Must Read for All Coaches on Coaching Tactics

Here is a must read article by Sports Illustrated’s Alexander Wolff on abuse that some student-athletes are receiving from their college coaches.

Abuse of Power, Alexander Wolff – Sports Illustrated – Sept. 28, 2015

My personal coaching philosophy is that coaches must be demanding but positive. Regardless if a student-athlete is a high performer or not, it is a coach’s DUTY to remain positive with them and find a way to have each team member make a positive contribution to the program, whether they are earning playing time or not (note: coaches, student-athletes and parents must remember that not all players on the roster will be able to play!).

It has always struck me odd when coaches turn negative on a student-athlete that they recruited.

If you bail on a player, aren’t you saying that you made a recruiting mistake? If you quit on a player, what type of message are you sending to the rest of your team? If you get verbally abusive and nasty with a student-athlete aren’t you condoning that type of behavior?

Coaches must set the bar high for their culture. If a student-athlete is not meeting the expectations of the program, coaches must have the relationship to talk with the student-athletes privately (as to not embarrass them in front of their teammates) and reiterate the demands of the program and see if they can pinpoint the performance (academic, athletic, etc.) problem.

This can only be done if there is trust that is built during the recruiting process and with the ongoing interactions with the student-athlete. Quite simply, it is a coach’s job to CARE!

Follow Bert DeSalvo on Twitter @CoachDeSalvo

Role of a Captains: Developing Leadership Skills, Sportsmanship and More

To follow up on my September 11th post on the roles of captains, here is an article from Athletic Management (June/July 2011) by Chuck Karter which gives an athletic director’s view on his initiative to define captainship for his student-athletes.

All Aboard! – Chuck Karter – June-July 2011 – Athletic Management

Clearly having defined roles for captains is part of Karter’s vision while allowing for leadership opportunities for his student-athletes.

Follow Bert DeSalvo on Twitter @CoachDeSalvo

“Saban: The Making of a Coach” – Book Notes

I recently finished Monte Burke’s “Saban: The Making of a Coach” (2015).

Not only is this a fascinating biography on one of the true coaching legends of our time, but it also provides some insights into Saban the man as well. From his childhood to his dynasty at Alabama, he are some notes I gathered from Burke’s work.

Saban-The Making of a Coach Notes

Follow Bert DeSalvo on Twitter @CoachDeSalvo

Basketball Coach Weekly – Issue 103 – DeSalvo Article

This took a some courage to pen, but it represents what I am about. I wanted to show my character and also help other coaches who may be going through similar experiences.

Basketball Coach Weekly – Issue 103

Also, I wanted especially thank Mike Austin for his kind words on page two of this issue. His emails/texts have been uplifting and I am happy to call him a friend.

Thank you Mike and Basketball Coach Weekly for all that you do for the game and its coaches at all levels.

Follow Bert DeSalvo on Twitter @CoachDeSalvo

Deciding Captains: What Does It Mean For Your Program?

Recently the San Francisco 49ers and their new head coach, Jim Tomsula, announced that they will have nine captains for the 2015 season. According to the San Jose Mercury News story, Tomsula allowed the players to pick captains and did not put a limit on how many they could select. The result was nine captains: four offensive captains, four defensive captains and one captain on special teams.

49ers nose tackle Ian Williams, a selected captain, noted “that’s just Jimmy T’s (Tomsula’s) part of trying to show this is a team. He doesn’t want to single out any one player, and to show the 49ers are not just one player or two players.”

So what does this mean? What roles will these players have? Who will decide these roles (coaches or captains)?

As a 3-time alum of the Dynamic Leadership Academy, a professional development conference created by University of Maine, Head Men’s Basketball Coach, Bob Walsh, one of the leadership concepts that Coach Walsh adamantly believes in is that “leadership is a skill, not a rank.” Although older, louder and better players tend to be captains, age is not a prerequisite for leadership. It is interesting to note, that for Coach Walsh, being a captain means that those selected have defined duties/management tasks (meet with officials before the game, make sure equipment is put away after practices, etc.) and nothing more. All team members are expected to be leaders. Leadership is defined for the University of Maine Men’s Basketball program as simply “making the people around you better.” This takes trust, which takes time.

Obviously the leadership skills that men in an NFL locker room require versus those in a college basketball locker room are quite different. Nevertheless, if all nine of those captains do not have specific duties (leadership and/or management) then why name that many? What do each of them bring to the group and how can they shape the group into a high-performing team?

