoken word.  I know I have been questioned about what I have written about in the past, and I am fine with that.  A little accountability is nice and you can rest assure if I have written or spoken it, I have thought about it...a little.  It is amazing to me how many people personalize what I write about.  Not everything I write about is over an issue with myself.  Often it is, but many times it is over issues other people are dealing with and that I can relate to.

However, I am starting to understand in a little more depth the words I use in any forum and how they affect others.  It is good because I often feel that I am being held to a higher standard for what I say or write than what others are, but that is an incorrect way of looking at things.  I should only be looking from an individual perspective.   What am I saying or writing and should I be doing it?  Am I not being clear enough in what I say and write?  And should I care about some of the words I use as I am writing to be honest.  Obviously I am not intentionally trying to hurt anyone as I am sure many times when I hear what has been said about me....they aren't intentionally trying to hurt me or even wanting me to hear about it, but it happens.

Yes, other coaches have said derogatory things about me and my program, about me and my town, and that may upset me at times, but it has never caused me to forget that we all make mistakes.  It hasn't caused me to forget that I have said things I shouldn't have in the past (I am trying to be better).  Yes, other coaches have called me out on my behavior, and I think in the past I was angered by it, but now I understand that it isn't about the person pointing out the flaw, but it is the flaw...in myself. 

Do I feel like I am being held to a higher standard sometimes, sure, but when I clear my head and understand that the standard is what everyone should be held to, it makes more sense.  I don't mind accountability....I do not want to be at worst a hypocrite, at least someone not trying to put his words and actions in line.

The worst thing I think we can do is point and say "you know, I may be wrong, but I am not as bad as that person".  We are too often focused on the actions of others when we should be focusing on the actions of ourselves.  I realize that I am not perfect, don't claim to be, but I am trying to improve.  I have made mistakes in the past, making them right now, (I am sure someone will think this blog entry is about them, it isn't, it's about me), and I can guarantee you that I will make them in the future.  Not because I am vindictive, but because I am a human being.  I can only hope those I offend will try to forgive as hard as I do.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Scrimmage with South Decatur

In Indiana, we are allowed to have a scrimmage before we play which is essentially a practice vs. another team.  We started with New Washington HS, but they are in our conference and were in our sectional, so it seemed silly to scrimmage them.  So we ventured to Decatur county and have scrimmaged South Decatur HS for the last 5 years, I think.

They are a small school, yet have football, so we get to see a physical and usually quick team before we play our first game of the year.  It's been good for us and a good thing to get our feet wet before the actual games begin.  With scrimmages, however, each year, I plan on sitting and watching.  I want our guys to see for themselves what they are doing right and wrong, but the competitive juices in me get going and I cannot stand to sit and watch some of the stuff we do....every year, this year was no exception.

Many of the negatives that we saw today, were things the coaching staff has been talking about for two weeks in practice and we have seen some progress on some days of practice.  But there are many things that kids won't believe until they actually play a game....and that's what the scrimmage is for.  Along with the negatives, you also get to see some positives.  As coaches, I think, we tend to see more negatives than positives, but they are there.  We had a couple of kids play pretty well for a long time and some that were on roller coasters....it happens especially early.

We talked after the practice with SD that we wanted Henryville basketball to be known for a lot of things, but the first two things that comes to mind is that we play hard and will compete.  You would think those things are givens, but they aren't.  To do so, you have to get out of your comfort zone sometimes.  To do so, you have to be aware of what is going on and where you are supposed to be all the time.  It takes time, too much it seems sometimes, but it happens.

We have pretty high expectations for ourselves each year, the players and the coaches but they are far from unattainable.  So much comes down to getting on the same page, playing through adversity and having each others backs whether on offense or defense.  Selfishness is a tough thing to overcome and it can show from taking bad shots (which is what everybody notices) to not helping on defense which we believe may be worse.  That "selfishness" comes from being comfortable on the court, it comes from being tired sometimes physically but definitely mentally and still helping each other out.

We open up in three days at home vs. our larger school rival and it will help us no matter the result for the reason of the season.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Butterflies

Butterflies....we've all experienced that nervous tingling in your stomach that we call butterflies.  I know I did when I played, in fact, it was something that I had to come to grips as a real young child.  I felt that nervousness and didn't know what it was and I didn't like it.  In fact, it probably kept me from competing in some things until I realized what it was that I was feeling.

