Saturday, June 27, 2015

Can Your Product Stand Alone?

I have had some good conversations with some high school coaches over the last week or so at our league.  One of the general themes discussed was “trusting” a player.  

 A good high school coach (notice I said “good”) has a strong summer program.  That program in many respects is the beginning of when a coach looks to get an idea of who he or she can trust.  That trust is developed partly by the skill the player has,  the mental  toughness the player shows, the level of commitment to the program that the player shows , the work ethic displayed, and the quality of parents.  (I have had several college coaches in our gym looking at some of our local athletes.  One of the first questions they ask is concerning the quality of parents). 

 Starting in 9th grade kids that don’t show up to open gyms, lifting, scheduled team events,  regularly  tend to fall behind in the trust factor.  Parents that try to stand between the coach and the kid in the communication flow  can harm the trust.  Parents that email, call, oversell their kid to the coach or AD can do some major damage in the trust factor.  If you place yourself between the coach and your child the coach may not be able to see what you think you see.  Everytime they look at your child they may only be able to see you. 

 By 9th grade at a minimum a kid needs to be a stand-alone product so to speak.  One without baggage or strings attached.  Kids starting as freshman need to learn that they stand between the coach and their parents.  Anything the parents need to know should come from the player.  Anything the coach needs to know should come from the player.   No more team moms or personal handlers allowed.   The biggest frustrations coming from high school coaches that I hear is the dealings with overbearing parents.  A good coach wants to work with the kids.  Not a group of parents.   

 I am hearing about three Stunners in particular that are impressing their high school coach because they are at everything offered in their summer programs.  In addition, the three sets of parents of those kids are giving the process of trust building between the player and coach some space to grow. 

    It is not surprising that after a long summer  and by the start of the high school season that the high school coaches play the kids they trust.  .  Usually the top 8 kids.  So out of 4 grades in high school (approx. 40 kids),  a high school coach in many respects looks for just 8 .   That is possibly 2 kids per grade level. 

Obviously the conclusions that can be concluded upon is to use your time and energy wisely.  The most important product in high school athletics is the players strengths and abilities.  Not the words, experiences, strengths, abilities,  or attempted manipulations of parents.  To help your product (your child) build trust in the market place of high school athletics develop your child as a stand-alone product that the coach can easily see without looking around you. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Utopian moment in youth sports ....... may only last for a moment

Little Ray is so excited.  His first basketball game in his life with all his 3rd grade buddies is today. 
He cannot wait to get to the gym.  He has waited so long for this day.  His basketball career is about to begin.

Little Ray could hardly sleep all night knowing the big game was today.  Although he usually likes to sleep in on Saturday mornings today was too special.  He jumped out of bed 30 minutes earlier than normal quickly putting on his new jersey. He took another quick look at his new basketball and basketball shoes already packed in a special gear bag.  Little Ray raced out to the kitchen and packed his water all by himself without anyone even asking.  It almost seemed a nuisance that he had to take the time to eat breakfast.  He never ate so fast. 

And now the drive to the gym.  Little Ray thinks about other things in his life that have been so great.  Maybe this moment rivals Disneyland, or the pizza party on his birthday.  Thoughts of Christmas at Grandmas house peer into his mind.  What is taking so long?

Finally Little Ray has arrived at the gym.  It is so huge.  How cool.  He races inside to find his friends. He sees his best friend,  then another, and one more until finally all his buddies are there, all wearing the same brand new jersey.  Little Ray scrambles to be the first one to get on his shoes.  Then he and his teammates all run over to the hoop to take some warmup shots.  He is on the tip of his toes the whole time.  He doesnt even care if he makes a shot. The team then gets in a huddle and says a loud and enthusiastic cheer.  "One, two, three, Team!!!"  Little Ray decked out in his brand new jersey breaks out of the huddle and heads out with 4 of his best buddies ready for the first jump ball of his life.   The excitement, the enthusiasm, the raw emotion, the moment he has been waiting so long for and .......then ....the jump 

Hey! Who are all these people and why are they yelling?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The redistribution of youth sports. Repairing decades of injustice for the betterment of the game.

