Better Coaches Mindset: Feedback, Criticism and Trust

By | Basketball, Coaches Resources

December 5, 2017 - Piscataway, New Jersey, U.S. - Michigan State's head coach Tom Izzo talks with guard Cassius Winston (5) during NCAA basketball action between the Michigan State Spartans and the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Rutgers Athletic Center in Piscataway, New Jersey. Michigan State defeated Rutgers 62-52. Duncan Williams/CSM(Credit Image: © Duncan Williams/CSM via ZUMA Wire)

This article was written by Doug Brotherton, a writer for FastModel Sports. Doug is a seasoned coach, as well as an NBA scout. Through all of his experience, he has found the importance of trust and communication in basketball, which he discusses in this article.


Feedback, Criticism, and Trust

If you attend any basketball practice around the world, you are likely to hear the Coach stressing the importance of communication. It might be talking on defense, echoing a play call, or two players interacting. If you really want to learn about the communication of a basketball team, watch the players and coaches when there is a breakdown on the court. Do the players take the time to communicate through the challenges, or does one player bark instructions at the other? Do the players demonstrate respect for each other, or do they settle for negative body language? Does the coach worry about blame, or finding a solution? Does the player respond well to the coach’s feedback? In most cases, this depends on the culture, trust, and experience of the team involved. Great players and teams have a growth mindset. They are constantly seeking information, which can help them improve and get better.

So, what is the difference between criticism and feedback?

To make it easy for our basketball team to understand, we have used the following to demonstrate the difference between criticism and feedback.


Communicating a problem, which has already happened, and cannot be changed. Offering nothing to allow the person to improve or adjust their behavior/actions.

We want our team to avoid these messages.

EXAMPLE: “Becca, you have like eight turnovers. What are you doing!?!”



Communicating a problem in a way that allows someone to fix the problem moving forward.

This is required for Championship level communication.

EXAMPLE: “Becca, we can’t win the game if we keep turning it over. If you feel sped up, jump stop, and be strong with the ball.”


Another perspective, which comes from Tim Grover, who became famous as Michael Jordan’s personal trainer, “the only difference between feedback and criticism is how you hear it.”

As a coach, the most powerful way to control what your players hear, is to develop trust. Players will take every message as feedback, if they trust you, and believe that you have their best interest at heart. As the saying goes, “Players do not care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” As a coach, there are few things that are more important than establishing trust with your players.

Trusting people is easy. Whenever a person says, I have a tough time trusting people, they are wrong. We all trust people, every single day. Let me prove it. When you get behind the wheel and drive on a two-lane road, you are trusting a total stranger to control their vehicle and stay in their lane. In reality, you are trusting a random stranger with your life. When you get sick, you are trusting a doctor to prescribe you the correct medicine, to help you get healthy.

“As humans, we do not have a tough time with trust. We have a tough time trusting people, who have the ability to emotionally hurt us.”

This is where players, and parents, have a tough time trusting some coaches. They worry about being emotionally wounded, by the coach. They worry that the experience of playing basketball, which players love, might be damaged. This is the power that a coach must realize, and then use to their advantage. Going back to the earlier message, if a player knows that you care, they will not have a difficult time with trust. When a player trusts you, they will take any message, regardless of the delivery, as necessary feedback. Most importantly, if there is consistent trust throughout the program, then a setback can be viewed as an opportunity to learn and grow. This mindset will develop a team that is consistently improving and is bound to play their best basketball late in the season. Trust is a powerful tool. It helps players eliminate criticism, accept feedback, and is a necessary ingredient for a Championship team.

If you have questions, thoughts, or would like to further discuss this topic, you can reach Coach Doug Brotherton via email at: CoachBrotherton@gmail.com

He can also be reached on Twitter at: @CoachBrotherton

For more content from Doug Brotherton, follow him on social media @DynamicCoaches


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Jay Bilas Skills Camp: Top 5 Takeaways for Coaches

By | Basketball, Coaches Resources

This article was written by Doug Brotherton. Doug is now in his 14th year of coaching basketball. He is also a regional advanced scout with the Chicago Bulls. In this article, he talks about the Jay Bilas Skills Camp for basketball, and the takeaways for coaches he got from the camp.


5 Takeaways for Coaches

The 2018 edition of the Jay Bilas Skills Camp continued to provide both coaches and players exceptional opportunities to improve.

The Jay Bilas Skills Camp is quickly becoming one of the best basketball camps in the entire country. At the camp, players are split into teams, which are each led by a full coaching staff. The Head Coach of each camp team is a current college head coach. The three Assistant Coaches are a part of the camp’s Coaching Development Program.

Coaches in the Coaching Development Program range from College Head Coaches, to Graduate Assistants, Student Managers, and High School Coaches. The Coaching Development Program featured a tremendous lineup of speakers, including Don Showalter, Alan Stein, John Shulman, Jeff Lebo, Kevin Eastman, Mike Dunlap, Paul Biancardi, Bart Lundy, Grant Leonard, Bob Richey and, of course, Jay Bilas himself. I was also lucky enough and honored to give a short presentation to the coaches on how to maximize FastDraw to not only enhance your playbook, but your overall program as well (photo above).

By far the most impressive part of the Jay Bilas Skills Camp is the quality of on-court teaching that takes place. Players are treated to a crash course of “how to play basketball,” which featured skill development work, progressions, and special situations. The key however was that this section moved at a pace that resembles a college basketball practice. The progressions included different ball screen actions, off-ball screening actions, post splits, and more, and was all geared towards ensuring that the competitive games segment of camp featured high quality basketball.


1 – “If you think that a task is below you, then leadership will be beyond you.”