Butterflies are that nervous feeling before you do anything that you aren't used to or that you feel when you are about to compete.  I kinda feel that you aren't a true competitor if you don't have those feelings of getting ready to compete.  If you don't have them it is usually for a bad reason (like you know you are going to get it handed to you, but I still got them even then because there was always that hope that we wouldn't). 

When I played, I would have them in pre game warmups.  All the way through when the first pitch or the jump ball went up....gone.  I think it's great if you have them because you are ready to go out and compete and hopefully win.  You might have them for another reason and it is because you don't think you are ready, but that hasn't been the case for me personally.  I know we aren't always completely ready for games because of turn around or because we coach kids and they aren't getting our game plan the way we want them to, but we do prepare.  Our kids should at least feel comfortable in knowing that the coaching staff has worked hard to do that...prepare them and allow them to use those butterflies in a competitive way.

For me, the butterflies start around June basketball, dissipates some until conditioning and stay until March and the tournament ends.  It's because I want us ready to compete every single game.  That's why when March comes around you will see a huge smile on my face and on spring break, I want to go have some fun.  Because not only are there butterflies with me, but I put so much pressure on myself to prepare our kids...to take pride in what we do....to prepare that when the season ends the butterflies go away. 

At least until June basketball starts.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Good Assistant Coaches

(Borden HS J.V. Coach 1998-99 season)
One day...one day, I will be an assistant coach again.  I was an assistant coach before I became a head coach and I have had head coaches telling me there is no way they could be an assistant again.  I say...I can't wait.  To be able to coach and not have to deal with kids attitudes, parents, buying travel suites, shoes, rumors of what your kids are doing, people bad mouthing me in front of my children....sure, it will be real tough not to deal with (pure sarcasm there).  I don't know when that day will happen, but it will some day.  It will be some day when I am worn out from the daily struggles and can be the guy who listens instead of who has to make decisions and then stands by them.

I know when I was an assistant, I wasn't always the best one.  I had a goal to be a head coach and being young and stupid, I felt like what I wanted to do was better than anybody I worked for...I mean, they all had an accumulation of about 100 years of coaching and probably 600 wins, but I often thought I knew better (not very bright was I).  However, there was one thing, I felt I did even being young, dumb, and inexperienced was that I didn't bad mouth my head coach to people in the community or to the players.  There were times I was completely against what was being done or said, and I would vent to other assistants or to my wife, or mentors, but never to people that a spark would create an inferno.  And as mentors do, they often told me to get with the program or get out.  Of course, that was useless help because it wasn't what I wanted to hear.

You sometimes are put into a tough position as an assistant coach because you are a leader too, but you are still not in charge.  You want to take the reins, yet you can't, you have all the right answers to each decision (It is way different actually making decisions, advising is waaaaay easier I have found). You have two choices, learn and support that which you don't always believe in or....resign.  I guess the head coach could fire you, but if it comes to that point it must be a hugely toxic situation and won't end pretty for anybody involved.  Of course, I am talking about my own experiences especially at a smaller school and maybe you have seen this, been this, or dealt with this.

(NW HS 9th grade coach 1995-1997
But some day...some day, I will be an assistant again.  And it will probably be when I do not want to be the head coach, so I will be the best kind of assistant.  The kind that supports the head coach completely (I will get to pick where I assist), the kind that listens to complaints but will ultimately support the head coach (not defending and just listening gives the idea you might agree), the kind who will work hard for the head coach but leave the headaches at the gym (even if there are headaches, I will be a good listener, but ultimately it won't rest on my shoulders), and the kind who will want the head coach and program to be successful with zero acknowledgement that I had anything to do with it.

(As a head coach at HHS less hair everywhere)
I think as a head coach having assistant coaches is one of the harder things to deal with and not in a personality conflict way, but how to use them in practice and games.  I have tried and tried to involve them, but often feel that they are independent and should be able to "see" what needs to be done.  I don't do a good enough job communicating with them, I think.  I have tried to be better, but know that I fail often. I struggle with getting input during the season and then going away from what I want to do.  I have found that when I start to feel that it isn't comfortable to me, I have to go back to what I believe in...my fundamentals.  I have had great assistants who fit all the criteria I have posted above, and only hope they know how much I appreciate them.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Six Powerful Influences You Must Guard in Your Children's Lives

From the book The Resolution for Men are six influences on our children that we must guard against as parents.

