These blogs are intented to be thoughts by me on topics mainly geared towards Basketball, Teaching and Leadership. If you don't agree with what I think, then express yourself or move on.

Sunday, 12 August 2018

A Terrible thing just happened....so now what?

Coaching is nowhere near simply knowing your Time and Score Situations inside and out, have a sound substitution pattern to maximize your players' energy levels, have a solid X and O portfolio, knowing how to structure your practice plans so that it flows well while touching on all the important things your team needs to refine or knowing when to help the refs do their jobs better (yeah I went there). There are so many times in a game that high character leadership must come before all of that.  This video is by far the best example of how to NEVER have your team leave a huddle after a terrible mistake and it does not matter what level of play we are talking about.

Yes George Hill should have hit his second foul shot. Yes JR Smith should have known what the situation was on a make or a miss. But the shot was missed and the NBA (Next Best Action) move from JR did not happen or from Tyronn Lue with a miss timeout situation. We can all pick that apart like there's no tomorrow.  But what I want to focus on is, what was happening, or more importantly, not happening on that Cavs bench after the terrible thing.

Coaching as mentioned before, has so very little to do with the focus of this timeout from the coaching staff (the next play).  In this situation, togetherness as a unit needed to be the NBA move. It is painful to watch the Cavs completely fall apart from a messed up moment. All that needed to happen (not to over simplify) was for someone to step up and get that group to move on together from the bad moment. Not to let that one moment kill their chances to regroup and play inspired basketball for game two.  But it is not at all what happened. Instead, the coach waited until there was just about no time left in his timeout before joining his team and showed, in my opinion, a weak way to confront the situation that really needed to be addressed- togetherness. George Hill needed to hear and feel from someone that he will get a shot again. To not worry about it. He needed to be given energy. Nothing like that happened. Instead, everyone stayed silent and just got sucked into the terrible moment. You will notice Kyle Korver speak up and Smith seemed to snap out of it.  Then he touches Hill (touching is a big deal in energy giving) and Hill seems to snap out of it.  But again, far too much time elapse and both players fall into the negativity of the moment. Where is Lue....why is every single coach silent not doing a thing to help keep everyone's minds away from going dark and yes, Lebron should have stepped up as well to try and get his guys going again.  But, the terrible moment was sealed when  Lue finally gets to the huddle and admits that they had a timeout left but did not call it. Smith and Hill want one more crack at it but the negative energy from their player leader was too much. This to me was the moment that buried the Cavs in that series. Not to take away the plan the Warriors had in place to beat them.

What needed to happen is not taught in any coaching course I have ever heard of. Nobody talks about these situations in coaching clinics.  But they are MASSIVE to building teams, togetherness and a trust culture.

1- Leadership starts at the top.

The Head Coach needs to tackle every difficult situation head on. Be true! Head Coaches are human and they make mistakes just like anybody else. Thinking about oneself when you have players that need you is to me, the worse mistake you can possibly make (forget about missing a timeout call). Be there for your players ALWAYS AND NO MATTER WHAT! (I have made the mistake of not being there in hard times. It will never happen again).

2- Player leadership

It is critical to any successful team. The best player does not always need to be that person. It can be anybody really. But most of the time, the guy (or girl) that has a relentless work ethic within his or her team will have the ability to get everyone's attention.  But when a player's leadership is being manifested, it needs to be supported by his peers and by the coaching staff.

3- Touch

It sounds odd but the touch makes it personal. It says "I'm with you". It helps tremendously to snap the mind out of the funk it is in or it helps keep it right where it needs to be. Tap on the leg, shoulder grab, hard hand squeeze, etc are all tremendous for showing a high care level.

Coaches need to work on these skills as well as all the other stuff they need to be able to do in a blink of an eye.

Friday, 18 May 2018

Maximum Effort is a Skill

Toughest thing to teach has nothing to do with basketball. Anybody that has coached or been in a leadership role business wise will speak for days on how vastly different each individual in their organisation is with respect to effort levels.  I have been coaching basketball for a while now and at all kinds of levels. I can sincerely say, that I have only coached a handful of players that get after it as hard as they can every single day no matter if we are talking about a practice, a game or a workout. The majority of the players I have coached, needed to be motivated on a daily basis to exert the maximum amount of effort. This situation is the norm. Case in point, see quote by Steve Nash below. Anybody that claims that it is not the norm, to me, are ignoring their role in developing the skill. Or maybe they think developing the skill is not part of their role as a coach?