Jay Bilas Skills Camp staff featured former NBA coaches, College Head Coaches, and yet there were absolutely no egos. Everyone bought into the example that was set by Bilas, which was to serve others and pour everything into making the camp a tremendous experience for all involved. I felt like this phenomenal quote by Bilas had to be shared.

2 – “Relationships are the life blood.” 

This was a line that was shared by Alan Stein, but it was a theme that was echoed by all of the speakers in the Coaching Development Program. You you want to maximize your impact as a coach, then you had better learn to connect with your players.

3 – Two Types of People: ‘Know-it-alls or Learn-it-alls’

Kevin Eastman dropped this knowledge during his presentation, while Mike Dunlap was a living example of a “Learn-it-all.” Coach Dunlap is the Head Coach at Loyola Marymount, and has been an NBA Head Coach as well. He is widely regarded as one of the most intelligent basketball minds in the business, and he chose to be a part of the Coaching Development Program. This example, from an extremely successful coach, just hammered home Eastman’s point about being a “learn-it-all.”

4 – Communication Circle

Coach Showalter shared this pre-practice exercise, in which players must hold hands, look each other in the eye, address a teammate by name, and then share information. This focus on communication builds team chemistry, teaches communication, and has countless other positive impacts on a team. Check out this video that demonstrates how Coach Showalter uses the “Communication Circle” with his teams.

5 – Do NOT delay gratitude.” 

Bilas gets a second mention in this top five list, and not just because his name is on the camp. This was a line that he used multiple times, but it was also a theme for the staff. Everyone was excited and thankful for the opportunity to learn and grow. This “attitude of gratitude” fostered a fantastic environment and atmosphere, and we all got better in our time spent at the camp.

It was truly an honor to present to the Coaching Development Program at the Jay Bilas Skills Camp. On the last day, I wrote a hand written note to thank John Searby (Camp Director). That note was written on the cardboard backing to my note pad. In all of my years of attending practices, camps, and clinics, it was the first time that I went through an entire note pad at one event. The amount of quality information that was shared by the speakers was incredible, and I am already looking forward to being a part of next year’s camp!

If you want to get involved, you can find information about the Jay Bilas Skills Camp via its website, and follow on Twitter at @JayBilasCamp.

Follow @CoachBrotherton on Twitter and view all of his submitted sets on the FMS PlayBank here.

More posts by Coach Brotherton: 5 Scouting Tips for HS Coaches | Better Coaches Mindset


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Keeping Your Perspective as a Coach

By | Basketball, Coaches Resources, Uncategorized

This article was originally written by Scott Rosberg for FastModel Sports. Scott has been a teacher and coach for the past 30 years and is also the creator of Great Resources for Coaches. This article underlines the importance for coaches to keep things in perspective.


Keeping Perspective

As coaches we have a variety of responsibilities that we must be aware of, especially when it comes to the kids we coach. One element of our responsibilities is to keep things in perspective. This post discusses the idea of why it is important for coaches to keep our perspective.

A short time ago when I was working out at the fitness center in my town, an older gentleman (70’s?) said to me, “I wish I was as physically fit as you are.” Now understand, I am no specimen of physical fitness – far from it. I look in the mirror and see a somewhat overweight, out-of-shape, 55-year-old guy looking back at me wondering where his physical fitness went. I think of when I was 35 and wonder why I am not that guy still. However, this older gentleman sees me and sees someone who is physically fit. And it hit me right between the eyes (and unfortunately in my too large gut!) – it’s all about perspective.

This man does not know me. He knows his level of fitness. He knows what he is capable of and not capable of. He knows what hurts when he works out. He knows the pain he is in the next day.

Different Realities

But he does not know me. He does not know that every step I take has pain in it due to years of basketball, running, hiking, etc. that has led to three knee surgeries, two hip surgeries, multiple ankle sprains, plantar fasciitis, and a tendon that is coming loose from the bone on the bottom of my right foot. He does not know that I don’t have full extension or rotation in my shoulders due to three rotator cuff surgeries. He does not know that I can’t play basketball anymore (my favorite recreational sport to play) due to all of these ailments. All he knows is he is seeing a guy 15-20 years younger than him who looks like he is in reasonable shape, and he thinks, “I wish I was as physically fit as him.”

I look around the gym and elsewhere and see other people, and I do the same thing this older man did looking at me. We all do. Our perspective skews our reality, but more importantly it skews other people’s realities in our minds. I see the person driving the Mercedes and think, “Must be nice. If I only made the kind of money s/he makes.” Yet, I have no idea how much s/he makes (or even does for a living), and I have no idea how hard or easy of a life s/he has. I just have my perception of what I think his/her reality is, and I make all kinds of assumptions about it, just because of the car s/he drives.

This is how stereotypes of people affect our thinking. We put someone into a certain class of people based on a stereotype of our perspective of what we “think” their life is like. However, we ultimately have no idea what their life is like. We are not them. We can no more understand all that they are going through than they can understand all that we are going through.

Get to Know Your Athletes as More than Just Players

So what does this have to do with teachers, coaches, and athletics? It is critical that coaches understand this concept of perspective. We teach and coach young people. These young people come to us from all walks of life, all kinds of circumstances, with all kinds of positives and negatives happening to them. Some of them are carrying around a lot of heavy baggage, much of which they had no part in creating. They just happened to be born into some tough stuff. Others are carrying around very little baggage, and life has gone fairly smoothly for them. They are fairly happy with their circumstances and the elements surrounding their lives. Most people fall somewhere in between, with varying degrees of baggage.