In addition, the selection process of the captains must also be examined. If players are not limited to a certain number of votes, then nine captains surely may result. Nine captains may be due to players wanting to spare feelings of their teammates and the fact that Tomsula allowed this voting process may have been his attempt to not have to make the tough choice himself. Tomsula states that “I stayed out of this for a reason, because I wanted them to do it .I saved all the voting forms and sheets in case we had a recount. This was solely the guys.” True teams can only be realized through openness and challenging of each other. Sparing feelings NEVER works. If the Head Coach was not involved in this process and the team members conducted a secret ballot, then nobody was challenged and group think may have ultimately resulted.

Whether you agree with the 49ers selection process or not, it is surely an interesting way for the selection process to occur. These nine captains along with the coaching staff, must now figure out the hierarchy within the nine captains through interactions, execute management tasks, allow freedom/creativity and ultimately bring each roster member into being equally committed to a common purpose for which they hold themselves mutually accountable will determine if Tomsula’s approach was successful or not.

What I am describing here is season long, never-ending process to turn a group into a team. It does not seem that nine captains are needed to do this, but rather the entire 53 man roster and coaching staff. However, if nine captains make the organization and its essential members feel good about their leadership, then not matter if it is necessary or not, it was a great leadership decision by Coach Tomsula.

Only time will tell.

Follow Bert DeSalvo on Twitter @CoachDeSalvo

‘Flipping the Script’: Musts for Prospective Student-Athletes

After long and productive July viewing periods, come Autumn, college coaches are now beginning to make home visits to top prospects and also have student-athletes on their campus for official and unofficial visits. Be reminded, to staffs with limited resources (time and financial), these visits are not offered in haste. Numerous evaluations, video tape, phone calls and other research are assessed and staff meetings sometimes result in heated debates regarding certain prospects. No matter what the final decision, coaching staffs put incredible efforts in ranking their top recruits so they can make and/or offer visits which ultimately result in scholarship offers.

Nevertheless, when student-athletes do get offered a home visit or on-campus visit, the usual process involves the coaches explaining why the school is a good fit for the prospect, how the prospect fits into their system, and how they will make an immediate impact with them.

What always surprised me as a college coach (I have coached at the DI, DII and DIII levels for the last decade plus) was that student-athletes did not come more prepared with questions and also failed to put the coaching staff on the “hot seat”.

In order to really get information, student-athletes must “flip the script” on coaches (in a nice way!) in order to evaluate the coaching staff just has hard as they have evaluated the prospect.

In order to make the best informed decision for themselves, prospective student-athletes should consider the following:

  • Find out what the core values of the program are – What are the defined expectations? Can you live up to the core value? What does the program stand for?
  • Watch live practice(s) — Are they efficient? Is individual improvement and fundamentals stressed? How do teammates relate to the coaching staff and each other? What do coaches emphasize?
  • Watch practice film(s) — This ensures that the practice you saw live was the “real” thing!
  • Watch game(s) — How does the team warm-up? Home vs. road games? Is the team prepared in EOG/ATO situations?
  • Watch game film with the coaching staff – What are the expectations of the players in regards to scouts? What is the focus film sessions? Are the scouts personnel based or system based?
  • Ask the head coach to draw their favorite sets/calls – Can they do this on the fly? Do they look to take advantage of mismatches? How can you thrive in these offenses/defenses?
  • Ask the head coach  (and assistants) about their future – What is their five year plan? Do they plan to take another job or retire? Are they in trouble of not being asked back/fired? (you probably won’t ask this but you should be thinking about it!)
  • Listen, listen, listen – Are the coaches telling you what you want to hear or are they being brutally honest?

Prospects must be reminded that coaches hope to make visits special and want everything to go as planned. Although this should be appreciated, finding out these answers to the previous questions (the real truth) is imperative.

In addition, prospective student-athletes must ask the tough questions of themselves: “What do I want my college experience to be like?” In addition to being self aware and knowing what they want in an institution and a coaching staff, prospects must ask those coaches recruiting them tough questions such as, “How will you make me a better player?”, and not be in awe of facilities, team gear and lofty or unrealistic promises. Prospects need to know how they will be challenged and the responsibility they will have to assume as a member of the program.

Follow Bert DeSalvo on Twitter @CoachDeSalvo