Garrett Hickey

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Twitter – @Coach_Hickey5

Garrett Hickey is entering his fifth season at Fairfield Prep.  Hickey was previously an Assistant Coach at Albertus Magnus College in New Haven, Connecticut from 2015-2017.  Prior to his time at Albertus, Hickey was a scout for Notre Dame Fairfield High School. 

Garrett produces a weekly newsletter for coaches called Share the Game, is a Fast Model Contributor, and works with PHD Basketball as a skills trainer and AAU coach.

Hickey also teaches middle school social studies in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

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Grab your notebook before you listen to this episode with Garrett Hickey, Assistant Boys’ Basketball Coach at Fairfield Prep in the state of Connecticut.

What We Discuss with Garrett Hickey

  • His first experience as a coach running practices in a rec league when the team’s coach didn’t show up
  • Graduating from college with a history degree and going back to school to get his Master’s so he could teach
  • Coaching middle school basketball in Bridgeport, CT at the same school where he was teaching
  • Working under a long time D2 coach who helped him learn and develop
  • Becoming friends with some of the players at Assumption College while he was going to school and why he loved watching them practice
  • Building connections with players always came naturally
  • Developing the ability to focus on just one or two things during a drill or practice
  • His system for taking notes and learning
  • Volunteering at Notre dame Fairfield High School and helping to scout opponents
  • How that volunteer work led to an opportunity for him to coach at D3 Albertus Magnus College
  • Remembering how lucky he was during quiet moments alone at Albertus Magnus
  • “Loyalty is transient. If you stay loyal to your beginnings of where you came from and your mentors, the people you’ve met along the way, usually you’re going to go places no matter where you go and what level you want to be at.”
  • How hard you have to work is the same at all levels of coaching
  • His love for teaching and why that steered him back to high school coaching
  • Coaching at one school and teaching at another – what he likes and doesn’t like about it
  • Why it’s important for high school coaches to attend their players’ games in other sports
  • Making practice competitive and fun at the same time
  • Why it’s easier to be successful as a coach if your players like you
  • Don’t let the competitiveness from practice leak off the court and create friction between players
  • Everything has a score, everything is measured
  • “We make sure that the feedback is on the side when the player comes off.”
  • Yelling action verbs at players is almost always a distraction
  • “If we want players to improve and get better, we’ve got to give them one or two areas to focus on in these little segmented blocks of time that we have in practice.”
  • Feedback should only be about what the objectives are for that drill or practice
  • Ask leading question to engage the player in their learning
  • Giving players time to answer the question without jumping in with the answer
  • Helping parents understand what their kids want from them in the stands
  • “Find a good AAU program that’s led by a good person, that has good coaches.”
  • His newsletter “Share the Game” and the resources he provides to coaches
  • Why he enjoys when other coaches challenge his thinking on a topic
  • Advice for parents – ask your kid why they want to playe and use their answer to find the type of AAU program that fits what your child wants
  • “Everything we do is decision-making and small sided games.”
  • “Because you learned how to play the game and not plays or anything else, you’re able to take that in your own way and plug it into wherever you are.”

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Mike Klinzing: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to the Hoop Heads Podcast. It’s Mike Klinzing here without my co-host. Jason Sunkle this evening. He is unfortunately under the weather, but I am pleased to be joined by Garrett Hickey, the associate head coach at Fairfield Prep, Garrett. Welcome to the Hoop Heads Pod.

Garrett Hickey: [00:00:18] Thanks for having me.  I appreciate it. Looking forward to talking some hoops.

Mike Klinzing: [00:00:23] It is going to be a lot of fun looking forward to diving into all of the different things that you are doing to have a positive impact on the game of basketball. Let’s start by going back in time to when you were a kid, tell us about your introduction to the game and maybe some of your first experiences.

Garrett Hickey: [00:00:38] Sure. So I’m actually growing up. I was pretty much a baseball kid through and through, and I played basketball really because it was the only sport that I. But I kind of had, was familiar with, and that was going on during the winter when baseball wasn’t going on. So you know, I played in middle school and I, you know, made the freshman team in [00:01:00] high school.

I was actually cut my sophomore year from our basketball team. Try it out again my junior year and made it and then was cut again my senior year. And that was kind of, that was tough to go cut after, you know, remaking the team again. But looking back on it after I got cut, I decided to play, you know, our, our, your regular wreckly team in the, in the pound.

And we had, we had a coach who wasn’t exactly too committed to us. And a lot of times, a lot of times he wouldn’t show up for practice or games. And that was kind of the first experience I had in coaching. Cause I just took everything that we did at when I was on the high school team. And we just did it during practice.

So I would make like practice plans and I made a playbook for everybody. And so that was kind of my first taste of, of coaching. I don’t say when I was doing that, I really thought of it as coaching. I think I was just more annoyed that the coach but then, you know, I went to Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts, and [00:02:00] I made friends with a lot of the guys in the basketball team and I just kind of went and watched a lot of their games and the coach was nice enough to have me go and watch some of the practices.

But again, it was mostly just a fan of the game. And after I graduated, I didn’t really know what I was doing with my life. So I went back to school to become a teacher. And I got my master’s degree in that. And I was lucky enough when I became a student teacher. The middle school that I was in, had a very good middle school basketball program that was actually coached by a former D2 coach Larry Menta here in Connecticut.

He was at Southern Connecticut and we played 55 games that winter. And I got to be a sponge with him and just kind of learn a lot of the game and a lot of the coaching from him. And then that same exact year, I was lucky enough where one of the teachers at the school was a high school coach and asked me to help out with their fall league.

And I fell in love [00:03:00] with it then. And I asked to you know, I asked to volunteer and scout, so I would coach our middle school team at practices, and then I’d go scout some of the high school games and do scattered reports and to make a long story short. It just so happened that that year one of our players was being recruited by.

Alberta’s managed college, which is a D three college here in Connecticut. And that summer they had an assistant job opened up and I was lucky enough to be able to get that job. And that’s kind of, what’s brought me full circle now. I’m no longer at Alberta’s. I was there for a few years and now I’m at the high school level.

Mike Klinzing: [00:03:35] So I want to work backwards. So let’s go back. Let’s go. Let’s go back to your college experience because I also graduated from college, had no idea really what I wanted to do and went back to school. Once I finished as a player, went back to school to get a teaching degree so that I could teach and coach.

So what was your original major in college?

Garrett Hickey: [00:03:58] So I, I majored in history. [00:04:00] And at first I thought about being a lawyer and then. I kind of always went back and forth about going into education. My mom was a teacher and a principal, so it was always something that I grew up with. And I went really, what happened is I graduated, I moved back to my parents’ house and I worked for my dad.

And I always joke, I love the money, but I hated the job. So that kind of really opened my eyes to, you know, what I, and while I was doing that, I was volunteering at my mom’s school while she was a principal. So I was always working with kids. I’d always been working with kids my entire life growing up.

So I just kind of decided to go that route and made the leap and went back to get my master’s degree.

Mike Klinzing: [00:04:41] So when you first get into what is formal coaching? Yeah, obviously when you were in high school and you’re coaching the rec team, and as you said, didn’t think of it as coaching, but it obviously was your start, but once you formally get into coaching, what was it about.

Be a coach [00:05:00] that made you think, oh, this is really what I want to do. I can see myself doing this for my professional career.

Garrett Hickey: [00:05:09] Yeah. So I think for me, it was definitely the extra connections with the kids because I was coaching the same kids that I was teaching every day. And I’m, you know, I’m a teacher in Bridgeport, Connecticut, which is a low income inner city district.

And it just really allowed me to, you know, middle-class white guy who grew up in the suburbs to really kind of start to bond with these kids that maybe otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to. And I think that’s what drew me in initially. And then once I figured out, you know, that this was kind of a very nice if you will, second job that goes along with teaching really well with the hours, especially.

I said, this was kind of just a natural fit for me. And so that’s when I kind of dug in deeper and said I got to get as involved as possible.

Mike Klinzing: [00:05:57] Was there any thought, you said you were a [00:06:00] baseball kid growing up. Was there any thought of being a baseball coach or when did it, when did the shift to basketball coaching as opposed to baseball coaching take place?

Garrett Hickey: [00:06:11] Yeah, I definitely never wanted to be a baseball coach. You know, even though I love baseball and I have a lot of respect for baseball coaches, I just found it very mundane and very boring to me. I love playing it. And I think it was mostly just, you know, I had always grown up watching Yukon basketball and the Celtics and I just, I always just kind of loved the action of the game and the fast pace and the fascia movement.