However, no matter where they fall, we ultimately do not know their situation. For us to project our perspective onto their lives and assume things about them is not fair at all. We must be careful not to make judgments about our kids, their parents, fellow staff members, and anyone else we come in contact with without knowing as much as we can about them and their situation. This requires teachers and coaches to establish positive, open relationships with these people. We must get to know the people who we lead and who we work with.

I cannot just focus on my players as “players.” I must focus on them as people. The more I come to understand them, the better I can serve them. That must be a leader’s guiding force.

It’s About Our Kids, Not Us

Coaches must also understand perspective in another way. We must keep our job and our role in people’s lives in perspective. We cannot take ourselves too seriously. This is not about us; it is about the young people we lead. We must also understand that the vehicle by which we work with them is sport. It is young people playing games. When we take ourselves and our importance in the world too seriously, we lose perspective. This is one of the few times that I consider the phrase, “It’s only a game,” appropriate. The playing of games portion of our jobs is something we need to take less seriously. I am not saying the games, preparing for them, and competing in them are not important. However, I am saying those are not the most important facets of what we do.

However, at the same time I am saying that we must take our jobs and our roles as leaders of young people extremely seriously. We are trying to help young people learn all kinds of things about life while providing them the opportunity to have a positive experience through sport. The life lessons that kids learn from us will inform so much of who they become. That is an extremely important role in our world, and we must take it very seriously. This is where we cannot accept the idea that “It’s only a game.” What we are doing for kids is so much more than a game, and we must treat it with the importance that it deserves.

Be a role model. Be a teacher. Be someone who keeps his or her perspective on what it is that you are doing as a teacher and coach – instilling in children the life lessons necessary for them to go out into the world and live positive, productive lives. Oh yeah, and one more thing – stay in shape, so that when you are 55 and someone older than you thinks you are physically fit, their perspective is not warped. Believe me – your 55-year-old self will thank you!

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Coaching and Visualization (Imagery): See the Coach You Want to Be.

By | Basketball, Coaches Resources, Football


This article was originally written by Wayne Goldsmith with WG Coaching. Wayne has 25 years of experience with olympic and professional level teams. Visualization is used by many athletes to optimize their performance and coaches should be doing the same. 


Many athletes incorporate visualisation (imagery) into their training programs and their preparation for competition.

Usually visualisation involves athletes using their minds to “imagine” (visualise) situations and how they would or should manage those situations when faced with them in real life.

For example, an athlete training for the Olympic Games might visualise the sights and sounds of the Olympic final so that they become familiar with that performance setting.

Visualization can be a powerful tool in athlete preparation but what about using Visualization to improve your coaching?

Coaching and Visualization….See the Coach You Want to Be.


So what is Visualization (or Imagery)?


Every body dreams.

Everyone has an imagination.

Everyone has laid back in their bed and dreamed about becoming a “Jedi-Knight” or a Formula One racing driver or a world famous actor or of scoring the winning goal in the World Cup Final or winning the lottery. Dreaming and imagining what could be is something all us humans do.

Visualisation is using the power of your own imagination to see, feel and experience something in your mind without actually experiencing it.


So why is this important?


Success or failure in sport is often determined by experience.

Experience is prized above all other things by recruitment agencies, HR departments and other sporting leaders who hire and fire coaches.

Experience, i.e. having proven that you can do the job is what job interviews, job descriptions and sports recruitment is all about.

The problem is that often you don’t get the actual experience you need until after you need it!

How many times have you coached athletes who have failed at their first attempt to win an important race due to their lack of experience at that level of competition?

How many times have you seen teams fall at the final hurdle due to a lack of experience of performing at their best in important games.

Experience is a determining factor of success in every sport and every field of endeavor.

Yet, for many athletes, coaches and teams, you only get one chance: only one opportunity to realise your dreams.

What is needed is a way to live the experience, to feel the experience, to “see” the experience without actually doing it so that you are prepared to manage the emotion of moment when it comes for real.

And that’s where visualization comes in. You can see it before you have to be it.


Visualization – how to do it: Making it real.


First of all, learning to visualize is not a big deal. You don’t need to spend a lot of time and money learning how to do it: after all, it is just tapping into the power of imagination that we all have but have lost touch with.

But, the key to doing it effectively is making it real, i.e. making it seem and feel real.

Mastering visualization means arriving at the big game or the big race or the major event with the calm, composed, confidence that only experience can provide.

Before you commence your visualization session, do your homework. Talk to people who have experienced the event or game you are targeting and which will be the focus of your visualization practice.

If possible, get a video of other games, other races and other events held in the competition venue where you and your athletes will be performing. If you can, go to the competition venue, look around, sit in the change-rooms, walk around the warm-up area etc. Take some deep breaths and immerse yourself in the environment where you and your athletes will be facing the pressures of performance.

The more real, the more accurate, the more you can experiencevisualisation (i.e. as opposed to just seeing a vague image in your mind) the better.


Visualization: Relaxation and Breathing.


Visualization is a simple mental skill to learn and master.

Find a nice quiet place and relax. A simple way to relax is to concentrate on deep, slow breathing. A great guide for relaxing breathing is to aim for 5 breaths in one minute by breathing in for a four count, breathing out for a four count and just remaining still and relaxed for a four count before breathing in again (i.e. 12 seconds per breath cycle).

After one minute (i.e. 5 in and an out breaths), begin imagining the situation, the settings, the sights, the sounds and the smells of the target of your visualisation.

Imagine every aspect of the event. The noise. The competition arena. The crowd. Experience the entire experience in your mind.


