J.P. Nerbun

The Captain’s Council Training Course by JP Nerbun from Thrive on Challenge

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J.P. Nerbun is the founder of Thrive On Challenge and a previous guest on the Hoop Heads Pod.  JP will be joining us periodically for what we’re calling Culture Camp where JP and I discuss a topic related to improving the culture of your team.

On this episode we’ll be discussing how to implement a Captain’s Council with your team.

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Have your pen and paper at the ready as you listen to this Culture Camp episode with J.P. Nerbun from Thrive On Challenge.

What We Discuss with JP Nerbun

  • Good leadership is scarce
  • 4 things needed for good leadership
    • A Leadership System
    • Experiential Leaders
    • Personal Development
    • Leader Mentorship
  • The captain selection process
  • Identifying players that are going to be great influencers
  • Creating a job description for your captains
  • Establishing Captain’s Commitments
  • Supporting your captains once they’ve been selected
  • Creating decentralized command – 4 or 5 captains each leading 3 or 4 other players
  • Deciding which players are in which captain’s unit
  • The paradox of a player led team
  • Why weekly meetings with your captains are so important
  • Finding opportunities for your players to lead
    • Bringing together the captains from across your program (Freshman, JV, Varsity) once month for a meeting
  • The two biggest challenges to creating a successful Captain’s Council
    • The drama of selecting the captains
    • Holding the regular weekly meetings with your captains
  • Accountability and support
  • How the Captain’s Council takes things off a coach’s plate and gives responsibility to the players

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[00:00:00] Mike Klinzing: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to the Hoop Heads podcast. It’s Mike Klinzing here this morning without my co-host Jason Sunkle, but I am pleased to be joined for our very first episode of Culture Camp by JP Nerbun from Thrive on Challenge. JP, welcome to the Hoop Heads Podcast. And I should say welcome back to the hoop heads podcast.

JP Nerbun: [00:00:18] Yeah, it’s good to be back brother.

Mike Klinzing: [00:00:20] I want to dive in right away. So for those of us who are listening, want to just explain a little bit about what JP and I have put together and what we’re thinking is that we’re going to do this culture camp once a quarter, so four times a year. And we may, if it goes really well, we might have doing a few more, but the idea here is to give you as a basketball coach, some things that you can put into place with your team to help you to improve your culture and we’re going to start out today. Our first topic is going to be how to develop leaders on your team and create a Captain’s Council. So, JP, I’m going to let you take this from the beginning and just explain for people who maybe haven’t heard of it don’t know what the concept is all about.

[00:01:00] Tell them what a captain’s council is. And then we’ll kind of dive into the nitty gritty of what they need to do to create one for their team.

JP Nerbun: [00:01:07] Yeah, well, I think too, I, I think we can start to not just, even from what is the captain’s council or is just what is the current system that people use or approach to develop leaders to address leadership challenges or a scarcity of leadership?

Right. So I think one of the common themes and developing culture, or just common themes of coaches struggles today is, Oh, geez, I don’t have any leaders. See how I just don’t have many leaders on my team. And I think that there’s a lot of resources out there that are promoting leadership development.

And when you look at the research, when you really start to dive into leadership development, which is not just in sports, right? It’s in business and healthcare education, people are trying to develop leaders, because they see, I mean, there’s a [00:02:00] premium paid for it, right? This is why CEOs get paid so much, but  good leadership is scare.

So people are trying to develop it. So there’s actually been a good bit of research out there. When it comes to the business world, you know, the education world I think, is applicable to leadership and sports. And the thing that people I think get wrong in this approach is they try to develop leaders in a classroom.

They try to develop them through leadership sessions, leadership type retreats. It’s not to say there’s no benefit in those things. There is benefit. They’re good. They’re well intentioned and they can be engaging and they can impart good lessons. But. There’s four key things that you need to effectively develop leaders.

And this is all the research from. Harvard all those Ivy league schools, as well as when you read about the All-Blacks rugby team from New Zealand and James Kerr’s book Legacy, or you read about the Captains Class by Sam Walker. I can list off a good few books there of just show [00:03:00] other elite sports teams and how they do it.

Well, there has to be one of those key elements is a leadership system, a system that actually really clearly communicates various roles and decentralizes command throughout your organization. And so you need a leadership system that the second big thing you need is you need experiential leaders. You wouldn’t develop strength by going into a classroom and talking about how to build strengths.

You actually develop strength by actually getting there and putting the reps in, right. It doesn’t mean there’s no value in not educating people about. You know what you know about strength or in this case, educating people about leadership, but to develop it, we all, as coaches, she notice, especially ones that have gone from assistant coach to their first head coaching role, big change to being the real leader.

One person people are looking for and nothing prepares you for certain things than actually. Just doing it right. And getting that experience. [00:04:00] So experiential learning is a big thing. And then personal development, like growing yourself, growing your own character, you know, that’s a big, that’s the third element and lastly is leader mentorship, or just having people to guide you on your leadership journey.

That’s so, so valuable. And the captain’ss council system that we work with so many coaches, it helps to address those four things.

Mike Klinzing: [00:04:22] So how do you go about taking it from the theoretical. I think one of the problems that I see with coaching is when you talk about developing leaders and I’m going to, I’m going to go back even one step beyond coaches doing it in the classroom.

I think a lot of times what we see is coaches who say, man, our team just doesn’t have any leaders. We don’t have any leaders. Our, our captains just aren’t doing what we need them to do. And yet, so often not only are. The players not getting what you described, but they’re not even getting any classroom instruction is just okay.

You two are captains, figure out what you’re supposed to do as a captain. And too often, I think as adults, we expect kids to understand what [00:05:00] we want from them as leaders, without going through the process of teaching them, what that looks like and showing them how they’re supposed to act as leaders. So talk to us a little bit about how you take it from the theoretical.

