Category Archives: Leadership

Takeaways from Calipari’s “Players First”

Players First John CalipariThe University of Kentucky’s John Calipari is one of the most polarizing figures in basketball today as fans across the country either love him or hate him.

The most important and interesting thing to me, however, is that Coach Cal’s players all seem to love him and that tells me he must be doing something right.

Not too long ago Calipari wrote a book called “Players First: Success from the Inside Out.”

Here are 35 quotes from that book that were originally posted at

What do you think of the very first quote? It’s definitely a different twist on the traditional “play for the name on the front of the jersey” quote.

Notice Coach Cal isn’t telling his players to play for the names on the back (their own) but that he is going to coach the team as a whole and individually.

  1. I coach for the names on the backs of the jerseys – not just the front.  My players.”

  3. “In almost all cases, their (the players) dream is to play in the NBA as soon as possible.  The more who achieve that goal, the more who want to come here.  That’s the way it works.  Success breeds more success.”

  5. “None of my players are as ready as they think they are for how we play at Kentucky – let alone ready for the pros – because they have rarely if ever been really pushed.”

  7. “As I became more secure, I liked that I could make my life about everyone but me.”

  9. “Institutions serve people, not the other way around.  So as a servant-leader, I measure my success by the success of those whom I’m serving.”

  11. “The art of coaching at this level is about convincing great athletes to change.  First we have to get them to accept what they’re not good at…Surrender to our instruction.  Surrender to physical conditioning.”

  13. “You want to know what delusional is?  I’ve had to say to kids, ‘You’re listening to your barber instead of listening to us.’”

  15. “Practice is where we work on our players’ weaknesses; games are where we show their strengths.”

  17. “A player who is looking for excuses doesn’t want you to put the responsibility on him.  It robs him of his best self-justification.”

  19. “When you bring in great players to play with other great players, there’s a multiplier effect, and they up better than they would have been individually.  They drive one another in practice.”

  21. “When players combine elite athleticism and great determination, you don’t worry too much about position.”

  23. “If you need someone to be Superman at the end to win games, you’re going to lost games.”

  25.  “Thinking about how you would try to beat your own team goes with the job of being a coach.”

  27. “If I’m forced to choose between talent and experience, I’m taking talent every time.  You can gain experience and you can add skills, but what’s sometimes called God-given talent is just that.”

  29. “The best players I’ve coached have a demeanor about them that never moves.  They have a calmness…Physiology-wise, rage and anger are related to fear.”

  31. “Part of coaching is acting.  It’s true of any kind of leadership, whether you’re a CEO, an army general, or a father.  Part of the job is that you don’t reveal your own apprehensions.”

  33. “You’re going to make mistakes, just play through them.”

  35. “I had truly gone from the business of basketball to the business of helping families.”

  37. “During the season it’s about team.  From the moment our last game ends until the draft, it switches over to being about individual kids.”

  39. “You don’t know if you will win or lose until you do.  I don’t give up on kids.  I don’t give up on teams.  I don’t give up on seasons.”

  41. “Even when we won, I wasn’t fully satisfied, which is how you’re supposed to coach.  You’re happy, but you ask for more.  You try to get up to the next level.”

  43. “Competition gets you out of bed in the morning.  It makes you alive and it makes you better.  It reveals the best and the worst in us.  You learn whether you can stand up and respond to being challenged, or whether you back down.  When you start getting beaten, you either change or you fail.”

  45. “Nothing in my Players First philosophy says that I should protect kids from competition.  It’s just the opposite.  I serve them by giving them competition.”

  47. “Recruiting is sales.  It’s persuasion.  But a salesman who’s a fake isn’t a very good salesman – or at least he’s not good at selling to intelligent people.”

  49. “My players have to have the intellect to absorb coaching and the emotional intelligence to be good teammates.”

  51. “The quality I’m looking for in a kid is respect.”

  53. “Classroom smarts and academic achievement relate to what we often call basketball IQ. I always want a kid who’s a good student.”

  55. “The one thing no one on my staff can do is add stuff to my plate…If you’re piling more things on, I may have to let you go.”

