Bridging Leadership Lessons from the Workplace and Those Experiences Shaping Today's Youth and Tomorrow's Leaders
(Originally posted on Dec. 22, 2009, as Have Fun While You Practice - Part II. Revised on April 20, 2022.)
This is another installment in the Make it Fun series. If you want to avoid burn-out, you need to make workouts fun for players. Break up the monotony of the grind and allow them to work on their game in a fun and carefree environment. This is a fun shooting game called Hoop Golf. Just like golf, Hoop Golf can be fun and challenging. It allows you to keep your score and measure your performance against yourself as well as others.
Setting Up the Game
You can choose to either play 9 or 18 “holes” by picking 9 or 18 spots on the court that are in your range. Having fun is important but getting better is the ultimate purpose. Make sure the shots are the type of shots that you will be taking in games as well.
As in golf, the objective is to get the lowest score possible. In golf, your score is based on the number of swings you take on each hole. In Hoops Golf, your score is based on your shot attempts at each spot. You shoot from the first spot until you make the basket, then move to the next spot. Continue until you have made a shot from each spot.
There are two aspects to the scoring process that is best to record to allow you to compare progress over time. The score of each individual spot and the overall score. Work on lowering your score as you attempt to "Ace" each hole. Obviously, a perfect score of 9 or 18 depending upon the number of “holes” is the goal.
Learning from the Game
By keeping track of how many shots it takes to make a basket at each spot, you may find that some “holes” or spots are easier for you than others. This can provide valuable information on where you should be focusing your time in practice and where your money spots are for games.
As your score gets lower, you can always make the course tougher by moving back the "tees" or by adding moves to the shots or using an opposite hand.
You can add PAR scoring to each hole to provide targets or acknowledge difficulty of the shot. Tightening up a Par of 1 for FTs but 2 for a 3 pointer. Providing handicaps scoring to various players depending upon their skill level adds complexity to the game but may also provide some added excitement as they try and lower their handicap.
As the Coach, you may want to “design the course” for each player to focus on their weaknesses as well as areas of scoring opportunities based upon your offense. Track progress over time allowing the individual to compete against himself but also allow for friendly competition among teammates.
This is a great game to play alone but also with a partner(s) to allow some friendly competition.
It’s important for players, coaches, and parents to keep things in perspective when it comes to sports. It needs to be fun if they are going to maintain a passion. They also need to use these opportunities to get better in a less stressful environment. Balancing the enjoyment with the development will help fuel the passion Beyond Today.
Dr. Henry Sineath, known affectionately as Dr. Si, was a retired professor when I first met him in my early days at Brewer Science. He provided mentoring to Dr. Brewer and leadership and management training to the employees. An older man of a diminutive stature, he displayed a large personality and persona that built instant connections. As a graduate of the Engineering Management Department at what was then University of Missouri - Rolla, Dr. Si as a professor and former Chair, took an immediate liking to me.
Dr Si’s approach ignited a spark in me to find out more about the leadership potential in myself and those around me. Working to create impact by engaging others for mutual benefit versus the authoritarian style of telling people what to do. This was far different from how I grew up and what I had experienced in college.
At one of our first training sessions at work, Dr. Si handed out bunny rabbit Beanie Babies at the start of the meeting. He explained that he was going to ask a lot out of us and to do that he had to work on building trust with us so that we would be willing to put in the work he was asking of us. He pointed out that these rabbits represent what he called Warm Fuzzies, and they were necessary to build trust and an openness to receive feedback and instruction. If you don’t start with the Warm Fuzzies, you don’t have anything in the bank when you need to make a withdrawal.
Stephen Covey talked about the Emotional Bank Account in his highly acclaimed book, the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The Emotional Bank Account is a metaphor for relationships with others and that you must deposit into the account i.e., relationship before you can make a withdrawal.
From my perspective, the sports world has been slow to adopt this philosophy which has been more common in business and personal relationships. The traditional in your face, my way or the highway style of coaching had dominated the athletic field at all levels. The Zen master Phil Jackson, Gregg Poppovich, and Tony Dungy stood out because of their focus on the players as individuals and chose to spend more time investing in them as people than in the X’s and the O’s. This has led to the recent wave of more engaged and aware coaches who are attempting to integrate a servant leadership style.
