Sunday, 29 May 2016

Blessings from Iron Shirt - In Memory of Allan Pard

In native cultures circles are very significant they show that in a tribe everyone matters.  They show everyone is equal.   Every person contributes in their own way and on great teams this is especially the case.  In a circle, there is no beginning, middle or end.  The energy just keeps flowing around and around gaining momentum as it continues. This momentum is impossible to stop once it gets going.   

The topic for this week’s article was easy to find in a tragic way as I got terrible news on Friday.  My high school basketball coach passed away suddenly earlier in the week. His name was Allan Pard, to the native community he was known as Iron Shirt and was a respected elder of the Piikani Nation in Southern Alberta.  In terms of impact and influence on my life I would say Allan was right up there with my parents.
Not only did he introduce me to basketball but most importantly he introduced me to myself.  He showed me possibilities and believed in me when I was a lanky girl with sharp elbows from the middle of nowhere Alberta.   He coached my basketball team when no one else wanted to. When we had to merge 3 small schools together just to have a team.  Some coaches know all the tactics and plays but Allan coached with his heart and got things out of me that I didn’t even know were there better yet even considered possible.  He encouraged me to be the best version of myself and I am so grateful to him for that every day.  There isn’t a day that I walk into a gym where I don’t think about him and the impact he had on my life.  Often wondering where I would have ended up if it weren’t for his belief in what I could do. 

Allan was the cornerstone behind why I became a coach.  He was an exceptional leader that really knew how to reach his players.  He told me if we still lived on the plains and off the land there was no doubt in his mind that I would have been a warrior because of the strength and determination I had deep down in my soul.  Women weren’t typically warriors but if that was the best way to help the tribe then they would be called upon to use their skills in that way.  He saw past my gender and made it okay for me to be the most complete version of myself.  

He made basketball fun, a safe place for me to come to when everything else in my life was going terribly wrong and most of all he taught me how to release my energy in a way that I had never experienced before. It was constructive, powerful and uplifting but never easy.  He made me play through my tears on more than one occasion.  Allan never made it easy for me which developed my leadership and mental toughness. Lessons I didn’t fully understand until years after the fact.  I had to learn to “dig deep” which is something he said to me frequently back then. He was a huge part of making it as a walk on in both college and university.  

Last weekend at the Super Clinic David Blatt said “You can do more with less as long as you do it right.”  I experienced that lesson with Allan when he took our dwindling team with 6 players left to Zones and we beat our home town rivals with their full roster. The opposing coach was so impressed he bought us a six pack of pop to honour our amazing underdog victory.  Allan was my favourite coach and I would have done anything for him.  

Each time I walk into a gym memories of him find their way into my mind.  I think of the many things he has taught me throughout my life.  As a child he was forced into residential school and relied heavily on peace and positivity in his adult life dealing with those scars.  Allan dealt so much with racism and fought back using basketball as a way to belong and to be accepted which is something that resonated with me.   He held on to his culture tightly and because of our deep connection he brought me into it.  In a lot of ways I felt like his daughter I got to be a part of many sacred native rituals with him and his family.  

Today and always I honour the time I had with him and celebrate his life. I am glad circles don’t end because that means I never have to say goodbye.  He is with me because he is a part of me with the lessons he has engrained within the fabric of my soul. I appreciate all that he has done for me and honour his legacy as I carry his message forward.  What an outstanding coach, leader and human being!  I am deeply blessed to have known him.         

If you would like to more about Allan here is a video and article I was able to find.  

Monday, 23 May 2016

Continuous Learning - Coach Blatt

Imagine sitting in a gym at a clinic in Toronto getting ready to soak up some information from some high quality speakers.  As you settle in and look around you see the keynote speaker that is set to speak the next day.  He is a former NBA Coach and Olympic Coach as well as has coached in Europe and is in the front row taking notes right beside you. To witness that for one day is one thing but when you see that throughout the course of the entire weekend in something else entirely. 

Coach David Blatt attended Canada Basketball’s Super Clinic at Ryerson and the University of Toronto this weekend.  In his key note speech on Saturday he highlighted some of the items he learned from the other speakers at the conference.  I can only imagine what that felt like as a speaker to be mentioned by him and have your information be taken in by such a captive audience.  I learned some incredible things from him this weekend that I wanted to share: 

1) “You can do more with less as long as you do it right.” 
Apparently many of David Blatt’s highest performing teams were comprised of players who wouldn’t be considered superstars in their own right.  For many coaches in the trenches this helps to work on how to get the whole team involved and contributing in their own way.  Professional sports can be so much different than amateur sports so it is so nice to be able to hear from a coach that is so relatable. He emphasized that our primary jobs as coaches was to teach and lead.  

