5 Reasons Why Coaching Your Own Kid Stinks

I have been coaching basketball for 8 years now and I do not hold back the fact that I LOVE coaching and I LOVE my team, but its not always as easy as it seems!  It started out all innocent and fun…during Elle’s first season of recreational basketball she was the only girl on the team and the neanderthals coaching the team paid absolutely no attention to her, or many of the other kids for that fact.  She learned very little about dribbling or the rules of the game – things first year players should learn!  So, after that season I decided that I knew way more about basketball than those guys and could at least communicate with the children without grunting…and 8 years later I’ve coached recreational basketball, travel teams of all ages, a middle school team, a junior varsity team and have had the varsity team at our local high school for the last 4 years.

img_124842995410275136335999.jpegI love coaching young athletes, I love seeing them grow and mature, not only in their basketball skill but as young women!  For many years I gave up coaching my own kid in travel so that I could coach the high school teams.  I missed travel and middle school games in which Elle was playing so that  I could be there for practices for my team to advance our program.  Some nights I hated it, but my pout didn’t last too long, as I loved being in the gym with my players, having faith that Elle was surrounded by coaches that loved her in the same way and our family cheering for her in my place.

Now though, she has finally made it to my roster and I have come to the realization that, at least at this level, it stinks coaching your own kid!  You see I think there is a common misconception that being the coach’s kid is a perk…wrong!  We are talking about a girl that has washed more stinky uniforms than she can count, has endured cold nights on a silent bus while Mom stews in the front seat after a loss (even though she wasn’t old enough to play in that particular game) and as a 5th grader even got recruited to ensure the varsity players were running the sprints they were to run as a punishment when Mom stormed out of the gym to collect herself in the locker-room!  Being a coach’s kid is NOT always fun! And now, shes on the roster!

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Here are the Top 5 Reasons Coaching Your Own Kid Stinks:

  1. I Am Always Second Guessing Myself.  When dealing with Elle I am constantly asking myself if I am talking to her and thinking about her in my “mom” voice or in my “coach” voice.  I second guess every decision I make – and it makes me feel horrible!  I have coached this team for 3 seasons without worry about what others think and say and now I am a mess!
  2. When A Player Or Parent Is Mad At Me – They Take It Out On Her!  When this happens I want to kick into “momma bear” mode and tear apart the offender -it just cant happen though, and Elle has to learn to deal with it!
  3. I Miss Big Moments And Plays!  Parents live for this right?  That moment when your kids does something so spectacular in a game that they can talk about on the way home and at work tomorrow!  Not me, I am focused on everyone’s big moments, and often miss hers – or they become a blur that I have to go back and watch on game film after another parent mentions it to me! My bragging to co-workers and peers is about my whole team!
  4. I Am Still Relying On Her For The Dirty Jobs! Yep, she is still washing her (now teammates) smelly uniforms and helping to clean up the gym long after practice is over.  She was recently accused of getting more gym time than others…well she does alright, vacuuming the locker-room or cleaning trash out of lockers left by her teammates.
  5.  I Miss Just Being Mom!  While I am more than thankful for the time we get together both at home and in the gym…Its difficult to console her after a loss when I have just told the team that I am disappointed in their performance and they need to work harder!  I miss the opportunity to just love on my kid!  I am vigilant though about reminding her that this is a game and no matter her performance (and what I say about it in the locker-room) I love her beyond measure and always will!  I sure hope she is listening…

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5 Life Lessons We Learn from March Madness

If you haven’t figured it out from my previous posts on this blog…this family LOVES basketball season!  We watch, coach, play and live basketball from November to March and really most every month in between!  After-all, what’s not to love!?!  As with everything else in life, it truly comes down to what your viewpoint is and how you choose to perceive certain situations and when it comes to sports and basketball its all good stuff here baby!  In, fact Team Gunter believes that there are important life lessons that can be garnered from March Madness and we take this opportunity to share them with you!

1.  SIZE DOESN’T MATTER.  

University of Maryland – Baltimore County’s 5’8″ point guard, K.J. Maura, showed the nation that great basketball players do not need to be 6-footers!  In fact, Maura admits that 5’8 may be pushing it a bit!  He doesn’t believe that his size is a hinderance to his game, in fact he reported to the Washington Post that his size was actually an advantage.  “My size is an advantage because a lot of guys are taller than me and they don”t expect me to be pressuring the ball.”  Maura told Washington Post reporter Steve Reed in an article posted on March 17, 2018.

