John Wooden once said, “It’s not what you teach, it’s what you emphasize.” Many times that relates to X’s and O’s, however all of us as coaches probably have a certain set of values and expectations of the members in our basketball program. We’ve always had a set of expectations and values in our program, but after attending a character conference this past summer, I asked myself the question, “Are we emphasizing those values in the things we do?”
That led me to revisit what our fundamental and foundational core values were for our program. Over the years there have been many buzz-words that have passed through what we do and what we expect, so this thought really helped me identify the core values that every decision on and off the court could always relate back to. As I started to identify these values, what was great is I realized that once they were finalized they truly had always been there. Whether verbalized exactly or under a different term, whether emphasized, used, or just written down, it was nice to be able to sort through 10+ years of a jumbled heap of values and narrow it down to five.
The 5 values identified were Team First, Hard Work, Resilience, Humility, and Pride. Each of them had a significant value in defining who we were and what we did, but together those five really had an impact on what everything we did stood upon. The next step after identifying them was to figure out how we could emphasize them in what we did so they became the true foundation of our culture in our basketball program.
What we decided to do as a staff is through the month of November we would introduce one value a week and build to the set of five by the time the first games started. When introducing each value, our coaching staff would show some type of video that related to the value, discuss the definition of the word, talk about what it looked like in action, and gave examples of what it would look like both on and off the court for our players. Then throughout that week, the coaches would watch at practice and in school to see who was working to live out that value. At the end of the week, we gave out a symbol to the player at each level that represented that core value to the best of their ability that week. The next week, when we repeated the process with the next value, the player that currently held the previous week’s award would pass that along to another teammate of his choice. By the end of the 4 weeks (we introduced 2 one week), we had some symbols that represented our core values that our players were starting to take ownership of and recognize each other, taking it out of the coaching staff’s hands and giving them the ownership and accountability of representing our 5 core values.
While the first season in doing this did yield some challenges for us, I look at it now and know that implementing this idea is going to pay off for the future of our program and what it means to be a player in our program. Perhaps the best thing we did with this, in my opinion, is at the end of the season we eliminated the classic MVP, Best Defensive Player, Most Improved Player, and Hardest Worker awards from our recognition banquet. Instead, we had the players and coaches vote on the player that represented each core value to the best of their ability all season long. Each value winner received a more sophisticated symbol that was passed around all season that they could keep. We recognized the winners at each level together for each value.
Again, while this isn’t an X’s and O’s thing it is something I wish I had done a long time ago in this organized fashion. I know it is going to take some time to break some old customary habits (who gets the MVP award, etc…), but I truly believe in reflecting upon it that any decision we make in the future for our program and our kids will always be rooted in our 5 core values. So I would challenge you as you head into this Spring thinking about how you are going to build your program starting this summer - what values does your program emphasize to reach the goals you want to achieve, and more importantly the quality of young man or young lady you influence to become a better version of themself. Have a restful spring and good luck heading into the off-season! November will come calling soon enough!
By: Jason Wolfard, Lindbergh High School - Editor and Darrin Scott, Jackson High School
By now, many coaches have heard the term “Focus on the Process”. Nick Saban has been highlighted as a top coach who excels in getting his team to embrace this concept. Many times, he says his goal is for his players to just focus on dominating their opponent on that current possession and then moving on to the next one. Many coaches will tell their players to just do their job when it comes to game play. But in a world where so much emphasis, especially on the outside, is about winning and what the scoreboard or your record is at the end, it is difficult to get a high school kid to understand focusing on the process instead of what the scoreboard says, what happened 3 plays ago, a call a ref made, or a big game coming up in a week.
I became aware of a book called “Chop Wood, Carry Water” through my side business as I was reading about leadership. The author, Joshua Medcalf, has been in our Q&A section in our newsletter in the past. This book highlights a man who wants to become a Samurai warrior but struggles with what we consider “instant gratification” - a problem that is very evident in today’s world. When you look at the title, it relates back to an ancient Chinese proverb. "Before enlightenment chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water." It is a terrific read, whether you want it for yourself or want to use it with your team. The chapters are quick and easy and have simple concepts that you can use with helping yourself or your team embrace the process.
This year, myself and Darrin Scott of Jackson High School implemented this book with our team. We wanted to share what we did and how it helped our team this season. We hope that it helps you and your team, even if it isn’t this book, work on this powerful concept.
