Top 40 Lessons I Learned in 2021
Well..... it's been a while. This is probably my first blog in 5 or 6 months since my new role as an assistant at the Tasmania JackJumpers in the NBL - but my favourite one to write every single year. Being in a new context, everything I have learned has been at the privilege of being around 3 brilliant coaches, an awesome staff and 15 exceptional humans we have as players. A year of massive change, challenge and growth for myself, 40 lessons could probably be 200 but here goes! If you want to read from past years I will link below.
1. Do you have a 'next' in your offence?
The way to keep your pace in the half court is to have default buttons your players can always push - that fits their role and strengths. This requires consistent spacing scenarios.
2. Shot Selection
Something I did not understand as much at the junior level, where you are often trying to promote confidence and a shoot first mentality.
Are you considering the shots that came before you? Are you comfortable as a coach saying - we can do better. Always an art not a science, but an education. Truth over harmony.
3. Sacrifices Need to be Made & Celebrated
A hard screen, a willingness to move it on, a finished cut to the 3pt line - for what is best for the team.
4. A Pro is a Product of their Routines
Do you have daily shooting health? Do you have a purpose when you walk onto the floor? Do you know what you need to get back to when things aren't rolling your way?
How does your program educate a young player, on how to be a pro?
Find myself extremely fortunate in a short time span to see some of the ultimate professionals be methodical in their approach, success is not an accident.
5. Skip It
Skip passes in transition, diagonal skips out of the post, weak side skips out of the pick and roll. The best teams vs the best defence, find shots on the weak side.
6. Teaching to Read the Road Map
What was your position?
What could/did you see?
What were your options?
Was it the decision or the execution?
Most important = what would you do next time?
Often it's body position/spacing or vision that's the source of the problem - but too often we skip to fixing the decision or skill execution. Players make decisions based on where their body is facing and what they are looking at.
7. Individual workouts - is it a day of reps and effort, or a day of technique? Context.
How many minutes have they played? When was our last game? When's our next game?
What's on the menu at practice?
What's their latest report from our medical staff?
How are they feeling about their own game?
8. Post Play
All teaching points stolen from Mark Radford, Damian Cotter & Mike Mackay.
Any time you pivot or play through contact, drop your hips.
Post up with your scapula.
Catch it strong, long arm the catch. Feet to the ball if you need to - never wait for it.
Chin It - look through the opposite elbow, find the best shooter.
Chinning the ball = strong through the elbows, supple through the wrists.
Ducks Ins = head above - drive him up. Head below - foot over foot, chest to the ball .
You shoot jump hooks with your eyes - ball and butt rise together.
9. Players love to shoot, players love to compete. Usually can't go wrong combining the two.
A great clinic from a close friend of mine Ash Arnott on his favourite team shooting drills he has come up with or stolen over the years.
10. So much long term value in organising your offensive ideas.
See a play you like, save it, categorise it. See a drill you like, record it, categorise it. You never know when you might need to find it.
11. Simplicity - Accountability - Emphasis
Extremely fortunate to watch our Head Coach teach defence every single day. We have a simple philosophy. Everybody is accountable. We talk about it, watch film on it, every single day.
12. What are we living with?
When confusion and frustration come into play from your players, or discouragement - always comes back to a simple question. What are we trying give up?
13. Watch Matthew Dellavedova
IQ, technique and effort - combination of these three things is off the charts. Pattern recognition is a step ahead of everybody else.
14. Defensive intelligence means nothing if you don't share it.
Talk to the guy above you, be the traffic cop. The intelligence of your defence must be shared and aligned, not operating in silo's .
5. Get in the Fight
You'll never get a rebound if you don't go. You'll never get a loose ball if you don't go with your body first. He who hesitates is lost.
6. 2 Trappers - 2 Interceptors - 1 Protector
When your terminology explains their role, half your work is done.
17. Defensive transition is your back bone.
What are your priorities?
How far do you load to the ball?
How deep is your plugger?
How do you defend the drag screen?
Below is a great clinic on defensive containment and disruption by Adam Caporn, the new Head Coach of the Long Island Nets.
18. As long as you do it hard, and talk to your team mates - we are not looking for perfection.
The worst decision is no decision.
19. Pressure is relative to the individual.
What's realistic pressure for your point guard in the back court?
What's realistic pressure for your x5 on the perimeter?
Challenge but must recognise realistic expectations between yourself and that individual.
20. Be flexible, but don't get too far strung from your identity.
Try and live there in the 80%, do what you do well.
THE NEW JOB & LIFE
New home town, Hobart Tasmania.
21. You never know when your opportunity will come, just be as ready as you can.
Do you have your coaching philosophy on paper?
Do you have video of you being on the floor? Running a practice? Running a workout?
Do you have a sample scout ready to go?
22. Don't skip your routines, dumb ass.
Meditate, exercise, eat well, sleep, see the sun, switch off. Work in progress.
