Tewksbury Assistant Coach Steve “Boudah” Boudreau shared a great idea for creating roles for every player on a team. Rick Gorman founder of BST helped Boudah with the general outline and Boudah took it and ran this year in Tewksbury. Boudah has shared other culture and accountability thoughts in the past with me. His challenge in year one as an assistant coach was working with a program that is rebuilding. One of his big fears in year one was the team culture being driven by the coaches instead of the players. He knew that much of the leadership was going to fall on the coaches by default of the rebuild, but he also wanted to come up with a way to increase accountability on the players. Thus, he decided to give each player a role and a name (actual names removed for this article).
The role reserved for the player that is injured. Not every team has this player. Some teams have it right away, but all teams are one play away. When this player does get hurt it is vital that they stay engaged mentally. Boudah would go over the practice plan with Scoreboard Katrina and explain how much time to put on the clock for a given drill and why that time goes on the clock.
Given that this player is always going to be limited physically, sharing the practice plan helps develop the player mentally. Some coaches might even consider giving this player a say in constructing a portion of the practice plan. At times during our competitive drills, I always hoped that one team would not be ahead by 9 with 30 seconds to go. There are times where you want teams that play awful to have the scoreboard reflect it. And then there are times where situational basketball is more important. Encouraging Scoreboard Katrina to make it a five-point game instead of nine when nobody is looking is not the worst thing in the world.
“How Can Hank Help You”
This player is the one that is in charge of X’s and O’s when teammates miss an assignment. As a coach, this is a player that might not necessarily be the most skilled, but is well-versed in the playbook. Coaches did not reiterate how to set a screen or when to time a cut, it was Hank. The value of a player like this is self-explanatory, but when you dish out this role ask yourself, “What player would make a great coach?”
Tewksbury played music at every practice in certain drills and situations. The Music Man determined which tunes came on. From a culture standpoint, this is a great idea. Coaches always claim to want to bring players closer together and value getting to know players off the court. Right away, you know exactly what type of music one of your players likes. Additionally, teammates can reach out to the music man and send their own requests in. Pop, 80s, Disney, Christmas, and so many more themes to choose from!
Due to the fact that I am no fun and afraid of distractions, I would personally set up parameters for the Music Man. Pick out the music for that day and no changing on the fly regardless of what anyone says.
“Time and Score Tina”
The role is somewhat self-explanatory, but consider who it could be created for. This might be for a younger player that has the potential to become a key leader down the road. Or it could be a player that typically does not lead, but you know when they speak others will follow. Think of your starting point guard. This is a player that constantly needs to know about time and score given parameters around last shot or getting two for ones if that is something you emphasize.
Part of the role in Tewksbury required this player to constantly have teammates on alert when they transitioned their focus between drills or small-sided games. Scoreboard Katrina would put up a minute on the board and if all players were not on the baseline ready to work after that time, it was Time and Score Tina that would be held accountable.
I hope that coronavirus is eventually in our rearview mirror as a society. Seeing people shake hands in television reruns I cannot help but think of social distancing. It is a scary and unusual time. Assuming that eventually our worlds get back to normal, Contact Captain will again have a role. This is the player that breaks every huddle for your team with “Together on 3”. They get fist bumps, high fives, etc. after every drill with teammates. The value of these players is backed by research. The following comes from Wade Gilbert’s book Coaching Better Every Season:
“Athletes and teams that more frequently used positive touches during games won more often and demonstrated cooperation behaviors (e.g. assists, setting screens, on-court and communication and so on). I later learned that at the time of the study, two-time league MVP Steve Nash had the highest positive touch score.”
“Not Good Enough Gal”
She simply needs to tell the team when something is not good enough. The player that fills this role might be the player that everyone on the team respects. They are a great athlete or player and if they say it is not good, it carries weight. Alternatively, it could be someone with a choleric personality.
Choleric is a new term for me. The other day Delaware assistant coach Sarah Jenkins gave a virtual clinic on personality types and finding a role for all players. People that are choleric are decisive, strong-willed, confident, and self-sufficient. If you stick the wrong personality traits into this role, you might find that this player is too shy to ever take a stance and be tough on their teammates.
“Mr. Nice Guy”
This is the player that treats everyone in and out of the program with respect. The rest of the team should look on them as the example for how you talk to bus drivers, referees, and score keepers. Again, use good judgment when choosing this player, but it says something about your team and culture that you would take time to recognize this kind of person. Do they impact winning? It is probably tough to track if they do, but this is about more than winning and losing.
The role for this player is either someone that is very social or perhaps someone with the potential to be social and you have not seen it yet. This is the player that holds the door open as everyone leaves the locker room and gives everyone a “Let’s go.” It is the player that walks off the bus first and then waits for the rest of the players to walk by them and greets them.
The Monday Morning Quarterback. I still love this Brett Favre commercial many years later.
Coach Boudreau’s vision for the Monday Morning Quarterback was someone that was immersed in giving feedback of the team’s film. He admitted it is a tough role and I can see why on a couple levels. First, it once again takes a specific personality type. This player is critical of teammates, and most players prefer to be adored by their teammates. Second, getting players to want to watch film is challenging. If the result individually or collectively is not what we want, we naturally shy away.
Conclusion of Creating Roles
Not all roles will apply to all programs. My biggest takeaway from Coach Boudreau is how the players embraced their role. They actually wore shirts with pride that had their role printed on the back. From my perspective, the idea of a Music Man fits well. We play music at our practices and there is a great player for that role in our program.
A job like MMQB would not fit as well. It sounds great on the surface, but our players simply do not watch enough film on their own. Practice is two hours long and game nights are often longer. We expect players to be tenacious students. If they watch film on their own, I’m all for it. I cannot in good conscience demand players to watch film though. And on top of that, for those that do watch film, it is a hard ask to get them to openly criticize teammates and coaches. Do we want a culture that does all of these things? Absolutely, but it is much harder to do than it is to say.
In any case, for coaches that are unsure how to integrate the senior on their team that will not get many minutes or the sophomore that got hurt playing fall sports these are great ideas. Creating roles should be done with the intent of making a player feel valued by aligning their strengths and interests to help the team.