1. Their friends.  Peer pressure is a powerful thing and our children will become who they hang with.  Be wise to what the friends of your children do and who they are and know their parents.  Never assume that your child doesn't need your help or guidance.  Communicate with them and let them know you love them.

2. Their education. The worldview of your child's teacher can sometimes become their worldview.  Make sure you know your child's teachers and have discussions with your children about school and the things they discuss in class.

3. Their music.  Teach them to discern the messages in music and to understand that the messages can be bought in to subliminally.  Help guide them into music that has a better message with the same type styles that they like.

4. Movies/ TV.  These are considered today's top influences in culture.  They are increasingly influential in how our children thinks and interpret reality.  Make sure you know what they are watching and sit down and watch a show or two with them. 

5. Internet.  Pornography, pedophiles in chat rooms and numerous sites including social networks are more accessible to this generation than to any previous generation.  Make sure you monitor what sites they are on, have their passwords and understand that they are always a few steps ahead of us in dealing with technology.

6. Video games.  Make sure you know what type of video games are being played and also monitor how much time they are playing them.  Today our children can go online and play video games and communicate in real time with many people who do not have the same values as you, make sure to monitor this.

You can expect each of these to be a battle ground when dealing with your children.  But it is highly important that we protect our children until they are adults and even longer if need be.  Being a parent isn't a part time job, an easy job, or one in which frustration allows you to give up.  The decisions you make now for your children will not just affect them, but their children and possibly further.  Stay strong and fight for your children.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Anger

Recently, I have dealt with a few situations of anger, some by me and some by others surrounding me and it got me to thinking about where it comes from.  Why do we get that feeling and I came up with a list of reasons that may or may not pertain to you, but has everything to do with how I feel and react.

A lack of an open mind is one reason we get angry.  I am not saying that you have to believe what everyone else does around you, in fact, if you disagree it shows that you are an independent thinker.  What I believe helps in relieving anger is to at least be open to the fact that some thought has gone into the other person's beliefs.  Again, you can continue to think they are incorrect, but understand that many people don't have knee jerk beliefs.

Being defensive is another reason.  Due to our lack of confidence in ourselves or our beliefs, we get angry because it helps us keep people at arms length.  If we do that, they cannot understand that we don't really know anything about what we claim to be highly intelligent about.  Plus, I think it gets combined with my next point.  But overall we get too defensive I think because of our self centeredness (is that actually a word?)

Feelings of inferiority or being treated unfairly. Definitely good reasons because even though it might not be true, you may not be inferior and you may not be being treated unfairly, but often perception is truth.  "If I perceive it to be this way, then it is that way and I don't like it!"  The only way to not be angered in this situation is to understand that the issue isn't about you, but about the person doing these things to you.  But we often feel that we need it to be known, publicized, so we can clear up the issue or feel better about ourselves.

Jealousy...how often have I gotten mad throughout my life because of this! I am angry because this person got something that I didn't "it's not fair" (my own children say this too many times).  The only way to understand this is to understand when you are worrying about something you can't control (which is essentially the root of all anger) and try to control yourself.  I have tried for myself and for my own children to get them to not worry if little Johnny was doing the same thing and didn't get the same punishment.  I have tried to forget blaming others for things they do or don't do and understand I can only control my reaction to them.  It isn't easy....at all.

We are spoiled.  We are not used to not getting our way.  We are not used to people bending or changing for us because it is convenient for me.  It might not be easy, convenient or anything else for anybody but me, but this is how it should be and if it isn't, I am upset about it.  We need to realize that many factors go into any decision a leader makes.  I often think about some of the decisions my administrators make and question them, then I understand that 1. I don't want their job, and 2. I can't understand every aspect of their job.

Selfishness....see all of the above.  Plus, we too often make any given situation about ourselves.  There are rarely times as a coach that I have sat and thought for no good reason that I am going to make a situation unfair on a player.  It just doesn't enter my mind.  However, perception often equals reality and we have to be aware that we could be conveying that by our actions.  Many times it comes down to me as a coach to be open minded and to not be selfish because the "my way or the highway" menatlity isn't always needed.

But ultimately it all derives from some sort of frustration.  We can't control another person's thoughts or beliefs.  We can't control a given situation because we are not in charge and it's not how we would do things.  Control, control, control...many of us especially leaders have control issues.  We have to learn to let go, we have to learn to listen, we have to learn to be empathetic, we have to learn there are many different ways to get to a conclusion or to solve a problem.