Lindbergh Basketball 2017 - “Play In The Moment” (Jason Wolfard)
This year, our team had a pretty good collection of talent, but along with that talent came some ego that I knew as a coach I would need to control in order for us to be successful. In the past, these kids had always been focused on the points on the board and the names in the paper that they had trouble focusing on the things that yielded those results. The great thing however is that through the off-season we had built a belief that we could achieve great things as a group. It was that belief that I think allowed us to bring in this concept of “Playing in the Moment” throughout the season.
The nice thing about this book and working it into what was already a busy schedule for these guys was that the chapters were very short thus allowing us to read short parts at a time and have some reflection. After assigning 2-3 chapters over a period of a few days, I would use our group message and ask a simple question - “What thought stood out to you?” They would respond with some really good insight, and in return I could use that to apply to situations throughout the season.
Perhaps the biggest thing that “Chop Wood, Carry Water” did for us this year was not allow us to look ahead to the “big games” or “big rivalries”, but instead really focus on the current opponent. It really helped our guys know that we had to put an over-emphasized focus on what we were in control of instead of what others and other things could possibly have influence on us. As the season progressed, I would start to see the guys hold each other accountable and even understand that the daily hard work that sometimes didn’t always seem fun was necessary for us to get to where we wanted to be.
In the end as I look back upon it, really working to implement this concept into our culture this year allowed us to do what the book talks about and surrender the result. It helped the kids handle the adversities of runs by the other team, a bad or missed call, an opposing crowd that was really on us in a game, and have a focus in timeouts that the current play was the most important. And what we all found was that by surrendering the result and playing in the moment, we were also able to enjoy more of those moments together which made this season just a bit more memorable for us.
Jackson Basketball 2017 - (Darrin Scott)
The Chop Wood and Carry Water book fit perfect into our character building this year because of it’s content and the way the chapters were set up. The chapters were short enough that we could do one chapter per week and focus on that for the week. We have always done character building but this was the first year we used a book to follow.
Our first goal for this year was to get our players to think about where their value comes from and how will they define success. When you are competitive it becomes very hard to identity yourself as a person other than a basketball player. We wanted our players to think about their character and we wanted them to think spiritually. Chapter 9 “What Went Well” fit this perfect by talking about your value doesn’t come from what you do it comes from who you are. We had our players write down what they did well, what they need to improve on and where their value is coming from each week.
Our next goal was to get our players to think about what is really important to them. Chapter 7 “Guzzling Salt Water” was perfect for this. When we view the wrong things as success we begin to realize that none of those things truly satisfy us. They just end up leaving us thirsty and wanting more. We have them right a character description of themselves which describes the ideal person they would want to become. We then make that their challenge to use that as their definition of success.
Our next goal was getting our players to surrender the outcome and focus on the process and making sure they understood the process. Chapter 21 “Surrender” and Chapter 12 “Rough Side of the Mountain” fit perfectly with this goal. The point of rough side of the mountain was if you keep your eye on your goal and don’t focus on the daily steps you are taking you will end up falling down. We stressed the importance of focusing on the process of walking up the mountain. You have to go step by step which means we have to work day by day. We also talked about the adversity that can influence you to take your eyes off of your daily steps.
Things such as missed shots, to’s, officiating, off the court influences, etc. can get us to take our eyes off of each step and cause us to fall back down the mountain. An example of where I thought we showed growth was in our sectional round game, we started the game getting down 14-4. Our guys did a great job of not panicking or losing their composure in that moment and responded to get back in the game. We then started the 2nd half on 16-0 run which carried us to a victory.
Chapter 17 “Bamboo”
“Most people want the 90 foot tall bamboo tree without the 5 years of the process. They want the bamboo to grow to 90 feet tall in 6 weeks, but without the 5 years of invisible growth, the bamboo wouldn’t have a solid foundation, and it could never sustain the massive and rapid growth that occurs.”
Our coaching staff used this chapter more than any other chapter in the book. As coaches we many times become frustrated when players don’t progress or get it as quickly as we would like. We many times have to focus on the process and realize some of our fruit may come after they have finished playing basketball for our program. We have to continue to coach them and keep watering the bamboo whether we see growth or not.