I hear it all the time: "I shouldn't need to coach effort!" or "We don't deal with players that don't bring it everyday". Truth is, for a coach to be able to say those things, one has to look at the body of work to get to the point of being able to say these things. Maximum effort is a skill and this skill, so far as I am concerned, it best taught through culture!  The players that exert maximum effort 100% of the time have been taught to do this at some point in their lives and it has become a part of them.  It has become the way they do things. Someone or something has instilled this trait in that player or person. It did not magically happen. All humans are born with a psychological self defense mechanism (cognitive dissonance) that tells our brain to take the path of least resistance. To change that requires focused intent and specific goal setting.  Not to mention a heightened awareness to stave off the idea of coasting or taking it easy.

Here are my thoughts on how to best motivate your athlete. You will notice that I try to stay away from extrinsic motivation (although it does have its role) and focus much more on creating intrinsic motivation (change the mindset).

1- It's all about the culture

This is where strong leadership comes in. Having a reputation set as the type of leader you are will greatly facilitate establishing your norm of maximum effort every single day to your players.  But regardless of how great the reputation and how great the leader, it will be a slow and frustrating process unless you have players that already have maximum effort trait in them. These players must be your captains. And it must be well understood to the group as to why they are the team captains. Don't declare them as the hardest working of the bunch. Rather, declare them as the best mirror image of you, the leader. Common language that would be heard in this culture should be: "we don't do it that way here", " insert team name here way" or a player holding another player accountable for lack of effort (not for making a mistake or missing a shot). Once this type of thing starts happening on your team, you have set the culture to maximum effort standards across the board.

2- Mindset

Getting better every single day in the pursuit of constant and regular success, fully understanding that failures will happen just as constantly and regularly and should be embraced when it does, is the only way a hard working team thinks. No such thing as failing. Failing is learning. Learning is getting better. When the effort is on a maximum scale, that is the only way to maximize the learning. When your players or your people can buy into this very powerful way of thinking, great things happen. The group has a strong sense of mission. A strong sense of togetherness. The focus is always optimal. The athlete becomes world class in his approach to his craft. The leader, simply needs to sit back and make sure the emotional state of his players or people is balanced so that they can continue to be what they have become to be.

And to me, it really is two things.  Maybe other coaches or leaders see it as a much more complex predicament.  Sometimes the culture set happens quickly and sometimes it takes time. Sometimes the culture falls apart (seen it first hand and it's not pretty).  At the end of the day, if your player leadership is strong, vocal, consistent and the mindset is there, maximum effort on a daily basis should remain to be the norm.

As usual, share your thoughts on the topic in the comment section if you have anything at all to add.

Monday, 5 September 2016

An Interview by NBHoops.com

An interview by NBHoops.com

Recently I had the pleasure of answering a few questions about my thoughts and journey as it pertains to the world of coaching the game of basketball.  The exercise was one that made me reflect quite a bit.  For the sake of saving this conversation for future reference, I thought to include it on my blog.  And so, here it goes!