These are my ideas and I could be way off on some of these and probably missed a few other reasons, but I think this gets to the root of it.  I think a lack of communication also creates anger.  As a coach, I am not above changing or manipulating practice if a large group of our players want or need to do something else, especially on Saturdays or holidays. 

I have found that when I am angry it is often for no good reason.  It is because I have control issues.  It is because situations are not going as I believe they should.  It is in those times that I try, let me reiterate that, I try to remember I can't control everything or everybody.  And often I don't want to be in a situation to actually do that as when you do make decisions and have control, somebody is upset no matter the decision that is made.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Jay Bilas on "Toughness"

The following comes from former Duke player and current ESPN journalist Jay Bilas. It actually ran sometime in the last couple of years I believe and it has been circulated around quite a bit. It is definitely worth reading.

I have heard the word "toughness" thrown around a lot lately. Reporters on television, radio and in print have opined about a team or player's "toughness" or quoted a coach talking about his team having to be "tougher" to win.

Then, in almost coordinated fashion, I would watch games and see player upon player thumping his chest after a routine play, angrily taunting an opponent after a blocked shot, getting into a shouting match with an opposing player, or squaring up nose-to-nose as if a fight might ensue. I see players jawing at each other, trying to "intimidate" other players. What a waste of time. That is nothing more than fake toughness, and it has no real value.

I often wonder: Do people really understand what coaches and experienced players mean when they emphasize "toughness" in basketball? Or is it just some buzzword that is thrown around haphazardly without clear definition or understanding? I thought it was the latter, and wrote a short blog item about it a couple of weeks ago.

The response I received was overwhelming. Dozens of college basketball coaches called to tell me that they had put the article up in the locker room, put it in each player's locker, or had gone over it in detail with their teams.

Memphis coach John Calipari called to say that he had his players post the definition of toughness over their beds because he believed that true "toughness" was the one thing that his team needed to develop to reach its potential. I received messages from high school coaches who wanted to relay the definition of toughness to their players and wanted to talk about it further.

Well, I got the message that I should expound upon what I consider toughness to be. It may not be what you think.

Toughness is something I had to learn the hard way, and something I had no real idea of until I played college basketball. When I played my first game in college, I thought that toughness was physical and based on how much punishment I could dish out and how much I could take. I thought I was tough.

I found out pretty quickly that I wasn't, but I toughened up over time, and I got a pretty good understanding of toughness through playing in the ACC, for USA Basketball, in NBA training camps, and as a professional basketball player in Europe. I left my playing career a heck of a lot tougher than I started it, and my only regret is that I didn't truly "get it" much earlier in my playing career.

When I faced a tough opponent, I wasn't worried that I would get hit -- I was concerned that I would get sealed on ball reversal by a tough post man, or that I would get boxed out on every play, or that my assignment would sprint the floor on every possession and get something easy on me. The toughest guys I had to guard were the ones who made it tough on me.

Toughness has nothing to do with size, physical strength or athleticism. Some players may be born tough, but I believe that toughness is a skill, and it is a skill that can be developed and improved. Michigan State coach Tom Izzo always says, "Players play, but tough players win." He is right. Here are some of the ways true toughness is exhibited in basketball:

Set a good screen: The toughest players to guard are the players who set good screens. When you set a good screen, you are improving the chances for a teammate to get open, and you are greatly improving your chances of getting open. A good screen can force the defense to make a mistake. A lazy or bad screen is a waste of everyone's time and energy. To be a tough player, you need to be a "screener/scorer," a player who screens hard and immediately looks for an opportunity on offense. On the 1984 U.S. Olympic Team, Bob Knight made Michael Jordan set a screen before he could get a shot. If it is good enough for Jordan, arguably the toughest player ever, it is good enough for you.

Set up your cut: The toughest players make hard cuts, and set up their cuts. Basketball is about deception. Take your defender one way, and then plant the foot opposite of the direction you want to go and cut hard. A hard cut may get you a basket, but it may also get a teammate a basket. If you do not make a hard cut, you will not get anyone open. Setting up your cut, making the proper read of the defense, and making a hard cut require alertness, good conditioning and good concentration. Davidson's Stephen Curry is hardly a physical muscle-man, but he is a tough player because he is in constant motion, he changes speeds, he sets up his cuts, and he cuts hard. Curry is hard to guard, and he is a tough player.

Talk on defense: The toughest players talk on defense, and communicate with their teammates. It is almost impossible to talk on defense and not be in a stance, down and ready, with a vision of man and ball. If you talk, you let your teammates know you are there, and make them and yourself better defenders. It also lets your opponent know that you are fully engaged.