Cuonzo Martin - University of Missouri Men's Basketball Coach
Cuonzo Martin is the new head coach of the University of Missouri Men’s Basketball team. Coach Martin has spent the last nine years as a NCAA Division I head coach, compiling an overall record of 186-121. He began his head coaching career at Missouri State in 2008, spending three seasons as the Bears’ head coach, while compiling a record of 61-41. In 2011, he left Springfield to become the head coach of the Tennessee Volunteers. In his three seasons in Knoxville, Coach Martin compiled a record of 63-41, as well as a NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 finish. Before coming to Missouri, Coach Martin was the head coach of the University of California, leading the Golden Bears to a record of 62-39 and another NCAA Tournament appearance. On March 15th, 2017, Coach Martin became the 20th men’s basketball head coach in Missouri Tiger history. The Hard Court Herald had a chance to catch up with the East Saint Louis native to talk about his new position and the state of Mizzou basketball.
Hard Court Herald: Coach, first off, congratulations on your new position as head coach of the University of Missouri Tigers. You've had about a couple months into the job. How are you settling in?
Coach Martin: Well thank you again and I want to thank you again for having me. In regards to getting the job, I’m very excited about it. It’s a fun situation. [As for] settling in, outside of my family not being here, that part is hard. My children are still in California for another three weeks until they get out of school. But other than that, the staff and I have been hitting the ground running, building relationships with recruiting, and also with our fan base. So it’s been a lot of fun.
HCH: Nine years ago, you sat down with the Hard Court Herald Newsletter and had a similar interview when you took the reins of Missouri State in the same position. Describe the journey back to the Show-Me-State and how you as a coach, are different today.
CM: When I took over the job at Missouri State, it was my first year as a coach. And we [as coaches] feel like we have all the answers as the assistant coaches, then we move over one seat. It’s a totally different world, so just learning how to lead a program, understanding all the things that I learned as an assistant coach and trying to implement them within our system, all the stuff you have to do administrative-wise, and even thing within the community is different. As an assistant coach you’re always behind the scenes, and now you’re at the forefront, doing radio and TV interviews. You have to understand how to represent and market your brand. It’s not just about you; it’s about a program. So when you fast forward nine or ten years later, having awareness of my surroundings and understanding where I am, knowing how to be successful and what it takes to lead young men, and just knowing all the mistakes I’ve made over the course of nine years is important. All this is always changing with different guys and different players and programs. Things change: ups, downs, highs and lows. All that information I’ve gathered and learned over that time and here I am today. Hopefully, I’ve learned a lot from, not only the mistakes, but from the success.
HCH: Mizzou Men’s Basketball has fallen on hard times as of late. How do you plan on changing the culture around the program and what does that culture look like?
CM: The winning part is understood, but we want to win at life. A couple of things we talk about are winning and being successful, not only on the court but in the classroom, as well as within the community. The other part we talk about is just doing your job to the best of your ability. Not just your everyday life, but your everyday walk. That’s not necessarily when you step on the court, because I think that’s a lifestyle. How do you leave your dorm room? Do you make your bed in the morning? Do you floss and brush your teeth morning and night? Those things sound simple and sound funny often times. When Coach [Gene] Keady used to say those things, we thought it was funny. But all the sudden, you’re talking about 10-20 years later, you understood the translation and the correlation, on the court and off the court, and how they both go hand in hand. Those are the things we try to teach: try to do right, try to live right, try to act right, and do your best.
HCH: You touched on it with describing the culture, but when you’re recruiting, what type of characteristics do you look for in players that fit the culture you described?
CM: When we talk about players, of course talent is what it is. I think there are different forms of talent: here’s a guy that’s a great three-point shooter, here’s a guy that can be a great defender, or here’s a guy that’s a great role guy. That’s what you try and identify for a 13-man roster. A big guy that’s a rebounder or a big guy that shoots threes. You want to have different types of guys, especially in today’s game. Maybe 10 or 15 years ago, you could win with a big guy that stays inside and didn’t really shoot threes, and were mostly rebounders. You could come down and score 50 points and win a game. But I think those days are long gone because of the way the game is officiated. So what we look for in a player is one that has a level of character, level of integrity, tries to be trustworthy, and works hard. I’ve never been one to judge a young man by where he comes from, whether he comes from a family of wealth or a family of low income, so those do not really matter. I’ve seen good and bad in both spectrums. For us, it’s just trying to find the right guy to fit what we try to do and then have the desire to be good. Often times, you really don’t know when you’re talking about a young man when you first see him, when he’s between the ages of 15 and 17. I’d like to think I’m a different guy at 45 then when I was 16 or 17. So my job is never ‘try and judge a book by its cover’ and to give every young man a chance to be successful and reveal himself in the most positive manner.
