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Traits of Great Players

Taken from Alan Stein’s blog

Every trait on this list is 100% controllable!

  1. Great players go after every rebound on both ends of the floor – they are crafty and aggressive.
  2. Great players run the floor as fast as possible on fast breaks and defensive transition.
  3. Great players are defensive stoppers – they stop their man as well as help teammates. They do the things offensive players hate!
  4. Great players contest all shots. They don’t go for ball fakes or shot fakes. They deflect passes, bump cutters, and take charges.
  5. Great players don’t gamble on offense or defense. They aim to make the right play, not the highlight play.
  6. Great players are strong with the ball. They rip through hard on offense, ‘chin’ all rebounds, and don’t expose the ball when dribbling.
  7. Great players play under control and play at different speeds. They know that playing slow can be very effective.
  8. Great players practice just as hard as they play in games. They don’t have an On and Off Switch – they are always on!
  9. Great players allow themselves to be coached. They make eye contact, listen, and welcome coaching. They crave getting better.
  10. Great players are great teammates. They are supportive, high energy, and make their enthusiasm contagious.
  11. Great players Play Present. They focus on the process, not the outcome. They focus on what they can control. They don’t get distracted.
  12. Great players take advantage of every opportunity to get better. Every workout, every practice, and every game is a chance to improve.
  13. Great players are mentally and physically tough. They are comfortable being uncomfortable.
  14. Great players can pivot both ways off of either foot and can dribble, pass, and finish around the basket with either hand. They don’t have a ‘weak’ hand.
  15. Great players love and respect the game of basketball. They don’t play for money or fame.
  16. Great players are unselfish passers. They hit open teammates. They know the goal is to get the best shot; not their best shot.
  17. Great players don’t commit stupid fouls.  They know their greatness is eliminated if they are on the bench in foul trouble
  18. Great players are students of the game. They watch film. They study opponents. They study themselves.
  19. Great players value every possession.  They aren’t careless with ball.  They make smart passes and take high percentage shots.
  20. Great players don’t wait for the workout or practice or game to start… they prepare for it! They prepare mentally and physically.
  21. Great players are super competitive. They hate losing more than they enjoy winning. They compete in everything they do.
  22. Great players always know the time and score. They know how many time-outs they have as well as who is in foul trouble on both teams.
  23. Great players log the game in their mind. At any point in time, they can tell you exactly what happened, on both ends of the floor, the last 3 possessions.
  24. Great players are assertive with the ball, welcome contact when driving to the cup, and get to the free throw line.
  25. Great players immediately think Next Play. They don’t dwell on mistakes (missed shot or turnover). Instead, they make up for it on the other end.
  26. Great players make plays, not excuses. They don’t care if the refs suck, if the floor is slippery, or if they have a cold. They get it done.
  27. Great players are the first ones in the gym… and the last ones to leave every day.
  28. Great players don’t worry about getting exposure.  Instead they focus on never getting exposed!
  29. Great players elevate their teammates to become great players too.
  30. Great players know that their legacy will be judged on their ability to win, not personal accolades or stats.
  31. Great players would rather play ball than anything else.  They truly love to play.
  32. Great players are well rounded and have a complete game.  They can hurt you in a variety of ways.
  33. Great players are top-notch communicators.  They talk with a presence on both ends of the floor.
  34. Great players want the ball in their hands when the game is on the line because they know they have put in the work to deserve success.
  35. Great players practice with a purpose. They are focused and intense. Nothing they do on the court is casual.
  36. Great players give back to their program and are humble and grateful for what basketball has done for them.
  37. Great players are responsible for tone and effort of the entire team… every practice and every game.
  38. Great players hold themselves, their teammates, and their coaches accountable. They believe in collective responsibility.
  39. Great players play in straight lines and sharp angles. They make hard basket cuts and set solid screens.
  40. Great players love playing and competing against other great players.



3 Ways Coaches Can Better Motivate Their Players

Posted by Jodi Murphy

Every coach has their own style of coaching. And while plenty of coaches yell from time to time most would probably agree that constantly screaming and swearing at their team is not the best way to motivate players. When you are working with younger players it’s important to keep practices and games fun. We’re not suggesting you let your team do whatever they want and encouraging them to be competitive is not inherently a bad thing, but if we want to encourage kids to keep playing sports for years to come we can’t scare them off! There is a difference between being rough around the edges and just getting mean as an attempt to push your players.

Find out what drives them as individuals.

