Confidence is Up To You

This entry is part 28 of 28 in the series Leadership

Confidence is one of those words players and coaches throw around all the time.

“He is confident in his ability to defend.”

“She is confident in her ability to score.”

“He has confidence in passing.”

“She has confidence in her ball handling.”

That word confidence is so fickle and so relative to the situation. There is so much context that surrounds whether someone is confident. Would Steph Curry be confident on an episode of The Voice?  Would Alicia Keys be confident in Game 7 of the Finals?  I don’t think there’s much argument, that a fish out of water isn’t going to be very confident. These are, of course, extreme examples, but they illustrate one point.

I think we see confidence levels vary all the time in sports based on the environment. Some players or teams play with different levels of confidence, based on the opponent. In some cases, weather can impact confidence levels. I would argue that players or teams whose confidence is affected by these outside influences aren’t truly confident.

What makes anyone confident? The reason Tom Brady is confident in the last second drive at the Super Bowl is the same reason Sergio Garcia is confident on the last hole of the Master’s. They didn’t just wake up one day with confidence. Their coach didn’t give it to them. They weren’t just born with it. There isn’t a magic confidence pill. They worked really hard to become confident.

I’ve been asked a few times in the last month about how I instill confidence in my players. I’m pretty sure that I’ve never made any player confident. I believe that players make themselves confident. I’m not good enough to give my players confidence. Coaches can put players in situations to help them gain confidence. We can help players understand what true confidence is and what it takes to become confident. I can help players figure out why they might not be confident and what they can do to change it. However, f they want confidence, they have develop it.

Confidence is a like any muscle. The only way to help it grow is to work at it. You can’t just watch other confident people. You can’t just talk about it. If you want to be a confident chef, get in the kitchen and cook. If you want to be a confident player, get in the gym and play.

In a world of entitlement and instant gratification, there are a lot of unconfident people. It’s a vicious cycle that we find ourselves in. We see confidence and we like it. We think we can just go get buy it, or that it’s someone else’s job to give it to us. Then we find 100 excuses why we aren’t confident which reinforces our behavior and makes us even less confident. If you want to be confident, put in the time and the effort. At some point, you’ll be confident and you won’t even have to pretend.



Holding Players and Ourselves Accountable

This entry is part 27 of 28 in the series Leadership

Coach Geno Aurriema’s comments regarding body language and holding players accountable in a recent press conference have been played, replayed, tweeted, and retweeted thousands of times. As coaches, we understand exactly what he’s saying. We agree with what he says. We might even play it over and over just to hear someone of his status say what we’ve been saying for years.

I believe, the difference between him and most of us is that he really does what he says and he applies it every single day. He really doesn’t care if he loses. (Nevermind they have won 108 straight games as of this post.) He cares that his players act the right way and think the right way all the time, regardless of the consequences. If he loses his job for holding players accountable, at least he knows he’s done the right thing regardless of the result.

There is a sentence that is very interesting in his comments. I think it can get overlooked, but to me it is the most important part of what he said.

At 1:37  “….other coaches might say well you can do that because you’ve got 3 other All Americans…”

I don’t think he would care how many All Americans he has on his roster. Most of us don’t coach All Americans, which means most of us don’t coach against All Americans either. Yet most of us worry about too much about winning and we let players get away with things that they shouldn’t get away with.

How many of us would be willing to sit our best player knowing we would lose?  Would we be willing to sit our starting five if necessary? What are our fears of holding players accountable?  Do we feel like we don’t have the support of our administration? Are we afraid that they might be mad at us or turn against us? Are we afraid of a phone call from a parent or a booster? Do we fear of the consequences of sitting our “best player”? If we sit our best player, we might lose. When we lose, we lose our jobs. We’ve worked so hard to get where we are. If we get fired, we will have a hard time finding another opportunity.

The problem is that if we don’t hold our players accountable, we will probably lose even more.

In today’s society, coaching is not getting any easier. Instant gratification, entitlement, and laziness are just a few of the obstacles we must fight daily. Maybe we are just as much a part of the problem because we enable and empower athletes to have these qualities. If we don’t hold them accountable, no one else will. We can’t expect them to hold each other accountable. The hardest part about coaching is holding ourselves accountable to what we know is right. The next hardest part is doing the same for those that we coach. It’s not easy to do, but it’s not easy to win 108 straight games either.


