Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Evolution of Coach41

Most people know I am a basketball nut. I play at least twice a week (sometimes more) and I officiate a ton of games (though not as much recently). What flies under the radar is that I used to coach youth basketball as well. I coached at my old grammar school from 1988 to 2000 and at another school from 2004 to 2005. Overall, that's 14 years and 228 total games coached at the youth level.

However, when I think back to when I started coaching, I find it amusing that I started coaching one year after I graduated from 8th grade. At this point, I had a grand total of 10 official organized games played under my belt.

With such limited playing (and life) experience, it's not a shock that I wasn't really a great coach in my younger days. Fortunately, like with most things, I had an inclination to improve and have gotten better over the years. Here's a brief look at the evolution of "Coach41":

1st Evolution (1988 to 1994) - With minimal playing experience, I was pretty much the screamer. I didn't know how to teach tactics beyond the basic zone defense and had no clue how to coach offense except to roll the ball out there.

2nd Evolution (1995 to 1997) - Though I wasn't a great coach, my teams were competitive and played some higher level competition during these years.  I realized I couldn't quite stay static and tried to learn more about coaching.   I learned more about basketball defenses including the 2-3 zone, 3-2 zone and using press defenses.  I still had no clue how to coach a set offense, but grasped the concept of fast breaks and got my teams to get up and down the court.   I also started to focus on skill development.  I primarily focused on shooting and a little on rebounding.

3rd Evolution (1998 to 2000) - This was a new chapter for me.  Whereas I had older teams (6th to 8th grade) for the first 10 years, this was the first time I started with younger kids (3rd to 5th grade).   From working with the younger set, I learned to teach the foundation of the game including dribbling, passing, shooting, defense and rebounding.   While it would be great if everyone did everything well, the fact was that some kids were able to some things better than others.

It was from this experience that I began to learn how both identify kid's strengths and also put each kid's talents to the best use in the overall team concept.  After all, if a kid is a good defender, you might as well put them in a position to do something with those skills.  No point in trying to force them to do something they aren't good at.

Patience was something I learned when working with the younger kids.  Though I admit I resorted to my old screamer days a lot when I got frustrated.  After working three years with the kids, I resigned in 2000 because I felt burned out.

4th Evolution (2004 to 2005) - After taking a few years off, I was asked to pick up a team in 2004 that needed a coach.  It was yet another challenge.  It was a combined 7th/8th grade girls team at a school I had never worked at before.  Since the kids didn't know me, I felt I had the burden to prove myself.   It took a little while to get to know my team as we lost our first two games in league but went on a roll before injuries derailed a potential championship season.  My time off allowed me to put to use some of the things I had learned from previous years to good use though.

While the team was fairly skilled, I did do some work on their dribbling and shooting and it helped some players greatly.  But the major thing I learned from this season is that even with a skilled team, you have to put the right pieces together out on the court.  Chemistry is super important and I learned I had a good skill in recognizing the pieces that could play well together.

After the 2004 season ended, I lost the four 8th graders to high school.  For the 2005 season, I had my four remaining players from the year before plus two newbies.   The 2005 year was difficult overall and tested my patience.  With only six players practices were difficult.  Plus, attendance to practices were pretty sparse at times as the kids were ready to graduate.   Despite the obstacles, I learned some perseverance and the team played as well as it could have.

Current Evolution (2005 to Present) -  I have not officially coached a youth game in 5 years.  However, I have continued to learn about basketball via playing in my various adult leagues and officiating.

In fact, I serve as "Captain" in some of the leagues I play in and that means I also serve as the defacto "coach" as well.  While I don't practice with my teams, I still impart some of my coaching experience.  I throw in different zone defenses and even do full court presses, which are rarely seen in adult leagues.  

However, "coaching" in these adult leagues have taught me flexibility.  Some players are extremely flexible and can adapt to what I ask of them.  Some players not quite so flexible and play to the style they are used to.   The main thing I do in these adult leagues is try to fit all the pieces into one cohesive team.  