Here are some practical Coaching Visualization Exercises for you to try:


  1. If you are in a competition with a “finals” series and your team is knocked out and doesn’t make the finals, use Coaching Visualization to imagine what you would do if your team had actually made the finals. How would you plan your week ? How would you select your players? How would prepare for each training session? How would you address the players before they run out for the big game? Spend time visualizing how you would coach at your best during the finals series and then next season, when you have to do it for real, you will have no surprises and perform magnificently;
  2. If you have a big event coming up and you need to be calm, composed, clear and confident for your athletes, try some visualization. Imagine yourself on the sideline or in the coaching box. See yourself as being calm and composed. Feel your body language as being positive and powerful. See your athletes performing and imagine how you will respond, i.e. with clarity and confidence.




  1. Experience is such a precious commodity in sport, that it make sense to try and find ways of fast tracking it and gaining the experience you need before you actually need it;
  2. Visualization (imagery) has long been a tool that athletes have used to help them see and feel the competition environment prior to the actual competition to help them deal with the stress and anxiety which often undermines successful performance;
  3. However, visualization (imagery) is just as effective with coaches who, with a little patience and a little practice can use visualization techniques and their imaginations to learn, grow and win when they need to win.


So give Coaching by Visualization a Try: See the Coach You Want to Be.


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15 Coaching Tips to Make Next Season More Successful

By | Basketball, Coaches Resources

This article was originally posted by Don Kelbick on Breakthrough Basketball. As basketball season wraps up and the offseason begins, it is important to start preparing early for next season. This article lists 15 surefire coaching tips to make next season more successful than ever. 



15 Coaching Tips

The season is winding down. Routines change, friendships have grown, priorities change. As a coach, what should you do now? When practice time comes and there is no practice, what do you do? When there are no games to prepare for, what do you do with your time?

Coaching is an all encompassing job. It takes time, devotion, and is very crisis oriented. To do it well, you have to plan your year, just as you have to plan your practices. Those outside the profession don’t understand it. Don’t try to explain it to them or expect them to understand. Coaches are a special breed.

Here are a just a few thoughts as to how to recover and prepare for the next season.

1 – 2 weeks post season

  1. Relax – After every season, there are decisions to be made. Whether they are career, personnel, or personal, immediately after the season is not the time to do it. Take some time for yourself, catch up with family and friends and try to settle back to a traditional lifestyle. Let your mind and body rest.
  2. Organize – collect all of your practice plans, put all your game films in order, and collate your statistics.
  3. Make the most of extraordinary clarity that you have after the season — If you’re like most coaches, you’ll have some amazing clarity a few days or weeks after the season is over. It’s very important to document what you’ve learned while it’s still fresh in your mind. You’ll find that this tip alone can have an enormous impact on your team’s improvements next year. You never think it will happen, but it’s amazing how much you forget during the off season. And you’ll be just as amazed how much documenting these thoughts will help you. Document what you’ve learned. Document what you should do different next year. Get those thoughts and ideas down so you can reference them next year.
  4. Be sure your players have their priorities straight. Players often let their schoolwork slip after the season. Be sure they are caught up and on time with their classes.


3 – 4 weeks post season

  1. Begin your evaluation process. Interpret your stats and decide what you feel is important and what you can affect by coaching. Start watching your game films and evaluate what you did well and what you did poorly. Evaluate your practice plans and determine what type of practice flow was most effective. Be sure to include your assistants in this process. Different points of view can be very helpful.
  2. Meet with your players. Discuss their thoughts of the season. What do they feel the team did well, what was done poorly? What do they feel they did well personally and what they need to work on? Discuss your feelings in regard to their performance. Talk about expectations for the next season.
  3. Develop an off-season development program. Rules differ from state to state in regard to what coaches can do in the off season. Many coaches also have other responsibilities (teaching, other sports, etc.) so the program should be simple and self moderating, the players should be able to get through it themselves. At least the first half of the off season should be spent on development as opposed to playing. In addition, if you wish to have your team strength train, maximum gains should be achieved during the first 75% of the off season.


A month after the season you are essentially in the off season. Use this period to recharge.

  1. If you can work with your players on skills, do so.
  2. Start to improve your team’s shooting percentage. In order for you to have a great team of shooters, you must get started right about now. The off season is the time to fix mechanics, start implementing player development programs, and give your players instructions on how to develop their shot. Great shooters become great in the off season.
  3. Sharpen the stone. In other words, continue to develop your knowledge and personal development. Never stop learning. Read books, attend clinics, talk to other coaches, and gather ideas for the next season.
  4. Shore up your coaching weaknesses by exploring other philosophies and teaching techniques. Expand your strengths by exploring additional areas that you can apply what you do well.


The summer months are a great time of the year for coaches. This is the time you begin thinking about next season.

  1. Experiment in summer league with new ideas. Decide what you can live with and what you can’t. Try new offenses and defenses.
  2. Evaluate how your team has improved and how the players have worked on their game. Let them play different positions, allow them to experiment and expand their game.
  3. The summer workout program should be about 50% skills – 50% play. Don’t overload your team with summer league games. Don’t worry, they will get enough play. On the whole, players don’t do enough skill work.


Once school starts again, you have entered the pre-season.

  1. Put together your playbook. Decide what offenses and defense you think you can succeed with.
  2. Build a master practice schedule when are you going to install each aspect of your program. Establish your teaching progressions.
  3. Start your preseason program. Work should be about 25% skills, 75% play. Change your strength training program to one of endurance and maintenance.
  4. Be sure that your players are doing their best in school. They should use this period to try to get ahead.


2 weeks before the season — Start to taper off of your workouts.

1 week before the season — Everybody takes off. Do some things with your family and friends. It might be months before you get to do it again.

