• Jack Fleming

10 False Stories that have Fooled Me in Coaching



This post is motivated by the most recent Basketball Immersion Podcast with Zak Boisvert and Shyamala Kiru on emotional regulation and anger. Highly recommend the listen. None of these are absolutes, but possible traps I have believe haven't worked for me that are potentially just copying how I have been coached or observed the stereotype of coaching to be in the past.


1. The coach should always be Vince Lombardi up the front of the room with the 'this is football' speech.

  • The charisma of Brett Brown or Brian Goorjian is not really my thing.

  • I'm much better at getting to the work and trying to build 'knowledge of' versus 'knowledge about' the sport.


2. Accountability and culture are all about acronyms, slogans, clear expectations and being a drill sergeant.

The nervous system controls sensations, perceptions, feelings, thoughts and behaviour.

"It's absolutely foolish for any of us me included to think that we can do that by changing our thoughts first. It is behaviour first thoughts feelings and perceptions follow." - Dr. Andrew Huberman

  • Starting with the whiteboard exercise or the words on a wall at the beginning of the season is something I have miserably failed at, now I realise because they're all about thoughts.

  • I'd much rather the team focus on the 2-3 behaviours we can do every single time and in every single moment, then we can earn the words on the wall across time if necessary.


3. The player is an empty vessel.

  • Assuming this has created unneeded pressure on myself to know it all.

  • Starting and connecting with prior knowledge has saved me time and created a better environment of curiosity for me.


4. We should be tied and emotionally attached to the outcome.

  • Going to bed and not sleeping because you lost a game seems to be some sort of badge of honour, like you have complete control of winning every game.

  • I'd much rather let go because it allows me to recover better and do my job at a higher level the next day.

  • A friend once told me, "winning has nothing to do with why you coach." I won't forget that one.



5. Avoid parents at all costs, give them a list of expectations in a document and then your job is done.

  • Tried it, don't like it.

  • I'd much rather try to take the parents on a journey with as much as involvement or education as they're up for about their children's basketball.

  • JP Nerbun and Nate Sanderson on The Coaching Culture Podcast have done a terrific job educating me around this.


6. There's no fun or love when you want to be the best.

Completely disagree, you have to love what you do to be the best in the world at it. It has to be what it is when you started, a game. Steve Smith one of the best batsmen in the world, he's having the best time out on the world stage just like he was when he was six years old in his backyard. It allows him to play without fear.


"What work I have done I have done because it has been play. If it had been work I shouldn't have done it. . . . The work that is really a man's own work is play and not work at all. . . . When we talk about the great workers of the world we really mean the great players of the world." - Mark Twain

7. Coach should always have the solution and never make mistakes.

3 Elements of a Super Shrink: the best therapists in the world.

  1. Understand the baseline of their effectiveness - they shared that with their clients.

  2. Engage in deliberate practice - thinking, acting, reflecting.

  3. Get feedback - therapists getting real time feedback improved their outcomes by 65%.


If the best therapists seek feedback from people suffering from alcoholism, drug addiction etc - wouldn't it be wise that we seek feedback from those who we interact with daily?


8. The practice plan should be like a military operation.

  • To an extent, but the team is a living, breathing organism.

  • I have run practice better when there is room for flexibility, adjustment and co-adaptation.

  • Acknowledging the randomness and dynamics of human behaviour, see what emerges.

  • I've never coached in a game that has 5 minutes of defensive transition, than 3 minutes of shooting etc.


9. You should never have to coach effort or energy.

  • Have you never wrestled with your own ambivalence or lack of motivation?

  • Have you never had a bad day?

  • These behaviours are the drivers of performance, maybe they always come first.


10. We should always give honest feedback, even if somebody doesn't want to hear it.

  • If it's not going to be heard, why would we say it?

  • Everybody hates unsolicited advice, and I have found it's me doing it for my own benefit not the recipient.

  • If it's entirely necessary, I have found asking permission first to be a good starting point.


I am not perfect at any of these, but there's an intention there that I once copied what I thought to be true by imitation. Hopefully not again.



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