Sunday, 18 October 2015

Basketball Journal

Developing a basketball journal is an outstanding way to get the best out of yourself as an athlete.  Now you may be wondering what exactly is a basketball journal? A basketball journal is a notebook used to write down anything that comes to mind from things you want to develop with your game, to drills you have learned or plays that you are working on with your team. You can write down your goals and the habits to develop so your goals can be achieved. Another thing that is a good idea to use a basketball journal for is for tracking progress such as shooting or workouts.  It should be mentioned that it doesn’t have to be done in a paper notebook.  A basketball journal can be created on another type of device so you can also create a space on a computer, tablet or even your phone to do this as well.

As an athlete it is always a great idea to focus on ways to improve especially when it comes to developing your weaknesses.  You should know your strengths so you can emphasize them to stand out but also have a clear idea of your weaknesses to come up with an action plan so they can be minimized.  It is easier of course to focus on strengths but when it comes to the desire to get better weaknesses need to be developed. A journal can help with that because you can look back and see if you have progressed and by how much.  A couple of examples might be your shot has improved at the foul line by 25% or your weak hand layup percentage has improved by 5% over a 8 week period.

Elite level athletes can be very particular about their performance so a basketball journal can help you to analyze the game and your performance.   It is using this information that can help you recreate the state of mind you were in for when you had the best game of your career or avoid situations so you don’t repeat a terrible performance.  It can help you to analyze what happened in the game or practice so that a situation can be processed and dealt with.

A basketball journal can also be used for inspiration or creativity. It is recommended to put pictures of athletes or people you admire within its pages. Really focus on making it your own.  These admired individuals have qualities you possess in order to draw you to be interested in them so there is nothing wrong with using them as inspiration to becoming a better person. Goal setting can be a very visual endeavour so by using pictures it can help to make those aspirations a reality.    Write down the goals you are aspiring to reach because when they are written down they are much more likely to be reached.  If nothing else it may become an interesting  time capsule to revisit later in life.

Outstanding athletes always go to their workouts with a plan and they also track their progress so they can tell if they have improved quantitatively not just anecdotally.  Anyone can go to a workout and come back saying they got better but a journal is a way to be able to track for sure by measuring the level of improvement over time.  Developing these habits helps to set you up for success over the long term.  

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Attitude of Gratitude

Upon thinking about Thanksgiving it brought to mind the importance of being grateful and counting the blessings in your life however big or small they may be.  Possessing an attitude of gratitude is one of those things that really makes a big difference.  Not only in the state of mind you possess on a consistent basis but also when bad things happen it is within your ability to respond in a constructive way. There are so many times when it is easy to see the negative and pick situations apart.  When someone has a positive attitude it really stands out for the right reason on a team whether they are a parent, player or coach. 

As a coach it can be challenging because sometimes your harsh tone or your negativity is meant to influence a player or team to get the best out of them.  Coaches don’t have the luxury of being positive all of the time because they have to be able to change gears in order to influence their team to respond depending on the situations they are being faced with.  Parents have moments like this with their kids too.  

With that being said have you ever noticed that when you are thankful for something how more things situations seem to keep happening?  Some say where your focus goes energy flows.  When you are grateful and give your appreciation to the coach it really helps them to give their best.  The energy flows the other way too when as a coach you are grateful to those around you they pick themselves up as well and tend to give you their best.  When players are positive and grateful to both their parents and their coaches well that is something that is truly special and often a rarity in a generation where things are expected.    

I often wonder if Dr. James Naismith had any idea what he put into motion when he invented the game of basketball to be an “athletic distraction” during cold Massachusetts winters back in 1891. Originally it was a way to keep track athletes active when being cooped up inside during the cold winter months.  I wonder now if he would even recognize the game he conceived such a long time ago. There are so many people’s lives he has touched in such a meaningful way by developing this game.  It is incredibly to leave a legacy on such a global level.  I am incredibly grateful for his creativity.   

It also brings to mind the countless coaches that put so much time, effort and passion to help their players develop.  It doesn’t seem to matter if the goal is to enjoy the sport for recreation or at the highest level.  There are also those that play for a short time or those that play for a lifetime. Developing a player takes years of work as well as many different coaches that help in different capacities along the way.  There is a famous Phil Jackson quote that says “Not only is there more to life than basketball, there’s a lot more to basketball than basketball.” The life lessons that are available within this game make it so incredibly rich and inspiring.

A parent of one of my players once told me he wondered if his son knew what he had in his coaches at this stage of his life.  As a former player I think that appreciation was definitely realized for me far after my career was over.  When thinking back to each of the coaches that took time out of their busy lives to help me get better and develop my team it is truly inspiring.  Coaches really give a lot to their players and years later I am inspired by those that impacted my life in their own unique way.  There is no doubt it was through their combined efforts that I got a lot out of the game of basketball and it is no wonder why I feel such a willingness to give it back to the athletes I work with now.   

