RULES: How? When? Why?

           Sometimes, when faced with a new project, a new season and a new group of players and coaches, we need to consider a number of issues related to the team set of rules: What should we do with them? When should they be introduced? Will we be showing authoritarianism and distance when using them? Will we spread a feeling of distrust towards the team from day 1? What are the relevant issues that should be contemplated in the rules? How many rules should we have? How should we set them…?

The human being is an animal that follows guidelines, and the rules are the behavioral guidelines for the team members (related to social relationships within the group and also to technical and tactical aspects of the game and the training tasks). They serve as a pipeline to channel the group’s activity in a healthy way in order to achieve goals as a team.

To effectively lead, it is necessary to set clear and defined boundaries, giving players room to grow within a defined structure. It is useful to shape some limits that model our behavior on and off the basketball court, and to establish –in advance– the consequences of trespassing those limits.

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The space limited by those boundaries resembles, metaphorically speaking, a ring where the ropes are the limits that the team will set up when establishing the rules; those limits are somewhat flexible since rules can be adapted to particular situations. Some group members will try to challenge those limits, stretching the ropes, but will eventually return to the ring.

Obviously, when establishing rules, we must consider the context in which we are immersed, taking into account cultural and ideological parameters (mix of cultures and nationalities in the team), parameters related to the specific competition or those related to our players’ development stage, as well as the level of professionalism in our team.

A rule regulates a behavior (rights and obligations); it is a tool that helps the group to achieve the pre-set goals. Therefore, rules have a functional and instrumental value, as they emerge to give an answer to the problems the team will face, and they can be adapted. This way, rules become an element of cohesion within the group.

The explanation of rules in groups facilitates their coordination and cohesion. Rules define what needs to be done in certain circumstances and are a reference regarding the ideal behavior of players; they serve as a tool for constant evaluation of our own and others’ behavior. They have, thus, an evaluative nature that prompts people to respond to the exigencies of the commitment that was previously created, together with the rest of the group members.  Rules standardize behaviors and act as some sort of social pressure.

Most of the players value the fact that there is a set of rules and they like finding ways to perform at higher levels within defined limits that give them security and that reduce uncertainty. Rules encourage players to respond with their behavior; they help maintaining order and are necessary to create a disciplined team.

We can define 3 types of rules:

Institutional Rules:  They have been established outside of the group; in our context, we would be talking about the Club’s Regulations: a set of general rules set forth by the club and that governs the behavior of the team. In some cases, these rules are less adaptive and evolutionary and they could even be perceived more like a set of prohibitions.

Evolutionary Rules: They gradually emerge within the group, promoted by the coach, and aim at improving outcomes and processes. The open nature of teams allows them to continuously adapt to the particular requirements. Among such rules would be those related to the sport activity and training tasks (defense, offense, fast-break, balance, rebound work …)

Voluntary Rules: They are born out of a negotiation process between the members of the group and, with them, behaviors are shaped, roles are established and a more or less stable relationship framework between the team members is created. The participation of players and of the rest of the coaching staff in the development of these rules facilitates adherence to them. Thus, rules created out of a negotiation process between the team members build up a shared belief system (not a series of prohibitions) that helps the team differentiate between right and wrong behaviors or attitudes.

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One of the hallmarks of successful creative coaches is knowing how to lead their athletes, setting clear boundaries, but leaving enough space for personal growth. Leaders do not want to spoil their players, but to create a supportive environment that helps them enhance their potential. These coaches do not exercise absolute control: they count on the players when it comes to setting guidelines, rules and other policies.

Over-directing and controlling players may pave the way to mistrust, lack of cooperation and loss of faith in the training system. Players react to excessive control, prohibitions and severe interventions, fighting them and feeling resentment. Apparently they do what coaches tell them to do, but they internally feel rejection; these controlled players tend to show less emotion, enthusiasm and spirit and will be more reluctant to give an extra effort when needed.

WHEN AND HOW?