Classroom leadership lessons into what you actually want to see them doing in practice.

JP Nerbun: [00:05:19] Yeah, actually there’s three really big phases I like to talk about. And the first is selecting. The second is, you know, how you really lay out a foundation, empower them from the get go. And then the last thing is just, Are you daily creating opportunities for them to lead? And so let’s just dive, share a little bit about the selection process. I was just on the, on a, on a call the other day with a hockey coach up in Canada. And, you know, his whole argument was they asked their player’s opinion last year when it came to selecting their captain, who they thought would be the leader.

But at the end of the day, they thought they. He was like, but they got [00:06:00] it wrong. And so we just didn’t feel comfortable in the answers. So we picked somebody else and I definitely get that and whole idea of like, well man, the players, they select the guy that it’s just a popularity contest.

It’s not really, who’s a real leader. That guy doesn’t work hard as they have a good attitude. And so I’ve been their coach. I mean, I’ve tried every system possible, to select my captains from player vote to non vote, to just saying, forget about it. I’m going to pick it every game. You know, we’re gonna have a different captain, but this is the system we’ve come across is that we’ve found to be most effective.

Is that player select, but players because players are, and this is my argument for that hockey coach was like, But that’s who they look towards. And the bottom line is your leadership system needs to identify first off, who are the influencers in particular, the influencer, there is a player on your team that is probably a greater influencer than you are as a head coach.

That’s like proven, right? Like that’s just, they’re just, [00:07:00] they will follow. If you can get that person to be bought in to be a strong leader. And the way that you want them to be, to buy into the culture that you’re trying to help develop and create with them, then you’re at a good start. So you really want them to select, but it doesn’t mean that we’re just really nonchalant about this.

In fact, the selection process, it’s about getting them to create a job description and then be really clear about the responsibilities and those responsibilities were, were, you know, You said the players first off, they’ll create the job description by reflecting on a great leader that they’ve been around and they’ll create some qualities and some behaviors.

And that’s what they’ll vote on. They’ll vote on that type, you know, in those categories, on those behaviors, on those values, on those qualities of a leader, they’re looking for as well as those people that are accepting that role are acknowledging that they’re going to have certain responsibilities. So just from the very selection process, we try to be intentional too.

First off, identify the people that are going to be great influencers. I think that’s a really big first step.

[00:08:00] Mike Klinzing: [00:08:00] All right. So what does a job description look like? Give us some examples of things that would be listed in a job description with some of the teams that you’ve worked with.

What are some things that we should be looking to include in that job description?

JP Nerbun: [00:08:17] You always want to start from like those values or qualities, like just, Hey, what did, what, how would you describe those leaders? And just give us a few words and you kind of get them to kind of come up with a few common ones and then you say, okay, what’s that look like in action?

You know, and so they can say, Oh, we want to selfless. And an accountable leader that’s hardworking. Okay. Well, how have you seen someone be a selfless leader before? And so you get them to have a conversation? It’s a powerful team activity. It’ll take you 15 to 30 minutes to create it as a team. It’s powerful just to get them to reflect on, Oh, what are we actually.

Neat, you know, what do we need in a leader? What makes a great leader that in itself is a leadership lesson and it’s probably the only part of our captains council system that we actually have in the classroom [00:09:00] really. And is that creation of it. So you can to come up with that, but then you also add your own responsibilities to that.

And I’m a big believer in captain’s commitments. So what we want is the captains to make commitments, to serve a commitment, to support a commitment to connect. And those become really clear behaviors like servings, like carrying the water, eating last, sweeping the shed, you know, there’s different things like that.

So you, but those commitments, so come up later, but you let them know that this is not a position, a title. This is not some just honorary title that you would be receiving. This is a responsibility to serve your team, and you’re going to come up with that and support your team. And you’re going to have to really be clear on what that looks like and how you’ll do that if you’re selected captains.

So that’s kind of how you start great, that job description.

Mike Klinzing: [00:09:48] At what point in your season do you recommend, or have you seen coaches do this and create the job description? Is it something that you do the [00:10:00] day tryouts are finished and you’ve kinda got your final rosters. Is it something that you do closer to the first game or competition where you’ve kind of gotten a chance to get a feel for your team.

When do you recommend coaches start this process of creating the captain’s council?

JP Nerbun: [00:10:18] I like earlier. But I don’t like the voting process and a little bit later because it gives people a little bit of a, Hey, well, this is what I have to start striving to be within our program. And you want your culture. I like coaches are really quick.

They want to, and I work with and support on this. They’re very eager to do it like really quickly. They just, it’s like, Oh, we ticked the box. We got our captains, you know? And it’s like, but wait for things to evolve. I’ve had Division one program and they brought in maybe seven new freshmen and they voted for the Captains council, like week one in June and will who got elected these seniors,  but they weren’t really great leaders and evolved over the years.

[00:11:00] The players actually did come to respect them as soon as they started alerted. And they missed an opportunity to kind of have reset the culture that year and that way. So just letting the season kind of play out a little bit, you know, I think that that’s a valuable thing, to just give it time before you have players vote on that, this is huge.

Mike Klinzing: [00:11:17] All right. So once you have. The captains in place, the job description has been created. You’ve then looked at what the qualities are, what the things are that you want the captains to do. Now you’ve selected who the captains are going to be. Now we’re getting down to what is it that the coach needs to do in order to facilitate the captain being the best that they can possibly be in that role. What does that look like? What does the teaching process from me as a coach? What do I need to do to support those captains? To give them the tools that they need in order to lead the rest of our team?

JP Nerbun: [00:11:55] Yeah, I would say one big thing is to serve them. And your very first kind of thing I would [00:12:00] do is I would lower myself as the coach.