2) “Excellence starts on the doorstep of your limitations” 
Surround yourself with great people you really can find a way to work as a team.  Learning what your limitations are is key to being able to fill in the gaps with other people who are better than you in those areas.  As a coach I always want to be able to make my team function at a high level so if I can have people with me that can share the load and help my team improve than that is great. Especially, if they are better in my areas of weakness. He said that one of the best compliments you can have as a Head Coach is when your Assistant becomes a Head Coach in their own right.  It means you have done your job properly in preparing them.  

3) Reach Your Players on a Human Level 
Sometimes as a leader there can be a lot of pressure to be perfect or not show your weaknesses.  This makes it hard for people to relate to you sometimes.  By being vulnerable and reaching players on a human level it really helps to improve the connection you have with one another.  Holding each other to a high standard is critical but also realizing no one is perfect is humbling.  Loving them and letting players see your heart helps them to dig deeper when they play for you. 

4) Know your material
There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.  If you are going to be a great coach you have to know the material.  You really have to be effective in getting the message across.  Being a master requires being able to show or explain in different ways for different audiences.  

5) Get back up when you have been knocked down 
Perhaps the biggest lesson I learned from Coach Blatt this weekend was how to get back up after you have been knocked down.  He was unceremoniously fired a few months ago as the Head Coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers.  It must have been a painful experience to be in Toronto at the same time as when they were in town playing the Raptors during playoffs.  When he signed up for this speaking opportunity months ago there was no way anyone could have predicted that would be the case and yet he still followed through.  He handled the event with such class, humility and humour.  Taking the high road at every turn and never bashing his former team.  It was really incredible to witness. A prime example of a coach leading by example. 

Thanks for the incredible lessons this weekend Coach Blatt!  I have no doubt you will be back on the sideline at a high level again in no time.  Best of luck! 

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Truths about Shooting by Coach Mac

I came across this article from a coaching friend of mine and I really liked it so I thought I would share.  It was emailed over to me and I thought the contents were outstanding.  His name is Coach Mac and his website is 

Here is the article... Enjoy! 

It's important for us to start with these truths to further develop your knowledge of shooting, understand what it takes to develop great shooters, and also to find out where we're currently going wrong.

Truth #1 - Shooting is the most important skill in basketball

We all know it's true, but few coaches are happy to admit it.

We'd rather point to a skill like footwork, or defense, or passing and try to claim they're more important. That's what I did for a long time.

But at the end of the day, if your players can't put the basketball in the ring, every other skill is irrelevant.

I'm not saying to stop working on all other skills, I just don't like that so many coaches overlook the importance of teaching players how to shoot and then saying things like "Oh, they can work on that when they're older."

No. Learning how to shoot the basketball properly must start from day one. And it must be taught the correct way.

Truth #2 - Shooters are NOT born. They ARE developed

There isn't a player on this planet that was born with the ability to shoot a basketball at a high level.

Not one.

Steph Curry. Klay Thompson. Ray Allen. All of these players started shooting the ball at the exact same level that you and your players did.

At the very bottom.

Shooters are developed through hours and hours of great repetitions in the gym.

Remember: There is no substitute for hard work.

Truth #3 - Elite shooters make over 1,500 shots a week

Let's be honest... With so many distractions surrounding young players (Xbox, ps4, etc), players simply aren't getting up enough repetitions to be great shooters.

There are a lot of numbers thrown around, but these are the numbers I've been sharing with youth and high school players and coaches.

Obviously, there's no exact number that will create an elite shooter, and there's plenty of other contributing factors, but it's a good baseline to remember.

Here's the simple chart I refer to:

Elite Shooter - 1,500 made shots a week.
Great Shooter - 1,000 made shots a week.
Good Shooter - 500 made shots a week.

Surprisingly, I've had a few coaches tell me how low this number is. Always adding how their son or players commonly shoot 1,000+ shots a day...

I find this absurd and highly doubtful.

Let's remember how many other commitments players have...

With school, homework, employment, practices, games, other sports, friends, etc, I believe it's unrealistic and unfair for us to expect players to shoot more than 1,500 shots a week.

Let's crunch the numbers...

Let's say a player makes one shot every 15 seconds. Which is four made shots per minute.

Here's how long it would take a player each week to reach each level of shooting ability:

Good - 500 made shots would take 125 minutes = 2 hours and 5 minutes.

Great - 1000 made shots would take 250 minutes = 4 hours and 10 minutes.

Elite - 1,500 made shots would take 375 minutes = 6 hours and 15 minutes.

Doesn't seem like too much to ask, does it?