Once the team’s goals and objectives are established, we will create the space needed to achieve them. We will establish the basic rules and will create our own “ring”. We need to remember that “Less is More” (too many rules can turn into a very heavy load, a difficult task to accomplish): it is better to just have a few but significant rules; this will translate into a stronger effect, because we won’t need to deal with multiple details and we can also teach our players to use their freedom responsibly.

It would be ideal to set up a bunch of rules that work in many possible situations and, as noted at the beginning, that take into account the team’s reality. Rules for a professional team and for an early childhood team can’t be the same. The strategy of bringing together players and coaching staff to explain the key rules for the development of our “ring” will make them feel more committed to them; they will feel part of the process and a social pressure to “do the right thing” will be established among them.

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There are major issues or problems that may happen at one point in a team: absenteeism, lack of punctuality, lack of sleep, poor diet, nightlife, alcohol, drugs, doping, lack of care for the team’s equipment, disrespect towards the coaching staff and teammates, as well as any conduct that would violate the basic rules of respect for any member of the club, referees and opponent. We can also add that the rules that govern group moments (such as meetings, trips, press conferences, lunches and dinners), the guidelines for injured players or those set up for the team’s behavior during practices and games may not be respected at times.

Some of these issues may already be contemplated in the internal governing rules of the club, and it is therefore essential to be aware of those internal rules that shape our context.

Here are eight guidelines or suggestions from Jerry Lynch (a PhD in Sports Psychology who, for more than 25 years, has been working as a consultant for NCAA and NBA teams, Olympic athletes, professional golfers and coaches). Once we have defined our basic guidelines, we must adhere to those guidelines to set up the team rules.

The eight “C’s” of Cooperation by Jerry Lynch:

1. Co-creation: We need to establish reasonable rules together with the team so that it gets engaged. If players are part of the creation step, their level of commitment will be higher. Players tend to be honest with each other, but there’s the coach to make sure rules are followed.

2. Clarity: Players need to understand the full meaning of each of the rules; we must define the rules INTENTION and ROLE. Part of this explanation clearly lies in the consequences of not following the rules. For example: what does “disrespect” mean? We must specify and define behaviors.

3. Conciseness: Rules must be clear and precise: “Less is More” and simple is stronger. For example: “Turn off the lights at 10 pm”.

4. Copy: It is advisable to write all the rules on a board and to put it in the locker room for the players to sign. Rules must be expressed positively in the sense that they should explain “what to do” and not “what NOT to do”. If this process is treated as a team activity, players are more likely to get involved. Each player must receive a copy of the rules for him/her to re-read at home.

5. Consistency: Rules must be fair and there should be consistency in their application. Neither the stars nor the beginners should have a preferential treatment, since this is the foundation of fairness. Impartiality is a lifetime quality and, long term, players will value it and will respect coaches who apply it efficiently. Being fair does not necessarily mean that all players have the same privileges, since some of them may have proven more able to take on greater responsibilities.

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Sometimes we are off guard and may handle situations unfairly. By enforcing the team’s rules, we must ensure that athletes know they are not specifically addressed to them, but that their application arises from the necessity to address certain behaviors that cannot be tolerated. We should not focus on “pleasing” players; if we are firm and fair, they will respect us and appreciate our decisions.

6. Change: Rues must be adaptive and follow the evolution of the group; they must be flexible and ready to be changed if the circumstances require that. There is no need to change a rule just because it has been infringed, but the mission and goals of the team must be present when redefining it.

7. Consequences: Each team member should know and understand in advance the consequences of violating a rule; the penalty should be more meaningful for recurrent offenders. Occasionally, we may also involve players in establishing the consequences of disrespecting rules; they could turn out to be more severe than ourselves, but we always have the last word in this sense. Working towards a consensus on what is fair and what is not is the key for success. We should try to turn the consequence into a “compensation” for the fault, not into a punishment.

8. Compliments: It is essential to strengthen the morale of the players when they follow rules. Players with a good education in sports readily understand the slogan “Do the right thing.”

PAYING ATTENTION TO PROCESSES AND ROUTINES IS MORE EFFICIENT THAN FOCUSING ON WHAT HAPPENS IF WE DON’T COMPLY WITH THEM.

