It’s no mystery that I’m a big John Beilein fan.  I’ve loved watching his teams play all the way back to the Pittsnogle days.  He does it as well as anyone with humility and class.  A great example of this humility was demonstrated this weekend after their run to the Big 10 Title.  The commentator asks what has been the key to their much improved defense.  Beilein responds with, “I stopped coaching it so much.”

At first I thought he was speaking of keeping it simple.  Less variety and more demanding of execution.  Then he moved on to how he’d delegated much of that task to assistants.  He realized that his strength has a counterpart.  His teams have always been among the top in offensive efficiency.  He admitted that when watching practice his mind evaluates the offense as both teams attack.  Just a great illustration of someone knowing what he’s great at and having the wisdom to hand off the things he’s not.  We could all learn a lot from this example.

I included the Youtube clip of the interview.

How do you approach your off-season, learning season, personal growth time, etc.? I can never go 60 to 0 at the end of the year. I enjoy helping friends who may still be playing, watching the game, and preparing for the next step almost right away.  After some rest and re-connection with loved ones the grind starts back up. If you are like me, you can find yourself jumping from topic to topic without finishing things well before moving on. Following a zone offense rabbit trail while you’re supposed to be learning about and thinking about man can lead you back to the beginning without a lot done in either direction. I’ve put together a week by week calendar for the post season of topics of study and growth for myself. I’ve already had to snap myself back on target more than I’d like to admit.  It’s important to remain flexible in pursuing what grabs our attention but some discipline in our study will yield better results.  Having an outline will also help direct our thoughts in the first place.  If your mind likes to wander like mine and you’ve not done so yet, give yourself some guidelines and guardrails as you start the long work of making yourself better for the next season.2 trails

When doubt jumps on and wants to go for a ride; push back.

When you gave it your best but were still denied; push back.

When your best made plans fall just a little bit short and to blaming and excuses you want to resort; push back.

See we are not here to carried along wherever fate takes us though the current is strong. We are here to PUSH BACK.

Are you kidding me?  Yeah…I can lift 5 lbs. Picture this: we’re in the weight room.  You have spotter.  They throw 5 on each side. You knock out a 55 lb bench (impressive). If they asked you can you lift 5 more?  You’d undoubtedly say yes.  As we add weight, eventually the answer becomes no.  5lbs at a time, we take on more than we can handle. Be it time or capacity, there are limits.  Be honest with yourself.  Each individual addition of work is added to what you already have or should have on your plate. No one would walk in to a weight room and say…”I can do all of this…” It’s easy to commit to the unseen hours far beyond our capacity to lift it.  Think about yourself under that bar when you pick things up and put things down.  We are limited whether we acknowledge it or not.

5 lb

“What offense are you going to run?”

I remember asking this of another coach years back. 

“UConn.,” he responded. 

I asked what the play involved: ballscreens, flare, pindown, what?

His answer?  “I don’t know, I just know every time the head coach called it we scored.”

This guy was in love with the “what” and he didn’t even know what the “what” was.  I think that many times coaches can fall in love with a what when really what makes something work is who. This can also run the other direction. We can think the “who” is the reason for a play’s success when really any number of players in that position would perform largely the same way. If we don’t properly evaluate the real reason something succeeds or fails then we can’t replicate or redirect. Is it a what thing or a who thing?  An important question to keep in mind!

Don’t fall in love with a play when it’s about who does it.

Don’t fall in love with a who when it’s a play thing.


I was recently reminded of how connected everything we do with our teams really is. I saw a video of the way that wolves restored Yellowstone National Park after they were introduced. They cut down the deer population which allowed more foliage to grow. This allowed small animals to return to the region. Increased bugs in the foliage allowed birds and other animals to return to the region.  Trees were able to grow to maturity. Otters eventually returned as well changing the very course of the rivers and creeks running through the park. It’s a pretty incredible story and great illustration of how one small thing can lead to a great big thing.

Team building is not all that different. The right thing at the right time can lead to more growth than we could anticipate. It takes wisdom and awareness to know what’s missing. Few would think when asked why there are no longer eagles, otters, birds, and other wildlife in the park that it’s because there aren’t enough wolves. We must make sure our teams have balance as much as we can. Each member is connected to the others for better or worse. To pretend otherwise may mean we overlook the most important ingredients needed. To those coaches starting up their seasons this month…happy hunting.

If you’ve not heard the story, there’s a good video here.

As coaches and leaders, we have to make decisions that aren’t easy. We have to discipline those we lead when called for.  If we want to stand for something and make them better than they would be otherwise we are going to have confront behavior that is not up to the standards we believe in.  At the same time we want to have relationships with them. We want them to know we are on their side and not an enemy.  How can we do it? Divide and conquer. A few thoughts on this:

  1. Divide the person from the behavior.  This is often the most difficult to do.  You may not like someone’s behavior, but you can still like the person.  See them as they could be and love them until they become it as much as in your power to do so. Most relationships are damaged when we fail to see that what they’ve done isn’t all they are.
  2. Divide the person from the situation leading to the behavior. I heard a long time ago that in areas of temptation/struggle it’s easier to trust your steering rather than your brakes.  It’s easier to avoid a bad situation rather than stop once in it.
  3. Divide the person and the false belief.  Many of the behaviors that sabotage young people come out of false beliefs about who they are and what will bring happiness.  If we can come alongside and show them a better way we can address the cause, not just symptom.

See the end you want in the beginning.  You want to see growth occur without burning a bridge to get there.  There will be times they may burn the bridge beyond your ability to prevent it but as much as it on us, we can approach them in a way that respects standards and people. Divide the person from the problem then conquer the problem.