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The Secret to Coach's Trust

I recently had the opportunity to hear Northwestern head coach Chris Collins speak on team building. Coach Collins was an assistant coach and player under Duke legend Mike Krzyzewski. He gave us three pieces of advice:

1. Know your role - playing within your strengths is the key to earning coach's trust. Trying to do "too much" is a sure way to frustrate your coach. "Too much" can look like a lot of different things. It can mean over-dribbling when you should pick up the ball and pass to a teammate. It could be ill-advised shots (see blog post on shot selection). Or it could be trying to force overly difficult or flat-out not open passes.

Your role is what the team needs from you in order to win.

Your team may need lock-down defense and solid rebounding from you. If you are injured or not in the rotation, it may need an undying positive attitude and someone to push their teammates to be better in practice. Or your team may need twenty points a night from you.

In any case, prepare mentally and physically to be that player!

2. Star in your role - your focus should be intently on improving your ability to fill your role on the team. Whether that is shooting, ball handling, passing, rebounding, defending, or something else. Doing "too much" (stuff outside your role) can be frustrating to a coach. But doing "too little" (failing to execute within your role) can be even more frustrating.

It's not enough to know what you do, strive to be the best at it.

What are you doing in practice, in training, and in the off-season to get better at your role? Are there skills your team needs from you that you have yet to develop? Ask your coach (during season or at camp) what skills you should prioritize developing!

3. Encourage others to do the same - When Chris Collins was coaching at Duke under Mike Krzyzewski, they won a championship with a roster that included five future NBA players: Shane Battier, Carlos Boozer, Mike Dunleavy, Jason William, and Dahntay Jones. That team was stacked!

The next year, everyone returned except Battier. So they won another national championship!


They couldn't get past the Sweet 16. Shane Battier had been a critical leader. Coach Collins said that Shane Battier was not only a star player (almost everyone on that roster was), but he was a leader who pushed others to star in their roles. Without Shane, the team didn't hold together. He may not have been the best 1:1 player on the team, but he was the best leader.

Being a leader and being a star aren't the same. Be both.

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