And I guess I would say that it, it kinda trans transitioned over into college because I would go and. Watch, you know, our, our college team play and sometimes their college team practice on like a Sunday morning and I wasn’t a manager or anything or wasn’t involved. I was just going to watch it.

Yeah, no, I just, I just loved the, I just loved going and being in the gym [00:07:00] and, and just watching on, I played,

Mike Klinzing: [00:07:03] I played sometimes I didn’t want to go to those practices.

Garrett Hickey: [00:07:04] Yeah, yeah, no, I definitely was a little weird. Sometimes, sometimes the guys would, would have me like go in and I thought they wanted me to work them out, but they really meant that they want me to work out with them.

And that’s, those are the days that I did not like being in the gym.

Mike Klinzing: [00:07:22] I understand. I can, I can understand exactly where you’re coming from with that. Did you have with, did you room with one of the players or what was your connection to you? Just got to be friends with guys because they were in a dorm or what was it, how did you get connected to those, to those guys on the team?

How did you become friends with them?

Garrett Hickey: [00:07:37] I don’t know what it was, but that year there’s like three or four. There was three or four basketball players who were also history majors. So I was just in a bunch of classes with the basketball guys and I just kind of naturally started talking to him about stuff and you know, and then I would go watch the games and talk to them about the games.

And then, you know, they’d be like, Hey, why don’t you tell [00:08:00] them, you know, see a practice or whatever, and they’d ask the coach. And they said, yeah. And so I would do that.

Mike Klinzing: [00:08:06] That’s very cool. That’s very cool. I think it’s funny because we talked to obviously all different kinds of coaches at all different levels, and I love the backstories of how people get into coaching.

And I think yours is pretty unique in that your play career ended earlier obviously than you would have liked. And yet at the same time here you are, you get connected to a bunch of guys that are playing on a college team. You’re not a manager, which as we know, that’s a really a traditional way now.

Coaches get into the profession as they go to a college and they become a manager for the team. And then that sort of transitions them. They build relationships with the coaches, both on their own staff and maybe staffs of other coaches you know, other teams, other programs in their conference. And then they end up getting an opportunity.

So you didn’t go that route. And [00:09:00] it’s a pretty unique story. And when you get to that middle school job, and you’re connecting with those kids that, as you said, that was one of the things that really attracted you to that thought made you think, Hey, I can, I can do this. What were one or two things that right away you were pretty good at that you felt pretty confident about as a coach?

And then we’ll follow that up with what was one or two things that maybe were really difficult for you initially as a coach.

Garrett Hickey: [00:09:29] The one thing or one of the two things that was pretty easy for me was the, like the direct connection with the kids, but also being able to connect like education back with the kids because they weren’t just my players. They were my students. And I had a lot of them. I had most of them in actually I had all of them in class.

Cause it was, they were all middle school kids. And so, you know, they didn’t just look at me as their [00:10:00] coach. They looked at me as their history teacher and who just happens to be their basketball coach. And so I was able to make the connection between like, you know, understanding how we had like weekly progress reports that we would do and on their grades and their behavior, and just being able to connect it to like, you know, it’s not basketball, a separate than schools.

It all flows in the same direction. And you’ve got to make sure that. Tracks are going the right way. And then I think the second thing was just always like being high energy and excited because I really love my job. And I love the kids that I taught and those kids were my players. And so for me, it was like the end of the school day, the bell went off and I went right to the locker room, got changed in my, in my gym clothes.

And I was out there, you know, ready to go. I was 22 or 23 years old and just excited to be there and excited that you know, I was able to do this and spend the extra time with the kids.

[00:11:00] Yeah, definitely. Definitely. I think that’s, that’s I think if you ask a lot of coaches, they would say that that’s a really important thing to have and sometimes it doesn’t come very naturally. And I was just lucky enough where it came naturally for me. And then obviously I think the two things that I struggled with Would definitely be the Xs knows that that’s the I guess that would, I would say that that would be the negative part of, of not really playing varsity basketball in high school and only playing two years of basketball in high school is that you lose out on all those practices and different things when you’re learning the X’s and O’s.

So that was something. And I said, when I was 22, I thought, well, in order to be a good coach, I needed, I need to know all the X’s and O’s, I need to know everything about that. And that’s not necessarily the case. And then I guess the second thing the second thing, there’s a lot of things I could struggle with.

So I’m trying to, I’m trying to narrow it down, I guess it would just be like, Focusing on, on one thing, like [00:12:00] during practice or during the game. Yeah, just looking at, especially when it comes to like mistakes and like, which ones do you correct? Which ones do you not correct?

Mike Klinzing: [00:12:10] That was, I’ve said this a couple of times on the podcast when I’ve gotten into this conversation.

And I know my very first coaching job and I was one of those people that I grew up as a basketball player. It did not cross my mind ever that I wanted to be a basketball coach and not till I finish playing that, I start to think, well, maybe I want to, maybe I’d like to be a coach at my very first job. I coached a JV team and my very first practice, it was just me.

So I had no assistance. It was just me and 12 kids. And I remember I ran my first drill and after like five minutes, I just was like, there was a million mistakes and that five minutes, how am I possibly ever. Going to fix that. And I had no idea how to, as you just [00:13:00] said, focus in on one thing. And it took me a long time to realize that you can’t fix everything that you see that’s wrong.

And I struggled for a long time that year, trying to figure out how often do I stop play? What do I correct? What do I not correct? What do I let go? And I’m sure that I’m not the only coach who has said this, but I was a pretty bad coach. It was first my first year, for sure. And I think I was probably better my second year, but that first year, for sure, I was probably pretty terrible.

I mean, I knew some things about the game, but I had only played for one high school coach and one college coach. And so the things that I knew were the things that I had done as a player. Nobody had really taken me under their wing and said, Hey, you got to go out, go to clinics and you got to study and you got to watch more film and do all these things.

I didn’t really do any of that. I just kind of took what I knew from [00:14:00] being a player and thought that was going to make me a good coach. And I think if I have one regret is that I did do more of that early in my career is to really learn the game and go back and do that. So when you think about yourself in that situation, what did you do to try to grow yourself as a coach?

If you did anything, maybe you were like me and you just tried to do the best you could with what you do already. But when you think about how you went about getting better, how’d you do that?

Garrett Hickey: [00:14:27] Yeah. I mean, I think it just boils down to, I was really lucky because I wasn’t working with some volunteer dad who’s coached in the middle school team.

I was working with somebody who had 40 years of coaching experience. And so I just, a lot of times I just shut up and listened just was a sponge and practice and a sponge you know, during games and just kind of learning the ins and outs everything. And then the second thing is w I, I think at, by that point because you know, it, it’s a big commitment coaching, like the [00:15:00] 55 games, and then volunteering at the high school level.

I re I started just reading a ton a ton of books podcasts running essentially really that big back then, but I, you know, would occasionally watch like YouTube videos and a couple of my, you know, like the assistant, the head coach at the middle school game. Like a couple of years, like Hubie brown, like VHS and DVD is cause we still have VHS is in the school.

So I could watch those during prep and stuff. So I, I, I guess not really attending the clinic as much, but definitely just trying to be a sponge and get as much information into me as possible.

Mike Klinzing: [00:15:36] Did you write stuff down? Like, did you have a notebook? Did you keep it on a computer file? What was your system for?

Garrett Hickey: [00:15:42] Yeah, I have, I still have them. I have I have like three or four composition notebooks that I just filled up with stuff from videos, stuff from books. I obviously like dog-eared and highlighted a bunch of the books that I have too. So I think that’s kind of like the teacher to me, just making sure that [00:16:00] I’m I’m getting to be down as much information as possible and then retain it later.

Mike Klinzing: [00:16:06] What’s your favorite memory from that time?

Garrett Hickey: [00:16:09] So I, again, I’m going to probably say this a bunch of during this podcast, but I was so fortunate and lucky that the middle school team, we ended up, I think we won about 46 or 47 of the 55 games. And we, we won the city championship and we won like three or four tournaments against like a few teams, which is pretty cool as a school team.

And then that same year, the high school that I was volunteering for made the, the state championship game. We unfortunately lost, but I think those were like two along with all those callous memories that I have with all the kids from that year and stuff, but Besides that it was definitely just experiencing, you know, winning on those levels and success on that level in my first year of coaching, obviously that helps you fall in love with it even more, I think.

