Monday, March 26, 2007

Dean Smith and The Carolina Way

Dean Smith, retired head basketball coach at the University of North Carolina, enjoyed one of the most successful coaching careers in American sports. Much of his success, I believe, stemmed from his exceptional understanding of the human need for affirmation and of the importance of teamwork - in sports and in life.

His book, The Carolina Way (Penquin, 2005), is subtitled Leadership Lessons from a Life in Coaching. In the book, Smith tells of three coaching techniques/strategies/philosophies he employed. The following excerpt is edited by me (ellipses indicate my deletions, boldings are mine for emphasis, and italics represent slight rewordings for clarity).

The Honor Roll: Our coaching staff graded each game on tape; ...we wanted the players to know that we appreciated the little things they did to help their team win. Based on our grading of the tape, we chose an honor roll for each game, and each category was for unselfish play. The Honor Roll included categories such as: defense, assist/error ratio, offensive rebounding, drawing charges, screening, good plays, blocked shots, and deflections. We wanted our players to depend on the Honor Roll as an appraisal of who played well, rather than the traditional postgame statistics [such as scoring].....

Shot selection:
Sometime in the last ten to fifteen years of my career, I came up with the idea for scrimmaging that would teach our players good shot selection. I would.... award points on how good the shot was, not whether it went in the basket. For instance, if someone hit a tough 3-point shot when he should not have taken it, with a defensive player guarding him and no rebounding coverage, I would tell the manager to put down '0 points,' whether it went in or not. If someone had a layup opportunity with no one guarding him and he took but missed the shot, I would tell the manager to mark down the points, because he had taken the best shot....

Pointing to the passer.
It began when John Wooden and I attended a ... conference in Colorado in the mid-sixties. On that trip, Wooden told me he wanted the receiver of a pass that led to a basket to say a quick thank-you to the passer or wink at him. I agreed, but wanted an even more overt gesture, because I felt that while spectators always knew who scored, they were rarely aware of the passer. So the next season, we asked the player who scored to point to the passer in acknowledging the unselfish act of passing the ball to him. Everyone likes to be appreciated.
To avoid encouraging children's natural instinct to be wholly "me-centered", might it be a good idea to use some of these same prinicples in the early learning stages of children's sports?

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