Give like the Sun

This entry is part 26 of 28 in the series Leadership

The Sun

The Sun burns to give us light and life every day. If you are too close to the Sun, you will burn up. Get too far away from the Sun and you will freeze. How amazing is it that we are just far enough away from the Sun to have life? According to scientists, the Sun is going to burn out in a few (thousand or million or billion) years. It will be difficult for us to exist without it. Do we recognize our dependence on the Sun?  Are we thankful for what it does for us, or do we complain that it is too hot or too bright? Or even worse, do we just take it for granted?

Furthermore, take the Sun out of our galaxy. Would you even notice it? Of course, it depends on your perspective. The few billion people on Earth would notice it, if we even had time to notice. If we are in one of the other few hundred billion galaxies looking at the Milky Way (based on this visualization from NC State), the absence of the Sun wouldn’t even make a Twitter post.

I try to be like the Sun for others. I hope to encourage them with hope and love. However, I’m sure that I burn too brightly for some people. I know I don’t burn bright enough for everyone, but I want to burn brighter. When I am not on this Earth anymore, most people won’t know that I existed in the first place. Just like when the Sun burns out, other solar systems and galaxies won’t miss our Sun. However, just like the Sun has a purpose to give life to us, I believe we are meant to be the Sun for others.

Just like Maya Angelou’s famous words…

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. It’s not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Remember though, there’s a difference between us and the Sun. The Sun has nothing giving it life. The Sun doesn’t have any help to serve its purpose. It is a good thing that the sun is strong enough to give us life without much help. While we might not be able to extend each other’s lives, we can help each other while we’re here. We can pour into each other and we can help each other help others. We can be the Sun for others and we can give hope and love to others. The Sun doesn’t ask for anything in return. It just burns. It just gives us life. Most importantly, how much better would this world be if we gave to others in the same way the Sun gives to us?


Are They Going to Offer Me?

This entry is part 25 of 28 in the series Leadership

Dear Parents and Student Athletes (who don’t have the offer that they are looking for),

I understand the recruiting process can seem a bit daunting. It is stressful and exciting all at the same time. Letters are coming in mailbox. AAU and high school coaches are fielding phone calls. You get more followers on social media. Emails flood your inbox. Your phone might even ring a few times with a coach looking to talk to you. You get invited to visit campus. How do you decipher all of this attention? What does it all mean?  How can you make sense of it? How do you know if you’re going to get an offer, whether you want one from a particular school or not?

Just so you know, every college program operates a little differently. Some programs are rebuilding. Others are maintaining. Some programs don’t know what they are doing. Some programs are very good at what they do. Programs are all made up of coaches who take different approaches to recruiting. They all have different academic requirements. They look for different things athletically. Some are very picky about the kind of people who are a part of their program. No two programs operate the same.

With so many variables, how do I know if they are serious about me? How can I start to figure out my future? It’s all too much! You think it’s a hopeless case right? There can’t be any way to figure this out. I’m at the mercy of everyone else. I’m so out of control of this situation. I don’t know what to do.

Let me make this a little simpler for you. In reality all that stuff is just a smokescreen. It’s actually pretty easy to figure out. You might not like it, but there is one commonality through almost every collegiate program in America.

Head coaches make the decisions.

As much as you might like a certain assistant coach, as much as you might text, DM, Snap, or whatever else with all the assistants….

As much as you might love their campus or their academic offerings or the team or the athletic facilities or their conference or the city they are located in…or…or…or…

…if you don’t have an offer, don’t expect to get one unless you’re communicating with the head coach on a regular basis. It really is that simple. You can have interest from 100 schools. If that school’s head coach isn’t taking the time to communicate with you, then you are probably aren’t high on their list.

Now just because you’re communicating with the head coach, doesn’t mean you’re going to get an offer either. There’s certainly a better chance that you will, but there’s no guarantee. I just know that unless you are talking to the head coach, the chances of you getting a scholarship offer are slim to none.

Don’t freak out. The only constant about collegiate athletics is that things are always changing. While somebody’s head coach is not talking to you, there is probably a player out there who has 15 head coaches trying to communicate with them. Obviously, one player can’t sign with 15 different schools. And so, it’s a process. All you can do is continue to get better every day. You can’t control what school offers who and what player commits to what school. All you can do is be the best person, student, and player that you can be. All you can do is show those 15 head coaches who didn’t communicate with you, what they missed out on.

There are a lot of players who don’t get any phone calls. There are a lot of players who don’t even get the first piece of mail. So be thankful and just get better every day. The rest will take care of itself.


Becoming a Good Coach

This entry is part 24 of 28 in the series Leadership

Congrats to the coaches and programs who have made it to the Final Four. That’s a huge accomplishment. It’s a bit unlucky for any team that’s in Connecticut’s bracket. I don’t know if any of the other Final Four teams would have come out of that region if they had been bracketed differently. But let’s be honest, that’s one of those “uncontrollables” isn’t it?

