July/August 2016
Winning Starts Off the Court
When you hear the word "winner, what comes to mind? For many, it's raising a championship trophy or cutting down the nets. Ultimately, it's being recognized as the best team at your respective level.
By Henry Barrera

Although winning is the world’s ultimate quantifiable standard for the word winner, there is more to the story. This is one of my favorite topics to write about, as it’s the difference maker for players and programs all over the world.

Let’s take a look back and revisit what I shared in last year’s Winners Edition. Three things that were and continue to be close to my heart are culture, character and community. As with most things, I find parallels in basketball, performance training and life. Hopefully, you’ll see this piece as the sequel.

Winning every day

I’ve long had this vision in my head of helping to build multi-dimensional athletes, that is athletes of substance and depth, both on and off the court. From a performance perspective, that means players who can handle their body in all planes of motion at various speeds and have the capacity to do this over and over throughout the course of a game within the context of basketball. Although this type of player can help you win games, the ones that will help you build programs and organizations are the ones that exhibit another dimension. In essence, that is players with an uncanny ability to make plays, but more importantly those who bring life to your team — unsuspecting playmakers from the inside out.

This quality manifests itself in many ways and is often defined as grit, mindset, heart or leadership. These are many of the things that don’t show up in the box score but have a huge impact on your program. What does this have to do with winning? The real question is, What doesn’t this have to do with winning?”

I like to share practical and actionable ideas that coaches can use immediately. Since day one at Liberty University, we’ve implemented what we call “Team Times” once or twice a month. These are designated meetings where we select relevant topics to discuss with our guys. Most of the time, assistant coach Brad Soucie and myself talk about things that we have been studying or thinking about. At times, it’s as simple as a word, other times it may be something either of us have been studying, listening to or reading. We intentionally try to not add too much structure besides an official opening and closing, in which we select one player and have each teammate share one thing that they appreciate about him as a person or athlete. At times, we’ll have our whole coaching staff in attendance. Others times it will be just one coach and occasionally the players will run their own meeting.

In an attempt to tie this all together, I want to challenge you to think of your players and your programs through a three-dimensional lens. Every day, we have the opportunity to add layers to what we’re doing. It’s in this day-to-day interaction where we begin to develop our culture, build character and truly foster community and what we refer to as “teamship.”

I want to share a couple of things that I have been thinking about and some other topics that have come up throughout the year that may give you a few ideas to get started with your players. A typical session lasts between 30 and 60 minutes.

Vision

  • What is your vision for your basketball career?
  • What is your vision for your life?
  • How do you communicate your vision to our team?

Team

  • What is your favorite characteristic of a great teammate?
  • Do you exhibit this characteristic?

Support

  • Do you feel supported as part of our team? Why or why not?
  • Do you feel supported in life? Why or why not?

Freedom

  • Do you have freedom to play? Why or why not?
  • Do you live with freedom? Why or Why not?

I believe one of the keys to these conversations is that they go beyond basketball. The intent with our “Team Time” is to do exactly that. In my mind, winning is about giving everything you have on and off the court. When we teach and coach this way, we give our student-athletes the ability to see it in action — to live it. You may have heard the contrast between coaching from a transactional point of view versus a transformational mindset. Our aim is to operate from a transformational point of view where we’re really challenging our players to develop important character qualities that win in the game of life.

My definition of a winner is one who puts the team and its success above all else. If you have enough of these players on your team, winning becomes a natural byproduct. Wins and losses may be one way to quantify what it means to be a winner, but I believe that basketball is more than a game.

If we can get to a place where the players that come through our programs and ultimately live their lives with no regrets, giving everything they have in whatever they choose to do, I believe that we all win.

Henry Barrera, CSCS, is the director of performance for men’s basketball at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @hoopdiaries.




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