James Leath

Website – jamesleath.com

Email – coach@jamesleath.com

Twitter – @jamesleath

James Leath is the Founder of Unleash the Athlete and former Head of Leadership and Character Development at IMG Academy. Leath teaches mental strength skills and leadership development tools to athletes, coaches, and top performers through interactive lectures and team building activities.

James is a coach, speaker, and the host of the Unleash Your Life Podcast.
He serves people through storytelling and encouraging an intentional life while working with students, educators, athletes and business professionals.

Leath holds a Bachelor’s degree in Communication from Fresno State and a Master’s degree in Performance Psychology from National University. He was a collegiate athlete at Fresno St and has coached multiple sports at the youth and high school levels.

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You’ll want to have a pen and paper handy as you listen to this episode with James Leath, founder of Unleash the Athlete.

What We Discuss with James Leath

  • Steph Curry using his Rock, Paper, Scissors activity and James becoming the Rock, Paper, Scissors guy
  • How playing multiple sports led him to observe how different team cultures could be
  • Building an atmosphere of excellence and safety
  • The Resilient Athlete is “able to access their talent at the highest level they are capable on a consistent basis regardless of the situation.” 
  • Developing athletes that can bounce back and have that short memory
  • Intentionality and the “three hour shield”
  • The “pirate map” that leads to high performance
  • Why it’s ok to copy or be copied
  • Older athletes leading and speaking with younger athletes
  • The professional basketball player that drew a smiley face on his hand to help him remember to have fun
  • The placebo effect is real and superstitions matter
  • Thinking ahead of time about how you’re going to react in situations that may arise in a game
  • Developing mistake rituals
  • The difference between coaching boys and girls – boys are more about competition and less about relationships and girls are the opposite in James’ experience
  • The art of positive self-talk
  • Joe Ehrman’s three myths of man
  • Having respect for your opponents
  • Why sitcom Dads are terrible role models for boys and young men
  • Normalizing the word love
  • “A key word from a coach will echo in your mind forever”
  • Keeping your post-game talks brief
  • 5 team building activity types – Interrupt, Talk, Grow, Entertain, and Hype
  • Teaching players to shake hands
  • Be intentional about how you spend time with your athletes – they’ll remember things that you don’t
  • “If you’re a coach and you’re a dictator, a totalitarian type. Yeah, you could win. You could win every single year, but none of those kids are going to come back and visit you because they hate you.”
  • “It doesn’t matter how many trophies are in the case. It’s how many people are sad that when you’re gone. That’s what’s the most important thing.”

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[00:00:00] Mike Klinzing: Hello, and welcome to the Hoop Heads Podcast. It’s Mike Klinzing here with my co-host Jason Sunkle tonight, and we are also pleased to be joined from Unleash the Athlete, James Leath, for his second appearance on the Hoop Heads Pod. So if you’re looking for James’ backstory, you can go back and listen to his first appearance.

We are going to jump right into content and James for those people out there who maybe didn’t listen to your first episode, aren’t aware of what you’re doing. Give people the one minute elevator pitch. What it is that you do and why the things that you do, why you’re so passionate about them all.

[00:00:33] James Leath:  Alright, so 60 seconds to put in 41 years of life. That’s it ready? Timer. No pressure, man. You’re on it. Go. I’m going to come in last on these ladders. So long story short I’m a mental resiliency coach and I work with athletes and coaches and just empower athletes to kind of take responsibility in their role as an athlete.

But then also I empower coaches with curriculum. I do a lot of speaking around the world doing keynotes and just really helping coaches remember why they coach and how to do, how much time do I have left. Right. Okay.

[00:01:11] Mike Klinzing: And let me jump in and piggyback on what you said for our audience out there.

James is one of the people that went on. Look to improve what I’m trying to do as a coach. And obviously, as James said, he’s not, I’m not picking up X’s and O’s from a basketball standpoint from James, what I am picking up are things that can make my athletes better. Things that can make the experience that I’m providing for my athletes better.

And I’ve used a bunch of the things that James teaches with my various teams. I’ve done presentations for positive coaching Alliance, where I’ve used some of his stuff and everything that I’ve tried that he’s put out there has worked really well. So if you get an opportunity as you’re listening to this episode, to take some notes and jot down some of the things that James is saying, I can almost guarantee you that if you put it to use with your team, it’s going to help you.

It’s going to help your athletes. It’s going to make them have a better experience. And we’re going to dive into some of the details. Realms that James liked to likes to impact athletes and coaches as we go through the episodes. So just make sure you’re ready to take some notes, because again, he’s somebody that when I’m looking to improve what I do, he’s one of the first people that I go to and James, I’m not just blowing smoke.

It’s honestly true. It’s, it’s something that I feel like a lot of the things that you do are very, very practical and the kids that I’ve coached whenever I’ve done one of your activities, they love it. And I’ve also done one of your activities. I think we talked about it the last time I did the rock paper scissors tournament with a group of adults.

And that, that was fantastic. People, loved people, loved it. So we can dive into some of that here. As we, as we go forward, as James said off the top, he, his website is unleashed the athlete and he’s just got a lot of great research resources on there for coaches. And we’re going to kind of go through some of the things that he has available to coaches.

And we’ll give you a preview of some of those things. We’re going to start out by talking about resilience. And what it means to be a resilient athlete and how you as a coach can help your athletes to become more resilient. So, James, first of all, maybe we need to define. Resilience. And we start that let’s start there and then we can dive into some of the things that we can do to help players develop.

[00:03:22] James Leath: Sure. Well, just piggyback on a few things that you said you did rock paper scissors, Steph Curry did rock, paper, scissors at a game a few days ago. And the only reason I know about it is because my email inbox was full of video. Wow. So that’s currently I’ve become the rock paper scissors guy. When everybody sees it, they send it over to me.

And so, but kind of the, the whole reason why I got into what I’m doing is because I would go, I started off as a football coach and I would go to these conferences and I would notice that the character sessions were not very well attended. And if they were, it was all gray hairs. So it was guys and gals who had been in the game for a long time and they realized that the X’s and O’s weren’t as important.

And then you go into the x’s and o’s one and it’s packed, right? So you got people in the back, you got people standing on the sides and it’s crazy. But I had this experience when I was going to high school that my dad told me you either are on a team or you are how you have a job. And so I just went from sport to sport.

And so I played a lot of sports I wasn’t good at. And it gave me the opportunity to notice the culture of the team and see how different coaches coached throughout the season. And that gave me a really interesting perspective on how important it is to, to just really build an atmosphere of excellence and atmosphere of safety, where you could take chances during practice.

So that way you could perform at that high level during the game, I think a lot of coaches forget that they forget how important it is for kids to feel safe and, and be able to be creative in their performance. Because I don’t know about you, but I always played better when I was having fun.

When I was in this like childlike state now childish, very different. Right. Child-like childish. But when I was in this childlike state, oh, I’m doing things like, I can’t believe I just did that. Let me practice that a little bit and then maybe pull it out during the. And when it came to being mentally tough I came up with a definition a few years ago.

I got my master’s in performance psychology. And my definition is, I don’t think I stole this from any most of my stuff I stole from everybody else. So just be very honest, like there was no new ideas on the side, but I believe that this is my definition and it’s a resilient athlete is able to access their talent at the highest level that they are capable on a consistent basis regardless of the situation.

Right. So I appreciate it. Well, let me break it down and you can tell me if it makes sense after I break it down. So. Able to access their talent. There’s this example that I like to talk about when when Brett Farve, I was playing Monday night football many years ago and his father passed away.

And on that same day, he threw for 399 yards and four touchdowns. So despite the pain of losing his father, he was able to access his talent. And then you get to the next part where it’s at the highest level. Now that’s very important because you get these like eighth grade teams, basketball teams, they go undefeated and it’s like, okay, show me your schedule.