Jump to the ball: When on defense, the tough defenders move as the ball moves. The toughest players move on the flight of the ball, not when it gets to its destination. And the toughest players jump to the ball and take away the ball side of the cut. Tough players don't let cutters cut across their face -- they make the cutter change his path.

Don't get screened: No coach can give a player the proper footwork to get through every screen. Tough players have a sense of urgency not to get screened and to get through screens so that the cutter cannot catch the ball where he wants to. A tough player makes the catch difficult.

Get your hands up: A pass discouraged is just as good as a pass denied. Tough players play with their hands up to take away vision, get deflections and to discourage a pass in order to allow a teammate to cover up. Cutters and post players will get open, if only for a count. If your hands are up, you can keep the passer from seeing a momentary opening.

Play the ball, see your man: Most defenders see the ball and hug their man, because they are afraid to get beat. A tough defender plays the ball and sees his man. There is a difference.

Get on the floor: In my first road game as a freshman, there was a loose ball that I thought I could pick up and take the other way for an easy one. While I was bending over at the waist, one of my opponents dived on the floor and got possession of the ball. My coach was livid. We lost possession of the ball because I wasn't tough enough to get on the floor for it. I tried like hell never to get out-toughed like that again.

Close out under control: It is too easy to fly at a shooter and think you are a tough defender. A tough defender closes out under control, takes away a straight line drive and takes away the shot. A tough player has a sense of urgency but has the discipline to do it the right way.

Post your man, not a spot: Most post players just blindly run to the low block and get into a shoving match for a spot on the floor. The toughest post players are posting their defensive man. A tough post player is always open, and working to get the ball to the proper angle to get a post feed. Tough post players seal on ball reversal and call for the ball, and they continue to post strong even if their teammates miss them.

Run the floor: Tough players sprint the floor, which drags the defense and opens up things for others. Tough players run hard and get "easy" baskets, even though there is nothing easy about them. Easy baskets are hard to get. Tough players don't take tough shots -- they work hard to make them easy.

Play so hard, your coach has to take you out: I was a really hard worker in high school and college. But I worked and trained exceptionally hard to make playing easier. I was wrong. I once read that Bob Knight had criticized a player of his by saying, "You just want to be comfortable out there!" Well, that was me, and when I read that, it clicked with me. I needed to work to increase my capacity for work, not to make it easier to play. I needed to work in order to be more productive in my time on the floor. Tough players play so hard that their coaches have to take them out to get rest so they can put them back in. The toughest players don't pace themselves.

Get to your teammate first: When your teammate lays his body on the line to dive on the floor or take a charge, the tough players get to him first to help him back up. If your teammate misses a free throw, tough players get to him right away. Tough players are also great teammates.

Take responsibility for your teammates: Tough players expect a lot from their teammates, but they also put them first. When the bus leaves at 9 a.m., tough players not only get themselves there, but they also make sure their teammates are up and get there, too. Tough players take responsibility for others in addition to themselves. They make sure their teammates eat first, and they give credit to their teammates before taking it themselves.

Take a charge: Tough players are in a stance, playing the ball, and alert in coming over from the weak side and taking a charge. Tough players understand the difference between being in the right spot and being in the right spot with the intention of stopping somebody. Some players will look puzzled and say, "But I was in the right spot." Tough players know that they have to get to the right spot with the sense of urgency to stop someone.

Get in a stance: Tough players don't play straight up and down and put themselves in the position of having to get ready to get ready. Tough players are down in a stance on both ends of the floor, with feet staggered and ready to move. Tough players are the aggressor, and the aggressor is in a stance.

Finish plays: Tough players don't just get fouled, they get fouled and complete the play. They don't give up on a play or assume that a teammate will do it. A tough player plays through to the end of the play and works to finish every play.

Work on your pass: A tough player doesn't have his passes deflected. A tough player gets down, pivots, pass-fakes, and works to get the proper angle to pass away from the defense and deliver the ball.

Throw yourself into your team's defense: A tough player fills his tank on the defensive end, not on offense. A tough player is not deterred by a missed shot. A tough player values his performance first by how well he defended.

Take and give criticism the right way: Tough players can take criticism without feeling the need to answer back or give excuses. They are open to getting better and expect to be challenged and hear tough things. You will never again in your life have the opportunity you have now at the college level: a coaching staff that is totally and completely dedicated to making you and your team better. Tough players listen and are not afraid to say what other teammates may not want to hear, but need to hear.

