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Twitter – @coachnsanderson
Nate Sanderson is the head girls’ basketball coach at Mount Vernon High School in Iowa. He is also the Director of Product Development at Breakthrough Basketball and a key member of the Thrive on Challenge team where he co-hosts the Coaching Culture Podcast and is a mentor & team leader.
Nate turned around the varsity girls’ basketball program at Linn-Mar High School in Marion, Iowa from 2017-2020. Prior to that he built one of the top basketball programs in the state of Iowa at Springville High School. During his tenure at Springville his teams had a record of 112-59 (.665) including 74-7 during his last three seasons. Springville won back-to-back state titles in 2016 & 2017 and was state runner-up in 2015.
Sanderson has received numerous regional and statewide coaching awards. His program has been recognized by Character Counts of Iowa for their commitment to community service and character development. Nate also currently serves as the President of the Iowa Basketball Coaches Association.
Nate is a frequent speaker at coaching clinics around the country specializing in building championship culture, leadership development, and using a games-based approach to practice. His mission is to challenge athletes and coaches alike to create an experience for young people that is deeply meaningful beyond the game.
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Be prepared to take some notes as you listen to this episode with Nate Sanderson, Head Girls’ Basketball Coach at Mount Vernon High School in the state of Iowa.
What We Discuss with Nate Sanderson
- Why the Mount Vernon job was a good fit for him and his family
- Meeting with administrators, returning coaches, and seniors to get a feel for the state of the program when he took over
- “You can certainly find the flaws maybe a little bit easier when you start asking really good questions and talking to as many people as you can.”
- His first question for returning seniors – “What’s going to make your senior year experience meaningful and worthwhile and something that you’ll look back on fondly?”
- Gratitude, Effort, & Love
- Getting players to talk so they get to know each other
- “There’s a lot more value in doing, acting on your values than there is talking about your values.”
- Recognizing and praising players that demonstrate the core values
- “Being skilled is what’s fun for players.”
- “I think you can collapse some time frames when you’re doing things in a games context.”
- Summer skill development
- Chasing reps in every drill
- Using practice film to guide the coaches at lower levels in the program
- Building a coaching staff
- The value of hosting a staff retreat
- “You enjoy coaching with people that are your friends.”
- “The hardest thing is just being able to articulate a vision when you take over a new program.”
- Setting the proper expectations for the season
- “If you have an expectation, whether it’s grounded in reality or not, and that expectation is not met the gap between what actually happened and what you expected to happen really dictates the intensity of your disappointment or frustration or anger.”
- The value of his weekly program email
- Using film to help a team learn how to close and win games
- Prioritizing what your team really needs to work on
- “The more simple the game can be, the more effective your players are going to be.”
- Thrive on Challenge and the opportunities for coaches to grow and learn
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THANKS, NATE SANDERSON
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TRANSCRIPT FOR NATE SANDERSON – MT. VERNON (IA) HIGH SCHOOL GIRLS’ BASKETBALL HEAD COACH & THRIVE ON CHALLENGE – EPISODE 623
[00:00:00] Mike Klinzing: Hello, and welcome to the Hoop Heads Podcast. It’s Mike Klinzing here without my co-host Jason Sunkle who is bringing his 4th child home from the hospital this evening, but we are pleased to be joined by our two time guest Nate Sanderson, the Hhead Girls’ Basketball Coach at Mount Vernon High School in Iowa and a big contributor at Thrive on Challenge. Nate, Welcome to the Hoop Heads Pod.
Nate Sanderson: Thanks Mike. Glad to be here.
Mike Klinzing: Nate took over a losing program at Mount Vernon and turned it around this past season. What was the first thing you felt like needed to be done when you first got the job last May? Who did you need to talk to?
[00:01:21] Nate Sanderson: Yeah, I appreciate those questions. You know, for me, my, my story, I think the last time I was on the podcast here, I had just lost my job at one of the areas schools here. And so I spent a year as a volunteer assistant coach with one of my friends about half hour, 40 minute drive from our house here and had a few opportunities to potentially relocate to take another job.