Who did you play? How are you scoring 80 points to their 12? That’s not a good person of like how good you are. And there’s this long time boxer, his name’s Widy beam sin. And he would always say, show me an undefeated fighter and I’ll show you a guy who’s never fought anything. And now it’s important to be able to play teams that are better than you and lose.

So that way you can kind of gauge how well you are. If I wanted to beat somebody in basketball, I’m playing a sixth grader, I’m a SWAT him all day long. And how good am I going to feel about that? Right? Absolutely. So then you go to, so if you got the able to access her talent at the highest level, and then you go to, they are capable because if you’re going to judge a fish by his ability to climb a tree, well, the monkey is going to win all day long, but that monkey is not going to last very long underwater.

And so you have to know where your capability lies. And it has nothing to do with, with the, with the competition. There’s this old adage that says hard work, beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard. And that’s true in sport. That’s true in life. And you know, your effort is up to you. It’s one of the few things that you can control, right?

You can control your attitude, you can control your preparation, but you have to give yourself full effort. And nowadays the kids understand when I say maximum effort, they know that I’m talking about Deadpool, right? So that’s kind of like the thing that I coach that maximum effort and they know exactly what that means, right.

But it’s their effort. And so I need my bench guys to work just as hard as my starters, even though my starters are going to probably perform at a higher level, we’re not talking about performance, we’re talking about effort, right? So as, as high as you are capable, and the next part is on a consistent basis because anybody can make a half-court.

If you have the strength to get it there, eventually you’re going to make it. But what about the guy or the girl that, that can make it two out of three times? What about the three pointer that goes in five out of seven times, right? You gotta be consistent on this and whenever you are like a one hit wonder, I mean, you and I were, I’m going to date myself like Milli Vanilli, right.

Like blame it on the rain. Right. You’ve got these songs. Like they were like basically a one hit wonder with like a few songs and then it just kind of faded from existence. But this happens a lot in, in music and, and an art, like making movies and stuff, but in sports too, like you have one big win.

I remember a few years ago. And you know, cause we’re coming to the end of football season Appalachian state beat Michigan. Yeah.

[00:09:17] Mike Klinzing: That was a big deal.

[00:09:19] James Leath: For sure until the next one. Because there’s another game, right? Like you have to continue to play now, Appalachian state we’ll, we’ll talk about that for the rest of the lives, Michigan moved on they’ve got, they’ve got other things to think about.

And so you want to be able to win on a consistent basis and perform at a high level. And at the end it’s regardless of the situation. So if I have a pitcher on the first day of, on the first on opening day and he winds up and he throws a strike, there’s nothing different about the mechanics of that pitch compared to on game seven of the world series, the mechanics are completely the same.

So regardless of the situation, can you throw that strike? Can you hit that Free-throw when you’re up by 30 or down by one with 10 seconds. Regardless of the situation. And so we’re what I look to, to develop is resilient athletes, athletes that can bounce back and have that short memory. Now, basketball, it’s a little different than in football and football.

You make a mistake. You’ve got about 30 seconds to think about it and kind of move on to basketball. You make a mistake, you’ve got to move on. You have to move on, like your short-term memory has to have like a one second span. Boom, we’re we’re moving on. We’re going to the next thing. And then you got to kind of train yourself to like talk, talk positively to yourself, like, okay, next one’s going in next.

One’s going in. And so that that’s really where it comes to, to being a mentally resilient athlete.

[00:10:52] Mike Klinzing: Let’s work at this backwards? What are some of the obstacles that you see with athletes? That prevent them from being able to reach this definition of resiliency. What are the barriers that you frequently run into with athletes that prevent them from being able to live up to this definition of resiliency.

[00:11:11] James Leath: Intentionality, intentionality in pregame, having routines right going, I teach this thing called the three hour shield, where three hours until tip off, you are very selfish with your time and your energy and your attention, right?

So you’re not on Snapchat, staring at your phone just getting involved in whatever the drama of the day. You know, you’re, you’ve told your parents, look, I’m going to turn off my phone and hour to game time. If you need anything, call coach like, and I’m going to be all me, like you tell your girlfriend or your boyfriend, look, I don’t want to be disturbed.

I’m getting in the right mindset. It sees these I call them, call them pirate maps. So all the stuff that I do has these really like cute names and stuff, because it makes it easier to remember, you know? So the three hour shield is you’re shielding yourself from the world. A pirate map is where you find the gold.

The gold is that mindset of high performance. And so when a pirate map you, you go to an island, you takes 27 paces north, and then you go south or Westford 15, whatever it is. In an athlete’s life. It’s all right. I get to my locker and I get everything out of my duffel bag and I set it up in my locker and I’ve got this and maybe I take a shower.

Maybe I drink a half a gallon of water. Maybe I eat a power bar, whatever it is, the music, the intentionality of the music not just playing the radio or just some random playlist, but like these 10 songs or what I listened to, to get me in the mood to get me like fired up and then to use that until it doesn’t work anymore.

And then you adjust. And so it’s really it’s intentionality. And now this goes from ten-year-olds to when I’m working with the bulls in the idea that they need to have a routine that is there’s also, I encourage teammates to share their routines. And if somebody copies. Relax. It’s fine. It’s okay to be copied, man.

Find your own. It’s like, hold on. That worked for you.

[00:13:18] Mike Klinzing: You want to come in and talk to my elementary school students about that. That’s okay to copy someone.

[00:13:22] James Leath: We’ll see. That’s the thing is they need you to say that, but then also you need to be like, look that drill that we did that rock paper scissors.

I copied that from my buddy James, like, and he, and I’m going to send him a photo of it and he’s going to be excited. And so all of this drama that you have because people are copying you, you got to know that as an adult, we see that as like, thank you. Like, wow. Yeah, absolutely. And it so and well, and now that now you’ve just explained my entire job.

My entire job is to take things that parents and coaches say and say them from my voice, because I’m an outsider. And so you might need some. College athlete or maybe a varsity senior from the high school, from the F if it’s middle school, kids have a varsity senior come in and you just tell that athlete what to say.

They could be exactly what you say, because it came from the athlete that they model that they look up to that they’re going to be like, Hey you know, Adam said we had to do this. And as a coach, like, I’ve been telling you that last season, because the athletes said it, they might as well be LeBron James, because it’s a varsity basketball player.

And so you breathe and you can, you can, so what’s, you’re doing is you’re, you’re borrowing their influence because that, that scene. Has more influence over that eighth grade or that freshmen, then the coach does it’s peer pressure. It’s the most addictive drug our kids ever face, but that peer pressure.

And so if you give, if you give the athletes what to say, and then they teach the younger athletes, that’s how you really start building. The kind of culture that you want to create also bonus is you’re teaching that older athlete to be a leader because you’re giving them the, the permission to speak life into younger kids, which is different than what they would normally do.

What they normally do is be a bully because they were bullied when they were younger. So they just keep repeating it. But as coaches, what we can do is we can teach those older athletes to not bully the younger kids, but to actually bring them up under their wings and teach them if a kid goes away, And then they come back and that coach doesn’t put that kid up on a pedestal and say, teach our team what you just learned.

You’re missing out on an opportunity. Number one, to get everything that kid just learned. And number two, to give that kid a permission, to be a leader and to find his or her voice on the team.

[00:15:46] Mike Klinzing: When you’re thinking about this pregame routine and some of the athletes that you’ve worked over worked with over time.

Are there, is there anything that stands out to you that an athlete that you worked with added to their pregame routine that wasn’t, I would normal is not normal is not the right word, but something that was maybe unusual that an athlete did as part of their pregame routine that you can remember with somebody that you were.

[00:16:12] James Leath: It’s always funny. When, when you get like a professional athlete has a stuffed animal in his life. You know, I had a guy who was at the windy city bulls and he was, he was a seasoned player. He’d played overseas, not, he never had the real NBA contract, but he was a good player. And he had resting B face.