This might be a little harder with a huge football team, but on a small basketball team it doesn’t take much time to talk with each player and learn what motivates them as individuals. Is one kid looking to follow in the footsteps of a big brother or sister? Is another player just excited to be part of a team and wear a uniform? Maybe some of the kids need a coach that is a little harder on them, while some players need the coach to have a little more patience. Just like coaches have different coaching styles players have different internal motivations. If you can figure out what drives each athlete you can use that to encourage each individual player to reach their maximum potential.

Set smaller, more attainable goals.

Hitting 9 out of 10 free throws is a pretty high goal for anyone, even a professional basketball player. So instead of setting the bar so high your team will hardly be able to reach it (which can be very defeating), why not set slightly smaller goals that work them up to that big one? For instance, instead of going for 9 out of 10 free throws why not look for better mechanics when shooting? Or focus on getting players in the right position for a rebound. These are little things that young players have more control over and as they meet these little goals it boosts their confidence and they get one step closer to achieving the big ones.

Positive feedback is almost always a good fallback.

Dr. Chris Stankovitch made a great point; Genuine, positive reinforcement should always be your default approach when dealing with tough kids who seem like they are not very motivated.  Even if the results are not there, if you see a kid working hard be sure to offer genuine praise.

Just about everyone responds well to praise and support. A well-meant “good job” goes a long way in motivating your team to keep up what they are doing. Let your team know what they are doing well, even when you are critiquing their performance, so they don’t feel like they can do nothing right.

Is Your Child Going Pro?

Let’s be honest with ourselves sports parents, who among us has not dreamed of seeing our child “go pro” someday? From the very first time we teach them to throw, to swim, or to tumble the wheels start turning and we have daydreams about college scholarships, Olympic medals and first round draft picks. It’s okay to admit you have them too! But it’s a long road between the first day of tee-ball and the World Series and with every passing year the odds of your kid going pro, even if they live and breathe sports, even if they have fantastic natural talent, gets smaller and smaller.

In 2011, the NCAA put up the statistics that show the likelihood of your child going pro. Here are some of the most interesting numbers:


There are 1,108,441 high school football players and 316,697 are in their senior year. The percentage of high school football players who go on to play in the NCAA is only 6.1%. That Your Kid is Not Going Pro means that less than one in 16 of all high school senior boys playing interscholastic football will go on to play football in the NCAA. Of the 15,086 NCAA football players that make it to their senior year about 1 in 50 are actually drafted into the NFL. At the end of the day, only eight in 10,000 of high school seniors will actually be drafted and play professional football.

Women’s Basketball

According to the NCAA, in 2011 438,933 girls were playing basketball and 125,409 of those girls made are in their senior year. However, only 3.5% (about 3 in 100) of high school female basketball players will go on to play basketball in college. Of the 3,491 NCAA senior student athletes less than 1 in 100 will be drafted by the WNBA, meaning 1 in 5,000 (.03%) of high school senior girls will eventually go pro.


With 471,025 high school baseball players, 134,579 of which are in their senior year, about three in 50 (6.4%) of high school senior boys will go on to play men’s baseball in college. Believe it or not, baseball players actually have the best chance of going pro—a whopping nine in 100 of NCAA senior male baseball players (a whole 9%!) will ultimately get drafted by an MLB team. That means that approximately one in 200 high school senior boys will eventually be drafted by an MLB team.

Let’s not even go into the odds of your child becoming an Olympian someday…let alone actually bringing home the gold.

This is not to say that there aren’t fantastic youth athletes out there with the willpower, the talent, and the drive to play sports all the way through high school, get noticed by a college recruiter and kick butt up and down the field/court/ice hard enough to get drafted by a major league team, but for many youth athletes, no matter how much they want it, the odds just aren’t in their favor.

We as sports parents can’t control the direction of our child’s sports career. We can’t count on college scholarships or bank on them “going pro” no matter how talented they are because at the end of the day, they are still just kids! They might live and breathe lacrosse or hockey this year, but in a few years they might really love tennis or swimming, or leave sports entirely to pick up the tuba, chess, or basket-weaving. Going pro is a fantastic dream that every youth athlete should have just once, but let’s not lose site of the real value of youth sports—to have fun, make friends, learn how to be a graceful winner and loser, to work in a team and keep active!

Coach has seen Title IX’s positive impact


Teresa (Allmon) Tanner was playing Amateur Athletic Union basketball long before it was cool. Yet time playing travel ball did far more than keep her in shape. She eventually parlayed her gym time into a full-ride scholarship to University of Montevallo, which Tanner used to earn a degree. In which also opened doors for her to pursue her career of coaching at the University of Mobile and South Alabama.

