This is a great read from USA Today’s Sam Amick regarding the widespread use of data in sports and how to combine its use with an individual’s “feel” for a game.

I like what Brent Barry had to say. As a fellow basketball broadcaster I try to gather as many statistics as possible and predict situations that could happen in the course of a game.

However, sometimes players, coaches, and broadcasters alike, must rely on their own instinctive knowledge of the game in analyzing a given situation. I like to often say that basketball is a game of infinite situations. It is impossible for us to prepare for all of them.To Barry’s point, you can prepare your own wisdom for a broadcast. However, there are situations that arise in a game that you may not have thought about in your preparation. What you still have is the working knowledge of an individual player or a team to connect them to the given game situation.

For instance, why didn’t the Pacers have Paul George take the last shot in game 2 against the Cavs? Well, the Pacers probably have practiced this situation at some point this season (at least, I hope) but Paul George had to analyze it on his own.

Never mind that he has been playing very well, George was double-teamed and, in that given situation, he would have had to force up a shot against two defenders (one was LeBron).

Brent Barry and I may not have made a statistical note about this going into this game so we would need to analyze the game situation as it is.



I love Tony Dungy. Yes, maybe it’s because he coached my favorite NFL team, the Indianapolis Colts. Yes, maybe because he led the Colts to the city’s first major sports championship in my lifetime. But I have really grown to appreciate who Tony Dungy is as a person and the principles in which he led the football teams he did.

Tony Dungy

In preparation for Coach Dungy’s Pro Football Hall of Fame induction this weekend, I reread his first book Quiet Strength, which was published in 2007 after the Colts won Super Bowl XLI. The last time I did any significant reading of Quiet Strength, I was preparing the eulogy for my nephew’s funeral six years ago. I recalled the strength in Coach Dungy’s words regarding dealing with grief (Dungy’s son Jamie died suddenly in 2005), and I wanted to articulate my own feelings in a similar way. His words helped me personally deal with my own grief.

To me, Tony Dungy embodies everything that is right in coaching and in being a leader for humanity. He was not only a good football coach but he knew the importance of using his platform for good. In observing him and reading about his career over the last twenty years, these are the character traits that I most appreciate about Tony Dungy:

  • He built his teams on character and values, the same way he lived his life.
  • As a coach, he always did things the “right way.” He never compromised character and virtues, even if it meant a better chance of winning.
  • He was positive with his coaching staff and players but he held them accountable.
  • He shared his faith openly with his coaching staff and players who were life-minded. He thought it was important that his players and coaches be connected spiritually.
  • He was loyal. He refused to fire Mike Shula in Tampa Bay after the 1998 season when Joel and Brian Glazer asked him to do so.
  • He often preached to his team, “Do What We Do.”Tony Dungy “did what he did” and he did it with class.


What is the first thing that your program needs to be successful? It is not a set of rules for your athletes to follow. It is not a system of X’s & O’s. It isn’t a summer conditioning program. While extremely important, it’s not even a great assistant coaching and support staff.

The first thing every program needs is to define who you are! As the leader of a program you must develop a system of values in which you want your program to be identified. While coaching and the education field as a whole are different than the business world there are more similarities than differences when it comes to leading them. Therefore it is necessary to establish values based on three key constituents of your program.

1) Your school or organization’s values –  When developing these values it is important to know your school or university’s values. While you do not need to include all of the values that the school has identified, it may be helpful to weave one or two of the school’s values into your own program. Know your school’s mission statement, its history, and value them.

2) Your personal values – What values are important to you? Which of these values do you want your athletes to carry with them throughout their lives? I am not suggesting you turn your athletes into robots and have them act like you. They need some freedom to be themselves. Instead, I am suggesting you choose a couple key values that are non-negotiable.

3) Values that are important to your athletes – This has as much to do with your program’s culture than anything. If you have taken over a new program that has a culture of apathetic players, you would want to make “hard word” or “commitment” one of your values. It is necessary to identify where your program is when you establish your values so you know what traits you need to implement to be successful.

Once you have established the core values for your program, it is time to implement them. Here are three important strategies to implement these values.

1) Emphasize your values every day. –  These values are who your program is and what they do. You must talk about these core values and motivate your athletes through these values each day you are together. Use motivational quotes. Tell stories of historical figures who have stood for one or more of your values. The best way to emphasize them is to provide examples of when your own athletes have lived out your core values.

2) Make sure your athletes are invested in the values. –  Whether you are in the middle of your season or your athletes are home for the summer you want them identified as an athlete in your program. You want them to live out these values in every walk of their life. As they do, you will find greater “buy in” to your program.