You know what I mean? When I say that. Okay. So he had that, but he didn’t know. And so he’d make an, a phenomenal play and and he’d play the five, he played this phenomenal play and bouncing off guys make it, and then he’d look up and he would just be mad. But I knew he was enjoying himself. And so when one of our sessions, w we’re we’re sitting there with, we were waiting for the bus because it snowed and stuff, Chicago.

So, but we’re sitting there and he was like, I don’t understand how come I’m not getting more attention. I was like, everybody thinks you’re mad. He’s like, but I’m not. I go, I know that coach knows that. And your teammates know that, but the other, everyone else in the world doesn’t know that because you just, you have this, when you rest, this is what your face looks like.

And I took a picture of it and I showed him, we laughed at it. I was like, that’s, you’re ugly. Like that’s. And I’m joking because I had the relationship with him. Right. But he goes, what do I do? I go, well, you need to smile more. He’s like, but I forget. And I was like, okay. Why don’t you draw a happy face on your hand?

Because I noticed when you do a layup, you always kind of clap your hands and you look at your left hand, draw a happy face on it. He goes, okay. So I forgot about that conversation. About three weeks later, I get this text message and he started drawing, happy faces on the front part of his shoe, like on the toe part, this big, old happy faces.

And he was like, have you noticed? And I did notice I started noticing that something was going on because he was, he’d do something. And he looked down and then he looked back up and his face would be beaming. Like he would have this huge smile on his face. And I said, how has it affected you? He goes, well, number one, I’m reminded to smile.

Number two, I’ve been having so much fun. I was like, yeah, because your body’s listening to your facial features. So your body listens to what you say, listens to what you do. And it reacts accordingly. So his pre-game routine was to draw happy faces on it. On the shoes. That’s, that’s a pretty weird one.

It’s very intentional for him because it helped him remind himself to have fun out there and not be so serious. The other ones are, I got to have an outer pop bef you know, 10 minutes before I go out there. And it’s, it sounds silly, but I remember being a seventh grader and my mom said she was going to bring me a banana at halftime, and I got to halftime and I’m playing football and I’m in the locker room.

And I’m like, my mom says, she’s bringing me a banana. And I ran out, I was a sixth grade. I’ve ran out and I was like, ma where’s my banana. And she’s like, it’s right here. She gave me the banana. And after I, that banana, I felt so good. I don’t think it had anything to do with the nutrition I was getting. I think because I thought it was going to help me.

It did help me. So this, the placebo effect, the superstitions around routines and rituals is real. If you believe it’s true. You know, like Michael Jordan wore is North Carolina basketball shorts underneath his bull shorts for a long time. You know, people wear the same. And I did that too. I wore my middle-school shorts underneath my high school shorts.

Not knowing Jordan did it, but just like, and so you have all these different things. If it puts you in the right mindset, then do it and encourage your players to do it now, there’s, there’s always the limit, right? There’s there’s sometimes there’s too much. But you have that conversation.

[00:19:57] Mike Klinzing: I think that most every athlete, especially as you get up towards the high school and college level, I think everybody has some kind of, whether you want to call it routine, some people might call it superstition, just something that you do that gets you in the right mindset.

I think most athletes have something simple. They may not go to the extreme of wearing their previous school shorts underneath their uniform, or draw a happy face on their shoes. But I think most athletes end up having something. And to your point, what it does is it’s just setting your mentality to get you in the right frame of mind, to be able to play at your best.

And that’s really what it’s all about. And then I think the other piece of it that is probably worth talking about here is when you face adversity in a game situation, whether that could be a mistake, a poor performance. Run by the other team, the crowd is getting on here. There’s just things that happen, obviously in a game that can knock you off of that focus that you may have worked on so hard in the pregame to be able to develop.

And now you’re in the game and suddenly adversity strikes. So what advice do you have for athletes when that adversity hits during a game? How can they be resilient when the other team goes on a run? When the crowd seems to be against you, what are things that you found to be successful for athletes in those kinds of situations?

Cause we know that everybody faces that.

[00:21:22] James Leath: Yeah. Well, we have to remember that there’s more noise now for a high school and college athlete than there was 20, 30 years ago. There’s so many more things asking for their attention. Whereas, I mean, I didn’t have a cell phone when I was high school. I had a pager, that thing died on the time, you know?

And so it’s very different world. And when I, when I say intentionality, it’s my same answer for something happening bad. During a game is taking some, some mental energy, some time to think about how will I respond when this thing happens to me? Because if you don’t ask that question, you react. However it is that you’ve always reacted.

There’s going to be no change. And so you have to be intentional about what am I going to do when the ref gets in my face, what am I going to do when I get fouled? And it doesn’t get caught. What am I do? When, when coach says it’s time for me to go in and I haven’t played all season, like there are these moments where if you haven’t actually thought that it could happen, you’re just going to react.

And most of the time reacting without pre-thought is not how you actually want it to respond to that situation. So if you have if you, if you make a mistake in basketball, it’s the same thing of having like a pre-game routine or ritual. You have a mistake routine or mistake ritual. Every time someone goes up to the free-throw line, they all have their routine.

I dribbled twice. I sit back, I look, I take a deep breath, whatever it is I spin the ball. I dribble with my left hand, whatever it is, that’s a routine. And that’s what puts you in the mindset to, I’m going to make it this time and you do it the same every single time. But it’s the same thing as like, when I make a mistake or when coach yells out.

How am I going to respond instead of just reacting in the moment I spend most of my time talking to high school athletes about interactions between coach and athlete and giving them a different perspective. Okay. Coaches and playing me cause he hates me. Okay. Probably not. I mean maybe, maybe he hates you, but let’s find, let’s figure out why he hates you and more often than not, it’s like, it has nothing to do with the athlete.

It’s like the parent is being overbearing or I’m sure you have perfect parents. And so only thing about what I’m talking about. I have no idea, no idea there. So we call it a mistake. Ritual. It’s different for each sport. Right. And if I have, I have a gymnast that whenever she does like a fault or something, she steps out, she will literally, it’ll just like stand there, pretend to open up a door, watch a fake mistake, walked through the door.

Kick her foot up in the air and then slam the door and then she giggles and moves on. That’s very elaborate. You can’t do that after you miss a shot? No, that’d be a little, that’d be a little rough. And so for basketball players or even soccer players, the same type of thing, it’s like, it’s gotta be something quick, maybe with your right hand, you just hit your chest twice.

You know, maybe it’s I flicked my ear once with my right hand. Like, that’s just me. And that is a signal to the body that I’ve thought about it before. And I’m going to move on. I’m going to have a short-term memory. I got to move on next play. Next thing like, or it’s the thing and guys do this.

Sometimes they’ll be like my bad and they hit their chest. Like all my bad, my bad. I’m like, okay, cool. But what if it wasn’t your bad? You just like made you got you, you missed the shot. Like not everybody makes a shot. You got to turn it, turn it around real. So that’s being resilient. Resilient is like being able to bounce back.

And so having that kind of mistake ritual or routine will help you mentally stay in the game because you gotta get back in the game. And as coaches, we can see when the kid has lost it, like, dude, you got to sit down, I’m fine, coach. No, you’re not go sit down and figure it out. But in the game we don’t have time to go over and say, listen, Charlie, here’s why I took you out because you know, you just don’t look like you’re having fun out there.

We don’t have time for that. Like we, we, we got to move on and now Sam you’re in, you know? And so I think talking about this kind of stuff, when there’s no pressure allows for us to recall it when there is pressure.

[00:25:41] Mike Klinzing: I think that intentionality piece is really the key to what we’re talking about here is you have to train your mind when you’re not actually in the situation for how am I going to react when this situation arises. And by doing that, and by thinking it through and by getting into your routines and developing that process for how you get yourself prepared to be at your best, you give yourself the best opportunity to be resilient, no matter what obstacles you’re gonna face as you’re going through and competing in your game or your practice or whatever it is that you do.

