This is why I love coaching public high school sports! It isn't always easy...but rewards are everywhere. Some big, some small...but all of them make it worth the while!
What would drive a super competitive person to want to coach at a public school that has very little history of success in a given sport? This is a question that I am asked often and the response is simple...the relationships that we get to build with the kids over the years. I am moving onto my 5th season at Simsbury so am I starting to see some kids that were in 5th and 6th grade when I got here now move into the high school. I am also seeing some kids that were only in 1st or 2nd grade start to move into organized basketball for the first time. Every time that I see these kids play I find myself forgetting about the struggles what what talent gaps we might have compared to other schools and I just root for them to succeed. Maybe it is something as simple as hearing them talk on defense, or square up in a triple threat when they catch the ball...but these are the things that keep me coming back for more as a public school coach. The excitement of putting a bunch of little pieces together to ultimately form a team that can go and compete against anybody in the state. This is the message that we send every year...and we have went toe to toe with some of the best teams in the state the past few years. So far we have come up a little bit short each year...but I have to believe that if we keep working on the right things and trust the process we are going to get over that hump. And when we do...with groups of kids that have been learning and building together for years...it is going to be something special...something that no one can take away from them. And if we don't...we will have shared some great memories together and will have learned some life lessons along the way.
This is why I love coaching public high school sports! It isn't always easy...but rewards are everywhere. Some big, some small...but all of them make it worth the while!
It has been a while since for Coaches Corner but it is making a comeback by popular demand!
We are at that time of the summer where players should be evaluating what they have done to improve this off-season. about 5 & 1/2 months removed from last season...3 & 1/2 months until next season. What did your coach tell you that you needed to improve on? How did you plan to go about improving on those things? Have you done any of those things yet?
This topic always leads me to the question for any person trying to accomplish anything...Do you want to work for it? or Do you just say you want it? It is easy to say you want something. For example, I want a billion dollars. I can't truly say that I am willing to work as hard as I would need to at something to earn a billion dollars. Therefore I will most likely never have a billion dollars. When it comes to sports...and basketball in my world...us coaches have conversations with players at the end of each season about where they want to be the next season and what they would need to do to get there. In those conversations it is very rare that a player doesn't say exactly what a coach wants to hear. "Yes I want to become a better shooter, a varsity level shooter", "Yes I want to get in better physical shape to be a varsity level athlete", "Yes I want to work on my ball handling to be able to handle the ball in varsity games"...and those are generally followed by "Yes I will definitely do the work in the off-season to accomplish these goals".
At the time those conversations take place...there is nothing wrong with them. It is good to say that you want something and to acknowledge that you have things to work on. Unfortunately saying something in mid-march only holds meaning if you do the work to follow through on it. I saw a quote from Geno the other day "don't tell me how good you want to be, show me how good you want to be". The same holds true at any level! If your coach has told you that you have specific things to work on and you have not worked on them...it is going to show up! Not in the way that you want it to. For some players that might mean they were a starter and a 5 PPG scorer on the team...and maybe they still will hold that same role but get no more shots. For other players that might mean you lose your chance at playing time or maybe even making the team.
This coming season will be my 6th as a varsity head coach and I struggle with this topic each year. I want to believe that all of the momentum we gain during each season will inspire kids to work their hardest in the off-season. I have had a few players that really reached this goal...for example one of my rising seniors showed me at a team camp last weekend that she has improved every facet of her game that she needed to work on. She didn't tell me how much she worked on it...she just showed me...and I am positive that is going to result in her having the type of season her and I talked about at the end of last season. Unfortunately all too often it goes in the other direction where there are players who haven't done the things they said they would do.
I write this today to hopefully inspire one player to rethink what they haven't done so far this off-season. YOU STILL HAVE TIME!!! Think about your tryout in November or December as a huge test. Would you study for a huge test? Would you know what the test was going to be on and think about those topics? If the test was a Math test would you study History? You know what the test is on during tryouts...your coach told you at the end of last season! Don't let the next 3 months pass you by. Before school starts, create a plan, write it down, execute it. THERE ARE NO EXCUSES. It doesn't matter if you play a fall sport. You can still find a way to get in 10 minutes of ball handling and 30 minutes of shooting. DECIDE RIGHT NOW if you really want to work for it...don't decide a week before tryouts. Don't decide the day of tryouts. That is not good enough. Decide now and start to take those steps...or don't.
If you don't - be willing to accept whatever result comes out of your tryout!
Goodluck to all! If anyone wants to know how to work on certain skills feel free to reach out!