And maybe that’s a bad phrase for it, but I’m either I’m going to cook them a meal. I’m going to bring them breakfast. It has even just depends on your situation, but a lot of our coaches would, would have the more for dinner, but they would cook them a meal. They would really put a lot of time and effort.

Serving them first. They want to model that servant leadership. There are things you’re really going to help them in that meeting to believe in themselves, but also to clarify, what are they going to work at to do, to serve their team? That’s where you come up with those Captain’s commitments. And these are not things that you’re like, commitments, they come up with them and yeah. Then two weeks later when they’re not doing them, you’re on their case, you know? Ah, come on, you said you want to be a leader. No, those are things that you’re, they’re going to strive for and you’re going to work for, and you’re going to be a support for them.

You’re going to be that mentor, to help them through like, Hey, you’re having a tough time supporting this person on the team. What are some things you could do this week? Because they’re struggling. You know, and so they become, but you start off with getting to make a few commitments. [00:13:00] The last big thing is, is our unit selection.

So we, we advocate for a one to four, one to three ratio of captains to players because we want each captain comes down to this idea around decentralized command, which is a term that’s used pot. You know, it’s very popular in the military, like the seals, but it’s this whole idea of like I, as the coach, if I’m coaching 15 players, I can’t affectively lead mentoring support and serve all 15 players.

I can’t see what’s all going on. So as a coach, I’m going to have my captains and they’re going to, but they can’t, I, I’m not just going to say, all right, there’s two captains and yeah, go lead 15 people. We’re saying here’s four or five captains. And each, each of you is in charge of serving, supporting, connecting with those two or three individuals.

And so that decentralized command helps too. Create a more manageable situation where they’re going to be more successful and it’s not asking like, Oh, we need you to check in with 10 different guys. Right. We’re saying, Hey, you’re responsible for, for this guy, this guy, this guy. And then when certain [00:14:00] players struggle, this is where you start to get into it.

So you’ve kind of laid that out. Once you start getting into the season. Now there is a situation with a certain player where you can go to his cat that, Hey, how can we help them individual? He’s struggling here. She strongly show up on time. He’s struggling with when things don’t go his way on the court.

He struggled with something at home. He struggled in the classroom. Now you have people and it’s not all on you as a coach. And that’s the beauty of this system is this system is not more work. For you as a coach, it’s not up here we go. Here’s another culture thing that you’ve got to do that JP says it actually over time saves you so much time and effort if you do this.

Mike Klinzing: [00:14:38] All right. So I’m going to ask a question that has been something that has been talked about here on the podcast by numerous different coaches. And that is that when they’re young coaches and they’re first getting into the business. And clearly, most coaches are driven towards success and want to have their [00:15:00] finger on everything going on within the team.

And they want to make sure that they’re controlling. And a lot of times they get into a situation where you have some micromanagement issues where I have to have my hand in everything. And then. You’ll hear these coaches talk about the fact that when I was younger, I was doing, I was doing everything and I felt like I had to be overseeing this part of the team.

And I had to be overseeing that. And I had to be watching this assistant coach and I had to be running that they said over time that. By releasing some of those responsibilities to people who they have trained and worked with and know what it is that the head coach wants. That that’s really, when they felt like true success came to them.

Because instead of, as you said, increasing their workload, it’s really decreasing it and allowing other people to flourish and be able to buy into that collective that you’re trying to build. So when you think about. Working with [00:16:00] coaches. What do you do to overcome? I don’t know if resistance is the right word, but some of the hesitation that a coach may have to offload some of these responsibilities to whether it’s in this case players, but other assistant coaches.

Just talk a little bit about that ability to delegate and how important that is.

JP Nerbun: [00:16:18] That’s a great question. So. I mean, I’m guilty of some of that, so much of this stuff. So like, it’s not because I had it figured out right away. It’s cause I’ve failed so often at some of this stuff. And I’m one that was a big control guy as well.

Like, Oh, I want them to take ownership, but I also, I need it done in the right way, the way that I wanted. And this is kind of like the paradox, one of the paradoxes of, of leadership and the great paradoxes of a player led, trying to develop a player led team and. We have a high sense of ownership for our team.

Why? Because we have such a strong amount of control research shows that ownership, that sense of ownership, you know, a psychological ownership in emerges in three different things. [00:17:00] One is I have a sense of control and that’s obvious, right? I feel like I can make decisions. I can make decisions on this.

Okay. Not just do I have an idea is my opinion heard, but I actually sometimes get to make decisions on something. Secondly, is intimate knowledge, my understanding, or my relationship with whatever it is. So in our case, the team, so do I have a strong relationships with connection? And the third thing that research shows is self investment.

So the more I’ve had invested. In the team, the more I’m going to feel ownership of it. Okay. So we’ve invested a lot as coaches. We invest a lot of time. We sometimes maybe struggle with that connection, but we feel like we know our team really, really well inside out. So that intimate knowledge we’re good.

And then we obviously do, and most. Structures and most organizational structures, we have a large amount of control. So offloading that control is key to get players, to take ownership. But the trick is when you give them control over something, they don’t always do [00:18:00] it a, the way we want and they don’t always do it.

They fail, they make mistakes. And that’s where coaches, well, I let them run a practice. It was horrible. I mean, I don’t even suggest you let him run a practice. Right. But you know, right off the bat, I’m suggesting like you give them certain opportunities and then you’re not there to go. Well, see, I knew you weren’t ready for this, or you don’t give them those opportunities just to be ready to call them out on it.

You give them opportunities and you provide support. It’s autonomy. To make choices to make decisions, but you’ll let them have experienced those consequences, but then you’re not just, well, you did it wrong. It’s like, how can you do that better? So you provide this support with this control. And when you do that, that’s where like that experiential learning comes in, that we talked about earlier, and that’s where the leader mentorship comes in.