  I propose a new way to make youth basketball better.  For all.  Because after years and years of doing it the same way, we are getting the same results.  Lets look at the facts:

Players that are taller have an  advantage over shorter players.  Players that are faster and can jump higher have an advantage over those that are slower and weaker. Practicing is bad and uses up resources that cannot be replaced.  Injuries tear at the fabric of our sport and must be dealt with.  The basketball itself is dangerous and must be improved. 

These facts have been known for gererations yet noone has had the courage to stand up and fight for the short and the slow, the tired, the endangered, and the victimized.  The time is now to take some bold steps toward making our great game better  so everyone can enjoy a piece of success for generations to come. 

Height. What did a person do to earn their height? Nothing. They didnt earn it. They just got it. I propose to score the game differently. A fresher look. Prior to each game each players height will be measured and compared. When the taller team scores they will get 2 points and the shorter team 1. For every basket the shorter team scores they will get 4 points. In addition, the rim on the taller teams half of the court shall be 5 feet higher than the shorter teams rim.

Phyical ability.  Most of those that are enjoying success at the highest levels were born with a golden shoe on their foot.  They could jump higher and run faster.  It is unfair to the rest of those in the game.  To correct this injustice, I propose we measure the vertical leap and speed of every player each year.  For every inch of vertical leap over 12" and for every tenth of a second under a 5 second 40 I propose we add 4 pounds of weight to the better players  shoes thus levelling the playing field.  So we do not lose the integrity of the game we will cap it at 50 lbs of added weight per shoe. 

I propose we form a committee to watch over the God given height, speed, and jumping ability of each player to study and monitor progress and give future recommendations.  I mean, have a heart. 

Practicing.  Practice is bad.  It systematically uses up today's energy for some mythical utopian experience in the future.  These are false hopes and expectations.  Scientists agree that for every minute of energy conserved today by reducing practice time,  2 minutes will be added to the players life span.  So there will be a limit to how much each player can practice.  For every hour of practice time desired only 45 minutes will be given.  During the remaining 15 minutes of practice the players gym shoes will be taken.  In addition, only 6 hours of practice time will be allowed each week.  Conserving each persons energy now will not only help everyone have equal opportunity to be good, but insure that everyone leads a healthier and longer life.  Conserve today for a better tomorrow.  We need a committee. 

Half court shots are few and far between.  Some would say they are endangered.  Taking a half court shot is thus disallowed so as for them not to become extinct.  In my view if you don't take a half court shot the limited supply will not be used up.  We must take steps to repopulate our supply of half court shots. 

We will use a running clock that does not end.  If the game keeps going there cannot be a winner and loser. 

Injuries.  Injuries are hereby forbidden. 

The basketball.  The basketball is dangerous.  The harder it is bounced on the floor the faster it ricochets back towards not only the dribbler but potentially any other innocent victim within passing distance.    As a result we must design a safer basketball.  One that does not bounce.  One that the player can carry and carefully drop in the basket without incidence.  Once passed, anyone in possession of an illegally air filled basketball may return it for a flat one. 

So in the end  we have a committee formed,  regulations designed to even the playing field, safety nets for those things on the endangered list, no false timetable for completion, rules outlawing injuries, and the protection of all participants from cowhide violence.  There is no doubt that these proposed  improvements will not only help everyone enjoy the great game of basketball evenly and fairly but motivate those that for years have been discriminated against.  Now everyone has an equal chance.     

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The road less travelled is sometimes the road to take.