Let it be known that there are good coaches who are not in the Final Four. There are good coaches at every level of the game. Every level of the game has coaches that aren’t very good as well. What makes a coach good and bad is very subjective. You can try and measure through wins and losses, and maybe that’s the best way to do it, but I would argue that’s not always accurate. There are a lot of variables both controllable and uncontrollable that go into W’s and L’s.

It is clear though that there are some people that are not very good coaches. It doesn’t mean they can’t be good, but for whatever reason, they aren’t yet. There is a lack of development of coaches. There isn’t a system to help coaches learn how to coach. We have certification programs for everything else. Why not for coaches?

However, let’s look at this from the other side. There are a lot of good coaches. How did they learn if there was no development program for them? Did they play for a good coach? Did they work for good coaches? That might be part of it, but I think there’s more to it than that. I think they were good because they were determined to be good.  They read, watch, and learn. They do what they have to do to get better. If it’s not working, they figure out how to make it work. They are open to the fact that they need to improve daily and they never lose that perspective.

When I talk to young coaches and they talk about trying to be Division 1 assistants early in their career, I try to talk them out of it. Being a D1 assistant coach has so many restrictions and limitations. Being a D1 assistant coach puts you on a staff with multiple people to share the workload. In many situations, being a D1 coach provides limited exposure to the different inner workings of a program.

How many NAIA, JUCO,  D2 or D3 programs have multiple assistants? Even if they do, they probably aren’t full time. When you’re the only assistant, you get the opportunity to do everything, out of necessity. When you’re the only assistant, you get to hone your craft, and you’re not going to get pigeonholed. There’s too much to be done. Not to mention, there are so many less rules. You can build a recruiting network through good old fashioned hard work. You can work camps which provides networking opportunities as well as coaching opportunities. At the D3 level, you can even coach AAU. What a great opportunity that is for young coaches. Now a coach can develop a philosophy that they believe in, not just the same one that they played under. They can take what they like and what they don’t like and have their own ideas. When you have been a part of different environments, you start to form your own thoughts and opinions about what works for you, not just what works for others. There are lots of ways to skin a cat, but that doesn’t mean one way works for everybody.

Let’s not forget high school. How many times do we go watch high school basketball games and shake our heads? High school basketball on the whole is not very good. Most teams have one decent player who isn’t close to a D1 prospect. Playing college basketball isn’t for everybody, but for the players who say they want to, what kind of influence could a young coach who just finished their playing career have on a young high school player? Maybe that young coach inspires a young player to chase a dream outside of athletics. Isn’t that what we’re supposed to be about anyway?

Being a high school coach isn’t as glamorous as being a D1 assistant. Being the only D3 assistant is hard work and puts people in sink or swim situations. These are the situations that help coaches get better. These are the situations that young coaches need to be in to prepare themselves to be good coaches.

Just don’t tell me you want to be a coach when you aren’t willing to do what it takes to be a coach, not to mention a good coach. I volunteered or was a part time coach for 15 years before I had my first full time coaching job. From club to camps to AAU, D1, D2 and D3, I’ve been a part of all sorts of different situations within the business of basketball. During these years, I worked numerous jobs to put food on my table and a roof over my head. I quit one full time job and turned down others. I have made all kinds of sacrifices to chase my dreams. Some were financial. Some took other forms. I have made lots of mistakes. I could have done a lot of things differently. My way is not necessarily the way for anyone else, but there are so many ways to make it work. The question is how badly do you want it, and how badly do you want to be good at it? Do it. Fail at it. Then get back up and try again. We ask our players to do it, but we don’t listen to our own words.

If you want to coach, do it. You don’t have to wait for the opportunity. There are tons of them out there. The game is more than what we see on TV. The game needs coaches who want to coach, not coaches who want a job. When I hear about a young coach who takes her broken down car and the only $350 she has to chase a high school coaching opportunity, I say that’s somebody I want to hire. That’s somebody I want to play for. That’s somebody who has a chance be a good coach one day even if she still has a lot to learn.

“Hustle”: Top 10 Truths

This entry is part 29 of 28 in the series Leadership

My wife and I just finished reading “Hustle” by Joshua Medcalf. If you’ve never heard of him or his partner Jamie Gilbert, now you have. They have hustled to become great through their organization “Train 2B Clutch.” If you haven’t read the book, you should. If you have read it, it’s probably time to read it again. It speaks truth. If you can’t handle it, then don’t waste your time. Keep living your life in your comfort zone. If you can, you’ll be glad you did.

