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By Andrew Jantke | Developing the culture of your club with High Performance Information Sessions

Time to beat our chest!

PICTURED: How can we expect an athlete to expect things of themselves if they have no idea on the steps or opportunities available and/or how to attain those opportunities? A focus on "pathways" enable athletes and families to focus on the step by step approach to their goals.

Clubs, coaches and leaders of basketball programs must realise that the development of athletes to achieve their best in basketball it is a complex, competitive landscape today.

Our sport is globally significant and over the years I have really educated myself up on the resources, facilities and structures committed to athlete's development in overseas programs as well as the CoE here in Australia. At times when my friends and I discuss the AFL vs basketball conundrum I often respond that the problem with AFL is there is no money in it and opportunities are limited in the sport. They will either laugh, look at me strangely or debate the issue. This is not a debate I lose but we do sometimes acknowledge our differences and move on. Just imagine how different Patty Mills' life would be had he chosen AFL Football instead of basketball? I don't think at junior level we beat our chest enough about our sport, coaches now talk about the need to juggle football and they assume that if an athlete is good at both sports they will play football in the end. They say things like "our region has a football culture Andrew". That does not make sense because when you talk about our region - IE the WORLD is our region these days - there is a basketball culture, more prevalent than a football culture, and it is not even close. It seems some leaders in our sport would rather spend time talking about being under resourced or complaining about peak sporting bodies, my suggestion is think bigger; this game is global!!

I also feel that many Coaching Directors and Coaches that have been at it for a while DO have a lot of knowledge and expertise they can offer their players and parents in this space. However, because they know it so well they just assume that others do, this is not the case. People don't know what you as experts in this space don't tell them and even when they have been told they need to be reminded from time to time.

Goal oriented athletes, making informed decisions on their goals and commitment in our sport will reap huge benefits for the competition, state and high performance programs and private commercial providers. Working together we can ALL improve the culture and mindset of athletes in our state, well country for that matter.

Culture change at Central Districts Lions

VIDEO: We utilised this video to help prepare the scene for athletes and parents at the High Performance Information Sessions, delivered whilst Director of Coaching at Central Districts Lions. We felt it captured the culture of the region Centrals were in well and provided mental imagery those in the region could relate to.

During my time as Director of Coaching at Central Districts Lions I was working very closely with Sean Carlin, who was club President, a trusted advisor for me, and someone who I respected both as an athlete and person. Together we developed the idea of High Performance Information Sessions.

The idea was to change a culture there where pathways were at the time seen as "competitors" to both the local competitions and even to Centrals. There was at times a perception there previously players making high performance programs would be "brainwashed" to move to a stronger inner city club. I doubt in reality they were brainwashed, what probably happened was they were exposed to better coaching and more driven team mates in the high performance program and this prompted them to want to move. The situation at Centrals is VASTLY improved with good coaching and structures compared to back then. My strategy was always to be the Sturt of the Northern Suburbs. That is, embrace, engage and support high performance pathways and use our players making those pathways as the showpiece to attract elite talent in from regional South Australia, the Brent Hanks (went onto University of Albany), Demi Skinners (Centre of Excellence Scholarship holder), Jasmine Simmons (went on to commit to Oregon State University in the Pac12) type of elite talent. In order for this to happen we had to change the local mindset and help them understand that playing for Centrals and all the commitment was about achieving and moving along a pathway, rewarding hard work and excellence. We felt if we were to begin to push our teams into Division 1 level competition, at the time possibly out of their depth, we needed them to have a vision for their longer term development that even through adversity and losses they could still be part of our national pathways. Most families did not even understand the pathways, nor that they existed, they blindly paid the expensive fees, travelled hours for games, then got frustrated when they could not figure out the point or why they were doing this and left for social/domestic basketball or other more cheaper, regionalised sports like AFL football or netball.

I'm proud that Centrals today is a very successful, well coached and led (Sean Carlin is back there as President) program and the cultures mentioned above are no longer prevalent out there. It is a club continually going from strength to strength these days.

Back then, we needed a program to help families understand our sport's pathways and decide if they want to aspire to climb those pathways.

High Performance Information Sessions are born

Sean and I first trialed the sessions with our own team, before I took over as Director of Coaching at the club. His son Daniel was in the team along with other promising athletes. We had parents attend too.

We tried to use examples of players from the club that were involved with parts of these pathways but at the time these examples were few and far between so we instead opted for examples from other clubs (not ideal). These families embraced these ideas and began to dream. The cool thing was in the coming couple of years these same kids began to make NITP, state squads and Daniel began making Australian Development camps. A year later when Sean and I ran these talks for the whole program these kids we had trialed the sessions with were actually some of our examples of climbing the pathways - a very cool outcome. It was just amazing to see the development of this group and I remember other coaches across beginning to comment on "the rise of Centrals". The club now began to see the benefits of embracing, not shunning, high performance and was rapidly changing a culture.