If you’re not sitting there telling them how to lead in these moments, you’re helping them to. Interpret their experiences and make better decisions. And that’s a real big [00:19:00] challenge because it’s not going to be at the pace that we want to, and we’re going to have to sacrifice short term results and, you know, for longterm benefits.

Mike Klinzing: [00:19:11] So what does that look like in terms of support, tell us a concrete example of something that you might as a coach ask a captain to do, and then what the. The post game analysis would look like. So to speak with the player after they go through the experience that you’re asking them to lead.

JP Nerbun: [00:19:33] So I’ll give you two examples.

One’s off the court and then one’s on the court, but you should be looking for these things every day and within your, within your program. one off the court, one of the best things you can do is meet weekly with your captains. In fact, it’s the most foundational thing to do is sit down with them. And let’s say a certain player is struggling to show up on time, or let’s say for some reason, or maybe you stage it, but you want them to start practice. [00:20:00] Well, you might ask them that with that in the weekly meeting and then the next week. You go well, how is this player doing on show up on time? He’s in your unit. Oh, he still was late. Okay. Well, what’s he struggling with?

You know, and whatever consequences you may be, half of that player, maybe that captain reefs, that consequences. Well, you know, or maybe it’s just, you’re just, you’re on them about that. When it comes to starting practice, how do we do a starting our practice session without me having to blow the whistle and say, all right, here we go, four lines or whatever you start practice.

Why are you having to do that all the time? They should be able to start it when they know the time is there. So it’s just something you can work with them off the court, but then on the court or on the field, wherever you are, whatever sport you’re coaching at, you know, when you’re in these situations and practice is not at the standard that needs to be, for instance, the energy drops down, you might be get with your captains.

You guys, right now you have is, is this what we want to be? Is this who we want to be as this? Who we are? No. No. Okay. You guys got to fix it. And you’re just putting the player in that situation [00:21:00] and they, they may struggle. They may not fix it. Then you might pull them back here. Cap isn’t coaches. Let’s sit down.

Let’s talk. Okay. What’s the big obstacle here. What’s the challenge. Well, this person’s not going hard or this person’s really strong and they’re not locked in. Okay. So what can you do right now about that? Okay. Well, you can have that one on one conversation. It’s so stinking hard that we never, we get, you know, we don’t, we struggle to get players to do so there’s some little things like that.

You just, when you encounter things that I always say you don’t like to do, like clean up the locker room for instance. Oh man. You’re a coach. They’re always complaining. I got to clean up the locker room. Okay. You know, you might just say, Hey Mike, your unit tonight, you guys got cleanup. Well, Mike there with his unit trying to clean up the locker or what happens your unit.

They’re kind of like, Oh yeah, they do a bit of this. They don’t do a good job. And they piece out and you’re left cleaning the locker room by herself. And if it’s not done to standard, you’re doing it again the next day. Right. But you have to, you have to get to experience that moment as a captain, the frustration.

Yeah. [00:22:00] Getting other people to do something they don’t want to do, you know, but you only hold them accountable. You don’t get on necessarily the other players. So they have to struggle with the consequences. So you can offload things that you don’t want to do, but you can also offload things that are really challenging situations.

And I know I’m kind of going off on another one here, but this is huge. Like I talked to coaches and they’re like, I like, how do you, one of my favorite questions is how do you currently give your players opportunities to lead? What essentially, what decisions do they make in your program? The number one thing, they pick out the uniforms.

They pick out the shoes for the season. Well, the only thing they’ll take ownership of then is bottom line is what they look like on game day. If they look like garbage there it’s on them, but we have to give them real insight and influence over. Decisions that matter. And, and, and think about from this Nate, you know, coast to my podcasts, I know he’s been on yours.

He had this great example a few years ago where he’s thinking about, do I move this player up the varsity or not? It would have been an unpopular decision. Some people, the team might’ve been [00:23:00] torn on it, but he brought them in there and he said, Let’s look at the situation. We bring her up. These are the benefits.

We don’t bring her up. You know, these are also some of the, you know, the benefits, you know, just these, these is this the challenge. What do you think? And they got to be a part of that decision making process, which what ends up happening. They go in the locker room when people are like, Oh, why is she being bought up?

Well, they’re like, well, this is actually why they understand the challenge of leadership.

Mike Klinzing: [00:23:27] How much, how important do you think it is? And this goes maybe beyond just what we’re talking about here in terms of creating the council and developing leaders. But I think it speaks to kind of the situation where we are in coaching today and the relationship between coach and players.

Just talk a little bit about how important it is to in anything. And especially when you’re trying to develop leaders to explain a, to them the why behind what you’re doing, and then also then why the captains can then turn and explain the why to their small group. Why is the why so important?

[00:24:00] JP Nerbun: [00:24:00] I think the more transparent we can be in that process, the more you’re going to understand, you know, why it was made and you’re more bought in and they’re going to feel at least.

I think there’s a couple of things. One is just to be able to get them to see a different perspective. I think that there, there is an aspect there, but I think it comes back to that intimate knowledge aspect of, of ownership. You know, they may not have made the decision themselves, but they’ll understand a little bit more and thus they’ll have a little bit more ownership to kind of protect that decision that was made  or why you chose a certain strategy or a certain different approach to something.

Mike Klinzing: [00:24:39] One of the things that you said that is created when you have a captain’s council is just making the experience better for the players who are part of the team. And obviously I think that that’s one of our jobs as a coach is to make sure that the kids like playing for our team. That doesn’t mean that they’re every single moment of [00:25:00] it is enjoyable, but that overall you’re creating a positive experience.

So in your mind, how does. Creating a captain’s council and helping develop the leadership skills of your players. How does that create a more positive experience for the kids as opposed to it just being everything coming down from the head coach or the staff?

JP Nerbun: [00:25:20] That’s a great question. So I tell you a really cool story about, about this it coach I’ve been working with, you know, for about a little over three years now, Kevin, or at rice Lake high school in rice Lake, Wisconsin.

