A Professional Perspective on Playing Time and Parental Petitioning  Comments (0)

Doc_Rivers_1As a parent, you want your children to have every opportunity to succeed and be happy. As a coach, you want every one of your players to have the most success and fun they each can. But as a coach, you have to make choices about playing time.

Doc Rivers is the current head coach of the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team. He has been a professional basketball coach nearly continuously since 1999, also spending time in the same position with the Orlando Magic and the Boston Celtics.

Like many of you, Rivers has children who play the sport he coaches. One of his children complained of his less-than-expected playing time, and asked his father to call the team coach and lobby for playing time. Rivers declined to intercede, and here’s why…


I believe there is a valuable lesson to learn here. Every coach wants to win. If you want to play more, practice long enough and intensely enough to get better. Much better. That will make it impossible for a coach not to pick you or play you.

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“Embrace your sacrifice. Know that sacrifice develops perseverance, and perseverance fosters character, and character drives us to succeed and be fulfilled.”

The Coach
Jeff Noreman


Life Lessons – Disappointment  Comments (0)

One of the great things that baseballs can teach young ballplayers is how to deal with adversity and rejection.

The great majority of youth leagues and teams nowadays have “must play” rules. Everyone makes a team. Everyone gets to play at least every other inning. This has the advantage of keeping every player involved in the game and all their parents connected. These are good things. Kids will hopefully turn this into a longlasting love of the game.

However, what these rules do is also take away much of the competition. Nobody has to compete to make a team. There is no great incentive for players to spend time between their baseball seasons practicing to get better so they have a better chance of earning a spot. Life is full of competition some of it fair and some of it stacked against you. At some point everyone needs to learn to deal with this reality in order to make the most of every situation.


This season, I am coaching again at the high school level. Of course, we had to make cuts. We told some teenagers that had played baseball since they were five or six years old that we weren’t offering spots to them this year. However, we told every young player specifically what we thought they should do to improve their game. To make our lives difficult next year when figuring out who to keep and who to cut. We told them that we believe that they could make the team if they worked hard in the next 350 days. How many young men do you think will do that?

One parent wrote an email to us, telling us how sad it was to see Johnny’s dreams crushed. We were told that he threw his baseball glove in the trash that night after he was cut. So parents, ask yourself these questions.

How would you handle this if your son acted that way?
Is fifteen old enough to give up on something for good?
After allowing your son a short period to feel sad, what would you encourage him to do?

It’s an absolute – the game eventually tells everyone when it’s time to stop playing highly competitively. As you rise in the ranks of baseball, the talent gets stronger and there are fewer available spots at the highest levels. You may never get to play at those levels, but there’s still plenty of opportunity to enjoy the game. There are recreational teams in almost every area of the country for almost every age level.

Never let one coach’s decision take the game away from you.

Lessons from the Legend – Dean Smith  Comments (0)


Courtesy of UNC Athletic Communications

Photo by Bob Donnan

On Saturday, February 7, 2015, legendary former University of North Carolina head basketball coach Dean Smith died at his home in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. He was 83 years old. (photo on right by Bob Donnan)

Smith was a keen observer, an innovator, and an advocate who brought much to the game of basketball. He was the first to implement the four-corners offense in games, a delay-tactic offense which drove his opponents crazy. That brought about the institution of the shot clock in college basketball, which sped up the game, which created an advantage to athletic and talented teams. Like his Tar Heels.

He created “Senior Day” to showcase his players who were graduating, whether they were starters, role players, or walk-ons. Under Smith, they all started Senior Day. If there happened to be six seniors, they would all be on the court at the beginning of the game. Although this violation would lead to a Carolina technical foul and automatic foul shots by their opponent, all got to start a game on Senior Day.

Photo by Hugh Morton

Under Smith, his players began a very simple system of acknowledgement that is used quite often today. After a Carolina player scored a basket, he pointed to the person who passed him the ball, the player who got the assist on that score. You can see this gesture today not only at UNC, but at every level of basketball. Even eight and nine-year old basketballers do this now in their local youth league games. (photo on left by Hugh Morton)

Smith was loyal to his players, his coaches, and even his competition. It was his “Carolina Way.” He would go out of his way to help any of his former assistant coaches find jobs in the sport, and his players in whatever field they entered. When asked, he would give them advice on personal and family issues, and sometimes even on how to choose for whom to vote.

MichaelJordanDeanSmithSmith was modest. After he won his 877th victory as head coach (putting him in the lead for most victories), he withdrew to the locker room at the first moment he could.  In the mide 1980’s when UNC informed him that they were going to name their new basketball arena after him, Smith pleaded with them not to. He lost that battle, and the Dean Dome still carries his name today.

Author John Feinstein started (but never completed) a biography of Smith’s life. He asked Smith about a now well-known series of incidents in 1958 when the coach became involved in desegregating restaurants in Chapel Hill. Feinstein found out some details after interviewing Smith’s preacher, but Smith said he wished the preacher hadn’t brought it to light. Feinstein asked him why he wasn’t proud of his part in the noble cause of advancing equality.

“John, you should never be proud of doing the right thing,” Smith told him. “You should just do the right thing.”

DeanSmithcropped2Smith never missed a game in his head coaching career. And he only missed one practice. On that day, he was in Los Angeles watching a practice at UCLA run by “The Wizard of Westwood,” John Wooden.

Of course, the numbers that Smith amassed are astounding. During his 36 seasons, the Tar Heels won two National Championships, appeared in the Final Four 11 times (one behind Wooden), and had 27 NCAA tournament appearances (including 23 consecutive). He had the most Division I 20-win seasons, with 27 consecutive (from 1970–1997). His 77.6% winning percentage ranks him 9th highest. He is enshined in five Halls of Fame. Perhaps his most impressive statistic was that there was a 96.6% graduation rate among his players.

Although he never coached baseball and I never got to speak with him personally, Dean Smith is the coach from whom I learned the most about coaching and life. He taught me that a coach should be more than a guy that understands X’s and O’s. He let his players and colleagues all know that he genuinely cared for them long after their paths took them in different directions. Years and years after their time together at UNC, he reached out to so virtually all of them with letters and phone calls, and welcomed them when they came to him. He remembered the names of their parents, siblings, wives, and children. A coach could be a man who made the lives of all those with whom he crossed paths richer. And that’s a lesson every coach can use.