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Communication for Better Coach/Player relationships

16 Jan

Written by Kevin Sutton – Assistant Coach at the University of Pittsburgh

Genuine relationship building takes time. More than ever before, coaches have to really make a conscience decision to develop genuine relationship with their players. The ability to communicate with your players is an invaluable skill. These relationships allow coaches to earn the respect and trust of their players. Once these genuine relationships have been built teaching can take place. After proper teaching takes place, then improvement will surely follow.

Today’s student-athletes use a variety of methods to communicate through Social mediums and platforms. However, that variety does not necessarily make an individual a great communicator. I am a firm believer that coaches must reach their players on a level where they are most comfortable to truly develop a genuine relationship. These levels can be on an emotional, spiritual, academic, or social. It is also important to choose a location where the student-athletes are comfortable, such as their dorms, the coach’s home, training table and team meal etc.

In high school, I struggled learning Geometry. One day my Geometry teacher attended one of basketball games and it had a huge impact on me because she saw how much basketball meant to me. The next day in class, she told me that I knew more about Geometry than most of the students in my class. I was sure she had lost her mind. She then gave me a piece of paper with the dimensions of the basketball court on it. She started to ask me Geometry questions using lines, angles of the basketball court and I answered all the questions correctly! She met me on my level and created a teachable moment that I will never forget.

Here are some ideas that I have discussed with other coaches and have personally used during my coaching career to develop “genuine relationships” with my players. I am confident that if you try to implement some of these ideas you will be moving in the right direction of developing “genuine relationship” with your players. Theodore Roosevelt said it best when he said, “They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”

  • Get to know their 5 H’s (History, Hopes, Heartaches, Hero and Honey). o Work them out and help them to improve their skills.
o Invite them into your home for a meal.
o One-on-one film sessions
  • Go to their homes to reconnect with their circle of influence.
o Discuss current events to capture their attention, especially if the event touches them personally.
  • Choose books that you can share with them to read and discuss with them when they finish reading the book.
  • Create a group chat via social media. Throw out a topic and encourage the players to speak on the topic freely and openly.
  • Be observant of what your players do, what they say, what they wear & try to connect.
  • Be a great listener. Allow your players the opportunity to express themselves.

Becoming a better communicator and INVESTING in developing genuine relationships with your players will help lead your team to incredible success. We all want our players to “buy in”, however to obtain this you must get them to “believe in” first. Believe in you, your genuine interest in them, their success and what is important to them. “Believe in” is earned through trust, and trust takes time and effort.



How Bench Procedures and Time Out Management Impact the Game.

8 Oct

Written by Kevin Sutton

Assistant Coach at Georgetown University

I. Bench procedures:

– The bench must be totally engaged into the game (mentally and physically). Lack of engagement is a clear indicator to the coach that the player is more concerned with themselves than the team. Being engaged is sending a message to the coaches and the teammates that the player is ready to play and is invested in the game.

– The bench must cheer for their teammates and not sit as a spectator. The cheering must be positive and empowering. It must be the type of cheering that you would want to hear when you are on the floor.

– The players on the bench stand and extent their hand to the teammate that is coming out the game. This is a form of solidarity and a demonstration of TEAMWORK!

– The player exiting the game must “high five” with each member on the bench and pick up their water at the end of the bench from the manager and return to the available seat next to an assistant coach so that they can receive feedback on their performance. The touch and agreeing is acknowledging of their teammates.

– Never go to the end of then bench to sit after coming out of the game. This will only allow the player to disengage with the team and think of themselves. The player will invariably start to ask questions of themselves and others as to why he got taken out the game. Also by going to the end of the bench the assistant coaches can not give them the proper feedback that can be helpful to the player and, more importantly, the team.

– Be vocal, especially when the team’s defense is in front of the bench. This is a great way to start the game engaged. Communicating with your teams while you are on the bench is equally as valuable as the communication that is taking place on the court. Provided that the communication is the same and it benefits the team.

– When a time out is called, sprint out to meet your teammates who are in the game but do not cross half court (rule violation). Whether the situation is good or bad, the team must remain a team (a unit). Furthermore, it sends a message to your opponents that they are playing a TEAM and not a collection of individuals.

II.  Time outs:

Another aspect of the game of basketball that often gets over looked and is often mismanaged are Timeouts.  You can easily identify the most successful teams from the teams that do not win by their time outs. It is their structure and organization that allows for the maximum amount of necessary information to be disseminated during the timeout.  As soon as the ball is put into play you will know right away how much of the information was retained. Winning teams execute after timeouts (ATO).

Each team is given the same number of timeouts per game. How they are used and when they are used often have an impact on the outcome of the games.  I love the rules that the NBA and FIBA use regarding time outs in their games. Both the NBA and FIBA place a high value on timeouts which makes their respective games more interesting from a tactical standpoint.