Back to the Pros is Where Langis Yearned to Land

In a classroom setting, Serge Langis is met with many challenges, but many opportunities to tell his students not to give up.
 His message as a teacher was a message he had to give himself last February.
 Langis had been fired as head coach of the National Basketball League of Canada’s Moncton Miracles, a sting that bit the Moncton – um, Parkton - resident hard.
 He recalled how he dealt with the news and how he moved on.
 ‘It was tough and anyone with any kind of pride would take that sort of thing hard,’ Langis said. ‘This (pro basketball) is a hard business. The measure of a coach for some people is limited to wins and losses. But at the end of the day, when adversity presents itself in my life, I think of my son and my students to whom I preach on a daily basis to be resilient and bounce back no matter what. If I do not practice what I preach, what would that make me?’
 It’s hard not to understand just how passionate Langis is about family, about basketball.
 His life revolves around it, supported by his wife Nicole and son, Olivier.
 And, now, he is back in the professional game, returning to the NBLC.
 Langis is the head coach of the expansion Kitchener-Waterloo Titans in Ontario. The Titans and the rest of the minor professional NBLC begin play following Christmas. The circuit has two New Brunswick-based teams including Langis’ former squad in Moncton and the Saint John Mill Rats.
 When the relationship with the Miracles ended, it was the proverbial one door closing, another one opening scenario.
 But Langis didn’t wait for someone to push that door open.
 He was knocking.
 ‘I must have spoken to hundreds of people in the pro basketball community about potential openings,’ he said. ‘I love the competition and the people involved in the NBLC. When I heard Kitchener-Waterloo was coming in as an expansion team, I reached out to them, was interviewed and the rest is history. This is a very good league and the knowledge that is shared with me by the people I meet is absolutely priceless.’
 His experience with the Miracles, where he held a plethora of duties upon joining the franchise in 2011, will go a long way in understanding how difficult it can be to operate under the umbrella of an expansion team.
 You can’t build a roof until you build a floor.
 ‘Getting out there and talking to agents and players about what you are trying to do as a coach and recruiting them is what I love about the job,’ Langis said. ‘I am certainly not alone doing that in Kitchener-Waterloo. General Manager Stu Julius has a tremendous amount of experience in the world of basketball. Everyone has their hands on deck. The franchise is a body of collaborative work in every detail.’
 Langis, who runs the popular Moncton-based Sweat Academy and the fledgling Shot Lab with partners Michael MacDougall and David Dodge, will bring his trademark work ethic with him to Kitchener-Waterloo.
 He wants to hit the ground running with all the free agent camps the NBLC operates and find players who share that passion, that drive.
 That sweat equity brand.
 ‘There is a lot that goes into coaching at this level, but no matter the level of play, players want to feel like they are in good hands,’ he said. ‘For that to happen, a coach must have a very strong work ethic, knowledge and leadership skills. I often hear of problems some teams have and without fail, you can always trace it back to one of those three things I just mentioned. Players at this level want to be pushed.’
 As he prepares to launch into his new post, Langis will leave behind New Brunswick and his many contacts in the province.
 He is one of the very few coaches from N.B. earning a paycheque while coaching basketball.
 Langis said the province has a legion of outstanding and dedicated coaches, who need to spend more time together.
‘This province has tremendously skilled coaches, but I feel what holds us back is the attitude of not sharing,’ he said. ‘Not getting out there and learning from others or even seeking opportunities to learn. In my early coaching years, I tried to be in the same room as coaches like Brian Forsythe, Steve Chapman, Neil Smith and Roger Cormier just to name a few. All I was seeking was information I could use to better help my teams.’
 That desire to pack in more knowledge hasn’t changed.
 Not a bit.
 ‘I still try and be in the same room as those guys today if the opportunity presents itself,’ he said. ‘I went all over the place for clinics on my own dollar. I feel coaches today fire up Google and settle for that as their development tool. Coaching is a science and an art. It requires much more than knowing plays. It requires time spent in the gym observing and asking questions.’
 Langis, who landed his first coaching gig as a 19-year-old, knows he won’t be in the classroom this year as he makes his way to Ontario and the job of running the Titans.
 He is following his heart.
 ‘I love my students like they are my own children, even the annoying ones and they know who there are’ chuckled Langis. ‘I tell them to find their passion and do nothing else but try to get there every day, no matter what. Teaching is a passionate thing for me, but I have the basketball/competitive side that drives me more. I like to think that doing what I am trying to do is inspiring at least one of them to pursue their passion like I am trying to do.’

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Myth Buster- Sweat Academy

What exactly is Sweat Academy?

First and foremost, Sweat Academy is something that has been created because Michael MacDougall (Co-Owner and Co-Founder) and I felt there was a need for it.  Before I carry on, let me take the time to explain what it is NOT.

Sweat is NOT:
  • limited to basketball only (it is for now but we do have plans to expand the idea to other sports)
  • designed to undermine or contradict or "show-up" other programs or associations
  • showing new skill techniques or tactics
  • pretending to be perfect
So let`s get to the point of this blog entry.  What exactly is Sweat Academy?  What are we trying to accomplish?