I mean, you could extend this beyond obviously sports and just think about sure. I’m about to have a difficult conversation with my spouse. How do I want this conversation to go? And I think too often, we ended up flying by the seat of our pants. And as you said, a minute ago, you end up then reacting in a way that if you had really thought about how you wanted it to go or how you wanted yourself to behave during those situations, you probably would have chosen a different path.

Had you thought it through. And I think that’s a great lesson. It’s something that we’ve obviously talked about a lot in the podcast with coaches in terms of. How they put together their practices, how they deal with athletes, how they have those conversations about what’s your role on the team. And if you’re intentional about doing all those things, if you’re intentional about trying to build your culture, you’re going to end up being a lot closer to your vision than if you just come in with the idea of one day, Hey, I’d love to have a great culture here on my team, but I’m not really thinking about that on a daily basis, how I can get it to where I want it to go.

And I think whether you’re an athlete or you’re a coach being intentional is critical, which can kind of lead us into the next point or next conversation that we can have about coaches trying to build character in their athletes. And I think especially nowadays, almost every coach, if you ask them, what’s something that’s important to you as a coach, they would talk about, I want to win games, but it’s also important for me to develop my players as people.

We hear that as a theme over and over. But just so we talked about here, if you’re not intentional about it, it’s easy to think that that’s what you’re doing, but you’re really not because you’re not focused in on that. You’re not being intentional about how you do it. So let’s talk a little bit about how you’ve been able to incorporate building character into the athletes that you’ve worked with over the years.

[00:28:08] James Leath: Yeah. So I built a character development program. It’s called a forging men of character and in the culture that we’re in right now in the me too movement and the equal rights and all the, the stuff that, the conversations that we’re having, I really hesitated dropping this, like putting it out because I wanted it to be inclusive.

I want it to be like, all right. You know, here’s a character development for men and women. We’re good to go. And what I kept coming across is that I believe that men and women are equal, but not the same. And we have to, we have to agree that if somebody doesn’t agree with me, we got to agree to disagree because I’ve coached boys and I’ve coached girls and they are very different when it comes to how they like to be coached.

And, and they’re different in the same ways. Like every female team I’ve ever coached was similar in that in the female team, they were different than the male teams that I’ve coached. They’ve had, they had different problems. And so I finally was just like, look, if I can just help boys become better in their community.

I’ve only ever been a boy. And so I created this. So I like to say that upfront, because I I’ve gotten some hate mail from people being like we need to have curriculum that’s for boys and girls. And I just, I agree, but that’s just not what I was trying to do. I’m trying to give boys, I’m trying to make them into better.

And the way I did that was I took the word, respect, a word that most boys and most men live off of. Like I deserve respect. You respect me. We, we talk about respect a lot. I feel disrespected. And so what I did is I created this curriculum that it surrounds itself with the word respect, respect for self respect, for team respect, for diversity, respect for women, respect for authority.

And you can spend one or two weeks on this curriculum and like all the curriculum that I set up, it’s basically plug and play. Right? You got the PowerPoint, worksheets and everything. And so I spent a lot of time on each one. So for example, respect for self. You gotta understand the head trash that you have that prevents you from performing at the top level that you can, because if you don’t believe you can do it, you’re not going to do it.

A guy in a baseball slump, he doesn’t, he hasn’t forgotten. How to hit a baseball. He just hasn’t like the, the belief has gone it’s superstitious. Oh, I’m in a slump. No, you just keep missing the ball. We got to fix something in your mechanics. You know, you go, oh and 10 from the free throw line.

It’s like, all right, well you’re 18 years old, you know how to do this, but you’ve forgotten something. And so let’s talk to yourself better. So the art of self-talk is very important. And when you are talking to yourself about what you believe and what your identity is and who you are as a boy or who we are as a man, and this, that specific unit, when it’s respect for self comes a lot from Joe Ehrman, have you ever heard of a joke?

Absolutely. So Ehrman talks about the three myths of man, a manhood, right? You got, it starts in the, on the ball field where it’s like, if you can hit the curve or if you can run the fastest, you’re the manliest boy in the school. We know that’s not true, but that’s what we’re. And that’s the experience of most of my peers.

And, and even when I’m working with kids, I still see that on the playground. The second one is the bedroom, that sexual conquests that happens like in high school and in college, it’s like the more women that you can be with, the more manly you are. And that’s an empty pursuit, too. If anybody’s gone down that path, they know it’s completely empty it and that thirst never goes away.

And so that’s, and you’re using people too. That’s a terrible thing. The third thing is the boardroom. Whereas we’re taught that your net worth is equal to your self-worth. Now these are three lies that most men have been taught since they were young. And when you give them a different perspective of what masculinity is, it opens up their us.

So I’ll talk about forgiveness. It’s like it’s okay to forgive, like, wait a minute, hold on. You know, my dad did this to my mom and I can never forgive him. It’s like, well, let’s have a conversation about that. Instead of you just harboring that hate for your entire life. You just poisoning yourself.

Let’s have a conversation about it. Let’s normalize. Like we talked about earlier, copying somebody. It’s like, that’s a good idea. Why wouldn’t I use that idea? That’s my idea. No, it’s not. You have a Snickers before the basketball game. That’s your idea. Snickers has been around for 40 years. So just normalizing these conversations where we can actually honor one another and giving them that idea.

It’s like, like the, one of the biggest differences that I ever experienced versus coaching girls and coaching boys is the idea that boys in my experience, and this is just anecdotal. We’re more about competition than about relationship. Whereas girls were more about relationship than they were about competition.

And again, that is just my experience. I could be totally wrong, but in my experience, like if there’s a guy on the team that I don’t like, I’m going to pass him. If I’m coaching girls, I’ve seen it. Whereas she doesn’t like her. She’s not throwing the ball to her no matter what. And so when you introduce competition during, oh, comes right back around to a rock paper, scissors, rock paper, scissors, cheerleader is a great way to introduce competition where you’re going against one another.

And then you become part of the team because if you lose now, you’re that person’s height person. Right. You become their cheerleader. So little things like that. And then introducing like, look at you guys, we’re going against each other. And now you’re on the same team having that kind of emotional flexibility.

Kids need to learn that kind of stuff. That’s really important for later on in life.

[00:34:05] Mike Klinzing: It really is that so true. I think one of the things that I’m always trying to do, and I think about. These things that we’re talking about with character. I think about it with my elementary school students, you talked a lot about respect and kids feeling disrespected.

And I hear that all the time, we have a competition problem where kids have such a hard time competing and not either putting down their opponent when they beat their opponent, or if they lose putting down their teammates, because it was their teammate’s fault. And you can then immediately switch the teams and they still Harbor this ill will towards one another over what’s a meaningless game in a phys ed class.

And so to be able to get kids to do what you’re describing is something that it doesn’t happen. Accidentally because, because of what kids, as you said, have been taught and specifically boys, the problem, I’d say 98% of the time comes from young boys. That that’s just what they’ve been taught. They’ve seen it, they see it on TV.

They’ve been taught it in their home. They’ve been taught it by our culture and to overcome that it just doesn’t happen because, oh, I’m going to wave a magic wand and suddenly things are going to be better. You have to really work at trying to overcome that and put them in situations where they can see the value in.

Their teammates. They can see the value in their opponents. One of the things that I always say, I don’t know if you’ve ever done this, or maybe, maybe I’ve been stolen from you thinking about copying. But one of the things that I’ve done a lot is I started, I’ve started talking about it at my basketball camp.

I’ll talk to the kids. And I’ll say you got one of the things that we always talk about is having respect for your opponent. And I’ll say to the kids look how much fun would it be to play against nobody if you didn’t have anybody to play against. So if I said, all right, your team, you’re over here at basket five and you guys are playing against, oh, there isn’t a team for you to play.