23. There are great coaches at all levels, who are great at different things.
I am 10x better at individual workouts and video than I was 6 months ago, by sheer repetition. But I am worse at other things - like leading a culture or thinking like a Head Coach. It's all adding tools in your tool box, and being very comfortable with your weaknesses.
24. You will be insecure, and struggle - when you start something new. Dig in. Do some fear setting.
There was a while there with some anxiety about performing under the pressures in this new environment. But one morning I journalled on these questions from Tim Ferriss, and it helped me immensely.
Define your nightmare, the absolute worst that could happen if you did what you are considering. Envision them in painstaking detail. Would it be the end of your life? What would be the permanent impact, if any, on a scale of 1–10? Are these things really permanent? How likely do you think it is that they would actually happen?
What steps could you take to repair the damage or get things back on the upswing, even if temporarily?
What are the outcomes or benefits, both temporary and permanent, of more probable scenarios? How likely is it that you could produce at least a moderately good outcome? Have less intelligent people done this before and pulled it off?
If you were fired from your job today, what would you do to get things under financial control? If you quit your job to test other options, how could you later get back on the same career track if you absolutely had to?
What are you putting off out of fear? Usually, what we most fear doing is what we most need to do. What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do.
What is it costing you—financially, emotionally, and physically—to postpone action? If you don’t pursue those things that excite you, where will you be in one year, five years, and ten years?
What are you waiting for? If you cannot answer this, the answer is simple: You’re afraid, just like the rest of the world. Get to it.
25. Embrace the Inefficiency
Whenever you are going through the process of finding new workflows, it's going to take longer than usual. You will make multiple mistakes where you have to start over, double and triple check everything. That's part of being a beginner, keep making iterations and eventually efficiency will come.
26. Every player, coach and person has fears, insecurities and self doubt. Some are just better at hiding it than others.
When I'm reminded of this, it allowed me to have great empathy for trying to understand others behaviours. More to it, there's a deeper layer to every person that if you can reach you have an opportunity to make a true impact.
You might never get there if you're not willing to put yourself out there first, something I have watched and learned from the other great staff around me. Work in progress.
27. Praise, Prompt and Leave (with players and coaches)
Take your ideas to the Head coach, but then leave them alone. It's not your job to push, let them linger with it.
28. Teams that do this more, win more.
30. Seek to be an aspirational example - of having an identity outside of the game.
Question to ask your players: imagine your life without basketball - what would you do? Someday you'll have to figure that out, you might as well start building on that now.
Until you find value in the person that you are, rather than your achievements, you won't scratch the surface of who you could be as a player or coach.
31. You cannot fluff your way through it, players are too smart.
I have great appreciation for how much better a coach I have been made to be, by how intelligent the players are.
32. The balance of player empowerment and coach led interventions is where the modern day master coach lives. Intentionality.
Who does my team need me to be today? Reflect on that at the end of each day.
33. Consistency over intensity. Decades not days.
Some days it's about just coming in and getting your work done, not pretty or glamourous but it gets done. But the best have a minimum that ALWAYS gets done - they don't miss 3 days then go super hard on day 4. They know what they need.
34. The greatest joy is watching a player be the truest version of themself out on the floor.
There is child like joy and curiosity at the forefront of the highest performers in the world. The smile on Steph Curry's face when he runs back, Steve Smith always shadow batting wherever he goes. How can we create opportunities for more of those moments, for those who sometimes forget the fun of the game?
35. Every player needs and deep down wants love and truth from their coaches.
From Jack Easterby, former character coach at the New England Patriots - every player wants unconditional love.
Knowing that there is support behind them through thick and thin. But they also want to be pushed and taken to a place they wouldn't take themselves, even when that conversation hurts.
36. The most consistent players will often exceed a little more than their role, but never ever less than that.
An understanding of the 2-3 things they do well that gets them on the floor, and this never waivers. In the pursuit of expansion, never subtract what's already working for you.
37. Players want to be coached - but they connect with you as a person not your knowledge.
I was curious whether this would be true or not, going into a new environment. It is definitely, it just might look different to each individual how you would go about it.
The best don't just expect coaching they demand it.
38. Communication isn't about me, it's about how it's interpreted.
How does your message come across? I need to strike that balance of confidence and curious in my message.
39. Success is not defined by the achievement, but by going after it, having a crack and overcoming adversity. Doing it together.
If we limit our thoughts and aspirations to what is practical or realistic, we will surely fall short of our goals. If we really want to understand ourselves then we must search beyond ourselves, aiming high and letting the crosswinds blow you back to who you are.” - Victor Frankl
40. It's about pursuing meaningful things with meaningful people.
I couldn't be more fortunate, none of this would be possible without my partner and her willingness to explore my coaching opportunities together. To move here on a limb, quit her job, find another one, create a community and new hub of friends and be the biggest the JackJumpers biggest supporter/occasional coach is truly amazing.
Well that's 2021, what a year. Look forward to writing the next one! Thanks if you made it this far!