We Do. They Do. We Are. They Are.

This entry is part 2 of 28 in the series Leadership

Do we enjoy what we do?
Are we smart about our lives?
Do we work hard to get better everyday?
Are we prepared for practice?
Do we hold ourselves accountable?
Are we passionate about what we do?
Do we accept responsibility for failure?
Are we scared to fail?
Do we hold ourselves accountable?
Are we confident in our abilities?
Do we love?
Are we a team?
Do we share praise?
Are we in?
Do we make smart decisions off the court?
Are we process oriented?
Do we have a next play mentality?
Are we in shape?
Do we roll our eyes?
Are we determined?
Do we sacrifice?
Are we committed?
Do we compete?
Are we going the extra mile?
Do we challenge each other?
Are we realistic with ourselves?
Do we manage our time?
Are we focused?

This list of questions is by no means comprehensive. Don’t we ask our players similar questions? We answer those questions every day in our words and actions.

Are our own answers what we would expect from our players?

Are we honest in our self-evaluations?

Yes or no isn’t enough.

Almost always?
Hardly Ever?

If we do, they do. If we are, they are.

You’re the President…Like It or Not

This entry is part 3 of 28 in the series Leadership

A certain coach for a certain team in a certain town in a certain state in the United States of America introduced me to The West Wing about a year ago. It was only on DVD. Now, it’s on Netflix.  It’s a fictional series about life in the White House. I have watched all 7 seasons and I’m going back through it again.  It’s that good.

I believe that any coach of any sport should be required to watch it. For that matter, anyone in any kind of leadership position should be required to watch it. I’ll even say that anyone who is on any team of any kind should watch it.

That’s not the point (even though it could be). The point is related to something that hit me when I was watching it. This is not political commentary. This is all about the theme of leadership that permeates that show and one aspect that made me think.

Do we make our team more important to us than we are important to them no matter what they do?

On The West Wing, the President makes America his top priority. From his staff to the citizens to his political enemies, the people who walk into the Oval Office and those affected by the decisions he makes are his number one concern. The President personally knows less than 1% of the people that he affects.  He knows that he can never make all of them happy, yet he puts the country first.

An everyman walks into the Oval Office; and he or she is welcomed just like the Vice President, a congressman, or anyone on the White House staff. The Oval Office can be empty. It still commands respect. Many are rendered speechless from the weight of the events that have occurred in this room over the country’s history.

Sometimes the President has to remind a high-ranking government official that he is the leader of the country. Sometimes their egos have outgrown their role. They must be reminded that their role is not nearly as important as they might seem to think at the time.

Granted it’s the President’s job to make the country important, but isn’t that our job for our team? If we don’t think that what we do is important, why should they? If we don’t spend extra time with them and for them, then why should they work hard for us? If they can’t walk in the office and be the most important thing to us, then why should we expect them to respect us? If we can’t make time for them, and put our other work to the side, then do we need to do a better job managing our time?

If we can’t put a player in their place, when they think they are more important than the team, then we’re not much of a president are we?

What is our Oval Office? Does our gym command respect when our players walk into it? Do our players understand the expectations when they step on the floor? Do they understand that just like the President, there will come an end to their term?

The President understands that every word he says is important. Every word he doesn’t say is important too. It’s heard by everyone, sometimes even through someone else. It’s interpreted in countless different ways. Every action he makes has an impact on millions everywhere, just like the actions he doesn’t take. He can’t be so paranoid that he never does anything, yet he can’t be careless either.

What a job! What a responsibility! I argue we have the same job and the same responsibility on a smaller scale. Smaller scale does not mean less important. The President impacts society; we impact individuals. We are just as important to our team as the President is to our country.

Do we accept that responsibility everyday? Or do we just show up and carelessly go through the motions?

Countless Stars, 5000 Visits, and 25 Things I Know

This entry is part 4 of 28 in the series Leadership

NC State University just posted a visualization of the 100,ooo stars “closest to us”.(Use Google Chrome) Our definition of close doesn’t work very well relative to the universe. Anyway, there are a few hundred billion stars in the Milky Way. Scientists estimate 500 billion galaxies in the universe. They don’t really even know if that’s accurate.

This blog has just reached the 5000th (actually 32,000 now) visitor. I know that may seem minimal in the scope of the universe. I’m sure Google gets 5000 visits every second. To me, 5000 visits is pretty freaking cool.

I don’t know who you all are. For all I know it may be the same 10 people coming back 500 times. It may be 500 people visiting 10 times. I don’t know how many galaxies are in our universe. I don’t know how much this blog is helping develop our game. However, here are 25 things I do know.

  1. I’m blessed beyond measure to be able to experience this humbling opportunity.
  2. You’re from all around the world.
  3. I appreciate your interest in my blog.
  4. I wish I knew who the 5000th visitor was.
  5. I’m amazed by the power of the internet.
  6. I love this game.
  7. It’s the greatest game on the planet.
  8. Players make this game great.
  9. Coaches are overrated for the wrong things.
  10. Coaches are under appreciated for the right things.
  11. This game can get better.
  12. This game needs everyone to make it better.
  13. Our players need to get better.
  14. Our players need us to get better.
  15. We need to share more with each other.
  16. We all have more to give.
  17. There are people who want to learn.
  18. What I’m writing is valuable.
  19. There’s a lot I don’t know.
  20. This experience has been enlightening for me.
  21. I’m going to learn more as I continue writing.
  22. We all have a responsibility to learn.
  23. No one has all the answers.
  24. The more we work together, the better we’ll be.
  25. I’m going to keep pushing forward with this blog.
If you ever think you know it all, ask yourself how many stars there are in the universe. Then when you realize just how insignificant you are, you realize that one of those trillions of stars is critical to our ability to sustain life. Without that single star that we call the sun, we wouldn’t have much of a planet. So while this blog is probably one of trillions, I hope my thoughts and experiences can shed light on some things that will help others be better at teaching and playing the greatest game on earth.
Or maybe just being better in general.