And this would have been a year ago in the. And really just didn’t feel a lot of peace about any of those opportunities. So we decided that to stay in the area. And as I mentioned, I was a volunteer assistant there, but in that process one of the questions that we were asking as a family is what are we looking for in the next head job?
Our kids are seven and four. You know, they’re getting old enough now where moves when they start establishing friendships and get older. And that sort of thing becomes more difficult for them. And I think the answer for us was we’d really like to find a place where I can be the head coach and our kids can go to school and we really wanted to stay in this area.
And so when the Mount Vernon job opened up here just this past year, a year after I was a volunteer assistant there, it kind of checked a lot of boxes for us. It’s just a 16 minute drive from our house. We’re going to open enroll our kids down there next year. I love the small town community feel.
It’s kind of got that sort of old school vibe to it in terms of just the community support and the athletic. In a really good league. So you really got to do some homework and you got to do your preparation every night. So it’s fun to coach in a, and so for us, it it was never something that I would have imagined would open up and be such a good fit, but it turned out to be the perfect fit for us.
So when we got the job, got the job late it would be mid May of last year, kind of got a late start on the summer schedule and things like that. And in terms of our first steps I think this is my fourth rebuild that I’ve done. And you just want to try to get a lay of the land in the beginning.
And so it’s meeting with administrators, it’s meeting with returning coaches, it’s meeting with the seniors. As many people that I could talk to when you’re in a transition like. It’s easier to get an unvarnished perspective on the program than even it would be at the end of year one, because now if they’re going to be critical, they’re going to be critical of the guy sitting across the table from them.
Right. Me versus when he’d have a fresh start, you can really kind of, in some ways, I don’t want to say, see where the bodies are buried, but you can certainly find the flaws maybe a little bit easier when you start asking really good questions and talking to as many people as you can.
[00:03:43] Mike Klinzing: What were some of the questions that you asked?
Let’s say, I’m assuming that you’re talking to, again, players, you’re talking to administrators, you’re talking to parents. So let’s start with the players. What were some questions or a question that you asked players?
[00:03:57] Nate Sanderson: Yeah. Meeting with the seniors first the thing that I really wanted to challenge them on because you know, if you don’t get your seniors in year one, it’s really year zero.
You know what I mean? Like you’re going to have to wait for that second year. If you’re not getting buy in to make a lot of progress. I think from that, if you don’t get your first senior class there. For them, the question was really simple. You know, what’s going to make your senior year experience meaningful and worthwhile and something that you’ll look back on fondly tell me what that would be like.
And oftentimes that is going to be a contrast to what they experienced a year before, but really letting them paint a picture of when I’m done with my career, I’d really like to look back at my last year at Mount Vernon, girls basketball and be able to say this right. And whatever that thing is for them, they wanted to have fun.
They wanted to have a good experience. They wanted to have a team where everybody got along and looked forward to being together. Those things are all in line with the kind of culture that we want to start to establish in the beginning. But that’s, that’s really what it was, is trying to draw a vision of the experience out from them.
And then start talking about all right. What are some ways maybe that we can start working on that even in that first summer?
[00:05:05] Mike Klinzing: What about administrators?
[00:05:08] Nate Sanderson: Yeah. The first question that I asked my AD was just, who do I need to talk to? You know, who are the influencers whose opinion really matters when it comes to girls basketball, whether that’s boosters or parents or their athletes that we might have a chance to recruit back out or get out that maybe haven’t been out for basketball those kinds of questions.
I mean, they, again are going to know sort of who’s connected in the program better than I would, especially from not being from in town. And so that, that number one, and in the interview process, typically the questions that you’re asked are gonna clue you in, obviously to some of the things that they’re looking for whether it’s building a youth program or aligning your lower levels or playing a different style or whatever it might be.
And so following up on some of those themes, maybe that came out in the interview was also, I thought an important conversation to have with our AD and our administrators.
[00:06:01] Mike Klinzing: What about with parents? What were some of the things that you talked with them.
[00:06:06] Nate Sanderson: You know, interestingly enough, I didn’t really engage with parents like directly.
