The Benefits of Local Grassroots Fireside Coach Chats

I have never done more professional development in coaching than I am doing now. I guess that is what happens when live sports on television is not possible and we are encouraged to stay home. There are many great resources available. I firmly believe the best resources though are the ones in which you are an active participant. That is why calling another coach whom you have respect for or putting a bunch of coaches in a zoom together is something that I am trying to do more. Rick Gorman the founder of BST is doing fireside chats almost weekly and it is an organized way to share the game.

Resources worth Investigating

PGC basketball did some great interviews with professional coaches. I watched one with Rick Torbett recently and he made a great point about youth teams. The players that can dribble the best in youth basketball is mobile. Therefore a dribbler is going to enjoy the game more than anyone else. If you want to get young players addicted to basketball, spend most of your time teaching them how to dribble.

The NABC is featuring many great coaches as speakers and are keeping their talks free until May 20th. I have talked about Bilas, Calipari, and Brey. Additionally, I listened to Geno Auriemma, Frank Martin, Jamie Dixon, and Sherri Coale. Perhaps no coach in the series provided more useful insight than Landry Kosmalski. The numbered cut system that he stole from Harry Perretta is something that my team uses. I saw Perretta’s team practice once, but Coach Kosmalski’s perspective provided more depth and ideas for tweaking any system.

Chris Oliver continues to produce podcasts, the Coaches Toolbox sends daily emails, and Adam Taylor sends daily plays. There are so many great resources out there for coaches that are unaware, but the best in my opinion cannot be found on the Internet. Your coaching dilemmas are deconstructed best in a custom fashion.

Fireside Chats

Rick Gorman organizes small chats for coaches. He calls them fireside chats. Before quarantine, coaches would physically get together and now of course we are forced to video conference. I have been asked to do a couple in the past and enjoy the format more than any other professional development.

Ask One Question, Get Five Answers

On a fireside chat two weeks ago, I asked five coaches about analogies they share with players. As Kristen McDonnell told me, coaching catch phrases like “mental toughness” and “communicate on defense” are just useless jargon to adolescent ears. Rick Gorman had me elaborate on the question by using the example of the cracked iPhone. On Chris Oliver’s podcast, one coach from New Zealand explained uses an analogy with players of $1,000 and 30 seconds to buy a new phone. Players might not take a phone five seconds into the experiment with a cracked screen. If there is only five seconds left though, they would be dumb not to take it. After picturing that analogy, players that take quick contested shots hear the coach say, “cracked iPhone.” And they know. Bad shot.

The coaches all offered useful tidbits that they have stolen along the way. Here were some of them.

  1. Pit Bull Mentality

Danvers boys coach Chris Timson told me about the pit bull mentality his team developed a couple seasons ago. They went from 2-18 his first season to being on the bubble for state tournament in year two. He asked his college coach for ideas to bring out a more aggressive mindset. From there the pit bull mentality was born.

Timson called a friend who ran a trophy shop and merchandise shop and ordered a reversible jersey that became the pit bull jersey. If a player made an aggressive play in practice, he got to wear the jersey. Five minutes later if a teammate dove on the floor for a loose ball, the jersey might trade places. Timson joked that the jersey did need to be washed by the players every night, but the symbol helped create the hustle culture he desired.

The mentality transferred into games. Players on the bench erupted when hustle plays occurred. These are the types of plays that ignite runs and change momentum.

  1. Get out of the Mud

Lexington boys coach Reggie Hobbs likes to tell players to get their feet out of the mud in transition. He mentioned that many coaches like to say the first three steps, but this creates a visual and can stay engrained in players’ minds.

  1. Red vs. Green vs. Gray

Newburyport coach Dave Clay took an idea that he originally developed from Gorman. Most players on a team are going to be neutral on issues. Those players are referred to as gray. The message Clay wants to convey to players is to stay out of the red which are in essence culture killers. Or as Coach Hobbs related, what Jon Gordon refers to as energy vampires in the Energy Bus. If players get to green that is the ideal spot to be, but typically teams will only have one or two of these types of players.

  1. Everything Matters

Tewksbury assistant coach Steve Boudreau said all season they preached the phrase, “Everything matters.” For instance, they expected players to sit up straight in the film room. Players got used to hearing what matters and started echoing it themselves.

  1. Rocks and Index Cards

Brooks coach John McVeigh told us about the rocks analogy from Steve Jobs. He also spoke about giving players an index card at the beginning of the season. On one side ask players what they deserve/want for playing time. On the other side, ask players the minimum that they will find acceptable. Even when asking players the minimum minutes that they will accept, adding up the totals means that there are not enough minutes to go around. I heard a similar idea from former Merrimack Women’s coach and the current coach at Brown Monique LeBlanc. Coach LeBlanc told players to write down how many points they would average instead. The idea can be tweaked, but the basic premise is getting players to buy into a role.

The Advantages of Fireside Chats

There are so many podcasts and great resources out there, but nothing is better than face to face interaction for two reasons. First, it gives you a chance to express your greatest issues with a high level of detail to other people who can relate to your problem and customize a solution that fits your program. Second, you are an active participant instead of a passive participant while viewing YouTube videos. Your brain is more active, and therefore you are more likely to learn something new.

Gorman is experimenting with other formats such as small-scaled clinics. In this setting a coach who has expertise in one aspect of the game can lecture for a small amount of time, and then other coaches can pepper him or her with questions that pertain to their situation. Often in clinic settings ideas are great, but it is hard to ask questions because the schedule is regimented. With very small audiences of about six people this problem is eliminated.

If you are interested in participating in future Fireside Chats, shoot Gorman a tweet (on twitter @FennisDembo87).

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