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Building a TEAM (I): Trust

              Trust is the foundation of an efficient and united team. Without it, teamwork as such is very difficult to achieve: it is a key component, the one everything else is built upon. Without trust, players waste an enormous amount of energy and time managing their own behavior and their interactions within the group.

 When talking about building a team we sometimes face several barriers and difficulties.

The player is surrounded by people (press, agents, parents, society…) and interests that emphasize and value, above all, individual successes, and that are rarely interested or concerned about the situation of the team or about the process of building a successful group. That pressure on the player or coaching staff sometimes leads them to protecting their status and to making excuses along the way to avoid taking the hard step of becoming “vulnerable” to others.

In this context, trust refers to the certainty of knowing that your colleagues’ intentions are good, and therefore there is no reason for being protective or cautious within the group. Team mates must feel comfortable showing vulnerability to each other. They must feel sure that their own limitations (weaknesses, capacity gaps in some areas, errors, requests for help …) will not be used against them.

Teamwork starts with building trust, and the only way to achieve this is by overcoming the need of being invulnerable, which is usually caused by a lack of trust.

We must not be embarrassed of being vulnerable human beings, openly displaying our strengths and weaknesses regarding our contribution to the team’s success or failure. We should not be afraid of being vulnerable nor of the need for trust. Those not willing to open up to others and to accept their mistakes and weaknesses make it difficult for the team to build its pillars on trust.

Achieving a nice level of trust based on vulnerability is not easy, because we’ve learned since we were young to be competitive with our peers and to protect our reputation; managing these learned instincts for the sake of the team is a challenge for any team member. The cost of failure in this regard is very high. Teams with players who have no real confidence in each other are reluctant to take risks, when it comes to ask or offer help; their morale is usually very low and resignations or changes of team members are very common.

This team value is not built overnight: it requires sharing experiences, constant monitoring, credibility and a deep understanding and acceptance of the unique attributes of each team member. If you do not trust your team mate, you will not be able to be part of a successful team.

Coaches and leaders face the challenge of leading the team to achieve this level of trust and lack of invulnerability; to do so, we must first show our own vulnerability by rectifying, recognizing errors, showing humanity, helping those who need it, showing concern for the people who support each of the team members. We must create an environment where vulnerability is not penalized when admitting weaknesses, errors or failures. A leader’s proof of weakness must be genuine -this cannot be faked- as one of the easiest ways of losing the team’s trust is pretending to be vulnerable in order to manipulate others’ emotions.

Teams without trust experience issues related to morale, effort and efficiency, which pose a barrier to grow as a team; the fear of conflict fosters a sense of artificial harmony. An efficient team maintains a high level of debate and conflict; in teams with a healthy level of trust, discussion is presented with respect, there is no fear of conflict, there is a blind faith on the other’s intentions which the group believes to be positive for the team. On the other hand, disagreeing with most things and yet not being able to admit our own concern is a trust issue, among other things.

When players do not trust each other, they mutually hide their weaknesses and errors; they are hesitant to ask for help or to share constructive ideas; they have prejudices and come to conclusions about the others’ intentions and skills. They lose time and energy managing their behavior to cause a particular effect, hiding resentments and making excuses not to spend time together.

“I’m pressing hard in defense, but my opponent surpasses me and scores easily, something happened with the first help, whose fault was this? Bah … always clueless (prejudice). I better shut up to avoid a conflict or to create a bad atmosphere (hidden resentment) but next time I won’t make such an effort (weaknesses or errors are hidden, not exposed)”.

When a team is solid in defense and is committed to making the biggest individual and group effort, all players are sure of what they are doing and why they are doing it, and they do not feel forced or threatened; there are no doubts, just certainty and individual responsibility. A team that seeks to maintain a high level of concentration during the game, with no room for doubt, avoids prejudging the actions of peers and forgets about old resentments. This type of team shows trust and has lost the fear to vulnerability, particularly on the court (but also outside of the arena).