Tanner birth, nurtured, trained and was mother/coach to her two daughters to lay the foundation and the discipline, as she’s now the mother of two Auburn WBB scholarship players — Tyrese is a rising senior and Nicole is a rising sophomore.  She gives back to the game by coaching with the Alabama Twisters AAU Program.”Basketball gave me a purpose and direction that continues to make me a better person,” said Tanner, now 46. “I’ve met so many people, so many great people, and they’ve had such an incredible impact on me. To think back to 7th grade – all I wanted to be was a cheerleader. I’m glad that didn’t work out.”

Title IX had expanded well beyond simple legislation when Tanner was playing high-school ball in eastern Tennessee.  “I was the only one on my high-school team that even played AAU,” Tanner said. “It wasn’t all talent, but the desire and drive as well. I had several teammates that could have and did play in college.  The high-school season was enough for some people.”

Tanner, who stands six feet tall, blossomed into a dominating forward on the court. Yet she didn’t appreciate the significance of academic excellence in high school and didn’t have the grades to qualify at most major-conference schools. She instead found a home in junior college, worked more diligently in the classroom and earned an offer from Montevallo after two seasons. Tanner’s winding road from AAU to college graduate remains an important theme.

“I didn’t have that knowledge of how the system worked – how important your grades were,” Tanner said. “I’m always reminding my players and their parents now about the need to be a good student as well as a good athlete. The biggest thing for players now is that they have real role models in the WNBA and coaches who have shown it can be done. You have to be well-rounded.”

Tanner’s life never strays far from Title IX’s significance. She has coached players who earned scholarships. She has coached against players who have earned scholarships. The world of year-round basketball, once limited to just a handful of girls, now supports more than 50 AAU teams in Alabama alone. Opportunities are expanding every year. Tanner knows why.

“What we’re seeing now would not have happened without Title IX,” she said. “It changed my life for the better and I see it touching girls’ lives all the time for the better. I’m not sure (athletic funding is) 100-percent equal like it should be, but I look back at the way it was in the mid 80s and we’ve come a long way. The opportunities these players have now basically didn’t exist for their parents. That’s progress.”


They’re Called Coach

They are young, old, experienced, they are soft, tough, good natured, foul tempered, proud and profane.  They are articulate and even inarticulate.  Some are dedicated and some casual.  Some are even more dedicated than others.  Intelligence is not enough, and dedication is not enough. 

 They all want to win, but some want to win more than others and just wanting to win is not enough.  Losers almost always get fired, but winners get fired also.  He is out in the open being judged publicly for six or seven months out of the year by those who may or may not be qualified to judge him.  Every victory and every defeat is recorded constantly in print.  The coach, this strange breed has no place to hide.  He cannot just let the job go for a while or do a bad job and hope no one will notice as most of us can.  He cannot satisfy everyone, seldom can he even satisfy very many, and rarely does he even satisfy himself.  If he wins once, he must win the next time also. 

 They plot victories-, they suffer defeats; they endure criticism from within and without; they neglect their families, they travel endlessly and they live alone in the spotlight surrounded by others.  Theirs may be the worst profession in the world.  It’s unreasonably demanding, poor pay, insecure, full of unrelenting pressures and I ask myself: Why do coaches put up with it?  Why do they do it? I’ve seen them fired with pat phrases such as, “Fool”, “Incompetent”, or “He couldn’t get the job done”. 

 I’ve wondered about that, having seen them exalted by victory, and depressed by defeat.  I’ve sympathized with them having seen some broken by the job and others die from it.  One is moved to admire them and to hope that someday the world will understand them; this strange breed they call COACH!

Eliminate Losing.. Coaches

POOR PREPARATION: I have never seen a team who had a poor week (or day) of preparation win a big contest. Whether it is a poor scouting report, a shoot around that lacks focus, a pre-game warm-up full of distractions, a star player showing up late for bus, not sleeping the night before, eating an uncharacteristic pregame meal that upsets a stomach, etc.

POOR SHOT SELCTION: All teams will have nights when the ball won’t go in the hole. Not much you can do to control that. But you can control the quality of the shots your team gets. If you allow players/teams to take poor shots in preparation, they will do the same in games. WE GET WHAT WE TOLERATE. You have to be very clear with your team what YOU consider a good shot. Make sure your players/team understand it clearly, and then defend that in every skill/drill that you do.

FOULING: This could be fouling too much. It can be too many fouls on an individual player, especially an impact player. It can be fouling at inopportune times. Either way, it can get you beat. You must “officiate” your skills/drills and scrimmages as your games would be called. We have goals to never put a team in the bonus in a first half. We have goals of only doing it in second half of games that we are trailing in. If we can keep teams from the FT line, we won’t beat ourselves.