One of the most important traits that I look for in a player is 'coach ability' or 'is that player willing to be coached?'. Are they willing to take feedback and look to improve off of it...do they look me in the eye when I speak with them and let me know that they do or do not understand what I am saying? Do they attempt to improve what they are critiqued on at the next opportunity? These are all very important things to understand as you are looking to improve a team over the course of a season and as you are looking to improve a player over the course of a career. As a coach I dedicate countless hours thinking about each player on my team and what the best thing is for that individual. Selfishly, I want to know that the player wants to improve and wants to be coached. I came across the article below a couple of months ago and think it does a great job of giving the athlete a perspective to understand what being coachable means...I recommend this read to both athletes and parents of athletes!
13 Ways to be More Coachable
By Lindsey Wilson
Sports are filled with mental challenges, many of which we athletes bring upon ourselves. The coach-player dynamic is only one of the multitude of difficulties we face, but at the same time it is often the most difficult to navigate. And it’s not surprising why: receiving criticism in any area of life is tough – from teachers in the classroom, from the boss on the job, or from family or friends in our personal lives – but being able to graciously receive advice and mentorship is a necessary part of growth.
Today, I want to talk about being coachable. But, first, let’s define it. Being coachable is:
• Being grateful that someone cares enough about you to push you to improve beyond where you would get on your own.
• Being vulnerable enough to know you’re not perfect.
• Being open to honest feedback (even if it hurts).
• Working to actively change bad habits.
Uncoachable athletes show certain key behaviors. It doesn’t take long for a coach to spot an uncoachable player, and very rarely can a coach make a player coachable.
How does one coach an athlete who fights back? It’s a daunting task.
No question: We athletes can be sensitive people. Though we may look tough on the outside, we can be delicate underneath. In talking with a number of coaches, trying to sort out those characteristics of coachable versus uncoachable players, this is what we discovered about athletes in general:
• We tend to roll our eyes or take things personally that we shouldn’t.
• We can seem ungrateful even to those who help us most.
• We read into things more deeply than we should.
• We often believe everything is about us, even someone else’s bad day.
As a former collegiate athleate, I’m guilty of all of the above. While I tried my best to be coachable and to not take things personally, my attitude was (and sometimes still is) something that needed constant attention and required constant mental work. (Becoming more coachable isn’t something that can be achieved with more drills, more reps, or multiple coach-player conferences. Those are external methods of repair that a coach can implement, but a player’s coachability is a mentality that requires diligence and attention from the athlete. In other words: coachability is up to the athlete, not the coach. The worst of it is that, most of the time, athletes don’t even KNOW they’re uncoachable! It can be a shock to find out that it isn’t the coach, it isn’t the team, it isn’t the sport, isn’t the equipment… it’s actually themselves who are making life so hard.)
But, before an athlete can start on the road to becoming more coachable, they first need to understand the benefits of having a coachable mentality. Top 5 potential benefits of being more coachable:
• More playing time (and less drill or bench time).
• Greater cohesion with team and/or coaches.
• Accelerated learning.
• Deeper and more fulfilling relationships with your coaches.
• Greater internal calm: accepting criticism for what it is (INFORMATION) instead of what it isn’t (AN ATTACK) requires a solid internal foundation.
13 ways to be more coachable
Now that we’ve established why being coachable is critical to your development as an athlete, let’s go through the steps: 13 Ways to Become MORE Coachable:
1 Listen to what your coaches say, not how they say it. Easier said than done but, like any skill, the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Practice “mean no offense, take no offense” when both speaking AND listening to your teammates and coaches.
2 Trust me: It’s NOT about you. If your coach is having an ‘off’ day, don’t take it personally. You don’t know what happened to them that day. Did they get reprimanded by the athletic director? Did they lose a big recruit? Did they have a fight with their spouse? Is their son failing math? Your coach’s bad day could be a result of any of the other 99% of what is happening in their life. So, odds are, it’s not you.
3 Remember ‘coach’ is only one hat they wear. Many coaches have spouses, children, families, friends, and lives outside of making sure your catered dinner is ready on the road trip. While you are important to them, remember they have lives outside of you. Respect that.
4 They really (REALLY) want you to be your best even if it sometimes comes out sideways. They are there to help you be successful. Trust them.
5 Your coaches are more stressed than you can probably imagine. Give them a break if they aren’t perfect or if their tone isn’t right in line with what you’d prefer.
6 Always say ‘thank you’. In fact, say it more often than you think you need to. Thank your coaches for taking you on a road trip. Thank them for making you watch film (and for editing the film so it’s not as long as it could be!). Thank them for scouting your opponent late into the night. Thank them for totally committing themselves to your improvement. Thank them for holding you to a high standard. And especially thank them during those moments when you don’t feel thankful… those are times when they’re helping you most.
