The authors of Bare Knuckle People Management know successful people management is easier than a lot of managers make it. Kulisek and O’Neil’s no-nonsense insights are not only amusing but on the mark. If you are a manager looking to improve the performance of your team, someone who just became a manager or think you would like to become a manager, you will be glad you read this book.

—Paul Mott, Head of Club Services, Major League Soccer

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Kid Hoops Coaching: 3 Lessons that Apply to Your Team

I have 13-year-old twin sons, and I’ve been coaching their CYO basketball team for the past several years. In the process, I found that nothing provides a better laboratory for management training than coaching newly pubescent boys squeezed into tiny church gyms with their parents waiting to pounce at even the slightest misstep.

Along my often bumpy coaching road, I’ve stumbled upon some useful management lessons that likely apply to you and your team:

  1. Tell them What You Plan to Do…and Do it. At first I thought it worked just because they were kids, but then I realized their parents needed it too. People like to know what your “philosophy” is, where you plan to take the team, and how you plan to take them there. It comforts them to know that you’re not walking in the dark. Each season I’ve laid out 3 “themes” (this year’s: play like you belong, play as a team, play without fear), which has helped orient us and keep us on track. When I debrief games, I often bucket my comments in terms of these themes to give my feedback context.
  2. Teach Them How to Operate on Their Own. Coaches love their set plays – nifty little gadgets that can convey the appearance of a well-coached team. The problem is that set plays break down for a variety of factors – the defense doesn’t behave like you anticipated, the ball bounces the wrong way, etc. Like work, basketball is more complicated in real life than whatever you can draw up on a white board. If your kids only know how to operate in the context of a well-scripted play, they’ll flounder when s#!t happens. Try instituting a loose structure and letting your team figure it out for themselves. You’ll see where you’ll need to add structure and provide more attention, and in the process your team will learn to operate independently, which will free you up to tend to other critical items.
  3. Be Yourself (unless you’re Bobby Knight). Any one of my team parents will tell you (and they would be right) that in the beginning of my coaching career I made a habit of pacing the sidelines, working the refs, imploring my team, and scowling like Mike D’Antoni when things went awry. But over time I learned that these things weren’t “me” and often resulted in poorer team performance. At one point during our second season, I had the kids complete a survey about their experience on the team. One theme came through loud and clear…they liked it better when I didn’t yell so much. Yikes! I enlisted them to help me correct the problem by letting me know when I was behaving badly. And they did, routinely and with vigor. I admittedly still catch myself squatting low and pounding the floor like Rick Pitino, but I usually catch myself, stand upright, and become myself again…much to my kids’ delight.
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  1. by Kevin on

    Great article Sean. As a B2B account manager who happens to coach hoops, I find these comparisons very relevant and true. Thanks


    • by Sean O'Neil on

      Thanks so much, Kevin. Your support is greatly appreciated!


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