Life long learner.
All these terms are used to describe leaders who are in a constant state of evaluating their team or organization, and identifying ways to improve. Often, the ‘ways to improve’ apply to them.
And they’re cool with that. They embrace it.
Because the “process” is the pursuit of a better way. Not the next win. Experience has taught these leaders that the wins follow the pursuit of the best possible version of yourself.
They are constantly asking for feedback and seeking new perspectives. This exercise doesn’t play out if they’re the smartest person in the room.
So don’t let yourself be the smartest person in the room.
– Aaron Wilbur, Founder of The Coaches Site
“What? Are you going to f#$%ing say something or are you just going to stand there?” – Patrick Elias
I’ll give Patrick Elias credit. Getting in an F-you contest with Pat Burns takes some stones.
Although, as he tells the boys on the Spittin Chiclets podcast, once he and Pat exchanged pleasantries, the coach left him alone and gave him a lot more rope.
I’ve read this script before and early in my career saw this tactic in action. Coach pushes the star player’s buttons until he either pushes back or caves. If he pushes back that signals he can be counted on in crunch time.
Classic old school coaching move.
Turns out there was some merit to it as both men would cap the season by lifting Lord Stanley’s Cup.
“I might whisper something to a guy (in practice) and it might have more of an impact than me watching video with him.” – Brandon Naurato
If any of you out there listen to my conversation with Brandon Naurato and don’t feel more knowledgeable about how to create offence, I applaud you.
Because after 60 minutes of talking shop with him, I sure as heck felt like I got taken to school.
Brandon is in his first season coaching at his alma mater, the University of Michigan. Prior to returning to Ann Arbour, he spent three seasons as a player development consultant with the Detroit Red Wings. During the early part of his education as a coach, he was fanatical about tracking where goals come from, how they are manufactured and the skills used to create them.
Mix that type of intel with the roster Michigan is putting on the ice this season and you have yourself a spicy meatball. *chef’s kiss*
If you haven’t done so already, do yourself a favour and tune into this episode of the Glass & Out podcast.
“We’re not quitting on anyone. We’re not quitting on our coach, we’re not quitting on ourselves as players, our team, our goalies, nobody. We’re not quitting.” – Leon Draisaitl
I’m fascinated by what’s going on in Edmonton.
You have the best player in the world – arguably the top two. A former Jack Adams Award winner behind the bench. A Hall of Fame and four-time Stanley Cup Champion as GM.
Oh, and you also have a five-game losing streak.
So what’s the play? Do you bring in the eighth Head Coach in the past 10 seasons?
Does Edmonton Oilers owner Daryl Katz have the intestinal fortitude to let his coaching staff get this sorted? Does Ken Holland own not finding a starting goaltender in the off-season and work some magic in advance of the trade deadline (ahem…Marc-André Fleury)?
While it might represent the lowest hanging fruit in terms of available options, I don’t feel like the Oilers are in a position to fire Dave Tippett. You went out and put together an experienced management and coaching staff for a reason. To navigate your organization with a steady hand when the storm rolled in.
Clearly your leadership group hasn’t given up on the coach. It’s not even the halfway point of the season and there is still plenty of time to right the ship.
“But the key one that we’re focusing on is the pitstop right before the movement. It’s the last thing you say before they move. And ideally it’s the thing you say to try to help them think better, to focus better while they move.” – Nick Winkleman
I’ve come to appreciate that every job or industry has its own language.
Working in a kitchen has its own language.
Working on a construction site will force you to learn a new language.
Language instills clarity and efficiency. It enables people to learn better and contribute sooner.
Does coaching have its own language? For sure! Even it you don’t view language as a tool in your coaching tool box, there is no avoiding that your words matter and impact your ability to connect with your players – either positively or negatively.
Brandon Naurato (see podcast above) introduced me to Nick Winkleman and I’m glad he did. Nick is currently the Head of Athletic Performance & Science for the Irish Football Union and also the author of The Language of Coaching: The Art and Science of Teaching Movement. This interview he did with Pat Kohan from Football Coach Insider is excellent and offers so many valuable takeaways.
