Mike Dunlap is the Associate Head Coach at St. John’s University and has taken a much larger role in all aspects of the program as Head Coach Steve Lavin recovers from prostate cancer. He has won two NCAA Divsion II National Championships at Metro State and has also coached at Arizona, Oregon, and with the Denver Nuggets. The following is a list of 10 items that Coach Dunlap feels are often neglected or overloooked by many coaches:
1. Take time to explain what we want from our players.
We must strive for clarity first.
2. Demonstration after we tell our players what we want; there must be a demonstration each time.
We need to give our players a picture demonstration before we get into repetition.
3. Building blocks are the only way to develop a player.
For example, if we do not address a players feet and be specific about how we want him to pivot then it will cost us down the road. Do not rush your teaching. We should do one thing at a time.
4. Teaching your team to be physical takes technique, sequential instruction, and patience.
It is easy to call a player a “nutless wonder” without considering that most players have never been taught the finer points of hand to hand combat. If we would spend a little more time with football coaches we would figure out how to teach our team to be physical.
5. Be objective about an all out effort.
We demand that a player go at 100% effort. What is 100% effort and has there ever been a player who knew what that meant. Probably not? For instance, put a heart monitor on a player and measure their heart rate. The instructor can be more objective about individual effort this way. Yet, we talk and sometimes yell at our players about going “all out” all the time. What a stupid statement when you really think about it. How can a player read and think? For example, a good offensive player must learn how to changespeeds with cutting and ballhandling. This requires that the offensive player control his body and NOT play at 100%. Too many times we buy into the myth of the 100% effort and forget about going after a player’s intellect before asking for a quality effort.
6. Demanding perfection.
What a bunch of crap! The more a person chases perfection the less they can enjoy each act. How can a perfectionist be happy with anything? The least enjoyable person to be around is the perfectionist; I find a lazy dog to be just as unpleasant. Demand that people do the right thing, yet do not fall into the trap that nothing is ever good enough. If you are always chasing perfection then how can you teach a player to enjoy a job well done? As Coach Wooden stated, “A man must find balance, be it emotional, physical, spiritual, or intellectual.” Why is it that certain coaches will say that they were devastated by the loss at the end of a 33-1 season? If you believe in your preparation and teaching process then how can any loss devastate you? In other words, losing is part of sports; you learn from it and move on. A disciplined mind comes in many different forms and being mentally tough also requires that you must accept the brutal reality that no one is perfect and a quality effort is a joy in and of itself regardless of outcome.
7. Follow through.
If you want discipline in your organization then follow through with consequences for actions. Our discipline breaks down when we do not quickly punish the transgression. How come so many coaches fall prey to this area? Because it could hurt the outcome of your season if you lose a certain player. My experience tells me just the opposite. For example, George Gwoldecky, head hockey coach at Denver University, benched his best player for the national championship game. Coach Gwoldecky made a statement for all time- period.
8. Take care of ourselves first.
Whether it is our mental and physical health (i.e eating, exercise, prayer, reading, etc) daily schedule, finances, family, and other personal matters, we need to address those things first. Why? Because if you are not in order how can you fully give to your team, staff, and school? You cannot.
We demand so much from others and we want them to see their mistakes and fix them. In short, we set ourselves above our own vulnerabilities; we should openly admit our errors. Once you have done this in front of your team it will be much easier for them to acknowledge their mistakes. This is an imperative act by the head coach if you want quality communication.
10. Allow for failure.
Part of learning is the margin of failure and sometimes you just have to let the players fall flat on their rumps. This is difficult but necessary.