There are two types of timeouts in the College and High School game; the 30 second time out and the Full time out.  Each must be handled differently by the coach so that the timeout is maximized positively and not wasted negatively.

A. 30 second timeout:

The players in the game must remain standing up and on the court. The players not in the game must remain off the court. So, it is imperative that the players in the game SPRINT off the court to the bench area.  The players in the game should remain in front of the coach standing from the coaches left to right (players right to left) 1-5 (pt.g, g, sf, pf & c). By lining up this way, the coach does not have to look around for each player, he can talk freely because he knows exactly where each position/player is in the huddle.

B. Full Time out/TV time outs:

These timeouts are longer. The managers will hand out the towels and water bottles while the coaches meet away from the team. When the head coach is ready to address the team all water and towels are taken away by the managers so that the players an give the coach their full attention. The players will sit from the coaches left to right 1-5.  Every coach should have a role during full/tv time outs: one coach should know the foul and timeout situation. Another coach should watch for changes in the opponents line ups and potential match ups. The coach responsible for the scout should assist the head coach the most during timeouts. The head manager must help to get the team out of the huddle after the first horn sounds.

III. Conclusion:

Winning is hard!  Consistently winning is even harder. The teams that consistently win have a bench procedure and effectively manage time outs with their organization. They win more games than they lose. They understand the impact that both aspects have on the game. Just watch how engaged their bench is during the game, look how the players coming off the bench perform,and finally, look how well they execute after time out (either offensively or defensively).

Rule of the 1/3

30 Sep

Written by Kevin Sutton

Assistant Coach Georgetown

One of today’s buzz words when trying to build a team/culture is “buy in”.  Every coach is trying to get their players to “buy in”. Early in my coaching career I had the unbelievable opportunity to attend a Temple University practice conducted by Hall of Fame Coach John Chaney.

The topic of the day for Coach Chaney was ” are you buying what I am selling?”. Coach Chaney said, ” if you trust me, if you believe in me and if you listen to me, then you will buy what I am selling you. If you don’t, then you won’t”.  He finished by saying, this is a fact of life. “Buy in” begins and ends with trust! “Buy in” is an indication of a person’s commitment level.

As coaches trying to get your players to “buy in” to you, your program, your style of play, your culture.  Remember the rule of the 1/3.

The rule of the 1/3 says that 1/3 of the group will “buy in” into the coaching staff right away. They trust you, they believe in you, they know that you want them to be successful. We will call this group 1.  Group 2 is the 1/3 of the team that wants to “buy in”. They do things the coach wants them to do, but they need to be convinced more, motivated more, taught more why “buy in” will not only help the team, but each individual as well.  We will call them Group 2.  The last 1/3 of the team is the group that does not want to “buy in”. They have trust issues, they question everything. They don’t believe in the coach, the process or anything about the program.  This is group 3.

Through my experiences as a coach I have learned that too many coaches focus on Group 3 trying to get them to “buy in”.  In actuality the group that the coach needs to focus their attention on is Group 2. The coach just needs to “sell” them more persuasively, or motivate them more creatively.  When the coach gets group 2 to “buy in” they now have 2/3’s of the team “bought in” to the staff, to the program, to the culture.

Now that 2/3’s of the team has “bought in” the coaching staff can focus their attention on getting 1/2 of group 3 to “buy in”. The coaching staff and 2/3’s of the team will see certain members of group 3 starting to believe in, starting to move in the direction that is more in line with majority of the team.

At this point it should clear to the coaching staff that those last members of group 3 are not going to “buy in” so they need to be “BOUGHT OUT”!  

The rule of 1/3 can be a helpful tool when you are trying to get “buy in”.

How to Successfully Navigate Your Career

3 Jul

Written by
Kevin Sutton
Georgetown University

Every one has their own story to tell and no one can tell that story better than the individual.

In the profession of Coaching there is truly no one way to reaching your ultimate goal(becoming a head coach).

As you chart your path through the coaching profession I really believe there are a few questions that the individual should ask themselves:

1. What is the “end game” my ultimate goal?

2. What is my definition of Success?

3. How important is Longevity?

4. What sacrifices am I willing to make?

5. Am I prepared to make those sacrifices?

Throughout my 27 year coaching career I have always referred back to those questions when making my decision. My career has been a myriad of thoughtful, logical and progressional steps. I have always tried to remain “true” to who I was at my core principals and values. Through introspection you come to know and define who you are as a person and as a coach.