There are 168 hours in a week. All your players need to do is use 4 of them to become a great shooter.

Wondering how many shots some of the greatest shooters on the planet make each day?

After a little research on the internet, I found numerous articles answering the following question on elite shooters... 

"How many shots do you make every day?"

Steph Curry - "It's not a ridiculous number. I count makes, so in the summer, I make 500. During the season, depending on what portion of the schedule we're going through, I make 200 to 350. And whatever goal I set before the workout is the goal. I won't shortcut it."

Kyle Korver - “I don’t ever shoot a ton of shots at once because I want to shoot them game-like. You can’t shoot 500 shots at the exact speed and exact intensity that you’re going to in a game. Very rarely will I shoot more than 150 shots at once.”

Steve Novak - 300 made shots every day.

Buddy Hield - 300 - 500 made shots every day.

Tyler Harvey - 350 - 400 made shots every day.

That's only a few players (and they're superstar shooters!), but as you can see, you don't need to be shooting a mind-boggling amount of shots every week.

Truth #4 - Most players don't track their shots

I first started tracking my own shots after reading a great article on shooting coach Dave Hopla (Dave regularly shoots 98+% while shooting).

Dave tracks every single shot he takes.

Yet for some odd reason, today's players and coaches aren't copying his methods and tracking their own shots.
Doesn't it make sense to copy someone that shoots 98% (seriously) from the floor?

To me, it's a no-brainer.

Here are 5 quick reasons why tracking shots will make you a great shooter:

1. You cannot improve what you don't measure.
2. It makes every single shot important.
3. Players can set shooting goals.
4. Players will see improvements.
5. Players will find out their weak areas.

Truth #5 - Most players don't have a plan to improve

My pet hate is players that go to the gym and 'getting up shots' without a plan.

Contrary to what most players think, just being in the gym won't make anyone a better player.

Players have to be working on the right things. Their weaknesses, the shots they take in games, free throws, shooting technique, etc.

Without a plan, players will end up messing around and wasting time that could have been spent improving their game.

Monday, 9 May 2016

The Way Athletes Are Made

The progression of where an athlete starts to where they finish is an amazing process to be a part of as well as observe. This is probably the most common characteristic of what makes coaches continue to come back for more when it comes to working with athletes.  Getting the most out of each player can be very time consuming and challenging.  Great coaches know that getting each member of the team going in the right direction is critical to achieve success as a team.  

The process requires a great deal of strategy to figure out what works to get the most out of each athlete. The motivating factors that work for one athlete may not work for another or in some cases may do the complete opposite than you want it to do.  So as a coach is is critical to figure out how each athlete can be reached.  I don’t think that coaches should morph into what the athlete needs from them at every turn.  Sometimes it is necessary for a coach to adjust but many players need to provide what the coach needs as well.

If you look at the process of how athletes are “made” in terms of a continuum it really helps to figure out the areas where individual athletes thrive.  In other cases you can give them more time to figure out their growth process.  In this blog I am going to look at athletes as though they are being prepared by being “cooked” or made.  I believe it is the coaches job to provide the best environment for the team to thrive in.  

Pressure Cooker
These athletes are incredibly rare. They are the kind of player that perform at the end of the game and innately want the ball in their hands at crunch time. They can show up right at game time and be ready to go without a warm up.  They have incredible instincts within the game and due to that can be hard to reach coaching wise because they think they know things already.  They are often very gifted offensive players but have to put in a lot more effort learning to play defence.  If you open the pressure cooker before it is ready then you lose a lot of time to get it back up to the temperature it needs to be at to perform at a high level.  In order to coach this type of athlete sometimes you have to ask the right type of questions to get them to come to the conclusion themselves rather than telling them the answer directly.  If you need to get the message across being direct and unwavering is critical because otherwise they end up being un-phased by the message.    

Players that are in this category are pretty well ready made.  As a coach you don’t have to do much with these athletes basically you just show up and they are ready to go.  They can be gifted or physically ahead of their peers initially.  Where they run into trouble is when other athletes catch up to them.  They can sometimes get frustrated and quit easily because they aren’t sure how to handle the challenges in front of them.  They can heat up fast but the heat often doesn’t last so they burn themselves out early unless they learn to transition or re-heat.  

These athletes are probably the easiest athletes to coach.  You can push them and they bounce right back even if you push them too hard.  They don’t take things too personally and really show their dedication to winning.  They make steady measured progress that you can see consistently without wondering where they are at. Their ability to bounce back and consistently show up in their progress is key. These athletes are incredibly reliable and consistent over their career.  They make coaching rewarding and fun with limited amount of energy expended on helping them to perform at their highest level.  Athletes of the “Toaster Oven” variety are a lot more versatile and can be put into may situations where they can thrive.  They are very resilient and don’t get rattled easily.  