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Coach, You Make the Difference: Coaching Yourself First

By | Baseball, Basketball, Coaches Resources, Football, Hockey, Lacrosse, Soccer, Track, Uncategorized, Volleyball, Wrestling

This article was written by Mark Maguire who is the President of Castle Hill Knights Baseball Club. The article was posted on CoachUp, a great resource for finding a coach for personalized training. This article gives insight on how coaches can improve their mentality to better themselves and their program.



Coaching Yourself First

Everyone loves to win. Though some can deal with losses better than others, I think it’s fair to say the obvious—nobody loves to lose. I have never seen a team of athletes, whether young or old (coaches and parents included), NOT jump for joy and celebrate with gusto from winning a game after a long stretch of losing. Winning tastes better after losing.

Coaches have a default system built nicely into their DNA—and that is to win.

No, coach, you’re not a bad person for wanting to win; you’re not a bad person for wanting all the right ingredients given to you to help you win; you’re not a bad person to even expect the support from your club so you can lead your team to win. And you know what would make winning even better—if all the players and parents who are involved in your team like you and said awesome things about you. Everyone would sleep well and there wouldn’t be any issues to deal with. Yes, winning… and when everyone’s a winner… that can’t help but taste good.

But let’s get back to the default system built into you that wants to win and to tackle a season that you already perceive will be full of downsides, frustration and losses. (If you’re an awesome coach with an awesome team with an awesome plan, you maybe wasting your time reading any further).

There is something you probably already know and probably don’t need reminding but I’m going to say it anyway: don’t focus on winning.

Winning is a result, an outcome. It’s similar to the fact that when you focus on wanting to be loved and you try everything in your power for others to love you, the outcome is the person or group you want to love you, is turned off by you.

In every aspect of life we all must let go of the outcomes; they are too far away and hinder us from working on the one thing we have control over—ourselves.

Coaching Yourself First

Whatever group of athletes you’re working with this season, you’re teaching individuals techniques and skills to add to their repertoire so they’ll not only be better players but they’ll also contribute to the team better.  You’re working on the here and now and what is in front of you. The outcome will take care of itself. And if the weekly outcome of the individual or the team is not what you hoped for, then you evaluate what has happened and keep working on the skills, techniques or even the respect for the game that you’re aiming for.

Coach, you make the difference.

But now, here is the big thing, and I hope you are sitting down and not going to skim through this paragraph.

The first and foremost person you’re coaching and are responsible for is YOU.

I see it all the time when coaches (also parents and players) are complaining about what’s wrong, blaming others for their frustrations, and making excuses for why their situation is dire.

Coach, if you want to have any chance, you must STOP all these negative behaviours. These only reveal your own insecurities and fears about the outcomes of your team and yourself. You have lost focus on your own personal growth and what you’re learning and correcting about yourself.

I’ll say it again, the one and only thing you can control is yourself: your reactions, your mindset, your attitude!

If you’re prone to complaining, excuse making or blaming others, it doesn’t create a good mix if you’re prone to wanting to win. Unfortunately, very few make the effort to show self-control to stop these traits.

There is no fancy formula here to speaking and acting differently. Self control is the key. Start with stopping  to think about what you’re about to say. If a complaint, excuse, or a finger-pointing blame is about to slip out of your mouth—STOP! Say nothing. Only say something if it is constructive, or encouraging, or helpful.

Breathe deeply and refocus on how you need to act or react to your current situation.

The default for any coach who is having a tough time (real or imaginary) is to try anything and possibly sacrifice anything to muster up a win.

Don’t, however, sacrifice the overall good you want to create by teaching higher values of the game and having higher expectations of your young athletes. Eventually, you will be known to have made a positive difference and that difference will last a lifetime for those fine human beings entrusted in your care.

Coach, you make the difference!


The Process of Leadership

By | Baseball, Basketball, Coaches Resources, Football, Hockey, Lacrosse, Soccer, Track, Volleyball, Wrestling



This article was originally posted  by Dr. Cory Dobbs, on Football Toolbox. Dobbs is a national expert on sport leadership and team building and is the founder of The Academy for Sport Leadership.  A teacher, speaker, consultant, and writer, Dr. Dobbs has worked with professional, collegiate, and high school athletes and coaches teaching leadership as a part of the sports experience. In this article he talks about the two distinct difference between two dominant leadership styles, drivers and builders. 


Drivers Vs. Builders

We often talk about a leader having a “style” of leadership, a distinctive way of thinking, feeling, and acting.  And it is true; coaches do have a style that shapes who they are and what they do.  The relationship between style and leadership is expressed as a systematic process in how a coach gets things done and inspires his or her players to be their very best.

Over the past decade I have watched many coaches in action and have detected a distinct difference between two dominant leadership styles.  There are many ways to describe the leadership habits of coaches, but it appears to me that as leaders most fall into one of two categories—drivers or builders.   Drivers tend to be what leadership experts refer to as transactional leaders while builders fall pretty naturally into the category of transformational leaders. Drivers and builders have two very different leadership mindsets and skill sets.

Drivers are generally after impressive achievements, especially the attainment of fame, status, popularity, or power.  Not that there is anything wrong with that, as Jerry Seinfeld would say.  Drivers view success to be mastery of the technical and tactical aspects of their sport. Builders commit to their calling and enjoy the human development side of coaching.  For them, significance is found in contributing to the lives of their players.  It’s not that they don’t want to win; it’s simply that winning includes building self-confident people who will succeed away from the playing field.

Coaching is a major factor in any team’s success.  Most players recognize this.  They’ve been coached since they were tots playing in youth leagues.  And for the most part they’ve believed in and trusted their coaches to teach them to play the game while instilling life skills and personal values.  However, many adults reveal years later that they learned little from coaches they encountered in their student-athletic experience.  Generally, the coaches that fail to have a long-term impact on student-athletes are transactional leaders.  Many former student-athletes view their experience as being a pawn in the game of student-athletics.