Show strength in your body language: Tough players project confidence and security with their body language. They do not hang their heads, do not react negatively to a mistake of a teammate, and do not whine and complain to officials. Tough players project strength, and do not cause their teammates to worry about them. Tough players do their jobs, and their body language communicates that to their teammates -- and to their opponents.

Catch and face: Teams that press and trap are banking on the receiver's falling apart and making a mistake. When pressed, tough players set up their cuts, cut hard to an open area and present themselves as a receiver to the passer. Tough players catch, face the defense, and make the right read and play, and they do it with poise. Tough players do not just catch and dribble; they catch and face.

Don't get split: If you trap, a tough player gets shoulder-to-shoulder with his teammate and does not allow the handler to split the trap and gain an advantage on the back side of the trap.

Be alert: Tough players are not "cool." Tough players are alert and active, and tough players communicate with teammates so that they are alert, too. Tough players echo commands until everyone is on the same page. They understand the best teams play five as one. Tough players are alert in transition and get back to protect the basket and the 3-point line. Tough players don't just run back to find their man, they run back to stop the ball and protect the basket.

Concentrate, and encourage your teammates to concentrate: Concentration is a skill, and tough players work hard to concentrate on every play. Tough players go as hard as they can for as long as they can.

It's not your shot; it's our shot: Tough players don't take bad shots, and they certainly don't worry about getting "my" shots. Tough players work for good shots and understand that it is not "my" shot, it is "our" shot. Tough players celebrate when "we" score.

Box out and go to the glass every time: Tough players are disciplined enough to lay a body on someone. They make first contact and go after the ball. And tough players do it on every possession, not just when they feel like it. They understand defense is not complete until they secure the ball.

Take responsibility for your actions: Tough players make no excuses. They take responsibility for their actions. Take James Johnson for example. With 17 seconds to go in Wake's game against Duke on Wednesday,Jon Scheyer missed a 3-pointer that bounced right to Johnson. But instead of aggressively pursuing the ball with a sense of urgency, Johnson stood there and waited for the ball to come to him. It never did. Scheyer grabbed it, called a timeout and the Blue Devils hit a game-tying shot on a possession they never should've had. Going after the loose ball is toughness -- and Johnson didn't show it on that play. But what happened next? He re-focused, slipped a screen for the winning basket, and after the game -- when he could've been basking only in the glow of victory -- manned up to the mistake that could've cost his team the win. "That was my responsibility -- I should have had that," Johnson said of the goof. No excuses. Shouldering the responsibility. That's toughness.

Look your coaches and teammates in the eye: Tough players never drop their heads. They always look coaches and teammates in the eye, because if they are talking, it is important to them and to you.

Move on to the next play: Tough players don't waste time celebrating a good play or lamenting a bad one. They understand that basketball is too fast a game to waste time and opportunities with celebratory gestures or angry reactions. Tough players move on to the next play. They know that the most important play in any game is the next one.

Be hard to play against, and easy to play with: Tough players make their teammates' jobs easier, and their opponents' jobs tougher.

Make every game important: Tough players don't categorize opponents and games. They know that if they are playing, it is important. Tough players understand that if they want to play in championship games, they must treat every game as a championship game.

Make getting better every day your goal: Tough players come to work every day to get better, and keep their horizons short. They meet victory and defeat the same way: They get up the next day and go to work to be better than they were the day before. Tough players hate losing but are not shaken or deterred by a loss. Tough players enjoy winning but are never satisfied. For tough players, a championship or a trophy is not a goal; it is a destination. The goal is to get better every day.

When I was playing, the players I respected most were not the best or most talented players. The players I respected most were the toughest players. I don't remember anything about the players who talked a good game or blocked a shot and acted like a fool. I remember the players who were tough to play against.

Anybody can talk. Not anybody can be tough.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Bellarmine at Xavier



About 6 basketball players, my wife and two kids recently went to Cincinnati to watch the local Bellarmine Knights (out of Louisville, KY not far from here) who are the defending D2 National Champions and pre season #1 team in D2 take on the Xavier Musketeers in the Cintas Center.

Watching Bellarmine, who defeated Xavier last year in an exhibition, was fun.  They are unselfish, intelligent, and disciplined.  They are great kids with a great coaching staff.  New Albany native Braydon Hobbs who has spent a lot of time in our area due to friends was outstanding that night.

