Julia asked if he would be my advisor. I



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January 2018



            According to the Merriam-Webster
dictionary, a coach is “one who instructs or trains”. While most people believe
this instruction and training just applies to the sport or area they are
coaching in, I would challenge this belief and say that it is the instruction
and training of the whole person, not just in basketball, football, etc. By
being put in this position of leadership, one has the ability to not only make
them better in that specific area but has the opportunity to make a lasting
impact in the athlete’s life. All too often kids lack positive role models or
even people willing to invest minimal time and effort in them, but through
coaching and enthusiastic encouragement one is able to provide guidance,
opportunities to succeed, and increasing an athlete’s confidence and
self-esteem. I firmly believe that the most effective way to change the world
and create well-rounded and equipped leaders of tomorrow is through positive
interactions like coaching.G1  I know the impact that my coaches had on
me and I hope to make a similar impact on those I coach. My objective of this
project was to learn more about coaching philosophy and strategy and gain
experience in coaching and interacting with players. G2 

What I Did

            When I decided that I wanted to do
my senior project on coaching, I emailed Stu Sells, Cole Valley’s girls’
varsity coach, and asked if he would be my advisor. I chose Coach Sells because
of his experience. He has experience coaching at the high school, club, and
collegiate level. He has also founded a competitive club team in Idaho and
Utah. He agreed and let me shadow and manage the girls’ season. When I
submitted my proposal to Mr. Canfield, he offered me the opportunity to coach
the 7th-grade girls, which I enthusiastically agreed to.G3 

I coached the Cole Valley Christian 7th
grade girls’ basketball team for the 2017 season. This was an 8-week season
that consisted of 1 ½ hour practices and 9 games. Leading up to the season, I
met with Mike Kingery to gain some insight and tips on how to coach. Coach
Kingery has 15+ years of experience coaching both boys and girls. He talked to
me about how he coaches, what he expects from his players, and gave me ideas on
what sets to use. In addition to this meeting, I did some reflection from my
past 2 seasons of being an assistant coach and some online reading on different
drills and approaches to coaching. I came up with a basic format of how I
wanted practices to look and built from there. I decided to use a mix of drills
my coaches used, drills I found online, and creating my own. In an attempt to
make sure that the drills had a purpose and I was not using them just because,
I compiled a list of skills and objectives for each drill. The hard part leading
up to the season was that I did not know the skill level nor the experience of
the team. Because I did not know what to expect, I took the first 2 weeks to
introduce the fundamental skills and basic rules of the game. I decided that
ball-handling, shooting form, and man-to-man defense were 3 of the most
important skills for these girls to learn and heavily emphasized them in those
first few weeks. From there, we increased their skills by building upon the
previous skills they learned. I used past games to reflect upon and decide on
what skills we needed to learn or improve upon throughout the season.

 In addition to this hands-on work, I was able
to shadow G4 Coach Sells and Coach Kingery during the
girls’ season. Not only was I able to see how they operated practices, games,
and the overall culture of the team, I was also able to coach the sophomore/JV
and varsity girls. On game days, my responsibilities included filling water
bottles, doing scorebook, tracking the opponent’s plays, and whatever else was
needed that day.  G5 

            Coach Kingery and Coach Sells gave me resources that I
was able to use for my research. I also used some resources I found on my own.

I picked out recurring themes and points that I found poignant to use in my
research section.  G6 

Once all of that was done, I sat down and
calculated the hours I spent coaching, prepping, managing/shadowing,
researching, and writing.


            While my “hands-onG7 ” experience focused on coaching,
shadowing, and managing, my research focuses more on the importance of culture
and how coaches create and maintain the culture they want for their team.

            Mike Smith defines culture as the “shared
purpose, attitudes, values, goals, practices, behaviors, and habits that define
a team or organization…To be successful, you need everyone in your organization
thinking, believing, talking, and behaving in sync. You need everyone to be
aligned with the same beliefs, expectations, behaviors, and habits.”
(Gordon, 6)G8  Culture is the building block for
success. Without culture, a team is nothing.

Before a coach can create a culture, they
must first clarify their philosophy and values. A leader’s commitment should be
greater than that of his team. Through self- evaluation and asking tough
questions like, “who am I, what do I want as a coach, and why do I coach?” (Gordon,
85; Zonars) It is important to know the who, what, and why’s about oneself in
order to be a more effective leader. Those questions show what is important to
the coach and will affect their approach. For example, if the culture a coach
is trying to create does not line up with his own philosophy, then it is not
effective and has no impact because their coach is saying one thing but doing
the complete opposite. The team needs to be able to see and feel the coach’s
commitment in his actions every day, 24/7. “Feeling is more powerful than
hearing. When we hear from a leader, we will learn; but when we feel from a
leader we will be transformed” (Gordon, 87).

