I was 21 when I coached my first season as a high school basketball coach at Battery Creek High School in Beaufort, SC (Go Dolphins!)
The team and I got off to a very rocky start. Their previous coach had a stroke and had to retire just before the preseason practice was to begin. I was asked to take the job because, well, I think they were desperate and I was handy. The vice principal and I were friends and had worked together in a teen mentoring program. He thought I’d do an adequate job because of my qualifications: I actually owned a basketball and knew the rules.
I was barely older than the seniors on the team, and they knew that. They also knew that this was my first coaching gig. They also wanted their old coach back and were resentful towards me for taking his place. The fact that the man was 60 years old, nearly died, and was still in the hospital when practices got underway didn’t keep them from being less than enthusiastic about me. Their former coach was a legend. I was a nobody.
Getting those boys to listen to me became a losing proposition. They couldn’t care less what I said. I might as well have been talking to myself.
We won our first two games easily. A monkey could have coached those two games. I could have sat on the bench and read a magazine. The team ignored me.
By our third game I was pretty frustrated with the whole thing. The starting five were all seniors who’d played with one another since they were in middle school and I was clearly an unnecessary distraction to them.
The team we were playing in the third game was better than the other two, but we were still rolling along. Midway through the third quarter of that game, with us ahead by 10 points, I called time-out. Although we were winning, we were lucky to be ahead. I knew this. They thought it was because they were so great. I was at a complete loss as to what to do with a team that ignored me. During the time-out I announced that I wouldn’t be coaching anymore for the rest of the game and that I’d tender my resignation to the Athletic Director after the game. They were on their own, I told them.
Then I sat down.
The looks on their faces was a combination of shock, disbelief, and “oh really, well fine, we don’t need you anyway … we can do this without you!”
What followed was almost unbearable as a coach. I watched my team wilt right before my eyes. I watched the momentum swing and the other team mount a comeback. I did nothing. The boys on the bench and the fans in the stands let me know that I HAD to do something. “Call time-out!” “Get control of the situation!” I heard everyone grumble. “What is he doing?” “Why doesn’t he do something?” The atmosphere was awful. And still I sat there doing nothing. Quite honestly I didn’t know what would happen next. I was gambling, but not bluffing. I was completely serious about what I told them.
In the middle of the fourth quarter, with the other team up by 6 points, our team captain called time-out and they all came over to the bench. “Now what?” I wondered. The guys on the bench stood up. I didn’t move and kept my seat with a stone face. The team captain spoke first.
“Coach, we’re sorry! We need you to coach us … please?” And then they all looked at me, waiting to see what I’d say.
It was the first time any of them had called me “coach,” I’d been “Tony” to them before that. In the beginning I had been trying to win their acceptance and be their friend. I had allowed myself to be called by my first name by subordinates. A decision that had backfired. They only seemed to resent me more.
The other boys on the team chimed in with the same request. I was being begged to coach the team.
I stood up and looked them all in the eyes and then went “Drill Instructor” on them. Bobby Knight would have been proud! After I chewed them out, we formulated a plan and I sent them back out on the floor. I got my substitutes ready to go in and execute the plan and give the guys on the floor a break.
And then I crossed my fingers and held my breath, hoping that my gamble had payed off.
What happened was remarkable! That group of belligerent rebellious showoffs transformed into a disciplined team with a plan.
We came back.
We won by 2.
We went on to win our conference championship that year! And even though winning the championship was exciting, nothing compared to that third game, the game I became coach.
After that first season, when I was mostly just relying on a fundamental knowledge of the game and a broad idea of what we should work on in practice – there was no internet to use to download a coaches handbook, practices, or plays – I realized that I needed to have an organized practice plan. I put together a binder of basketball coaching fundamentals and topics/situations that had to be covered from the very first practice to the last game of the season. For example, what do we do when we have the ball under their basket with one minute left and we’re behind by 3 points … or ahead by 3 points? I got advice for my binder from books I borrowed from other coaches and whatever books and magazines I could find in the libraries. I photocopied what I could and made notes and diagrams on notebook paper.
One of the most fundamental aspects of coaching a successful team is the same fundamental in leading a successful life.
Every sport, and every life, has certain simple fundamentals that have to be worked on and executed in order to be successful. In basketball you have to be able to pass, dribble, and shoot.