Well, how much fun is that? Be thankful that your opponent is there so you can measure yourself against them. So you have somebody to compete against. And I find that a lot of times that does have an impact, it at least get, get, gets kids to think about the fact that there’s more to competition than just.

Getting to be the king of the hill and then putting somebody down because you were able to beat him.

[00:36:32] James Leath: Yeah, you’re talking about so I got that from Dr. Jerry Lynch. I don’t know if he got it from me, but Jerry Lynch talks Dr. Jerry Lynch, he’s the sports psych for the Warriors. And he would always talk about how like, to love your opponent, that, that your opponent is the most important person on the court, because without them it’s just practice and there’s no winner, there’s no loser, but it’s also honoring it’s like I was playing a kid.

We were playing. Call of duty a couple weeks ago, I was beating them, happened to be good because one of my best friends, that’s how we do our social time. He lives in Indiana. I live in Dallas, like we’d play call of duty. And so I’m decent. And I was beating this kid and he was like, you must be cheating.

And I was like, is that your go-to? Like, what if I was just good? He’s like, you can’t be good. You’re old. I was like, well, that’s great that you have, because I’ll smoke you. And if you want to do fortnight, let’s do that next called smoking in that too. But with, with this idea of where the, what, we’re, what we’re competing against as coaches and as parents, this is going to date me again.

Do you remember saved by the bell? Absolutely. All right. Well, I just saw a commercial for the new one today and this guy walks in the new one.

Jason Sunkle: Terrible. It’s so bad. It’s so, but here’s what I saw. Sorry, you got me to jump in. Good work. That’s a kudos to you, man.

James Leath: I got you in.

[00:38:00] Mike Klinzing: Pop culture references do it to Jason every time.

[00:38:02] James Leath: Jason, you probably saw the sentence.

So whoever this kid is, he’s like a mixture between screech and AC. I have no idea what the back drop is, but he comes in to talk to his friend and the girl who’s, I guess the main person that the Kelly capacity, the Jessie span or whatever, let me, I’m just pulling these names out. That’s pretty good.

You’ve got all the characters, but she turns around and yells at this kid and she’s like, you’re not a part of this. Get out of here. And he’s like, oh, and you hear the fake laughter in the background. And I was like no, that’s not okay. Like that’s bullying right there. And that’s what the kids are watching.

And so they see that and they’re like, well, this is a very popular show. It’s on Disney, it’s on ABC or whatever it is. So it must be how I’m supposed to be. And so we have to compete about that, but also tell me, and I’m asking you guys from the nineties, two thousands. Tell me one. Sit-com where it’s a husband and a wife and the husband.

Isn’t an idiot who meets world. Okay. You gave me the one show. All of them because boy meets world is amazing Topanga for life. Like a hundred percent boy meets world is the one show where the husband isn’t a moron, all the rest of them, the male and the relationship is a total moron. I mean, you look at the most popular and modern family.

It was just finished. And he was a, he was a funny guy, but like, he was kind of an idiot, you know? And that is so when you, when you grow up and you, I know we’re not even talking about basketball anymore, but when you grow up and you, and you get in a relationship, you’re like, well, all my models from TV, the guy’s just an idiot.

So I guess I don’t have to really better myself. I can just make this moron and it’s subconscious, but it’s up to us as coaches and teachers and parents and all these people that care about these kids to be like, look, that’s not what. That’s not what you’re supposed to be. What what’s real is you go out and you be the best at what you can be.

You go out and you give all your effort. You know, there’s this thing where I, when I was coaching at a school, it got really popular to call kids, try hards. And so if they were like at the gym on time and working out, it would be called try hearts. And I, I called one of the players out. I was like, are you saying that as a derogatory term?

Like, are you trying to hurt their feelings? Because you’re recognizing that they’re trying hard. And he was like, well, kind of, I was like, that’s the dumbest thing you could ever do for your teammate. He’s literally making our team better by being on time, by working out extra. And now the reason I, I was that kid, I was only good at football.

I wasn’t going to wrestling. I wasn’t going to basketball, baseball, but football. I was probably good at football cause I made all those other sports, but I would try really hard at baseball and I was always terrible and I’d be like, oh, nobody called me a try-hard. But I see these kids who are like, it’s like, you’re not even allowed to be excited.

You’re not allowed to be encouraging. And so as coaches, we have to take that and turn the culture and be like on this team, we love each other. Like in that book, Joe Ehrman wrote with I forget what his name, but it’s called the season or football season or one more C or something like that, where Joe Erman was coaching.

And at the end of practice, the, the, the coaches would be like, what’s our job. And then the kids would all yell. These are high school football players. They would all yell out to love us. And then the coaches would be like, what’s your job? And they’d be like to love each. That was it. That was the team yell at the end of practice.

What’s our job to love us. What’s your job to love each other. Boom. So they normalized one, the word love, which brings up other conversations of, oh, there’s different types of love. Yes. That’s a, that’s a problem with the English language. There’s only one word for love. I can love ice cream and I can love my wife.

Those are two very different things. And so as coaches, when, when when we go through this curriculum, I created the 4g men of character. What we’re doing, what a reason I use the word forging is because these kids are coming along with fire. Like fire is, is burning these kids to make them into the men of tomorrow.

And we have to get in there and make sure that it’s appropriate. You know, when I was a junior in high school and my baseball coach made a racist joke and I laughed, I looked back on that now it was like, that guy was wrong. He shouldn’t have told that to. And I mean, I shouldn’t have laughed either, but also he’s my model for what a man is.

So what am I supposed to do? I’m a kid. I don’t know any better. I know a better as an adult. And so we have to be very intentional as coaches on what we tell these kids. I do this text messaging service where I’ve got like hundreds of coaches. They, they, I send them out quotes and stuff. And one of the things that I said was I asked, I was like, what’s something that rattles around in your brain decades after the coach.

And I get good responses usually, but this one I had like over a hundred coaches respond and it was all about like effort and put, give it your all and be a good person. And, and my experience as a coach, I’ll have an old athlete come up to me and be like, Hey coach, you remember when you said this?

And then they’ll say it. And I’m like I said that, yeah, I need to write that down. It’s amazing. I don’t know if I said it or not, that they’re attributing it to me and I’m going to let them do that. But you know, sticks and stones will break your bones. But a key word from a coach will echo in your mind forever.

And it’s so true, man, whether it’s good or bad. Absolutely. Absolutely. I had a, I had a seventh grade coach football coach. I go, he told me the reason we lost was when. And I was like nowadays I’m like, you had been fired for say that, but he was like going back to women. So he’s my Mr. Feeney. All right.

So he like coached me from sixth grade, seventh grade, eighth grade and my freshman year. And he was like, it’s your fault? We lost. And I was like, what do you mean? He’s like, you didn’t do your homework on Wednesday. You’re the one guy where you were the weakness in the team because the other TA we needed you to guard him.

You weren’t there and we lost don’t do it again. I’m like, okay, I never missed another game. And another sports competition, the rest of my career in any sport because of that moment, because he had the courage to, and I don’t know if he was being a jerk or not, but he was right. Like we lost. Cause I wasn’t there.

Like everybody else did their job, but my backup wasn’t very good. And that stuck with me. It’s like, alright, I need to do everything I can to make sure I don’t miss out on something that I want to do.

[00:44:48] Mike Klinzing: I think it’s interesting because I know that I have things that I remember specifically that coaches told me that I took to heart one way or another.

And then I have had the same experience that you’ve had, where a kid has come up to me and said, Hey, do you remember when you said such and such and such to me? And I’ll be like, I have no idea. I don’t remember that. I don’t remember that. I don’t remember that at all. I think what’s important to remember there as a coach going through the thread that has kind of woven its way through our entire conversation is you really have to be intentional about what you do and what you say because kids remember it.