INVEST IN THE RIGHT ACCOUNT
We had an experience with our oldest son, Zach, when he was playing high school basketball. Zach had known the coach almost his entire life and during high school basketball, the relationship between him and the coach had become strained. The Coach approached me to talk about the tension. As we talked, it became evident that there was an imbalance in the emotional bank account, and I explained that to the coach. He struggled to accept this as the issue since they had a great relationship throughout Zach’s childhood and at camps. From his perspective, he had made more than enough deposits into the bank account and therefore was able to make withdrawals without Zach being upset. That is when it hit me. An emotional bank account did exist, but it was between Zach and the person who became the coach. As the Coach, he didn’t establish a bank account and therefore had not deposited anything into the account. He assumed his past deposits into the friendship account would transfer. That was not the case. Once that was understood, the Coach changed his approach and the relationship recovered.
BE SURE TO TRANSFER ACCOUNTS
This confusion of accounts commonly occurs in the workplace as people move from friends and peers to a manager-employee relationship when one gets promoted. The previous deposits were made into a different account and once you become their manager, you are back to a zero balance and must start the deposit process again before you can effectively make a withdrawal. In essence, you need to make a transfer to a new account to build the trust from a leadership position and not a coworker-friend position. While the popular stance is that everything starts back to zero, I like to think of it from the financial perspective and feel that if you were previously able to build a successful relationship with deposits, you probably have some goodwill built up and therefore you have some understanding and grace period to build upon. The counter is if you struggled to make those deposits previously and didn’t have a strong relationship. If that is the case, you are probably in the hole and are going to have to build your way out as you incur damage to your credit and suffer penalties and interest.
INVEST EARLY AND OFTEN TO MAXIMIZE GROWTH
At my wedding, my father-in-law shared his wisdom for creating a strong marriage. The strength of your marriage depends upon what you are willing to invest into each other. He referenced the bank account and explained that every night the account resets to zero. So, every morning, you need to start your day by depositing into the account and continue to deposit through the day. As long as you are both depositing more than you are taking out, your marriage will be healthy and continue to grow.
That was tremendous advice that still holds true today. But after 25+ years of marriage, I would add some more complexity by again removing the zero sum to start the day. The adage of not going to bed angry has come under fire with the new age counseling and such. You can find papers supporting as well as debunking the adage. Logic says it’s better to resolve an issue than let it fester. That’s the intent. If you tick off your spouse and don’t attempt to address the issue, then much like an overdraft notice, you ARE starting in the hole, and it is an uphill climb to start the day. When you don’t start on a positive note for the day, it is more difficult to have the deposits be of value when it is being devalued because of emotions. In turn, when you are constantly making deposits and your marriage is strong, you are gaining interest and your account grows. A strong relationship, like a strong ship at sea or a well-diversified portfolio can survive stormy times. Just like with trust, prior actions determine whether you have it or not.
I know that I have struggled in this area in all facets of my life - work, coaching, family. I don’t make as many deposits as I would like and definitely not as many as people deserve. Recognizing the deficiency, seeing that I am not maximizing the profit in my relationships is what drives me personally to continue to improve Beyond Today.
(Originally posted on Dec. 16, 2009, as Have Fun While You Practice - Part I. Revised April 20, 2022.)
A problem that many young players face is the difficulty in staying focused during their individual workouts. There are a lot of distractions and probably, their friends are not as committed as they are to getting better. This isn't their job; they don't have a full-time trainer and they are not on a scholarship.
On the other side, kids may be pushed by their parents, heading to multiple practices and workouts. Being “encouraged” to get up more shots to prepare themselves for their eventual shot at the NBA.
One way to keep workouts from becoming boring or stressful is to add some fun and challenging games to the workout. One game I used to use is a Free Throw contest against Steve Nash. Nash is a career 90% Free Throw shooter, so he is a pretty good player to try and emulate. When I was growing up, I competed against Steve Alford, the Hoosier great. Today, you may want to change up the name and compete against Steph Curry.