He, He w when I first started working with Kevin, he wasn’t a big captains guy, like most many coaches out there. It’s like, Oh, it’s just a pain. It’s just ceremonial, like all this usual arguments that we all have about why we don’t want to, to captains. And he’s become a massive believer in the captain’s council, huge fan of it because it’s made his job easier.

But I’ll tell you just last year I was, I was up in rice Lake, working with his team and we had our first captains meeting and we sat down and we’re selecting units. And this one [00:26:00] player. it was a senior and a captain. he chose one of the players to put in his units that I wouldn’t say other people didn’t want.

It was just like one of those kids that maybe was on the outside of the team. You didn’t, he wasn’t super connected and it’s just a little bit different, you know, different, different kid. and, but this captain said in that meeting, like, I want this guy because you know, I want to make this like an amazing year for him.

And like, it was really cool moment. Right? So you think, Oh, that’s great. You know, this, guy’s making this commitment. He’s picking him. He’s gonna make it a great year for this guy. Well, at the end of the season, Kevin sat down now with that player who was selected for that unit and ask about his experienced and he said he had never been so connected to a team in his life before. He never felt so much more part of a group now. I don’t think that happens at first off, you don’t take the plate and the captains that are not the intentionality to make sure there’s the units. And secondly, you don’t allow them the [00:27:00] decision who’s in their unit.

I’m picking him autonomy. Now I have the sense of ownership of making sure this kid’s experiences is great. Comes back to your why. Why are we doing this Captain’s council to make everyone feels connected. Everyone feels seen, feels known and feels cared for. And that’s just one story about how the impact can be on the player experience because they’re looking after each other.

And we have a certain responsibility where so often it’s just like, what’s that my fault. He doesn’t feel part of the team. Like he’s just different. Right? That would be the, that would be the take of so many captains.

Mike Klinzing: [00:27:33] All right. So you’re kind of hinting at it here, but when. You as a coach are setting up the selection process for who is in which leaders unit, what does that process look like?

Is it a draft? Is it a discussion where we place players with certain captains? How does the process go about, of assigning a player to a captain? What does that look like?

JP Nerbun: [00:27:57] Honestly, there’s a few different options there that we [00:28:00] like to work with our coaches on because it kind of depends on the situation and the level of safety within that group.

From the get go. Some coaches are starting this to already really connected with their captains there’s or there’s already a high level of maturity. Other coaches maybe struggle with that. Maybe you are one of those coaches where a player has been elected captain. You’re like, Oh, he is not a good leader.

Right. And you’re in those situations and he’s just going to pick his best friend, but sometimes picking someone that is, you already have a strong connection within your unit. That’s a good, right. It allows you to help support that person that may we know may encounter a lot of challenges. also you don’t want to just.

Load up certain units with a lot of it’s really challenging kids when it comes to their level of commitment or attitude, you want to kind of space them out. So every, you know, so you can kind of get a bit of balance fat, a lot of ways, but the more you can bring them players. And I say this, the more that a coach would bring players into that selection process, the more, they’re part of the discussion the better success you will have moving forward with the [00:29:00] units.

Mike Klinzing: [00:29:00] All right. So you want to balance out what you’re saying is the level of, I’m going to use the word coachability, your attitude. You don’t want to have all the super coachable kids in one group and all the kids who are maybe a little bit more of a challenge in another group.

How does it work in terms of, or do you have any recommendations when it comes to the player’s ability or where they stand in the pecking order of the team. Like, do you want to balance if I have the second best player in one unit, do I then want to have the sixth and the 11th best player in that particular unit?

How do you balance out the levels? Of the players, if that question makes any sense.

JP Nerbun: [00:29:39] Yeah. As far as who’s in the units?

Mike Klinzing: [00:29:42] Yeah. So like, do I want to have, let’s say that I have one unit and for whatever reason that one unit is made up of all the starters and the next unit is made up of the three players on the bench, you.

Play the most minutes. And then the last, you know, the last cohort is the final four kids on the bench. Or do I want to [00:30:00] have one starter, one reserve and one kid who doesn’t play hardly at all as part of the group, or does it not matter in your experience?

JP Nerbun: [00:30:06]  I think you want diversity in that, for sure. It’s just not something that has ever really been much of an issue or come up with.

And we’ve done this at dozens of programs. It’s just never been an issue just because you usually get a captain that is not a starter. Okay. And you’re looking at that, you’re mixing up and you’re talking about players that struggle with different things. So, it’s not usually something that comes up, but you definitely would want to have diversity in their roles.

I think probably the question people ask is like, well, what do you do if you have a varsity, JV and freshmen? And I think there’s great value in each team having their own individual identity. That’s only my own personal philosophy. I don’t know if there’s a lot of reason, so that’s actually better than, Hey, we’re all one team here.

so, but I, the big question is, do you have Captains that look over all three teams in the program, or do you have captains for each team? And I’m always on a huge, regardless of whether you want [00:31:00] one team identity or not. I think it’s important for your freshmen team. You want your captains there that are selected from there.

And that’s the beautiful thing about that is, is you’re giving players opportunities at the younger ages to develop leadership. And that’s important. Like for instance, I’m coaching a semipro team here in Ireland this year. I just kind of signed that a few weeks ago. And I’ve got players that have 30 years of age, or is it an 18, 17, 18?

They’re Irish, you know, young, Irish internationals with a real promising career. I don’t just want the 30, 29, 28. I don’t want the veterans as the old ones that are selected captains. I want to do some things throughout the process to help encourage that we get at least one of our younger players voted.

A Catholic because I want them to have experienced delays, but also I want them to really kind of represent that younger group within our, within our team program here within our club. So, you know, you try to be really intentional and thoughtful, but everyone, the situation is different.

