Focus Is More Important Than Genius

By Randy Sherman

March 2, 2019 - Clemson, SC, USA - North Carolina coach Roy Williams directs his players during the first half against Clemson on Saturday, March 2, 2019, at Littlejohn Coliseum in Clemson, S.C. Williams' Tar Heels topped host Boston College on Tuesday, March 5, 2019, 79-66. (Credit Image: © Robert Willett/Raleigh News & Observer/TNS via ZUMA Wire)

Counseling Coaches Series: How focused you are on what you do is more important than how much you know.

In this day and age, the ability to filter out information is a Coaching Superpower.

In the hundreds of hours each year I spend counseling coaches this is a constant battle; especially when they are faced with adversity.

Coaches who develop the skill of sorting through and even tuning out the massive amount of information we are bombarded with will separate themselves. That day may already be here…

The above tweet by Greg McKeown, the author of Essentialism – The Disciplined Pursuit of Less expresses this sentiment perfectly.

Focus is more important than genius and there are perennial winners at every level of basketball (and other sports) from high school, to college and to professional who exemplify this. Their “genius” is their ability to focus when other coaches and programs around them give in to distraction.

Roy Williams, the Head Men’s Basketball Coach at the University of North Carolina, provides an example of this level of focus. Year after year the Tar Heels have bludgeoned teams with their primary and secondary breaks. Opponents know it is coming yet they struggle to stop it.

Williams is probably not at the top of most lists of “X’s & O’s Geniuses” and he’d be the first to admit that. A list he would sit atop of is focus. If you come to UNC you will run the floor. If you play point guard for the Tarheels, you will pitch the ball ahead.

Williams may get criticized for not modernizing his offense some, but beating the opponent down the floor requires no genius. It requires focus and commitment. Granted, UNC is able to recruit players who are fleet and can play at that tempo. But so can his opponents. The Heels are “known” for running because of their level of focus.

It does not have to be running the break, but what is it that will be the focus of your teams and programs? What will be what your team is “known” for?

Even as you are reading this someone is uploading more basketball content into YouTube. They are putting the finishing touches on a new downloadable playbook. A clinic is being planned. An instructional DVD is being packaged.

Many coaches will dive headfirst into all of it. Nothing wrong with that on the surface level. But in a quest to become a “genius” are they sacrificing their focus? Is there a constant redoing and rebranding of their program that keeps them in “year one” perennially?

All these learning opportunities and then some are available to a coach like Williams, but his response is “run harder.” Some may mistake focus and insistence for in-adaptability.

Likewise, we often mistake “doing more” for genius, and dismiss the focused few as simpletons. But a talent for focus, in the day and age of constant, new and often conflicting information, is the new genius.

Continue the conversation:

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Randy Sherman
Randy Sherman is the owner and founder of Radius Athletics - a basketball coaching consulting firm - where he consults with basketball coaches at all levels on coaching philosophy, practice planning, Xs & Os and teaching a conceptual style of basketball. While a head basketball coach at the the interscholastic level, Sherman's teams won 197 games in nine seasons.
Randy Sherman

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March 2, 2019 – Clemson, SC, USA – North Carolina coach Roy Williams directs his players during the first half against Clemson on Saturday, March 2, 2019, at Littlejohn Coliseum in Clemson, S.C. Williams’ Tar Heels topped host Boston College on Tuesday, March 5, 2019, 79-66. (Credit Image: © Robert Willett/Raleigh News & Observer/TNS via ZUMA Wire)
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