3) Simple is better. – When it first occurred to me as a head coach that my program needed some core values, I quickly made a list of 16 values that were important to my school, to me, and what my players needed. I should have narrowed that list to a more manageable number. There was not enough time to integrate all of these into my program. I would suggest you identify four to six core values for your program.

I love to hear your feedback. Are there other strategies that you have implemented in developing your program’s core values? Are there other effective ways you have implemented your own core values in your program?



Over the last couple years, I have been fortunate to become involved with Play Like a Champion Today (PLACT), an initiative at the University of Notre Dame that is working to promote a positive sports culture through a series of coaching clinics and parent workshops. Through their train-the-trainer format, they have trainers throughout the United States that have spread their message to thousands of coaches.
PLAC Locker Room
It was at their Annual Leadership Conference in June 2014 that I was trained to conduct their “Coaching for Character” and “Coaching as Ministry” clinics for coaches, as well as their “Parent Like a Champion” educational workshop for parents. I have presented a handful of workshops both at Saint Agnes, where I am Principal as well as parishioner, and St. Thomas in Fort Thomas, Kentucky.

I love the program and these are four reasons why:

  • It’s mission-oriented. – The “Coaching as Ministry” program promotes the idea of coaching as a service for young people.
  • It’s character-building. – It provides opportunities for coaches to explore the important characteristics of a champion athlete.
  • It recognizes the spiritual nature of sport. – Coaches must foster the spirituality within their athletes.
  • Their “GROW” approach – Goals. Relationships. Ownership. Winning. This is PLACT’s approach to motivating athletes to success.

I’m looking forward to continuing to share my own research, as well as more about Play Like a Champion Today, with you in future posts.

If you would like more information about Play Like a Champion Today feel free to email me at or access their website at If you are interested in bringing Play Like a Champion Today to your league or school, please contact me.

Resources Mentioned in This Blog:
Play Like a Champion Today,



Yesterday was Father’s Day and I couldn’t help but think about the similarities in responsibilities that a coach has with a father. I have often heard people say that coaches have the ability to have as much influence on their athletes that anyone. While parents should, without question, serve as the primary influences in their young people’s lives there is no doubt that coaches have a substantial platform to impact them, as well.

In my book Finishing The Job ( I wrote that Michael Bradley, a former NBA player and NCAA All-American, calls Steve Lappas, his former coach at Villanova, every Father’s Day to thank him for being such a tremendous role model in his life.


Only some of the wins and losses will be memorable. It is the impact that a coach can have on his athletes and the impact of those lifelong relationships that will have the most profound impact. If you are a coach and did not get a phone call on Father’s Day from a former player that is not to say you have not made an impact on the lives of those you coached. Rather, if you did get a phone call know that you have been fulfilling your platform well.

By no means am I saying that a coach should be a substitute for his athletes’ fathers. Rather, a coach has the opportunity to role model the most important attributes that a father can provide his son or daughter. Here are the three most important fatherly attributes that a coach should exhibit:

1. Show them that you believe in them.
2. Take an interest in their life outside of your sport.
3. Be fair, but be firm.
They don’t have to always like you. But they should always respect you.

Coaches, Happy Fathers’ Day. Be sure to model the attributes of a great father to your athletes.

Resources Mentioned In This Blog
Finishing The Job,

Question: What coach has displayed the attributes of a father figure in your life?



It’s New Year’s Day and people all over the world are creating goals for themselves for 2014. Often people will make goals for themselves and become frustrated and give up during the year when the goals no longer become attainable. Still others will not make any goals at all because they have been unsuccessful at them in the past.


For coaches of any sport, it is a great time of the year to assess and create goals. For coaches of winter sports, they are halfway through their season and it is a good time to measure their individual and team goals. For fall sport coaches, the off-season is here and it’s a great time to implement some ways to grow their program. For spring sport coaches, their pre-season is near and the establishment of season goals are necessary.

The following are some suggestions and resources I have for anyone, whether it be a coach or one just looking to grow in any aspect of their life, as you develop your goals for 2014 (and beyond). Like most things I share I have learned them from others and have found them to be beneficial for me.

My Rules for Establishing Goals

1. Keep it simple. – This is why you will only find two rules from me. The easiest goal to attain is the one that is simple. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Dream big but make your goals attainable. Accomplishment of small goals will naturally lead to accomplishment of larger ones.

2. Reflect and pray about your goals. – Spend time daily reflecting and praying about your goals. Reflection is integral in any growth situations.

My Favorite Goal Resources

• One way to keep it simple is to use the “One Word” concept. One Word is summarized in a book written by Jon Gordon, Dan Britton, and Jimmy Page ( The idea is to choose one word to focus on as you move throughout your entire year. As a school administrator, I shared this concept with my faculty in August and challenged them to come up with their own “One Word.” I chose “remarkable” as my word. I want to be “remarkable” in various aspects of my life. As educators our years usually run on an August-July calendar so many of us did our one word for our school year. January is a great time for anyone to establish their “One Word” goal.