As a player, feeling vulnerable when making a mistake in the defense of pick and roll generates no resentment or fear in me because I trust the team’s response, my colleagues’ reaction, who know the rules; we are sure of what we are doing and we have trained it together; they’ll be there to correct this potential difficulty or any possible mistake that I may make, and my level of effort, commitment and faith in what we do will continue to grow. I will not get disconnected. The power of the team and the trust in the work of each one of us will increase my feeling of responsibility.

With these ingredients, the extra pass in offense will appear more frequently. The team will have a solid foundation on which to grow at all levels; conflicts may emerge but there will be no fear to them, because the team will continue to seek solutions to improve as a group.

It is now up to us to channel this trust through leadership, when it comes to scheduling significant tasks, having a good planning and making the right decisions.

The balance between exigency and dialogue

          Coaches are continuously exposed to social evaluation coming from different parties around the team they lead (Directive Board, Press, other coaches, relatives…) and even from the team itself.

As project leaders, we must have (and show) a solid confidence on what we do, in addition to a non-stop desire of optimizing all the material and human resources available, in order to be successful. These human resources may include our everyday work group, the technical staff and the players. And with all of them we will be sharing good and bad times along the journey.

However, before anything else (capacities, weaknesses or strengths), we need to consider the individual, the person behind the player or the staff member, and the challenges he/she comes with. We need to convince them, make them feel important and satisfied with what they do and with the individual and group benefits they will receive in exchange. If we can make this work, if they feel satisfied and relevant, they will perform better; the level of implication will raise and they will be 100% committed with the project. The person sustains the player: behind the facade and the attitude, there is a human being, and without him/her, without the game’s main characters, there is nothing.

Thus, we have the need, and almost the duty, of getting to know the people we work with, of being conscious of their necessities, their capacity of adaptation, their fears and worries. It may be essential to know people in depth in order to assess what can be requested from each individual at a certain point.

Knowing the people we cooperate with on a daily basis will help us achieve goals as a group and will facilitate the process when it comes to making each member feel important and committed with their work within the team. That confidence and satisfaction will allow us to be more exigent: this is easier if we pull all together.  Demanding and negotiating is not incompatible, quite the opposite. There is a balance, and it defines the different styles as a coach. We will surely be able to identify ourselves with one or these styles, or to assign coaches or teachers to each of these groups:

Conciliator coaches: Low level of exigency and very open to communication.

Things happen just because. We listen and talk to all the players; we always encourage them in all situations but our level of exigency is low. We don’t pay attention to detail and we are not able to get the team to train intensely; we are probably too lenient. With this attitude we perform poorly when faced to bad results, and it will be hard for us to request a bigger effort from the team when needed. We must be aware of the fact that, certain players, due to their personality traces, needs to be constantly “pressed”. When we decrease our level of exigency, their motivation decreases as well. If we have a few players of this kind in our team and we try to be “tolerant”, things won’t work, particularly in times of big challenges where a higher level of concentration, commitment, attention and constructiveness is needed.

Absent coaches: Low level of exigency and not open to communication.

In this scenario, if we don’t have a self-sufficient group and an outstanding team, if we are not able (or we don’t want to) listen, if our interest in communication is scarce and our ability to request high levels of performance to each member of the group is limited, we will not be ready to lead the team. Circumstances will force us to give up will pave the way for another coach to take over. Most likely, the results we will achieve with these low levels of communication and exigency will be substandard.

 Feudal coaches: High level of exigency and not open to communication.

Coaches who do not communicate with and listen to the work group, coaches who are capable of just following their own ideas, trying to enforce them without considering all relevant factors, may be successful on the short term. However, long term, they will find what is commonly known as “burned land”.

 Good players try to escape this form of leadership, because it does not allow them to grow their creative space and it doesn’t promote personal development. If players are told what to do and how to do it at all times, they won’t have the opportunity to evolve later on. They will serve the coach’s interests on the short term but they won’t really explore their actual potential.

Coaches-Developers: High level of exigency and very open to communication.