The youth sports road is rugged and long requiring many turns, stops, hesitations, accelerations.  You innocently enter the first chosen path quickly turned high speed freeway somewhere at mile marker 1, 2, 3, or 4th grade.  Once you are on and up to speed, exiting, or even slowing down, becomes near impossible.  The chaotic traffic around you pushes you to maintain momentum.  You could go in the left lane and brush bumpers with the ultra aggressive high impact foot to the floor 5 sport 3 practice pavement scorchers. Or you could hang in the right lane and chill with the softer, gentler, participation ribbon battery scooters seemingly taking a safer and less complicated path.  Both bring great risk.  In the Daytona 5 hundert go go go go lane you experience the fear of the big one; a major wreck causing bodily damage or internal engine issues dropping you completely out of the race.  In the to grandmothers house we go don't touch my piece of rare china lane you can experience many loving and touchy feely moments but you quickly grow anxious that you may never reach your full potential.  

Then all the obstacles in your path.  Do you trust the directions you have been given? Youth sports has no gps.   One finger pointer opines you are on the right path as long as you follow them.  Another is quick to say you need to make a serious change of direction and follow them.   Sometimes multiple direction givers are talking at the same time without any concern with what each other is saying. As long as you follow them. 

So many questions.  What about your bags?  Are you adequately prepared for any tornado like conditions that you could face? Heck, you may even create tornado like conditions based on your approach or actions.  Are you going to be happy with your destination once you arrive, if you ever do?  Are you doing too much?  Too little?  Just right?  Just wrong?  Goodness, it is only sports.  I mean sports car (gotta keep the theme).

Then the conspiracies.  Imagine going to visit Mickey Moose and being told by others that if you do not follow a specific path you will not have any chance of getting there.  Or getting in.  Did you know Mickey will ask you what highways you took to get there and if you took a wrong turn or unacceptable road he will not allow you in the park?  Never mind you showed up with a full stack of Mickey bills.  If you don't follow everyone else you have no chance. 

The sad thing is with all the unknowns, obastacles, inconsistancies, and misinformations that are out there you can have the answer right in front of you and not even realize it.  Or you may realize it but not trust it. 

So what is the answer?  I am not telling.  Okay I will tell you part of it because it is lonely up here.  First of all  when your young precious baby begins to participate in thier first sport remember you are on a long long journey.  A 15 year plus journey.  Not an afternoon park ride.  Not a weekend getaway, Not a spring break fantasy trip.  Not even a summer home retreat.  A long long journey.  So don't set yourself up expecting Kwik Shop results.  Set your youth sports super self up for expecting consistent enjoyment with consistent improvement heading towards a... okay ... being the best damn player on the floor or else.  

Secondly,  if your little field tripper is not being challenged every moment.  And I mean challenged.  Then they will never reach their potential.  I don't care if they are the fastest slot car on the track right now somebody will make a faster one while you are relaxing and enjoying the scenery. 

Thirdly.  Oh I guess you better check if they enjoy it.  But wait.  Give me a young mind and I bet a strong parent could convince them that even though the cliff drop seems like 100 feet down once they jump it will shorten quickly.  In other words.  Don't give me that crap that they don't enjoy it.  Show me a child that doesnt enjoy something and I will bet close behind is a parent that is a bad salesman.   Hey kid if you don't like the view in the back seat learn how to drive. 

Fourfly.  If your little cruiser expects to stay on cruise control the entire trip your trip is in trouble.  Your cruiser better like to step on the gas.  Cause if they don't, they will be rund over.  Nothing, and I mean nothing replaces hard work.  If you have one that is allergic to it or fights it regardless of how far you would like to drive your trip will soon find a major pot hole and somebody is falling out the floor board. 

Is there a fifthly?  Oh yes.   If you are going to board a plane you better leave the pilot alone.  Do you really want the head honcho looking in the rear view window going 350?  Not me.  And remember,  don't teach your flight crew to jump off the plane half way there.  At least wait until the landing gear are down and the wheels touch land.   Trust your instincts.  If you think you are about to board a plane with an incompetent crew,  turn around.  You may save alot of people some grief.

Sixthly.  If you don't know.  Find out. 

Like any trip pick a destination, invistigate the numerous paths, take directions from competetent direction givers, prepare your youngster for the lengthy trip,  make sure you are properly packed,  expect that not everything will be perfect while expecting perfection,  enjoy the journey and sell it to everyone else cause they will believe.  Then once in awhile, get out of the way and let the doctor get it done.   Finally, when it is good, go all in but don't turn blind cause things can change.  

