“Seek opportunities to show you care. The smallest gestures often make the biggest difference.”
John Wooden

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Hoops Humility

UVA's Winning Strategy

By Peter J. Leithart
March 28, 2014

Tony Bennett

"What makes this team special?” a reporter asked University of Virginia basketball coach Tony Bennett after his Cavaliers beat Syracuse to sew up the Atlantic Coast Conference championship. It was a typical sports-journalistic question, but Bennett’s answer wasn’t typical. “Humility,” Bennett instantly replied, then looked down and waited for the next question.
He explained a moment later. He’s trained his players not to care who packs his stats or gets the glory. “Don’t think too highly of yourself,” he tells his team. “Whatever your role is, be a servant to the team and make your teammates better.” Humility is the first of the five pillars holding up the UVA program, along with passion, unity, servanthood, and thankfulness.
I became a fan of Bennett when he succeeded his father, Dick Bennett, as coach at Washington State University back in 2006. The Cougars had been bottom-feeders in the Pac-10 for a long time, but the Bennetts turned things around. Before Tony Bennett left for UVA in 2009, Washington State had become a top-25 team.
Wazzu improved without any All-American stars to lean on. Many of the players were lightly recruited out of high school, and the Bennetts rounded out the team with players from Serbia, New Zealand, and Australia. They recruited for character—willingness to sacrifice, work ethic, and off-court conduct. To give them a fighting chance against more talented teams, they emphasized fundamentals—tough defense, team play, ball control, hustle. The essence of Bennettball wasn’t a basketball strategy but the quality of the players. During his senior year, guard Taylor Rochestie, now playing professionally in Europe, gave up his scholarship to free up funds for new recruits.
Now Tony Bennett has repeated in Charlottesville. The season before he arrived, the Cavs had gone 10–18, 4–12 in the ACC. During Bennett’s first years, the team improved slightly. By November 2013, his record was 76–53, and he had led the Cavs twice to post-season tournaments. Since January, the years of building have paid off dramatically, as the Cavaliers won the regular season title and the tournament in the ACC, college basketball’s flagship conference. Bennett well deserves his selection as the conference coach of the year.
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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Your kid and my kid are not playing in the pros


March 25, 2014

I don't care if your eight year old can throw a baseball through six inches of plywood. He is not going to the pros. I don't care if your twelve-year-old scored seven touchdowns last week in Pop Warner; he is not going to the pros. I don't care if your sixteen -year -old made first team all-state in basketball. He is not playing in the pros. I don't care if your freshman in college is a varsity scratch golfer, averaging two under par. He isn't playing in the pros. Now tell me again how good he is. I'll lay you two to one odds right now and I don't even know your kid, I have never even see them play, but I'll put up my pension that your kid is not playing in the pros. It is simply an odds thing. There are far too many variables working against your child. Injury, burnout, others who are better, - these things are are just a fraction of the barriers preventing your child from becoming "the one."
So how do we balance being the supportive parent who spends three hours a day driving all over hell's half acre to allow our child to pursue his or her dream without becoming the supportive parent that drives all over hell's half acre to allow our child to pursue OUR dream? When does this pursuit of athletic stardom become something just shy of a gambling habit? From my experience in the ER I've developed some insight in how to identify the latter.
  1. When I inform you as a parent that your child has just ruptured their ACL ligament or Achilles tendon, if the next question out of your mouth is, "how long until he or she will be able to play?" You have a serious problem.

  2. If you child is knocked unconscious during a football game and can't remember your name let alone my name but you feel it is a "vital" piece of medical information to let me know that he is the starting linebacker and that the team will probably lose now because he was taken out of the game, you need to see a counselor.

  3. If I tell you that mononucleosis has caused the spleen to swell and that participation in a contact sport could cause a life threatening rupture and bleeding during the course of the illness and you then ask me, "could we just get some extra padding for around the spleen, would it be o.k. to play?" Someone needs to hit you upside the head with a two by four.

  4. If when your child comes in with a blood alcohol level of 250 after wrecking your Lexus and you ask if I can hurry up and get them out of the ER before the police arrive so as not to run the risk of her getting kicked off the swim team, YOU need to be put in jail.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

In dark moments, three coaches shine light on right way to lose

March 24, 2014

After watching his son's college career end, Greg McDermott made time to ask after a colleague. (USATSI)
After watching his son's college career end, Greg McDermott made time to ask after a colleague. (USATSI)

Kentucky showed us how to win: Size, athletes, shooting. That's one way to do it. Iowa State showed another: Resilience, refusal to wilt, playing for an injured teammate.
In all, 16 teams showed us 16 different ways to win this past weekend at the NCAA Tournament.
Three coaches showed us how to lose.
Losing matters, see. Anyone can do it, and eventually everyone will do it -- and not just in basketball or sports. In life. You apply for a job, you don't get it. Guess what? You lost. It happens, and it will happen over and over, and when it does happen, try to be like Greg McDermott or Roy Williams or Mike Krzyzewski.
Yeah, you read those three names correctly. Don't like one or more of those three guys? Fine by me, but consider this your warning. Because if you keep reading and decide that you just might like them after all, well, that's on you.
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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Deadlift: 3 Reasons Why Just Picking Up Heavy Things Replaces Most of Your Gym

The easy-to-learn movement that strengthens everyone's everything.

