I recently came across a gem of an interview on the site Hoops Hype with the great Gregg Popovich, Head Coach of the San Antonio Spurs.
The interview details Poppovich’s coaching philosophy and focuses on his great strengths as a coach.
One thing stood out to me. He integrates character development into all aspects of his coaching.
What do we mean by character?
The interview gets right to a really important point: How do you define character?
A coach must know this answer for himself and be able to paint a clear picture for his team with words, examples, images and most importantly, actions.
When a coach fails to provide that clarity, confusion arises. Athletes will employ varying standards and tolerate unacceptable behavior.
Gregg Popovich: Sometimes when I hear people talk about character I think it’s a little too general of a term. We’ve all seen a million books on it and everybody’s got a different definition of what makes up character. People always say our teams have character and they know how to win, know how to lose, all sorts of those things. I try to be a little more specific in my definition, especially when it comes to the character of players we bring in.
The Right People
Another important point shines through in the quote above: Consider character before someone joins the team, not after. After they’ve joined it’s too late.
Poppovich exemplifies great teaching and strategy, but his ability to select the right players remains a crucial key to his success.
Athletes who join his team know his views and want to play in a character-centered culture. They value work ethic and a team oriented environment.
Tim Duncan, his biggest star, thrives in this environment. Duncan has played his entire career in San Antonio, which provides stability to a franchise and drives success.
The Best Players
Poppovich is hardest on the best players, fair to all his players and classy with everybody in the organization. This treatment of all people builds the foundation of the culture. His star players buy in to his philosophy and provide leadership.
GP: Speaking to that, the other thing I’ll do in practice on a regular basis when we run drills, is I’ll purposely get on the big boys the most. Duncan, Parker, and Manu Ginobili will catch more hell from me than anybody else out there. You know the obvious effect of that. If you do that and they respond in the right way, everyone else follows suit. The worst thing you can do is let it go when someone has been egregious in some sort of way. The young kids see that and you lose respect and the fiber of your team gets frayed a bit. I think it has to be that way. They have to be willing to set that example and take that hit so everybody else will fall in line. It’s a big thing for us and that’s how we do it.
One more point. Poppovich is funny. The connection he draws between humor and character drive home his points and make him relatable to all.
Read the entire interview . You won’t be disappointed.