[00:17:00] Mike Klinzing: [00:17:00] Yeah. Winning, you know, it’s one of those things that is winning the most critical part of being a good coach. I think most coaches would argue, no, that it’s the impact that you can have on players. But I always have this conversation with parents whenever you know, I’ve coached mostly my kids, AAU teams.

And I always say, look, winning’s not the most important thing, but winning certainly helps make it a more positive experience. It’s easier to generate a positive experience. When some winds go along with it, you have to work a lot harder. To create a positive experience for your kids and for your team, if you don’t win many games.

And so I think those two things, you know, it’s important to, to keep in mind and keep it in perspective, but it’s also important to remember that winning, winning some games does help along the way. For sure. So when you think about those first experiences and you get an opportunity to work with a great mentor, [00:18:00] which not everybody gets an opportunity to, do you get an opportunity to work and coach the kids that you saw during the day as a teacher, which not everybody gets to do.

And then you get an opportunity to coach at the college level pretty early in your career. So just describe how that came to be, what that process looked like. Maybe something you remember about the interview and just again, how fortunate you were to be put into that position.

Garrett Hickey: [00:18:29]  Yeah. I mean, I can’t stress that enough, how lucky I am, like guy, like I said earlier it was just because I was volunteering and around, I, I met the head coach there, Mitch Oliver, and, and because I met him, we made that kind of connection because he was recruiting one of our players.

I was able to, you know, get the interview I don’t think it wasn’t necessarily my memory from the interview would not distinctly be anything in the interview. I don’t really remember a lot to be quite honest with you because I was so shocked that I was actually getting,

[00:19:00] I probably stuttered around and sounded like an idiot to be honest. But I just remember what I left and I was with one of my buddies. I was, I was driving him and dropping him off somewhere and he, he stayed in the car. I told him, I was like, oh, I’ll probably be like 30 minutes. You’re probably going to hate it.

And I’ll just come back out. And it was like 90 minutes later I’d been in there and I walked out and I just got, gotten the car and he was like, how’d it go? And I just remember, I turned to him and I was like, I think I got the job. I was so nervous that I don’t remember if that’s exactly what he said.

And so, yeah, obviously I, I did end up getting the job and I was extremely lucky about that. And it was. It’s such a, like you said, such a really, really good experience. You know, so early on in my career, and once again you know, I just, I landed in a place that had had a ton of success before I got there.

They had the most home wins in a row and the [00:20:00] entire NCAA throughout all the three divisions when I arrived and they had already won like three or four conference championships and they admitted to the elite eight. So when I got in there, I coached there, like I said, for two years and I played in the conference championship game both both years.

I lost the first year and I, and we won the, we wanted the second year. So again, just. You know, extremely lucky and extremely fortunate to be were to get to the places that I, that I ended up landing, which is great.

Mike Klinzing: [00:20:31] We’re one or two things that when you first got that job and you step in to college coaching, what’s something that you didn’t expect that ended up being a big part of your job.

Cause I think one of the things that you always hear about when, especially people who go into college coaching, they end up getting a lot of things that they have to do that are put onto their plate, that they didn’t really realize were part of being in [00:21:00] college basketball coach. So there’s anything that kind of fits that description for you?

Garrett Hickey: [00:21:02] Oh yeah. I, I mean, I did, you know, I, I knew the, I definitely knew the educational aspect just because I was a teacher and I had friends, like I said, in college that were on the two. So I understood that the. You know, the responsibilities that assistants have with making sure guys are in study hall and go into classes.

But all of the other things that like doing the laundry, like putting all the jerseys in the wash in the dryer and folding them before the game and then sweeping and wet mopping the floor before each of our home games. And just making sure the guys come back from the, from the tap at the right time or making sure the castle, it practice goes late.

It’s just like all the things that you wouldn’t, like you said you wouldn’t really think of. But they were all things that I weirdly enjoyed. I never really complained about it. I liked it because I wasn’t very stressful job just because [00:22:00] of all the work that it was and, and the work that we put in and making sure that we were successful.

So like those little moments where I would be like in the washroom by myself or put my headphones on and What mopping the floor before Gans were like my moments where like, I could really soak it in and remind myself how lucky I was that I even was where I am and that I had this opportunity. And so yeah, I would, I would say it was all, it’s all those things.

And, and while it sounds like I’m complaining about them, I was actually really happy that I had those moments.

Mike Klinzing: [00:22:33] What did you learn from that experience that you’ve carried with you in your subsequent coaching endeavors?

Garrett Hickey: [00:22:43] Yeah, I think there, if there’s two things that I would have to say that I learned number one would be that loyalty is currently.

That was like something. I remember my head coach there, Mitch would always say you know, to me, w he had been around a lot of different places. We had so many [00:23:00] connections and he’d always just say, loyalty is transient. If you stay loyal to your beginnings of where you came from and your mentors, the people you’ve met along the way, usually you’re going to go places no matter where you go and what level you want to be at.

So that would be the first one. And then I think that the second thing that’s always stuck to me is the amount of…I knew how hard, you know Jim Calhoun worked at UConn because that’s such a high level, but I think my naive self in like high school and in college, when I was watching, you know you know, watching a  and thinking about like, oh, I, our school was D two and there’s like D three in juvenile.

I was like, oh, those must be pretty easy job. You know, it’s, it’s not as the highest of levels and yada yada yada. And just after being there for two years, I have so much respect for every single coach, obviously at all levels. But even the, the lower the level, it’s almost like my respect level goes up because they have so many hats that they have to [00:24:00] wear on a daily basis.

And I just, I constantly remind myself of that. And I’m a big advocate for the lower levels. And I have tons of friends who coach at those levels and I’m always trying to, to boost those levels up. My players in high school even joke about it. Cause I’m always talking about like, oh,

what are you talking about? I was like, Hey man, I was like, don’t sleep  so yeah, those would be the two things.

Mike Klinzing: [00:24:30] I know I’ve had conversations with several division, three coaches, one with John Baines. Who’s the head coach at Elmhurst in the state of Illinois. And I remember him telling me that he sat down with recruit a recruit, but he, this was just one specific story. But he said, I had, this happens to him all the time that he’ll sit down with a player and maybe the players, a kid who’s, maybe he’s got some division, two looks, or, you know, he’s a kid who could possibly play at a [00:25:00] higher level than division three.

And he’s having a conversation with them and the kid and their parents will say, oh, he’s, you know, he’s a I’m way better than the division three level. And John would say to the kid, have you ever even seen a division three game? Have you ever, have you ever watched a game? And he’s like, you know, 75% of the time, the answer to that is no.

And he’s like, well, why don’t you come watch us play? Or why don’t you. You know, show up at one of our open gyms and actually play against our guys and see what it’s like. And I think that people have no idea how good you have to be to play college basketball at any level. They forget about division of water.

I mean, we’re talking whether it’s in AI or it was a three, or it was in two, whatever, to be able to set foot on a college basketball floor. You have to be a really good player. And I think that one of the themes that’s come through our podcast and we’ve had a number of people that have shared the idea that what’s most important is you have to find [00:26:00] the right fit for you as a college athlete.

And that could be school and academics. That could be the basketball coach. It could be the program. It could be, the campus could be the location, but there’s a place that’s going to fit. The type of experience that you’re looking for. And I think that’s what I hear you saying is that, look, it’s not just, we, when, especially if you’re on social media a lot, you see so much of the division of one or bust mentality.

So many, so many people with blessed to receive this offer and thankful for that offer. And that’s what you see all the time. But if you’re a kid that’s gotta be hard, that’s gotta be really hard to scroll through and look and see guys that you play against the summertime and AAU or this or that they’re getting this offer and that, and you’re just sitting there going well, where’s, where’s my offer.

When you might have a bunch of really good division three schools that really want you to come there and you can have a great basketball experience, you can have a great academic experience. And it’s just interesting that people sometimes downplay how good those levels of basketball [00:27:00] are. And I think you make a great point as, as you brought that up, when you’re there and you’re going through that experience, what’s your.

What’s your career path looking like at that point, what are you thinking? Cause obviously you start out your coaching at the middle school, you’re teaching different career path than being a college coach. So as you get into college coaching, what’s your thought process on kind of where you live, where you think you might end up where you think you might go next and how do you compare those two levels and just the experiences you had?

Garrett Hickey: [00:27:32] Yeah, I mean, obviously I looked back at one of those composition notebooks that I had and I was reading some books that told me to write down a goal and I wrote going to be a head coach of a D one college by the age of 28. So that’s how naive I was when I, when I first got that job. I just thought automatically like, oh, I’m, you know, I’m an assistant coach at the college level and my team is very successful and we’re nationally ranked, like I’m going to, [00:28:00] this is going to be easy.