Mike Klinzing: [00:31:54] Yeah. I can totally see the value in both sides of it.

And it almost seems [00:32:00] to me like a combination of those two systems would be the best wherein I don’t think that if you just have thinking of a high school varsity program, if you just have. The captains from your varsity team and those kids are responsible for their varsity teammates, but then they’re also responsible for the JV and the freshmen who may not even be practicing with them at the same time.

That to me seems like it would be difficult if that’s the only situation you set up. Whereas if you have captains for your freshmen team, you have captains for your JV team. Now those players want, as you said, can develop their leadership skills at a younger age, but also you have those leaders. Anywhere the team is those leaders are going to be there.

And so you have that leadership in place all the time. And yet at the same time, I could also see the value in having. The varsity captain, the varsity unit also overseeing the JV and freshman year. So many of you being paired up in a group so that they can have discussions where maybe you sit down and, you know, if you’re doing a meeting with [00:33:00] your captains on your own.

Personal team. So let’s say you’re the varsity coach, and you’re doing those meetings once a week. Maybe once a month, you have a meeting with the varsity JV and freshmen group together. Have those captains come in and have a discussion about how it’s going. So you’re building an entire program. And I think that the most successful coaches from a high school standpoint are coaches that understand that they’re not just coaching their varsity team.

They’re coaching a kindergarten to 12th grade program and our. Investing in kids at the younger ages, so that it makes your job easier. Obviously when they get to the varsity, if they’ve already been trained in some of the things that you hope to instill, once they get to the varsity level.

JP Nerbun: [00:33:39] Yeah. That’s exactly what you want.

We’re a big proponent of, if you’ve got multiple teams, you’re still bringing the captains together a few times a month, or at least once a month, you know? And I would say the other thing too, is this isn’t like, it’s not, it’s simple. I’ll save you some time. It’s not always easy. Sometimes you get a group of captains. [00:34:00]

you know, another big thing that’s popper in the med side is you get football players come in and lay well, how do you handle that? I, you know, some of my resources I have for coaches, I kinda go to the details on just some different recommendations, but just having a diverse. Range of, personalities in your, in your group can be really critical.

And that’s one of the benefits of sometimes you get your football team that comes in late, you get to elect one or two more cabins and sometimes, and that can shake them up. You know, I know, I know we’ve had a few programs that really struggled the first half of the year, Erin able to add one or two more players that just became the catalyst for them taking off, you know?

And, yeah, I mean, that’s a big piece of it. Now

Mike Klinzing: [00:34:39] we know what the benefits can be to our teams when we develop these kinds of leaders. But let’s talk about, let’s break it down to an individual player and some of the experiences that you’ve seen with the transformation of a player in terms of the leadership skills enabled, they’ve been able to [00:35:00] develop.

So in other words, have you had any experiences with kids that. Are on teams that you’ve worked with where this kid came in and maybe they were. An average leader, or maybe they had no idea what leadership was and you were able to see them bloom and blossom as a result of being a part of this particular type of system.

Just maybe give us an example of a transformation that you saw in a player by participating in a Captain’s council.

JP Nerbun: [00:35:26] Yeah, I’ll tell you a cool, and I don’t know if you’ve used it on the podcast before, but Mark Cascio down in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. yeah, so I’ve been working with Mark for the last couple of years and I had the fortune of not just going into his team and working with their program for a few days in the fall as a start off the season.

And I got to come back up in January and it was great to see that because I remember one of the first practices I was at, we’re doing something that we call, which is like a team quick set, which is about. You know, really holding them to a really high standard early in the practice where the players are the only ones that can really hold them.

Like they’re required to do all this four [00:36:00] coaches are only sitting there resetting drills and you force the players to step up and communicate and hold each other accountable and supportive. Well, in that first kind of, as they’re getting off, off the ground, there, there’s the one kid who is, he’s a great leader.

He’s a leader of the school. Everyone sees him as leader and he was vocal. He was giving reminders. He was encouraging. He was letting guys know when they were doing, supposed to be what they were supposed to be doing, but nobody else was saying anything like it was just dead quiet and the coaches are just going, Oh man, we really want to step in.

We want it get on them. The way that we structure this, this tar part of practice is to force coaches to shut up and get players to speak up. Well, you know, they had some success and they were fine there. Well, by January when I come back, I mean, it is. Night and day, we’re not just talking about the captains, we’re talking about all the players on there, but you know, that took a season of a lot of interventions and sometimes just putting it on the captains.

But all of a sudden in that drill players have learned to be vocal, speak up and support. [00:37:00] And then on top of that, I’m seeing the quiet kid, one of the quietest kids I’ve ever met that who’s on the Captain’s council. He’s pulling guys aside and he’s saying. You know, he’s given him talks too on the sideline.

He’s helping them from the previous play and, and that’s a process to get there, but it’s, it’s sometimes you’re just forcing them to get into those situations. And the cabins council helps to do that. So I saw where the most quietest, almost talented players have marks all of a sudden go from being that quiet, shy guy.

And he wasn’t being allowed raw guy. He wasn’t giving big team talks, which I think sometimes we look for, he was leading in the way that Sam Walker identifies in the book of captain’s class, which people is a great book to check out. Great, great book, 16, the best leaders, the best teams of all time. What do they do?

They don’t give raw speeches. They’re doing it in the side conversations. So the system does train it up on that. And that was just cool to see that in Mark’s program last year as well.

Mike Klinzing: [00:37:57] Yeah. I think that’s a great point to make about what. Maybe the [00:38:00] general public envisions as being a great leader.

And so often we think of that rah rah, big pregame talk and just somebody who’s loud and vocal. And we don’t always think about the player. Who’s maybe a little quiet or maybe a little bit more subtle than that goes and puts their arm around somebody when they come off the floor and just says, Hey, this is what you need to be doing.

