Fight the Good Fight

Coach Calipari

I was fortunate enough to have Coach John Calipari recruit me when he was the coach at UMASS in 1990. We ended up seeing each other twice a year, from 1991-1993, when UMASS would kick our Duquesne BUTTS. Following that, he would take a couple of minutes to drop some wisdom to me at the Five Star basketball camp. You know how much I love learning from anyone that is willing to share.  I love what Coach Calipari shared with me back then and I LOVE what he says here today. This is how I coach players; male, female, young or experienced. MAKE THEM FEEL YOU!

The concepts below are apart of my Systematic Curriculum and guess what, they work! Hall of Fame Coach Cal agrees!

1. Take the player’s mind and body to a place where it have never been before

You heard Coach Cal, “they have played like that their entire lives.” Now they are with you, you give them the knowledge they have never heard or had before, you show and demand they act in a way toward their teammates, the program that they have never seen before. You demand they play a consistent, gritty and tough level of basketball that they have never FELT before in each practice.

2. There is no resolution without positive confrontation

Coach Cal calls it “making the players feel uncomfortable.”  He wants them to get used to it, because this is what is expected. We must demand a lot from our players, for example, during 1 on 0, 2 on 0, and 3 on 0 drills,  Coaches should demand players to execute the drills, concepts and movements perfectly.

Why? No one is guarding them!

Players need to have the same mindset  like Kobe Bryant (In practice Kobe always chased perfection). Head up, cut hard, passes need to be on target with some “zip,” make open shots, talk to your teammates, high five them, etc.

In 5 on 5 play, defend entire possessions, contest every shot, box out, run the floor, get 50/50 balls, limit turnovers, make open shots, hit the open man, rebound the ball, etc.

Chasing perfection will make players feel uncomfortable, but this is how they will be successful.

Ganon Baker

As coaches/trainers we have to praise right, correct wrong. Call them out with authority if they are underachieving. We have to hold them accountable, correct them, give intervention (feedback & correction) during play. We can’t “overlook it”  because you don’t want to CONFRONT a player. Get after their bad habits, but don’t break their heart & spirit. As Coach Cal said, no need for swearing, punching, kicking. Correct the bad habit, keep the kid! 

3.Make practice HELL so that the game is HEAVEN

 I have been saying this for decades. Any player or Coach who has ever seen my workouts can attest that it’s tough & excruciating.

Sometimes you have to incite, create, manufacture, physical and emotional PAIN in workouts to show players how STRONG they are and also to learn and gain this strength. When PAIN hits a player in a workout, it introduces themselves to who they really are.  If they don’t like who they are, then they will change!

As Coach Cal said, Coaches need to raise the bar, not their swearing, kicking or punching. As a Coach, you have to create an atmosphere in practice where players have to find solutions, get used to PLAYING tired, in pain, uncomfortable, frustrated, and confused. That’s the job of a Coach. As I said, if the practice is hell and if you can survive and thrive in it, then the game will be heaven! 


As a Player Development Coach, the only way you can take a player to “hell and back,”  is if you to go there first. Your mental, emotional and physical basketball toolbox and curriculum must be LEGIT! Your stamina must be impeccable. You must have multiple truthful solutions for every problem that your player has. You have to be good enough mentally to communicate clearly what you want, your emphasis must be “crystal.”  Your EQ (Emotional Intelligence) must be “Ivy League” great! Your passion, energy, humor, charisma, ability to connect, courage to confront, must be at an all-time high!

All the points above have helped me be successful in this industry for nearly nineteen (19) years and I still feel I have a lot to work on. I know I can keep getting better! 

Thank you for the inspiration, Coach Cal! Good words Coach!

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