Obviously it’s not. And you know, To talk about like the path or whatever. I just, I kinda realized that to be, you know, you look back at that goal and to be a division one basketball coach or a head coach, I’m not gonna be a teacher. And at that point I was three or four years into teaching and I had absolutely fallen in love with it.

And I didn’t want to have to give that that up. Like I was able to do my job as an assistant at a D three level with, you know, having my teaching job. But when I, you know, when I took weigh the two and then realized that I would have to give one up for the other, and I also realized, like we were talking about before how much work it is just at the D three level.

And you know, how busy I was that I knew I had kind of had to reevaluate the path that I wanted to go down. And you know, that’s kinda where I looked at it and I said, you know, The only [00:29:00] volunteer at the high school level. I really didn’t get to be in every single practice and I wasn’t on the bench in the games.

And I said, I think the perfect fit or the perfect mesh for me would be to find an assistant coaching job at the high school level. And I’d be able to keep my teaching job and do both. And so that’s kind of where I am right now.

Mike Klinzing: [00:29:20] So when you think about that piece of it and how important the teaching aspect of it is to you and you think to that first experience where you were coaching the kids on the team, and then you’re also seeing them during the school day, how much of a challenge is it for you to be teaching one place and coaching in another, in terms of building the connection between.

You and your players. I know when I was coaching, I taught in the elementary school, coached as a varsity assistant. Our schools were literally right across the parking lot and there was [00:30:00] still some part of me that I felt disconnected cause our other two coaches on staff were in the high school. And so if there was a change or something, they could all communicate face to face and I would have to get a phone call or an email or somebody would have to run a message over to me.

And I always found it to be a little bit challenging. And I think now if you look at the high school ranks, there’s a lot more coaches today who don’t coach in the school where they coach either because they teach at another school or maybe they’re not teachers all together and they have another job and then they come in and coach.

So just how do you approach that relationship building part of it? And just talk a little bit about how you think about being in the building versus not being in the building.

Garrett Hickey: [00:30:44] I absolutely love the setup that I have because I, I teach in a, like I said, an urban inner city, low income neighborhood. And then I teach literally a mile and a half down the road at at Fairfield prep, [00:31:00] which is the polar opposite when it comes to the socio-economical backgrounds and things like that.

And so at first I was a little worried about it because I was like, okay, this is two completely different groups of kids, not just age wise, but just background wise and in general. And, and what really, what ends up happening is, is really, really awesome. And, and it’s, it’s something that I take with me on a daily basis.

And that I remember always is that it opened my eyes to all of these kids are when it comes down to they’re just kids. They want similar things. They, they want to be liked by their peers. They want to be respected by you. They want. Feel like they’re cared about and feel like they’re safe, where they are.

And that economic piece that I was so worried about really doesn’t come into play when it comes to just kind of relating to a teenager. And that was what was really, really eyeopening and made the experience just that much better than what I was already kind of [00:32:00] expected when I, when I got the job and took it and decided to do those two things.

And, and I think that’s really a really cool opportunity that I have to learn every day and just be reminded of that. And I would say that with when, you know, obviously there there’s a lot of pluses to being, you know, a teacher in the school that you’ve coached in. I know that just from firsthand experience with coaching and teaching at the middle school level you know, it’s easier to make sure that, you know, you’re checking up on grades and behavior and expectations that we have.

And the classroom, and that’s easy to do if you’re there and your coworkers with the teachers and stuff. And I think it’s also easy if you’re there to, you know, you’ll have other students who are going to likely if they like you and you’re like in class and they respect you are going to support you, just that they will support their friends and their and their teammates.

So there, there’s obviously a huge advantage of that. And we’re lucky enough on our staff at Fairfield prep that both of our freshmen coaches are one’s a believe in admissions. And the [00:33:00] other one is, is they’re, they’re actually, they’re both admissions now that I think about it. And then one of them does like some mentoring and stuff with the kids as well, and then goes on their retreats with them.

So we have that connection you know, on our staff, which I think is really cool.

Mike Klinzing: [00:33:16] How do you go about building those relationships when you’re not spending as much time with the kids during the day, you’re seeing them during practice and obviously teen activities, but what do you personally do to help facilitate those types of relationships?

Is it mostly built up through small daily conversations on the way to the practice floor in the locker room, sitting down before games? Is that mostly how you do it or do you have something formal that you do?

Garrett Hickey: [00:33:42] No, I wouldn’t say I have anything formal. I mean, it, it really starts out like when I first got the job, I just, I went to all the fall sports stuff that I knew the kids the kids played.

So like I would go there and I’d do that still. I try to get to as many home games as we have to show face and see the kids and [00:34:00] have them see us. Cause I think that’s a really important part of your culture, but just building the community feel that you wanted in a school. And then yeah, when it, when it’s in the season, I you know, just because of my job, it allows me to kind of be around after the three o’clock bell.

So I usually just, even though my practice or, you know, our practice might not be till like four or four 30, I’ll go, I’ll just go right there right after school. And they might be shooting around and I just hang out with them. And you know, like you said, have small conversations before practice, after practice.

And then if you know their spring athletes, I try to go to their spring sports and support them as much as possible. There,

Mike Klinzing: [00:34:41] I think that support outside of the given sport that you coach, I think it’s an underrated aspect of building relationships with kids, because we always hear coaches talk about wanting to make sure that the kids know that they care about them as a [00:35:00] person and not just as an athlete, but I think it goes a long way to be able to.

Participate and show an interest in the other activities that the kids have that could be again, a spring sport, or maybe they’re involved in some other activity. I think whenever you get an opportunity to go, and I can say that as a teacher and as a coach over the years, occasionally I’ve been invited to go see maybe it’s a kid’s performance, or they want me to go see a different game.

And whenever I do that, I feel like it deepens that connection that I have with the kid in a way that I think it’s hard to do it just about. I think that’s one of the best ways that you can really show the kids that you do care about them as more than just a basketball player. When you do that, it builds the type of relationship that allows you to get more out of them as an athlete.

And it also gives you an opportunity to have a relationship that’s going to last beyond just. The season or [00:36:00] beyond just their careers, a high school athlete, but you’re going to be able to 10 years down the road, they’re going to be calling you up and talking about their wedding or telling you about the new job they got or that their had their first child or whatever it might be.

And really, again, as we talked about earlier, that’s really what coaching is all about. So when you think about what you’re doing there at Fairfield prep right now, and you think about trying to build a positive high school program and an experience for your players, what do you do to try to build the team culture there?

What do you guys do as a staff to be able to get the kids, to buy into the team concept of basketball that we all know is so important?

Garrett Hickey: [00:36:45] Yeah. I mean, I think  when it comes to the pure practice standpoint, I think it’s just really important. To make practice competitive, but fun at the same time. And, and I think if you have you have a bunch of athletes who [00:37:00] are looking forward to go into practice because they know that it’s going to be fun.

And I know that it’s there. It’s going to be an area where there they can compete with, you know, their peers and their friends. I think that’s a really natural way of getting buy-in and then creating that positive foundation for a culture. And then obviously you have all your things. I think we’ve all done before as coaches, you know, the dinners going bowling or, you know go into another local college game.

We’re on the same campus as Fairfield university. So we’ll go and watch their boys and girls basketball games as like a binding outside of basketball. So that’s obviously important as well. And I would, I also. At the same time that, you know, we, I think there’s a stigma out there that as coaches or for some coaches that, you know, you want your players to respect you and almost kind of fear you and this whole thing about, you know, I don’t care if my players don’t like me, but I want them to respect me.

[00:38:00] I’m I think that it’s a very underrated and very important aspect of building a culture and building a successful one is making sure that your players, like now that they’re not talking about like going out of your way to like please them and do something that is not against or not something that you would normally do.

But I think it’s important that you build relationships with your players so that they like you because they don’t like you. I don’t really know how you do all the other stuff that I just kind of mentioned.

Mike Klinzing: [00:38:31] It’s so true. It’s one of those things. I think that is often underrated in terms of, if you go out every day, if you show up as a player, And anybody who’s listening out there who’s played sports at any level.

I’m sure. Eventually you ran into a coach that you didn’t like, and it wasn’t nearly as much fun to go to practice or to even be on that team when you were with a coach that you didn’t like. And I think it’s a great point that if you set [00:39:00] up a situation where it’s a positive experience for the kids that are part of your team, then you’re doing something right.