Good leaders listen to their players and co-workers; they are open to receiving messages and feedback regarding how the process of training and coaching is presented. Paying attention to what our team has to say doesn’t mean that they can do what they want, or that the level of exigency is lower, quite the opposite. We will be on the right track to win the team’s respect and, thus, to obtain the right to request their best. Players will be performing at a high level without even realizing it.

With this style, we let the player express himself, be creative and enjoy the process, because he/she feels part of it; the feeling of personal gratification will be intense. This type of coaches does not feel intimidated or uncomfortable with talented assistants; on the contrary, they usually surround themselves with co-workers who help them develop all their skills.

There are, probably, many elements and circumstances that influence us when leading a human group. These are mainly aspects related to our personality traces, our social intelligence and our social skills, together with our intuition, background and past experiences. Being conscious of the different leadership options and the way they impact our work group will help us shape our performance and become the coach we would like to be.

Game directing: Emotional control under sports stress. (video)

One of the most relevant aspects of a coach work is game directing. I am not sure if this is the most important one but it is undoubtedly one of the most demanding tasks for us, in terms of emotions, decisions and communication.

During the game, we may face different situations with high levels of stress; this may affect us and prompt emotions that could condition us when it comes to making a decision or to giving our team the right solution. The internal logic of basketball, defined by its rules, makes of this sport one with high levels of interaction between coach and game. This gives coaches the possibility of taking part in the game’s development and the opportunity to influence it both strategically and emotionally.

 This high level of interaction is particularly promoted by some factors, like the physical proximity to the game’s area -which guarantees a communicative channel with players and referees-, the possibility of making an unlimited number of changes and the option of using a maximum of five dead times to communicate with the team.

 After a work’s week of gathering information about the rival in many aspects, and bearing in mind our own possibilities as a team, we need to filter all this information to face the game. Our personality, leadership style, background and experience will determine the way we prepare and lead the game.

 Sometimes we play God and bring the game in our mind to the arena, with all the possibilities that we think may happen tactically and strategically; we simply forget that a basketball game is a living creature that flows and that will demand from us high adaptation and improvisation capacities, in addition to a pre-established plan. Both capacities demand a solid control of our emotions.

 The development of the game influences us emotionally. Circumstances such as a tie scoring, the referees, the consequences of winning or of losing, the spectators, the players’ actions, a preconceived plan, etc. may increase our stress level. They could generate chained thoughts and feelings that may influence our level of activation and limit our capacity of observation and attention towards the really important aspects of the game.

 Therefore the following factors seem to be determinant for efficient game directing: previous experience in similar situations, our background and command of the game, our emotional intelligence, our capacity to adapt and improvise and our leadership style (which is defined by our communicative skills and personality).

In this video you will be able to appreciate some of the factors that influence a good or bad decision during game directing. I imagine that many of you watched the first semifinal of the Euroleague’s Final Four last season, between CSKA of Moscow, trained by Kazlauskas and the Greek Panathinaikos, trained by Zelko Obradovic. You will see how one of these coaches faces a very stressful situation (he is protesting a doubtful decision from the referee), with a tie score and very little time left. All this triggers a highly emotional activation level but, even under such pressure, he is able to make the right decision for his team in a split second.

Take a look and enjoy.

Proposal for a Zone Defense in youth teams categories: Greece U16 (2011)

         In this post I will be showing a proposal for a zone defense in youth teams categories, hoping to be able to share some of my past experience and knowledge. This video corresponds to the Greek U16 National Team (which I particularly liked), trained by Manos Manouselis (48 years); the team was participating in the European Championship held in the Czech Republic in July, 2011.

Let’s focus on the way we use the zone defense in youth team categories and not on the usual discussion about its adequacy or not at this educational level. It is the way we use it that we should be questioning and reflecting on: What is our goal when introducing this type of defense at a learning stage? Do we use competition as part of the player’s education or as a final goal? What values are we communicating to our players when practicing it? What are our defense rules and what are the criteria that we use when introducing them in our methodology?

