I received a tape by Dr. John Maxwell recently in which he talks about the lessons he has learned over the years as a writer, teacher, and pastor. As I listened to the tape, I began to ponder the lessons I have learned as a coach over the years and what I would do if actively coaching again.

I certainly have made a number of mistakes and will be the first to admit it. But I also learned something from them that has made me a better teacher and coach today. What were some of my mistakes and the lessons from them?

1. Teams Must Be Built. They Do Not Emerge By Themselves:

Teams are built by coaches and team leaders through daily effort. This has to be a priority and cannot be sacrificed for other things. That is why I feel activities such as team workouts for conditioning are important because your teams are forged during those days of sweating and hurting together as a team.

2. Think About Your Legacy As A Coach vs. 1 Season At A Time:

People do not remember the number of wins and losses, but rather the players you build and the individuals you mold on a daily basis. As Dr. Stephen Covey has said in the 7 HABITS OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE PEOPLE, “Begin with the End in Mind”. The end will come at some point for a coach. What will they say about you?

3. Evaluate Players on What They Can Do, Instead of What They Have Not Done:

This is hard to do because it is so easy to dwell on what a player has done wrong. Instead, I had to begin thinking about how a player will help us at some point and began to build on that. I then went beyond that and really focused on catching players doing something right and praising them for things such as setting hard screens, boxing out, or taking a charge.

4. It is Not What You Run, But How You Run It:

I am an X and O junkie and I was so tempted at times to put in a number of set plays and different options in the offense and use different types of defenses. Instead, I focused on mastering our basic sets and then adding to them as we progressed.

5. Be Hard to Practice For, But Easy to Play For:

Unfortunately, I was the opposite when I was a younger coach. I was so focused on getting players to like me instead of teaching. At game time, however, I was all over them for mistakes that I should have corrected in practice.

6. Teach Something Every Day Beyond The Game of Basketball:

I realized late in my coaching career the huge impact I was having on my players. At times, I was too focused on trying to get the job at the next level instead of working with my current players. So I tried to bring up something everyday that would help them grow not only as basketball players but as people as well. Each season I was a head coach, I assigned a book for the players to read. One season the team read “Tuesdays with Morrie” while the next season they read “Band of Brothers”. I also opened up to them at times about what was going on in my personal life to let them know I was human as well and made mistakes, felt pain and joy, and had goals just like them. I also let them know I made the same mistakes they made sometimes at school and on the court, and that it would all make sense to them one day.

I hope these lessons from my experience will encourage you to ask yourself the same questions I did, “What mistakes have I made, and what lessons have I learned as a coach?”