This is the second part of an article from University of Arkansas women’s Head Coach Mike Neighbors.
Here is a link to the first part of the article: Are you as tough as you want your players to be?
TOUGH coaches are VISIBLE
TOUGH coaches are accessible. They don’t hide out in their office. They don’t barricade themselves in a locker room.. They are seen.
We have all been witness to coaches who grab the microphone to celebrate with a jubilant crowd following a big win only to see the same coach escape the nearest exit to never be seen again that night following a tough loss.
TOUGH coaches are visible win or lose.
TOUGH coaches lead from the front.
This one works rather counterintuitively. You should actually be MORE visible when your team is struggling. You should be the first one on the court to show your players you are in it with them. You should be LESS visible following that big win, big shot, or winning streak.
Remember Jim Valvano running around the court looking for someone to hug following their National Championship win? Your players don’t need you then. They need you when they miss the big shot. They need you when they throw the ball to the wrong team on the last possession of the title game. I still remember Fred Brown collapsing into John Thompson’s arms.
TOUGH coaches are afraid of no news more than bad News
TOUGH coaches seek out information. They want to be aware. They want to be told first and don’t want to be surprised by someone
outside their program on issues inside their program.
Players must trust their coach to handle bad news. If they trust you to handle bad news, they are more willing to share it. If you blast them the first time they do, you can bet they will be reluctant to do it again.
A tough coach can handle the truth (there is my Few Good Men mandatory reference).
If you handle bad news early in a season with a team or early in the career of a player, you will build trust that lasts forever. Betray that trust and you may never hear the whole truth and nothing but the truth again.
We have experienced situations growing up where we were told it was better to tell the truth than lie only to be harshly punished for actually telling the truth.
It is a fine line, but one you must walk masterfully to be TOUGH.
TOUGH coaches play a schedule that reflects level of their team
After hiring your staff and assembling your team, the next most important responsibility a TOUGH coach has on their plate is to put together an appropriate schedule. TOUGH coaches have a realistic understanding of their team. After all, they should know them better than anyone.
TOUGH coaches know you must challenge your best teams so that they are peaked come tourney time. TOUGH coaches know you must raise the confidence level of an unsure team. TOUGH coaches know you must teach your weakest teams what winning feels like.
If you have a great team that never faces adversity, what happens when you do? If you have a great team that doesn’t know how to win a close game, what do they do in crunch time? One of my favorite scenes from the movie MIRACLE is when the Russian coach doesn’t think about pulling his goalie because he had never been behind late in a game.
Like many of the topics we have already discussed, this is a fine line.
Put together a schedule that is too difficult and your team might never reach it’s full potential. Put together one that is too easy and the exact same result could occur.
TOUGH coaches know their team. They know to schedule teams that will prepare them for the rigors of a season…. A team must face a variety of styles in a variety of environments.
Once you choose the opponents, laying out the calendar comes into question. Do you schedule a tough opponent right before a holiday or a testing period? Do you lay out opponents to avoid a strong of wins/losses? Do you want to open with a home game or a road game?
TOUGH coaches get this right more often than they get it wrong.
TOUGH coaches surround themselves with people smarter than them
TOUGH coaches are not threatened by people smarter than they are. In fact, they seek them out and surround themselves with them. This is one of the easiest TOUGHNESS qualities to spot. If the head coach is the only person that ever talks in a huddle, they probably have not done this. If the head coach is the only person that has a voice in practice, they probably have not done this.
Coaches with TOUGHNESS understand that having smart people surrounding them produces a multiplying effect rather than adding effect. These smarter people provide vital information that then allows the experience of the head coach to take over. These smart people supply the head coach with knowledge they have that the head coach can then turn into actionable tactics.
Smarts can also be substituted for talent or skilled.
TOUGH coaches that have this environment are free of time consuming details that can easily bog down a program. TOUGH coaches can focus on the most important 20% of things and allow the talented people they have surrounded themselves with to focus on the other 80%.
TOUGH coaches adapt to times without compromising core values
TOUGH coaches are facing their greatest challenges in this area. The iY Generation is the first to attend 12 years of schooling in a world that did not require a teacher/coach to provide them with information…they have always had access and the know how to use the internet.
When I was a 7th grader and had a question about who the greatest Point Guard of all-time was, my resources were my coaches, my uncles, an outdated World Almanac from the public library, and a once a week CBS basketball game of the week. A 7th grader today can Youtube millions of video clips, read a 100,000 on line articles that Google finds in 1.1818181 milliseconds, or tune into one of their 700 cable channels and actually watch a game live.
Technology has changed and continues to change at a rapid rate. The second I got proficient at Facebook, here comes Twitter, then Instagram, and SnapChat, and…
The iY Generation is also the most entitled generation of all-time. It’s not their fault we have made the choice to give everyone a ribbon just for showing up. It’s not their fault cuts from teams weren’t allowed until high school (if ever). It’s not their fault that so many rules are in place for them regarding equal playing time and fairness to all who sign up that they no ZERO.ZERO ZERO experience with dealing in adverse conditions. Few of them have ever been given the authority to be a leader. Fewer of them were allowed to fail without a parent or loved one stepping in to fight for equality.
But the fact is, that is who we coach and are starting to hire in the work force.
TOUGH coaches have found a way to adapt without compromising their core values. The stubborn old “my way or the highway” coaches have been replaced by the leaders who can still hold their players accountable to the time proven values that equal success.
Some would argue that some of the TOUGHEST coaches of all-time would have a difficult time coaching in today’s world. While there is plenty of evidence and examples of tough minded coaches who have fallen from grace, I disagree. The TOUGHEST would have adapted. It’s the weak coaches that refused to adapt that ultimately found themselves doing something other than coaching.
TOUGH coaches routinely mentor “over achievers”
TOUGH coaches consistently have players that leave their program much better than they entered it. A TOUGH coach has mastered the skills it takes to push a player beyond the limits that the player has set for themselves. We see this at all levels but is especially on display every March when the Madness starts. Sienna or George Mason or Northern Iowa or Butler make a run in the tournament with a bunch of Burger King All-Americans knocking off a roster full of McDonald’s All-Americans. It’s because they had a TOUGH coach who got them to over achieve individually and as a team.
The TOUGHEST coaches do it year in and year out. And it’s not an accident. And it’s not a coincidence when it happens at the same school repeatedly. (Keeping the coach there becomes the tough part for administration however).
TOUGH coaches can help their players through adverse situations that over achievers must overcome to be successful.
When a TOUGH coach meets a TOUGH player great things are possible.
TOUGH coaches get the most of practice time
Every coach on the face of the earth as 24 hours a day and 365 days per year to coach their team. It is the only commodity that we have equality in. The richest school district or athletic department may have nicer uniforms or a fancier gymnasium, but they can’t buy more time.
TOUGH coaches use this commodity especially well when it comes to their practice time. There is no wasted time. There are no
wasted movements. There is a plan.
Those plans may vary widely. I have seen 1000s of practices and none of them have ever been exactly the same.
The actual time factor can also vary widely. Some coaches may use three hours while others may only use half that. Regardless of the actual time utilized, the results are consistent.