Weekend Links: March Madness Requires Mental Toughness

I’ve watched a little of the NCAA basketball tournament this year and read quite a bit about the teams, women’s as well as men’s, that are playing. Two things have stood out to me.  One is the tremendous importance of mental toughness in making it deep into the tournament.  The other, just how significant a role fundamentals play in getting to the next level. Standing out matters to kids and parents, but you really need to be well versed in the fundamentals to be great.

This week’s links focus in on these two factors beginning with the tremendous resilience shown by the Mississippi State women’s team. We also see the focus on fundamentals and the mental toughness of perennial contender UNC men, who won their game by rebounding well when all else was failing them.

On to the links…

March Madness  Mental Toughness

mental toughness






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Women Coaching in the NBA

Adam Silver, the NBA Commissioner, recently endorsed the idea that we will see women coaching in the NBA.

Specifically that there will be a female head coach in the NBA.

The key, he states, is to create a pipeline by which women have the relevant experience.

“There definitely will,” Silver said about female head coaches. “And I think it is on me to sort of insure that it happens sooner rather than later.”

“I would make all the same points in terms of being a head coach in the NBA that there is no physical reason why women can’t officiate in the NBA,” Silver added. “I think it is more a function of the fact that they haven’t been in the pipeline to become NBA officials.”

Of course this means there may not be a woman for some period of time. But some women are getting closer to the qualifications.

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Weekend Links: Trusting the Process

March Madness: Trusting the Process

Trusting the Process (Pac 12 News)

That, says Neighbors, was the moment he decided to do the unthinkable for a coach – banish goals.  Goals, he reasons, are limiting and the Huskies had no need to go further once they reached the goal they had set many months before of reaching the NCAA tournament.

Washington in the NCAA Tournament  (ESPN)

Elite Eight 2017  (CBS Sports)

Xavier’s Run to the Elite 8 (SB Nation)

South Carolina Coach Bonds with Young Reporter (Yahoo Sports)

“He’ll be back? I got to tell you now, when that young man asked the question he asked yesterday, I’m not trying to get any national attention on this, my SID told me that it’s become like a story,” Martin continued. “I wish I could express myself like that when I was his age. That was, I’m telling you, that is as articulate and good a question as I’ve been asked all year. That was powerful stuff.”


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Free Play Versus Coach Led Training

free play versus coach led trainingDave Wright, editor of the Player Development Project, posted an interview with Dane Coles from the New Zealand rugby team the All Blacks.

The two discuss his player development journey. They focus on the  benefits of free play versus coach led training and the role of the coach and teammates in development.

How much of your development as a young player was coach led versus free play?

I was quite lucky really, my old man coached a fair bit and we had another good coach called Ray Hayward. There were elements of coaching, but they kept things pretty basic. Looking back, I think playing with so many of my good mates probably had a bigger influence on me than the coaches. It was mainly about going out and enjoying yourselves and playing with your friends, but my Dad and Ray were a pretty good coaching team. In my last year of school we managed to win division three and they guided us along the way; we had a fantastic team culture.

I’ve written about this topic a few times, but I think it bears repeating.  Many successful athletes extol the importance of free play versus coach led training early in their development. Free play encourages love of the game, improves creativity and problem solving, and develops skills that will be valuable off the field as well.

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Vacation’s Over, Catching Up on Reading

vacation's overVacation’s over. I’ve been on vacation for the past week which means I’ve been reading and watching quite a bit, but not writing, blogging or tweeting. I know I’ve missed some interesting stuff, but I’ve also had a chance to read some books and catch up on articles and magazines I’ve been putting aside.

Back to work I go.

Coaching Book :

In honor of March Madness I read John Feinstein’s book The Legend’s Club

In the past, I have read and enjoyed other Feinstein books including A Season on the Brink and A Good Walk Spoiled

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Sunday Links: “Let Me Convince You To Save More Money”

Time to spring forward today with our Sunday Links. I’m including some links on investing and the need to save more money, as well as my traditional coaching links.  Not everybody enjoys these topics, but a little time, energy and focus early can save a lot of time and worry later when it comes to financial independence.

Save More Money

But first the coaching links, beginning with a New Yorker article whose idea I return to often…

Does a Coach Need a Coach?

*Personal Best: Top Athletes and Singers Have Coaches, Should You? (New Yorker)

The concept of a coach is slippery. Coaches are not teachers, but they teach. They’re not your boss—in professional tennis, golf, and skating, the athlete hires and fires the coach—but they can be bossy. They don’t even have to be good at the sport. The famous Olympic gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi couldn’t do a split if his life depended on it. Mainly, they observe, they judge, and they guide.

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Paint a Picture When Communicating With Your Staff

I have always been very clear that a coach needs to paint a picture when communicating with athletes. Don’t just say a word like hustle or a phrase like change your pace, but paint a picture of what that looks like. Use names. Add context on the field. Otherwise each athlete on your team will use his picture or her definition and you will lack the organization and cohesion that you are after.

paint a picture when communicatingToday I read a blog post that reminded me we each should be as attentive to language with staff.

Marcus Walfridsen writing at his own website has a nice reminder up.

Now, imagine that you are part of a coaching staff and your head coach talk to you in general non-contextual terms, saying for example ”be sharp in your coaching today” in the staff meeting before the training session. What does that mean? How will you be able to deliver a high-quality training session when you do not know what the head coach wants? This problem is only made worse by the difference in coach education between countries and the terminology that can differ even between coach educators in the same federation. The consequence is that when you have received your coaching license and arrive at the staff meeting you have the same amount of different interpretations of the same word as there are coaches in the room.

Of course we each “know” this, but have you been as diligent with staff as you are with your team?

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Pete Carrill, Legendary Princeton Basketball Coach

The Smart Take From the Strong

Pete Carrill, legendary Princeton basketball coach, wrote one of my favorite coaching books.  The name of the book is The Smart Take from the Strong is a play on the quote “The strong take from the weak, but the smart take from the strong.”

When I was a young coach working at a very academic school, I read it multiple times. (The other book I read often during this time was My Life on a Napkin by Rick Majerus)

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