For example, teacher David Cárdenas, based on a constructivist proposal of the tactics teaching methods, talks about the following criteria at the time of designing our methodology’s contents and goals:

From the player’s perspective:

  • Player’s profile (level of knowledge).
  • Biological/physical characteristics.
  • Level of biological maturation (biological age).
  • Development of physical potential: strength, speed, resistance, flexibility…
  • Level of psychological maturation (player’s interests, motivation and needs).
  • Motor and cognitive characteristics: specific knowledge of the game’s internal logic, individual technical capacity, individual tactical capacity, collective tactical capacity.

From the content’s perspective:

  • Difficulty level: perception, decision making and motor execution.
  • Consistency with the game’s internal logic:
  • Relationship between the formal elements of the game (space, baskets, ball, players and rules).
  • Interdisciplinary nature of the contents.
  • Natural sequence of the actions during the game.

From the coach perspective:

  • Consistency with the internal logic of the game.
  • Capacity, interests, experience and background of the trainer.

I think that it is relevant to mention that competing, in European Championships (U-16), is the final goal. Medals and results are, whether we like it or not, the biggest measurement tools to determine the success and career path of many professionals that participate on the team’s performance during these educational stages. In this context of competition, the coach of each national team prepares his 15-year old players following a set of criteria.

In this particular case, the Greek U-16 national team had weak physical conditions and a very particular team structure, with many small players that fell within the point-guard and the shooting guard categories (Nikolau, Papadionysioy, Spyridonidis, Stylianos, Liapis, Stamatis), in addition to four big forwards who rotated between 3 and 4 (Kefalas, Spyropoulos, Gkellos and Theodorou); there were also two interior players (with an apparently brilliant future): Charalampopoulos (U-14, 2 metres) and Georgios Diamantakos (U-16, 2.10 metres), of whom I show you some images. With these players, and in view of the many difficulties they find to counteract the offensive actions of the other national teams, they propose a zone defense, originally as a temporary resource, that ends up becoming, through the championship, their main defense, using it sometimes more than 20-25 minutes per game.

Bearing in mind the characteristics of the exterior players and in view of the problems in defensive mobility (and Diamantakos’ number of fouls), the coach decides to use a 2-3 zone defense with very anticipated lines, a high level of defensive activity on the ball and many rotations of the four players in the “box”. This way, his bigger player can block any action to penetrate the paint and would always be in a good position for defensive rebounding: an optimal availability to intimidate the rivals and prevent near the basket shots.

Here’s the video for you to check this proposal in detail.

Training and Communicating

                 Coaches must face lots of situations that require efficient communication skills as well as the capacity to lead, and which have nothing to do with our knowledge, our technical skills, our “amazing” list of exercises or tasks or our “spotless” methodology.

 We are talking about very familiar situations such us: correcting our players on each training session fighting emotions, feelings and prejudices; communicating clearly and efficiently a key instruction during a time out on a hard-fought game; applying all required internal measures to correct a player’s improper behavior; facing the after game evaluation of a serious defeat or an important victory, or just talking about life.

Besides, as group managers or team leaders, we have the responsibility and the opportunity to optimize the use of the resources the group members contribute with; those members can be either players, staff members or any other people that somehow influence or participate, on a daily basis, on the leader’s task of managing human resources.

In this sense, we must have certain communication skills, and we must apply them correctly. These mechanisms include stance, facial and body expression, gestures, tone of voice and message, but also the communicative space the leader creates for each of the situations – formal or informal– where he or she interacts with the team.

Deficient communicative skills may have a negative impact on our capacity as leaders, even when our referential authority (knowledge, experience, successes and command of the game) is high.

The skills most commonly mentioned on the bibliography about leadership make reference to communication (what we convey at all times), technical background and education, experience, individual psychology and management of working groups. And with regard to the factors that can go so far as to influence leadership in sport, they stress the importance of:

–        Referential authority: experience, background, personality, past successes, etc.

–        Communicative and pedagogical skills: efficient feedbackmanagement, assertiveness, emotional intelligence, etc.

–        Commitment with the tasks and also with people: search for the higher standards of individual and group development, contributing, motivating and generating a high level of satisfaction on the other team members.