Transformational leaders (builders) do more with and for their student-athletes than transactional leaders (drivers).  These leaders tend to empower student-athletes with challenge and persuasion and actively engage in supporting and mentoring the holistic development of their players.  Transformational leaders seek to inspire their followers to commit to a shared vision of how student-athletics can enhance their lives.  For the transformational leader the sport situation offers an opportunity for the participant to learn such life skills as perseverance, character development, relationship building, and goal attainment.

Transactional leaders, on the other hand, are those that prefer to set up simple interactional exchanges or agreements with their followers, often investing little in building relationships.  They manage players through the use of carrots and sticks—offering a reward (usually playing time) for a desired behavior.  These leaders are those that often use the maxim “the bench is my best teacher.”

This is a prime example of contingent reinforcement—you do “X” and I’ll give you “Y.”  A transformational leader, while certainly not shy to use the bench as a learning tool, would not view the bench as a teacher—that’s a role they cherish.  The transactional coach keeps his or her distance from the athlete, preferring to have a “distant” relationship.  Some coaches will fake the relational process, but the lack of authenticity is quickly recognized by the student-athlete.  The transformational coach is more likely to spend time building relationships with players and showing them he or she cares.  Their mindset is that people aren’t going to care about you and your concerns unless they know you care about theirs.

Transformational leaders don’t do this just to be nice, they understand it to be an effective and appropriate way to deal with young and developing student-athletes.  Building relations is not a road block to success as many coaches find that because they show they care about the person, they can ask for and demand more performance.  Think about it.  Are you more likely to extend yourself for someone you care about or someone you don’t like and care for?

Coaches do many things.  They inspire and motivate, they teach and instruct, and they set an example.  More than anything else, however, coaches help the student-athletes make sense of some of life’s most important lessons.

Over time many coaches move from a driver dominated way of coaching to that of a builder.  Take for example Westmont College men’s basketball coach John Moore.  “Coaching and teaching is more meaningful for me today than it was eight to ten years ago,” said Moore.  “It is more significant because of the kinds of things that are important in coaching.  Someone once said to me, ‘You don’t have a philosophy of coaching until you get to 15 years as a head coach.’ I discounted that originally, but there was a point for me, and it was in that 15-year range, that I realized that I had a philosophy of coaching – that makes it more meaningful for me and more meaningful for my players.”

Being a driver, a transactional leader, can be very effective in producing immediate results.  However, the constant pounding and intimidating of your student-athletes will reduce the motivation of most student-athletes.  Student-athletes prefer to be guided and seek motivation from the collaborative process of coaching.  Even the most self-motivated player will lose their drive if you don’t provide them with positive reinforcement and a sense of worth.

Transformational coaches appeal to players by working with the athletes to create a compelling and collective purpose; a purpose beyond individual ambition that enriches the possibilities of each team member.  By valuing both relationships and results, a builder’s influence leads to higher levels of trust, empowerment, and community.

For builders, the real definition of success is a life and work that brings personal fulfillment, lasting relationships, and makes a difference in the world in which they live.

Are You a Driver or a Builder?

Drivers  / Dominant Leadership Style: TransactionalBuilders / Dominant Leadership Style: Transformative
  • Put results first. Relationships are subordinate to results, a means to an end.
  • Put people first.  Relationships are priorities to producing results.
  • Make the decisions. Drivers like being decisive and in control.  Drivers set the agenda.
  • Stress team capabilities.  Builders want to build systems and talent.
  • Possess a controlling spirit.  They feel if they can control people, they’ll maintain absolute authority.
  • Get others involved.  Builders seek input from other coaches and value input from players.
  • Resort to more regulations.  Drivers use rules and regulations to enforce compliance.  Drivers want things done their way.
  • Let solutions emerge.  Builders don’t try to tackle every problem knowing that some problems solve themselves.
  • Crack the whip.  Drivers keep pressure on for accountability.  Come down hard when goals aren’t attained.
  • Take a long-term focus.  Builders assemble players, programs, and processes.
  • Take a short-term focus.  Drivers tend to focus on the day’s or week’s results.
  • Are mission driven. It’s the mission that sets the priorities.
  • Focus on “what” have you done for me lately? Enough said.
  • Are servant leaders. What’s my contribution?  Builders possess a mental model stimulated by a “What can I contribute to the lives of my players” approach to leading.
  • Get “in your face.”  Drivers thrive on confrontation.  “My way or the highway”.
  • Embrace empowerment. Builders work to prepare others for leadership roles.
  • Are more critical than positive.  Drivers find it difficult to accentuate the positive.
  • Support identity of team. No two teams will ever be the same.  Builders see value in the diversity of personalities.
  • Power trip.  Fear giving away power.  Empowering student-athletes to become team leaders is not a priority.
  • Vision is the main course, not an appetizer.  Builders weigh the costs of today’s decisions on  tomorrow.
  • Span of vision.  Concern is for results today regardless of costs tomorrow.


About the Author

Dr. Cory Dobbs is a national expert on sport leadership and team building and is the founder of The Academy for Sport Leadership.  A teacher, speaker, consultant, and writer, Dr. Dobbs has worked with professional, collegiate, and high school athletes and coaches teaching leadership as a part of the sports experience.  He facilitates workshops, seminars, and consults with a wide-range of professional organizations and teams.  Dr. Dobbs previously taught in the graduate colleges of business and education at Northern Arizona University, Sport Management and Leadership at Ohio University, and the Jerry Colangelo College of Sports Business at Grand Canyon University.