• Lou Holtz’s 5 Things to Accomplish – The former college football coach and current ESPN college football analyst has written several great motivational books. In Wins, Losses, and Lessons he writes his list of five categories of things he would like to accomplish in his life.
1. Things I want to do as a husband and a father
2. Things I want to do religiously
3. Things I want to accomplish professionally
4. Things I want to do financially
5. Things I want to do for excitement (personally)
Coach Holtz originally listed 108 items in his five categories. Be goal-oriented like Coach Holtz but don’t limit yourself to accomplishing everything in 2014. Your goals don’t have to all be accomplished in the next 365 days. I started reviewing Coach Holtz’s five questions with my wife, Kim, a couple years ago. It has been helpful and I even accomplished one of the things I wanted to do for “excitement” in 2013 when I published my first book Finishing The Job.

Good luck with your goals in 2014. I hope it is your best year yet. Happy New Year!

Resources Mentioned in This Blog
Book: Get One Word (

Book: Wins, Losses, and Lessons (

Book: Finishing The Job (

Question: How do you go about choosing your goals for the new year? (Feel free to leave a comment.)



As Christmas day winds down, most of us are certainly grateful for all of the gifts that our family and friends have given to us today. Let us not forget that we all have been granted God-given gifts that need to be used for the good in our daily lives, as well. In addition, there are many gifts out there that we can go get on our own.

From an early age, we are taught that it is better to give gifts than receive them. Each one of us – especially anyone in any kind of leadership position – is called to do this.

Colorful presents

Here are three things to remember about your gifts:

1. It is better to give them. – People gravitate to those who give their gifts, or talents, much more so than those that lead by dictating. Quite simply, people follow those who give. Give your time. Give your humility. Give your mentoring. And remember to give your gifts to those who need it the most.

2. It is important to develop them. – Do not rest on your laurels. Much like a new shirt must be laundered and pressed or a diamond ring must be buffed, leaders must develop their gifts. Spend time reading, listening, watching, and being guided to develop them.

3. Work to earn the gifts you do not have. – At least one of you probably didn’t receive a gift you would have liked for Christmas. That is okay. We cannot be blest with everything. If you really wanted that new tablet or new book you are going to have to invest in yourself (through time and/or money) in order to purchase them. Similarly, we must take gifts (skills) we do not have and work on them in order to become better at what we do.

Merry Christmas to all of you! I am grateful you spend your time reading this blog.




I had to take a little time away from this blog as I was knee deep in the publishing process for my book Finishing The Job. (You can learn more about the book and purchase a copy at But I am back and prepared to provide more information that I hope is helpful for you. I thought I would begin my telling you what I learned by writing and self-publishing Finishing The Job.


1. It’s rewarding! – I accomplished a long-time goal by writing my book. I felt quite invigorated when, 1) I was able to go through the final drafts of my copy, 2) I saw the initial layout of the book electronically, and 3) I picked up the final copies of the book. I won some pretty big games as a coach and the feeling I had when I picked up that finished product was every bit as exciting.

2. It’s a lot of work! – Everything from doing interviews to writing the content to laying out the book to actually getting it published involved many details. Time, energy, and organization were vital!

3. To do it well, a writer must be fully-invested. – It is much easier to write a book when a writer devotes his time and energy fully in the project. With that being said, it was difficult for me as a full-time educator to write Finishing The Job in the six months that I had hoped. Instead, it took me 18 months to write it! While it is possible to spend early mornings, late nights, and weekends writing, the more focus a writer has on the project the more likely the project will come to fruition.

4. A writer must be motivated. – First, the writer must obviously be self-motivated. A lot of time is spent on your own just writing so one must remain focused on the goal. It helps to have others motivating you, too. I had Cindy Hertzel, one of the key figures in my book, frequently asking me about it and even kicking me in the backside near the end wanting me to get it completed.

5. Publishing a book is easier than ever. – I learned MUCH about the publishing process. Yes, there are some tasks that must be accomplished when publishing a book that a writer does not have to perform when writing a term paper or other literary work. Buying ISBN numbers, registering with the Library of Congress, purchasing bar codes…Had you thought about those? While it can be comprehensive it is quite easy to do those tasks on your own. I could write (and talk) for hours about the options in the publishing business today. A writer could find a publishing company, work with a self-publishing company, or self-publish on their own. The fact is that it is quite easy to publish your own book in today’s age. I started my own publishing business, even if it publishes only one book right now!