Or Hey, we should look at that. I think that’s something that as a coach, you have to recognize what your players personalities are. And some people are never going to be that raw leader. And I think on a team that’s successful. And clearly if you’ve read the captain’s class, you know, that those leaders are oftentimes the best leaders are the ones that are, that are more subtle as opposed to the ones that are right out in front of everybody and in their face.

And so to see a kid be able to transform and go from somebody who isn’t talking at all to somebody who. Really is leading in their own way. I’m sure is extremely, extremely rewarding for any coach who gets an opportunity to have their players develop in that way. When you start trying to implement the Catherine’s [00:39:00] counsel, and you’ve now done it with multiple coaches over multiple years, what after getting feedback from coaches, what is their biggest challenge?

That they find in trying to implement this system with their team. So when you sit down and you debrief with them about, Hey, how did this go? Or how is it going? What are some of the things that they tell you are the biggest challenge to making sure that they Institute this in the right way,

JP Nerbun: [00:39:26] Two things. And it’s the  drama of selection. And the second thing is the weekly meeting. There’s a draw, there was always drama on the selection, but you have to lean into that conflict. And what I mean by that is. There’s going to be a player that’s nominated that doesn’t get selected or is going to be a few.

And coaches sometimes don’t like this a captain’s in general, just because they’re like, Oh, I don’t want to deal with that player or players, parents. Right. that’s the pieces of that? Well, but getting the, working with that player to help them [00:40:00] to reframe. And to be aware, yes, right off the bat. You know me with that player.

Hey, you’re disappointed you weren’t selected. in allowing them to articulate their frustrations and then say, well, now what’s the story going to be? Is the store this year gonna be how you were the disgruntled guy? Cause you weren’t, you were pissed off. You were just like the captain or is it going to be where you stepped up and you still were a leader in these ways and working with them and, and you’re giving your, what are the things that we talk about with our coaches on getting other players that are captains opportunities to lead and grow and leadership?

And I think that’s one of the biggest misconceptions like, Oh, it’s only developing the four guys are selected captain. That’s totally false. There’s so many things about the program at Dell helped develop other, other, other leaders within that. So that’s the first thing. But the other thing is when you getting into the course of the season and things are going crazy.

Do you sit down and meet with them weekly. That’s the most important thing. And what happens that meeting isn’t a lecture or are you coming here seeking to understand and get their opinion, ask questions, but that meeting coaches get busy [00:41:00] and they there’s a snow storm. And then, you know, so we always encourage coaches to have the same time each week.

And. I’ve got coaches that have done it on the back of the bus. They’ve done the stands before a game. They get their 15 to 30 minute meeting in. They do it. I’ve had coaches do it on zoom before zoom was even a big thing. I had a coach to that last season because of some snow and he met with the captains, at that stage.

So the weekly meeting, staying committed as a coach to that weekly meeting is probably the biggest challenge.

Mike Klinzing: [00:41:27] Is it finding time it’s not necessarily the coach’s commitment to it? Is it more just, It’s something that it’s easy to kind of put on the back burner as opposed to, Hey, let’s cut down 15 or 20 minutes of our practice time on the floor in order to get this in.

But instead we’re just like, yeah, we’re just going to move on and finding the time. Is that the biggest challenge?

JP Nerbun: [00:41:46] Yeah, the commitment to make the time, right? And so that’s what we always say. Put it in the calendar and if you have to reschedule, that’s fine. You just to find another time for it, but is it a priority?

Is it important? And the coaches and I, we were doing a bunch of round [00:42:00] tables, this, this spring with coaches and our, and the TOC community and every coach that talked about their Catherine’s council and their story all said, If you could, if there’s one thing you could do better, it would be like more meetings with the captains.

Just every time you had one, it just helped the fix so much drama. And I was like, why, why do I, why do I not stay committed? You know? Like they just, we get caught up in those things. It’s like a lot of things in life that are good for us and we choose not to do because we get caught up in other things that aren’t as important, you know?

And, it’s only 15 minutes is really what we’re asking coaches to do. but it’s the most important.

Mike Klinzing: [00:42:42] All right. So those are the challenges that coaches face. Tell us what the feedback has been in terms of what do coaches feel are the number one takeaways, the number one benefits that they get out of instituting a captain’s council.

What’s the feedback like on the positive side?

[00:43:00] JP Nerbun: [00:43:00] Well, one thing is air. Yeah. I’ve had some coaches that have been hesitant because they just get tired of the captains, I guess said every coach that’s run a Captain’s council has gone morel in the next year. You know, like, Oh yeah, we need this even bigger.

And it’s because of it’s because of stories where you start to see the quiet guy start to become empowered as a leader, like a quiet. You know, later, you know, he, he’s often probably thinking a lot of things. He’s, he’s probably more aware than the really loud vocal leader. And so it really facilitates those players opportunities to lead, you know, and the one-on-one texts that they send to their team, their guys in our unit, just different things like that.

So it really does develop those leaders. It decentralizes commands. So a coach doesn’t feel responsibility or ownership of every aspect. He’s still taking ownership of the program, but it’s like, honestly, it takes things off your plate. You know, and you just get worn out having to be the one that always starts practice or the one that’s always making sure everyone’s there on time.

And I see a [00:44:00] lot of coaches that they don’t even, they don’t even have a big group team texts that much anymore. They’ll just text the captains and be like, Hey, change of times we’re leaving at eight tomorrow, not nine. Make sure everyone’s there and sweats. There you go done. And none of it doesn’t fall and they don’t fall through on it.

And Johnny on the team, isn’t it not as proper shoes, he just goes to the captain and what’s going on there, you know? And that’s, you know, so there’s a decentralized command. The connected team, you see teams are way more connected, as a group because. You are intentional that unit selection. So guys that made it, we would never talk to each other because while he’s a sophomore and I’m a senior, all of a sudden they’re actually having, I like the college level, they’re having lunch once a week in the cafeteria, because that’s where their commitments as a unit.