7 Always look your coaches in the eye. Don’t hold your head down. Don’t look away. You want to be treated like an adult, so BE an adult; have confidence and class and look your coach in the eye. Doing so isn’t even for them: it’s for YOU. (Yes – this time it IS about you.)
8 Shocker: Your coach is human, too. They aren’t perfect (and – surprise! – neither are you). Their stresses and emotions get misplaced just like yours do. They get hurt by things you do, say, and they feel pain when you disregard them or don’t appreciate them. (See #6.)
9 Don’t roll your eyes. It’s immature and says more about you than the person you’re offending. (See #7.)
10 If you really have something to say, SAY IT. I’m big on communication. Huge on it, in fact. So, if all else fails and you just don’t get what you need from your coach, be an adult and communicate that in a mature way. Whining about something constantly, or tuning out and not committing yourself to your team, is NOT a solution. In fact, it’s the exact opposite: absolutely detrimental to you, your team, and your coach’s ability to effectively train you.
11 Directly ask for feedback. Your coaches have a whole roster of players to look after and might not always get around to you as quickly as you’d like. Every coach would love to have one-on-one conversations or meetings every day with every player, but that’s simply not a realistic goal. Therefore, if they don’t get to you right away, go to them and ask for their thoughts and feedback.
12 Be prepared. Take five minutes before every practice to release from your mind the rest of your day’s activities. Remember your goals and remember why you’re practicing. Remember that your coach has put in uncountable hours to prepare drills, runs, plays, and practices for you. So, have some respect: when you’re at practice, really, truly BE at practice. Click here for our pre-practice mental routine-the BRAVR technique.
13 Set up a weekly check-in with your coach in a place where both of you can chat informally about your strengths and skills that need working on. This doesn’t have to take long. Just a few minutes after practice can be a huge help in keeping you on track to your goals.
Most coaches love to use the term 'play hard'. I use it all the time...I tell my players to play hard, I tell people that I want my team to play hard, that I want it to be our identity. Today I am asking what does playing hard really mean? Does it mean trying hard? Does it mean making a lot of baskets?
When I watch our practices, game films and when I scout I don't look at any of players and think "she just isn't trying very hard"...so that can't be it...
I have seen a lot of players score points without thinking that they were playing really hard...so that can't be it...
Every once and a while when I am scouting a game there will be someone on the court that just stands out to me. I don't mean stands out because they scored 30 points, but because their effort and intensity was so great that I noticed them on every possession both offensively and defensively. Someone that might make some mistakes but you can tell that each mistake is an effort mistake. On the rarest of occasions I will see a team play that has 5 players on the court that I notice on every play. 5 players that play with pure intensity and effort on every second without a let down. Regardless of how many basket makers are on those teams...those are the ones that I admire and worry about how to prepare for.
I like to think I am demanding of my players and that I expect them to do the right thing on the court all of the time. I want our identity to be a team that plays really hard. Every time I watch our film I am reminded of what playing hard means to me. I am reminded because I have two players on my team right now that raise the bar for whatever definition you have of 'playing hard'. Come watch one of our games and keep your eye on #32 and #22 when they are in the game. Don't pay attention to baskets or anything else that goes on for a few minutes...just watch how they play. You will find my definition of playing hard. We have a bunch of other girls that I consider close to be people that play hard all the time...but watch those two and you will see what I mean.
Those two players have defined playing hard for me...they have helped me learn what playing hard really means: 110% effort on every second of every possession, playing with a level of intensity that is noticed by everyone in the gym, immersing your mind, body and heart completely into every play of the game.
My goal is to get my whole team playing at this level...if we can do that I will walk away from every game (W or L) feeling good about what we accomplished.
So what does playing hard mean to you?
- Coach Zullo
All I wanted for Christmas this year was a basketball team that plays hard, plays together and plays for each other. We were really tested last night when our leader got in early foul trouble against a tough team. I couldn't have been more proud of how our girls reacted. Each player stepped up and took on a bigger role to ultimately lead us to victory. Our bench was enthusiastic all game long and continued our success when each person got into the game.
Reaching 4-0 is a hurdle that we couldn't jump last season...this group of girls is making a statement each and every night about their ability to compete with any team on any given night. I truly believe there are great things in this teams future. I can't wait to see what we accomplish!
Merry Christmas everyone...I am a very proud coach this holiday season!