And you’re giving them the type of experience that they’re going to want, that there it’s going to make other kids want to be involved in your program. And that’s going to lead to longer term success when you’re creating the type of environment that kids want to be a part of. And I think that that transcends sports.

It doesn’t matter. You can think about that as a teacher as well. You want to be a teacher that the kids like, because if they like you, you’re much more likely to be able to. More out of them and help them to learn better and all the things that go along with being a great teacher. To me, that’s all so, so important when you’re talking about having an impact on young people, which as we’ve said, it’s really what coaching is all about when you guys are putting together your practice plans.

I think one of the things that coaches sometimes try to figure out and try to balance [00:40:00] within their team is how do you strike a balance between competitiveness in your practices and still building that team camaraderie where you have two players are going at a competing for playing time, play the same position, and you want them to be ultra competitive in practice.

And yet you also want them to support one another. So when one’s on the floor, the other one’s up and sharing for that, for that player, you want them to be great teammates. What does that look like at Fairfield prep? When you think about. Making a practice competitive and yet at the same time, maintaining that team comraderie.

Garrett Hickey: [00:40:36] Yeah. That’s I think that’s a really good question. I would first lead with that really are very lucky if there’s a prep and we have a ton of kids who are just really good kids and are very competitive, but at the same time, you know, they’re all friends they’ve for the most part, a lot of them have grown up together and played sports.

So the editor, no they’re most of their young lives. So they, they kind [00:41:00] of know each other and they know, you know, when to compete and when to not cross the line and make sure that, you know, whatever you’re doing, it’s kind of stays on the floor. And it doesn’t leak out of the gym and then become a problem with somewhere else.

But you know, that’s not always the case. I actually, we’ve been lucky the four or five years that I’ve been. That we had the groups, but if, you know, if there is that animosity, I think it’s just really important. Again, like we have to, at the end of the day we’re we’re coaches, we’re teachers, and we have to teach skills, not just like basketball skills, but life skills.

And so I think it’s really important to, to introduce players, to competitiveness and then talk about and make sure that they understand that, you know, the diff the competitiveness can’t leak into other things that competitiveness is there to try and create whatever it is, the two teams or the two athletes.

[00:42:00] They’re trying to make each other better by competing and going at it. And that that’s the goal that competitiveness is positive. And so therefore the entire experience should be positive and therefore all the interactions should be positive.

Mike Klinzing: [00:42:14] Do you do. Drills. Do you keep track of wins and losses? How do you guys go about keeping track of who’s who’s winning and losing within a practice setting?

Is that something that you guys do there at Fairfield?

Garrett Hickey: [00:42:31] Yeah. Yeah, so, you know, it, we do a ton of competitive stuff where we keep score and there’s two teams. We also do, like, we compete like where the whole team is competing, like one through 15 against the clock or against the score that we made up. And like other drills.

So I would say probably 90%, if not more of our practices is all competitive. And we don’t just keep [00:43:00] score with like points. We keep points, meaning baskets made. Like, we, I think it’s really important to, to be points of like the things that you’re trying to stress to. The players in the gym on what’s important to you and your goals for those practices.

So yeah, every, everything has a score. Everything is measured. And that way, not only is there a competitive competitiveness in each of the things that we’re doing, but there’s also, you know, team building and team bonding, that’s mixed into all those things as well.

Mike Klinzing: [00:43:31] How does that break down in terms of the roles for assistant coaches during practice, as far as writing things down or keeping track, or how do you guys delegate those responsibilities within a drill where you’re balancing out who’s coaching and sharing things, who’s writing stuff down.

How do you guys go about just dividing up that those tasks?

Garrett Hickey: [00:43:54] Yeah. W we usually have a manager who’s, who’s doing the the score on on, on. [00:44:00] And because we are lucky enough to practice in a Fairfield university. We have like a jumbo-tron, so there’s a bunch of different digits that can be plugged in there so we can mostly keep track of everything.

So all of the players can see it throughout all the whole drill. So we’re lucky in that way. And then, you know, coaches roles, I mean, we try to, you know, especially when we’re in those four on four, three on three, five on five competitiveness drills where we’re keeping score and there’s a winner, there’s a loser we kind of as coaches, just sit back and observe.

I think that’s a really important part of coaching and I think it’s the part that’s glanced over the most. So we kind of sit back and if we’re going to talk to a player or assess a player and give some, some feedback, we make sure that the feedback is, you know, on the side when the player comes off.

And that way the drill doesn’t get interrupted. And, you know, the only talking that’s being done on the court should be. Among the players and then stuff like that, we really try and not, we’re not always good [00:45:00] at it, but especially we try not to yell out commands and things that we want the players to do.

Because if you look at it like any study that shows the, you know, the more yelling that’s going on, especially when the yelling is like action verbs or things that they want someone to do. And it’s like their name followed by dribble or whatever it usually is. It’s always a negative thing. And it usually leads to something that’s negative because it’s a distraction.

And it’s one that we actually have control over as coaches. So we can take that away.

Mike Klinzing: [00:45:35] So what does the feedback then look like? Because I know that this is one of the things that I continue to always have a hard time with when I’m coaching my teams, especially because oftentimes I’m in a situation where I might be me at practice.

By myself. So I’m the only coach that’s there. And if I’m running the practice and I’m in the drill, and then I’m trying to call a kid over and [00:46:00] have a conversation like you described as one person. And there’s a lot of coaches out there, especially if you’re coaching at if you’re coaching AAU team or you’re coaching at a youth level.

And there’s a lot of coaches that only are one person and they don’t have a whole staff that can do some of these things. So what does the feedback look like when a player comes off the floor? What are some of the things that you might be looking to point out to them? Are you looking back at maybe a decision they made and asking them a question like, Hey, why did you make that decision?

Or what did you see there? What could you maybe have done differently? How do you phrase that with a player as you’re talking to them to try to help, to help them learn what you did, what it is that you’re trying to get them to understand?

Garrett Hickey: [00:46:40] All right. You, you hit a passion with me right now. So I’m trying to try not to go off on a tangent here, but I think the feedback first starts with me like the practice plan aspect.

So if you have a drill and you’re going eight minutes, [00:47:00] and this goes back to what I was saying before, about focusing on that one or two things, I think every journal on your practice plan needs to have like two objectives, two things that you’re working on in that drill, because that’s really kind of makes the most sense with when we’re talking about high school, middle school, elementary school kids is if we want them to improve and get better, we’ve got to give them one or two areas to focus on in these little segmented blocks of time that we have in practice.

So that being said. If you do that at the right way. And you’re saying, all right, listen, in this drill, we’re going to focus on decision-making and your footwork when you’re finishing at the rim. So footwork and decision-making in those two areas. Then when you’re need to give feedback, you can, like you said, pull a kid over to the side or go over to them while they’re on the side.

And the feedback should only be about what the objectives were, even if, even if the kid did something wrong. But if it’s outside of [00:48:00] those two objectives, it shouldn’t be talked about. So that in that way, like it makes sure your feedback focused. You’re probably going to not have to give as much feedback to as many people as possible because now it’s a little bit more focused where the mistakes I’m going to address every mistake or I’m going to address all of these mistakes.

It’s, I’m only addressing the mistakes that are made on our objectives and at the same time, and you brought it up. The feedback needs to be quick and it needs to be player led, meaning you’ve got to ask a leading question or some type of question. That’s going to get the player thinking. And I don’t know, I’m trying to figure out where I got this from, and I’m not, I’m blanking on it, but there’s, I think we’ve all run into this as teachers and as coaches, when you ask a player a question and then there’s that really awkward moment of silence.

And they look at you like blinking and they have no idea what you’re talking about. The amount of times that I’ve done this. And I’m sure we all have is we we’ve started to feel bad and we want to help them. So we [00:49:00] give them the answer or we give them a hint or we give them a leading another leading question.

That’s going to lead them there. And I just heard it like this past week, I think on Monday. And it was talking about that moment of awkwardness and silence is the learning process. And we need to at least give 60 seconds, even though it’s going to be, feel like a really long 60 seconds of awkwardness. To let them think ponder and give an answer.

Now, in your example, if you’re the only one there and you don’t have 60 seconds to just stand there. I’ll I think it’s really good to ask the question. If they can’t answer it in 10 or 15 and say, Hey, think about it and come back to me for an answer. I’m going to be back here in two, three minutes. And that, so that’s my long-winded answer on, on feedback and what I think it should look like.

Mike Klinzing: [00:49:44] That’s a really good answer. And I think it’s something that coaches have to be really intentional about how they go about giving feedback and really thinking through, as you said, what’s the focus of the drill. That’s number one. And then number two, if you’re [00:50:00] going to talk to a kid and you’re gonna give them feedback, you got to make sure that what you give them is something.

