10 Things I Learned in 6 Months as a High School Shooting Coach

  1. Kids have a great work ethic

A lot of kids WANT to work. They are determined to get better. The drive and motivation in kids to work hasn’t changed, the way adults expect or interact with them has. Maddie, Jillian, Trevor, Emma, Alli, Andrew, Brooke, and Tommy have a burning desire to improve and are willing to put in the work to do it. One of the reasons I got out of high school coaching was that I sometimes felt like I wanted success more than the players did. I NEVER questioned that with these 8. Their desire matched my desire and that was a big reason I greatly enjoyed our workouts.

  1. This role was very rewarding

I know that being in the gym impacting kids is part of my calling. I loved training hundreds of kids last year from September-February. But to focus 99% of my time on these 8, truly allowed us to take part of their basketball journey together. Seeing their highs and lows, being there to support, inspire, and cheer, while getting to know each of them personally, was so rewarding. I loved the film work, as I analyzed every single shot every single one of my high school kids took in every game. I charted it, scored the quality of the shot, assigned it feedback, and divided it by the type of make/miss from the type of position on the floor. That part of in-depth analysis and then giving advice on how to improve was very rewarding and intriguing to me. What I hope this role when I developed the program was truly what it became.

  1. Pressure on today’s high profile high school athletes is high

College scholarship offers at an early age. Scouting services ranking your every game. Some kids are trying to get into the starting lineup. Others working to make a certain AAU team. Every move you make, shot you take, and interaction you have can be captured on social media. It’s a lot of pressure, both self-imposed, from those in basketball circles and beyond. You can see and feel that pressure when working with these kids. I wrote a letter to each of them sharing 5 things I learned about them during this process. Much of the content of those letters were not even about basketball, but how they can take all of those pressures, work, demands, and expectations and turn it into life success. 

  1. Parents approach athletics in all different ways

Some parents are very hands-on. They watch game films with kids, attend workouts, keep stats, and are engaged in the entire process. Others are simply fans and supporters. There is a lot in-between those two approaches. There is no right, no wrong, but a lot of different.

  1. I felt like I won/lost 5 games every Tuesday and Friday night

Almost every Tuesday/Friday night I would attend a game that one of my 6 high school kids were playing in. I think I saw 24 or 25 games. As the night went on and parent/player texts came in, it was a roller coaster of emotions. It’s rare to have all 6 of your kids shoot well and all of their teams win on the same night. So it was often excitement for the player who had a good night but empathizing and planning for one who did it. As the varsity coach, I had some amount of control and one game to focus on. As a shooting coach, I had less control and 5 games. I underestimated the emotional roller-coaster every Tuesday and Friday night would be for me.

  1. Being able to select your players/parents is heavenly 

Almost every high-level coach has player challenges, parent drama, team chemistry issues, or trouble with their administration. In my 18 varsity seasons, even in the best years and in great programs/communities, I usually had some situation of some kind to deal with. Players applied for this shooting coach program. I got to hand-pick the players and parents. I only worked with players who I wanted to work with and parents I wanted to be around. I’ve never had the luxury of cutting down to a handful and it certainly made the work more enjoyable. I was surrounded by kids that wanted to succeed as much as I wanted it for them. This program requires you to be almost obsessive about the game, which is exactly what I am. 

  1. I took on too much

The experience was great. The kids were awesome. I really wasn’t sure what to expect. I hoped that what I had mapped out would be what it was like in real-life application.  I originally thought 5 was the right number and it probably is. 8 was too many. I had one weekend off in 6 months and that was Christmas. I worked 40 weekend days during that time frame.  In September/October, it was 16 individual workouts a week, which when you combine drive, planning, and data collection is about 25 extra hours a week. In-season, the 8 hours of workouts each week had to be on weekends because kids have practice/games on weekdays. Working at least 10 hours every weekend from December-February was a lot. There was game attendance every Tuesday and Friday night and about 2 hours per player of film work and analysis each week.  I don’t like to glorify busy, but all of that was a lot. 234 total sessions with players. Didn’t miss one for illness. That was a lot of time away from my family, friends, and hobbies. I love the program and believe in it, but 5 or maybe 6 is the right number and if I do it again, I’ll need to cap it at that and make some overall adjustments, which may include some partnerships and not everything being individual.

  1. I will get better at this / Motivating and supporting a player out of a shooting slump isn’t one size fits all – Not every player needs the same thing when they are struggling. Some of their challenges were mental/confidence, others were physical/mechanics, or it was even health/injury related. Supporting kids out of those times wasn’t easy and there isn’t a road map. Some of the 8 kids I worked with wanted to go 100 mph every session. Other times, they were sore, banged up, or tired. I tried to always ask them how they were feeling that day and what they wanted to work on instead of just what I had planned. That gave them more ownership and let them know that I cared about how they were doing and not just getting to work. Sometimes I was more successful than others. The better I got to know them, the more I could help. The better our relationship and trust was, the more we grew. I am consistently reading, watching, and attending things that grow me as a shooting coach. I estimate that I’ve watched over hundreds of thousands of shots in person or on film. That will be over a million in the near future. The more I learn and grow, the better I will get, and the better shooting coach I will become. As I do this specific job more and more, I know I’ll get better and better.
  2.  Hard work pays off, usually

I’ve been around some of these players for nearly 2 years. Some had success far and beyond what they set their goals to. I didn’t do enough to help other players reach their goals. Those who fell short certainly weren’t due to a lack of hard work. So many variables can impact you making shots in games and my support helped some achieve well-beyond their goals and in other instances we fell short.

  1. It’s time to take #MakeShots to a new level

I’ve stumbled upon a very good thing. I’m positively impacting the basketball careers of kids at all different ages. This is just the beginning. Big plans are in store for #MakeShots in the near and distant future. I know it’s in God’s hands and I fully trust him. Where this might go next is beyond me and I’m ready for the ride.

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