And in terms of having meetings or a presentation or welcome to coach or anything like that. I mean, we started doing our weekly email, which we do through the summer and we, we try to leverage that during the season as well, just in terms of how much information we’re going to share and trying to give them examples from open gyms of this is what we hope the offense looks like.
And just a summary maybe of what we did that week, that sort of thing. But it wasn’t really until our first parent meeting before the start of the season that we really laid out the vision for the parents and that honestly, Mike and you’re number one, given what the experience was like for them.
And the previous year, the number one thing that we wanted to establish, and we shared this with parents and players and everyone at the start of the year was we want basketball to be something that kids look forward to. So when they’re sitting in class seventh hour there were times in the past where they dreaded 3:30 because they had to go to basketball and we wanted that to be something that they would look forward to. And if we could get to that point where they enjoyed the experience, they’re going to work harder, they’re going to be more engaged. They’re going to be more proud of their growth. They’re probably getting along better a lot of things follow that, but, but that was really the simplest, I guess, description of what we tried to do in year one is to create a place that players look forward to being,
[00:07:27] Mike Klinzing: As you’ve talked to the players, maybe in those first initial meetings.
And then as you started to get to know them through the summer, what were some things that you talked to them about that obviously you have to do some of the things and talking about it only goes so far, but when you were having those discussions with players early on in the first couple of weeks, and in their first couple experiences with you, what were some things that you tried to get across to them that you thought that you could do to make that experience better and be the type of experience that you were describing?
It gets to be the end of school and they’re excited. They can’t wait to run down the hallway and get to the locker room and get into the gym versus they’re dragging their way down. They’re not looking forward to it.
[00:08:11] Nate Sanderson: Yeah. There’s a couple of things that we did right away. So when I got the job, mid-May we found kind of a time period in the first week of June that we could do a three-day kind of mini camp, which was basically just an hour and 15 minutes, hour and a half in the classroom.
And that’s it like over those three days, we didn’t even go into the gym just because the schedules were bonkers with softball and other things. But I did something different in that, that initial, some of those initial meetings in that I started with my vision and the values that I wanted to build a program on.
And I think a lot of times JP Nerbun and I thrive on challenge, but we work with a lot of coaches and coaches that are starting in programs. And there’s a certain part of. I guess the template that you want to draw things out from your team you want them to be able to establish standards and expectations and values and maybe a motto for the season and that sort of thing.
But I had a really clear vision. I thought about the kind of program that I wanted to build here. And my fourth rebuild, as I mentioned before, We want to build on the values of gratitude, effort and love. And so what I did in that first presentation was I kind of went back through my timeline, starting it, the wise and Muscatine, and then some success at Springville and even our experience at Lindmar when we were trying to build this.
And sort of why those three values have become the most important things to me. And quite frankly, I couldn’t imagine building a program on, on anything else. And so for them, it was a little bit of context, like, okay, this is the foundation on which the program is going to be built, what gratitude or effort or love what that looks like, how that’s defined may change from team to team and year to year.
But that’s always going to be who we are. And so some of our initial conversations, rather than what are the words became, what do those things mean to you? What do they look like in practice? How do we know when effort is present or when players love each other care about each other, what does that look like?
What does it not look like? And I think that was a productive conversation to start. So that when we went into the gym those are things that I could return to, even in our summer workouts, in our summer open gyms. The other thing that we did in those first three days and would continue kind of over the course of the summer is we really intentionally created what Daniel Coyle would call collisions between players.
And so every day to start that camp, we did an activity called speed dating where we just line them up in two lines and they get 30 seconds to answer a question with the person, opposite them, and then they rotate and get a new person. And we did silly questions and serious questions and get to know you questions and advice, questions, and predict your future questions.
You know, all kinds of things that just allowed them to be a little bit vulnerable and get to know each other a little bit and have some fun with it. And I think that did a lot to break down some of the natural barriers between upperclassmen and underclassmen to make freshmen feel a little more comfortable for seniors to get to know some of the younger kids that maybe they don’t have classes with.