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Debate Season - Youth Sports Style

During September and October each year we always have a couple high school basketball events at the gym.    As a result I have had and have the chance to talk with several high school coaches and college coaches watching the high school players.  In the spirit of the political season here are some discussions and observations we had that may be worth debating:

Issue #1.  God and/or the environment

--When discussing a couple local talented high school players with a division I coach the questions the coach had involved: 1. what kind of family the player was from and 2. what type of coaching the player was getting.  Hm.  So besides the need to have God given talent the environment the player is surrounded by is important huh?

--Two local phenominal athletes that should be enjoying their junior or senior season at the division 1 level are in fact playing pickup games at local gyms.  Why?  I wonder if it has to do with the enviroment they were surrounded by?  Maybe character, attitude, discipline, and work ethic matter. 

Issue #2  Do we have a skill deficit? 

--Watching several games with various high school coaches many of the comments were:  1. boy if we could make our layups 2. boy if we could make our freethrows.  3.  I have noone that can dribble.    But wait, these kids have been playing games since they were in 3rd grade.  What is going on?

--What is a better plan?  Trying to be well rounded playing several sports but potentially being mediocre at all of them or focusing on playing a couple of sports with the potential of being really good?

Issue #3 The welfare of our children.  Should we feed a fish or teach how to fish?

--I asked one college coach about a particular player and how he was doing.  The coach responded;  "If the kid only wanted it as bad as his dad wanted it he could be phenominal"  "Right now I don't think he wants to be in college let alone play basketball".    Hm, so as a parent we could pretty much give our kid a college education but if he/she really doesn't want it it could result in waisted time money and energy?  But why the heck wouldnt this kid want to go to college and play basketball?  For goodness sakes he is 6'8'' !!  He has been handed everything he could want. Okay, maybe we should just give him something else?  Or should we encourage him to decide what he wants for himself and then facilitate the hard work and effort it takes to be good at it?

Issue #4 - What lies ahead for the future?  What will be our legacy?

--When our kids have kids (God forbid with mine)  will our kids be willing to go at the same pace with thier kids that we are going with them?  Say that 5 times really fast then discuss. 

Issue #5 - Foreign Affairs

--When discussing the development process with one coach we pointed out how with most kids even at the high school level it is all or nothing on the offensive end.  Kids either shoot the outside shot or drive all the way to the rim.  Why don't they stop and pop from 8-10'?  Could be they don't have the footwork or leg strength to make sudden stops under pressure and then get the shot off.  Could be they are not quite ready mentally to make quick decisions like that under pressure.  Bottom line, what seems obvious to us is still foreign to them.  Development takes time.

These are some of the important topics of today.  With your vote, I hope to change the world one dribbler at a time. 


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Things you see and feel from the bench

This last weekend was another successful step forward for the Stunners teams and families as we competed in Monmouth.  There were several teams competing at different levels.  Sometimes it is fun just to sit, watch, listen and observe at events like this.  It can be very instructive.  Some observations.

Watching the refs attempt to officiate 10 games a day two days in a row.  Impossible to do a decent job.  In my experience after your fourth game you start to lose control of your ability to focus on what just happened and make consistent and accurate calls.  What a disservice to the sport they make by accepting so many games.  This "event" is suppose to be a learning experience for the kids.  A good referee calling a good game is as important as a good coach.  Tough to help teach when the game is being played at the other end of the court.  Then the untucked shirts.  Goodness. Calm down G.   Happens too often in these summer tournaments.  Believe me it will get worse.

Losing stinks.  Winning heals. 

There is no better feeling as a coach than when you share a smile with a tentative youngster that just hit a shot after you have been encouraging them to be confident in their shooting for several practices.... Priceless.  

A coach that acts like a thug is as powerful a teacher as one that teaches respect.  Add a set of parents that endorse the thug coach with a set of refs that call a bad game and whalla  the perfect storm.  Put two sets of the above together and you have the perfect riot.    