HCH: When you’re trying to look for staff members, coaches, or even graduate assistants, because we have a lot of young people who want to get into college coaching or high school coaching, what kind of intangibles do you look for in those people?
CM: When we are talking about grad assistants and guys that want to be a part of our staff or coaching staff, there has to be integrity, character, and loyalty. It has to be there. If you don’t have those things, it’s hard for us to move forward. We can’t get to the court, the X’s and O’s, teaching the game, and getting the community together as a family if you don’t have the level of character, integrity, honesty, and trustworthiness. For me, I try to find that first. It’s not so much a guy’s skill package, like how smart he is. I’ll take a guy with a level of loyalty over a tremendous amount of intelligence.
HCH: It didn’t take long after your hire for Mizzou and its fans to start buzzing with excitement with the signing of number 1 national recruit, Michael Porter Jr., and top 25 recruit, Blake Harris. How excited are you about adding these two cornerstone pieces this early in your tenure?
CM: Very excited! You’re talking about quality young guys and I think they want to be good players. They have desire to play in the NBA for a long time, but you know as well as I do, there’s a lot of work that goes into that. But you’re talking about good guys to be around. When we get to the court, we will have ups and downs and, as a coach, you push a young guy to play hard to get them out of their comfort zone. There will be rough patches and tough times. But that part is understood. I think both of those guys are good guys that want to be good players and that have a passion for being a part of a good team. When you talk about Michael Porter Jr., he’s done a really great job of selling and promoting the program. He has a passion for the state of Missouri, and he wants to see the state be successful and the University of Missouri a basketball program. And he’s a kid; he doesn’t owe the university that, but it means a lot to him. So when you have guys like that they have a passion and want to see the university be successful and get back to the level it used to be, that’s fun to be a part of.
HCH: What sort of style should people expect to see when they watch Mizzou basketball play, even based on being around the team and the recruits early on?
CM: I think things that all programs want to defend and rebound. We have to do those things. They have to be a constant: defend, rebound, play hard, and play together. Now the areas we have to continue growing and getting better are opening the game up offensively. I think that’s where the game has gone. It’s trickled down from the NBA, but the way the NBA game is played and the way the college games are officiated now in the past few years has opened the game up where you get to the free throw line. Probably shoot a lot more three-point shots. I don’t know if there are many games where a guy will use a back-to-the-basket post move where guys will get doubled, so we want to try and open things up to have spacing, and attack the rim. More importantly though, we want to share the basketball and have fun doing it, but we want to do it the right way.
HCH: Mizzou is, geographically, located in the center of the Show-Me-State. How do you intend on making Mizzou the center of basketball in Missouri and building a strong connection with local and statewide basketball programs?
CM: There are a lot of things that I can sit here and say. “We’re gonna win” or “We’re gonna win at a high level and have fun”. I can say all of those things, but the truth of the matter is that winning on the floor solves a lot of issues. I think the excitement is great, but the bottom line is that you have to have success on the floor. You have to create an energy and a passion with these young guys. I think what happens is that fans want excitement, energy, passion, and they want to see winning. That part is understood. But I think when you talk about selling the program to recruits, they want to see, one: an opportunity to play from Day 1 with most young guys; two: they want to see excitement and energy, where they get to play their game, whatever that is; and three: to be put in a position to be a professional basketball player. So I think with all those things combined, you have a chance to be very successful. But you have to be genuine about that, and you have to be fair, and you have to be honest when assessing talent to give young guys opportunities.
HCH: Following the last question, what do you and your staff plan on doing to get better acquainted with high school coaches from around the state and building that relationship?
CM: This basketball program doesn’t exist without the state of Missouri. The players and the coaches (high school and junior college) are needed for their support. Relationships have to be genuine. I’ve always been a guy that’s tried to be real in those relationships, where it’s not about their players. And I’ve tried to maintain those relationships. I’ve tried to be authentic in my approach, because, again, in this profession, you have ups, downs, highs, and lows. I’ve always been taught that you can be ‘high on the hog’ one day, but the next day, life can change for you. So you have to have a level of humility, and I’ve always tried to be genuine with people, no matter if they’re coaches, high school coaches, or summer coaches; it doesn’t matter. Just being real, taking it one day at a time, and just building that ‘win’. I think coaches should understand that we want to represent the state of Missouri in the right way. In order for us to be successful, we need the best players in the state of Missouri. Give us an opportunity to fight for them, and if we can do that, and get them into our program, we’ll be successful and everybody will be happy.