Talking about love and then reinforcing it with opportunities for them to connect. I thought was a really good way to approach it. How
[00:11:15] Mike Klinzing: Do the players take to that? If it’s something that they haven’t experienced before? Because I know as an adult, a lot of times you can go to a meeting, let’s say it’s a teacher’s meeting.
And suddenly you have these activities where it’s to get to know you and you’re having to talk to somebody or this person or that person. And we all know that there are some people who love to talk in those environments. And we know there are other people who would much prefer to sit down on a chair and not participate in those activities.
So for a team that hasn’t maybe necessarily done those things before, how do you get the girls comfortable with sharing? And what does that process look like as you go through and get it started? I would imagine that by the middle of the season, by the end of the season, when you’re doing some of those communications.
You’re getting a lot more participation than you are at the beginning where you kind of have to model it and show them the value.
[00:12:12] Nate Sanderson: Yeah. You know, I think there’s a couple of things. I think one, the way that we scaffolded our questions was very deliberate. And so we started with things that are easy to answer.
And you know, whether it’s tell us about your favorite basketball memory from your life and basketball that’s an easy question. Are you more like your mom or your dad and why? That’s an easy question. If you were going to you know, design the perfect dinner what would that be? You know, so w we start with some easy things that are, you don’t have to really reveal a lot about yourself.
You know, everybody can typically answer in 30 seconds or so, and then gradually over the course of the week and over the course of the summer, and then over the course of the season w we just start asking for a little bit more behind the veil whether it’s a talk about someone that you’ve looked up to and why do you admire them or talk about using John Gordon’s hero, hardship and highlights like those are good prompts for kids as we go along.
But I think for us when we started with why, like we talked about why does love matter on a basketball team before we got into the connections and the conversations, like, can you tell the difference when you’re watching a team play between a team that cares about each other and a team that doesn’t and kids could figure that out, you know?
And so if you start from that place where they identify, we want to be a team that cares about each other, You just ask. Okay, let’s take the first step. The first step is to care about somebody. We got to get to know each other a little better. So today we’re going to do some speed dating and so that’s sort of how we tried to bridge into it as again, the vision of what they want and here’s the first step.
And you’re totally right. As we went along our kids would tell you now that it was, it was a little awkward. It was a little uncomfortable and a little different than certainly anything that they’ve experienced in other sports. But even in the start of the season in practice, Mike, we, we started with connection every day.
So our practice, we start in the circle we do a couple of quick announcements and then we do one of two things. One kids get into groups of three, they talk about their day. And then there’s a discussion question that they each kind of share a little bit about in the same vein as what we did in speed dating.
Or the second half of the year, we did a lot of partner walks to start practice. So I’d have a deck of cards. You know, I hand them out, the two Queens are gonna walk. The two ACEs of spades are gonna walk together and they’re going to talk about their day. And they’re going to talk about the discussion question, just walking laps in the.
And then we come back to the circle and they just share something that they learned about their teammate. We just go around the circle real quick. And then we jump into practice and we did our exit interviews at the end of the year. I mean, almost everybody brought that up about how much they enjoyed the opportunity to get to know each other, just to start practice.
Like it was a great transition from the school day to get them kind of focused on each other and focused on what we were going to do. And again, they were able to walk away from the season with friendships that didn’t necessarily get formed in the past because there wasn’t a deliberate attempt to make those things happen.
[00:15:02] Mike Klinzing: Getting that culture piece started and sort of getting the kids to overcome the way that they’ve done things. In the past and just get them out of their comfort zone to get them to be able to talk and to be able to share. And then once you get that going, and once you get it established, it gets itself rolling.
And now you’ve established those three pillars that you want to make sure that you always build your team on. How did you go about initially and then as the season wore on making sure that you recognized when those things were taking place. So when a player was showing gratitude or when they were showing effort, what did you and your coaching staff do to make sure that you were recognizing when those three pillars were being exhibited by one of your players?
How do you go about doing that?
[00:15:52] Nate Sanderson: Yeah I think two things, I think number one, one of the things I’ve learned over the years and this, this is my 20th year in coaching is. There’s a lot more value in doing, acting on your values. Then there is talking about your values and so for us using gratitude as an example one of the things that we did at the end of every practice has just, we call them Valentines.