If you are striving for YOUR next level you ARE relevent to us. We want YOU

I will temper all this by saying one important perspective we offered ALL athletes in order to make these talks relevant for ALL of them. Given we were about painting the big picture of our pathways from NBA down, but everyone had THEIR own path, goals and dreams and as long as you wanted then next step or 2 in the pathways we wanted YOU. IE: if you are a div 3 kid that wants to strive to play div 1 and willing to do whatever you can to improve to get there then you were as important as the Div 1 kid striving to make a state team. This was the culture we wanted at the time. It also kept the parents of lower division kids on the board (who were the people that paid me!) happy too haha; but seriously all kids were valued if they wanted to make THEIR next step!

Part of a process

High performance information sessions are part of a broader process established and proven to work over the years. I have blogged previously on each step of the process and this blog completes the circle.

October/November: High performance pathway seminars

Between October and November each year the Coaching Director will conduct HP pathway seminars for all players and parents aged 8‐17.

The seminars highlight the various pathways for players; from Centrals through to State Junior Programs right up to professional, International programs. The purpose of these seminars is to equip athletes and parents with the knowledge of the opportunities available and the attributes required to successfully gain these opportunities. After the seminars the athletes, supported by their parents will be able to develop their goals.

In addition to discussing high performance pathways the team coaches will provide a letter to all parents, which outlines their personal basketball background/bio and explains their expectations of the athletes/parents for the year.

February/March: Goal setting

From February to March every athlete in our club is required to complete their short/mid/long/dream goals. A template is available to assist athletes, a copy of which will be given to all junior players. Clubs coaches & in some cases the Coaching Director will review and discuss the player goals with each player.

Coaches are to conduct at least one team building day throughout the year. The Coaching Director is able to provide advice on the organisation and running of Team Building days if required.

June/July: Individual feedback

From June/July coaches re required to provide feedback to every player they are responsible for. The feedback shall include the individual’s strengths and development areas as well as at least 3 individual drills for them to work on. The coach should take the athletes own goals into account when providing the feedback and setting the person drills for players

The actual agenda

Janx - Intro to the session. Show a video to paint a picture on what we were doing and why.

Sean - Talking about the mindset of an elite athlete. Sean always had a great analogy which was easy to setup. He would burn a piece of paper into a bowl. Then he would lite a large candle and whilst he was talking the candle would be burning. A the end of his talk he would ask the difference between the piece of paper and the candle. Answers were like "Candle is more resistant to flames", "Candle has substance so burns longer", "Flame lasts longer on the candle" etc. Think about it. Build substance, being resistant to burning etc. what does this mean???

He would also talk about our club culture overall and reinforcing our high performance mindset. Talk through goal setting sheets.

PICTURED: The goal setting forms provided players post the High Performance Information Session. Happy to provide the full document if you send me a request.

Janx - talk through the pathways. Have players break up into groups and discuss pathways. Start from NBA at the top. Aussie hoops down the bottom and then work on every step in between. Can have 2 to 4 streams. Come back together and combine all the breakout groups into single list.

Streams EG: Competitions stream (EG domestic, rep/district, youth league, premier league etc.), development streams (EG: Club clinics, NITP, CoE etc.) and tournament streams (EG: U14 National Championships, State Championships, U16 National Championships, World Championships etc.)

PICTURED: Showing the 4 streams and different teams, programs and opportunities that are part of the athletes pathway.

Outcomes and applying it now

This year I am coaching U16s at Sturt Sabres and we applied these processes in our team with the support of our Director of Coaching. In addition to High Performance Information session we also looked at our style of play as a team. Our style of play is heavily influenced by the ideas in the philosophies I highlighted in the blog "What is Janx' Ball" but I also strongly feel that the guys in the team could heavily influence our style and they did have input into it. Likewise Janx' ball is a lose set of principles easily adaptable to whatever my bosses at Sturt or Basketball SA require of our program too. What I did want to emphasise, and why I looked at our team playing style in these sessions, was that our style needed to be a style that would help players maximise their capacity to achieve along our high performance pathways. I feel this gets better buy in to my preferred playing style from the playing group. My current team of young men at Sturt are extreme competitors, with super high IQs and they came up with some great key attributes for how they wanted us to play (I won't share the specifics of that style here today) and of course we adopted their great ideas.

After these sessions I feel that parents and athletes can make informed decisions on their goals. They need to "own" their own goals but we do have responsibility to make sure those decisions are informed and a responsibility to the sport to inspire them to dream and think big. These sessions are followed by goal setting and more recently I have been suggesting they work with our club's Coaching Director on a time management plan and schedule based on a combination of their own goals and priorities based on the pathways established in our HP Information Session.

I feel these kinds of processes can be easily setup. The vision and goal setting, along with inspiring kids I feel are a part of the reason the kids I coach work so hard. They have the knowledge to make informed choices on their goals and time management, set their own vision and goals to be inspired, they have the schedule and plan to stick to and keep them working and finally the review mechanism to review their progress. All stakeholders have input into their schedule and goals but the final decisions are made by the athlete, with their families support.

As a club coach I suggest you seek out the commitment of your Coaching Director to either run these themselves or allow you to run them. I'm be happy to attend any clubs in South Australia and run these sessions for an age group or various age groups. If anyone interstate wants to discuss these sessions further in order to run themselves I am happy to help with that too.

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