Actionable that they can do. And so by asking a question, I think what you’re trying to get the kid to do is really think about, well, Hey, what did I do? And what could I have done differently? Because too often, I think we say things sometimes as coaches. And I know I’m as guilty of this is anybody is we say things that we sometimes do it for our own benefit to hear ourselves talk.

And it’s not things that the kid can really put to use to help them to do whatever it is that we want them to do better. We’re just kind of talking to hear ourselves talk and it’s really easy to fall into that. It’s really easy to fall into that trap if you’re not intentional about what you’re doing, what you’re saying.

And I think one of the things that I really improved. I feel as a coach several years ago when I started using questions, instead of statements in my coaching and by no means, am I perfect at [00:51:00] that? But I do find myself asking a lot more questions now than I ever would have five or 10 years ago, for sure as a coach.

And I think that to your point, it can get messy. It can get uncomfortable. I think you have to be okay with a little bit of chaos in your practice, and it has to be messy in order for real learning to take place because. I always think about parents in the stands and the number of people that in a six year old or seven year old or an eight year old basketball game, the number of parents that are screaming direct directions at their kids.

And obviously the most common direction is they’re screaming. Shoot it. And then you think about those kids and what their ability to process that is. First of all, they’re trying to play. They probably can’t even hear you. Number one. And if they do hear you’re, now they’re completely distracted from whatever it is that they were trying to do.

But not only that, but you’re, you’re really stealing the kid’s ability to learn how to make decisions. And ultimately, no matter whether it’s a coach or it’s a parent, or [00:52:00] even if it’s a teammate, if somebody has to give you instruction, in order for you to be able to make a decision, by the time you make that decision based on what somebody else says to you, it’s probably the wrong decision by that point, because you’ve missed the window of opportunity that that person was giving you the instruction saw it.

So I just think we have to as coaches, one of the biggest things. Most important to me is that we empower kids to make decisions, to be able to learn how to make decisions. And clearly our role as a coach is to help them make better ones. But if we’re always making the decisions for them, they’re never going to grow as players.

And I think one of the misperceptions that you have to educate, and I’m sure you see this on the AAU level when you’re coaching is a lot of times when you have a coach who maybe doesn’t, isn’t putting on a show on the sidelines, let’s put it that way, but they’re just standing quietly and they’re giving that kind of feedback.

Like we just described, like a lot of times parents are like, well, this coach. [00:53:00] It’s disengaged. They’re not doing what they’re supposed to do because they want to see, they want to see what they see on TV. Right. They want to see somebody screaming and waving their arms and doing all kinds of crazy stuff.

When real coaching is a lot more subtle than that. So when you talk to parents, whether it’s at the high school level or whether it’s through your AAU program, do you ever have those conversations with parents about just what kind of coaching it is that you’re trying to do within your programs?

Garrett Hickey: [00:53:25] It’s something that I say that we need to do.  I don’t think we, we do a good job of that, like right now. I think it could be like kind of an awkward conversation. Cause you don’t, you don’t want to veer over to the, I’m telling you how to parent your kid or I’m telling you how to act as a parent. So I think it’s one of those things that we try to avoid as as coaches, but I think you’re right.

I think it does need to be addressed. Another thing that I had just read about or listened about was a coach that does a that wasn’t for high school, but it was for, I believe in [00:54:00] elementary school as a fourth grade age traveled. And he had the kids fill out a sheet at the first practice. And a lot of it was about some of it was about them and the team.

And then the last part was what do you expect that your parents or and so they wrote all of these things, like, what do you like that your parents do again? What do you dislike? And now my high school kid probably wouldn’t have produced truthfully, but these fourth graders and the coach presented that at the parent at the first, at the parent meeting and the parents could read what their kid wrote about them and what their kid likes about their behavior and dislikes or likes just in general when he’s out a game or dislikes. So I think that’s a really important way. I think that’s a really good way of.

Not putting yourself in the middle of it. You’re just presenting some of the facts that probably aren’t ever talked about in your house or whatever it might be. And I think that’s important and I think it’s also important and it’s, it’s really hard to [00:55:00] coordinate and things, but I think that we need to do a better job as coaches of using our platform and bringing in people who are going to talk about like mental health and like the mental side of not just being an athlete, but like a student athlete and then being a teenager and having that be a part of your, of your program as well.

Because I think that, you know, a lot of parents are not aware of mental health or might just think it’s one of those things that’s overblown in our society on social media and stuff. But I think it’s so important to connect your program with that and connect the parents with that, because I think that would, and I don’t want to refer to it as behavior.

Cause then it’s like judgmental, but I think that would eliminate a lot of. It happens in the stance when parents their eyes are like open to, to, you know, the ins and outs of how their child is really like thinking and what they’re going through.

Mike Klinzing: [00:55:54] I do think there’s a disconnect there between what parents perceive that they’re doing [00:56:00] by engaging in some of the behaviors that we just talked about versus what the actual result of their actions are.

Obviously a parent who’s yelling things in the stands. If they’re just coaching their kid, they think that they’re helping and that’s their intent, their intent. Isn’t a negative intent. They’re not trying to screw their kid up. They’re not trying to screw up the teams, what the team is trying to do, but yet at the same time, you can completely understand that they, even though their intentions are good, they’re not quite comprehending that what they’re actually doing is having a negative effect.

On their kid. And obviously all kids are different. Some kids like to hear voices cheering for them and whatever, and other kids would rather mom or dad just sit completely silently and that nobody even knows that they’re there. And so it’s interesting how, and obviously if you’ve been around youth sports, you’ve been around a high-school sports, you [00:57:00] see all different types of parenting styles, you see all different types of people and how they react to coaches and officials and teams and games.

And some of the behavior that you see is just, you know, it’s absolutely unbelievable. And, and, and yet at the same time, I think you see, those are the people that sometimes get noticed. And we don’t always notice the 80% or 85% or 90% or whatever that percentage is of parents who are, who are doing it the right way, who are cheering for their kids, who are cheer for other kids on the team who are not yelling at officials and doing all those things.

I think sometimes we forget to highlight. The people out there that are doing things right. And there are a huge percentage of people out there who are. Who are doing youth sports, right? It’s just, sometimes those bad apples are the loudest ones. And so those are the ones that we tend to, those ones we tend to notice, unfortunately.

And you know, it again, it’s, it’s, it’s part of it. I don’t know that it’s ever going to go away. I do think [00:58:00] that by continuing to educate parents the best we can and getting the message out there and, and talking about it, I hope that at some point, you know, if we can, if we can persuade one or two more parents, not to be, not to be yelling at their kids during games you know, that we’ve, we’ve at least accomplished something we’ve helped one or two of those kids to have a better and more positive experience.

And I think those surveys would be super interesting to read, because I know at one point I can’t remember where I saw this or read it, but you know, talked about that. If, if high school kids, you know, if they could have anything from their parents, the number one thing they would want is for them just to sit silently, you know, it’s pretty tell it’s pretty telling, right, Garrett.

I mean, it’s pretty telling that a kid. Feels that way. And then you think about yourself. Would you want somebody, would you want somebody showing up to your jobs as teacher and yelling at you? Hey, you know, pick up the chalk now or why aren’t you, why aren’t you helping, you know, Johnny needs help? Why are you helping Susie?

You know, those kinds of like, nobody would want to work under that kind of, you [00:59:00] know, work under that kind of pressure yet. That’s what we put seven, eight year old kids into sometimes it’s kinda, it’s kinda crazy.

Garrett Hickey: [00:59:06] Yeah.

Mike Klinzing: [00:59:09] All right. So let’s talk a little bit about some of your other things that you’ve done to be able to help grow the game of basketball and have a, have a bigger impact.

And you have your PhD basketball AAU program, and you have your share of the game newsletter and all the things that you’re putting together for coaches that can help them to grow and improve as a coach. I don’t know which one you want to talk about first, but you go ahead and pick which one you want to, you want to talk first and then we’ll dive into that and then we can get into the other one after.

Garrett Hickey: [00:59:36] Sure. Yeah, no I, you know, I think on the level and. With PhD basketball, I love my program. I think in a, in a hectic world that is the world of a basketball. It’s hard to find a good program that’s led by a good person that has good, good coaches, good parents, and good kids in it. So I’m lucky to be one of the coaches there.

