This will be the first of the Coaching Strategies series that I will introduce over the course of many weeks. Here, I will discuss my different approaches to coaching, coming from the unique perspective of a former professional player.
I had this revelation as I was hiking with my brother Alan last Friday. He had just signed a new contract to play professional basketball in Australia, and so before he left he dragged me out of bed to our favorite workout arena: Lake Poway Recreation Area aka mother nature. Making sure that we are always in our best in-season shape, Alan and I occasionally run up the Mount Woodson Trail, being sure to drink lots of water and taking a few necessary breaks in the process. It is about a 6 mile trek to get to the summit of Mount Woodson Trail, where you will find the magnificent Potato Chip Rock, one of the most attractive and popular tourist sites in San Diego. The breathtaking views reward the unrelentingly hard work that one must endure to walk and run up this mountain.
Well, we were on our way down from the exasperating ascent when we started talking about his next team, as I was thinking about the teams that I am currently coaching. Alan provided some sage insight that made me think about what players should almost selfishly and rather intuitively focus on, which is fulfilling the needs of the team while still showcasing your own talents.
Fulfilling the needs of the team while showcasing your own talents is the approach that every player should take. This means that you first evaluate what it is that the team finds valuable, and then you assess your talents and skills and how they align with the fulfillment of those needs. For example, if you are a big man in basketball (like my brother) then maybe you focus on upper body strength, since you will be playing in the post position and needing good forearm strength to effectively defend and get rebounds. Maybe, for another example, you notice that the team needs a confident and consistent three point shooter to step up, and you see yourself filling in that role, so you practice extra on your three point shooting before and after practice. These are examples of how you can look to yourself first, to fulfill the needs of your team.
As a coach this must be an approach you take, too. You are in direct control of identifying and executing the fulfillment of the needs of the team. It starts with first understanding your foundational principles, and only when some time has progressed through the season will you be able to effectively carry out these ideas of fulfillment.
Allow for the progression to be as organic as possible, and keep in mind that the needs of the team always come first. Fulfilling the needs of the team and identifying and establishing roles comes second.
What examples can you think of that help illustrate how one can fulfill the needs of their team while still showcasing their own talents? Let me know in the comments section below.
Four time All-American, WNBA Champion, Edutainer and Coach