The Process: Knowing vs Doing Part 5

This entry is part 14 of 28 in the series Leadership

Bridges are engineering phenomenons.  From the basic bridges that span a small country stream to bridges that span large rivers and bays, it’s amazing how they are built and how they work.  Think about how limited humans were before we built bridges.

The gap between knowing and doing requires a similar kind of bridge.  It’s a pretty amazing feat when one is built that can most any force that could bring it down. Humans have figured out how to build the physical structures. What challenges humans and what will always challenge humans is building that mental bridge. First however, there must be the recognition that a gap exists. There must be acknowledgment that a bridge needs to be built.

So let’s say a player recognizes what they need to be able to do and that they aren’t able to do it well yet.  They recognize they have to put work in to be able to do what they know they need to do. They commit to the work and are willing to do the work. What happens during that time when he/she is trying to build that bridge?  What happens during “construction” when execution is required but the bridge isn’t built yet? How do we build confidence when it’s still a work in progress?

Before we address these questions, as coaches we have to ask ourselves some questions. What part of the year did this recognition come? How did the player recognize the gap existed? How critical is this gap to the team’s success? How much time will it take to bridge the gap?  How much time and attention can we afford to give to building this bridge?

Of course these questions are very subjective.  Let’s think about some possibilities.  If this recognition comes as part of a post season individual meeting, then that’s preferred.  Now the player has lots of time to work to build that bridge. If that realization comes in the last week of January, then it’s probably a good idea to wait until the off-season.

If the player recognizes the issue on their own, they are more likely to be motivated to resolve it. If a coach, teammate, or fan points out a weakness, the player might not be as open to that feedback depending on the situation. Our approach to these situations must consider the source of the information.

Are we talking about a point guard’s ability to post up or a post player’s ability to finish a lay-up?  Are we talking about a point guard’s on ball defense or a post player’s ability to shoot a step back 3 pointer?  If you need your post player to make a step back 3 in order to win, then I want to coach your team.  You have to judge what’s important and what isn’t.

Will it take 30 minutes three times a week for a month?  Will it take 60 minutes every day for six months? Of course there is no right answer for this. But making a major adjustment to a player’s shooting technique is much more involved than teaching someone a new 1 on 1 move.  Teaching someone how to defend a post player isn’t nearly as involved as improving their weak hand.  Knowing how much time you have to build that bridge and knowing how much time it will take is important in the process.  If you don’t have enough time, do you try to tackle it anyway?  Is some improvement better than none? Or could that time be better spent in another area?

This leads into the next area — what else do we have to do?  If we spend time in this area, do we have enough time for other areas?  Do we have time for other players?  Do we have time for other “things”?  Do we have the expertise we need?  Do we have the resources that we need? Do we have the staff that we need? Will this be the best use of our time?

Notice we haven’t answered the first set of questions. Those are still important.  We still have to manage the process within the process. We cannot control every decision of every player that we coach. They will always have the freedom to make decisions that we won’t even know that they made. Whatever bridge they are building, there will always be obstacles along the way. There may be a call for doing even when the bridge isn’t finished. As coaches, we must be able to carefully manage these situations with our athletes. Depending on the athlete, these may need to be handled in different ways.

We are engineers.  We devise ways to turn knowledge into action. The good news is that it doesn’t involve calculus or physics.  The bad news is there is never one method that always works.


The Process: Knowing vs Doing Part 4

This entry is part 13 of 28 in the series Leadership

This topic of knowing vs. doing is extremely interesting. The most interesting part is that little “vs.” that’s in the middle. That link between the two is actually not so little at all.  In fact, it’s quite a gap that most people ever truly fill.  It’s that process of becoming a doer instead of just a knower that really separates us.

Knowing stuff is easy. There’s so much information out there. The Internet puts information galore at our fingertips. There’s no excuse not to know. As we’ve discussed, it’s not enough to know.  We gotta do. We have to act. We must execute.  As we know, going from knowing to doing is hard.  So let’s dig a little deeper into that process — from a player’s perspective.

Even the casual fan can identify a highlight or a blooper in a basketball game.  It’s not too difficult to identify a play as “good” or “bad”. If you can’t do that, then you probably have never watched a game of basketball much less played in one.  Most any player at any level can appreciate a “good” basketball play, and they are often the first to criticize a bad one no matter what level they are watching.

