Extreme Makeover: Basketball Coaching Edition

By Randy Sherman

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Extreme Makeover: Basketball Coaching Edition – Some question to consider when it’s time to give your coaching style a makeover.

I am a sucker for before and after pictures.

We have all seen the weight loss versions when someone who loses a significant amount of weight posts a picture of their old, overweight self next to the slimmer version of their new self.

Then there are the wardrobe and grooming versions where a sloppily dressed or poorly groomed man agrees to let his wife “make him over” and underneath the beer-stained sweatpants and unkept beard there is clean-cut and sharp-dressed man yearning to break free.

Home renovation shows like Fixer Upper are wildly popular due to the extreme makeovers Chip and Joanna Gaines give to outdated homes.

I love a good makeover whether it is weight loss, wardrobe, grooming or renovation. Why do these things appeal to us? Because we all possess within us a belief things can change for the better.

Some of us bury that belief for many reasons. As we age, change feels harder and more and more out of reach, but before and after images awaken the belief that people can and do make big changes in their lives. They offer inspiration — if they can change, so can I. It inspires us to see individuals who have gotten stuck in unproductive or even detrimental habit loops break out of them.

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Illinois men’s basketball coach Brad Underwood dropped his weight during the COVID-19 quarantine.

How Coaches can do an Extreme Makeover

I am entering my seventh season in service to coaches. I serve as an advisor, counselor and accountability partner to basketball coaches. In this work I’ve witnessed many coaches go through an “extreme makeover” in the coaching style, style of play and approaches to coaching. What follows are some things to consider when you feel you are ready for a coaching makeover.

Start with some basic questions for yourself – By “basic” I mean basic! A few examples:

  • Do I even like coaching the way I do?
  • Is the way I am coaching leading to any improvement at all?
  • Do I even like the offense/defense we’re running?
  • Am I doing things I have to do or things I want to do?

The idea here is to get real. Get real with yourself by asking basic questions. There have been many individuals who struggle with their weight stay in the same bad habit loop without ever asking themselves “why do I overeat?” or “do I even like this food?” or “does this food even make me feel good?” Answering these basic questions is the first step in the makeover.

Next, formulate your OWN philosophy – I have worked with many coaches who think they are undergoing a “coaching makeover” but what they are actually doing is copying someone else’s blueprint. Change? Yes. But a true makeover that gets them 100% in tune with who they are as a coach? Probably not.

We all know someone who has been vegan, low-carb, paleo or Weight Watchers, but seems to end up right back where they started. Whatever diet and exercise fad comes along, they try it and the results either don’t come or they are temporary. They are just trying a new diet without getting in touch with what is within them. They are hoping to luck into the answer.

There are tons of basketball blueprints out there, not only for X’s and O’s material, but also how to coach, communicate, create culture, structure practice and so on. If you are looking to follow a new plan, that’s easy and guides are abundant. Before doing that, pause and ask:

  • What do I believe about the game?
  • If I could coach any way I wanted, what would that look like?
  • What are the things I do or say as a coach that just don’t feel natural to me?

Lots of people are selling a blueprint. You could use one of them for betterment, but why not just do the hard work of articulating and designing your own? Don’t trade “learning from others” for not learning anything about yourself.

Some other steps to consider:

  • Switch up your consumption – If you want a coaching makeover, you can start by taking in new and different information.
  • Connect – Reach out to a coach who has reinvented their coaching and seek their advice. Most will be happy to share the tips they learned from their journey.
  • Change of scenery – We can all cite examples of coaches who have gotten stuck where they are and are reinvigorated by taking on a new challenge at a new place. Sometimes it is easier to reinvent yourself as a coach in a new locale.
  • Just do it – When we consider a big change, fear often holds us back. We envision the plan failing and all the bad things that could happen if we leave our comfort zone. We cling to the excuses that have kept us stuck. At some point you just have to ignore the reasons not to do something and do it anyway.

Lastly, I’d offer a bit of full disclosure. I’ve worked with a lot of coaches over the last six seasons who wanted me to guide them through a coaching makeover. I’d be untruthful if I didn’t admit that many of these endeavors failed. I don’t have a 100% success rate with coaches. Maybe the relationship did not click. I failed to be the helper they needed, or the coach was not truly ready to make changes, at least not the ones I was suggesting. That’s ok. A personal trainer or nutritionist has as many or more unfulfilling endings with their clients as they do drastic weight loss transformations.

Big change is hard. It takes facing fear and letting go. You must be willing to admit you do not know something. It takes the willingness to be a beginner again. If you are ready for a coaching extreme makeover, taking that first step is the hardest. It’s never too late and it just might be worth it!

Continue the conversation:

I’d love to hear about your coaching makeovers, either those you’ve undertaken or would like to undertake in the comments below.

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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.

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