I asked Seth Stantial some of the considerations for building a program that he takes into account this week. Obviously there is no limit to this question, but I was specifically curious about how to grow the game with younger players, how to inspire players to work in the off-season, and where time is wasted. Seth and I also talked about some in game decisions which can be found here.
Coach has talked in the past to me about a reading program he does with his high school team and the elementary school community. It’s a win on multiple levels. The district looks good, the younger kids get one on one or one on two small group reading instruction, and the high school players give back (though they’ll tell you the benefit is that they get to miss class). I had wanted to put this in this year, but got wrapped up in other details of the season. What helped him was that he had a sister in-law in his district who happened to teach second grade which made coordinating the situation much easier.
Coach Stantial also mentioned the fact that he was trying to organize a summer camp for players in grades three through eight. The idea is hardly revolutionary, but one takeaway I had was that the youth players that come to their games are gaining an appreciation for high school players by getting them to read their player profiles which are given away at the door. The younger players are seeing the more human side of players on the team and in just the slightest way have a better connection with these players than they otherwise would when they find a common interest. I had never considered putting together a “player profile” type of booklet, but again it could be a positive force for the program on multiple levels (giving high school players more exposure and younger players something to shoot for).
I told Coach Stantial a little about our offseason plan and he dove into detail about his program’s. He started with the end in mind. He has had exit interviews with seniors who expressed regret over how they spent their time and energy in the offseason. The big question that he focused on was, “What’s our conversation going to be like next year or after your last year versus the conversations I’ve had with players that have balled their eyes out?”
From there he gives players a sheet with a singular goal on it. He stressed that while he gives them the tools to get better, it’s entirely on the player to take action. The sheet has four benchmarks on it with a date next to the benchmark. It asks players if they achieved the goal by that benchmark and if they haven’t, it asks them the simple follow up question: Did I give everything? If not, why not?
Coach Stantial noted that conditioning is a part of their offseason. Beverly High School has had an excellent school-wide agility program in the summer. It does come with the demands of getting up early in the morning and of course the temptation with any physical limits that can be tested of opting out. The team will make a commitment to lifting and Coach Stantial stressed that the greatest focus was on the core. During the season their goal is to basically sustain what was acheived in the off-season in terms of their conditioning and the team does not do anything related to lifting the day before a game.
One final tangential takeaway that I took from the lifting discussion. Coach Stantial had a connection with a former Lakers trainer. In a conversation with the trainer he had mentioned that what made Kobe Bryant special was that he would treat therapy and other “mundane” tasks like it was the NBA Finals. His competitiveness was something that was not exclusive to just basketball or just games.
There were several aha moments throughout our conversation for me, but nothing served me better than when Coach Stantial talked about what he does to build team unity. It’s team unity that enables players to come to the gym after tough nights and build resiliency in the short and long term. In the past I stole his idea of blind-folded dodgeball and it has been a really positive way to end practice and give elementary level players a break from the norm at camp. He shared with me three other ideas that he uses to incorporate “off-court” fun during a practice.
- The human knot. Each player needs to make an “X” with their arms and hold the hand of a teammate. From their, the players need to find a way to make a circle without letting go of their teammates hands.
- Any activity where players cannot talk.
- Different variations of tag.
I asked Coach Stantial if he had a genie what stats he would like to keep that he does not currently have. He said that at practice he would love to have a “screen to assist” stat (how many times and who sets screens that lead to a basket or a great shot). As a team that struggled to set consistent screens especially off the ball, I really liked this idea. He also stressed that he wished he could get live data during a game about turnover feedback. Not specifically any types of turnovers, but the types of turnovers where his team was hesitant or going away from what they had prepared for leading up to that game.