Some people call them shout outs whatever it might be, but we finished in the circle and you just call out a teammate. Hey, I saw Mike today, worked really hard in our rebounding drill and everybody claps for Mike, you and I changed spots on the circle. We high five, we high five, our new neighbors.
And so we’re ending sort of with this recognition of, of effort or of love, or we’re expressing gratitude for what our teammates did in practice. Getting only takes about two minutes, maybe at the end, at the end of each day, but that becomes a habit. Right. And then there’s other things that we would do.
Like we did teacher appreciation cards in the middle of the year just to practice the art and the act of gratitude. Right. So rather than. Always talking about it and hoping that it happens, we just set up opportunities to do it and to do it together. So so that’s one thing. And I think the other thing when it comes to recognizing it when we started the conversation way back in the beginning of the summer, what does effort look like?
What does love look like? You know, on the basketball court? Obviously anytime we would see those things in film you know, we spent a lot of time watching ourselves and doing things well in our film sessions during the season. But anytime we could we take a charge, we dive on the floor where there’s something where there’s extra effort.
You better believe that’s going to be brought out in the film before the next game. And same thing with love. Like we would show clips of when we would make mistakes. And we had a couple of seniors that were really good about this, about going to the player that made a mistake and you could see it on film.
They get my high five, they pat them on the Bobo. You can see they’re giving them some encouragement. And so the more we could reinforce that, the more likely it was to happen. And the more likely it was for other players to start doing those things as well.
[00:17:47] Mike Klinzing: Absolutely. I think the idea of connecting the behavior and then the praise and making sure that it’s not just a catchphrase, Hey, we’re going to demonstrate gratitude, but you’re actually showing them, Hey, what does this look like?
You’re giving them opportunities. This is what gratitude looks like. This is what effort on the floor looks like. I do think that sometimes we caught up and saying, Hey, we’re going to play hard or we’re going to give a tremendous amount of effort. And then we don’t always necessarily define those behaviors for players.
And I think by defining it, what you’re really doing is you’re giving those kids a target to shoot for. Right. Here’s something that I have to do. And then to go along with what you just said, when you praise. Then that’s a behavior that you’re going to get tenured to get repeated because the kids know that, Hey, it’s not just coach up there talking about, we’re going to show gratitude.
We’re going to give tremendous effort. It’s coach recognizing us when we do those things. And to me, that’s really where the magic lies is that yeah, you can say it, but as you said, you have to actually put it into action. And when you do, that’s what you’re most likely to get the best results. And when you do that, then you start to create the type of culture that I know that you wanted to build around your program.
When you first got the job and you started looking at your players and who you had coming back, and you looked at last year’s team and you started to dive into them on the basketball floor. What were one or two things that you immediately identify from a basketball standpoint, that if we’re going to have success and we can define success, however we want.
But if we’re going to have success on the basketball court, These are some things that we have to really make sure that we work on in between the lines of practice.
[00:19:36] Nate Sanderson: Yeah. You know, when you take a look at where we were at you know, I gotta say that there was a hunger for change across the board, whether it was culture or it was style of play, there was an open-mindedness to doing just about whatever we wanted to do as far as that goes, which, which you don’t always get when you walk into a new situation, but that really allowed us to make a lot of progress because there really wasn’t any self-inflicted resistance anywhere.
So some of the changes that we made, we went to a zone defense right away. And we did that. Not necessarily cause I’m a zone guy, just because it’s so much easier to scout in zone you’re, you’re, short-cutting a lot of your preparation. When players are playing in the same spot, their slides become a lot more predictable.
We don’t have to spend as much time how are we going to guard a ball, screen away, screen, a stagger screen? You know, this action. Most people are going to end up in a 1, 3, 1 somehow some might screen the middle a little bit, but there’s just not a lot of you know, creativity sometimes in zone offenses and particularly in our league because almost everybody’s playing man to man.
And so everyone else is spending 80% of their practice time on man-to-man offense. And they’re just not putting as many things in against the zone. So we really needed to save time so that we could work on our offensive skill development. You look at numbers from just the previous season before I got there, their field goal efficiency was I think, 32%, something like that.