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You see, Maura and many other tenacious athletes like him understand that accomplishing goals in sports or any area of  life isn’t about appearance at all,  its about taking control of the controllables, thinking outside the box, and not being afraid to chase you dreams;  even if you don’t fit the traditional mold!  It’s not being afraid to be who you are and to recognize and use your God-given talents and attributes to excel in your sport or profession and to achieve your goals!  So, K.J. Maura may never dunk a basketball and swing from the rim like his 6’8 counter-parts but what he can do is play tenacious, pestering defense and use his petite stature to slice and dice past larger, bulkier defenders as the drives to the basket to defeat one of the top teams in the nation in a game that will go down in history!

2.  PLAY WITHOUT HESITATION – GO FULL OUT.

I am constantly telling my players and kids that my biggest pet-peeve is when they don’t do things “full out.”  To me, its a waste of energy to only give 75%.  Why stay in defensive stance for 3/4 of the court only to stand up and let someone drive around you on the baseline!?!  Why spend time cleaning up dinner and washing dishes if you aren’t going to wipe off the stove and counter – its still dirty – and the water is right there to clean it!?!

 

 

 

This year’s NCAA basketball tournament has boasted more upsets that a few from teams that would not have appeared to have been worthy on a paper bracket sheet.  But, no one told them that!  They showed up and played “their” game without hesitation against the very best teams in the country and shocked the nation!  On the other hand, there were plenty of “good” teams that either under-estimated their competition or for some other reason showed up on the big stage and didn’t give the 110% required to propel them to a win!

I am loving the stories of lower ranked teams that suited up, warmed up and stepped onto a floor in an arena that may have been much larger than they had ever played on before and played without doubt – what did they have to lose!?!  What if we played EVERY game that way?  What if we approached life that way?  Confident, assured in our preparation, trusting our teammates, respectful of the gravity of the situation but unaffected by the largeness of the moment – that my friends is when we are teams and individuals are UNSTOPPABLE!

3.  ITS THE LITTLE THINGS (CULTURE WINS).

I can already see my players rolling their collective eyes as I jump up on this soap box again!  Close-outs, Box outs, keeping your hands high and in passing lanes, hedging on screens, Peek and Powerful, constant communication with teammates….all the “little” things in basketball that aren’t really “little” at all.  In fact, this tournament proves that the teams who focus on and execute on the minute details are the ones on the top of the score board and moving forward in the bracket.  They are committed to their defensive concepts and offensive strategy put into place by their coaches and program and are executing it in a precise fashion, even in “big” games – stick with your culture my friends!

It was much to my dismay as I watched my beloved Vols fall to Loyola, my real upset…why were they running and jumping at shooters!?!  Had they forgotten how to close out!?!  Did they not realize that as they went flying by the offensive player for the fifth time in a row that the Loyola player simply did a head fake and drove to the bucket or shot after the flash of orange defender went flying into the bench behind them!  I will be a University of Tennessee fan until the end but come on guys….these are basic defensive concepts….they won’t shoot over you if you stay on the floor with your hands high!  I feel like Coach Barnes may have told them this a time or two!  Stay true to your culture and do better next year!

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I read an article this week by the Chicago Tribune about the Wall of Culture that Coach Moser of  Loyola Chicago instituted in their locker-room. Is a commitment to these phrases a key to their successful season and trip to the Elite Eight? It was certainly a powerful enough idea that I posed the question to my G-Girls and asked them to tell me what phrases would go on our wall?

The lesson…stay true to your culture and the little things that your coaches (and parents) believe make your program great!  Pay attention to details, I know you don’t want to hold your hands in the air on defense but it may be the difference in a passer taking the look over your head or them feeling as though this defense has completely shut them down and settling for a poor shot or turnover.  Also, pay attention to the culture of how you behave on your team and respond to your teammates – love them, be positive to them and hold them to the high standards set by your program.