Link to original article: The Process of Leadership

Suggested Agenda’s for Offseason and Monthly Basketball Meetings

By | Basketball, Coaches Resources, Uncategorized

Getting ready for off season basketball meeting’s and wondering what type of agenda you should put together? This Article, originally posted by Basketball Breakthrough, highlights the keys to getting the most out of your offseason schedule and meetings. 


Suggested Agenda’s for Offseason and Monthly Basketball Meetings

As a coach, you’ll find off season meetings to be extremely beneficial. It’s an opportunity to get problems out in the open and get all the coaches aligned. You’ll also find that regularly scheduled weekly and monthly meetings are invaluable. You’d be amazed by how much regular meetings will improve your program and communication. The meetings keep everyone on the same page, keep everyone accountable, solve problems, and help you run a better program.

The key is to have a good agenda, document “actions items” from the meetings, assign due dates, and hold everyone accountable.

You could even conduct daily coaching huddles (10 minutes max) to discuss priorities for the day, anything you’re stuck on, and relevant stats/metrics. This helps keep all coaches in sync and collectively working on the same goal.

In regards to an off season meeting agenda, here’s an agenda that works well for us:

  • Start with good news. Each coach shares some good news, both at coaching and personal level.
  • Review statistics and key metrics for the season and possibly past seasons.
  • Have each coach talk about… “What worked?” and “What didn’t work?”
  • Review goals for the program and core values. Each coach should provide stories of how the team accomplished goals and lived up to core values.
  • Discuss and set goals new goals for upcoming season.
  • Review and discuss a new master schedule.
  • Review the meeting schedule with your coaches. Did you have a meeting schedule? Can it be improved?
  • Brain storm top projects and problems that need solved. What or where are the recurring issues or concerns that the team is facing day in and day out? Use collective intelligence to solve ONE of the biggest issues. Get everyone’s input and drill into the issue.
  • Discuss what training tools and development would be beneficial for the coaches. What materials should coaches study and review during the off season?
  • Set priorities, tasks, and goals for each coach. Set deadlines and hold coaches accountable.
  • Review documentation. Do processes need documented?

This agenda is similar to what big businesses and corporations use in their meetings. It’s also similar to what’s taught in the Rockefeller Business Training program. These techniques work great for running a basketball program too!

During your meeting, be sure to document ALL the meeting notes, action items, and plans. Schedule the next meeting to review everyone’s progress and keep everyone moving in the same direction. You’ll find that these regular meetings make a tremendous impact on your program.

To your success!

What do You Tell Your Team the Night Before the Big Game?

By | Basketball, Coaches Resources

Hendrie Weisinger, author of NY Times Bestseller, “Performing Under Pressure: The Science of Doing Your Best When It Matters Most” was originally posted on Psychology Today. As coaches head into tournament season, it is important to know what to tell your team to motivate them before a big game. 




What do You Tell Your Team the Night Before the Big Game?

Right before last year’s March Madness, I sent copies of what was to become my second NY Times Bestseller, Performing Under Pressure: The Science of Doing Your Best When It Matters Most to all of the 64 tournament bound coaches.  After all, isn’t getting the team to execute the book’s title the goal of every coach?   It’s hard enough to advance through the tournament but a team that can play its best under pressure at least give themselves a chance to go to the Dance.

Many of the coaches acknowledged the valuable gift.  Coach K sent me a grateful email (My note to him acknowledged that he really didn’t need it but I wanted him to have a copy for being so gracious when I bumped into him at LaGuardia airport.).  Coach Turgeon wrote me a thoughtful note and so did Coach Brey and Coach Ryan.  Coach Crean wrote that the book looked good and that he was pleased my daughter enjoyed her tenure at IU.  Coach Wright showed his appreciation by sending me a Villanova T-shirt.  All of these Coaches have teams that performed well under pressure and all are going to the sweet 16. (Coach Izzo didn’t send me a thank you note and my guess is he didn’t read the book, so I am not surprised his team was upset under pressure.)

Being a lover of college basketball, I want to do what I can to ensure that the next half of March Madness will be filled with great play and great games.  For games to be exciting and be decided in the last second, every coach has to get their team to perform their best.  That’s what us fans deserve: No choking and let the best team win!

Thus, I implore every coach: Make sure you continually reiterate to your players the following (if you have no interest in March Madness, apply these points to those you manage and your kids):

Tell your team they do not have to “rise” to the occasion, they simply have to continue their excellent play.  Contrary to conventional sports wisdom, and what “Dickie V” and Jay Bilas might say, nobody does better under pressure: the edge is not rising to the occasion; the edge is not succumbing to the injurious effects of pressure.  Telling your team to rise to the occasion will actually increase feelings of pressure and is apt to make them “press”—the result is they play worse.

Tell your team to focus on playing your best, not winning.  Remind your players that the mission is to play their best.  Let the other teams focus on “winning”.  Players that focus on the outcome—winning or losing—are bound to experience anxiety that will manifest itself in turnovers, missed free throws, and poor shot selection.  Focusing on the outcome takes you “out of the moment” and you lose task focus. Telling your team that the mission to play their best will place their focus where it needs to be—doing their best in the moment. The caveat:  your team can play their best but still lose to an equally good or better team.  The Jayhawks can play best and still lose to another #1 seed, but that is a far cry from “choking” and losing in the second round.

