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  • Jack Fleming

Mike Neighbours — Mistakes I Made as a Head Coach — TRUTH BEFORE TRUST

Excerpt from Mike Neighbours coaching newsletter, current Head Coach of Arkansas Women’s Basketball Program. Previously a long time assistant coach and head coach of Washington Women’s program. A great sharer of the game with a brilliant basketball newsletter, I’m not sure if it’s still going but highly recommend it.

Again ‘assuming’ got the best of me. I had assumed the trust I had earned with the players as their assistant coach would directly carry over to the new office and the new title. Not true.

So, when I began from Day 1 with TRUST as one of our three core values, I told players the truth. The truth about their situation at UW. The truth about how I saw them fitting in with the change of staff. The truth about my expectations for them moving forward in their career.

Mistake category #2 was born!!!

Have you ever noticed in your life you don’t listen to people you don’t trust? Think about it for a second. Friends. People you are in relationships with. Strangers. Enemies. You listen to people you trust. As always this comes back to a Papa Neighbors quote:

“Don’t listen to anyone who doesn’t have a dog in the fight.”

I am betting after you thought about it, you realized your life long learning advice came from someone who had earned your trust.

Look at it from another perspective. Do you tell people the 100%, truth and nothing but the truth, nothing held back TRUTH to people you don’t TRUST? Betting that’s a no again.

Read in a book that if you want to find out if someone trusts/likes/respects/gives a crap about you, simply ask them for feedback on something. If you get ALL positives…they don’t!!! So true. We have all given a presentation or a talk in which everyone tells you what a great job you did. But you know you fumbled some words. Or you had a ton of “verbal graffiti” like, you know, um, um, um, um. Only people that love you will tell you your fly was open. Only people that care about you will tell you that you have something in your teeth.

Not saying you don’t listen to others. Not saying you don’t consider their input. Saying that when it comes down to it, you only tell the truth to people you trust and you only listen to truth from people you trust.

As my first year was unfolding, my desire to be transparent, to be an open book, to be 100% honest was well intended, but not so well executed.

Will share will you the best example…

My team was struggling with shot selection early in the year. We had a strong returning group of players who had been our leading scorers for two years with an incoming McDonald’s All-American who could also really score. I wanted it to be very clear what we viewed was an acceptable shot and what wasn’t. We showed film. We pointed in out in practice. We charted every shot take in our pre-season and posted for everyone to see.

My intention: That our team driven, high basketball IQ kids could see the results and realize who needed the most shots and why.

Result: Through first 30 practices, a scrimmage game, an exhibition game, and our first two regular season games, we still didn’t know.

My solution: Get everyone in the film room in front of a whiteboard. Break down for them that we get on average 70 FG attempts per game. Some games a few more. Some games a few less. But 70 on average. With that in mind, Player A needed between 12–17 of those. Player B needed 10–15 of those. Player C need 8–12 of those. The remaining shots would be available to those other players based on each game and need in each game.

All based on evidence from shooting in practice, in games, and extra shooting each of them put in. Evidence mind you. It was crystal clear to me that our team would want our best shooters taking the most shots therefore we would have a chance to win more games.

It was pretty much straight from the Don Meyer clinic on shot selection. How could it fail.

Well it failed. And it failed miserably. It completely backfired. It separated the team more. The players I said needed the shots even hated it. They felt extra pressure. They felt their teammates were counting their shots. For the next month, we were in recovery mode from my brilliant idea.

But you know what happened in about ten games? My exact shot distribution began to happen. And everyone was completely fine with it. In fact, they could be heard during timeouts saying Player A needs a couple touches. Or Player A saying to player B, you’re hot tonight I am looking for you!!

Conclusion: Once I had earned their trust and had earned each other’s trust, it was easier to accept. They believe in before they buy- in (as Kevin Eastman told me at a recent clinic.)

That could be restated… The Believe in after they Trust In…

Book Recommendations

The Speed of Trust by Stephen Covey

The Truth About Trust by David Desteno

Switch by Chip and Dan Heath

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