There is an old saying attributed to a variety of people, from Napoleon Hill to Victor Hugo to Vince Lombardi, that says, “Plan your work and work your plan.”

No matter who said it, the idea behind it is outstanding.

In order to be successful in any endeavor, you need to have a plan. You need to know where you are going, how you’re going to get there, and what it will take to do so.

Then you need to go out and work on the plan in ways that maximize your chances for success at it.

Last week’s post and chapter from my new book, Trouble in Discovery, was about the importance of coaches and players putting in time in the off-season to become the best they can be. In that chapter, we saw Coach Del Brooks have a teachable moment with his new player, Connor McDonald, when he took him out of a game during a summer tournament.

Connor didn’t understand why Coach Brooks took him out when he was playing well. Coach Brooks explained to Connor that his philosophy on playing in the summer is that ALL kids are going to get a lot of playing time.

Summer tournaments are a great way for players to develop confidence by incorporating the work they have done on their individual and team skill development into games against opponents. It is also a great time to reward players for their commitment to working hard in their off-season workouts. Coach Brooks is not focused on winning games in the summer nearly as much as he is focused on developing his players, himself, and ultimately, his team.

In that chapter, we saw the Sacajawea High team handle a weaker opponent easily with all of the players getting a good amount of playing time. However, in today’s chapter, we will see a much stronger, more-skilled opponent that will provide a much greater challenge to them.

Does the difference in the level of the opponent alter Coach Brooks’s philosophy and plan? Or will we see him stick to the idea of planning his work and working his plan? What will the result be?

Watch, too, how the opposing coach handles his summer tournament game against Sacajawea. Consider what you would do in your sport if you were coaching your team in an off-season tournament. What do you think is the right way to handle these situations? Why do you feel that way?

No matter what your philosophy is, make sure that you have a plan for how to implement it and that you then go out and work that plan. Also, make sure you communicate your off-season philosophy to your players, coaches, and parents, so they understand why you do what you do.

*Note – Trouble in Discovery: Remington Rises Up will be out at the end of July. You will be able to pre-order the eBook version of it on Amazon shortly, so that the day it comes out, it will be delivered to your device. If you prefer the paperback version of it, you can order that on the day it is released.

Chapter 6

The second game against Bighorn was just how Coach Brooks had said it would be. Bighorn was solid, with good athletes at every position. While they weren’t the same athletes that Connor played against back in Oakland, they were still really good, and they could ball. They had one player named Taylor Allan who was as good a shooter as Connor had ever seen.

The game went back and forth the whole way, with neither team ever leading by more than 8 points. However, Del kept to his mantra of playing everybody and getting them all good minutes. While there were numerous moments when he wanted to just play his best five players, he knew that winning the second game of a summer tournament was not the main focus for summer. The focus was on getting all the kids minutes, so they could all have a chance to improve for when it mattered most — the winter season. He hoped that playing those players against really good competition when the outcome of the game was not nearly as important would pay dividends next season, especially in the post-season tournaments.

With Bighorn up by two with 8:00 left, Del subbed out Connor and Nick. Bighorn’s coach, Jim Stilwell, was not operating under the same mindset as Del. He was playing to win right from the start. He had 11 kids on the team for this game. Six of them played a lot of minutes, two of them played sparingly, and three of them hadn’t even gotten into the game yet. Del made a mental note of that for his post-game talk and for his preparation for the divisional and state tournaments, should they end up facing Bighorn then.

As Connor came off the floor, he once again started to protest to Del. Del put his hand up to stop him from continuing and said, “Connor, sit down next to me for a minute.” They both sat down and Del continued. “I told you before what I’m doing. Everyone is going to get their minutes. Let me ask you something. Which of the guys on our team today haven’t been at the open gyms and weight room sessions?”

Connor looked at the guys on the bench and then out on the floor. He said, “None of them. They’ve all been there.”

Del said, “Exactly. And they were also there for three weeks before you showed up at Sacajawea. So which ones shouldn’t be playing? Who doesn’t deserve to be out there based on all the time and effort they’ve been putting in?”

“None of them. They all deserve it.”

“Exactly. I’m glad you see my point.”

Connor said, “Coach, I see your point. It’s just that we are right there with this team, and they’re only playing their studs. Some of their guys haven’t even played. No offense to some of our guys, but they can’t compete with their studs. If we don’t have the right guys out there, we won’t be able to win.”

Del said, “That may be true. But today is June 2nd. Who the heck cares what the outcome of a game on June 2nd is? There are no standings, no newspaper clippings, no seeding for state tournaments here. The team that wins this tournament gets a plaque. So do the second and third place teams. How many times have you been to another school or even your own school in Oakland and cared about a trophy for a summer tournament? Let’s start with never. Nobody cares about records in the summer.”

Del paused and then said, “Yes, I want to win the game, and I will coach to win the game, and you need to play to win the game. But I also want all of these players as ready as possible to compete during the season, so we give ourselves the best chance at winning when it matters most. I like that their coach isn’t playing his weaker players. They will not be prepared to play when we face them in the divisional or state tournament. I like that even with him only playing his studs and us playing everybody, we are …” Del looked at the scoreboard and continued, “only down by 4 points with 7:00 left in the game. It shows me that we are going to be really good this year because we are going to have a strong bench. I’m really excited about the possibilities for our season.”