HCH: The time constraints make balancing coaching and family time tougher and tougher, given it has become a full-time, year-long job for coaches who want to be great. As a coach in the major college basketball ranks and having the opportunity to take a job closer to your family, what advice would you have for our coaches who want to be leaders of young people, while balancing times with their families?
CM: When I was young assistant in the coaching profession, Coach Keady had me going from 7 a.m. until 9 or 10 at night. It wasn’t a case of Coach demanding “Stay in the office and get this done. Don’t leave!” But there was a lot of work to be done and a lot of learning to get done, so there were sacrifices. I don’t want to make this sound so glamorous like I was at home at 9 a.m., eating breakfast with my kids and at 5 p.m., I was at home eating dinner with them; that wasn’t the case. There was a lot of work put in. I missed a lot of dinners, plenty of breakfasts, and even missed my daughter’s 1st birthday while I was out recruiting wherever I was at the time. I’m not even sure, but I know I missed her first birthday. That’s not something I’m proud of, but it’s the reality of what we are trying to do. We’re trying to be the best, and there are sacrifices you make to be the best. I don’t glamorize those things. When I’m in my office early or late at night, it’s because I have to do it. I think starting out, you’re trying to be the best and there’s a compromise and a sacrifice, where you have to give some to get some. I think in order to get where you are trying to go, you have to put the time into it because it won’t be easy.
So You Want Me To Shoot More?
Years ago, I recruited a very good soccer player to the college team I was working with. She was the "real deal" and I was so excited to have the opportunity to coach her! She made great decisions off the field, was an A student, a great teammate, managed her time well, and she was a talented soccer player - what a combination!
But the truth is I struggled to coach her during her freshman year. It wasn't her work ethic or an attitude problem, it was a communication issue. It was like we were speaking two different languages. Here is what our conversations often sounded like when I was giving her feedback:
"We need you to get higher into the attack." ... "So you want me to shoot more?" ..."No, but give yourself some freedom when we have possession." ..."So I don't need to track back as much?" ..."No, you still need to track back but you can move into that space more."... "So you want me to ..."
Ultimately, I would get frustrated and she would be on the field totally confused about what we needed from her. And let me be clear, this was a player I adored and I knew she was trying her very best, but we just couldn't get on the same page.
When the seasoned ended I knew I had to make a change, I owed it to this student-athlete to figure out how to help her to be at her best. I made an appointment with the Director of our Academic Support Center and I explained the situation. I ask if there was any insight she could provide on how this student-athlete processes information because what I was doing CLEARLY wasn't working.
The Director asked me if I was familiar with the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and I nearly jumped out of my seat with excitement! I had been a fan of this assessment for many years but I had never considered using it with a student-athlete.
I met with this player and I explained that I was frustrated with our communication. Like many student-athletes, she immediately thought she had done something wrong. I was quick to explain that was not the case. As a coach and an educator, I took full responsibility for not being able to teach her in a way that works for her. I strongly believe as coaches we need to adapt to the unique needs of our players and I had not done a good job of that with her.
She was open to taking the MBTI and the results were amazing! She and I were wired very differently and in the stressful moments of a game I was digging it to how I like to learn (assuming that everyone is just like me) and she needed the opposite. I was literally coaching/teaching her as backwards as I could - no wonder she was confused! But the MBTI gave me a very clear understanding of what she needed from me as her coach. As a result, we were able to come up with a plan and I adjusted how I gave her feedback to allow her to be at her best.
I am so grateful that we had an Academic Support Center, that I had a student-athlete who was willing to try something outside the box, and that together we figured how she best learns.
Years later I made the decision to become a certified practitioner of the Myers Briggs Type Indicator. I can now help others with this process. If you'd like to talk about how the MBTI can help you understand yourself and those around you please click here.
Oh, and her sophomore year, well, that was fun. She was a beast, but more important was the deeper connection we developed in the process. Our student-athletes deserve to have our best and sometimes that means we need to ask for help.
My experience says it is worth it.
Molly Grisham - A Person Of Influence LLC