Being a great player is about more than scoring points and "filling up" the stat sheet. Great players need to be great teammates and do all of the little things to help their team. As you get ready for tryouts in a few weeks, take a look at all of the things below that you need to be a great player.
23 Characteristics of Great Players
1: Getting Better – the #1 emphasis and purpose behind training. Each athlete’s goal every time you walk into a gym should be to pick up 1-2 new golden nuggets of improvement. Commit to this improvement by starting a basketball journal and writing the concepts you learn each day down on paper for maximum information retention. The way to create big separation in your game is by picking up as many ‘little things’ as you can.
2: Energy – there are 2 things people do when they walk into any room: they either take away energy with frowns, negative body language, and constant complaints or they give energy with genuine smiles, positive body language, and encouraging comments. An energetic gym is more fun to be so, as is living an energetic life. Create the energy in your own gyms, classrooms, and other environments.
3: Focus – most people attribute the success of athletes to the physical game. This is key and important, but you cannot under-estimate the power of a strong and focused mind. Great players focus on what is taking place in every drill, every practice, every game, and every day. The mind is constantly asking oneself : What can I do in this moment to get better?
4: Hustle – great players have an uncommon hustle. You should know that your career window is limited, so make it a habit to maximize every second every time you are in the gym. Set the standard of hustle in your practices, not in games. Great players don’t have an ‘on-off switch’; they simply have it always turned ‘on’!
5: Attitude – one of the few things in life we can control. You have only one September 19, 2010 your entire life. Why not have a great attitude every single day? What’s special is having a terrific attitude every day under every circumstance. Show off your great attitude during the toughest of times – that’s impressive.
6: Commitment – the act of being pledged, loyal, and true to your dreams and visions. Create a goal for this season. Write it down somewhere that you can look at it daily. Remind yourself of the commitment you’ll need to make both on and off the court this year to have a successful season.
7: Passion – do what you love and love what you do. You cannot fake passion. If you truly love the game of basketball, you should have a passion for your improvement and development. You should have passion every time you step into the gym with a willingness to learn and mentality of, ‘what can I do to get better?’
8: Teamwork – in a team sport like basketball, the we is always more important than the me. The better the team, the more noticed the player. Do all you can to foster great teamwork, knowing that will get you the attention most players desire? A program with great teamwork, constantly putting others before themselves, is easily envied by the weak.
9: Body Language – 93% of what we say is non-verbal. You are constantly communicating even if your mouth isn’t moving. Communicate all the time that you’re paying attention, you’re engaged, you’re tough, and you’re eager to learn more. Great body language will make your coaches coach you more, will make your teachers teach you more, and will make an employer want to hire you one day.
10: Hard Work – “If everyone worked as hard as I did, I would be out of a job” is a quote by Steve Nash that is
a great reminder that there is truly no substitute for hard work. Hard work is unquestionably one of the best
skills you can master to master a successful life both on and off the court. Allow no one to out work you.
11: Control – control of body, control of eyes, control of thoughts, control of emotions, control of the game,
control of the tempo, and most importantly, control the controllable. Rather than blame, make excuses, or point
fingers, focus on the things you can control : your effort, your attitude, your mind.
12: Practice Makes Pe…Permanent – practice does not make perfect, it instead makes permanent. Great players don’t go half speed at any time, knowing that the opportunity to become permanently great was just missed. Practice habits that will make your game permanently improve and allow you to compete at the highest level.
13: Sportsmanship – the best players have a respect for the game, its rules, officials, and participants, including coaches, players, and fans. Be gracious in defeat and humble in wins without compromising the unrelenting desire to succeed, improve, and most importantly win.
14: Character – you speak louder in action than you do with words with the decisions you make. Live this simple rule : “do the right thing”. If you don’t whether you know it’s right or wrong, it’s most likely the wrong
decision. Treat others as you want to be treated, including your teammates. Be ‘bigger’ than negative people
and show off your true self all the time, not just when things are going well.
15: Pride – a true champion has the pride of a lion: self-respect and personal worth. You have satisfaction with
your achievements, and you allow your pride to fuel your burning passion to always improve. Those with pride
have a feeling of ‘dislike’ when they know they’ve fallen below their own standards.
16: Loyalty – you are honest with your family, your coaches, your teammates, your friends, your teachers, but
most importantly, yourself. You are loyal in words and actions with those you surround yourself with. Be loyal
to these people in life by never violating their trust, turning your back on them, or speaking about them instead
of to them.
17: Appreciation – life is TOO short to not appreciate each and every day you are given on this Earth. Two
powerful words that we don’t use enough : “thank you” can be said more often than most do. Be verbally appreciative with sincere words and physically appreciative by never wasting an opportunity on court to improve.