Sometimes I have been very successful and other times, things have blown up pretty spectacularly.   If there is a major weakness in my coaching, it is that I prefer a team oriented style rather than a superstar oriented team.  My team oriented approach usually keeps me competitive but I sometimes don't win every game without the superstar.   This may be from my experience as a youth coach and sometimes this isn't favored by the guys who play for me.

Alas, that may be my next evolution.  I have to learn to integrate a star into my team oriented approach.  

In the mean time, my return to youth basketball coaching may soon be coming.  My old grammar school is constructing their new school building and gymnasium.  I may return to coach a team just to get in some time at the new facility.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Some people shouldn't be driving......

After work Friday, I headed to the mall to walk around a bit. It was less for shopping and more to get a little exercise in. I've been doing the 10,000 step a day program for a while and I go to the mall to stroll around a bit as part of my steps I take during the day.

At the same time, I was talking to a friend of mine. After I had done some walking around, I returned to my car as I continued to talk to my friend. As I sat in my car for a few minutes, I witnessed an interesting sight.

At the particular mall I was at, the parking spots were slanted in the direction you should be driving, though there are no arrows on the ground to direct you. However, if you use some common sense, you usually can figure it out.

Well, there was a lady in a Mercedes driving around. She was already driving in the wrong direction to start with and switched over to another parking lane, still in the wrong direction. She finally switched into the parking lane I was in (still facing the wrong direction) and tried to park. When your car is not in the direction of the parking space, that makes parking a little more difficult but it's not impossible.

Well, the lady tried for a few minutes to spin her car into the right angle to park. I was surprised to see a few minutes later that the lady HAD GIVEN UP and once again was headed down a parking lane in the wrong direction.

She made a turn to go down yet another parking lane in the wrong direction. Up until this point, the lady had been lucky. There had been no cars in any of the lanes she had driven through. Her luck ran out though, as there were TWO cars coming at her. Fortunately, nothing bad happened though I don't think the lady had any clue she was doing a lot of things wrong and endangering herself and others.

The lady finally got a parking spot that she could get into. I was tempted to run over to her and scream: "What the heck were you doing?" I'm sure my friend most have loved me as I commented on the driving abilities of the woman as we talked. :)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Art of Selling

My full time occupation is serving as a Sales Engineer. My job is a little tough to explain but I help the regular salespeople sell our software solutions to various businesses around the world. I serve as a technical consultant to ensure our solutions meet the needs of the various businesses we talk to.

That being said, this particular job is my first full time job working in a Sales environment. In my previous job, I had some some some pre-sales support but it was only in a part time capacity. For someone who did technical support for many years, adjusting to working in Sales was a bit of a challenge.

However, thanks to some events at work this week, I realized the art of selling could be boiled down to one sentence:

"Selling is the equivalent of slapping lipstick on a pig" (no offense to pigs!!)

It doesn't matter what product or service the salesperson is selling. Their job is make that particular product or service sound like the best thing since sliced bread and tell you why you need it.

I struggled with this for a long time. It has been within the past few months that I have slowly grapsed the art of selling. After all, in our day to day lives, we all sell whether we realize it or not. We sell ourselves when we interview for jobs. We sell ourselves when we date others.

Sales is a tough profession and I give props to all the salespeople in the world. Yes, many people may find salespeople pushy (especially car salespeople). However, understand that salespeople make the majority of their money from commissions from sales. Their lives depend on the sales and they are not afraid of rejection. After all, it is usually the aggressive that succeed.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Being the #1 or #2 scorer / player in basketball is not easy.........

A busy summer of basketball concluded for me a couple of weeks ago. I played in two leagues with my friends. One league was a more competitive league where my team went 3-4. The season was up and down. We beat two teams that went to the playoffs but lost to other teams that didn't.

The other league was a friendship league. That league was interesting for several reasons. I knew all of my teammates and that's benefit because I know how they play and can adapt. The flip side is that all my teammates are not the most experienced players. They like to play for exercise but they aren't going to be the most aggressive ones on the court.