Connor hung his head, but Del tapped him on the knee. “I’m especially excited about the season because you showed up. I knew we were going to be really good this year already. But now with you — holy crap, are we going to be good! I have not seen a player with your combination of size and skills the last two years. Sure, you’ve got work to do, and work is the key word. If you put in the time and effort, you could become one of the better players in the state.”

Connor was thinking, “No duh! Of course, I can. I can be the best. There isn’t anyone like me in this state.” But he kept his thoughts to himself and just looked at Del and nodded.

“You and Remington together will be the best 1-2 punch in the state. No team has two guys like you two. It is going to be so much fun watching the two of you this year. But you two are a given. We know you’re going to be good, along with our other key guys. But a team needs everybody to play well to be successful. So today and the rest of the summer is about us trying to get everybody as many minutes as they can get. Does that make sense now?”

Connor nodded his head. “Yeah, I get it, Coach. Sorry I didn’t see it that way before.”

Del said, “No apology necessary. Go get a drink, and at the 4:00-mark, report back in for Jimmy.”

Unfortunately, by the time the 4:00-mark hit, the Wolves were down by 12. Without Connor or Nick on the floor for the last few minutes, Bighorn had pulled away. While Connor’s and Nick’s re-insertion into the lineup sparked the Wolves, they could never overtake Bighorn, and they ended up losing by four.

Del pulled the boys out to the same spot on the lawn where they spoke after the first game against Buckley. He could tell they were dejected and tired. Playing two and three games in a day led to tired legs, tired bodies, and tired minds. But that was a good thing, as it was teaching the players to reach inside themselves to find the toughness to persevere through the difficulty. Del said, “Boys, I’m really proud of the effort you gave out there. It’s one of the things I love so much about coaching you. You never give up, and you always give 100% effort. That will serve us well in the regular season and tournaments. I know it’s hard when you play a game, rest for two hours, and then play another game against a really strong team. But it’s so important that you go through these kinds of trials to help you learn to push through.

“I don’t know how many of you noticed, but Bighorn never played three of their players, and two of them played for maybe ten minutes. They have all their guys here this weekend, so what you saw today was their team that will supposedly be vying for a divisional and state championship this year. Don’t get me wrong. They’re good, and they certainly could win it all this year. But we played all of our guys, and you all played a lot of minutes.”

Del paused to see their reactions. Most were nodding their heads. Del looked at Jimmy Thompson. “Jimmy, when’s the last time you played that many minutes against some of the best varsity competition in the state?”

“I haven’t. This is the first varsity experience I’ve had.”

Del turned to Bob Bickford, another sophomore playing with the varsity this weekend. Del felt that he and Jimmy could become key contributors this year. “How about you, Bob? Have you played a lot against those kinds of players?”

Bob responded, “When I went to the MSU camp last summer there were some good players, a couple of those guys in fact. But I didn’t play against them much because they were in the level above me. The only time I play against guys that good is in our open gyms against these guys,” he said looking at his teammates.

“That’s right,” Del said. “These guys you play with every night are as good as or better than every one of those guys on Bighorn. And Longbow. And Centennial. And all the rest of the teams in our state.” Del looked around, and he could see the recognition on the boys’ faces.

“Guys, we will be playing everyone a lot of minutes this summer. I want to win as much as anybody. But my gosh, it’s June 2nd. Who cares who wins on June 2nd? He paused and then said, “But on February 2nd and March 2nd, yeah, that’s when I want to be winning. Well, our best chance of winning in February and March is when we have as many of our players ready to play as can be ready. The way that happens is by playing all of them as many minutes as possible in June and July. Look at the experience that Jimmy and Bob just had, that they just told you they never had before. And they did really well!” Del turned toward Jimmy and Bob and said, “I’m really excited for the two of you because I think you can be key contributors for us this year if you put in the time and effort all summer long.”

Del turned back to looking from face-to-face at each of the players and said, “This is so important for all of you to get that kind of experience. I am so excited because of it. So when you’re bummed out about losing a game like this — and yes, you should be bummed out any time you lose — keep in mind what the big picture is. The big picture is the divisional and state tournaments next February and March. Get it?”

The boys responded, “Got it.”

Del said, “All right, we play our final game in three hours against Silverton. They’re good, too. Not Bighorn good, but good. If we don’t come out ready to play, they could be trouble for us. So just like before, get fluids, good food, rest, and be back here at 4:30.”

They all stood up, came together in a circle, and put their hands up high together. Remington said, “Wolves on three – 1, 2, 3.” They all said, “Wolves.”

The Silverton game did not go anywhere near the way the Bighorn game went. It became a blowout early, with Remington and Connor leading the way. All of the boys played a lot of minutes, and once again, Jimmy and Bob had good games. Their confidence grew with each minute they played. Nick, Tim, Brian, and Remington were all cheering them on and helping to build up their confidence for when they would need the two sophomores in the regular season. Mike Visteen and Cory Wilson also played a lot, and they continued to develop. In fact, those two had improved the most since last season. They had each only missed one workout in the spring, and it showed with how well they were playing. All of the boys were excited with how the summer was starting and where they thought they could go next year.

Ideas to Consider

  • How did Coach Brooks’s philosophy of playing in the summer get tested in the second game of the tournament? Did the opposing coach seem to have the same philosophy?
  • Why does Coach Brooks feel that his philosophy will pay bigger dividends when it matters most? Why did he keep Jimmy and Bob in the games in important moments? What is his “big picture” plan with regards to this?