I’m going into [01:00:00] my seventh year as, as an AAU coach and head of player development there, which is awesome. And then for the share the game aspect, I kind of just started that during COVID, because I was bored out of my mind. And it it’s something that I’m so happy. I did it because it helped me organize myself a little bit more.

During that time, putting all this stuff together for the newsletter and having some in the blog posts and putting some of my etches and sketches on pieces of paper all throughout my office. Putting them into like faster on actually pretend like having them in my playbook was really helpful.

And then I’m continuing to do it now. I’m gonna continue to do it going forward, but it’s just a weekly newsletter. And then weekly, weekly resources would like videos from clinics that I’d done or been to or think or watched and enjoyed. And the newsletter is not anything that’s really, there’s not any you know, opinions.

It’s not my [01:01:00] opinion on basketball or my opinion on this. It’s just the things that I’ve run into during my short coaching career and things that I stole and got from all the mentors that I’ve kind of been in the system. And then, like I said, some of the stuff is things that I created. You know, as I at Fairfield prep, like I have a lot of freedom to do a lot of things and I’ve worked under a great coach Michael Polly and he yeah, he just, he kind of lets me do my thing.

So I’m always creating different charts or different things that might make my job a little bit easier or nice job as the head coach, a little bit easier and, and going from there. And so whenever I create something like that, I always just share it out to whoever signed up for the newsletter

Mike Klinzing: [01:01:41] Describe the process for putting together the newsletter in terms of how do you organize it?

How do you decide what goes in one week? What doesn’t go in one week? Is it stuff that you’re coming across during the time, since the previous newsletter letter? Is it a database of stuff that you already have that you’re just kind of [01:02:00] picking and choosing what to put in? How do you go about curating that content?

Garrett Hickey: [01:02:04] Yeah. So actually what I do is I run a poll on Twitter every, every Monday morning and it runs till Wednesday and it has two options as, as a topic. And I’ve been doing that since the first week of the newsletter. And so I don’t really know the topic until Thursday. And then when I went to up Thursday, it’s either like, oh, I have a bunch of stuff on that, or I really wish that did,

but it, like I said, it’s great because I I have a long list of topics or ideas that I got from some fellow coaches and then some other people that follow me on Twitter. And so I had this list and some of the things I have, like I said, and some of the things I haven’t thought about or haven’t done.

And so when those things wait, it allows me to develop as a coach and, and you know, further my knowledge of whatever the topic might be. And then when it’s something that I already have, it allows me to go back and find. If it needs fine tuning trim, some add some [01:03:00] and then I go from there. So whatever wins is what’s is what’s written about by me or posted by me.

And then I go out there and I find a lot of so the bitter, the newsletter on Fridays, just that, and then any announcements that I might have about the clinics that are coming up, that people should sign up for on Fridays, Mondays, which is the weekly resources, whatever the theme was on Friday, it’s just a bunch of videos, resources that I have, or that I’ve found or created on the topic.

And I send that out on on Monday mornings. It really doesn’t take me that like a couple hours on a Thursday night while now I’m watching Thursday night football, which is great. And cause I posted at six 30 on Friday morning, so it’s only a couple hours on Thursday. And then depending on the topic for, you know, the resources, I might have a lot of stuff on it or I might go back and have to watch a couple of clinics or read a couple articles on something or whatever it might be.

And then I kind of put those together and decide [01:04:00] if it’s something that I like and that’s good for, for sending out to everybody else,

Mike Klinzing: [01:04:05] What was the best way you found to build momentum and get coaches to know what you were doing? Obviously social media, big part of that, and being able to grow it through Twitter, but how did you first start out by reaching out to coaches that you knew and say, Hey, I’m putting this together.

We use subscribed. You just put it generally out on social media. What was your process for letting coaches know that it was out there and it was a resource that they could tap.

Garrett Hickey: [01:04:30] Yeah, I, I had a, I had a group of coaches that I had met on. We had actually during COVID started I didn’t start it, but this group of coaches started it called beer and basketball.

It was every Friday night. And then we were met for like every Friday during COVID and like the quarantining. And so I had like a pretty strong group of like 20, 25 fellow coaches that I had met and that I had built a pretty good relationship with. So they kind of were the ones who helped me to the first signing up and then helped kind of spread the word on social media about it.

And then, you know, [01:05:00] since then it was at the beginning just to get people to follow me so that they could get the information. I did a lot of like giveaways of things that I had, that I would email out to the list of 100, 200 people. And you know, in order to be entered there to retweet it. And so just kind of spread the word and, and share the hashtag, share the game with.

What what’d the hashtag is that I use on social media and that kind of just grew from there. And then eventually I had it where I could have like a, you know, a Google form or a Google sign up sheet that I just kind of tweeted out every day or every other day at the same time. That just kind of every once in a while, we’ll get retweeted by somebody who had a lot of followers and then people would sign up.

Mike Klinzing: [01:05:44] So what kind of feedback have you been getting?

Garrett Hickey: [01:05:47] A lot, a lot of positive feedback. A lot of people just happy that that I’m sharing it. A lot of the feedback that I love is coaches sharing their stuff. Cause now I get to like pick somebody else’s brain for free, which is the whole [01:06:00] point of the share of the game movement anyway.

So I love that and I love it hasn’t happened too often, but I would hope it starts happening more and I’m going to try to keep asking it, but I love I’ve had two times where. A topic had been talked about that was not necessarily opinionated, but just, you know, one way of thinking versus another.

And I’ve had two interactions that were awesome. I’ll just kind of challenging my thoughts in a newsletter, which is great because it just allows me to rethink it and evaluate it and make sure I have a good argument for it. And you know, sometimes the best thing that can happen to you as like a coach or as a person in general is get, you know, have an idea challenged and then have to back it up.

And if you can’t do a good job, backing it up, then I think you gotta reevaluate your, your thought process on it.

Mike Klinzing: [01:06:48] Yeah. It’s one of the great things about the game of basketball and coaching is that there’s no one right way to do anything. And so when you have people that have a difference of opinion, I know [01:07:00] that I had.

Dave Love the NBA shooting coach on the podcast. This is way back towards the beginning and was talking with Dave about shooting. And I, at the time I said, I teach whenever I’m working with kids and shooting, I always teach a one, two step. And I said, I always did it because I felt like kids generated more power from the one, two, and kids that shot off the hop, especially when they were younger, that they just couldn’t get enough power.

And so therefore, I just always taught the one, two step. And Dave said to me, he’s like, well, do you like to shoot with the one, two step or the hat? I said, I like to shoot. I goes, I said, I like to shoot off the one, two step. He goes, well, maybe there’s a kid out there. Who’d rather shoot off the hop, but you’re having them shoot off the one, two, and maybe they’d be more effective shooting off the hop because it’s more natural for them.

And I’m like, huh. You know, I never really thought of it that way. I always kind of thought of it as. This seems to make sense to me, but I [01:08:00] never relate to your point. I never really had to question it until someone questioned me. And then after that I started varying up the way I taught. I said, okay, well, instead of doing this drill where everything’s going to be a one, two step, now we’re going to do 50%, one, two steps, 50% hops, and let’s see which one feels better for that individual kid.

And if one of them feels better, then let’s go with that one for awhile. And it just, again, it was something that, to your point, I’d never crossed my mind, but until someone questioned me on it, I would have never changed. And when you get to have those kinds of conversations with coaches, it’s one of the great things about the basketball coaching community is just how willing people are to share.

That’s probably been, I don’t know if it’s completely surprising to me about the podcast, but it’s been something that I’ve really enjoyed is the fact that we’ve had so many different coaches on and they’re all willing to share. Pretty much anything that we would want to ask them there. They’re willing to talk about.

And obviously today with [01:09:00] social media and the internet, it’s a lot harder. Even if you want to keep something a secret, it’s a lot harder to keep it a secret now than it was 20 years ago. But basically almost every coach at this point is an open book. Like come to my practice, check out what we do. Here’s a bunch of, here’s a playbook that has everything that we run on the offensive end of the floor, whatever it might be.

And it’s just, it’s such a nice thing to be able to have that type of community that we have with the basketball coaching world, where people share the game to use your hashtag. That’s really what it’s all about. I mean, is it’s just people trying to grow and get better themselves, which in turn helps the game get better.

And it’s a game obviously that we all love. And to me, that’s, that’s really a special part of it. And you getting the opportunity to interact with people in that way. I’m sure. Is extremely valuable to you. Let’s jump back to the AAU side of it real quick. I just want to ask you, and I think we can probably summarize [01:10:00] what I’m looking for by asking you this question.

