Life Long Learner

by coach on September 18, 2016

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


I admit that 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.



Mentor the Mentors

by coach on September 11, 2016

The New York Times has an interesting article today about the value of a younger professional mentoring an older one. Specifically in this story a young social media expert assists an older editor in learning Snapchat.

“My experience with Talya taught me far more than the basics of a new form of video storytelling (which was already asking a lot). Along the way I learned important lessons about the strengths and weaknesses of the middle-aged brain, and how learning new things can keep it in top working order. It also made me realize that organizations and individual workers could do a lot more to bridge the gaps between generations. Each age group has untapped resources that can benefit others at a different stage of life.”

My experience working with assistant coaches and staff half my age has been powerful.  I am sure people expect that I will often been the teacher, but I find I have much to learn as well. This is true of related areas like social media, new technology and popular culture, but it also turns out to be true about the game and training as well.

It makes sense. The game is ever changing and a 25 year old coach had a different training and playing experience than I did.  We need to listen to them more even as we continue to bring the depth of our coaching experience to the table.


Geekwire’s Taylor Sopire details why Pete Carroll is one of the best coaches working today.

Beginning with the insight from Carroll that the key learning that changed the trajectory of his coaching career came from a John Wooden book, which convinced him that the quality of his plan and the depth of his conviction to follow his plan and philosophy would determine his success.

I couldn’t close that book fast enough,” Carroll said at a Seahawks Town Hall event on Wednesday in Seattle. “I was immediately affected by the book. … Once [Wooden] figured out his plan, once he knew exactly what was important to him and he knew how to best represent the core of his being and his coaching, nobody could touch him.”

The article goes on to articulate Carroll’s philosophy, but the bigger point for coaches is that each coach must create her own philosophy and articulate it as clearly as possible to team, staff and all.  The ability to do so can influence the outcome of the game, season or program.

Sopire’s article is a great read to glean more of Carroll’s philosophy.

For a player’s perspective on Carrol’s philosophy check out this first hand account from Richard Sherman  at The Player’s Tribune.

“Sometimes, when we bring new guys in and they see the way we practice and the way Coach Carroll runs things, they say, “Is it always like this?”

Yes. We have fun at practice. We compete every day. We keep it loose, and when it’s time to go to work, we go to work. All Coach Carroll requires of us is that we do our jobs and be ourselves, because that’s the reason all of us are here — because of who we are as individuals as well as football players.”


Coaching Wisdom from Dean Smith

by coach on September 7, 2016

Screen Shot 2016-08-30 at 8.47.43 PMThe new website The Coaching Assist provides an excellent summary of the book  The Carolina Way by the coaching great Dean Smith.  I read this book in the late 90s and enjoyed it.   It was good to be able to review many of the best ideas in this way.

One sample:

“Posted a “Coaches Honor Roll” the day after the game with the stats that the coach found important. Included who was most unselfish, defensive stats, offensive rebounding, deflections, charges, etc.”

Check it out.

Pressure and How to Manage It

August 29, 2016

Here is an interesting take from last May on the NY Yankees approach to managing pressure. Their mental conditioning expert Chris Passarella would like to eradicate the use of the term altogether and thereby reduce the hold that pressure has on all athletes.  In his estimation  athletes create pressure for themselves based on their expectation […]

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What Athletes Value Most in a Coach

May 16, 2016

Nice little article explaining who Ronaldo considers the best coach and why. “We had an important game in the Champions League and I said, ‘Coach I need to go to see my daddy’ and I was a key player, I was a very important player and he said, ‘Listen, your personal life, your family is […]

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