I was super happy to see Steve Kerr featured on one of my go-to coaching podcasts Finding Mastery.
Kerr is one of my favorite coaches working today due to his unique perspectives on the game, teaching, and team building. He combines creativity, intelligence, thoughtfulness, competitiveness and the social awareness of other greats like Dean Smith or Greg Poppovich.
Kerr has won eight championships–five as a player and three as a coach.
In fact, he is the first person to win three championships as coach and three as a player. I did not know that prior to listening to this podcast.
He definitely possesses tactical knowledge and game insights, but he is also aware of the needs of elite athletes in terms of building confidence, providing challenge and providing information. That’s a particular balance.
Here is the Finding Mastery podcast interview of Kerr.
The value that means the most to our team is joy, and its reflected in the way we play.
I just read a great New Yorker piece on Tony Romo’s talent as a color commentator. It’s well worth your time. The in-depth look at Romo’s ability to predict what’s next in a game reminds me of the great insight in the book Peak by Anders Ericcson about the importance of mental representations in athletic excellence.
From the New Yorker:
Romo, though, learned to make sense of such disorder while riding the bench for three years. By the time he became a starter, he was one of the league’s best passers. He prepared diligently and thought quickly; very rarely was he liverwurst on rye. In the course of his career, he watched hundreds of plays from the bench, lived through thousands more on the field, and then relived them many times over in the film room—perfect training for a commentator.
And here is what Ericcson says about mental representations;
Through years of practice, they develop highly complex and sophisticated representations of the various situations they are likely to encounter in their fields—such as the vast number of arrangements of chess pieces that can appear during games. These representations allow them to make faster, more accurate decisions and respond more quickly and effectively in a given situation.
These mental representations from years of experience allow Romo to predict what will come next.
Despite the first word in the term “mental representation,” pure mental analysis is not nearly enough. We can only form effective mental representations when we try to reproduce what the expert performer can do, fail, figure out why we failed, try again, and repeat—over and over again. Successful mental representations are inextricably tied to actions, not just thoughts, and it is the extended practice aimed at reproducing the original product that will produce the mental representations we seek.
The New York Times weighs in as well.
I mean his content. He played football recently and has studied it closely, so he understands what the athletes are thinking, what the coaches are plotting, what makes sense on third down and what doesn’t. He uses the days between the games that he’s announcing to bone up on the teams that will come under his gaze, even interviewing their members. While he comes by his charisma naturally, he makes it a point to be informed.
Many of my friends showed me the video of Katelyn Ohasi’s triumphant and joyful gymnastic performance. You probably saw it as well. It was incredibly compelling.
In an LA Times article on the gymnast a very important coaching nugget shines through.
Her coach at UCLA, Valeries Kondos Field, realized the gymnast was rejecting the pursuit of greatness due to her earlier experiences and faced a hard choice: Should she push her to excel or work to build trust over time in order to help her?
She chose trust.
When Kondos Field learned of Ohashi’s aversion to greatness as a freshman, she had to choose — remind Ohashi of her obligations as a scholarship athlete, or earn her trust. She chose the latter, and in the spring met with Ohashi regularly for coffee and meals but never brought up gymnastics. As the two grew closer, Ohashi’s perspective gradually changed.
“I was so used to there being ulterior motives, that it felt like I couldn’t trust people that easily,” Ohashi said. “So it was a lot of rewiring my brain that excellence isn’t meant to feel like the way it did before. Greatness isn’t supposed to remind you of abuse. Greatness is completely internal, and I was relating it to external stuff.”
Read the article here.
Real life Santa (Washington Post)
How the Simpsons Changed TV (Vulture)
Origin of the Santa Tracker (Washington Post)
Coaches and Coaching
Life-long learner (Timbers)
Leadership on the Court (TCC, with links to SI)
Strict and Warm (Hearts and Minds Teaching)
Success at any age (Ted.com)
Be Like Neil Young (Humble Dollar)
Rational vs Reasonable (Collaborative Fund)
Long hours (The Economist)
What I’m Reading
What I’m Listening to
Sports Illustrated named The Golden State Warriors their “Sports Person of the Year.” The article details a dynasty being built around strong leadership on the court and an equally strong culture that binds the coach and front office.
Stephen Curry’s leadership on the court is highlighted:
Curry is the anomaly: a skinny point guard who has dominated in spite of his size and athleticism, rather than because of it. And yet he’s changed the game as much as any who’ve come before him, so dangerous as a shooter—the greatest ever, we can now all agree—that he’s as valuable off the ball as on it, creating a vacuum of defensive attention wherever he is not. And he does it all with a joy and humility that, while much celebrated, also happens to be genuine. “The reason for all this,” says Andre Iguodala. “The soul of the team,” says guard Shaun Livingston. “Our universe revolves around him,” says GM Bob Myers. Says Kerr, who won titles as a player with Jordan and Duncan and is fully aware of his current good fortune: “I cannot stress how much he’s meant to everything we’ve done, the humility and joy.” Then Kerr suggests that SI just give the Sportsperson Award to Steph.
It’s a good reminder of the lessons learned in the book The Captain Class, which tells us that it’s all about the leadership on the court or in the field.
The other underappreciated variable is the relationship between the coach Steve Kerr, and the GM Myers. They are friends and operate with mutual respect and similar focus.
Says Myers, “That conversation rarely goes that way. Usually, it’s me saying, ‘You could have done something different,’ or Steve says, ‘You didn’t leave me many options here.’ And that 10-second exchange has now ruined our relationship.” To Myers, this is key to all the Warriors do. “That’s the trust we need,” he says. “There have been many subtle and overt attacks on us. I look at it like getting a sliver in your finger. You have issues. You don’t quite get it all the way out and it gets infected. Then all of a sudden you went the wrong direction.”
Read: Sportsperson of the Year