Can that same player tell you why it happened?  Can they tell you how it happened?  Can they tell you why it was good or bad?  Most importantly, can they do it correctly themselves in the heat of the moment?

It’s easy to sit in the bleachers, on the bench, or on the couch and provide commentary on events. Who can and who will take these observations into the gym?  Who will work on making the good things they see part of their game?  Who will learn from other people’s mistakes?

Who watches Tim Hardaway’s shoulders and feet on his crossover?  Who watches how Richard Hamilton or Ray Allen uses a screen, is ready to shoot before he catches it and knocks shots down time after time? Who watches the details of how John Stockton successfully executes the pick and roll time after time, even when the whole world knows it’s coming? Now who takes what they learn and works on it?  Who perfects it?  Who says I’m going to be great? Who actually works to be great?  Who has the commitment, work ethic, patience, and coaching to take full advantage of their opportunity?  Who gets thousands of repetitions in without defense?  Then who gets hundreds of reps practice so that they can be successful on a high percentage of the ten reps they might get in a game.

These players weren’t athletic phenomenons.  They weren’t a 6’9″ point guard like Magic. They didn’t have the athletic prowess of a Lebron or Shaq. I give credit to these athletes who are amazingly gifted. They worked hard to maximize their abilities and be dominate players. However, most of us don’t have those gifts.  There are numerous examples of players who turned knowledge into successful repetitive action. They have built a bridge between knowing and doing. They could have been better, no one fully maximizes their abilities.  We all have weaknesses.  However, the bridge they built helped them be Hall of Fame caliber players. They won lots of games with their respective teams. They took knowing and turned it into doing.

Today’s players have so many great examples of how to do.  When will they take hold of that knowledge and make the effort to transform it into action? When will we help them build that bridge?






The Process: Knowing vs Doing Part 3

This entry is part 12 of 28 in the series Leadership

The difference in knowing and doing is a massive topic. Books have been written on both topics as well as the process of building the bridge between them. Even more will be written as long as time lasts. The questions of Who, What, When, Where, Why and How can all be applied to these concepts. Each can be taken in different directions with different perspectives. I might address those questions one day.

Right now, my thoughts are taking me in a different direction, however. I keep coming back to the process. The process of turning knowledge into doing is like a recipe.  Turning information into action requires certain ingredients and certain instructions. The instructions may be different for each individual person, but the ingredients are the same in every situation. This list of ingredients is by no means comprehensive, but I think these are as essential as flour is to making bread. Let’s explore this process of turning knowledge into action.

Commitment to the process is critical to success.  If you’re not going to sell out to doing it, then it’s probably not going to get done.  In order to convert knowledge into instinctive and habitual action, there must be a dedication to accomplishing that goal.  There must be a constant focus of energy towards the goal.  Without commitment it is too easy to say “I know it” and be satisfied with knowing. Without commitment, inevitable failures will make us retreat into what is comfortable and we will be less likely to do.

Effort/Work Ethic
Commitment is impossible without effort to go along with it.  How can I be committed to accomplishing a task if I don’t put the effort and energy into it? The process of turning information into action is very similar to a player who wants to make changes to their shooting technique.  It takes practice in a number of different ways to accomplish this goal. It requires physical and mental effort. It takes thousands of repetitions and the ability to mentally push through failures. Form shooting is critical to changing shooting technique. It helps build muscle memory and is a great way to get a lot of successful repetitions in a short period of time. However, it doesn’t stop there. Successful repetitions must be executed from different spots on the floor. Shooting must be done off the move from different angles and off the dribble. Then successful repetitions must be achieved in competitive practice situations. This could be in any live situation as simple as 1 on 1.  Finally, the player must learn to execute successfully in the game situation.  They must shoot it against another team, when it matters, with referees, and fans.  They must execute these same movements in the first 5 minutes of the game and in the last 5 seconds of the game just like they did when they were form shooting. This is all tied to mental and physical effort.

Persistent Patience
Rome wasn’t built in a day. Turning knowledge into doing doesn’t happen overnight either. It’s not a just add water type of process.  It takes a lot of different ingredients, but it requires persistent patience.  It may require numerous failures.  It requires overcoming those failures. Without persistence, giving up becomes the answer.  Without persistence, settling for mediocrity becomes the norm.  Turning information into action requires patience with one’s self and one’s surroundings. This process takes time and effort.  How invested are we in that process?