The makeup of the team proved to be an interesting challenge for me as the captain. Having low key guys mean't winning and losing weren't big deals (we ended up 2-5 overall). However, I couldn't control the other teams. All the other teams in the league went at us fairly hard. In fact, we got beat badly in our first game by about 20.

It was after this first game, I realized I had to make a change in how I approached this friendship league. I wanted to give my guys a chance to just play but the other teams were just out there to win. I finally decided to just start being more aggressive and shooting more to keep my teams in the games. On my team, I was known as the most experienced player and best shooter.

Playing in the friendship league proved to be an interesting experience. I was not used to being the primary or secondary player / scorer on a team. I'm so used to involving my teammates that jacking up a lot of shots felt a little strange, though that I eventually got over it!

I admittedly got frustrated with how the games went sometime and put up some pretty bad shots. The flip side is that I learned that I can take over games sometime if needed. I just need to be more selective than how I was with the summer friendship league. In addition, I need to incorporate this aspect into my overall game instead of trying to be something I'm not.

In addition, this experience showed me how hard it is to be a leading scorer or player like Kobe, LeBron or Jordan. It takes a lot of practice to perfect your game and in turn requires a special confidence that borders on cockiness to be a superstar player.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Life is like shooting a basketball

If there is one thing my friends know me for, it is my passion for basketball. If I'm not playing basketball, I'm officiating, coaching or watching basketball somewhere.

Sometime ago, I wrote on Facebook that I was surprised at my sudden improvement in my basketball shooting, even though I am over 30. Indeed, I have been working on my basketball shooting since I was in 8th grade. Various people (coaches, friends, etc) had commented in my younger days about my shooting mechanics. Some comments involved my release point. Other comments involved my slow release.

I did my best to improve but it wasn't until 2007 when I noticed significant changes. I suddenly discovered my groove and everything started to fall into place. My release point was better. My release was faster. Of course, the shots started falling more often. The best thing though? I was no longer thinking about my shot. Everything was free flowing and natural.

In many ways, life is very much like learning to shoot a basketball. I definitely read many books and tried different ways to shoot a basketball. In life, people go through different jobs, majors and even boyfriends/girlfriends. When you initially try new things like a job, it takes you some time to figure things out. But once you figure it out, you stop thinking about things and just get into your daily groove.

In addition, just like when you shoot a basketball, sometimes you're going to make it and sometimes you may miss. Maybe you end up dating the wrong person. Maybe you choose the wrong major or get into a job that doesn't fit your personality. However, as all basketball players know, if you miss a shot, you eventually will get a chance to shoot again later. When life doesn't quite go your way, don't get discouraged. There will always be another opportunity at some later point.

As smooth as my shooting is going now, I do wish that EVERYTHING in life would go as smoothly. I know that is a bit of a pipe dream, but one can hope. :)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Friends come in many different ways......

Long before the days of of web based Instant Messaging like Yahoo/MSN and sites Facebook, the Internet was composed of text based tools, most of which were based on the Unix platform. There was Pine for email, Tin for Usenet groups and a couple of different communication tools. One was Internet Relay Chat (IRC) was I sparingly used. The other was called "talk". Talk was a Unix based program which allowed you to do Instant Messaging with a user on either the same or a different Unix system.

I used all of these tools during my college days. I used Pine a ton to email my friends. I used Tin to read and post Usenet posting. I used talk a ton as well during those days. My fondest memories are from using talk for I seem to get a lot of random people wanting to talk to me. I talked to many people (mostly girls too...how odd) and they became online pen pals. I talked to a few gals up in Canada and a few at my own school. While I have lost touch with most of the folks from those days, there are a couple of people I email occasionally to say hi.

These days, I don't talk to random strangers online too much like I used to. With so much identity theft and other things, most people are vary of just chatting up strangers in forums or instant messaging.

Yet, that doesn't mean you can't maintain friendships online. With Facebook, it's easier than ever before to keep in touch with folks who you may not see all that often.

However, even before the advent of Facebook, I had managed to maintain a friendship with someone in which communication was strictly via email initially and later by instant messaging. This person was a former co-worker of mine who only worked with me for a few months together.