UNCHARACTERISTIC TURNOVERS: You are going to turn the ball over. Some games more than others depending on the number of possessions you/your opponent pace the game. When your teams/players make turnovers they normally don’t or shouldn’t then you put yourself in a position to lose. In preparations we have a ball rack that has 8 basketballs on it. When we turn the ball over in one of the above situations, we remove a ball from the rack. This is a visual to our players what we consider UNCHARACTERISTIC. When the rack is empty, we stop our drill and “remind” the team (running, stairs, pushups, sit-ups, etc), fill the rack back up and start again.

If we can eliminate losing before we deal with our opponents play, then you can coach. The next time you feel like saying after a game that “we beat ourselves” take inventory on why you feel that way. Then go about eliminating those issues in your practices. Sometimes you are just going to lose. It happens to every coach and every team. But, try to eliminate beating yourself.

Law of the Garbage Truck

I’ve ALWAYS Loved This Story:

One day I hopped in a taxi and we took off for the airport.  We were driving in the right lane when suddenly a black car jumped out of a parking space right in front of us.

My taxi driver slammed on his brakes, skidded, and missed the other car by just inches!  The driver of the other car whipped his head around and started yelling at us.  My taxi driver just smiled and waved at the guy.  And I mean, he was really friendly. So I asked, ‘Why did you just do that?  This guy almost ruined your car and sent us to the hospital!”

This is when my taxi driver taught me what I now call, ‘The Law of the Garbage Truck.’ He explained that many people are like garbage trucks.  They run around full of garbage, full of frustration, full of anger, and full of disappointment. As their garbage piles up, they need a place to dump it and sometimes they’ll dump it on you.  Don’t take it personally. Just smile, wave, wish them well, and move on.  Don’t take their garbage and spread it to other people at work, at home, or on the streets. The bottom line is that successful people do not let garbage trucks take over their day.  Life’s too short to wake up in the morning with regrets, so … Love the people who treat you right.  Pray for the ones who don’t. “Life is ten percent what you make it and ninety percent how you take it!”


Maturity Is……..

  1. The ability to do a job whether you are supervised or not; finish a job once it is started; carry money without spending it, and be able to bear an injustice without wanting to get even.
  2. The ability to control anger and settle differences without violence or destruction.
  3. Patience.  It is the willingness to postpone immediate gratification in favor of the long-term gain.
  4. Perseverance, the ability to sweat out a project or a situation in spite of heavy opposition and discouraging setbacks.
  5. The capacity to face unpleasantness and frustration, discomfort and defeat without being bitter, complaint or collapse.
  6. Humility.  It is being big enough to say, “I was wrong” and I am sorry.” And, when right, the mature person need not experience the satisfaction of saying, “I told you so!”
  7. The ability to make a decision and stand by it.  The immature spend their lives exploring endless possibilities; then they do nothing.
  8. Dependability, integrity, and keeping one’s word.  It coming through in a risis.  The immature-have excuses for everything.  The immature are masters of the alibi.  They are confused and disorganized.  They are the chronically tardy, the-no shows the gutless wonders who fold in the crises.  Their lives are a maze of broken promises, former friends, unfinished business and good intentions that somehow never materialized.
  9. The art of living in peace with that which we-cannot change, the courage to change that which can be changed and the wisdom to know the difference!
  10. Something each of us possesses large-or small-pockets of immaturity: the totally mature individual does not exist.  Nor does one grow up all at once. Like  physical growth, emotional growth is achieved one day at a time.
  11. Unselfishness, responding to the needs of others.




Creating a Cultutre of Toughness

An excerpt from The Coaching Toolbox:

The three most important traits for a team are toughness, unselfishness, and relentlessness. For a team to be truly unselfish and relentless they have to be tough. Toughness allows players to achieve great things. “Players play, Tough Players win.”

I don’t think toughness can be taught but I do think it is learned. Let me explain that. We can all think of  “Toughness” drills that we’ve done or do to make our kids tough. Loose ball drills, charge drills, wall sits. Anything to force you to be tough. My question is this: Why isn’t everything we do instilling toughness? If we have to do drills to teach toughness we aren’t really tough. Toughness isn’t a sometime thing, it’s an all the time thing. Toughness has to be evident in everything thing you do as a program.

You can’t fake toughness. Let’s face it. If a player can’t play you can’t hide that, just like you can’t hide a lack of toughness. Basketball players don’t have the luxury of a helmet to add to their “character” as a player.

