I Am Daring Greatly

Don’t Wish Time Away

Baseball photo

Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” –Arthur Ashe

I just discovered Mike Deegan’s email newsletter.

He writes regularly about life lessons from sports and coaching. The particular one that came to my attention, “Seven Things You Should Consider Before Sliding Into the Big Seat,” has to do with the transition from assistant coach to head coach.

The transition is not always an easy one.

I have been a head coach and an assistant coach in my career.  I have enjoyed each job. Whenever I am doing one job, I have a tendency to remember and focus on my favorite parts of the other job.

There is a reason for the cliche “the grass is always greener.” It’s pretty true.

Deegan in his article lists out the most difficult changes for a new head coach.

He starts with “Get ready to be unpopular.

“Get ready to be unpopular: As an assistant, everyone likes you.  As the leader, that won’t be the case.  The happiness of our players, parents and coaches is really important to me, probably too important at times.  Let me be the first to tell you, not everyone will be happy and they will more than likely blame you.  Can you handle that?”

He concludes the piece with a brief list of great advice for current assistant coaches including this very important one:

Enjoy your present situation. (Don’t wish time away.)

Great advice and equally true for a head coach.

I remind myself often: don’t wish time away.

Each time I get caught in what’s difficult about being in charge I realize it’s because I am forgetting what’s great about being in charge. If I change my lens things improve. Often very quickly.

Instead of caring if I am liked I try very hard to like and respect those around me.

I may not be able to provide playing time for each person, but I can teach each person and hold all accountable and do each of things in the long run that are good for a person or a team.

Instead of disconnecting as the stress grows I begin to connect to others. Each time I do this, each time I actually provide to others what I would like for myself, things improve.

And, not just for me. Things improve for the team and staff as well.

I think Deegan’s list has merit–we all feel these things–but we often forget to embrace our power to change this dynamic as well.

We forget to be right where we are.



Coaching Leadership


A few things I read this week that are worth your time:

*The New Yorker’s Tad Friend profiles Sam Altman, CEO of YCombinator. His thoughts on taking over the leadership helm at a company:

“Yet Altman decided to retool nearly everything. At the Berlinetta Lounge, as he picked at the vegetarian plate, he observed that a change in C.E.O.s works only if the new leader “re-founds” the company. “I very intentionally did that with YC,” he said. After conferring with the accelerator’s sixteen other partners, Altman launched an initiative to support startups even earlier in their life span, and a fund to continue investing in them as they grow.”

*The often underrated Bob Bradley takes over at Swansea.

The Premier League is the world’s most visible league and with it having more money than ever, it is also the most demanding. Even with the Wales-based club having American ownership, expectations will be high for Bradley. And he will have his work cut out for him. Through seven games this season, Swansea has just four points and sits in 17th place in the 20-team league. The goal this year will be simple for Bradley: stay in the Premier League next year and avoid relegation.

*The secret to success according to a successful hockey coach, Mike Babcock, and author of the book Leave No Doubt.

Mike Babcock’s main message to the audience was simple:  “Embrace being uncomfortable as you move forward in hockey and life.”*

*The Guardian profiles Ed Temple the legendary Tennessee track coach

“As coach of the US women’s Olympic track team in 1960, he could maintain his habit of leading his latest star sprinter to the athletes’ tunnel then hurrying to take his seat in a prearranged spot, so that she would know where he was. That sprinter was the 20-year-old Wilma Rudolph, the greatest of his athletes and, in his view, the greatest female athlete of all time.
“Look,” Ed Temple had told his first set of female college athletes, “if the boys can do it, you can do it.”He also exhorted them not to overlook their studies. “Athletics opens up doors for you,” he said, “but education keeps them open.”

Coaching Leadership


A Coach’s Influence on Future Coaches

“But in his pursuit of Cruyff’s ideals, we can get a glimpse of how he would like to be remembered. “People always talk about how many prizes, how many titles,” he says. “That, I think, is a huge mistake. You have to look at their influence on new generations, and on their players. [Marco] Van Basten. [Frank] Rijkaard. Many, many players from Barcelona are coaches right now.”   Pep Guardiola

From an article by the Guardian’s Jonathan Liew about Cruyf’s new autobiography.




The Inner Game of Steve Kerr

As soon as he tries to exercise control he loses it.”   –Tim Gallwey, The Inner Game of Tennis

I picked up The Inner Game of Tennis recently after reading Chris Ballard’s article in Sports Illustrated about the influence the book has had on Steve Kerr.

The article unpacks the significant influence of Gallwey’s book on Steve Kerr as both a basketball player and now as a coach.

The Player

I remember watching Steve Kerr with the Bulls during their championship runs in the 90s. Off the bench he played a critical role as a reliable 3-point shooter during crucial segments of the game.  The job require incredible poise and steely nerves.


He credits the The Inner Game of Tennis with helping him to develop the tools to handle such a role. “The question for the athlete, as Kerr puts it: “How do you get out of your own way? How do you stop the chatter in your mind?”

One technique he employed was to pretend for a day to be a different player.