Once a coach has examined their own
values, then they can move onto culture. “Culture drives expectations and
beliefs; expectations and beliefs drive behavior; behavior drives habits; and
habits create the future. It all starts with culture.” (Gordon, 1) While Mike
Smith was coaching the Atlanta Falcons, he defined the culture he wanted to
create and outlined it in these 7 responsibilities that everyone had:

1.     Have fun, work hard, and enjoy the

2.     Show respect for every person you have
contact with in the organization.

3.     Put the team first. Successful teams have
teammates that are unselfish and willing to put their individual goals behind
the team’s goals.

4.     Do your job. It is defined, but you must
always be prepared for it to change.

5.     Appropriately handle victory and defeat,
adulation and humiliation. Do not get too high in victory or too low in defeat.

Be the same person every day.

6.     Understand that all organizational
decisions aim to make the team better, stronger, and more efficient

7.     Have a positive attitude. Use positive
language (both verbal and body language).

knew that if the team was able to consistently meet those expectations, that
they would be able to withstand all the ups and downs of an NFL season.

(Gordon, 12) Part of the journey Coach Smith is talking about in responsibility
number 1, is that it is not goals that will lead to success, but the commitment
to the culture day G9 in and day out. (Gordon, 13) If a coach
is not consistent, they cannot be trusted. If players are not consistent, they
cannot be trusted. Especially for coaches, the team needs to
know what to expect from them. If a coach is not the same coach at 8-0 as 0-8,
then they are doomed to failure. They will lose the locker room and the culture
that they have tried to create. (Gordon, 39)G10 G11 G12 

            The team, coaches, and players need to be
consistent and committed to focusing on the root, not the fruit. (Gordon, 16)
As soon as a team starts to focus on their past, whether it be good or bad,
they will begin to fail. Complacency is a disease. As Jon Gordon puts it,
“Today’s headlines are tomorrow’s fish wrap” (Gordon, 46). G13 This
is why the Cole Valley girls’ program says to fear complacency and
intentionally pursue the uncomfortable. (Kingery) Coach John Wooden has a
similar philosophy. He says that as soon as you believe that your past is going
to have an impact on your future, you have become infected with success.  “Learn from the past, don’t live in the past”
(Wooden, 57). Losing is only temporary, therefore learn from it and try to
prevent losing in the same way again. He also said, “What was under my control
was how I prepared myself and our team. I judged my success, my ‘winning’ on
that” (Wooden, 81). Winning and losing is part of the journey and no matter
where the journey takes you, you must be committed to the process and
consistent in your approach. G14 

An important part of Culture is
developing leaders and promoting their growth on and off the court/field. If a
coach does not take the time to develop leaders, then there will be none when
the team needs it. But by developing leaders, a coach is seG15 tting their
team up for success. Leaders are the root of player ownership, they hold
teammate accountable to each other. In addition to being accountable, coaches G16 are
able to trust their leaders. Critical plays in Boise State’s history under
Coach Pete have originated from these leaders, plays like “Statue Left”, which
famously won the 2007 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl and “Riddler”, which led to a critical first down
in the 2009 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl victory. If Coach Pete had not spent time
developing leaders, those historic wins may not have happened. (G17 G18 Zonars,
Moeller) Once a coach has those leaders, they want contagious leaders in the
locker room. Coach Smith uses the example of quarterback Matt Ryan. One offseason
Ryan decided that he wanted to gain weight and get stronger. Part of that plan
included being the first person in the locker room, weeks before the off-season
program began. Once his teammates heard what he was doing, they all began their
workouts before the program began. Having positive contagious leaders like Ryan
creates a fire in everyone else to be their best. Which ultimately sets the
team up for success. (Gordon, 30)G19 G20 G21 G22 G23 

Coach Chris Petersen and Coach Wooden
both believe that preparation is a key part of the process. Winning is done
through your preparation in practice. “We prepared so meticulously that we
never, ever felt overwhelmed by another opponent,” said a former player under
Coach Pete (Moeller). Coach WG24 ooden
says that the preparation or
the journey is the important thing. Practice is where players develop and
become who they are going to be. (Wooden, 53) Similarly, one of Cole Valley’s
core values is, “A culture of winning, focused on the process of growth rather
than the outcome of wins or losses” (Kingery). Coach Sells and Coach Kingery
want a culture that focuses on the development of behaviors and traits that
lead to success in basketball and in life. Those behaviors and traits are
developed and demonstrated in practice. Practices are where playing time is
earned. It is through hard work where players demonstrate they are capable of
receiving more minutes in a game. (Kingery)G25 G26 

 Another huge part is communication and
connection. A former player under Coach Pete said that one of his biggest
strengths was his ability to clearly and concisely communicate to the team. Not
only was he able to communicate to the team but to the players individually.