4.  YOU CAN’T DO IT ALONE – TEAMWORK PREVAILS

What more can I say…this one speaks for itself!  You don’t see a single team in the NCAA tournament, men’s or women’s, that are doing it alone!  Basketball, just as life, is a team sport and to excel on the highest level you have to trust and rely on your teammates.  The even more important part of this lesson is that sometimes on a team you have to be the role player, distributing the ball to the hot hand of your teammate or taking the charge and other times, your teammates need you to take the ball to the rim!  It’s that balance that makes teams great!

5.  IT DOESN’T HURT TO HAVE GOD ON YOUR SIDE!

This tournament season, Sister Jean of Loyola Chicago has taught us that even on the court, a little prayer goes a long way! Further, her spirit and love for watching her team play its way through the tournament is refreshing.

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I don’t pray for wins…never have and never will! But faith plays such a strong role in every aspect of our lives, why shouldn’t it in sports as well.  I often pray that my players are safe and play with clear hearts and minds and fully enjoy the game and all the positive attributes that can come from being an athlete and playing this game that I have loved most my life! I believe that training can be largely spiritual, there is nothing like being in a gym alone…I used to have my best talks with God and get in the best workouts in those moments!  When testing your own limits physically, mentally and emotionally isn’t this a perfect time to be talking to God…absolutely!  He may show you things about yourself you never even imagined…giving all glory to Him of course!

So, there you have it….I could go on for days but I’ll try to contain myself.  I love athletics! I choose for athletic experiences to be positive lessons, even when we aren’t necessarily winning!  You can do the same for your teams and families too!  Keep looking for those positives!

 

 

The Four Words…

There are four words that, when said, will bring out the best in your team, your employees and your family. They are:

“I believe in you.”

Coach K.

Not that I am a Duke or Coach K. fan in general, but he’s hit the nail on the head! It is a motto for my life as a mother, public service provider and basketball coach and mentor. Those four words change everything!

An important note to remember, believing and investing in people more DOES bring out the best in our family, peers and players and create positive change, but these positive attributes do not necessarily happen on our time schedule. We must continue our commitment to those in whom we bestow our belief, even when they disappoint us or move more slowly then we would like. Keep believing and providing loving support, I promise its an investment that costs very little and yet the gains are unimaginable!

I Believe In You!

Love Them More – An Approach to Program Building in Youth and High School Sports

pexels-photo-356319.jpegIts the new year and the heart of basketball season which means our backyard is empty while we spend vast amounts of our time in a gym!  Our coaching staff has been putting a lot of thought into program building and the never-ending pursuit of fundamental players with the attitude we desire in the program.  The first step…determining what we deem are the core values of our program and what are the most important fundamentals an athlete needs to possess to play at a high school level.  The challenge for our program in recent years is having athletes that were just that – athletes!  We have, as a whole, lacked athleticism both physically and mentally and an advanced understanding of the game.  My job as a coach…. fix this going forward and quickly!!

First, in dealing with my current players we began back in the summer developing the idea of this team as their “family”.  We had cookouts in my backyard, we participated in team-building activities and topped off our summer with a back-to-school trip to Pigeon Forge and Dollywood.  We laughed, rode rides and learned to put up tents in the rain!  Overall, not a bad start to the school year and season.  The next step: getting my players to believe in themselves the way that I believe in them.  We may be missing some fundamentals as a team but overall they are a great group of kids with a ton of heart and potential both as basketball players and fantastic individuals!  I am convinced that confidence will come if I just love them more – they will come to believe in themselves and their abilities as athletes and leaders!

The second step in the process is to ensure that our younger players as well as future players in this program understand the expectations of the program and continually work on their individual, fundamental skills that will allow them to grow as an athlete and person.  When I took over the high school program 3 years ago I was the 3rd varsity coach in as many years and the team was coming off a bit of a disappointing season, given the talent that we had on the team.  We lacked continuity in every way.  We lacked core values and team concept as well as overall basic basketball skills.  The advantage that my young players now have is that most of them have played together since they were very young, most of them actually played recreational basketball or on a travel team for me!  I know exactly what basic skills they have been taught, what team expectations they have been held to in the past and their parents understand this as well.  Therefore, I have come to the understanding that the only way this program is going to develop in the positive direction that I  desire is for myself and coaching staff to be more involved in the development of players at a young age.