Basketball is raw. Every expression is visible to everyone. Toughness isn’t a look, it is an ability. You are either tough or not. There are plays where the presence and absence of toughness are evident but if you are creating a culture of toughness you don’t wait for 50/50 ball or someone taking a charge. You look for and instill toughness in every drill, every day and in every player. Here are the 3 points I believe lead to a Culture of Toughness.

#1 Without Fear and With Urgency
Toughness only knows the boundaries set by oneself. A tough player has a willingness to compete without fear of failure and sometimes without fear of injury. Tough players do the dirty work. Loose balls, take charges, block out every time. They play with an urgency that this play is the most important of the game. These are all coachable but more importantly adaptable to any player. If this type of play is the norm you stop looking for signs of toughness and see the players not producing. More importantly, it becomes evident to their teammates who aren’t willing to sacrifice.

#2 Everyday Guys
Guys that do their jobs everyday are extremely tough. These are the guys succeeding, in practice and in the classroom.

They don’t take days off. They don’t take plays off. Sadly, this is a dying breed. I appreciate all the things our athletic trainers and medical team does for us but sometimes “I wonder if getting smarter made us softer?” Our athletic trainers in our program are extremely good and are as vital a part of our staff as our coaches. Trust has been developed where they can make decisions about the players without any second guessing.

Today’s player is more knowledgeable about their bodies than we were in the past. If you rolled an ankle in most cases your Coach shoved your leg in a 5 gallon bucket of ice water. I’ve seen guys play on an ankle the size of a grapefruit rather than endure the ice to hot routine. The rule is simple. If you’re hurt get up. This includes your pride. If you’re injured we will help you.

Everyday guys make a Coach’s life easier. They are the players you don’t ever have to worry about. In the NBA, I look at Duke Alumni as everyday guys. That toughness as instilled at Duke by Coach K. You can’t win without everyday guys.

#3 Away from the Ball
This is the “sign” for me if a Player is truly tough or not. Away from the ball, whether on offense or defense is where toughness is displayed. Whether you have the ball or are guarding the ball you are forced to be engaged. Everyone is watching you. It’s show time. I’d say even the guys one pass away are working hard. What about the guys “out of the play”? Are they in a stance? Talking? Cutting and screening with purpose. This is where toughness must be evident. The Block/Charge is determined here, not by the official. The play is determined in the mind of the defender. Are they engaged? Same goes for the offside offensive rebound. Away from the ball is where games are loss more often than won.

This goes for your best player especially. This player is use to having the ball and being in the spotlight. There are times when we will make sure that our opponent’s best on the ball defender is put in a position of help defense because it’s out of his comfort zone. “No one is watching me so I can rest.” Hopefully all of us are coaching off the ball defense and teaching on the ball defense.

When Toughness is the norm, Players are forced to be tough. You can’t survive without being tough. It’s a culture, not a drill. It becomes an adaptation. A must for survival. You can’t teach a player to be tough. The player has to learn it, but most importantly need toughness to succeed in your program.

S.M.A.R.T Goals

If you ask most people what is their one major objective in life, they would probably give you a vague answer, such as, “I want to be successful, be happy, make a good living,” and that is it. They are all wishes and none of them are clear goals.

Goals must be SMART:

1. SspecificA specific goal has a much greater chance of being accomplished than a general goal. For example, “I want to lose weight.” This is wishful thinking. It becomes a goal when I pin myself down to “I will lose 10 pounds in 90 days.”

2. M–must be measurable-Establish concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of each goal you set. If we cannot measure it, we cannot accomplish it. Measurement is a way of monitoring our progress.

3. A--must be achievable / attainable–When you identify goals that are most important to you, you begin to figure out ways you can make them come true. You develop the attitudes, abilities, skills, and financial capacity to reach them. You begin seeing previously overlooked opportunities to bring yourself closer to the achievement of your goals.. Achievable means that it should be out of reach enough to be challenging but it should not be out of sight, otherwise it becomes disheartening.

4. Rrealistic-To be realistic, a goal must represent an objective toward which you are both willing and able to work. A goal can be both high and realistic; you are the only one who can decide just how high your goal should be. But be sure that every goal represents substantial progress. A person who wants to lose 50 pounds in~30 days is being unrealistic.

5. Ttime-bound-A goal should be grounded within a time frame. With no time frame tied to it there’s no sense of urgency. If you want to lose 10 lbs, when do you want to lose it by? “Someday” won’t work. But if you anchor it within a timeframe, “by May 1st”, then you’ve set your unconscious mind into motion to begin working on the goal. There should be a starting date and a finishing date.