They turn it over 19 times a game. You know, they were shooting 22% from three. I mean they average, I think 31 points a game. I mean, that’s, that’s not fun. You know what I mean? Like I remember them asking in the, in the interview process. Yeah, just the style of play and your systems and you know, what makes it fun for players?
And I said it really isn’t about pace and taking a lot of shots. I think sometimes we think fast break basketball is what’s fun for players. I think Chris Oliver would say, and I’d agree with this. That being skilled is what’s fun for players. You know, when you’re able to bring the ball up the floor and move it quickly and convert at the rim or make an open three, like, I don’t care how fast you’re playing.
That’s fun. And so that’s what we were really trying to get after initially was just the ability to be functional on, on offense. Be able to score more points, whether that’s through a system or your skill development, or increase emphasis on shooting and practice, which we did. All of those things.
And we just tried to save some time by not working on a lot of other things. You know, we didn’t press again, we ran two-three zone. It was as vanilla as you can find, we didn’t trap out of it. We didn’t do anything. You know, we had maybe two different coverages for the high post. That was it. And that was just so that we could spend as much time as possible, not on five, on five offense, but developing concepts and skills in the style of play that we wanted to have at that end,
[00:22:19] Mike Klinzing: let’s start out with the summer.
You get the job in May and you know that, Hey, some of this skill stuff is what we really got to work on. So how did you get the girls to buy into a, we’re going to get in the gym, we’re going to work on our skills. What were some of the things that you did with them in the summertime to make sure that when you came into the fall and practices ready to start, that they were at least moving in the right direction and had an understanding of where you wanted to take them.
[00:22:50] Nate Sanderson: Yeah, that’s an interesting question. And I’m going to answer that from a cultural perspective first you know, in the, in Mount Vernon’s context, softball is, is one of our best, maybe the best, I don’t know, softball and volleyball programs on the girl’s side. So I think volleyball has been to the state tournament 16 to the last 18 years.
Softball has been there, six of the last eight. Both of them will be ranked in the top, probably two or three preseason in the upcoming year. And so that’s where kids are spending a lot of their time and seeing a lot of the fruit of their labor in basketball. You know, the, the thing that I wanted them to feel at the end of the summer was that when they came to workouts, they got better.
You know, whether that was, they felt better with their shot. They felt like they learned something new. They felt like their skills were being given. And you and I spent a lot of time that the first time I was on the podcast talking about a game-based approach. And I think there was a lot that we got out of that even starting right away in the summer, where everything that we’re doing is in the context of a game it’s, one-on-one, it’s two on two it’s, three on three it’s those kinds of things, rather than doing traditional drills, which is what they’ve done a lot of in the past block shooting and two ball dribbling and those kinds of things, which number one aren’t necessarily enjoyable to do at least comparing to compare to playing games.
And two, I think you can collapse some timeframes when you’re doing things in a games context. So it, they felt like they were getting better, then they’re more likely to come back and they’re more likely to believe that they’re going to get better during the season. I think the other thing from a cultural perspective is I wanted kids to feel like when they walked into our gym, they were welcomed that they enjoyed being there together, that coaches were excited to see them.
We knew their names. We talked to them about things outside of basketball to get to know them. You know, we’re asking questions about their other sports, their summer jobs, their family, what are they doing with the spare time? What are they watching on Netflix? You know, all of those things to try to see them as people that play basketball and again, creating that place that they feel like they want to be.
And so from there to, to build a foundation in terms of just the basketball context, we’re just taking some of the basic actions out of the concepts, we’re trying to run in the season, we’re going to spread it out for out. We’re going to play with a dunker or play with a high post and run some scissor stuff off of that.
Creating some games out of those actions is kind of where we started. You know, you’re introducing vocabulary, you’re introducing some footwork, you’re introducing some finishing moves and how you’re going to describe those things. And then we tried to get a lot of shots up. And again, you look at the shooting percentages, like we’re not going to be competitive if we don’t shoot better than 22% from the three point line or 30% from, for your efficiency.