“To get out of his own head, Kerr tried Gallwey tricks such as pretending to be a different player for a day, thus allowing him to play with more freedom. Kerr chose Jeff Hornacek, the crafty Utah shooting guard (and now head coach of the Knicks). “I loved his game because he had all those flip shots. I didn’t have a lot of that,” says Kerr. “I realized, watching Jeff, I could be more loose and more aggressive and shoot some different shots, not just be a spot up shooter. And one of the ways I got to that was to show up to practice and go, ‘F–k Steve Kerr, I’m going to be Jeff Hornacek!’”

Kerr laughs, remembering it. “And it was way more fun.”

A few years ago, before I read this book, we tried this with our team. We assigned each player a teammate to be for the day. It really was a fun, liberating day for our players. One of exploration and freedom.

The Coach


Judge Less

As a coach Kerr judges players less and observes more. He provides objective feedback.

He also speaks less to them realizing that it adds to a player’s confusion.

 “Think of any sport,” he says. “Let’s say golf. ‘I gotta keep my head down, I don’t want to sway, I want to keep my shoulders upright, I want to keep my swing inside and on impact I want my hands slightly forward.’ At what point are you going to be like, ‘Holy s—, I just told myself 17 things, how am I going to do all those things?’ Whereas if you just watch a golfer and don’t say anything and just try to mimic his swing, it condenses everything into a more meaningful moment.”

His insights also resonate with the work of researcher Gabrielle Wulf who studies attention and the power of an external focus and a more fluid approach to skill development.  It adds a layer of reinforcement to the idea that skill is developed and executed with a focus outside the self.

Forget what happened on the last two plays, what will happen if you miss this shot, and your weekend plans. Instead, concentrate on the seams of the ball, or the whack-thump of hit and bounce (in tennis), or the pattern of your breathing. Occupy your brain and it can’t fret or chide (Keep your wrist firm, move your front foot, grip tight!).”


Kerr fits the mold of the life-long learner.  Gallwey’s book may be the most influential, but Kerr is constantly reading and exchanging books with everyone around him. He likes fiction as much as non-fiction and is clearly an expansive thinker.  It’s fascinating how often this turns out to be true of the best coaches.

Check out the article

Books Coaching


Peer Leadership

Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.”  Albert Schweitzer


Here is an older (2013), but entertaining article in the New York Times sports page regarding LeBron James and his new found ease.

The article asked numerous journalist to answer the question, “Do happy people make history?”

After this past NBA championship the answer appears to be yes, but there is no easy answer to the question and the article does not really try to give a definitive conclusion.

Instead, the varying journalists provide examples of both: athletes and coaches who are intense, competitive, and even cruel who win and are successful, as well as those who are kind and gracious yet also manage to succeed and create a legacy.

This one response caught my eye.

I had always credited Phil Jackson’s leadership and coaching style for Scottie Pippen’s quick return to both the Bulls lineup and the fan’s good graces after refusing to leave the bench in a playoff game.

He was important, but there was more to the story.

Harvey Araton adds to the story and gives a great example of peer influence:

A 7-foot wide-body and a banger on court, Cartwright was so genial and unthreatening elsewhere that he once confronted a critical reporter (me) by pleading that his wife was upset with what had been written about him in the newspaper.

But in the locker room after that playoff game, he confronted Pippen — tears in his eyes, observers remembered. “Scottie,” he said. “How could you do that to us?”

Stunned by this naked display of distress, as opposed to a more predictable fury, Pippen immediately begged for his teammates’ forgiveness.

Pippen’s refusal to play threatened to make him a pariah in Chicago and haunt him forever, but it became a footnote to his Hall of Fame career as Jordan’s indispensable sidekick. And what Cartwright demonstrated that night was a welcome alternative to the notion that the greatest sportsmen must be driven, tortured and intimidating souls. — HARVEY ARATON

Coaching Leadership


Life Long Learner

We are not what we know, but what we are willing to learn.”                           Mary Catherine Bateson


I admit that I knew little about Bronco Mendenhall before today when I read an article about him in a Charlottesville paper.

I’m happy I stumbled upon it.

For those of you who are not familiar with him (probably a minority), Mendenhall was the head football coach at BYU before moving to UVA this past year.  He never had a losing season at BYU.

The article does a good job of highlighting the reasons for his success.

Among the keys for his success:

  1. Cares more about his players as people than as football players.
  2. Relishes a challenge and likes to build things
  3. Employs high standards
  4. Appears to be very authentic
  5. Life long learner who employs proven methods

All good and all important, but it is clear reading the article that a life of learning, and specifically from reading, is a huge part of his life as a football coach:

“Among his favorites are four “foundational books” that he bases his program on: Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin, The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle, Legacy by James Kerr and Wooden on Leadership by John Wooden. And Mendenhall himself is the subject of a book—Running Into the Wind, by Alyson Von Feldt and Paul Gustavson, which discusses the philosophy he developed as head football coach at Brigham Young University for 11 years.”

Of the books above, only Legacy makes my list of most influential, but what’s on the list does not matter so much as the fact that there is a list.

You want a long career? Keep learning from past experiences and stay open to all the new ideas and research coming our way.



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