6. Document as you go through the process. – Take good notes, whether it’s interviews that you conduct or thoughts that come about as you write. Use a voice recorder if you do interviews; I found it easier to get good quotes when I used a recorder. Also, if you are writing a non-fiction work and need to use quotes from newspapers or borrow photos it is wise to have a waiver document that you can use when you talk to these people. I took a lot of notes during the process.

Resources Mentioned in This Blog
Book: Finishing The Job

Question: What is your biggest obstacle in writing that book you have always wanted to write?

If you have any questions about writing or publishing a book leave a comment or send me an e-mail at and I will be happy to respond.



Often there is a stigma in education and athletics that parents are the enemies. I have heard more than one coach sarcastically boast that the best coaching job could be found in an orphanage. The truth is that, as coaches, we really need parents in order to do the best job we possibly can. Of course, these coach/parent relationships must be mutual. When a healthy, cooperative relationship exists between coaches and parents the ceiling rises on the potential for the team. It is imperative that both coaches and parents are aware of this synergy.


The following are three ways that coaches need parents in order to make their program successful:

1. Coaches must be able to communicate their expectations to parents. – This is usually accomplished in a pre-season parent meeting. Many state associations are making these parent meetings mandatory for coaches. This is great if coaches use the meeting to communicate what they expect from their athletes and parents during the season and in the off-season. In my pre-season parent meetings, I passed out practice schedules, informed parents of team policies, and reminded them that their actions represent the school and program when they watch the games, among other agenda items.

2. Coaches must have “buy in” from each parent regarding their athletes’ roles. – First, the coach must define the role of his players. I always told the players and the parents that this is their role but it was subject to change, based on the performance of the player. If a role is not communicated, or (even worse) never defined, there leaves room for the parent and player to question the coach’s decisions. Most questions regarding the coaching has a negative effect on the team. An understanding of the player’s role makes it easier for the parent to support the performance of the player and how it relates to the team.

3. Coaches need the assistance of parents to determine how to best motivate their athletes. – I often joke that being a coach qualifies me to be a licensed psychologist. Obviously, I am being sarcastic but it is true that coaches need a tremendous amount of knowledge on what makes each player tick. What may motivate one player may not motivate another. It is important for parents to have discussions with parents on what motivates them because, after all, the parents know the athletes better than anyone. Parents may also be able to make a coach aware of personal matters involving players that no one else would be able to communicate.

This blog post may seem like it is most appropriate for high school, or even lower-level, coaches in working with parents. However, these three suggestions are important for coaches at the collegiate level, as well. A lot of communication with parents at the collegiate level occurs during the recruiting process. This is great, but in an age when parents are becoming more and more involved at the collegiate level coaches must invest in these relationships.

Question: What unique ways do you involve parents in your program?



As coaches, we all want our players to be great teammates. We talk to them about it. We evaluate them based on how they work with and treat their teammates. And most coaches probably assess the skills that make for a great teammate subconsciously.

In Mike Krzyzewski’s account of the 2008 USA Olympic Basketball team, The Gold Standard, Krzyzewski is unceasing in his praise for LeBron James as a teammate. If you have watched any of LeBron’s play in international competition (and more recently playing for the Heat), you realize that he is a teammate-first player. He is willing to guard anyone on the opposing team and has even been criticized for being too unselfish. If I were coaching him, I would take two Olympic Gold Medals, two NBA Championships, and an unselfish superstar any day of the week.


In basketball terms (most of these are transferable to other sports), here are a “baker’s dozen” characteristics that make a great teammate:
1. Is a servant leader. – If his teammates need something, he is there to provide support.
2. Works on his game and his body. – He focuses on skill development, weight training, and nutrition as ways to make himself and his team better.
3. Is an “energy giver.” – He provides a positive energy in the presence of his teammates on and off the court.
4. Mentally prepares off the floor. – He prepares by watching video of him individually, his team, and opponents, and thoroughly studies his scouting reports.
5. Accepts his role. – He knows that the coach is the one best served to divvy up roles for members of the team, and buys into that role.
6. Practices hard each day. – He sees the value of practice as being instrumental to the development of the team.
7. Is not afraid to say something for the good of the team. – Confrontations among teammates are good if executed properly.
8. Accepts a teammate’s criticism. – Criticism makes us better when delivered and accepted in the right way.
9. Is committed to play team defense. – It is easy to play individual defense but the best teams are connected and committed to each other on the defensive end.
10. Sets good screens. – He has a desire to get his teammate open.
11. Uses good screens. – He realizes that this two-man action is integral to his team’s offense.
12. Knows what a good shot is for him and each of his teammates. – And gets them the ball when they are open.
13. Makes the extra pass. – Even if he is open, he makes the extra pass to get his teammate a better shot.

Resources Mentioned in This Blog
Book: The Gold Standard

Question: What other qualities make for a great teammate?