Nash or Net
This is a free throw shooting game that makes you focus on not only making your free throws but making them cleanly. The thought is to improve your accuracy with tighter control - like focusing on the bull’s eye on the dartboard. The results of each free throw attempt can be categorized in one of three ways:
This is how the game works; you shoot free throws and use the scoring system listed below until you reach a score of 20 points.
Steve Nash, on average, would take 12 free throws to reach 20 pts. How many will it take you? While you are “competing” against Alford, Nash, or Curry, they are NBA players and some of the greatest shooters of all time. What’s important is to compete against yourself. Work to get better and like with track, look for your own personal records (P.R.s) to drive your continued improvement. Ultimately, finding enjoyment in competing against yourself instead of others, will help grow the love of the game Beyond Today.
The morning after I submitted the article, It’s Many One Moments Not a Singular Moment, for our company newsletter I was reviewing social media posts when a video showed up on my feed. It was the final seconds of a Class 1 State Championship high school basketball game in Indiana. The game had gone to double overtime and there was no time on the clock. A player from Lafayette Central Catholic stands at the line, alone, ready to shoot 3 free throws. They trail North Daviess 48-45.
With all of the players from both teams standing at half-court, this player stands there alone, lost in his thoughts. From what I read he was their top scorer and is a major reason the team made it to the championship game. He nails the first free throw. It’s now 48-46 with two free throws remaining. In the video clip, the announcer states “if he misses, game over.” The player goes through his routine, bends his knees, takes a breath, releases his shot… it comes up short. The ref blows his whistle signaling the end of the game, no reason to shoot the 3rd free throw since there is no time on the clock.
It took a few seconds before the North Daviess team begins to celebrate. You could tell they were trying to process whether there would be another free throw attempt and the coaches are trying to keep kids from entering the court in case it may result in a technical foul. But soon the celebration begins. In the video clip, you can see the Lafayette player standing there, alone, staring into space, once again, lost in his thoughts. His teammates seem unsure what to do and how to approach him and how to add comfort. As the video pans between the dichotomy of the situation - to borrow the old ABC Wide World of Sports theme - the Thrill of Victory and the Agony of Defeat, it catches the Lafayette Coach embracing the player as the player buries his head into the coach’s shoulder seeking comfort.
From the video clip, the embrace does not seem nearly long enough from my perspective and the coach moves on to congratulate the other team which once again, leaves the player alone. In the post-game press conference, the opposing coach states sympathetically, “You never want to see a game end like this.” The player who missed the free throws acknowledged that free throw shooting has been a struggle all season long for him.
I quickly realized that it was 5:30am and after watching these videos, searching for other angles, and gathering background, I was already emotionally drained. Other videos seem to show that the player was indeed alone in his thoughts. But as I wrote before, it is NOT this moment that defines the game, the season, or the players. Ironically, Lafayette Central Catholic advanced to the State Championship game when a last second 3 point shot to tie the game in overtime was off the mark. That bucket falls and maybe the missed free throw in the championship game doesn't happen.
My heart goes out to that young man. I purposefully didn’t put his name in this post as I don’t want to add to his emotions. But I do want him to remind him that the single moment is just that - a single moment among many. In regard to the game. To the playoffs. To the season. Most importantly, a single moment in life. Yes, it hurts, that is undeniable. Anytime you put passion, effort, and emotions into a task, and it doesn't deliver the result you expect there is a level of disappointment. There are 31.5 million seconds in a year. Think about the seconds over a lifetime of moments! Amazing things will continue to happen in those moments. Pain and hurt will definitely take up many of those moments. But those free throws, that single moment is not the story of that young man’s life. In his book, that will barely be a footnote, it’s only a single moment of so many more moments that he will live Beyond Today.
Tom Brown - a husband and a father who is simply trying to make a difference. Using my experience as a Manufacturing Executive to connect leadership from the boardroom to the hardwood to help teams grow and develop to make a difference in the lives of others.