By Mark Rippetoe
March 13, 2014

The deadlift may be the simplest and easiest exercise to learn in all of barbell training. You pick up a loaded barbell and set it back down, keeping the bar in contact with your legs the whole way. There are a few subtle complications — the bar should move up and down the legs in a vertical line over the middle of the foot, the bar should start from a position directly over the mid-foot, and you should keep your back flat when you pull. But that’s really about all there is to it. The deadlift is one of the basic movements of which strength training is composed.

Pulling things off the ground is a part of your human heritage, and bending down to pick them up is what your knees and hips are for. With the bar in your hands and your feet against the floor, your whole body is completely involved in the exercise, which means the deadlift makes the whole body strong. It would be very difficult to invent a more natural exercise for the body than picking up a progressively heavier barbell.
“Kinetic chain” is an exercise term that refers to the musculoskeletal components (the “links”) of an exercise between the load (the barbell) and the base of support (your feet against the floor). The kinetic chain in the deadlift is essentially the entire body, and everything between hands and floor is doing its anatomically-determined proportion of the work of moving the bar. This means that your legs, hips, back, lats, arms, and grip contribute the fraction of the lifting that their individual positions on the skeleton and their relationships to each other permit.
Here’s the best part about barbell training: if you use good technique, your anatomy sorts out each bodypart’s contribution so that you don’t have to.
These large exercises — essentially normal human movement patterns loaded with a barbell to make them progressively heavier — eliminate the need for dozens of smaller exercises, and the strength you obtain is directly applicable to your job of being an active human.
Deadlifts are important, and you should be doing them. Here’s 3 reasons why…

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Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Man in the Arena

By Jim Freeman
March 13, 2014

This title for this site is purposely lacking in a certain specificity so as to include all of us who stand on the sidelines: coaches, trainers, family members, friends, all those who cheer, boo, instruct, hope, pray, curse and encourage.  We stand and watch while our brave charges run onto the field or court and risk, win, fail, compete, laugh, cry and suffer. And they do all of that publicly, surrounded by tens, hundreds or thousands of spectators. A significant portion of those spectators will observe and immediately form and state opinions about the talent, character and worth of those they are watching.

Theodore Roosevelt (pictured above) gave a speech entitled Citizenship in a Republic in Paris more than 100 years ago. The very famous paragraph from that speech appears below:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.

That paragraph has been quoted countless times across a variety of disciplines and it remains, for me, one of the most eloquent descriptions of what is involved when one embarks on any sort of competitive  journey.  I chose to become a coach because I thought it something meaningful to be one who is on the side of the man or woman in the arena...one who helps that individual or collection of individuals succeed, learn and grow.  Doing that in a competitive environment is also a lot of fun...and if you play your cards right, you get to wear really comfortable clothing while you do it.

When I first decided to become a coach I had little or no idea what I was doing or why I was doing it. I decided to study leaders who were successful in different areas in order to develop some sort of coherent approach to my new vocation.  I included in that group a number of coaches, military leaders and politicians.  I included politicians despite G.K. Chesterton's knowing observance that “It is terrible to contemplate how few politicians are hanged.”

Over the years...now many years...I've read stacks of books and periodicals, attended clinics, watched instructional videos, observed practices and games, and talked with players and colleagues.  I've done all those things (as do countless other coaches) so as to better be able to aid the men and women in the arena...to inspire, love, encourage and instruct...and in turn, be inspired, loved, encouraged and instructed by those same men and women.

One of the things we hope to accomplish with this site is to highlight some of the books and people who have helped us along the way.  The first such book to be discussed is one that I chose, Talent and the Secret Life of Teams by former Nebraska volleyball coach, Terry Pettit.  Posts to follow will discuss some of the topics raised in this excellent work. I strongly recommend clicking on the link above and purchasing a copy for yourself.  It's one of the best books on coaching I've ever read...one that I re-read on a yearly basis.

I am forever grateful for the many people who have taught me and given me so much these past years...players, coaches, parents, officials, staff and administrators...at the risk of sounding maudlin, they have lent meaning and purpose to it all.  It is in that spirit that we begin this latest endeavor.