20140222_154746489038885.jpgWhen my current younger players were just learning to dribble in those first years on rec or travel teams we absolutely LOVED the game, by “we” I mean me and the kids both!  It was so much fun seeing them progress and learn.  We played games that focused on specific skills and were consistently positive with them and in the process they developed into hard-working and focused players that strive to work on their fundamentals each day as the game becomes more advanced and their bodies change and adapt.  I loved every moment of coaching in those early years and likewise love each and every one of those kids!  The kids, they love us and the game too!  They are usually the first in the gym, more likely to do their summer workouts and have developed friendships with each other that has developed into a sisterhood.  Now, that is not to say that they haven’t struggled.  They are still young in their tenure as high school athletes, they have dealt with a faster-paced game, learning to be leaders, adapting to new players as well as a few injuries; but I fully believe that those early memories and exposure to this sport will carry them and will become a guidepost as they grow as athletes and fabulous young women!

Our program goal for the future:  have more exposure with the youth athletes in our community.  Make sure in their formative years of play they are being taught basic fundamentals in a positive way that builds confidence, a desire to focus and improve, and the core ethical and moral values that we require in the high school program.  Its also about changing the mindset of the parents at these young ages.  In the formative years (and always) players need twice as much practice as games; so parents, you have to get your kids there!  Also, don’t just sit back and expect everyone else to teach your kid about hard work.  Encourage them and praise them for hustle and hard work, not just scoring at games but also great effort at practice, being a good teammate and paying attention to detail in their game and that of their team.  A final note on parents, Play With Them! Especially when they are young, they love for you to get out on the floor or in the driveway with them; not to instruct them on a drill or shooting technique but in a game of “Horse” or “Gotcha”!  Even as they get older, young players love to “beat” you, so lace up your Nikes and get out there and play with them!

 

 

 

 

Staying the Course – Developing a Winning Mindset

20170308_170457.jpgMy high school basketball team suffered a tough loss last night to our first district foe of the season and county rival.  It was an especially frustrating loss given that we were leading at halftime by 5 and the opposing team had one player outscore my entire team in both the 3rd and 4th quarters!  (We have been planning for weeks on how to defend this player and did a great job – in the first half)!

After the game, I was far too disappointed to determine where do we go from here or how I handle practice today…so I slept on it! And awoke realizing that we just have to stay the course.  My team has dealt with a good deal of loss the the last two seasons.  We have seen  improvement this season in several of our individuals and, team chemistry as a whole is on an all time high, but they haven’t been able to put many games in the “win” column.

I was asked earlier in the season from a long-time coach friend of mine who knew the competitor I was in high school and college, “How do you keep your team motivated when they aren’t winning?”  This is tricky territory.  In the pre-season you want to play teams who will challenge you and essentially make you better as a player…and boy oh boy have we this year!  We have met and lost to the top three teams in our side of the state, at least one of which will surely vie for a state title in a month or so.  The answer to my friend’s question (not that I like being the authority on a win-less streak), is to WIN THE BATTLES!

Each game I develop for my players a series of “battles” they need to “win” each quarter and game.  Most often they include Rebounding, Communication, Reducing Turn-Overs and being Warriors.  The Warrior battle is my personal favorite….its complete hustle on every single possession.  Its setting screens, diving after loose balls, taking charges and all out giving your team everything you have; some coaches call it the “dirty work”.  At half-time and the end of the game we evaluate these battles and explain to the team where our improvement needs to lie and what we need to do to get to where we want to be at the end of the game or in the future. I find that this process has worked pretty well, and usually if we are winning battles we are winning the game on the scoreboard as well.

The tricky part in having a struggling season is maintaining the understanding of “how to win.”  Seems easy right, play good defense and out score the other team!  Not even close, its about keeping momentum, maintaining the clock and dealing with the other teams’ adjustments to your good play.  This is where I think my team is struggling at the moment.  I know that we are as good as anyone in our district and that we have played teams in our early season to prepare us for district play, but the current battle for me is to get the team to buy in to a winning attitude. We are unfortunately in a position that we HOPE to win, not that we go out in a game and battle and WANT to win.  My team has almost forgotten that fortune do not just happen to us, we have to go out on that court every night and MAKE our own fortune.

So, my job for the day….proving this concept to my team! Not a small task by any standard, but my plan is to stay the course with our team objectives and battles and to instill in them that I have full faith in their ability to improve as athletes and to win games…now its time for them to believe it too and go to work!