His door was always open to his players, past, and present. He was able to have
meaningful conversations. He was also just as good at talking as listening.

With this combination, he was able to talk with them and teach them life
lessons. This a huge factor into his success. He showed his players that he
cared about them as people in addition to them as players. (Moeller) G27 G28 In
Stephanie Zonar’s article, she found that the coach’s ability to communicate
and give encouragement and feedback to the players, made them feel valued and
helped continue their commitment to the team’s culture. Likewise, Mike Smith
and Jon Gordon talk about how most teams break down because of poor
communication. “Communication is the foundation of every great relationship.

Communication builds trust. Trust generates commitment. Commitment fosters
teamwork, and teamwork delivers results. Without great communication, you don’t
have the trust to build a strong relationship. And without strong
relationships, you can’t have a strong team” (Gordon, 51). Most people
think that communication is talking. But it is also about listening. Listening
enhances communication. G29 G30 Through
communication, the team is able to connect. If a team is disconnected it will
be dysfunctional and dysfunction leads to underperformance. (Gordon, G31 73)

            While those are all good examples of
sociological culture, Brad Stevens has a different style of culture. He still buys
into the process talked about earlier, he also relies on statistics and numbers.

His culture focuses on their “Defensive DNA” and always trying to get his
players to do the things that are important. He broke the Defensive DNA into 6
categories: commitment, positioning, prioritizing, awareness,
education/technique and, completion. G32 (Brad
Stevens, 2017)

In order for the team to be successful,
the players must be completely committed to the system. One of the reasons he
puts so much emphasis on defense is he felt that with young teams, having a
great defensive team gave them the best chance to win. He also challenges his
team statistically. For example, one season Butler was giving up 45% from the
floor, but when they found that if they got three more stops per game, they
would be giving up 39%. When he challenged them on this and because they had
all bought in, they were able to find success. He puts emphasis on prioritizing
what is important. Sometimes coaches put things that are not that important out
of proportion. If a coach wants to put in a new set that is not a great fit for
the team, the coach needs to realize the goals is to stop the other team from
scoring and not some fancy set. Thus he makes sure their system is adjustable
and flexible to fit the teams’ needs and in terms of guarding opponents. (Brad
Stevens, 2017)

Stevens uses practice to focus on individual skills. He says that awareness can
allow a marginal athlete to become a very good defender. 60% of awareness comes
from what you have built through practice/drills/habits and 40% comes from who
you are guarding or what the other team is running. Because technique is easy
to work on in individuals, Stevens spent a lot of time on drilling and
technique. At the same time, he is deliberate in his approach to practice. He
makes sure everything the team is doing serves a purpose, even the conditioning
done in the offseason. G33 G34 G35 (Brad
Stevens, 2017)G36 G37 

Through this research I have learned a
lot about the importance of culture and how Mike Smith, Chris Petersen, John
Wooden, Brad Stevens, Stu Sells, Mike Kingery, and other coaches approach
culture and maintain their teams’ culture.


Works Cited


“Brad Stevens Butler Defense Notes.” Brad
Stevens Defensive Notes, Coaching Tool Box, 4 Aug. 2017,

Gordon, Jon, and Mike Smith. You Win in
the Locker Room First: 7 C’s to Build a Winning Team in Sports, Business, and
Life. Wiley, 2015.

Kingery, Mike, and Stu Sells. “Cole Valley
Christian Girls’ Basketball Handbook.” Meridian, 2017.

Moeller, Katy. “The Man With the Plan.” Idaho
Statesman , 16 Oct. 2010,

Wooden, John, and Steve Jamison. Wooden.

Contemporary Books, 1997.

Zonars, Stephanie. “9 Steps to Transforming Your
Team Culture.” Life Beyond Sport, 10 May 2016,


             I learned that culture is a vital part of a G38 team’s
success and that a lot of time is spent on developing that culture. I also
gained more experience coaching and interacting with players under me. One of
the most satisfying things for me was seeing the confidence, development, and
success of my 7th graders. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience
coaching. At times I found myself feeling insufficient, that I was not good
enough in my interactions with the girls. At the beginning, I was insecure in
my knowledge and position over the girls. This got in the way of my efficiency
and ability as a coach. If I had to do something differently, it would be being
more confident in myself and trusting my knowledge. I was surprised at how
naturally coaching came to me. G39