The coaching profession like all professions has evolved a lot in a number of different ways. So to successful advance in your career you must have a understanding and working knowledge of the influences that are changing the game as it pertains to advancement in coaching


Social media:

Search firms


Attending professional development
Coaching U
Villa 7
A Step Up

Writing Blogs:
Own website
Chalk talk
Basketball HQ
George Raveling

Getting published:
Winning Hoops
Ebooks online
Basketball Magazines
Fiba Assist Magazine

I really feel that the number one thing that you can do is to do a great job right where you are. “Bloom where you are planted” -Pastor Joel Osteen. That is the most important job you have.

Another very important part to successfully advancing in your career is the ability to connect/network. You must make an effort to build your network. You must connect with people and build a relationship with them before you can ask them to go to bat for you. The old adage is: connect with people before you need them to do something for you.

Build your brand/reputation on an aspect of the game,(skill developer, recruiter, scout, x &o guy etc). Don’t allow yourself to be pigeoned hole to that one aspect. Involve yourself in learning about the other aspect of the game. When you involve yourself then you can add those new skills to your already existing skill set.

I truly believe that the more versatile you are, the more valuable you are. This is something that we say to our players all the time. It should apply to advancing in your career too!

To successfully advance in your career means that you must invest in yourself. Grow as the profession grows, connect to establish, maintain and grow your network. Make your work ethic be your number One skill.

The Effective use of Social Media

18 Jun

Written by Kevin Sutton
Assistant Coach
Georgetown University

The Effective use of Social Media has:

1. Allowed me to become and stay relevant

2. Allowed me to establish, cultivate and grow my target audience

3. Given me to have a platform to communicate what I am about.

4. Allowed me to create a brand, grow my brand. Create brand identity.

5. Allowed me to create brand awareness.

6. Allowed me to connect with people who have similar interest.

7. Allowed me to share ideas and thoughts and create future potential connection opportunities.

8. Allowed me to promote my brand without writing in the first person.

9. Allowed me to communicate to a wider audience more quickly and easily. Reach a new audience that I normally would not.

10. Allowed me to show different sides of my personality with different forms of Social media that I use.

Deserving success/victory

26 Feb

Deserving success/victory
Written by Kevin Sutton
Assistant Coach – Georgetown

I am a firm believer that you must deserve success/victory. How does one “deserve success /victory”?
1. By being concerned about success of the team 1st.
2. By respects the game.
3. By valuing and enhancing the culture of the team.
4. By showing respect for their teammates
5. He/she “buys in” to helping the program become successful.
6. By understanding that Deserving success/victory is a “action phrase”
7. By committing to the principle that success/victory is about sacrifice.
8. By believing in the system, the game plan, the team and the coaching staff.

In a nutshell, deserving success/ victory is about creating your own luck through the collective habits, culture, and spirit of the team, and it is about working to reach the potential of the team through “shared suffrage” and “selfless service”.

There is a distinct difference between wanting success/victory and deserving success/victory.

Everyone wants success/victory. Those deserving success/victory spend their time in action, working toward earning their success/victory.

Deserving success/victory encompasses the emotional, the psychological, the intellectual as well as the physical wellness of the team.

Building your scouting report for the second time that you play an opponent

14 Feb

Written by Kevin Sutton, Assistant Men’s Basketball Coach at Georgetown

When you are building your scouting report for the second time you are playing an opponent, the second report should be different than the first report. The focus of the report should be on what has happened in the last 5 games leading into your game. You should also look at the summary notes that you have taken from the first time you played the opponent. You need to look at the first game again on film and make edits of the games., as well as take notes from the film.

Here are several questions that I use to help me formulate the second scouting report:

1. What are the recent trends of their team? Are they now playing more man or zone? Offensively are they running new sets?
2. Have there been any changes in their rotation?
3. Are there any injuries? What role will it play?

Statistical Breakdown:
1. Look at stats of starters
2. Look at stats of substitutes
3. Look at the overall stats
4. Look at the stats from the conference
5. Breakdown of the stats from the last 5 games
6. Look to determine if they are shooting more free throws than earlier in the year.

Video Breakdown:
1. Personal edits
2. Offensive edits
3. Chart their offensive frequency and efficiency
4. Chart their out of bounds plays

Second scouting reports should focus more on the opponent’s personnel and not so much on their style of play. Knowing more about the individual tendencies can help you when you are defending them.

Second Scouting reports should focus on learning the keys to tipping off their plays.

Second Scouting reports should focus on figuring out trends of your opponents, such as play sequences, play frequency, substitution rotations, after time out tendencies. Offensively-calls for OB plays, set plays, Defensively – do they change defense from man to zone or zone to man.


The Second Scouting Report should put the players in a proper frame of mind for them to perform at their best by having a “digestible amount” of information. The outcomes of the game will more often than not be, determined by the team who plays there hardest together throughout the course of the game!