–        Adaptability to context/situation: players profiles, positive and negative results, parents, press, referees, board, etc.

Our particular training methodology may be influenced by numerous factors, such as our personality features, past experiences, knowledge of the game and education, or the impact exercised by other coaches or people we have worked with during our career.

All this will shape our leadership style, mostly defined by three essential aspects: our implication in the development plan of the training sessions and games, the way we manage personal relationships with the rest of the team members and our decision making style.

It seems that all these factors outline two different ways of connecting and communicating with the team; these would be the ends of a continuum, of a scale where we all fit and place ourselves in our everyday activities: IMPOSITION and TRANSACTION.

On one of these extremes are the coaches that usually turn to impositions, demands and, if needed, punishment, and who most often sanction errors or bad results. On the other extreme, we can find the coaches who base their style on transaction and active listening, controlling all tasks and playing an evident role in personal relationships, trying to find middle ground for understanding. This type of coach tends to convince instead of to enforce, and has the capacity to delegate tasks to the other members of his staff.

This has nothing to do with having authority or not; both types of coaches may have it, since authority is related to the capacity of decision making. But a leader who “imposes” by force is poorly wasting his authority. In those cases, we usually communicate with players by keeping a physical (and hierarchical) distance, supported by an aggressive body language with despotic, domineering stances and gestures. With this “unfriendly” behavior, we have a poor communicative production and interact less with our players by reducing dialog and increasing the amount of orders that we transmit.

Each style has its pros and cons and, as we explained before, each of us has his own spot in that continuum defined by these two remote profiles.

It seems obvious that a coach that is more prone to transaction is usually a self-confident coach, one that accepts the challenge of talking, because he has enough arguments and doesn’t need to protect himself wasting his authority.

A coach who feels insecure and threaten by the results, the press, the team or the relationships with staff or board members, activates the mechanisms to protect his authority, usually through imposition, punishment and separation. That’s when he may end up detaching himself from the group, thus losing his leadership.

Likewise, when a coach feels confident he doesn’t sense his authority as being threatened by the group; he doesn’t need to squander his power to protect himself or to defend his role.

There are no studies that prove a style to be more efficient than the other when it comes to winning, being successful or achieving good results. There are successful coaches out there that are, at the same time, authoritarian, uncommunicative and inflexible; it may have nothing to do with self-confidence: they simply feel comfortable with that particular style.

It would be ideal to have the right skills to adapt ourselves to every scenario, with a situational leadership that allowed us to perfectly manage each of these situations. We should probably learn how to take the right preventive measures against our communicative reactions to each of those unpredicted or predictable challenges.

Sometimes we act on our intuition and experience about situations that are familiar to us. Both intuition and experience are conditioned by our balance of successes/defeats in the past.

We, as coaches, are communicators. Our emotional reactions may play a dirty trick on us and lead us to the wrong communicative reaction; we may then provide a hesitant, incoherent or vague message,  accompanied by a particular body language that we would have preferred to avoid in that specific situation. That’s when self-control and emotional intelligence come to play an important role regarding interaction with the team.

Something we must be clear about is that, even when we are not talking, WE ARE ALWAYS COMMUNICATING: Communicating is not just about speaking; it is a non-automatic process between two or more individuals.

 

Individual Responsibility, Confidence and Common Goals

In a basketball team, as in any other type of work team, the individual awards and recognitions implicitly bear a lack of consideration towards the values of the team and collective work which we, as coaches, must know and try to manage.

Without your travel mates, your comrades-in-arms, you would just be someone who “is trying”; your team mates exalt your effort and you exalt theirs. To obviate this, or to never go so far as to even feel it, is to remain on the first step of a large staircase. We all are relevant characters and protagonists. Climbing up this staircase together is the only possible way to achieve the excellence as a group.

If we really want to reach a goal, if there is a truly common mission, we will find the way; if we hesitate, we will find the excuse.