After they left, we kept in touch via email and migrated to instant messaging later. We have only seen each other once in the past 10+ years (oddly enough not even near where we live). Despite only communicating by email and instant messaging, I count this person as a very good friend.

Lots of friendships are built in different ways and this may be my most unusual. Yet, I appreciate it greatly. After all, for friendships to be maintained, there has to be mutual efforts. The both of us have made efforts and for that I am glad.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Jack of All Trades / The Ultimate Role Player

(Repost from a Facebook Note I posted a week or so ago)

Back in 2009, I was unemployed for about 5 1/2 months (between April and mid-September). I spent a lot of time looking for a new job but as many people know, it's not easy to spend a full day in front of the computer looking for work.

So I did a ton of different things including writing, working out, reading, and photography. However, one activity that dominated the majority of my time was basketball. I played basketball from 2 to 4 times a week (depending on what I had to do).

At one of the local recreation centers I played at, I got to know a bunch of the regulars. There were a few young guys as well as a few older guys that played as well.

A few of the guys constantly commented that I was "Mr. Fundamental" due to my style of play. If I had the ball, I was generally in the triple-threat position. I generally played within myself and tried to make the right play rather than the fancy play.

Then one time, one of the older guys made an interesting comment to me. He said: "You know, it seems like you don't care who you play with. You let anybody play on your team".

To be honest, I hadn't though much about that before. I simply enjoy playing basketball. Even though everyone likes to win, I don't particular care if I play with a super star team or a super old team.

Then it really occurred to me why I didn't care who I played with. It was because I adjust my game to how my teammates play. Many of the guys playing pick up ball just play and expect their teammates to adjust to them. For me, I try to take the opposite approach. Most of the time, I think it works. Sometimes, you may play with a group of players where you don't mesh no matter how hard you try.

If I played with a team of older (older than me) guys, I may end up guarding some of the other team's faster players (though I am hardly a spring chicken myself). If I played on a smaller team, I might end up guarding the opposing team's big man and focus on grabbing rebounds.

On offense, if I played with young guys, the young guys like to run and slash. I just filled in with my mid-range jumper. If I played with older guys, I may end up handling the ball, distributing and taking the open shots. If I'm on a team that just isn't good and isn't confident, I sometimes do take over the games.

This isn't to make like I am some super star. My overall basketball skill set is pretty average. I would consider myself a Jack of All Trades and a master of none!

I have a decent but not great jumper and it's from 15 to 18 feet. My ball handling is average and not great against pressure. My passing is simple and precise but not fancy. I play better defense off-ball than on ball. But when I play, I try to figure out what my team need's the most and put it to use.

The lesson here is that teamwork can be applied anything you do in life, whether it be school, work or your family and not just sports. I try to be the best teammate I can but when I was younger, I was pretty selfish. As I have gained experience over the years, I realized that I was never as good as I thought. However, I realized I had some skills and experience to put them to good use. It was then that I became a better player and a better teammate.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Living in the great outdoors AKA camping

Got back home a few hours from a long weekend that involved camping and white water rafting. This was my second time camping and my third time rafting. The rafting was fun as always. We went on a Class 3/4 rapid which is tough but not dangerous to beginners or moderately experienced people like me.

On the other hand, camping is not something I was particularly looking forward to. My first experience camping was about some 15 years ago or so. My memories of the experience is just rough nights trying to sleep on the hard ground, getting used to the dirt and dust and the very nasty conditions of the bathroom and shower facilities.

Fortunately, I didn't have to sleep on the hard ground as I was with someone who had an air mattress. The general dirt and dust wasn't too bothersome. After all, I was there to raft and spent most of Saturday wet.

Alas, getting used to the bathroom and shower facilities was not easy. I guess we're all spoiled to some extent to our homes. Having dirty floors, sinks and bugs all over the place is hardly the way you want in your facilities. However, I dealt with it and overall it wasn't that bad.

Overall, camping is a good bonding experience and I don't dislike the experience. It would be great to have better facilities but maybe I'll take a dip in the nearby river next time!