The Use of Fair as a Verb

This entry is part 5 of 28 in the series Leadership

The word fair came up today in a discussion that made me want to do a little more research. So I did. There are a number of definitions for the word “fair”.

Here’s one that is pretty interesting to me for a couple of reasons
To make the connection or junction of (surfaces) smooth and even. (Dictionary.com)

Here’s another one:
To bring into perfect alignment. (Dictionary.com)

The word is used in the context of shipbuilding. (Go Builders!)

We think of the word fair as an adjective. “That’s not fair.” Or maybe as a noun. “Let’s go to the fair.” Or may as an adverb. “I was treated fairly.”

I think as coaches it is our job to fair our teams.  Some players need more fairing than others. In other words, some players are more “out of alignment” than other players. Every player plays a different role.  These two variable require different “fairing” techniques and strategies.

Maybe one player who is usually a good kid makes a really bad mistake. It might not take as much to fair them back with the team. Or maybe that same player makes a very minor mistake. Yet, we might choose to make an example of them in order to “fair” someone else.

If we can get away from thinking of the word fair as an adjective or fairness as a noun, we might be able to have a bigger impact on our teams.  What if we tell them that we are “fairing” them? What if we tell them we are working to get them “perfectly aligned?” What if we tell them we are trying to make them “smooth and even?”

Isn’t this what we want in a team? Every part of a ship serves a different role. Some “bigger” than others, yet all necessary. Isn’t it our job to get our teams put together just the right way given the parts and pieces that we’re given?

Maybe if we change how we use the word, our teams will change how they think about the word.

I challenge you to turn the word “fair” into a verb. That is unless you’re going with your family to the fair for some funnel cakes and cotton candy.

Motivation vs. Inspiration

This entry is part 6 of 28 in the series Leadership

Lots of people talk about being motivated, or motivating others or getting motivated.  Some people use motivation and inspiration synonymously. I try to avoid using the word motivation unless I’m talking about myself. When talking about players, I want to inspire them.  Have you poured into anyone today?

Motivation comes from the Latin word ‘movere’ which means to move. Motivation is the reason or reasons for acting or behaving in a certain way. There are internal and external motivating factors. We are best when we are motivated by internal factors. If I think of someone “moving,” it works so much better when someone moves themselves as opposed to me moving them.  If I “move” someone, I might end up moving more than just them.  I might be trying to move all the baggage that they bring along with them.  In addition, they might think that I will always be there to move them. Other people may expect me to move them as well.  I think everyone has things that motivate them. Although these motivators may be different for everyone, everyone has a motor that can be started. Some people may not realize what motivates them, but I think that’s where the inspiration comes in.

Inspiration comes from the Latin word ‘inspirare’ which means to blow into.  Inspiration is the process of being mentally stimulated to act.  I believe when we inspire someone, it’s like giving them CPR. We aren’t God.  We can’t give them life, but we can help bring them back to life.  We can help others see what motivates them and help them along.  We can inspire them to act. We can put some gas in their tanks. We can give them hope. We can show them a path to success. We can blow the dust off of their motivations so that they can see them.

Maybe the two things are the same.  I just don’t want to be the reason someone is motivated.  I might not always be around. However, if I can inspire them, then their success isn’t always dependent on my presence or my actions. What if I mess up? I’m human.  If their motivation is dependent on me, I’m bound to let them down.  If I can breathe life into them and inspire them, then maybe they can discover motivations that are more significant and meaningful to them. Maybe they can share their inspiration with others.

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?


What Did You Get Better At Today?

This entry is part 8 of 28 in the series Leadership

It’s always time to get better.  Lots of teams are starting pre-season workouts this time of year.  Many high schools and colleges are allowed to work with their teams in some fashion up until official practice actually begins.  There are all sorts of different philosophies regarding how these workouts should function.

Should players workout individually so that players can get 1 on 1 attention?

Should they workout in small groups to allow competition but at the same time maximize repetition?

Should they workout as a team?

Should they be focused on shooting, ball handling, defense, screening, team concepts, or maybe other intangible qualities like competitiveness?

Of course there is no right answer all the time. Each coach has to answer that question for themselves and their team. However, there is one question that every team and each player on that team should be able answer each day.

What did you get better at today?

Being able to say that “I” or “WE” got better at something is a big deal.  It builds confidence.  It builds the feeling of “I CAN” or “WE CAN” be successful. Was the player or team successful in completing the workout?  Or did they actually get better at something?  Does the coach know that they got better at something?  Do the players know they got better at something?

I’m not sure how many things you can get better at in one day. I don’t think you can get better at everything in one day.  So then how many things can you get better at in one day?  Are you willing to commit to getting better at something with the understanding you might not work at all on something else?

If your players know for sure that they improved at something today, tomorrow’s workout could be more fun.  If that feeling becomes habitual, you could end up having a pretty exciting experience.