In a strong team, nobody shelters behind the group; all members are important and have a role, and all of them respect an unspoken maxim: “INDIVIDUAL RESPONSIBILITY”. Without this real individual responsibility, when exposed to difficulties, groups weaken, doubt, lose energy and the individuals tend to protect themselves from failure. When this happens, the group melts and, eventually, fails. Nobody should shelter behind the group when it comes to assuming responsibilities because then he/she won’t be able to achieve the excellence that the team needs or expects.

To obtain the level of “individual responsibility” that is needed in a group, it is necessary that each and every member of that group becomes engaged with the common goals; they need to fully understand their own roles and objectives in order to reach those common goals and the expectations that the team, as a whole, creates for each of the members who form it. This way, assuming his own responsibility with the assigned task and acting accordingly, each individual is pushing the team forward and spreading this attitude to the rest of the team; he can then put pressure on his team mates and demand the same level of work and commitment. In this particular scenario CONFIDENCE is essential: the group realizes that a team member is pressing the team because he CARES for the team. To reach this level of group maturity is not simple.

Confidence is one of the key ingredients of team work. It is perhaps a crucial component – if not the most decisive one – in the construction of a team.

Sometimes, as coaches and group leaders, we struggle when it comes to making some players or members of the technical staff responsible for certain facts and functions, either because they are very cooperative individuals or because we may feel intimidated by their social aggressiveness or by the importance of their role within the group. Requesting responsibilities is not an easy task; the first step to get there is to show our part of commitment and responsibility as coaches; we must assume our successes with humility and naturalness, and also with humility and self-criticism we must accept our mistakes and failures.

The POWER OF THE GROUP can’t be quantified, it is UNLIMITED.

Professional Experience

Professional Experience

Achievements

Professional experience developed in Spanish basketball leagues and at international championships with the Spanish National Basketball Team (Selección Española de Baloncesto)

 

CLUB

 

Position

Date

CLUB

 

Achievement

Date

Club Básquet Coruña

EBA League

LEB Bronce League

LEB Plata League

 

Head Coach

2004-2012

Club Básquet Coruña

Play-off to promote to LEB Oro (placed 5th)

2012

Club Básquet Coruña

EBA League

LEB Bronce League

LEB Plata League

High Performance Section Coordinator (Coordinador Área de Rendimiento)

2004-2012

Club Básquet Coruña

Best defense of the Regular Season

2011-2012

Club Baloncesto Pontevedra

LEB Plata League

Club Manager and Assistant Coach

2003-2004

Club Básquet Coruña

Promotion to LEB Plata (placed 2nd)

2007

Club Básquet Coruña

EBA League

Assistant Coach Physical Trainer

2002-2003

Club Básquet Coruña

Promotion to LEB Bronce (placed 3rd)

2006

Club Básquet Coruña

Youth Teams Coordinator

2002-2003

Club Baloncesto Ciudad de Pontevedra

Play-off to promote to LEB Oro

2004

Club Baloncesto Ciudad de Pontevedra

 

Club Básquet Coruña

FEB Professional Player (EBA and LEB Plata)

Youth Teams Coach

1993-2003

1998-2003

Club Básquet Coruña

Promotion to LEB Plata (placed 3rd).

2003

FEDERACIÓN ESPAÑOLA DE BALONCESTO, FEB (Spanish Basketball Federation)

Championship

Position

Date

 Czech Republic,

European Championship

Assistant Coach U-16 2011
Vilnius, European Championship Assistant Coach U-18 2010
Auckland, World Championship Assistant Coach U-19 2009
Riga, European Championship Assistant Coach U-20 2008

Championship

Achievement

Date

 Czech Republic, European Championship Bronze Medal 2011
Riga, European Championship Bronze Medal 2008

 

 

Professional and Educational Qualifications

Professional and Educational Qualifications

–          Accredited Professional Basketball Coach (FEB)

–          University Bachelor of Science Degree for Physical Education, INEF (University of A Coruña)

–          Doctorate in Sports Psychology (University of Vigo)

–          Master in Physical Training (University of A Coruña)

–          Master in Sports Psychology (UNED)

–          Student of Clinical Psychology, 5th year (UNED)

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