A Few (More) Thoughts On Coaching

Posted: January 29, 2019 in Coaching, Relationships, Sports, Things I Love
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Over the years I’ve written a few articles about coaching and my opinions and outlook on various aspects of it. Among these were two called The Truth About Coaching and Some Thoughts On Coaching.

As many of you know I’m not coaching this year so I’ve had the opportunity to watch games and practices all over Southern Ohio, and as I watch thoughts inevitably come to mind. When that happens I jot down some notes with the idea that when I gathered enough I’d publish another article.

Keep in mind I’m not critiquing any coach in particular, and just because I believe what you’re about to read doesn’t mean it’s necessarily correct.

It’s just my personal opinion, kids. Chillax.

Bottom line, times have changed and kids have changed. Actually, parenting has changed and as a result kids have changed. It’s w-a-a-a-y different than it was when I began coaching all the way back in the Fall of 1983. If I tried to coach in 2015 the way I coached in 1991 I wouldn’t have lasted as long as I did, trust me.

As I’ve said many times before on this site and when I speak to teams, coaching is about relationships. That’s always been the case to some extent but it’s exponentially more important today. There has to be some sort of a relationship between player and coach. Your players have to believe in you. As Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr said, “Coaching is 90% creating an environment and 10% strategy.”

That is 100% true.

Some coaches believe that showing compassion for their players is a sign of weakness, as if they’re giving up some essential part of their power as leader of the team. The fact is that yelling and berating without compassion will get old really quickly with today’s athlete, and at some point the coach will lose the team.

The ironic part of all this, of course, is that if your players know you love them you can yell at them all you want because they know you’re coming from a good place.

So showing compassion is not a weakness, but a strength.

Another thing I’ve noticed while attending games is that coaches, especially at the smaller schools, are successful when they adjust to their talent. Some coaches have their “systems” or style they like and expect their players to fit into it regardless. Here’s the deal – you can’t recruit players at a small school.  So, you have to adjust and run an offense and defense that fits your team’s abilities and strengths.

Over my last 4-years of coaching I had a very talented 6′-11″, 305 center. It wouldn’t have been real bright of me to run a fast break and beat him down the floor just because I liked a running style, right? Therefore we mostly (but not always) walked it up and ran our offense through him. Defensively we mostly played a zone where we kept our big man guarding the rim while our guards got out and pressured the perimeter. Hey, you have the luxury of getting out and pressuring when you have a rim protector backing you up.

My point is that just because you, as a coach, like running and pressing doesn’t mean you can – set your ego aside and do what works best for your team.

And that whole “hey, we do what we do and don’t worry about our opponents” argument is about as dumb as it gets. Of course you have to adjust to your opponents. To not is a path to failure.

College, and some high schools, are different because you can recruit or have the numbers to pick and choose your team. At small schools that’s just not possible,

Collegiately it can go both ways. A coach like Bob Huggins at West Virginia or Jim Boeheim at Syracuse recruit their players to fit their system. Same for the majority of college coaches. On the other hand, guys at the really elite programs like Coach K at Duke, Coach Cal at Kentucky or Coach Self at Kansas grab the best players available and adjust their offense and defense accordingly.

But at small high schools? You have to set your ego and your favorite style aside and play the hand your dealt.

Finally, if there’s one thing I learned over the years it’s that the best coaches never, ever stop learning. The day you think you know everything is the day to quit. The game, and the players, are constantly changing and coaches have to change with it.

If you don’t, the game will soon pass you by.

PS- As I’ve mentioned before, many of the basic philosophies of coaching – developing relationships, being able to communicate, and more – apply to teaching as well as coaching. They’re closely related.

PPS- One more thing. Team success depends on many variables like team chemistry, injuries, players getting sick, interfering administrators, etc. Bottom line, they’re all a part of sports. Using them as an excuse will only give your team an excuse to fail. As the great Bill Parcells once said, “You are what your record says you are.” 

Gimme a holler.

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