If you like basketball, and you like it played the right way, get to a Bellarmine game sometime this season.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Tim Tebow: Through My Eyes



I have always been one of those guys that if everybody else is into it, I am not.  Michael Jackson jacket from the 80's? No thanks.  Flip flops?  Nope.  You name it and it takes me a year or two or more to come around, well I have found myself to feel the same way with Tim Tebow.

I like college football, but I am not that into it.  Tebow was someone who for four years was mentioned so much that I turned away from really paying attention to him, however, I have recently "drank the kool-aid" when it comes to him.  Watching him do what he is attempting to do with the Denver Broncos is admirable, but I have learned more and more about how he leads his life.

I am almost finished with his book, Tim Tebow: Through My Eyes, and it is an easy, interesting read.  To read about how his faith has helped him through life and keeps him going is a nice change.  If you are looking for a good book on motivation and to read about his career while at the University of Florida...check it out, I don't think you will be disappointed.

Note to Self: Get in Better Shape Before Basketball Season Next Year

Being a teacher is a spoiling vocation.  When we can take two months off in the summer, it gets me out of so many habits like waking up and going to sleep at decent hours of the day.  Also, I don't talk as much or as loudly.  When school begins it seems that it is taking longer and longer to get my "teaching feet" under me.  When I first started teaching I could do that in one week, now it takes, well let's just say it takes longer.

But about the time that I can finally handle the getting up early, the talking and the getting to bed at a decent hour along comes basketball.  It is always a change because I am up at the school even longer and talking even more and many times much, much louder.  It used to take a week to get my "coaching feet" under me, but this year I have noticed a huge difference in my energy level when I get home.

Monday was our first day of practice and I was flat wiped out tired that night, fell asleep very well with a slightly sore throat.  I woke up Tuesday feeling much older than I actually am and a weaker voice, but ready to go for another day.  Then Tuesday night I really hit the wall and my voice is much weaker today (Wednesday). 

I have to remember to be in better shape next year, and it probably wouldn't hurt to do something right now to improve the way I feel.  When I was an assistant I played more than I do as a head coach and it helped for me to stay in some sort of shape.  Now, I want to watch what is going on and you can't do that as much by playing, so I watch....and get lazy....and lose motivation to be in better shape.  This all sounds like such a horrible example to set to boys that I tell must work hard every day to be better.

Starting now, I will begin......trying to think.....about maybe......running/walking......every.......day.....maybe. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Stop and Think


Last year we dealt with quite a few things off the court and it led to our inability to function as a successful team.  We realized that we can't control everything they do off the court, but I felt we could try.  I had seen these little cards that Coach Don Meyer gives out at every speaking engagement I have been at by him and I liked the message.

I thought it was so good and so important that I not only had my own notecards (with my home phone, my cell and my wife's cell phone numbers they can use in case of emergency) made but also a poster that we put up in the locker room.  My assistant coach Chris McKain came up with the idea of signing the board.  It does two things, we know that they have seen it for sure, and by signing will give them more accountability as by signing it and me putting it online shows their commitment to follow the words on the poster.

This does not guarantee that some of the same events that took place last year won't happen again, but it does show that the coaching staff is making a concerted effort to keep it from happening and helping our guys out by the constant reminder as they walk out of our locker room.  Please feel free to help keep them accountable not just today, this season, but all the time.

Friday, November 4, 2011

"Rocky Top Will Always Be...."

I went to a men's exhibition basketball game last night in Knoxville and the song Rocky Top....I have gone to a UT men's basketball game and a football game and they love that song. Over and over and over and over it is played.


It was Tennessee vs. Carson Newman.  I went with Robby Speer the director of Sports Reach which is involved in sports ministry.  Going with Robby allowed for me to use a media press pass.  If you have never experienced it, it is unbelievable for a sports fan.  They feed you, you get free stuff, and you get to sit close to the game.

It was interesting to watch the game so close.  You get to see how big and quick some of these guys are as opposed to sitting higher on watching on t.v.  However, I do believe that UT is going to struggle this year, but what do I know...?  One of UT's players, however, went on a mission trip with Sports Reach this past May to China.  Skyler McBee, what a wonderful young man.  Robby went up to him and spoke before the game and introduced me and he was wonderful then I watch him as he shot around and many people came up to him to speak.  He treated everyone with respect and as if they were his best friend putting smiles on everyone who encountered him.