All the commitment, effort, and persistent patience in the world won’t do much good if there’s no opportunity.  It’s hard to grow a seed if it is never planted in the ground.  I can have all of the fertilizer, water, and garden tools in the world, but if there’s no dirt then it’s never going to grow. Of course, it’s not too hard to find some dirt.  There is plenty of ground everywhere, and I think we’re surrounded with opportunities all the time. We may not see those opportunities.  We may avoid these opportunities.  The ground that surrounds us may not be the most fertile and it may be filled with rocks, but if we’re committed and if we’re willing to work hard, then we can still make that seed grow.  We must take full advantage of every opportunity that we’ve been given to make each seed grow. There are plenty of opportunities to engage the process of turning knowledge into action.  Do we recognize them and embrace them?

One of the more underestimated and overlooked ingredients in the process is that of coaching. We need someone to guide us, to give us feedback, and to help us along the way. Going back to the shooting analogy, a player who goes in the gym by themselves and shoots incorrectly 1000 times will be worse than the player who takes a good coach with them and shoots 300 times. It’s not just about working harder; it’s also about working smarter.  Good coaches will help make the work more productive. In transforming knowledge into action, a good coach is necessary to help the person know when they are on track and when they may need to get back on track. This does not players should always have a coach around.  There are plenty of times where coaches should not be around. Players need to explore things on their own. Part of this process must come from their own learning and experiences.  However, a good coach can be integral in the process.

How Much Do We Love?

This entry is part 7 of 28 in the series Leadership

Donald Miller gives a great perspective on love. I don’t know if he knows anything about basketball or coaching, but he gives us something to think about.

Even if love and control are not opposites, there are certainly times where they are at odds. There are times when we are faced with the decision of whether or not to give up control and take that risk.  The question I have to answer…the question I believe we all have to answer… are we willing to take that risk?

Are we willing to give up control in order to be the people we’re called to be?

Are we willing to sacrifice ourselves so that others may see God’s love?

Are we willing to humble ourselves when it may feel better to proclaim how great we think we are?

How many of us are willing to do the right thing even when it might hurt us?

As leaders…as coaches…we want to be the ones pointing the finger at other people. We are the ones that are constantly pointing out other people’s faults and shortcomings.  When do we examine our own?

When do we get off of our throne and become a servant?

Instead of sending the assistant to get lunch for us, why don’t we go get lunch for the assistants?

Instead of giving an assistant a list of things to do, do we ask, what can I do for you today?

Instead of always telling our players what they are doing wrong, do we give them an opportunity to tell us how we can improve?


The Process: Knowing vs Doing Part 2

This entry is part 11 of 28 in the series Leadership

To do or to know. To be or to seem. This is a pretty interesting topic. It seems to be at the heart of success, on and off the court. We all know what we should do, yet many times we do not. Sometimes it’s because we cannot.  Sometimes it’s because we fail to do what we can do. How can we make that knowing doing?

Why can’t we accomplish the goal?  Why do we fail?  Is it our limitations? Is it our failure to prepare? Is it a result of a previous action? Is it a result of being out performed? Is it “bad luck?”

Of course, other questions can be asked.  Why do we accomplish goals?  Why do we succeed? What are the reasons that we “do” successfully? How can we successfully “do” more often?

We make decisions every second of our lives.  Some of these decisions are of greater consequence than others.  Yet we choose how we spend our days. We choose when we eat, sleep, brush our teeth, shower, read, watch TV, make a phone call, type an email, and drive a car just to name a few.  Each of these decisions involve other decisions.

The amount of time we spend doing what we do is a choice as well.  Do we know what we need to do? Do we do what we know we need to do?  Do we know how to do what we need to do? Do we know our limitations?  Do we prepare?

Life is such a challenging game. We can be constantly learning and acquiring information, but at some point we have to do.  We must apply what we learn. We must do. It’s not enough to know.

As coaches, our responsibility is to our players. We must teach our players so that they know. We must practice what we preach so that they can see what it looks like to do. They may not see us do, but they should see the results of what we do. We can talk about what we do and how it generates results. Finally, we must help them learn how to do what they know.