The big piece of support and accountability, you know, you just got guys  on other guys holding them accountable, not just holding him accountable, but supporting them when they’re struggling are reaching out. And at the end of the day, like everything that we try to with [00:45:00] coaches to help develop a player like culture.

It’s actually helping make that happen. Like it really is bringing them into some hard decisions that you have to make and allowing their opinion to be heard and allowing them sometimes to make that decision. Hey, do we need a practice tomorrow? What’s the pulse of the team. You just text your captains and they feel empowered.

They feel safe to go coach. I know you’d love to go on our road here, but we need the day off and they feel empowered. In that moment and they feel safe to be able to speak up and that’s honestly what your team needed. And so it’s that player led culture.

Mike Klinzing: [00:45:34] Yeah, I think that safety piece is a huge one.

Especially if you go back in time over the history of coaching and sort of a player coach relationship and how it’s changed over the years, where it used to have that my way or the highway type coaching, where the idea of players having input into decisions that are being made on the team 25, 30 years ago, was extremely, extremely rare.

Whereas now I think that, you know, you’re starting to see with just the way that relationships [00:46:00] between coaches and players have changed and developed and. Clearly becomes stronger in that way, that if you’re a coach and your TA, you’re not taking advantage of getting buy in from your players and getting input from them on how the team is run and what they’re doing.

And that’s not to say that you’re completely turning over all the decisions to them, but it is very, very important. I think, to get their input, to create that investment like you described, is there. Anything else that we haven’t touched on any key points that we’ve missed in terms of why a coach should want to implement a captain’s counselors there, anything that we haven’t hit on?

JP Nerbun: [00:46:37] You know,  I guess my biggest thing is it’s regardless of your level, because we’ve run it at freshmen teams, we’ve run this at obviously high school teams, college teams, even a professional rugby team, you know, it just, it’s gonna really free you up. I think there’s value in giving them books to read on leadership and [00:47:00] putting them in some of these activities or these retreats.

I think there’s a lot of value and stuff out there, but this, I can’t emphasize it enough, this is such a powerful way to take them through an experience that will be really transformative for them. And if, and honestly, leadership is a premium, like we talked about earlier, and I don’t think there’s many other better ways that we can serve our players and help them develop something that is going to really benefit them five, 10 years from now.

Mike Klinzing: [00:47:29] Yeah. And that longterm impact, I think, is one of the things that when you talk about what coaches do. Is so important and it’s something that we don’t always see or recognize in the moment. I think coaches, we all know that we have that in the back of our head, that we’re not just impacting our kids in the moment in the season that we have them in front of us, but we’re impacting them for the longterm.

And I think this is a piece that look, if a kid develops. This ability as a captain, as part of their team, how powerful can that be when they get out [00:48:00] into the real world and they have a job or they’re an employee, or they’re a leader, or they own a company or whatever, it may be, those skills are translatable.

And that’s really, again, what coaching is all about. Sure. The wins and losses are important and we all know that again, we’re a lot happier when we win than when we lose. But at the same time, you ultimately can win the long game by helping your players to develop as people. And I think that’s really what this is all about.

So before we wrap up JP, why don’t you go ahead and share how people can find out more about the captain’s council, where they can talk to you, how they can connect with you. If they’re interested in getting more information about how they can implement this with their team.

JP Nerbun: [00:48:38] Yeah. I mean, obviously if you want to learn more about some of the stuff that we do, you can go over to

There’s a lot of coaches that we work with throughout the season. This is one of the things we help them implement, but a lot of coaches that are maybe necessarily interested in that sort of relationship and that’s fine. So I’ve actually released just recently enough, a captain’s council course on coach course kind of really walks you [00:49:00] through all the very, very finer things of this.

And, and I think that where I’ve had the fortune of working with so many different teams, so then you’re talking about hundreds of seasons or the last four years that I’ve able to really see what works and see what doesn’t. And with that course, you also get a couple of documents, you know, that just helped to save you some time on like, like once like a Google form for when your players vote.

That just scores it in a certain way that a first place vote means more than a fourth place vote as far as for captain, so it just helps to make a less and less of a popularity contest. And some of the stuff that we do there, as soon as you get access to like a Google doc that our coaches in the TOC community have access to, which is just.

As we make improvements to the system it’s just live updated. So it’s a really valuable course. I’ll give you a link and you can kind of put in the episode details. It’s on And the link that I’ll give you the coupon code is hoopsheadCC, and that’ll help coaches save 10% off the course.

Mike Klinzing: [00:49:57] That’s terrific. And JP, I’m really excited about [00:50:00] what we’re going to be able to do here in terms of our Culture Camp episodes, and just getting you on to be able to share all the knowledge that you’ve developed through the years with your own coaching, with working with coaches from honestly all over the world and in different sports.

I think you bring a perspective that any coach is going to want to listen to. Then also, I think one of the things that I loved about what you do and our first episode and this one, and just the things that you do it with thrive on challenges that it’s practical stuff. It’s things that I can read about, I can listen to and I can implement right away and have it make an impact on my team. And really, I think that’s what it’s all about. So I’m excited with where we’re going to go with this thing and glad that you’re willing to be a part of it. And I look forward to our future episodes without question.

JP Nerbun: [00:50:44] Yeah, no, I appreciate the conversation. You asked great questions. Cause it’s about moving to the practical things away from just the theory and the principles, which so often I think we just get stuck at, we understand in theory what it should look like, but we don’t actually how to make that happen.

Mike Klinzing: [00:50:58] Absolutely JP,  can’t thank [00:51:00] you enough for spending some time with us. And we look forward to our next Culture Camp episode and to everyone out there. Thanks for listening. And we will catch you on the next episode. Thanks.

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