Mr. Medcalf asked us for the things that affected us most. It’s so hard to pick only one. So here’s our top 10.

  1. Being great is about hustle, dirty work and sacrifice. Nothing more, nothing less. What have we done?  What are we doing?
  2. We need to pray more. We need to pray harder. We need to be more in touch with God’s will.
  3. Are we putting ourselves in uncomfortable positions? Are we doing that for others? Are we helping people cut their ropes or are we only reinforcing their beliefs of inadequacy?
  4. Are we preparing in the right way for the future? Are we using our 86,400 seconds in proportion to the size of our dreams? What do we need to keep doing? What do we need to do differently?
  5. Would we invest in ourselves? Are we taking risks?  Do we hustle regardless of the outcome?
  6. “The true measure of a man is not how hard he fights back when provoked, but how much provoking he can endure, and still respond in love.”
  7. We need to become what God made us to become, but it ain’t gonna just magically happen. It’s going to take patience, perseverance, and hustle.
  8. Are we missing the back door?  Are we afraid to go through it? Are we acting outside the box?
  9. We are thankful for hardships and obstacles. They are making us better. Keep them coming. We have embraced our desert. We are thankful for closed doors. We are ready for more.
  10. We need to say “No” to chasing waterfalls, partially controllable goals, and our “problem addiction.” We need to be more picky about when we say “Yes”.

“Chop Wood, Carry Water” is next. Then we will read “Burn Your Goals.”  I’m guessing there will be more awesome truths in these books as well.

Winner, Loser, or the Majority

This entry is part 23 of 28 in the series Leadership

I am a winner, a loser, and part of the majority. I believe this is true for everyone. I’m not a winner or loser in most things. Sometimes I am the biggest loser (and I’m not talking about weight loss). Most of the time I am somewhere in the middle, doing enough to not be at the bottom, but not really doing enough to be at the top either. I just want to be a winner at the things that are most important to me. I hope each person knows what’s most important to them and that they work tirelessly to be great at those things. Your definition of winning may be different than mine. That’s a different discussion.

I am a husband, brother, son, basketball coach, friend, singer, dancer, runner, lifter, swimmer, programmer, blogger, actor, chef, teacher, artist, carpenter, plumber, electrician, driver, tweeter, eater, photographer, and many other things. Why do I say I am those things? It’s because I’ve done them before. It doesn’t mean I’m good or bad at them or that I would do them again. It only means I’ve done them.

For instance, I can say I’m a swimmer because I’ve swum before. I’ve even had to pass a swim test to graduate from college. I had to take a class just to pass that test. It doesn’t mean that I swim often or that I’ll ever swim again. It just means that I’ve done it before. I’m pretty sure I’m a loser when it comes to swimming. If I wanted to be a better swimmer, I would need to spend more time doing it. (Isn’t that the most obvious statement? Seriously?) What if I wanted to be a winner of a swimmer? How many hours a day do you think Michael Phelps spends trying to be the best swimmer in the world? My life would have to completely change for me to be a great swimmer. It’s just not that important to me and I’m ok with that.

Could I try to win at everything? I guess so, but I’m pretty sure I would fail. This is why most of us are average at most things. We spend enough time to be average at them, but never enough time to be a winner at the highest level.

There is nothing wrong with that, as long as we manage our own expectations. Who is great at what they do?  My wife, Steph Curry, Beyonce, Harrison Ford, and my parents are just a few examples. Granted I might be a little biased on a couple of those, but it’s hard to argue the other ones.

Are they great at everything?  Of course not. But they are winners at what they choose to be great at. Why are they winners? Yes, they have been blessed with talents and abilities. However, they choose to maximize them, because it is important to them to be winners. They wake up every day and they choose to be winners. Being average or mediocre is not an option for them. They don’t talk about getting better. They act it out. They work at it. It’s so important to them that failure at “their thing” is not an option.

Who is the best person that you know at what you’re trying to be good at? Have you done what they have done? Have you worked at it as hard or as long?

Do you want to be a winner on the basketball court? Then work at it. Do you know how many hours Steph Curry has spent in the gym? When you have put in the work that he’s put in, come talk to me if you’re not dominating in whatever gym you’re playing.

Do you want to be a winner on stage, then work at it. Do you want to be a better friend or a better spouse? Work so hard at it that the only outcome is success.

I’m perfectly fine at being the worst swimmer on Earth (and the laundry list of other things that am horrible or average at.) I’m ok with being mediocre at other things. I just want to be a winner as a husband and a son. Not much else matters. I think if I do those things, the rest will take care of itself.