We want to wear one hat.  What I mean by that is we want to help build high level athletic performance.   We do care about grassroots but there are plenty of options out there for grassroots. Where the athlete is limited is higher level development.  We work with the middle to higher level athletes on the stages of performance pyramid.  Athletes that aspire to play past their High School or University years is who we work with because that is the need.  What we are doing is nothing new. However, our approach is!

  • very family oriented (our athletes have a connection to one-another and it does not matter if you are a High School aged player or Professional player)
  • our coaching staff is very diverse and is passionate about being current in practices and science of athletic development and art of coaching
  • we use data to encourage and target development
  • we use technologie to assess performance and again target development
  • we emphasize fundamentals (but fundamentals for grassroots is different than fundamentals for high level athletes and we get that difference)

The big thing with how we coach is the rule of No Absolutes.  So many coaches will lose their minds if a player leaves his feet to make a pass,  or not be in a defensive stance at all times, or have hands down while in help position, or not jump stop when in the paint or cross the feet on a defensive slide.  They view those as absolutes.  Not us.  Not by a long shot.  For us everything depends on the situation during game play or even practice.  We may tell a player not to leave his feet in order to make a pass. BUT, we will explain WHY.  For instance in open court, jumping to make a pass takes away a lot of the power one needs to cover the ground needed in order to execute the pass, therefore a defender can much easier shoot the passing lane and steal the pass.  But maybe jumping to make a pass is necessary because you are saving the ball from going out of bounds or you need to have that higher angle in order to pass over a shorter player so you can hit that open teammate in the corner from a baseline penetration.  Everything we do at Sweat has the basketball IQ factor (The Why).  

The other big thing for us is conditioning.  It is my experience that the higher the level, the more skill becomes even.  It is the ability to execute the skill at the speed and stamina necessary on a regular basis that makes the difference between a good player and an elite player.  To be consistent with performance, the elite level athlete will be incredibly conditioned.  

Finally, the psychology part. Nobody thoroughly enjoys the GRIND.  It is called GRIND for a reason.  It is not fun.  Nothing about it is designed to be fun.  But it is absolutely necessary for regular positive success.  The elite level athletes understand this and they embrace the GRIND.  Those that do, succeed and do so regularly.  Those that do not will have some success but it will be inconsistent and become frustrating which then leads to complacency or even worse....quit!

So there you go, that is who we are in a nutshell.  Visit us at www.sweatacademy.com for more info. 

Saturday, 5 September 2015

The Competitive Spirit

What does it mean "to be competitive?" Where does the trait come from? Is it something a person is born with or can it be something developed like learning how to ride a bike?  When we see images such as the ones I've posted, one immediately concludes these guys are very competitive.  But really, what you see here is the reactive response to an outside stimuli.  Where it comes from is what I want to talk about in this blog entry.

On a chemical stand point, research has shown that high testosterone and low serotonin will result in a person being assertive, aggressive and thus competitive (Foundations in Neuroscience (2002), John T. Cacioppo- just to name one of many studies).  So coming back to the images.  In any competitive circle, these images show up regularly.  And they are prompted when a negative stimuli has been experienced.  Notice I did not put any images of "happy" reactions.  There's a reason for that and my point surrounds that reason.  You see, when success takes place, something else happens in the brain (dopamine release) which encourages the person to continue.  But what about when you fail!?  When you mess up a play?  When you get subbed out and you know it will be a while before you get back in the game?  What makes you come back for more? What makes you stay focused?  It's the Competitive Spirit.  It's not chemicals, it's not DNA and it's not mom and dad making you come back (although they have a large role to play in your Competitive Spirit development).

A Competitive Spirit is ambition.  It's a passionate and relentless pursuit toward a difficult goal.  It's a deep understanding that many failures will take place before a significant succeed happens (notice I said significant) and you are perfectly ok with that reality.  It's a deep understanding that persistence, determination, frustration and pain are four good friends.  The desire to do well at whatever you are doing, regardless if you want to be doing it or not, is the platform upon which one develops the Competitive Spirit.  It always starts with the person.  It's a choice!  Are people more incline to be extra competitive?  Sure!  That's where the Nature vs Nurture debate comes up.  But my stance is nurture has a far more important role to play.  If done correctly, an individual will take any sort of mistake or failure very personally (i.e. the images).  But they will immediately get back at trying to succeed again.  Being competitive has absolutely nothing to do with winning or losing.  But everything to do with the journey do succeed.  And then want more....and more.....and more.