Deep Fryer 
These athletes are a lot more up and down than their “Toaster” counterparts.  They go into times when they are figuring things out and then emerge victorious just to be submerged again a short time later.  Their progress is measurable and authentic.  This category often has athletes who may be going through issues of physical and mental growth.  They are a lot more up and down but on the plus side they cook very thoroughly.  When they are done they don’t need to go back in to be finished cooking and it is a one time deal.  

Conventional Oven 
For this type of athlete it takes time and whenever you want to take a look at their progress you can turn on the light to peak through the window on the over door to see how things are going.  The progress is slow but you can see it happening.  It is best to let these athletes work on their own from a far because if you open the door before they are ready the heat escapes.  It then takes longer for them to reach their potential when this happens.  This style of athlete requires a steady amount of consistent coaching energy.  The consistency is the key factor in providing their success they need to be checked in on from time to time but not micromanaged.  The heat should be adjusted accordingly to ensure they are still cooking up nicely and on pace.  

Luau Roast 
Athletes in this category are the trickiest to handle and take a while to prepare.  They have to be cooked for a long period and the process is very time consuming.  Sometimes the progress they show over time is very steady but since it is underground you have to wait for it to emerge on its own.  It’s similar to trying to watch a kettle boil as it seems to take forever.  These athletes can emerge where you weren’t sure if they were going to make it.  The struggle, analysis and ability to learn the game often makes up for physical limitations they may have.  Their unique perspective and attention to detail helps them to see things differently and give extra on the team.   Even though you may not be able to see the skills you can see they really are working behind the scenes.  Their progress can shoot up unexpectedly and out of the blue. The toughest thing about this athlete is knowing when enough time has been given for them to try to achieve their best.  For a long time it can feel like as a coach a lot of energy is being expended in their growth.  It is very hard to judge sometimes when enough is enough because when these athletes finally emerge it is incredible to witness. When they don’t it can feel like limited results have come out. 

Overall, athletes tend to stay within the area where they started.  There might be some shifting between styles however it is pretty common for athletes to continue down the same path where they originally started.  There may be some athletes who are also between categories in that they don’t exactly fit one area or type of growth.  

Monday, 2 May 2016


In between games this weekend we went to eat together and as the team gathered I couldn’t help but think of the times when I was a player huddled around for a meal with my teammates under similar circumstances.  As my athletes joined together it was such a nice moment to reflect back.  I watched from a couple of tables away thinking back to how much fun I used to have with my teammates when I was still playing.  Coaching sometimes requires a lot of time, patience and sacrifice so it is really nice to have those moments to just enjoy by taking a look at the players that have come together.  Seeing the improvement in the quality of their lives just by knowing they are a part of a solid group with no bearing, in that moment, on playing time, points scored or what happened in the last game.  It is just as simple as pure friendship.   

Of course many of us have friends from all parts of our lives.  It could be from early childhood, school, work, church or other social activities but for me when I think of my teammates it is a very different level of friendship entirely.  I may know some of my friends on a deeper level and have a better idea of all the things we have been through together over the years.  However, my teammates and I have done battle together very few things go deeper than that.  For me it reaches to my soul and although I didn’t get along over the years with every single one of my teammates I still respect them and appreciate their contribution to the group we were a part of.  

I think at the time I was in those circumstances I probably took my teammates for granted a lot more than I should have. Teammates are such an important part of the experience.  They are in the trenches with you but they also help you see things you maybe didn’t see. They are part of your learning, development and memories.    

Among my favourite things to reflect back on are the jokes and laughs shared.  For example, sometimes we went to restaurants in high school and would secretly tell the server it was our coach’s birthday so they would have the restaurant staff come over and sing her Happy Birthday unexpectedly. They would bring her cake and we would find it so funny. We did it once in a while each season to the point that when we got to the restaurant she would tell us not to do it. We still sometimes would so she would get paranoid and would tell the server in advance that it wasn’t her birthday just to stop us from playing that trick.  I still smile when I think of it.  

All of the teams I was a part of always found ways to have fun whether it was in junior high, high school, college or university.  We shared many memories on the court and nicknames, inside jokes and genuine laughs off the court. We also had moments of heartbreak, failure, injuries and challenges to manoeuvre through as well.  As a coach you have to in some regards be a bit distant from the team so it is nice to know they have each other to get themselves through.  When the team finds something to fight for other than the individuals that make up that team it is something really remarkable to witness.  Having team chemistry and a solid culture can really impact the longevity as well as the heights the team is willing to work to achieve.