If you were going to recommend to parents what they should look for in a new program or a new coach, this is a question I get all the time and I see parents make mistakes about what groups they are, coaches they decide to affiliate themselves with all the time. What, what advice would you give a parent about what they should look for in a quality AAU program?  A quality AAU coach?

Garrett Hickey: [01:10:25] Yeah. I mean, I think, I think first off, no matter what the agent is, I think you gotta, especially when they’re younger is ask, ask your kid why they want to, why did they want to play that. And I think that tells a lot about them, but the, the route that you should take, I think if your kid says, I want to play basketball because I want to have fun or it’s fun, or I want to play basketball because my friends are playing basketball.

And I think it’s important to make sure you choose a program that is going to lean toward making sure that those younger grades are, you know, having fun [01:11:00] and that there’s not an overemphasis on winning and losing. And that there’s not a coat that these coaches that are treating these kids, like they’re, you know, many adults when they’re there, not at all.

And so I think that’s important. I think if your kid says that, you know, I want to really get good at basketball or I want to play in high school, or I want to be the best player I could be. If they say something that’s along there, then you know, if their skill level is high enough, then I think it’s important to put them into a program or play them up so that they are.

But I think too many times I see a lot with the younger ages is that paired, that everyone’s so caught up in a Team and B Team and C team that we lose sight of the fact that we really probably at that age about 70% of them want to just play because they want to have fun. And so I think there’s too much emphasis on winning at that level, then there is on the [01:12:00] farm aspect and making sure that the kids want to participate, because if they want to participate, they’ll come back when they’re in fifth grade and they’re there in sixth grade.

And when they’re in seventh grade and they’re not going to play one year in fourth grade and switch a program because they didn’t like it or quit the sport altogether. I

Mike Klinzing: [01:12:16] couldn’t agree more with that sentiment. To me, that’s one of the most important aspects of youth basketball is to create a program, to create an environment on the team as a coach that makes the game fall into that the kid wants to come back.

And play again. Obviously if the kid drops out, they’re not ever going to develop into a good basketball player. And the reality is, you know, it, I know it, and any coach has been in the game for any length of time, knows it, that if a kid’s going to be really, really good, ultimately that only happens because of the kid.

It doesn’t happen because of the parent. It doesn’t happen because of the coach. Now, parents and coaches could obviously facilitate that and put the kid in [01:13:00] position to have positive experiences. But ultimately there are some kids who have positive experiences all throughout their youth basketball lives there.

And then, but it doesn’t matter cause they don’t love it enough to ever work at it, to really get better. And then there are other kids who, for whatever reason, the game just grabs them and they take it and they start working and they get better. And I try to explain that to parents a lot that. Unless your kid is going out and picking up the ball on their own and really working at it.

Then you probably don’t need to hire a trainer for them. If they’re not going to go out and do it on their own. And somebody’s parents, I think have this, they have this skewed vision of, they could, they could make it happen for their kid. And obviously your job as a parent is to provide your kid with opportunities.

But ultimately if a kid doesn’t love it, they’re never going to practice enough to be really good at it. And that, to [01:14:00] me, I think you made a great point and it’s one that I don’t know that I’ve ever heard being made. And that is that you start with the kid’s intention. I think that’s a really, really good way of going about things as a parent.

Probably it’s a good way to do it even in ways outside of outside of basketball, but certainly within the basketball world. If, if I have a better idea of why my kid’s playing that I have a better idea of what I need to do. In order to match them up with a program or a coach that best fits their best fits their needs and best fits what they do.

Tell us a little bit about like, in your mind, what a good AAU practice should look like. Because when I think about a new practice, I think about, yeah, there’s some team stuff that has to be done, but there also has to be some, some individual skill development that’s built in there because obviously you want the kids to leave that program, that coach, that, that practice better when they go back to their home team, their school team.

[01:15:00] So how do you think about designing a new practice to make a beneficial or the most beneficial you can for the players that are part of your program?

Garrett Hickey: [01:15:07] Yeah, I I’m, I think that’s a really, really good question. For me, I, and this is just my one man’s opinion, but. I, I don’t run any plays with I coach from the fourth grade, which I’m doing right now doing fourth grade and seventh grade, all the way up to the highest junior, sophomores, or freshmen, but it’s pretty much the same for me.

I, I don’t put in plays. We don’t, we will only play man to man defense and I have an hour and 15 minutes, twice a week with them in practice. Everything we do is decision-making and small sided games or drills that involve different different decisions that have to be made and my thought process behind it.

And some people are different because some people have more time with their teams, but for us with gym time and it’d being limited an hour and 15 minutes, [01:16:00] you know, twice a week, twice a week, I need to find out and I need to be creative in how to take the player development aspect and mesh it into the live game play.

Because I think that’s. I, I, in my opinion, I think that’s a really good way of coaching and to coach because it’s fun and it’s competitive. And you’re teaching decisions rather than, you know, having a memory of having kids memorize plays. And so my entire goal for anybody, and I tell each team, this is that we want to have fun.

It’s not, it’s not a huge deal if we go through, you know, or if we go through on the weekend, because we just want to see improvement each tournament or each practice or whatever way we want to gauge it. And then I always say, the last thing is, I want you to leave after this two and a half months, and you go back to whatever program it is, whether it’s your middle-school program or your travel program, or your high school team, and you learn how to play the game [01:17:00] better.

And because you learned how to play the game and not plays or anything else, you’re able to take that in your own way and plug it into wherever you. And so by the example I always give is if you go to a public high school and your high school runs a flex offering someplace with two, three zone, the whole game, we’re not going to do any of that here, but we’re going to teach you how to play man to man defense, which if you played a good zone defense as those aspects in it, and then we’re going to teach you how to play the game.

So that within the flex offense that is run at your school, you’re going to know how to read it, how to react to it and how to make appropriate decisions. That’s best for you.

Mike Klinzing: [01:17:37] That’s an excellent answer. I think it really sums up the way that modern coaching. And when we think about what’s going to translate best to helping a kid improve during actual gameplay.

I think what you just described is a situation where if you could teach the kids how to play and not run plays, you’re going [01:18:00] to ultimately end up with. Better players. And I think, you know, coaches, sometimes all, you got to have these plays in, so we can do this and that. I see that all the time. And my response to that is always look more often than not.

It doesn’t matter what system you’re running, especially at the youth level. If you have better players, you’re going to win, regardless of, regardless of what type of offense or defense you’re winning, you’re running a 95% of the games that I’ve ever watched or coach the team with the better the team with the better players wins.

So if you can get your players to be better, you’re going to probably end up having more success as a coach. And I think that speaks to the answer that you just shared. Garrett, we’re coming up on an hour and 30 minutes. So I want to start to wrap up here by giving you an opportunity to share how people can get in touch with you, how they can subscribe to the newsletter.

Find out more about all the great things that you’re doing to try to help grow the game. And then after you do that, I’ll jump back in and wrap them.

Garrett Hickey: [01:18:59] All right. Yeah, sure. [01:19:00] So the main thing that I use is Twitter. My Twitter handles @Coach_Hickey5 and if you go there, you’ll see a link to the signup page for the newsletter.

So you’ll get all the access to everything that we, I was just talking about before. You know, if you go on there my cell phone number and my email address is on there. I’m always willing to talk or text or whatever it might be back and forth about a topic. One of the things I love doing, and I get one every so often is you know, I’ll, I’ll feel free to share my coaching portfolio.

And I asked for some other coaches to share back with me and we kind of review it, go over it and then, you know, talk about it or bounce things off, one another for ideas. And you know, again, there’s no fee for that. It’s just. Trying to improve the game step-by-step with, with other coaches. And you know, there is a couple of things that I’m trying to play around with, with the thing.

Cause [01:20:00] now we have a lot of over, I think we went over 25,000 reads last week and we’re, I fine tuned our email list because I was getting a lot of junk ones. So we’re at right around 650 coaches from all different levels that are signed up for the newsletter as well. So because there’s getting to be a large amount of people.

There’s going to be some opportunities coming up that are going to be announced that I think people might be interested in.

Mike Klinzing: [01:20:30] That’s awesome. Coaches. If you’re out there listening and you haven’t signed up yet for Garrett’s, share the game newsletter, make sure you hop over to his Twitter and jump on there and get signed up for the newsletter.

Garrett cannot thank you enough for taking the time out of your schedule to join me tonight and give us the opportunity to learn more about all the great things that you are doing to have an impact on your players and the game of basketball as a whole. So thank you. And to everyone out there. Thanks for listening.

And we will catch [01:21:00] you on our next episode. Thanks.

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