One of my biggest pet peeves (and I have a couple hundred of them) is hearing someone say: "I hate losing!"  Well no sh*% you hate losing.  Nobody likes to lose.  How competitive are you?  Is it going to happen again?  Yes it will.  Is it going to happen the same way.  It better not!  And that is the Competitive Spirit.

I tell my teams all the time.  "Ok, we've lost a game.  Good teams don't lose two in a row!"  What I am trying to do with that line is tap into the Competitive Spirit.  It is rare that I see a mature aged player "get it".  But for high school players, it is the perfect time to teach them to have a Competitive Spirit. Get after it! Figure out what went wrong and eliminate that weakness.  Study your opponent more and find that detail that will give you an advantage.  Keep chasing for that win!  Live every aspect of your life that way!

My two cents on the topic. Comment away folks.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

So you're not the "Go to Guy" on your basketball team.......it's ok....you're still special :)

If you find yourself looking like this guy when you are on the court

more times than you would like and this guy 

when a pass actually comes your way, you are not alone!  In fact, you are the majority!

Of course, I am exaggerating my intro with the picture I am painting but my point remains the same.  Every single basketball team will have 3 or 4 talents that are capable to create for others no matter the play or tactic used.  The ball MUST be in their hands as much as possible.  We only have one basketball out there for 5 players to "share" (don't like that word in the basketball world- more on that later) and since we (the coaches) want to make sure the right guy (or girl) has it in his hands most of the time, that means the other 4 players will not get to have the basketball come their way all that much in a typical, evenly matched basketball game.  So what to do?  You draw up a play that has the ball touch everyone's hands right?  And then, you HOPE it ends up in the player's hands you most want.  What happens in this scenario is the game is played on HOPE instead of LOGIC!

I like LOGIC (or intelligent play) so here's what I have to say about Role Players.  The go-to-guy IS a role player!  Let's be clear about that before we move on to the other 4 guys on the court. The GTG (go-to-guy) is the player that has the ability to create for himself and for others.  Creating for himself is the easy part for this player.  The difficult part is to include his teammates where and when appropriate to do so.  This player needs to have a deep understanding for time and score (no "early clock" shots unless it's a lay-up of course), moving the ball when secondary defenders are engaged and who to give the ball to with time and score in mind.  Most teams now-a-day have the Point Guards be this person.  But this person can also be your big man. I will not get into that aspect of team play because that is not what this blog entry is about.

As for the O4 (other 4) players, first thing they need to understand is the idea of "sharing" is very misleading.  Should the ball move on
offense?  Absolutely!  However, not every player will get a touch on every possession or every other possession for that matter just because.  This whole idea of "sharing" has created a monster with our teams today.  What I mean by that is if a player goes a possession not touching the ball, they feel they are entitled to not defend, rebound or run the floor in order to make a point about getting a touch.  But the real point is, coach has you out there playing!  He has you out there playing because he feels your skill set can help the team win.  But only if you understand sharing is not going to happen and it should not happen.  If your go to guy does not have the ball in his hands and we have 10 seconds left on the shot clock, you better be working hard to help him get open.  That is where the other 4 guys on the court need to have their minds.  It's really simple as that!  

Now let's talk about the guys coming off the bench (the BP-bench players).  These guys just like the GTG and the O4 are also role players. The BP need to understand, on a deep level how important they are to the energy being exerted by the 5 teammates out on the court.  No talk, bad body language or not reacting to good plays can have a very negative result for the teammates out on the court.  Is it fun to be a BP?  Of course not!  But then again, you are on the team.  So make your own fun.

Of course, there's a lot more to this than what I have posted on this blog entry.  Just about all of my coaching efforts go toward creating this sort of culture on my teams (defining roles).  At the end of the day, it's all about the state of mind.  Understand your place on a team, accept it and do it well.  Change your place on that team in the off-season.  Not during the season.  During the season, get better at being what your team needs you to be.