If only it were so simple. It’s complicated. It’s hard. It’s our responsibility.  Whether it’s careers, relationships, school, family, money, or basketball, we must help them know what to do and then do it. Inevitably, these areas are woven in a complex web. They are rarely completely separated from each other. Yet, we must know, teach, and act in this complex environment.


The Process: Knowing vs. Doing

This entry is part 10 of 28 in the series Leadership

I would estimate that 90% of our players could correctly tell you what to do in 90% of the situations that they face on the court. I think most players know what to do most of the time. What percentage of these opportunities are executed correctly? When do they do what they need to do when they need to do it?

There are thousands of decisions made in every practice and game by each player. We only have time to work on a few of them. Many of these are instinctual and habitual. The best players make and execute good decisions more than most.  The better teams follow the same pattern.  It’s clear that many of these instincts and habits are poor in our game even though the knowledge exists.

Our job as coaches is to bridge that gap. We have to help players turn knowledge into action. We have to develop mental and physical habits that enable players to make good decisions and then execute them precisely.

There is no secret formula. There is no silver bullet or magic pill. It takes time. It doesn’t happen over night. Players must work to transform their knowledge into habits. It is a process.  It can be a long process.  It can be a process filled with failures.  It can be a very uncomfortable process initially.  We must help them.

Shouldn’t we be working to do the same as well? Shouldn’t we be working every day to take what we know and turn it into what we do? Who is helping us? Are we willing to help each other?  Are we willing to accept help from each other?  It’s easy for a player to get in the gym and work on a skill.  That process is pretty well defined.  Building muscle memory only takes physical repetition.  Building “mental muscle memory” is quite different.  That process is not so well outlined.  Yet that’s what we are to do as coaches.  We must know what we teach inside and out.  We must understand the teaching process.  We must understand the communication process.  We must understand the relationship process. These three things are always evolving.  They are always changing.  Are we practicing?  Do we have someone telling us where we can improve? Do we listen?  Do we understand the process of getting better as coaches?

There is plenty of knowledge out there. There are tweets and blogs and books galore about what we should do. There are plenty of people who know. How many of us DO? How can we DO it better?

We tell our players what they need to DO to be able to DO things better. Get up shots. Think differently.  Talk to your teammate. Do these drills to work on these skills. Talk to yourself. Set goals. Work harder. Change your perspective. Lift weights. Run 10 sprints. Jump rope. Be different.

There are countless sentences that we speak to our players on a regular basis that give our players ways of turning the knowing into doing.  We use these sentences to train their minds and their bodies on how to perform.

What sentences do we use for ourselves?  What do we do to turn our knowledge into doing? What do we do to build good habits?  How do we take what we learn from books, blogs, conferences, twitter or just a conversation and turn that into action and habit? Who is coaching the coaches?  Who is demanding that coaches improve? Who is holding coaches accountable? For those of us who want to hold ourselves accountable, what is our “workout plan”? What is our process for getting better at turning our knowledge into action?


The Buck Stops Here: Responsibility

This entry is part 9 of 28 in the series Leadership

Where does the buck stop for you?  Where do you point the finger?  Where do you put the blame? Where does the responsibility lie?

As a head coach and as a coaching staff, it is our responsibility to accept fault for every failure and give away the credit for every success. It is much easier to point fingers than it is to look in the mirror.  Players are not responsible for the schedule.  They are not responsible for recruiting their teammates.  They are not responsible for the practice plan.  They are not responsible for the organizational structure of the team.

Our shoulders carry this burden.  It is not the team’s fault if we schedule a team that we aren’t capable of beating. It is not the team’s fault if we don’t recruit talented players into the program.  It is not the team’s fault if we don’t plan or execute a good practice. It is not their problem if they are allowed to consistently make the same mistakes.  Granted, there are a lot of things that are in the players’ control and outside of my control.  However, we can hold players accountable for those things and help them learn how to make good decisions on and off the court.

I will never score a point or grab a rebound from the bench. I will never shut down the opponent’s leading scorer or rotate over and take a charge. However, I can surely make a bad substitution or call a time out at the wrong time. I can definitely fail to change defenses or call a certain play.  I can certainly say the wrong things at halftime or recruit a bad apple that can spoil the team. I can choose to tolerate a lack of effort or execution.  I firmly believe players win games, and coaches lose games, not some of them — all of them.