And so that’s not something that they’d done before either. And so for them that felt good to be getting some shots up.
[00:25:33] Mike Klinzing: All right. Two questions. One, first of all, what’s the rule for off contact in the state of Iowa?
[00:25:39] Nate Sanderson: Yeah. So our rule is from June 1st until the first day of fall sports, which I think is around August 8th.
You can have unlimited contact with your athletes in the summertime. We have summer baseball and summer softball. So you, you obviously can’t schedule over the top of those things where I require kids to miss something from softball to be at basketball, but we can have as much contact as we want.
And then once August 8th hits then we’re not allowed to have any coaching contact until the first day of practice in the fall.
[00:26:09] Mike Klinzing: How did you set up your off-season program in terms of how many days a week did you have the gym open? How many days a week did the girls come in to work with you on skill development versus playing?
Just how did you set up, what exactly does your summer program look like?
[00:26:24] Nate Sanderson: Yeah. So for us what we’ve tried to do here, and I’m just working on this draft for this coming summer, which will be pretty similar is in the month of June we’ll have the gym open four days a week for an hour and 15 minutes at a time.
So I’ll have two evening sessions, like in two morning sessions, I think Mondays and Wednesdays are in the morning when they’re done with strengthened. And then in the evening on nights when there’s not softball games, we’ll go from six to seven 15 or something like that. We tell the kids we’d like them to get in twice a week.
So I try to give them some flexibility and given their crazy schedules with other sports and work and all that last year they just said they really appreciated essentially having four different time slots to choose from, but not putting a ton of pressure on them to be there all the time.
And so we’ll do that. And then this year, we’re trying to get some time on the court to play together last summer again, cause I got the job so late everybody else’s schedules were kind of set. So we never had our first day together actually until the week before Thanksgiving, because we had a kid that started the year hurts.
And so we really never saw what our team was going to look like until the season starts. And I’m not a huge fan of that. And so this summer, we’re trying to find some times to, to get some scrimmages in before the softball post season starts. So we’ve got a few dates picked out for that in June for both our upper level or varsity level.
And then also for our, our lower levels. And then for us in July 4th of July, our gyms are closed because of resurfacing, the gym floors and that sort of thing. So we’ll be off that week. We’ll go another week after that, where we’ll have two open gyms and a team camp for those that can make it. And then it’ll be softball state tournament, which our team will be there.
And then I was got a dead week. The last eight days of July, there can be no contact whatsoever from coaches to players, which is great. I think for families to know they’ve got that time to get away. Kids can get away and that sort of thing I can get away, which is fine. And then for us in August one of the ways, I dunno if this is a loophole necessarily, but we have a really fortunate to have, I guess, what we call a virtual assistant.
So I’ve got a friend of mine. Who coached in five, eight girls basketball in Iowa for 12 years, we coached against each other a little bit when I was at Lindmar and she was a division one assistant coach for 10 years before that. And long story short, she got out of coaching last March. And when I got the job at Mount Vernon, she sent me this congratulations text and said, Hey, it’s great.
You got the job. I’m so excited that Aaron is going to be playing for you. Aaron being her niece. One of the reasons that she got out of coaching was to be able to watch her niece play, play basketball in high school. And so that led to some conversations. And so coach Orvis ended up kind of just being, like I said, a virtual assistant, she lived an hour and 15 minutes away, but she watched all of our film.
And then she and I would talk after every game, just going through some scenarios and whatever questions I might have, whatever observations she might have. And so in Iowa, because she doesn’t have any coaching contract. During the season, she can run workouts in the off season, which is sort of confusing, but it’s illegal that way.
And so she’ll run some skill stuff for us in August and September as we lead into our season, that starts in November.
[00:29:26] Mike Klinzing: So what is your skill work look like in terms of trying to maximize the girls getting shots up and being efficient with their they’re shooting workouts? What does that look like?
[00:29:37] Nate Sanderson: Yeah, for us, we are obsessive about reps. And so that’s something that we talked to them about at the very beginning. Look, when we get in there you’re chasing reps, that’s a phrase that we use a lot. And so we give you four minutes in a partner shooting drill. You know, the goal is to try to get as many shots up as you can.
