Category Archives: Coaching Notes

Mental toughness: 20 ways to get it

I am currently re-reading one of my favorite books, Training Camp by Jon Gordon.  One of my favorite chapters in this book is chapter 20 (Twenty Ways to Get Mentally Tough).   I just had to share it with you.  Mental toughness is what is needed to get through the challenges we face in life.  Whether it’s challenges you face on the basketball court, in the classroom, at work, or just everyday life adversities, the key component of getting through it and becoming successful is being mentally tough.    Yes, mental toughness is not something you are born with, it is something that can be developed.  In the same manner we master certain skills in our lifetime, mastering the skill of mental toughness takes practice.  You must realize that being positive or negative is a habit, and you have to choose to be positive.  And here’s a great guideline on how to choose to be positive:

1.  When you face a setback, think of it as a defining moment that will lead to future accomplishment.

2.  When you encounter adversity, remember, the best don’t just face adversity; they embrace it, knowing it’s not a dead end but a detour to something greater and better.

3.  When you face negative people, know that the key to life is to stay positive in the face of negativity, not the absence of it.  After all, everyone will have to overcome negativity to define themselves and create their success.

4.  When you face the naysayers, remember the people who believed in you and spoke positive words to you.

5.  When you face critics, remember to tune them out and focus only on being the best you can be.

6.  When you wake up in the morning, take a morning walk of gratitude and prayer.  It will create a fertile mind ready for success.

7.  When you fear, trust.  Let your faith be greater than your doubt.

8.  When you fail, find the lesson in it, and then recall a time when you have succeeded.

9.  When you head into battle, visualize success.

10.  When you are thinking about the past or worrying about the future, instead focus your energy on the present moment.  The now is where your power is the greatest.

11.  When you want to complain, instead identify a solution.

12.  When you own self-doubt crowds your mind, weed it and replace it with positive thoughts and positive self-talk.

13.  When you feel distracted, focus on your breathing, observer your surroundings, clear your mind, and get into The Zone.  The Zone is not a random event.  It can be created.

14.  When you feel all is impossible, know that with God all things are possible.

15.  When you feel alone, think of all the people who have helped you along the way and who love and support you now.

16.  When you feel lost, pray for guidance.

17.  When you are tired and drained, remember to never, never, never give up.  Finish strong in everything you do.

18.  When you feel like you can’t do it, know that you can do all things through Him who gives you strength.

19.  When you feel like your situation is beyond your control, pray and surrender.  Focus on what you can control and let go of what you can’t.

20.  When you’re in a high-pressure situation and the game is on the line, and everyone is watching you, remember to smile, have fun, and enjoy it.  Life is short; you only live once.  You have nothing to lose.  Seize the moment.

Training Camp by Jon Gordon


25 Little Things to Remember (from Pete Carril)

Here are “Twenty-Five Little Things to Remember” taken from one of my favorite books to read:  The Smart Take From The Strong (The Basketball Philosophy of Pete Carril).

Twenty-Five Little Things to Remember

1.  Every little thing counts.  If not, why do it?

2.  When closely guarded, do not go toward the ball.  Go back-door.

3.  Whenever you cut, look for a return pass.

4.  When you commit to a cut (or back-door) do not stop and do not come back to the ball.

5.  Bad shooters are always open.

6.  On offense, move the defense.

7.  Putting defensive pressure on the ball makes it harder for the team to run an offense and gives your team a better chance to defend.

8.  In a zone or any defense, when their five men guard your three men, look to throw cross court passes.

9.  Watch the man in front of you.  He shows you what to do.

10.  Keep your dribble.  Use it when you’re going to do something useful.

11.  A pass is not a pass when it is made after you’ve tried to do everything else.

12.  A good player knows what he is good at.  He also knows what he is not good at and only does the former.

13.  You want to be good at those things that happen a lot.

14.  When the legs go, the heart and the head follow quickly behind.

15.  Defense involves three things: courage, energy, intelligence.

16.  If your teammate does not pass the ball to you when you’re open and he doesn’t say anything, then he did not see you.  If he says “I’m sorry,” he saw you and did not want to throw you the ball.

17.  In trying to learn to do a specific thing, the specific thing is what you must practice.  There is little transfer of learning.

18.  Whatever you are doing is the most important thing that you’re doing while you are doing it.

19.  Anyone can be average.

20.  Being punctual is good in itself.  However, what is more important is that your punctuality tells your teammates what you think of them.

