Last month my former high school, Southeast Raleigh High (Raleigh, NC) honored retiring Coach John Baker III, at one of the basketball games. A more familiar “Coach Bake” is what the community, students, and players, myself included know him by. Bake was a tough coach, I mean physically opposing in stature, and even more in basketball philosophy. I had a lot of basketball coaches growing up, and Bake easily took the cake when it came to having the hardest practices. I could’ve easily competed in cross country running after playing for Bake, the conditioning and practices were INTENSE. However, I enjoyed playing for Bake and the nuggets of knowledge attained from him influence and attribute to my coaching style today.
From the first time I tried out for Bake to the last game I played, I can always hear Bake saying “We need 70 percent of 50-50 balls.”
(Quick basketball lesson: A “50-50″ ball is any ball that each team has an equal chance to get. Jump balls, rebounds and loose balls are “50-50″ balls) This philosophy would be a staple of our practices and game planning. I mean in practices when there would be loose balls where 5 and 6 guys would be on the floor trying to secure the possession. The whole time Bake could be heard yelling “get on it! Get on it!” “It” being the basketball. It was brutal, it was intense, but through it all it was fun. For me at least, because I knew I was gaining competitive toughness that other teams were not getting. Also, this was the only acceptable way to play for Bake. His teams were notorious for their tenacious competitiveness, and his practices for the running. Bake had a method and he enforced it.
As players, especially myself we were learning something that carried over far beyond the basketball court. We were learning how to outwork the competition. We were learning how to value every possession. We were learning to be tougher than our opponent, whoever the opponent was.
Now my first year of coaching was just as new of an experience as my first day of college. I knew what was going on, but I didn’t reaaaallly know what was going on. I mean sure, I knew I could teach skills and develop players. I knew I would get comfortable teaching plays and putting in defenses. What I could not prepare for were the numerous coaching moments I would have throughout the year. The teaching moments. The lessons that will play a part in shaping players that I coach, because coaches are who teach these lessons.
With my second year of coaching underway and my practices ramped up to new levels of intensity, I find myself winning more. But more important than winning I find myself teaching more. Spectators of my games and
practices will hear me often yelling “get on it! Get on it!.” Players have gotten used to me stopping practice to emphasize the importance of out working opponents and securing those “50-50″ balls. Because I know competing is not about skill, competing is about effort. Something that can be applied on and off the court.
Being able to teach these lessons and know they extend far beyond sports is very reason I coach.