Category Archives: Sports Culture

What makes a youth sport experience great?

Is it the games? Is it the coach? Is it the referees? Is it the skill development? Is it the snacks? Is it the league standings? What is it? Or is it a combination of alot things? What makes for a great youth sport experience?

I recently had the privilege to attend the Change the Game conference at Boston University and learn from the ideas of some great providers and innovators of youth sport. 

It got me thinking what defines a great youth basketball league/team/academy experience.  I realize this answer is going to vary depending on the lens you are looking through.  Depending on whether you are a participant, a parent, a coach, a coach of an older team hoping this league feeds players into them, or the provider of the program.  Each group has a different desire, a different lens they view the program through.  

Too often programs are created purely with the self-interest of one group and then other groups are convinced that this program is the most beneficial to them. This reality usually is loaded with unintended consequences for the other groups in satisfying the one primary desire of one group (ranging from frustration, slowed development, increased spending, to reduced number of participants continuing).

The answer to this question is not easy and definately doesn’t appear to be universal . However, I believe a great place to start is by looking at the situations you are directly involved and start asking questions:

  • What is important to our target audience? What do they hope to get out of  participating in our program?
  • What is our goal as a program? Does our programs actions and structures build towards that goal, our compete with it?
  • How could we ReDesign our program to better serve our participants and our mission?

I don’t have answers but I am passionate about this and would love to hear others ideas/experiences/opinions.

What Xavier vs Cincinnati revealed

I found the Xavier vs Cincinnati incident very disturbing but not so much because of the fight itself.  What disturbed me the most was how this fight started and how it was commented on and treated afterwards by some  involved.

This was not  a fight  borne out of  heat-of-battle conflict, it was not a case of a fight emerging from physical contact occuring during the course of a play.  It was pre-calculated and easy to see coming.  This was a fight along the lines of the 1972 Ohio State vs Minnesota brawl instigated on a pre-mediatated cheap shot by Corky Taylor during a dead-ball. 

The fight merely served to shine a glaring light on the real issues that need to be dealt with. The real issue is the actions by those charged with leading college athletics are not always living up to their stated goals and words, leaving players ill equipped to deal with pressures and expectations of being the faces and talent of college athletics. A college athletics landscape that has moved beyond being about spirited competition and school pride to being a high revenue sports entertainment  empire. This belief is evidenced by the following points:

  • This is Tu Holloway’s fourth in year in the Xavier basketball program and Mark Lyon’s third.  It is sad that during this period at Xavier they have learned so well  the many life skills that NCAA and college administrators and coaches espouse that some 20 to 30 minutes after an embarassing incident, after they have had the opportunity to calm down, be talked to by their coaches, teamates and administrators they emerge to a press conference and talk about this being what you get, about being disrespected and zipping people up.  Those comments reveal a total lack of perspective and remorse.  Those comments prove what Mick Cronin spoke so eloquently about during his post-game press conference a lack of appreciation and gratitude for the opportunity they are provided. It also speaks to a disturbing sense of entitlement very well written about in this blog post by Mike Procopio  http://www.hoopconsultants.com/2011/12/my-thoughts-on-ate-xavier-cincinnati-brawl/

The cause of the fight is equally disturbing and has many culpable parties but here a few thought particularly disappointed me.

  • Lyons and Holloway running their mouths to the Cincinnati sideline throughout the game without intervention by Xavier coaches and the game officials.
  • Xaviers starters still be on the floor with the game decided, emotions high and running their mouths.  Come on Coach Mack don’t tell me you were oblivious to the fact your players were trying to show up the other team and that it was getting potential explosive.
  • The adminstrators of college athletics at these universities and conferences for their decisions on the suspensions after the fact.  In my opinion the announced punishments feed into the belief that revenue sports are more important than the mission and integrity of the college and do very little to teach a meaningful lesson to any involved. However,  it does remind us that protecting the future revenue streams by maintaining top basketball talent on the floor is very important to the colleges and conferences.

What I believe needs to be done long-term would need more space than this blog but I believe it starts with meeting the daily defining moments as outlined in this earlier blog post https://1010sport.com/2011/11/09/defining-moment/ .

Learning is a choice

Learning is a choice, made by the learner not the teacher. Therefore,  a teacher should focus on what motivates others to learn; identify what sparks a learners curiosity rather than focusing on telling them what you already know.

It is easy to get the highly motivated player, the player who wants the same things you want to learn what you are teaching; but what about the majority of the players  you coach who aren’t this way how do you get them to learn?

Great coaches like great salespeople understand people don’t buy based on what you know; they buy based on what it can do for them.   Coaching success requires getting players to align their individual  interests with the vision you have set for the team and the players role on it.

Today’s player needs to believe before they will follow. This may be different from when todays coaches were players; they might have followed a coach before they believed. This shift is why generally today in coaching threats don’t work for long, and punishment doesn’t lead to buy-in. A relationship based on trust, transperency, open communications, and void of hidden agendas is vital to coaching success.  This type of relationship  enables a coach to identify what  motivates an individual  player and allows a player to  learn how, not told, to be successful within the framework of a team. 

Coaches and players need to stop making asssumptions about what the other is thinking and wants.  A coach needs to move out of dictating and demanding and move into the realm of dialoguing and discussing.  Please hear me I am not saying  a coach relinquish their voice in determining and upholding  the standards, philosophy, and values of their team.  What I am saying that a coach needs to understand the success of  the values, philosophy, standards they set  is depenendent on those charged with carrying them out.  It is dependent players learning and fully  buying into the vision and plan. The quickest and most effective path to that end  is to help players discover the benefit of adhering to it; and this requires a true relationship with players.  You can’t hold a player to a standard that they haven’t agreed to be held to.

Two final thoughts:

  •  No matter how talented a coach is and no matter how gifted a player or a team might be a coach can never push them into achieving their full potential.  The sad truth is that some players and some teams never achieve their full potential because they never discover what would motivate them to align their interests with what is needed to be the best they can be.
  • The best way to ensure someone believes is to let their buy-in be their decision.  The best way for a coach to do this is to engage in effective question and listening with their players.  If you have questions on how to go about this let me know and I would be happy to discuss this approach with you.