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.



This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Workouts

SMACKS is an acronym that I like to use for teaching players how to play when they have the ball. Every time a player attempts to score, it can be broken down into each of these 6 stages. When players learn to master each stage individually, they can start putting them together and become better players. SMACKS gives me a way to help teach offensive players in a progression that is easy for them to remember.

S = Setup

M = Move

A = Attack Dribble

C = Crossover Step

K = Kill Dribble

S = Score

The setup is what the player do before they make a move. The setup is probably the most overlooked part of SMACKS. When a player is making a move off the dribble, this is learning to change speeds and levels to freeze the defender. If the player is making the move off the catch, it is learning how to prepare their feet and bodies to make their move without being off-balance or traveling. Players who forget this step often make moves that are ineffective. Players must always learn to set up the move before they make it. In many cases, this setup is not complicated or difficult. The setup can be as simple as playing just a bit slower to make a good read so that they can make the proper move.

The move is probably the most popular part of SMACKS that coaches teach and that players work on. Players always want to work on or learn a new move. The move can include a change of speed, change of level, and/or a change of direction. While the move might be the “flashiest” part of SMACKS, the other parts are just as important to a successful scoring opportunity against the highest levels of competition.

Once the offensive player makes the move, the player must attack the advantage that they gained. This piece of SMACKS is critical to maximizing the advantage that the player gained. The attack dribble must create as much space as possible away from the defender. As a result, a poor attack dribble ruins even the best “move” because it allows defenders to recover and make any scoring opportunity more challenging.

The attack dribble’s partner is a crossover step. The crossover step increases explosiveness and protects the ball from the defender. Many times, this footwork is often overlooked, but mastery of the crossover step can help lesser athletes gain an advantage. Poor footwork by even good athletes can make them less efficient, effective, and easier to defend.

The kill dribble follows the attack dribble in situations where the player needs more than one dribble to score. In some situations, the attack dribble can lead to a scoring opportunity. Although at higher levels of basketball, players must have a variety of finishes in their arsenal. The kill dribble helps players get their feet set for whatever attempted finish they need to use.

The score refers to the different finishes that a player can learn to use. This could be a jump shot, floater, Euro step, pro hop or any number of other finishes that exist in the game of basketball.

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.


Player Movement in the R&R

There are 27 questions listed at this link that coaches could ask to determine optimal player movement for their team. That, of course, is not an exhaustive list. There are plenty of others. These questions are just windows into how different coaches view the game and how to coach it.

For me, the R&R answers a lot of these questions in way that is good for players and the game as a whole. Here are my short answers to those questions. If you want to expound on any of them, let me know.

  1. You can put in as much structure as you want. It’s completely customizable to your philosophies and personnel. You might even coach it well enough that players learn to do this on their own.
  2. It’s easy to teach, and in fact, it’s fun to teach. Teaching players how to play basketball and seeing them succeed is a lot of fun.
  3. Anyone can play in it.  It’s not skill specific as long as you have some sort of skill set. If you don’t have any set of offensive skills, it doesn’t really matter what offense you run.
  4. You can model your team after other teams. This gives you a framework to do so.
  5. It doesn’t matter who your best players are. They can all be successful in their way.
  6. Getting players shots won’t be a problem. Your best players will get plenty of opportunities. The question is can they take advantage of it.
  7. The hardest thing to guard is the ball combined with constant player movement. This is in the R&R’s DNA.
  8. Players are always in a position to use their strengths.
  9. You’ll have constant movement, along with random combinations of actions. Most teams aren’t used to defending that.
  10. If the player is as good as the players that you’re playing against, then it doesn’t matter. The skills of your players will determine how you play.
  11. The skills of your players will determine the most successful actions.
  12. This offense will work against any defense, man, zone, or anything else.
  13. This offense is never the same. It’s always evolving.
  14. Everyone better be moving or they are probably doing it wrong. The movements are scripted so players can be held accountable.
  15. They are giving up something else, but the offense won’t stop and you’ll find scoring opportunities.
  16. Someone should be open or have a mismatch. Can you make the play?
  17. Once they have the habits, there’s very little thinking involved.
  18. Players can hide their weaknesses in this offense.
  19. Players can use their strengths in this offense.
  20. Players aren’t worried about what defense they are facing. They just execute their trained habits.
  21. Even I never know what’s going to happen. There’s no way the opponent knows.
  22. Drivers can drive. Shooters can shoot. If you can’t do either, I hope you’re big enough to play in the post.
  23. For every action there is one reaction and we drill it every day, even in defensive breakdowns.
  24. Just make sure you teach players to put themselves in positions where they can be successful.
  25. This offense provides this opportunity to get the ball into the lane on every single touch.
  26. If you make it important that your players attack the glass, you’ll get rebounds.
  27. The defense is hardly ever standing still. If they are, they won’t be standing still for long.

Fast Break Drill #1

Here’s a Fast Break Drill. It emphasizes passing, catching, sprinting the floor, The framework is pretty basic. How can you tweak it to make it different?

Change where the lines start. Dictate the type of passes players make. Put time on the clock. Make a number of layups in a row or in that time, or even both. Dictate that the layups have to be perfect (bank swish). All passes must be perfect. Run the drill to the other side. Add another ball. Make them finish every layup off of two feet.

There are probably lots of other ways to tweak this drill to make it different. You can run the same drill every day, but you don’t have to run it the same way every day in order to help your team improve. Be creative. What different ways can you think of to run this drill so that helps make your team better?

fast break drill 1 Fast Break Drill 2Fast Break Drill 3 Fast Break Drill 4Fast Break Drill 5