Tell your players to clench their left fist before stepping to foul line.  You don’t want to lose a game because of poor foul shooting.  One reason players often miss a crucial free throw is that the pressure of the moment causes ruminating anxious thoughts that doubt their skill:  “What if I miss? My teammates are counting on me. If I miss I might not be drafted.”  These ruminating and anxiety-arousing thoughts disrupt the players’ flow, tense the body, and disrupt coordination—that’s why you often see foul shots way off their mark.  Studies (many using athletes) show clenching the left first seconds before you perform (or give a presentation or make a sales call) interrupts the ruminating thinking in the left hemisphere of the brain and primes the right side to perform well-rehearsed behaviors, like foul shooting.  As I pointed out in the book, this doesn’t hold true for lefties.

Walk like a champ.  It is well documented that body posture impacts how you feel.  Standing or sitting upright in a confident posture increases testosterone promotes feelings of confidence and lessens cortisol, the stress hormone. Tell your team to be aware, especially when trailing, how they run up and down the court, stand during a time-out, or sit on the beach.  Dickie V and Jay often make comments about a team’s body languagereflects how they are feeling, and they are right.

Write down anxieties night before.  To combat pregame jitters, have each player write down their anxieties the night before (tell them to do this the night before a test too). Doing so proves to be an effective way to empty the mind of counter productive thoughts and make them less likely to surface during the game.  Players might be reluctant to do this “silly exercise” so I recommend you tell them you will be collecting them right before curfew.  You might find reading them helps you get to know your players even better.

Just another game.  Be sure to tell them what Joe Flacco said before he won the Superbowl: “It’s just another game.”  Importance increases pressure.  Players who hold the thought, “This is the most important game I’ll ever play,” are increasing pressure upon themselves, which dooms them to playing below their capability.  Athletes who consistently perform to their capability reduce feelings of pressure by shrinking the importance of the event. This allows them to do what they usually do—play their best, and for the Jayhawks, that almost always wins.

Clap it up!  In the heat of the moment, its easy to feel more pressure than enthusiasm—even for you so make sure before you take the court to start, return from half-time, and each time-out huddle ends with 5 seconds of feverish clapping.  Vigorous clapping energizes the body and promotes positive feelings we call enthusiasm.  Enthusiasm fuels effort and confidence.  In a close game, the enthusiastic team often wins.  I credit Coach Norman Dale in Hoosiers for pointing this out.

Tune in to their senses.  A player who has a wandering mind is apt to make an errant pass or not “feel” which side his defender is guarding.  Help your players stay in the moment by instructing them to use their senses by seeing what is around them, hearing their teammates calls, and feeling the ball.  Using their senses will increase their focus to the moment, leading to smarter plays and less turnovers.

Flashback on Successes.  All of your players have been very successful, so make sure, especially when trailing, to remind them of their pass successes.

Tell them to have fun.  Remember that the biggest difference between those who perform well in a pressure moment and those who don’t is how they perceive the situation.  Those who perceive the tournament as a time to prove themselves and live up to the expectations of others are probably going to Choke City, because they are turning the event into a pressure-laden, threatening do-or-die event.   Get the team to think of the tournament as a time to have fun, something to enjoy, and remind them that it is the furthest thing from a true do-or-die situation.

Considering I received my Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Kansas, I was most pleased by the note I received last year from Coach Self:

Dear Dr. Weisinger

Thanks so much for sending your note and the copy of your book. I look forward to reading it over the summer

We had a great season but had a disappointing exit from the NCAA tournament, so its time to reflect and reload.

Thanks again for your support of and interest in the Jayhawks

Bill Self

Source: Crown Business

Based on how Coach Self has his team playing, I trust he read the book.

Additional Resources

To learn more about how to immunize you and your team to pressure’s negative effects, check this out. Visit me at //hankweisingerphd.com

Want to learn more about MaxOne? Schedule a free demo HERE! 

Interested in Writing for MaxOne? Email Luke@gomaxone.com to see how you can get started!

4 Keys to Developing Mental Toughness

By | Baseball, Basketball, Coaches Resources, Football, Hockey, Lacrosse, Soccer, Track, Volleyball, Wrestling


4 Keys to Developing Mental Toughness” by Tony Miller, was originally posted by our partners at FastModel Sports. This article highlights 4 simple yet effective tips that every coach can use to improve their athlete’s, and their own mental toughness.





4 Keys to Developing Mental Toughness


The late John Wooden once said, “You can’t have confidence unless you are prepared.” Much of players’ lack of mental toughness (i.e., lack of focus, confidence, control under pressure) is simply due to a lack of preparation.

As a coach, it’s now clear to me why Coach Wooden spent the first 10 minutes of the first practice teaching his players how to put on their socks. It was a lesson in the attention to details. Attention to details results in proper preparation. Preparation produces focus and confidence. Focus and confidence produce mental toughness. Mental toughness produces a winning mindset, and so on.

And now you’re probably wondering, “So how exactly do I develop mental toughness in my players?” Let me offer several suggestions:


  1. Teach, over and over and… Do your players understand what habits are essential for success? Have you communicated those habits to them? As a teacher, I’ve realized my students don’t get most of what I say in my first explanation. Why should I expect my players to be any different? Teach, then repeat, repeat, repeat.


  1. Help players focus on the process of improvement rather than on the outcome. Win or lose, players must 1) learn from both failures AND successes and 2) exhibit an unwavering level of effort and intensity. In order for this to occur, we as coaches must point out the positives and improvements seen in players’ performances. In addition, we must demand excellence and maintain high expectations for players. As for the effort and intensity…


  1. Constantly emphasize appropriate “attitude and effort.” We encourage our players to focus on what we can control. Opponents’ abilities, officials, and other outside forces – those things are out of our control. Focus on what we can control: our attitude and effort.


  1. Develop a motivational climate that fosters mental toughness. This is accomplished by creating an environment in which task mastery, self-improvement, effort, and dedication are encouraged and rewarded.