One of the other fundamental things a basketball team has to do is something called “transition.” If you’re a fan of the game, you hear basketball announcers talk about a team’s “transition game” quite a bit. You’ll hear them say that a certain team “isn’t very good in transition.”
Simply put, transition is the moment when a team goes from being on offense to being on defense, or vice versa. A team’s ability to make that “transition” at lighting speed is an essential of a winning team. A coach will drill and drill and drill a team on “transition recognition,” and then responding, changing gears, and executing a new strategy in nano seconds, without thinking about it. A team has to recognize the moment of transition exactly when it occurs and then respond instantly and without hesitation.
Life is a series of transitions. Situations in life change, hardly ever as fast as in a basketball game, but nonetheless transitions occur and a successful life manager responds. It would be great if the signs of transition were as obvious as who’s holding the basketball. A job transfer, a job change, or a loss of a job are obvious transitions that require strategies. An illness, an injury, a divorce, or a breakup are obvious game changers too. All requiring action.
Contingencies, alternate plans, readjustments, and boldness are required in successful life management. The universe rewards action. And if the situation can’t be prepared for ahead of time, then what guiding philosophies and values will dictate the next action taken?
I have a friend who is mediocre at best at life management. She has no Plan B. Ever. If Plan A can’t be executed or doesn’t work out like she thinks it should, she has no Plan B. Unless you call crying, pouting, mopping, sulking, and throwing up your hands a “plan.” It’s not that she is incapable of formulating a Plan B. I think she is. But for her, Plan A MUST succeed! For her, Plan A fell from heaven. Plan A is engraved in stone like Moses’ tablets, and equally nonnegotiable and irrevocable. (I wonder how her poor husband suffers through this adolescent life management technique.)
Imagine a basketball team on offense who loses the ball, and then instead of getting back on defense, they just stop, stand around, and start pouting and blaming one another for losing possession of the ball. All the while, the other team goes down court and scores. The only teams that might do that are immature, undisciplined, poorly coached youth teams. You won’t see that in any of the teams playing this weekend in the NCAA Final Four. (By the way, of the more than 6 million people who filled out a bracket on ESPN.com – me being one of them – only TWO picked this year’s Final Four! TWO out of 6 million!!!)
Take a moment, or a weekend, to think about your life and the situations and roles that occupy you. What would you do if x, y, z happened in those situations and in those roles? What are your contingency plans? What are your Plans A through Q? What is your guiding philosophy? What are your leadership principles?
Or will you just use The Force and hope that everything works out ok?
If a high school basketball coach will take the time to prepare a team of teenaged boys for game situations that may or may not occur, just so that a basketball game can be won during a season that only lasts four months, how much more important for us, living our lives and being responsible for the lives of others, to have a “binder” prepared to deal with life’s transitions.
One of my favorite verses in the Old Testament is from Jeremiah 12:5, loosely translated it says: “If you have run with the footmen and they have worn you out, what will you do when the horsemen come?”
Failure to prepare is preparing to fail.
I’ve designed t-shirts to sell for the Red Cross Japan Relief Fund. I should have them next week. There are two designs to choose from. I hope you’ll buy one or more! All proceeds will go to the Red Cross. Thanks ahead of time!
Would you like to use your credit card to make your payments for USMC Fitness BOOT CAMP? If you would, click on “reply” and say “YES!” If at lease 10 of you say yes, I’ll get set up to take your credit card payment!
EVENING CLASS TUESDAY & THURSDAY @ ST. AGNES
Starting next Tuesday, April 5, the Tues/Thurs evening class will meet at St. Agnes track at 5:45 for track running/walking or running in the neighborhood.
FRIEND MONTH CONTEST
April is our annual BRING A FRIEND TO BOOT CAMP MONTH!
This is in honor of the late Tom Farrar, my former CPA who died of a heart attack in March 2007.
Tom was only 54 years old. He was my friend but I couldn’t get him to come to Boot Camp. He was a type A personality with high blood pressure and a weight problem. His heart problems were preventable.
I hope you can get your friends to join you. They can visit for a whole week in April for FREE! So start sewing the seeds now!
Here’s how the contest works:
The Boot Camper who brings the most friends for the month of April will get $100! Legal tender, not “Boot Camp Bucks!”