If you get a chance, check out Sports Reach's website and consider giving to them, they are doing great work and can always use the help.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Are You Open to Change?

Coaches are leaders, you have to be or you get ground under rather quickly by lots of different aspects of coaching.  In being a leader, we are often too prideful, too arrogant, too whatever to change.  I think at some point you need a "style" or way of playing and stick with it, but you must tinker with it year by year especially at the high school level.

If you coach college basketball, you can recruit players to fill your needs, your wants, your "style", but in high school we often can't do that.  We survey what we have and try to make each individual and the team as successful as possible in that time, in that season.

With all that being said, I coach differently today than I did 20 years ago (yes, I have coached basketball for 20 years now), in fact, I coach differently than I did 7 years ago and even differently from last year.  For me, I need honest reflection and then change or no change.  Don't get me wrong, we will still do some of the same things that we have done in the past, but we will change some things too.

I feel that same way as a person.  If I am the same person today that I was 20 years ago what a waste that time has been.  But I change from year to year and month to month.  I am trying to be a different person today than I was last March and for sure the previous March and I will fail and fall back ocassionally, I am sure, but I do want to be different, better.  For you, you might not want to make the effort, you might think you are fine the way you are now.  My question for you is "how is that working for you?"

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Fellowship of Christian Athletes Sponsor....How Did I Get Here?

Last school year I decided to sponsor the Fellowship of Christian Athletes or FCA.  Our school is a smaller school so I do not discriminate against athletes or non athletes and I have started calling FCA the Fellowship of Christian Anybodys...still FCA.

I had done the junior high in the past, but was kinda clueless.  Since then I have grown in my faith and decided to stretch myself again by taking up the high school's version of FCA.  Last year we met very few times because we meet at school once every five weeks, but last year it seemed that many of the times we met were on on snow days or some other time.

This year we decided to meet during those times during the school year, but also on Wednesday mornings at 7 AM.  The number was one the first week, four the second week and on and on until we have 14-20 each Wednesday morning.  Unfortunately for the students, I think, it has been me that has been going over our devotional each week.  During the week a scripture or idea will hit me and I will quote the scripture, discuss it then show a contemporary Christian video that kinda hits home the idea behind the scripture.

How did I get here?  Because I am not who I was.  Here is my testimony.  My maternal grandfather was, in the words of my father, a great Christian man.  My mom's family attended on a regular basis at New Liberty church between Henryville and Salem IN.  Frank Jones, my maternal grandfather, was a leader in that church.  My father who attended the same church met my mom in that church.  That was the basis of my childhood, but there were a few twists.

My father was a questioner of everything and that included his faith.  He often was not given answers that were adequate to him so he stopped attending church.  Because my mother did attend as a child, she would take us on Easter and Christmas...we were cultural Christians.  I did attend some Sunday school, and was taught the stories of the Bible.  It was boring...I didn't like it and I wasn't pushed to attend which probably created fewer problems with me and my parents.

I want to make this clear, my mom and dad have been married for 42 years, I rarely saw them argue, I never saw them fight.  I did see my father show affection for my mom and me all the time.  There were never any drugs or alcohol in our home.  My parents were pro active in making sure that my sister and I were good people and disciplined us.  But religion was never a strong priority for me growing up.I can remember through my teen years into my early 30's that I wanted to believe in God, but decided it couldn't be proven and I was, in effect, an agnostic...someone who didn't know if there were a God or not and was pretty sure that there wasn't.

Then I met my wife and with her quiet patience, I started moving in that direction.  I was baptized at the age of 32 and began my current journey to where I am today; still somewhere far from where I need to be.  I feel today different because I am not who I was, but I was tired of going through the motions.

I was asked to give the baccalaureate speech at our graduation, I went to Iceland where I missed my family greatly and prayer helped me get through it as well as Christian music, I taught a lesson on a Wednesday night at church, I attended a Don Meyer leadership seminar that was heavily faith based and have stayed in contact with Coach Meyer and I went to see the movie Courageous which challenges men to be good biblical fathers and husbands.

I know I am not perfect and I have pushed people away being more open about my faith.  I have surrounded myself with a couple of people so that I can be held accountable for my actions. I am trying to be better in running our FCA.  I hope that I am, I hope that I am helping these kids because they are all farther along in their faith than I was at their age.  I hope they are getting something from what we are doing because I know I am....it is helping me more and more to understand that it isn't about me....it isn't about me.