When I look at the time over the years I have been coaching I think about how at the end of the season there is often this big influx of thank you’s and sometimes gifts of appreciation when the team is about to part ways.  It is no doubt very nice to receive these items but one of the most powerful things I remember are the players who take the time to thank their coaches after each practice and every game. They extend their hand, give a nice firm handshake, look me in the eye and simply say “Thanks Coach!” It is extremely consistent by a handful of players and I really give their parents credit for instilling that in them.  It stands out incredibly well and really is something simple and genuine that means so much. Developing the attitude of gratitude and making it into a habit they use so consistently is amazing.   

My last point is the learning and developing as a coach never ends and there are challenging situations that often come up that have to be navigated.  No matter how many kids I have coached over the years I never get tired of the wonder of learning from them too.  There is something so exciting about getting to know someone new and helping them reach a level in their play or master a new move that they never knew was possible for them.  It is one of the things that keeps me going and striving to continue to grow and learn more.  

Thank you to the players I have coached in the past, the parents that selflessly support them and the coaches in my life that contribute to the journey with this great game!  I am grateful to all of you in some many ways that are far to numerous to mention.  I am definitely feeling very blessed!  Happy Thanksgiving!  

Monday, 5 October 2015

The Voice of Reason

Coaches can get caught up in the game, players can get caught up in the game and so it is fair to say that parents can be guilty of this as well. When it comes to parent behaviour there can be some very shocking events that transpire in the heat of the moment. After the fact the participants involved in these scuffles may feel bad about their behaviour but by then it may be too late to do much about it.    

Many of us have witnessed parents lashing out at referees, other parents and even the coach of their own child’s team.  It seems like when tempers flair no one is really safe from the wrath of a scorned parent who is attempting to protect their child. This is what makes this particular situation I witnessed that much more inspiring and impressive. 

It was 9:00am on a Saturday morning in April of 2015. The team I was coaching was playing up in a tournament and facing  teams in grade 10 that were a full year older than the players on my team.  This was the host team of the tournament and the game started a bit late due to some issues with the game clock. My team got out to an early lead and was leading by a comfortable margin from the beginning of the game until late into the second half.  The opposing coach had already been charged with one technical foul for lashing out at the referee on something he thought should have been called.  With less than a minute left in the game and my team up by about 10 points the referee called a foul on my centre.  As the referee approached the scorers table to report the foul the Head Coach of the other team started the slow clap to let the referee know its about time he called something worthwhile in his team’s favour. It should be noted that all throughout the game the calls didn’t seem one sided and the game was definitely not out of hand by any stretch. Calls were missed going both ways but not to a staggering degree.  So it came as a surprise when this opposing coach was showing so much outrage especially at this point in the game.  

The referee gave the coach a chance to calm down and stop what he was doing which was incredibly generous on the ref’s part.  When the coach continued on with his disrespectful display the referee ended up charging him with a second technical which ejected him from the game.  Once the team’s parents saw this they also started reacting as well which led to the referee also ejecting some of them too. 
It was what happened next that was truly inspiring.  As the players were lining up for the foul shots, the other team’s point guard made his way over to me and said “I am so sorry for how my coach and our parents are acting.”  My team captain team heard what he said and put his hand on the players’ shoulder as a non-verbal gesture to say it’s okay.  I told him not to worry about it we didn’t blame him.  

Due to the parents reacting to this call and some of the parents refusing to leave the game was called early. As both teams lined up to shake hands each of the players from the opposing team said to myself and my assistant coach “sorry for our parents and our coach”. I was so touched by such a sportsmanlike attitude by the players in light of such a contrasting viewpoint of they parents a few moments earlier.  Even as the boys shook our hands some of their parents were still charging towards the referees and insulting them. 

There are so many lessons basketball can teach when people take the opportunity to learn.  It is so refreshing when players learn things their parents haven’t quite grasped.  Here are a few lessons to take into account:

1) Players often learn more from losing than from winning - think back to the failures you have encountered in your life and remember the important lessons that came from that.  So, when you lose don’t lose the lesson. Often when a team wins they feel great and don’t take time to self reflect on what they can do better.  Losing often makes people stop and think often due to the pain that comes with not succeeding.  

2) The game is extremely difficult without referees - anyone who has ever played a pickup game without referees knows that it can sometimes turn into a courtroom where no one is ever guilty.  Especially when the call isn’t respected.  Pretty soon people are standing around arguing over whose ball it is and whether the infraction transpired of not. When this happens it can take a long time to get the game back on track again.   

3) Lose the attitude and keep the gratitude - Never forget being a referee is hard work! There are 10 players on the court and it is hard for 2 or 3 people to see every transgression that might happen.  Referees in many instances are keepers of the game in that they help to keep both teams in check.  We have all seen referees do a terrible job at times but always try to remember they are human and can make mistakes just like we all can.  Be as grateful as possible for their contribution and do your best to keep it positive. Also, keep in mind that many times referees at tournaments do many games in a row so sometimes fatigue can play a factor in their calls as well.  

4) Try to keep perspective in the stands - focus on the importance of enjoying watching your child and their team play.   Worry less about controlling the environment they are in.