  57. “I need people who look at adversity as a challenge and failure as a learning opportunity.”

  59. “If you’re a coach who truly respect the profession, you have to allow yourself to be coached.”

  61. “I’m a collector of coaches, teachers, and mentors.  The ones from my younger days I keep in contact with and never let go.  And as I get older, I keep finding new ones.”

  63. “You must love the thought of pushing through your comfort level.”

  65. “Do you want to read about history or make history?”

  67. “Honesty and its related quality, trust, are at the very core of my coaching philosophy.”

  69. “Just because you’re a year older doesn’t automatically make you a year better.”

How to Seperate Yourself from the Pack

Pat Riley ShowtimeHere is some great advice from basketball Hall of Fame coach Pat Riley who is now the President of the Miami Heat.

It is taken from Riley’s book “Showtime.” Although the book is a little older it is still full of awesome insights for players and coaches alike.

The ones who can really separate themselves from the pack are those who understand what it takes to sustain excellence. To get away from a “to have” mentality. “To have” is something we get early in our life. To have power. To have a little bit of prestige. To have position. To have the car and the house and all those things that we feel that we need.

And then you understand later on in your career that those things don’t mean anything. When you experience them you realize the only thing left is to be the very best. You prioritize “to be” over “to have.” And when you’re thinking about being the very best, you’re making sure that you’re being a person, a performer, whom you can be proud of.”

A Closer Team Might Only be a Touch Away

Closer TeamsOften times a team’s culture is reflected in it’s day to day activities, routines, and traditions.

Some of these routines need initial instruction and explanation and others are so simple and obvious that everyone catches on immediately.

One such routine takes place it the UCONN women’s program. At the beginning of every practice coach Geno Auriemma has the team gather around  the center circle at mid court.

While Coach Auriemma is talking, each player quietly and discreetly touches the player next to her until they’ve worked their way all around the circle.

The touches might include a quick pat on the back, a tug on the shorts, or a slight fist bump – each player seems to have her own style and preference.

It’s not important how its done but why it’s done is very important. The touches signify that everyone is “all in” together, that everyone is important and that no matter what they do in practice that day (or what happened the day before) they are united.

The most interesting thing about this UCONN tradition is that even though it has been going on for years Coach Auriemma has no idea who actually started it.

That means a player started it, obviously without recognition or fanfare, in hopes of bringing her teammates a little closer.

What are you doing each and every day to bring your teammates closer together?


A Simple Trick to Improve Team Chemistry

Team Chemistry TipWant to bring your team a little closer together?

Then try this really simple yet effective technique – from now on have every player and every coach touch every other player or coach he sees throughout the day.

High five, fist bump, choreographed team hand shake – it doesn’t matter as long as there’s some type of quick intentional physical contact.

The key word here is EVERY.

Every player and every coach gets the exact same treatment and attention regardless of personality, grade, or stature.

Leading rebounders, bench warmers, head coaches and volunteer assistant coaches are all greeted and acknowledged by everyone else.

No one is left out!

It might sound silly but try it for two weeks and I promise your team chemistry will improve and everyone on the team will be a little tighter!

Coaching Advice from Ohio State’s Urban Meyer

Coach AdviceWhen Ohio State was announced as the fourth and final team to get into this season’s inaugural football playoff many were disappointed, especially TCU and Baylor.

Anyone who has followed Urban Meyer’s coaching career certainly couldn’t have been surprised because the guy flat out knows how to win!

However, when author Pat Williams asked Coach Meyer what advice he would give coaches just starting out in the profession, his answer undoubtedly surprised many,

Here’s the best piece of advice that I can offer any young coach: you don’t have to be a nutcase to be successful as a coach. If you don’t have balance in your life, you’ll be consumed by the job. You’ll destroy your family and end up in the street without a life. You can be a successful coach and still be a good husband and dad. You can have all the success in the world, but without a balanced life you’re not a good coach as far as I’m concerned. You’ve got to have something other than coaching.

That’s great advice at any time of year but especially important during the holiday season. Don’t be so consumed by preseason games and Christmas tournaments that you completely forget about your family, your friends, and the reason we celebrate this time of year.