Now. They may not remember very much of what you say, but there is going to be something that they’re going to remember that they’re going to take away. I remember when I was a freshman in college and I wasn’t playing very much. If at all. And one of my assistant coaches came up to me after a practice and he said, I can’t even remember the context now, but basically what he told me was you’re the most mentally tough kid on this team.

And this is, he’s telling me this and I’m not even playing. And I remember going back and then sitting in my dorm room thinking about what does that what’s that mean? Like, what’s he trying to tell me? And what is he seeing in me that is getting him to say that even though I can’t get out on the floor and it just kind of made me think, okay, well, whatever I’m doing, I feel like I’m working hard and somebody else is recognizing that.

And even though it’s not getting me to where I want to go, It seems like if I keep doing the things I’m doing that eventually I’m going to get where I want to go. And I’m sure if I talked to that coach today, he would have no recollection of having that conversation with me. But here I am 51 years old and I still remember it.

And there’s, and there’s a bunch of other things that I could, I could cite in the same way that coach has told me over the years, both good and bad that drove me in some way, shape or form. And we sometimes forget, we forget how powerful our words are as coaches.

[00:46:55] James Leath: Oh yeah. Yeah. Billy Graham said that he said a coach will influence more kids in a year than most people in their entire lives.

And so true. I mean, We as coaches, we are the masters of meaning. And so in this, this thing that we’ve gone through for the last two and a half years with the pandemic has been, it’s been crazy, but we’re adults. And so we can be like it’s kinda like this. It’s kinda like that, but a 12 year old kid has nothing to compare that to.

And so they’re looking to us to give them meaning if we beat a team we’re not supposed to beat, coach has got to give the story of why we did that. If we lost to a team, we weren’t supposed to lose to coach gives a story of why we just lost. And so our, as coaches, we’re just storytellers with a playbook.

That’s really what we are. And so we have to look at these kids and be like, all right, this is something they’re going to remember the rest of their lives. Now there’s a lot of pressure to get it right. Also just be yourself. Like you don’t have to have. Okay. I’m going to tell the story about when cross the sea in the book of the Odyssey.

Like, no, one’s talking about the Odyssey we’re talking about, Hey look, you guys you didn’t play your best. You, you weren’t hustling. You thought you were going to roll over this team and you didn’t. So let’s take this as a reminder that we’re going to play our game, not the opponent’s game. And let’s take this and not let it happen again.

You guys good? Alright, cool. High five. Let’s get outta here. Most post-game talks are way too long anyways. And so let’s, let’s cut them short. You get 30 seconds coach. Let him go to Applebee’s and watch the highlights on TV. Come on. They don’t want to be there. You know? So you got just little things like that.

There’s my main point is that we have to be as intentional. To be better adults to help our kids be one day a better adults. And I would say being brief

[00:48:46] Mike Klinzing: in a pre and a post game, talk the parents on your team. Appreciate that too. Oh yeah. It’s a great way to engender Goodwill with parents is to have a short post-game talk.  I know in the, in the, in the instances where we’re at some travel tournament and I feel the need to talk for longer than I probably should. And then suddenly all the parents are out there and you can just see their, you can just see their faces. They’re all looking at their watch. Like we only got an hour between games or this, or we got to get here and do that.

So yeah, if you can, if you can learn how to be brief and concise and get your point across, you are going to be a lot more successful with parents than if you’re a long-winded post game speech guy. That’s for sure.

[00:49:23] James Leath: Yeah. Oh, I’ll echo that. I mean, if he could just be like, Hey, you know what, we’re going to talk on Monday.

I just want you to know I’m really proud of you and have fun. Try not to get in too much trouble. Go tell your mom. We’ll see, I saw on Monday high five, we go, gosh, I don’t remember one post game speech in the history of all the sports I ever played for 20 some years. I don’t remember one or pregame speech.

Now, maybe it excited me a little bit, but kids don’t need all the stuff afterwards. Like let them go be kids like they’re done. They gave you everything. Let’s move on. I agree. I agree. All right,

[00:49:59] Mike Klinzing: Let’s go to some team building activities. So you have yours divided up into five different categories. So I thought what might be interesting is to give us a brief synopsis.

One of your 52 team building activities that are part of your course on unleash the athlete from each one of those categories. So I’ll throw the category at you and you give us an easy one that is relatable here through our audio format, or as easy as we possibly can make it. Let’s start with let’s.

Let’s start, let’s start with interrupt. Give me give me a team building activity where you interrupt your team.

[00:50:30] James Leath: Yeah. So the interrupt section is really just waking up the athlete kind of setting the mood for what you’re doing and the pushback that I’ll get from coaches, like, look that five minutes that you just did for that.

I need that for practice. And I’m like, no, because my kids are ready to go. They have, there’s a, there’s a cut between sitting in class all day, dealing with the drama of being an athlete, being a student to out here, having fun and the excitement of being an athlete. So after about five minutes, you’re good.

And it could be something like Simon says, I mean, it’s just, everybody knows how to play it. Let’s let’s let them, let’s let them win something. So you have, okay. Stand on your right foot. Simon says, stand your right foot. And then you find that from a 10 year old to a 30 year old playing professional ball, they want to win.

They want to compete. And so they’re going to stand there on their right foot. And then you just make it progressively harder. But what it does is it interrupts that pattern of just like, okay teachers talking, we’re doing the lecture. I’m right. I’m taking notes. I got to stop checking Snapchat. And I’m going to make a tick talks tonight.

Like, oh, I got all this stuff to think about, but now they’re just like, I got to focus because coach has to say, Simon says first, well that’s one. That’s good. Alright. Next category talk. Yeah. So when you bond with your teammates through life experiences, that’s, I it’s really important. And so the one that I got and I stole this from a friend of mine and John Gordon, he says the story it’s about the hero, the hardship and the highlight.

And so if you ask a student, all right, I want you to talk about who’s your hero, a hardship that you’ve overcome and a highlight of your life. I want you to share it with the team, but what’s even better is when the coaches do it and the coaches become more than just. The person with the whistle who shows up with the balls more than just coach, but they become this adult that kind of transcends the sport.

And so now you have one of your assistant coaches saying, love a hero in my life was my uncle. And here’s why, and this is what he did. And a hardship I overcome is I had a child and I lost, I lost the child and it changed me in this way. And then a highlight of my life is I met my wife, I got my master’s degree, or I got this head coaching job or whatever it is, what it does is it, it allows the kids to see the coach as someone, more than just someone who designs the lineup.

But it also gives the kids an opportunity to get to know each other. I was at IMG academy and we did this with one of the football players and this guy goes all right. So hardship is, I just had a baby two weeks ago and He keeps on talking, but the rest of us were just like what? You just had a baby two weeks ago.

And he wasn’t going to tell anybody, but it kind of slipped out because he was like that, that baby, my daughter’s now the reason why I’m going to go and eventually go to like a big school, which he did. And they get picked up in the NFL, which he did. But all of a sudden people were like, man, he works hard.

He’s the hardest working player on this team. And he just had a baby, like that’s mad respect. So it gives the kids an opportunity to get to know one another,

[00:53:50] Mike Klinzing: Anything where you can get them talking. And I think in my experience when I’ve done similar things, Ask questions. I think what it does is you have to sort of train them and you make a great point of having the coaches participate in that and not just be the person that is listening, trying to learn about their athletes, but also sharing.

So those athletes can see you as a person. I think that really helps to set the tone and makes everyone understand that, Hey, we’re all on the same page. We’re all willing to share and maybe be a little vulnerable with one another. And that’s really how you can build that bond and build that team comradery and really become closer to your teammates.

Next category.

