Coaches, What Are We Doing?

This video is a few years ago, but the message Coach Van Gundy delivers is spot on.  Our role as youth coaches is to teach skills. Period.

This year is my first season as an assistant coach on my son’s traveling basketball team.  We are a “C” level team which means most of the kids have developing fundamentals – bringing the basketball up the court is enough of a challenge, let alone dealing with zone defenses, presses and the like.

In our first few tournaments we encountered situations where pressing and zone were allowed. Unfortunately, we ran into teams that decided that it was more important to press as long as the tournament rules allowed, then fall back into a zone trap once they had established big leads. What is the purpose of doing that? I think it’s exactly what Coach says in the video – the coaches are more interested in bragging to their buddies about their coaching prowess, rather than building skills. Even in a 40 point win, I argue by employing pressing they are not building skills either. Stealing the ball becomes their offense.

The other part that stinks, is that to attempt to avoid potential embarrassment in a tournament we have to spend over 50% of our practice time on press breaking. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could get away from that and teach the kids how to dribble, pass and shoot? I’d like to propose that at lower levels we ban everything but man-to-man defenses.

On a positive note, we did run into one tournament where pressing was banned. It was a much better experience for the kids overall. Why can’t that be the rule?


An Old Classic: The Dixon Ticonderoga Pencil


My son Jacob is starting to work long division in his Math class in 4th grade. It is a source of some painful memories as I remember how much I struggled with it. In retrospect, this is funny because I went on to get a degree in Math.

However, I rediscovered a critical tool in my studies, the Dixon Ticonderoga pencil as pictured above. This was the ultimate math tool that I used through college. It always felt good in my hand, had a amazing eraser, and it always sharpened up so nicely. Simply stated, this is just plain better than any pencil. We bought a box for use at home, and it sure is canceling out the pain of reliving long division.

Getting Some Brain Food, Or The Start of Something Bigger?

Food for the Body and Soul

A couple of weeks ago, I finished off my involvement with Shannon Park Lego League by hosting the Showcase that had been previously postponed by weather.  That night, I chose to have a steak dinner (a bone-in ribeye steak, please).  Yes, I was hungry, but my soul needed it more than anything to mark the closure of this commitment I made a few years ago.  I think the mind is a lot the same.  It needs to be fed from time to time to keep it sharp.

Last night, I started a Mini-Masters course on Marketing Management at the University of St. Thomas.  A few months ago, I decided to enter this course as a way to broaden my capabilities beyond the technical, leadership and management work I do today.  In essence, it will provide some brain food.  A healthy thing, I think.

As I sat through the 3 hour lecture from the professor, I feel like I may have stumbled onto potentially several other opportunities for me to make Big Plays in my life.  I see opportunities immediately to apply the knowledge I am gaining to my current job, but also it got me wondering if there is a new Big Play I haven’t even though of yet?  Is it a start of a new direction, or a new way to contribute within my current responsibilities?  Only time will tell, but my eyes, ears, heart and mind are open to the possibilities ahead.

Have We Inspired A Future Engineer?

1/29/2011 - Shannon Park Lego League Showcase @ RMS

Yesterday, I had the privilege of hosting the Shannon Park Lego League Showcase at Rosemount Middle School.  The event was rescheduled from last December, due to a snowstorm.  I am glad we had the opportunity to have the event, even with the long delay.  Our attendance was down a little bit, but for those who made it, a good time was had.

I have been at this for three seasons now, as you can see in my blog site.  It started from some inspiration from Dr. Dean Kamen in the spring of 2008, and today my focus changes to getting a competitive team organized next fall (assuming my son Jacob is still interested).  My thought process in 2008 was trying to build an equivalent of an in-house program, which in theory is designed to reach a broad audience to start, then move to a more focused and competition-ready program (akin to traveling sports) once the foundation is in place.

After leaving the event yesterday, I believe the foundation is there at Shannon Park Elementary.  It is now up to someone else to pick it up and move it forward.  I am ready to start phase two, as described above.

The big question, which will remain unanswered for some time, is “By starting this program, did we inspire a young engineer of the future?”  I would like to think so, but only time will tell.  In my closing remarks to the Showcase attendees yesterday, I encouraged them to never stop asking the “What If?” question.  Maybe, just maybe, this effort will yield an innovation of the future that will improve our lives.

I took my shot on making a big play here.  We’ll have to wait and see if it was indeed a big play.  On to the next one!

Big Play: Raising Your Profile

I am not the kind of person that likes doing the same thing over and over again.  Add the expectation of a different result and then you define insanity.  Yes, I know, there are certain things we have to do repeatedly, like take out the trash.  I’m talking about the causes in life that really matter, like career, marriage and family.  As we evolve in these life journeys, there are times that some intelligent risk taking to move the cause forward with the intent of making for a better life for myself and others.  I had a situation a couple of weeks ago that I decided to try to raise the stakes a little bit.  Let me try to describe it a little bit.


Margo Relaxing in Her Favorite Spot


I was shopping at our local big-box pet store a couple of weeks ago.  En route to the register with sixty pounds of cat food on my shoulder, I ran into the principal of my son’s school, Shannon Park Elementary.  He has been a great supporter of my efforts to develop our Lego League program.  I decided to stop and ask him for some more support in my quest to transition the program leadership to someone else, so I could focus next year on building the competitive Lego League program.  He was quick to offer some great suggestions for ways to engage, and the best one was the idea to contact the local paper to do a story about what we accomplished.  Two emails the next day, and we got the interview scheduled.  This previous post talks more about the interview.

Here is the final story for the paper.  I am very proud of the coverage we got out of the experience, and I am hopeful by raising the profile of our program in Rosemount I can inspire more people to get involved to inspire science and technology pursuits with our children.

In this case, we will see if taking the initiative to raise the program’s profile will pay off for me to transition leadership of this program to the next person.  I have some more thoughts about profile raising — stay tuned for future posts.

Shannon Park Lego League In The News

Getting The Story For The Town Pages

Today we were visited by Nathan, the editor of the Rosemount Town Pages.  He visited the Shannon Park Lego League practice to see what is going on with our program.  We spent about 30 minutes together discussing the great things going on with our young inventors.  We saw a few demos from our 4th and 5th graders and their robots, plus a visit with the Groovy Skeletons team of 3rd graders.  I do not have information to share as to when this will be in the Town Pages, but I will post it when I get it.

Thanks to Mr. Guthrie, who facilitated the meeting.  This will be great exposure for our program in the community.