My two cents

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Being a Point Guard

No I do not have John Stockton's permission to use his photo.  Honestly, I am hoping he finds out that I am using it without his permission and he gets in touch with me to discuss :)

Obviously, this blog post will be on the topic of the Point Guard position in the game of basketball.  I feel like this is an important topic to discuss because of how the game has evolved and how today's point guards are looked upon for so much more than just bringing the ball down the court without turning it over.  For the sake of not writing a book on the issue, I will keep the topic on three aspects I feel make a point guard the most important individual on ANY team:
1- Thick Skin
2- Always a student of the game
3- GEL

Thick Skin

As a coach, I view the PG position as indispensable as far as consistently winning is concerned.  If the PG is focused and playing well, things go well.  When the PG seems to be distracted or has low energy, things usually go bad.  The PG position in my opinion is the most difficult position to play in the game.  Not only does this individual need to make sure the offense is run correctly during game play but if a teammate does not seem to be on the same page, I am talking to the PG FIRST!  Maybe it's a coaching style thing but the way I look at it, if you can empower your PG to be the "boss" on the floor rather than micro-manage every player from the bench, team accountability goes through the charts (and that is a good thing).  We all know that when players make themselves accountable to one-another, those teams win a lot.  If it's coach dominant, those teams win games but never seem to go as far as their talent should allow them.  The PG will typically be blamed for other players' mistakes.  I've done it during film sessions where it seems like I am only talking to the PGs.  These players constantly are getting battered by me which is why if they are sensitive or soft, I can't use them.  I can't use them because they will not take ownership of the team.  It's all about personality.  You need to have the right character to be a PG.  That individual needs to be able to hear the message and not all the adjectives and volume with which the message is accompanied.

Student of the game

The game is dynamic and fast.  It changes constantly not only during game play but also in it's evolution.  No matter what the offense is, the PG needs to understand it inside and out.  They need to be able to figure out that on play X, player X will most likely be the open guy.  On play Y, player W will get the quality look.  A good coach will already point that out but then the PG needs to actually execute that vision and therefore, needs to understand the coach's logic on an even deeper level.  This is where the small detail of "shadowing the coach" will give the PG a huge leg-up on that deeper understanding.  A good PG will always find himself near his coach as much as possible (without being a stalker).  Not just during the games but also outside of the basketball court.  Whenever the PG is not in the game, he or she should be sitting next to the coach or one of the coaches.  True PG do this without even knowing it sometimes.  They naturally want to hear all the dialogue between coach and other players.  During team meals, they sit as close to the coaches' table as possible.  Again, to catch any little knowledge nugget of what the staff is looking for.  These PG don't ever watch another basketball game to be entertained.  They watch it to notice things.  Things such as how did that player become so wide open?  Why did that PG turn the ball over in that situation? So on and so forth.  Another thing these true PG do is read constantly on the topic of leadership on any platform.


Get Everyone Listening!  True PG are capable of capturing the room's attention.  They just have this ability about them of when they have something to say, every teammate of theirs are fully engaged in that moment.  This does not mean he or she is constantly speaking.  That would be counterproductive.  Rather, this person will rarely address the team (usually the coach's job).  When those losing streaks sneak up on you, players will tend to push and go out of what the team is trying to strategically and tactically accomplish.  Also, when the team is on a winning streak, players will become complacent and take possessions off.  This is where the GEL of a good PG would kick in.  This individual has a gift to keep a group of individuals focused on the goals of the team at all times.

I could go on and on about these three components but keep this in mind; there are not many true PG out there.  In my 20 plus years of doing the coaching thing, I have had the pleasure of coaching only two that had the things I mention.  Daniel Quirion of the University of New Brunswick (coached him in High School, provincial ball and hopefully for the Moncton Miracles this coming 2014-2015 season) and Oliver McNally of Harvard (coached him with the Moncton Miracles).  These two guys did things instinctually and to some extent consciously, that really set them apart.  However, before they are capable of doing all of the things I mention, they must understand how leadership works.  Both of them, not perfectly, did get that.  If you are not sure what I am talking about, please read my take on leadership in this blog :)

Lastly, the true PG not only needs to have these attributes, they also need to be able to run a Pick and Roll, change speeds under physical pressure, run an offense, get in the lane to find open teammates and knock down the occasional three.  I could break down all these things to accompany the attributes but I will spare my readers of that (unless you want me to haha).  My point is the aspiring True PG needs to not only have the skill but also the attributes.  This is why in my opinion, the PG position is the most difficult position to play in the game of basketball.

What do you think?