[00:54:29] James Leath: Let me just pause real quick. So the things that the kids remember are not the things you think they’re going to remember. This has happened multiple times to me, but very specifically there was one kid. He was a sixth grade football player. We went undefeated for two years. I talked to, he called me when he was in college and he was like, coach, I got this assignment and I’m supposed to call somebody.

And somebody that I looked up to growing up and saw I’m flattered. I’m like, Aw, man, this is great. And I’m thinking, okay, we’re going to talk about the championships. We’re going to talk about you know, his touchdown and the winning, the championship, all this sort of stuff. And he goes, do you still open up the door for Mrs.

Cody? Oh, sorry. He goes, yeah, she would come pick you up and you would always run around and open up the door for her and then run around. And like, you guys always looked like you were having fun. I was like, yeah. How did you see that? He’s like, oh, I saw it all the time. And I do it. He’s like, oh, my girlfriend loves it.

My mom loves it. And you know, I just always do it. And I just do that because I saw you do it. And I’m like, wow, that’s amazing. He goes, the other thing is, do you still teach the handshake on the first day of practice? And so I had him for three years on, on the first day of practice, no balls, no cones, nothing for half an hour.

I taught them how to shake hands. All my football players had to look me in the eye, how to spread their fingers wide, how to cock it at an angle, how to say their name. Like this is what I would do. Hey, when I see you in the grocery store, this is how I want you to introduce your mom and your dad or your guardian or whatever it is.

And I would teach them. And I go, yeah, I still do that. He goes, well, I’m a wrestler. And he wasn’t just a wrestler. He was like top five in his weight class of the nation. And I go, that’s cool. He goes, so when I get up right in front of him and we shake hands and they give me like the princess or the dead fish, which are things that I taught him, he grabs their wrist and goes, shake it.

Like. And he goes, and I win most of my matches in that moment. He goes, it’s psychological warfare. I was like, why did teach you that part? But that’s awesome. But he took something that I taught 10 years before, eight years before, and he’s using it still. And that’s the kind of effect we have on our athletes.

And he didn’t want to talk. He didn’t care about the championships, the, the trophies, or in some case, it’s sorority in elementary that are collecting dust. He’s out there making memories today with stuff that he learned from his coach. And that’s the same thing that happens when we’re intentional about how we spend our time with our athletes.

[00:56:54] Mike Klinzing: Absolutely. That’s good stuff. And I think those are things that as coaches are so meaningful when somebody comes back and again, some of it was stuff that you meant to teach them. And some of it was stuff that you didn’t mean to teach them, but it goes to, again, what you say, what you do, the behaviors that you model, kids are watching all the time and they, they may not even react to it in the moment.

But here’s a kid 10 years later that you’re still having an impact. And you can’t tell me that, that kid’s not passing along your impact to other people in his life. And really, again, what’s coaching all about, I mean, we all want to win games, but that kind of long lasting impact on the young people that we get an opportunity to interact with.

Now, there’s nothing there’s nothing more powerful than, than that. So category three growth.

[00:57:49] James Leath: Okay. That would be overcome obstacles and learn to communicate. You’re really testing my ability to remember my own curriculum. That’s good. There’s this one game that whatever coach is listening right now, you can do this tomorrow.

It’s called 20 count. And if you have anywhere between eight and 15 athletes, then 20 is a good number. But what you do is everybody lays down in a circle. Their head is pointed in and their eyes are closed. And you tell the instructions that you give the athletes is I need you to count to 21 person out of a time with no discernible pattern.

If I see a discernible pattern, then I’m going to say, start over. If anybody says a number at the same time as somebody else, we got to start over. So imagine you got 14 kids laying down and you just say, okay, go. And the first one goes one, and then inevitably two or three kids will be like two and be like, start over.

And then you go 1, 2, 3. For the two people saying, you start over and so no discernible pattern, you can repeat what you did, but it can’t just be every other kid or some kid claps. And then they say, no, no, no, none of that stuff. And so what that does is they learn to communicate and they also learn that, that little nervousness of like, it’s, it’s my turn to speak, but I don’t know if I should, because then you can talk about that afterwards.

You be like, okay, who’s nervous to say a number. Someone will raise their hand and be like, okay, tell me about that. And now you start normalizing these awkward conversations and you’re growing together because everybody’s going to learn from that. And all you’re doing is counting to 20. It’s such a simple game.

That’s all you’re doing. And you, some kids will get it with five, six minutes other kids but the other thing is how mad do the teammates get at each other for messing it up? And you can turn that into a lesson of somebody ran the wrong. How long are you going? How much of the game time are you going to use being mad at that player?

Because we’re running out of time and you got to move on from being mad at that player. And so you’ll get these, these guys are just, it’s usually guys, they get really mad. They’re like, come on, man. You’re not supposed to say 13 and you just kind of observe and let them fix it, let them handle it unless some guys get really out of hand, but most of the time they’ll start policing each other.

But when, when do you get that opportunity to have those conversations? If you don’t introduce some silly game like that, you know what

[01:00:27] Mike Klinzing: Yeah. And do it in a way that it’s a low pressure environment with

[01:00:30] James Leath: low stakes and no losing for sure. And you’re

[01:00:34] Mike Klinzing: able to write, and you’re doing it in the confines of your practice environment, where there isn’t an audience.

There’s no scoreboard, mom and dad, aren’t sitting in the stands. There’s no officials, you’re just doing it. And you’re able to have those conversations and then. It’s like building scaffolding, right? Where you start out and you’re making it in a simple situation. And then maybe you do get in a situation where there are bigger stakes and somebody does make a mistake.

And now you’ve got to figure out as a team, how are you going to handle that? And if it’s the first time your team’s ever had a conversation like that, it’s going to be a lot harder than if you built those conversations earlier. All right, entertain.

[01:01:12] James Leath:. Alright. Now this is the one I get the most pushback from because coaches are like, yo, we can’t be playing these like improv games and stuff.

I’m like, you don’t understand sports is entertainment. Like if it wasn’t for the fans at the professional level, we wouldn’t have sports. Like it’s just people wouldn’t get paid this amount of money. And sometimes you just have to leave room. For inside jokes. And that’s what this whole curriculum is based on.

It’s the, based on the idea that great teams have two things in common, they have a shared communication, so I can be like, oh for, and everybody on the team knows exactly what we’re doing. And the other thing is, is they have inside jokes, which is the best part of youth sports is those inside jokes.

And so give you an idea again, I was at IMG academy a few years ago and I was working with the soccer team and this girl gets slow. Slide tackled really aggressively and she gets up and she starts running towards this other, that this opponent and someone from the bench yelled out at the top of her lungs purple duck.

And you saw this girl who’s about to murder this opponent. Stop, look over a Tate smile, turn around and walk away because the day before we played an improv game and a. Purple duck came up as one of the things that we made up and the girls were losing it. They were sitting in their lockers, laughing, crying, laughing, like it was so much fun.

And she had that little nugget. Whereas instead of this girl getting kicked out of the game for beating the snot out of this opponent, she saved her and she turned around and she went the other way. And so when you have these entertainment and games, these improvisational games, think of things like whose line is it anyways, you introduce that kind of stuff that it gets really, really fun.

And so one thing I’ll do is like one word story. So you get them in a circle and he’d be like, alright, I need a location. And they’ll be like Alaska. Okay. I need like a place sitting in there, like an ice melting factor. Okay. So one word at a time. Let’s tell the story. Of the ice factory in Alaska.

And so literally one word at each player gets one word and they have to keep the sentence going or finish the sentence and move to the next thing. But they only have one word to use and the stories get hilarious because then some guy named Howard eating jolly ranchers, like like, and all of a sudden you’re like, who is Howard, but this is what they came up and they can go wherever they want.

You know, the only rules are you can’t curse, that’s it. You can’t curse. And the, the word that you use has to fit the next word in the sentence, it’s gotta be grammatically correct. So the lesson that you get from a silly game, like this is now, you’re not listening to talk. You’re listening to respond like you’re, you’re, you’re not just being like, wait, I’m waiting for my turn to talk.