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Life in the Fast Lane or the Slow Lane?

From talking to my friends and just reading the news, I see that some people live life to one of two extremes. On one hand, you have people who breeze through life at full speed. They never look at the past and have no regrets over anything that happens.

The positives of living life at full speed is that they never worry about anything. They just do things as they see fit. These people are often confident (if maybe a little cocky or arrogant) that things will go right. Even if things don't go right, they just move on to the next thing.

The negatives are that sometimes these people don't learn from their mistakes. If these people are on the wrong track, then it may be difficult to steer them the right way because they don't stop to think about why things aren't working out.

On the other hand, there are people who do look back at the past but let it be a crutch. These people may have made mistakes which put them in tough situations but they can't get over the mistakes. Or they may have grown up in tough family or social environments and are unable to move past them.

You might say there aren't many positives in looking back but they are. For anyone to improve at anything in life, mistakes have to be made. I can't think of anyone who was able to do something perfect the FIRST TIME.

The negatives for looking back are fairly strong. For people who like to look back and analyze, sometimes when a situations or opportunities arise that need immediate action, these people aren't able to respond in such a quick manner. Thus there may be many missed opportunities in life.

Obviously, the majority of people don't live life to one extreme or the other. We tend to be centered toward the middle. There may be things we breeze right through without thinking about it. There will be other things that we take our time to look back to make an appropriate decision.

My point is that everyone needs to be flexible. Enjoy life but be willing to look back and/or listen to others if things don't seem to be going right. On the other hand, if you tend to look back, don't let previous situations or mistakes cripple your confidence. Every mistake we make will improve us more than we realize.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Welcome / The Power of Carbs!

As I drove home tonight, a thought crossed my mind that I should create a third blog for my personal stuff. After all, I already had two blogs:

Behind the Whistle - My musings on basketball / sports officiating
Through ABC Eyes - My musings on culture, technology and anything else that I thought was interesting

My reasoning for the third blog is that I wanted space to talk about other things more informally.  If I wanted to bitch about my work day, I could do so.  If I wanted to discuss how my basketball team did, I could do so as well.

I thought I should claim the URL "coach41.blogspot.com".  Well, upon checking it, it appears I had already claimed the name years ago.  It took me a little while to remember my original login but I figured it out.  Now this blog is merged with all my other blogs!   I will think about whether I want to formalize it into "www.coach41.com" later on.  :)

In the meantime, my first blog posting here will be about my basketball game in an adult league I play in.   I was looking forward to playing my game tonight as I was playing a few my good buddies from the opposing team.  Both are teams have been struggling and but our games always get entertaining when we play.

My team played well early and had the lead but lost it halfway through the first half and we were basically behind the rest of the way.  In fact, we were down by 7 points with 2 minutes left but we scrambled back to tie the game at 49-49 on a buzzer beater to send the game to overtime.

My team jumped out early in overtime as we scored the first 7 points and won 57-52.

The interesting part of this was that I played horribly.  I shot extremely poorly from the field and the free throw line.  I was missing short, long, left and right.  Those who know me, I can hit the 15 to 18 foot jumper if left open but tonight was the night to leave me open.   Despite my poor shooting, it wasn't a complete loss as I made a few plays here and there.

I knew I was a little tired from not sleeping well the night before.  However, the thing that killed me was I didn't have much energy.  I generally eat a fairly large lunch but after a weekend of eating a lot I decide to eat a little less today.  I had a feeling that it would hurt me today and it did.   Of course I didn't realize it while I was playing.   It was only after the game that I realized I was pretty hungry and that clued me in as to why I didn't play too well.

Despite my sluggishness, my team managed to win which I am happy.   This is just a good point to everyone who plays sports.  Make sure you get a good (but not a super large) meal before you play.  Drink some water while you're at it.  It will help you be at an optimal level.

It's been a while since I played this poorly and it was a lesson to me that I need to eat a little more than I did today.  My team has one more game next week so I'll have a chance to bounce back!