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Culture Series - Pt. 4/5

“Champions Do Extra”


To review, the first three ingredients of building a championship culture: Showing you care by lifting everyone up, creating a safe and inclusive environment by using team standards, and playing together.

Ingredient #4 is to outwork everyone! Everyone includes ourselves, our teammates, and our opponents. When we strive for perfection everyday, we can reach excellence and that is the goal. Once a safe, inclusive, and positive environment is established, mistakes are embraced, not feared. Basketball is a game full of mistakes and the way we respond to those mistakes is what ultimately determines our success on the scoreboard. If you watched our team at practice or a game, you would hear the phrase “next-play” being used by the coaches and players! This helped develop confidence and brought out the best in everyone. That mentality turned us into a gritty, scrappy, and resilient team that didn’t back down to any challenge we faced.

We drilled adversity in practice…we failed a lot. I mentioned in my last blog post that we did a layup drill and only reached our goal of 100 on the very last day of practice. We did push-ups if we didn’t make our goal….we did a lot of push-ups which made everyone a lot stronger throughout the season.

I would be the referee during practice and intentionally make very bad calls during our scrimmages to see if our team would huddle up instead of complain to me about the foul. They complained a lot initially haha but learned to huddle up with teammates and focus on the next-play. That translated directly into our games towards the end of the season when we would continue to play harder than the other team because we focused on what we could control.

The first few weeks of practice, we had a lot of our players use the agility ladder after practice to work on their footwork. This was not required and it was done in a narrow hallway, but they didn’t complain or make excuses…they just worked!!!

A friend of mine works for Gonzaga athletics and has an awesome podcast called, “ Hoop Commitment''. He has an episode on loyalty and our team listened to it and we talked about how we can be loyal teammates to each other right before a game.

We relied on our togetherness, hustle, and defense to be competitive in every game. Our record was 7-2. We lost one game by one point and the other by three points. Both losses came against the same school. In both of those games, we had possession of the ball with a few seconds left and had an opportunity to win or tie the game with a few seconds remaining. Very proud of our group for how much they competed!

As a coach, I always say, “When we win, it’s because of the players. When we lose, it’s because of the coach.” As a coach, I pride myself in putting our team in a position to be successful on the court. The scoreboard doesn’t always reflect the incredible effort your team gives so I want to take the pressure off of our entire team by taking credit for any losses. The players are the one’s on the court giving everything they have and when they do enough to win on the scoreboard, they all deserve the credit.

Of course, after a win or loss, there are always things we can improve on. In the locker room after games, I go around and ask everyone to share one thing they can improve on. By thinking about their individual performance directly after the game, and voicing it to the entire team, they can choose something that just happened. Whatever they share, the expectation is that they will not share that same thing again for the remainder of the season because they are making a promise to their teammates to do better in the future. Additionally, asking each member to reflect on the game by using their voice, opposed to the head coach telling the team what they think, creates a culture of shared accountability. I genuinely want to know what they think about the game that they just played in! I would be doing our team a disservice if I didn’t provide an opportunity for immediate feedback. We also share three things we did well as a team and three we need to improve. I have learned so much during this “accountability circle” and then take that information to help create a practice plan for the next day. We do this exercise to establish a growth mindset and learn from our mistakes.

Lastly, I assigned a homework assignment to our team. I asked them to email what they will do this Spring/Summer to improve as a basketball player and athlete. One of my players responded with his plan and then added this, “What are your plans to improve this summer?"

As a coach, I have to display 24/7 leadership with everything I say and do. I also have to work on my craft to improve and this question fueled me to do more and be better for my team. I responded by saying I was reading a book called Raise Your Game by Alan Stein and will be meeting with him via zoom. I am going to read at least three books, listen to a few basketball podcasts episodes a week, learn new drills on social media, and talk with coaching friends!


Thank you for reading and please feel free to reach out if I can help in anyway! Sending positive vibes, Dan Horwitz #HELPTHEMUP

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Love every word! The Accountability Circle is so very powerful, we use it all the time. Combined with Celebrations, what a fantastic way to impact individuals and the team.

We've started to layer it a bit too in what we call 'Me, You, We'. One person either celebrates or holds accountable (Coach decides) themself, a teammate and then the team as a whole.

- Ruth Grant

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