No, no, no, no, no, no. You’re waiting for your turn to respond so that it fits the next word. Does that make sense? It makes total sense.

[01:04:26] Mike Klinzing: And you could see where kids could have a lot of fun with it. And yet at the same time, you’re developing a key skill. You’re developing an ability to listen and hear your teammates.

You’re developing elicit an ability to think fairly quickly on their feet on your feet, right? Because you don’t want to be the person that the word comes to you. And you’re sitting there for 40 seconds trying to come up with that next word. You gotta be thinking, you gotta be following the plot of the story.

You gotta be trying to figure out where you think it’s going to go and where you want it to go. Which again are all. Valuable skills and you’re doing it in a fun way. And that, that activity again, takes very little time. And I think you talked about the objections that coaches will sometimes raise that.

Look, I’ve only got an hour and a half on the floor and I can’t afford to do this or that and do it before you get on the floor. Do it while your kids are sitting there waiting, if you have practice at six 30 and tell them to show up at six 20 and do it before you, before you get out on the floor, there’s lots of ways that you can incorporate this into what you do and make it valuable for your kids.

And I think these things, again, every single one that I’ve done that I’ve tried kids, kids, really kids really enjoy it. The one that I think about when I, when I think about entertain is I did it with my daughter. Who’s now a senior, but she was in. Maybe seventh or eighth grade. And we did the podcast on where you just throw a topic at somebody and they have to pretend like they’re an expert on that topic.

So you have like this panel, then you have people talking that one was my, my daughter still talks about it. So it’s like we did it five years ago. And the girls on that team still remember what those topics were and what they talked about. And I just remember them all like cackling, hysterically, as they’re, as they’re throwing topics at each other.

And you know, they, to your point, they’ll remember that they don’t remember how we did in tournament acts that weekend, but they certainly remember the time that we did the podcast activity. So it’s just that kind of stuff is cool. And that’s really what that’s really what it’s all about. Last category.

[01:06:26] James Leath: Okay, so hype is just energy level. It’s just, just get there, get their energy level up. Now we talked a little bit about rock paper, scissors, cheerleader. These are very hard to describe. I mean, you got one on there, says big booty. It’s like, I can’t describe that. You have to do doing a simple game of musical chairs or getting like free throws and as fast as you can, while they’re doing free throws, you have to hurl at them, the nicest, most encouraging comments you can possibly think.

And that’s like the, what, like, yes, be nice. You have to actually just throw and it becomes really silly, but what it does is it relaxes them at the free point line. And now during the game they’re sitting there and the one guy is like, Hey, come on, man, you can do this. You’d be like, Hey, your form looks beautiful because they said that in practice and all of a sudden he’s laughing and he just sinks two free throws because it’s so dumb.

But we allowed for these games to be, to kind of infiltrate their thoughts. And instead of them pulling memories from the gangster rap that they’re playing, all these other things, we give them positive things to pull from. And now they’re having a fun experience. And so you didn’t win the championship that year, but that was the best season of my life because that coach allowed for us to just have so much fun together.

And we did.

[01:07:54] Mike Klinzing: Okay. I think when I look back on what we’ve talked about tonight, and I think about. What kind of experience as a coach that you’re hoping to provide for your athletes, whether it’s you’re the basketball coach, whether you’re a coach of another sport, whatever it is you want to provide the kind of experience that makes your kids want to come back and want to play.

And I also think that sometimes it’s overlooked that we talk about, Hey, we want to build our team and build the character of our players, want our athletes to be more resilient. And we look at it sort of from what kind of individual experiences are those kids having? What kind of team experience are they having?

But it’s also important to note that all this stuff, it does help you win because sure you have a team that bonds together, anybody who’s been on a great team that’s together knows what that feels like. And it just has a different feel from a team that is separate and isn’t together. And when your teams together, it’s a lot easier to win games. It just is. And you talked about it a little bit, that it’s hard to judge yourself based on who your opponent is and you can, you can put together a cupcake schedule if you want, and probably win a lot of games. And conversely, you could have a really good team and play a really tough schedule.

And you know, you may, you may not have the one loss record that you thought you were, you were going to have, but you can have such a good experience. I think that’s something that we all, I think we, I think we intuitively know that, but sometimes we get caught up in the day-to-day. It’s sometimes difficult to remember, especially the higher, the level you go.

Obviously, the more you’re judged by not what kind of positive basketball experience you’re providing, which is unfortunate, but you’re often judged by your one loss record. So I think it’s important for coaches to know, understand, and I think most do that. These types of things that you can do with your team, with your players to build that comradery, to build them as athletes, to build their resilience, to make your team tighter.

Ultimately not only does it pay off in a better experience, but it also pays off in wins and losses.

[01:10:01] James Leath: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, you’re, you’re going to have more fun being in a childlike state than you are being you know, a dictator. Now, let me say this. If you’re a coach and you’re a dictator, a totalitarian type.

Yeah. You’ll you, you probably, you could win. You could win every single year, but none of those kids are going to come back and visit you because they hate you. So you have all these trophies, just like Scrooge McDuck at all, or not McDuck DuckTales, but like screws from Christmas season. Scrooge had all the money and nobody liked him and that’s a terrible way to live.

And so I would rather have half those trophies and not enough room at my funeral for all my athletes, because that’s what matters. It doesn’t matter how many trophies are in the case. It’s how many people are sad that when you’re gone. That’s what’s the most important thing. Cause they’re going to remember all the things that you gave them all the ways that you love them, all the ways that you stepped in as a second father or a second mother or a first father, my first mother, because you didn’t have them.

You know? And so at the end of the day, like I want coaches or I want athletes to remember that when they were around coach Lee, they felt like they could be a better version of themselves. Not that they were scared that they couldn’t measure up to some ridiculous level that nobody can read.

[01:11:31] Mike Klinzing: That’s a powerful statement, James. And I think it’s one that is a good one to end on. I think it leaves with the type of message that we want people to get out of what we’ve been able to talk about tonight. Before we wrap up one more time, share how people can find out more about you share your social media, give them your website again, tell them where they can go to find all the great stuff that we were talking about and get more in depth into it by your courses.

Just go through the whole spiel and then I’ll jump back in and wrap things up.

[01:11:59] James Leath: Well, I appreciate that. If someone just wants to text message me 9 7 2- 2 3 6 – 5 9 2 4, and they text message who peds. What I’ll do is I’ll send them a link to some of my curriculums. They’re all like $97, but I’ll give those three curriculums for $3 or $93 or $97, whatever it is.

My assistant do it, but I want to get this in the hands of COVID. And so that’s the best way it probably did to get ahold of me is to text me at 9 7 2 – 2 3 6 – 5 9 2 4. But I mean, my stuffs Unleashed the Athlete, UTathlete.com. You know, I’ve always loved being on, I’ve been the second time on the podcast, so I’ve always enjoyed talking to you guys.

And I’m pretty, find-able on social media, just James Leath.

[01:12:47] Mike Klinzing: It’s great stuff. James puts out a lot of good content. Just what we touched on tonight is just the tip of the iceberg. So if you’re a coach out there and the things that we talked about tonight, strike a chord, a few, definitely reach out to James, pick his brain, learn about some of the things that he’s been able to do, incorporate them into what you do.

And you’re going to have a better experience as a coach. Your players are going to have a better. As members of your team, and it’s just going to help you as a coach to be better and to enjoy what you do even more than you already do right now. So, James, I cannot thank you enough for taking the time out of your schedule to join us again for a second time.

Really appreciate that to everyone out there. Who’s part of our audience. Thank you for listening. Hopefully you got some things out of this episode that you can take and incorporate with your team starting as soon as tomorrow. So thank you for listening and we will catch you on our next episode. Thanks.