For every friend you bring you get one point (one point per different person, not the same person every time!) For every friend who joins in April, you get 3 points AND a free month of USMC Fitness BOOT CAMP for every friend who joins! The person with the most points at the end of the month gets the cash!
SPRING HALF MARATHON TRAINING!
Training continues this Saturday at Shelby Farms. Meet in front of the Visitor’s Center at 7 AM.
M-16 WORKOUT NEXT TUESDAY, APRIL 5 AT 0530.
WIND CHILL AND INCLEMENT WEATHER POLICY
When the wind chill is 29 or lower, we’ll go inside.
Check with weather.com or The Weather Channel. I’ll post it on my Facebook page and the Boot Camp website Blog page (http://usmcfitnessbootcamp.com/blog/) if there’s a question. And if you’re not sure, you can text me at 901-644-0145.
What about inclement weather days?
We’ll follow the Memphis City Schools decision. If they close, we’ll stand-down. If they close in the morning but the streets are clear and good to go by the afternoon, the evening class will meet. I’ll post that status on Facebook and the Boot Camp Blog page.
BOOT CAMP DISCOUNTS AND FACEBOOK EXPERIMENT!
First of all, find me on Facebook and make me your friend. (Also, be sure to “like” USMC Fitness BOOT CAMP on Facebook.)
Here’s how the discount works!
It’s simple: make a Facebook status update and get a discount!
For every status update that you make that references:
“USMC Fitness Boot Camp,”
“Sgt. Tony’s Boot Camp,”
“Tony’s Boot Camp,”
or something similar, you can take $2.50 off your next reenlistment fee for each update!
You can take up to $20 off for any given month!
Your status update has to be a specific reference to USMC Fitness BOOT CAMP or to me specifically by name.
BE SURE TO TAG ME!
You can do the same thing by “checking in” at USMC Fitness Boot Camp either by using Facebook “places,” Foursquare, or any of the other “check in” apps that show up on your Facebook News Feed.
So log on and start getting your discounts now!
I’ve got a few prime hours open during the week if you know someone looking for a trainer. I use the facilities at Christ Methodist and the hourly rates are standard for Memphis. Over-all fitness training, boot camp style workouts, strength training, sports specific conditioning and agility (tennis, soccer, basketball, etc.)
TonyLudlow@aol.com or 901-644-0145
LAW SCHOOL RACE JUDICATA
5K Run/Walk Downtown
April 9 at 5 PM
Proceeds support Memphis Area Legal Services
To register go to www.RaceJudicataMemphis.org
THE 0830 AND THE 0645 CLASSES!!
The 0830 Class meets on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
Don’t forget that there is child-care available at the church for this class!
ATTENTION 0830 CLASS MEMBERS: please remember that no cell phone usage is allowed while you drive your car on the campus. So when you pull onto the campus, no cell phones please!
NEW PRICING FOR FAMILIES AND COUPLES
If you’re a part of a family (usually husband and wife) that does USMC Fitness BOOT CAMP together, ask me about it! I think you’ll like it!
WANT TO LOSE 20 POUNDS BY THE END OF NEXT MONTH?
Take Shape For Life is the BEST weight loss program I know of. If you’d like to lose weight talk to me. This is the program I used to lose the almost 30 pounds I gained after knee surgery. Let me help you!
You can also go to www.combatchallenge.tsfl.com/
TUESDAY & THURSDAY EVENING CLASSES ARE ON HIATUS UNTIL APRIL
The Tuesday and Thursday evening classes are standing down until April.
However, I’ll be running at 4:30 PM at St. Mary’s track on Tues and Thursday and you’re welcome to join me for an informal jog fest!
A calendar has been added to the official USMC Fitness BOOT CAMP website.
For you visual learners, you’ll find this an easy way to glance at the week or month and see where the workouts will be, if there’s a venue change.
What would you do if money were not an issue, fear were not a factor, and failure were not an option?
To your optimum health and fitness!
SEE YOU ON THE QUARTERDECK!
Sergeant Major Tony Ludlow
USMC Fitness BOOT CAMP, Commanding
Mailing address: 4888 Southern Ave., Memphis, TN 38117
Cell Phone: 901-644-0145