“The ‘why’ is now a big part of coaching young people. Because of how smart coach Saban is, he’s able to express the ‘why’ as well as anybody out there.” – Greg Byrne
You can teach an old dog new tricks.
Or, in Nick Saban’s case, old dogs can learn new tricks.
It wouldn’t take you long to discover a highlight reel of Nick Saban ‘ass chewings’ online. But his outbursts have been fewer and farther between in recent years. Because there is one thing the arguably greatest college football coach of all-time does better than anyone else: he evolves.
If you track Saban’s career, he’s a student of leadership and hungry for any new information that may enhance his ability to better connect with today’s athletes. At 70-years-old, he remains at the top of his game and doesn’t appear to be showing any signs of slowing down.
The reminder here is that the best coaches accept and embrace the process of adapting their tactical approach, teaching style and leadership to the group they’re coaching. The “my way or the highway” approach is extinct. It just is.
Great coaches never stop learning new tricks.
“The game changes all the time. One thing that I can tell you for sure is that there’s no one way to do it (coach).” – Guy Gadowsky
This is one of my all-time favourite presentations from our annual Hockey Coaches Conference.
Guy Gadowsky took part in our second ever conference, way back in 2012, and presented what at the time was a pretty radical concept: don’t teach systems, teach habits. I wanted to re-share it because at this point in the season, it’s all about reinforcing championship habits.
Asking players to remember all the details that comprise a specific system can take time. Add up the details that would be required to execute all your systems (DZ, FC, NZ FC, PK, etc.) and that’s a big ask. Especially for a young player. It’s also going to result in them playing slow as they’ll have to think through their responsibility in each phase of the game.
However, if you can identify six to eight habits that are consistent across the systems you’re trying to implement, clearly articulate them, and then find a way to track them, you’ll enable your players to play fast and cohesively.
Consider this: do you have to think about how you tie your shoe or remind yourself to look both ways before you cross the street? Likely (I hope) not.
We want to make those six to eight on-ice habits like tying your shoes or crossing the street for your players.
Check out Guy’s presentation for more great tips on how to support your players in developing great habits.
“If we’re gonna talk about changing minds, you have to change it generationally, which means my two little boys need to know what it looks like to be a leader.” – Becky Hammon
I grew up with a single mom.
She was the toughest person I’ve ever met.
I watched her go from struggling to put food on the table to running a successful business. Now, as a parent myself, I struggle to wrap my head around how she did it all by herself. But what I don’t struggle with is envisioning how Becky Hammon could lead an NBA team. Or how a woman could stand behind an NHL bench.
Because I’ve seen it.
Leaders are leaders.
Like a lot of social issues, there is generally a long build up consisting of posturing and token press releases from organizations expressing support for a particular cause. But then one individual gets an opportunity, not because of the colour of their skin, their gender or another circumstance that would classify them as a minority in a particular field, but because they are qualified and have earned it.
And then the world gets to see it.
Leaders are leaders.
Becky Hammon’s resume 100% qualifies her to lead an NBA team. I have no doubt she’ll continue to prove that with the Las Vegas Aces of the WNBA.
“I said I can’t be an accountant yet. I’ve gotta coach.” – Nick Nurse
Becoming a Head Coach in the top professional league of your respective sport is a feat. No matter how you got there, it’s an insane accomplishment reserved for the top 1%.
But then there are those coaches who take an unlikely path to that perch. Those individuals who had to pay their dues and whose resume as a player probably closed more doors than it opened. Let’s call them the 0.5%.
And in that 0.5% club, there is an even more exclusive group of coaches (I’m talking T206 Honus Wagner baseball card rare) who go on to win a championship.
Nick Nurse could be the President of that club.
Not only is his origin story remarkable, he’s also likely the coolest guy in every room he walks into (just Google Nick Nurse guitar for proof).
If Kurt Warner gets a biopic called American Underdog then Nick Nurse deserves one called Iowa Outlier. Just my two cents.
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