18: Respect – most importantly, respect yourself because it’s impossible to respect others if you can’t respect
the most important person in your life, you. Treat others as you want to be treated : coaches, parents, teachers, friends, family, teammates, officials, and opponents. Respect the facilities you play in and the environments you are surrounded by.
19: Accountability – you are the driver of your own life and of your own career. Do not fall prey to allow others
to dictate your future. Take accountability and responsibility for your actions, your dedication, your work ethic,
and ultimately, your decisions. Hold yourself to a higher standard of excellence than anyone else.
20: Finish – the great Michael Jordan once said, “It’s not how hard you push along the way, it’s having something in you to finish”. The great players and people in life finish what they have started. Make it a habit to complete everything you do with the same energy and effort you start with.
21: Intensity – an effort defined by expression of great zeal, energy, determination, and concentration. You
‘attack’ drills with speed, power, and a rage for improvement. Your end of game intensity is paralled by your in
practice intensity. You show off your intensity not only in effort, but in your consistent body language.
22: Poise – having a calmness under every situation and always being yourself. Pressure situations don’t faze
you, but instead bring out your greatness. You are always communicating an “I got this” with your teammates
and coaches. People turn to you knowing you have an un-faze-ability.
23: Excellence – “the habit of excellence can become enjoyable addictive” (Dick DeVenzio, author of Stuff
Good Players Should Know). We have trained all Fall Skills in creating habits of excellence on the court. Make
excellence your habit in everything you do. Be an excellent student. Be an excellent friend. Be an excellent
daughter, son, sister, brother. Be an excellent athlete. Be an excellent human being.
The start to this off-season has reminded me of all the things I love about the game of basketball and coaching at the high school level. We have had kids from every grade level continuing to work on their game and improve for next season. Our high school girls have been in the weight room 3 days a week at 6 AM for 6 weeks now and the results are starting to show. Big shout out to Bri Patria for bench pressing 100 lbs last Friday! We have also had a lot of fun at the youth levels so far this off-season. Our 5th/6th AAU team as been competing against some older multi-town teams and has battled in every games! Seeing our older girls interact with the younger team has really reminded me that what we are trying to do is bigger than just the game of basketball.
That being said, the off-season is a time to improve your basketball skills and take your game to the next level if you have goals to accomplish next winter. What are you doing to improve yourself in the off-season? Are you taking 300-500 shots a day at game speed? Are you working on your ball-handling for 15-20 minutes a day? When you play pick-up or AAU are you challenging yourself on defense on EVERY play? Picking up at 1/2 court? Staying in a stance when you are in help and maintaining a high level of intensity? (if you want to know what that means, go watch Jenna Gregoire play sometime). Are you going to go to any camps this summer? If so what ones?
Reply to this post and let everyone know what your off-season goals are and what you are going to do to accomplish them.
- Coach Z
A little reflection on last nights close one...
We played hard, we stayed true to ourselves, we respected the game and we were right there in the end. It always hurts the lose the close ones. I have a pit in my stomach that will remain until we get back in the gym on Thursday. Could I have called timeouts at a better time? Could I have made some different substitutions? Could I have drawn up a better play to get us hoops in the 4th quarter? Probably yes to all of those things!
Here is what I do know...the girls have 110% the whole way through, they played with passion and heart, didn't let mistakes and a tough shooting night reflect on how hard they were going to play. We can be proud of those kids for an effort like that win or lose. If we can bottle that heart for each and every game we will look back on this season with an overwhelming sense of pride.
Can't wait to get back at it Thursday, Merry Christmas to all.
Week 1 was a great week for Simsbury Girls Basketball. Two very convincing wins with great defense and offensive efficiency on display. There are some tough games coming up and a lot still to prove this season. I couldn't be more excited about what we have done, but I am hungry to drive towards our next success.
Team - here is your homework assignment in absence of practice tonight. Post a comment to this blog answering the following questions:
1. What has been your favorite part of the season to this point?
2. Coach Zullo annoys me when he...(yes you can pick on me)
3. I like it when Coach Zullo...(yes you have to be nice to me after you pick on me)
4. What are your individual goals for this season?
5. What are your team goals for this season?
Have some fun with it - Coach Z
It has been an amazing few months since I have gotten the basketball job at Simsbury. From the night's out at West Mountain Park to the Saturday morning clinics to the first week of tryouts, everything has been a blast. We now have a week of facing other teams under our belt with a few scrimmages. The girls are working hard and are improving in most major statistical categories from last year.
Games get going this week and I could not be more excited. Hope to see you all in attendance!