Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Makings of a Successful Season

This season I was lucky enough to be able to coach a 7th grade AAU team for the Minnesota Heat with the Hoops Czar himself. Willie Vang's Heat organization couldn't be run any better and Coaching with the Czar is a trip. It was an outstanding experience to say the least. We were blessed with a GREAT group of players and parents. These players showed up every day, worked hard, and were a joy to coach! They listened to what they were told and attempted to apply it. Equally as impressive was the support of the parents, not a single issue all year. Bottom line, this was a "Dream Team" for me to coach. There is not a coach in America who had it easier than I did this year!

When it came to winning, we were alright. We ended up being just below .500 for the season. The players enjoyed themselves as did the coaches. How did we have such a positive season without winning a ton of games? Quite honestly, the majority of the reason was we were blessed with a perfect storm of players and families that bought into our mission and are just all around outstanding people. I do think that our goals, mission, and approach had something to do with it as well. Below are some things that we did this year that I believe allowed us to have a wildly successful season even though our record was average.

1. Our emphasis was on development, improvement, and playing hard. 
    From day 1 we told our guys that our only job was to get better and the wins would
    come. I think that this approach is helpful because players can focus on the process
    instead of the result. I it also allowed us to praise effort, attitude, and improvement over
    wins and losses. Once you start to emphasize wins and not the system, you are going
    to lose guys if the wins don't come.

2. We used a mentor-leader style of coaching that empowered our players. 
    I used to be a yeller and a screamer. I've thrown trash cans, broke clip boards,
    and yelled in player's faces. But as I've grown I've realized that players are not out
    here trying to screw up. (Thanks Coach Novak) So instead of yelling and screaming
    when players made mistakes, we TAUGHT and RETAUGHT. That doesn't mean there
   were not consequences (pushups in practice, etc), but we tried hard to empower our
   players instead of belittle them. We wanted them to have a positive experience and
   were very meticulous about that.

3. We emphasized character over wins. 
   Until you are teaching players how to be good young men and women you really are
   not coaching. We tried this year to introduce some character pieces and help them
   develop as people. I think this is a key to getting buy in from all parties - show it's
   about more than wins and about more than satisfying your ego as a coach.

4. We played with a team first mentality.
   We push players to share the ball, take open shots, etc. I think when you cater to
   a star it puts stress on the rest of the team.

I think if you can do these four things every year you will have positive results. If you go out and try hard to give every player a positive experience, good things will come. It's easy to say that it's 7th grade AAU and that's easier than high school. I agree with that, to a point. You can still go out of your way to be positive with your players, teach character, acknowledge growth and acknowledge the contributions of every player. Lastly, I would again like to publicly thank the players I had the opportunity to work with, as well as their parents. They are great people who gave me the most fun season of basketball I have ever had!