 A "looker" is a term used to describe a young player that consistently looks at a parent during a game.  A "sitter"  is what a good coach makes a "looker" do soon after each occurance.  It is very difficult to help a "looker" get better.  Most "lookers" become a burner outer over time. 

Young players will usually do what you ask of them if they fully understand what you are asking of them and they believe they are good enough to succeed at it. 

Sometimes when a player is ultra physically fatiqued they are in a good spot to start absorbing some of the mental sides of the game. Some of the best teaching occurs in the last two weeks of a long season. 

What does a young player do when 2 coaches and 2 parents stationed around the court are trying to get their attention constantly during a game?  Usually nothing.  What is this called?  Coaching in stereo. 

When a coach comes up to you before a game and mentions to you that they are missing their best player they are really saying we may lose and its not my fault. 

When someone from the losing team yells "you guys cheated" they are really saying my kid sucks and its not my fault.

What do you call a parent/coach that constantly yells at their player/child during a game?  A better 1v1 coach.

What is the proper protocol when a player gets hurt and is laying on the court?  A.  meet the parent at the scene and hold your hand out after the parent yells "get up!!"  or B.  Just sit there and marvel at how fast one mother can dive in, repair the broken arm, and have the child ready to return in less than 5 minutes.   Medical miracle. 

Most kids agree M&M's taste the same after two laffy taffy's and a Mt Dew. 

If you are going to play zone defense in 4th grade let me know.  I will stay home, stand 5 grappling dummies up and have them chuck baseball passes from 3 point land. 

If your child breaks a team rule and is reprimanded properly what should you do as a parent to help teach your child?  Change teams of course.

What do you get when you add up 160 minutes of play, 2 bad meals, 1 smelly jersey, a couple drama incedents, a missing head band, an overpriced tshirt, and a dead battery in a cell phone?  A quiet ride home. 



Thursday, June 14, 2012

Doing Things the Hard Way

The theme the last two weeks has been work ethic.  We have reinforced to the players how important hard work is and how there is nothing that replaces hard work.  We have asked the young people to use their strong minds in a positive way to push themselves physically to the next level of effort.  We have asked the kids to lay off any negative messages and focus on what can motivate themselves and their teammates.  During brief rests between drills we have asked them to give all of us a motivational speech of encouragement.  Boy have we heard some interesting things.  As you can imagine the young mind can only regurgitate small tidbits of messages that us adults are pounding in.  It is a reminder that development of anything takes time and repetition. 

On the court we have been working hard executing several elements of the game.  Transition offense and defense.  We continue to focus on the sideline break and the jump ball play.  We have started adding out of bounds plays and increased the intensity on our half court sets.  As usual a well oiled offense can take the longest time to develop. 

The kids are enthusiastic about learning and applying what they are being taught.  I like what I see.  We seem to have their attention.  Thank you for encouraging this.  As a coach it is easy to tell who we are reaching and who we are not. 

Skill wise as always we focus on ball handling, shooting, rebounding, defense, and passing fundamentals each week.  The kids continue to improve in these areas but we have a long way to go. 

Here are some additional messages that we continue to reinforce at practice:

Being very thankful for everything your parent(s) are doing to provide for you.  I hope you are getting this feedback from them like always. 

What you do at home outside of scheduled practices and games is as important as the scheduled practices and games.  Get the ball in your hands on a regular basis.  Work the game. 

Everyone wants to be the shooter.  Fewer want to be the passer that sets up the shooter.  Both are equally important.

We are always looking for a leader that leads by example by being the one that practices the hardest which ultimately lifts up the effort of the others. 

The way you warm up typically is the way you play.  If you give special attention to your warm up you are more likely to be the person that brings high energy from the start of competition.

Questions of the day.  There may not be a right or wrong answer.  If you are a great player and you are put on a team of poor players will that make you a lessor player?  If you are a poor player and you are put on a really good team will that make you a better player? 

Headed to Monmouth this weekend.  Cannot wait to get in the gym and help the kids get better.