21.  Hardly any players play to lose.  Only a few play to win.

22.  I like passers.  They can see everything.

23.  The way you think affects what you see and do.

24.  Rarely does a person who competes with his head as well as his body come out second.  That was said even before Coach Vince Lombardi by the Greeks and the Romans, and probably by the Chinese.

25.  The ability to rebound is in inverse proportion to the distance your house is from the nearest railroad tracks.

Coaching Notes from John Chaney: No Turnovers


John Chaney teams, for the most part, had always carried the reputation of being tough hard-nosed defensive teams. Most college basketball analysts credited the success of Chaney’s Temple teams to their suffocating zone defenses. But the fact of the matter is, according to Chaney, the basis of everything he did was due to his philosophy of ‘No Turnovers’.

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Coaching Notes from Doc Rivers: ‘The buy-in’

Doc Rivers giving his presentation at Coaching U Live 2011

Just wanted to share some of my notes that I took listening to Boston Celtics Head Coach Doc Rivers last summer at a coaching clinic. I got to meet him during the clinic and let me just say that it was a real pleasure. Doc Rivers is a very gracious man. He was very humbled by his success and I was fortunate to have the opportunity to pick his brain a little as he talked to all the clinic participants.

Continue reading Coaching Notes from Doc Rivers: ‘The buy-in’

Coaching Notes from John Calipari: Importance of defining player roles

This is something that I did last year on my team that proved to be very beneficial for us.  We struggled mightily during the early half of the season.  One of my team’s most noticeable weaknesses was their lack of aggression.   I came across this video of current Kentucky Head Coach John Calipari talking about his method of specifically assigning each of his players a certain role to play on his team.  He mentions that he is even specific right down to the number of minutes that he will play each player.

I thought this would be a great idea to use for my team to help bring out some aggression from each individual.  I gave each player an index card where I had hand written a specific role for each individual.  I explained to them that these roles may change through the course of the season but this is what I expected of each of them individually until further notice.  I had each player memorize what I had written down on the card for them, then after a few practices I had each player stand in front of the team and tell them what their specific role was for the team.  So now everyone knew what everyone’s role was on the team.  I made sure that everyone was comfortable with the role I assigned them first (just as Calipari mentioned he does as well in the video).  I was pleased that I saw almost immediate results.   My only regret is that I didn’t do this at the beginning of the season.  It will definitely be a practice of mine from here on out.

For the most part, when a player displays passiveness or any lack of aggression on the basketball court, it could be attributed to many factors.  Sure, a player may be nervous or intimidated while out there on the court, but this is not a sufficient reason why he or she shouldn’t be aggressive.  A reason why a player would show any lack of aggression is because they are not completely sure of what their role is while on the floor.  If a player does not know their role, they are unsure of what exactly is expected of them.  When this happens, the player then reverts to the natural thought of “hoping”.  They ‘hope’ that they will make the right play.  They ‘hope’ they won’t make a mistake that will cause coach to pull them out the game or make their teammates upset.  They ‘hope’ not to look foolish out there or embarrass themselves.  There are so many things that can run through the minds of players during a game.   Defining their role could alleviate some pressure.

I like to use this analogy to further explain my point:  You have a new practice drill that you want to introduce to the players.  You start giving them instructions telling them to dribble all the way to the far left elbow with the outside hand, spin move when you get there then cross over to the right corner, dribble between your legs four times before going to the right elbow, pull up and shoot get your own rebound and put it back in make or miss, then dribble back to the near side of the court and repeat the steps but only in reverse order, how many of your kids would be totally confused.  I’m quite sure more than a couple on the first day of trying this drill.  Say you put a time limit on it and a penalty for messing up just once.  This would drive some players absolutely crazy.  How many players would be so passive because they did not want to mess up?  Even though this is a senseless drill (I don’t actually use this drill just incase you were wondering), the confusion is similar to the confusion felt by a player when he or she is in an actual game.  They are trying to remember a number of things while dealing with other factors that is trying to work against them (i.e. time, defense, etc.).  However, if you introduce a simpler drill to the same group of players (for example: having them complete five down and back sprints within a certain amount of time), there is not one player that wouldn’t run aggressively.  There is no confusion as to what needs to be done.  Each player knows exactly what to do and can spend less time thinking about things and just act aggressively.

It works the same way in a larger scale.  When a player knows his or her role on the team, they will concentrate on the responsibilities that make up that role and this will increase their aggression.  Whether it be the role of a scorer, rebounder, sixth man, defensive stopper, etc….each player will feel more comfortable out there on the court when they only have to worry about fulfilling their assigned role.  Bottom line, less thinking = more aggression.