We try not to do block shooting. So we’ll have them make sure that they relocate after every shot and try not to get into habits of just moving around the world, sliding to the left slide, to the left, that sort of thing. Honestly, we don’t spend a lot of time and by not a lot of time, I mean, we didn’t spend any time at all on shooting technique last year.
We tried to introduce a little bit of footwork into the catch, but otherwise we just got a lot of volume, like as many shots as we could and whatever the time was. So we’ve got a shooting ladder that we’ve developed some drills that we do for that. And it’s broken down into partner shooting for four minutes.
You should get about 50 shots with one rebounder. If we go nine minutes, when a group of three, two rebounders and a shooter, they should get about 45 to 50 shots in three minutes. And so for all of our shooting drills, we sort of have it broken down by number of kids in the group. How many basketballs and how many baskets we have.
And just really, as I said, emphasized, the goal is as many shots as you can get chased them, perhaps. And then we count everything. And so during the season, during the off season when we do our ladder drills, they’re always counting just by twos and threes. We recorded in a spreadsheet and we didn’t do a lot with the results of that this past year, other than at our banquet this year.
We had the, the ladder stats in our packet that we gave out like the high scores for Mount Vernon 53 and figure eight shooting and whatever our drills were. We had the all-time scores from, from my time at Mount Vernon, north Lynn and Lynn bars. We’ve kept data for the last four or five years, which is kind of cool to see some Mount Vernon kids work their way onto that, onto that leaderboard.
And then we did the sharpshooter award as one of our end of the season. Which just went to the kid that won the shooting ladder during the course of the season. And so now that they kind of experienced that a little bit we’ll be able to give them at the start of the summer here are your best scores in the ladder drills, so that they’ve got an idea of maybe what they’re shooting for.
And we can update that as we go along as well. So I think there’s a lot of potential in that, but the fact that we’re maximizing reps and counting, I think has really helped our players to buy in.
[00:31:57] Mike Klinzing: Are the players counting their own shots?
[00:31:59] Nate Sanderson: They are.
[00:32:01] Mike Klinzing: Gotcha. Yeah. It’s always interesting. I think when you, sometimes you’ll hear coaches, you go and listen to a clinic and you’ll hear a coach, that’s a college coach.
Talk about tracking this and we keep track of this. And I always think, well, yeah, that’s great. When you have a staff. Eight or nine coaches, you have managers and you have basically one, one adult per, per player to track all this stuff. I always think it’s a lot harder when you have a high school staff and maybe you have, maybe you’re lucky to have one assistant or maybe you’re a JV coaches practicing with you, and maybe you got one student manager and you’re trying to keep track of all this stuff.
Obviously there’s tremendous amount of value in the data if you can get it collected. But I always think it’s a challenge to be able to do that as a high school coach, just because of again, your time and the amount of just manpower that you have in order to be able to do that.
[00:32:48] Nate Sanderson: Yeah, you’re, you’re a hundred percent, right.
And if we didn’t have kids counting and are they a hundred percent accurate every single time? Probably not. But you know, we take all of our practices with our huddle assist cameras and actually Mike, the, the last th the winner of the award, the sharpshooter award came down to the last shooting drill of the season.
We had two kids that were head to head. We didn’t know it at the time until we crunched the numbers at the end. And then our senior ended up beating our sophomore in that drill and she won the award. And so I’m like, all right, I got to go make sure so I went back and watched the film and counted them myself.
And they were both the same score that they turned in, you know? So that made me feel pretty good as, as a coach that they’re doing their best and, and trying to have some integrity with it.
[00:33:31] Mike Klinzing: Those hudl cameras are amazing, aren’t they?
[00:33:34] Nate Sanderson: Tremendous.
[00:33:36] Mike Klinzing: It’s just an incredible tool that you think back to what it used to be like, where you’d have to get either one of your JV players to film the games, or you’d have a manager or somebody up there, and then you’d hear them making their comments that maybe they shouldn’t have been making while they forgot that they were being recorded.
And it’s just the most important play of the game. They forgot to turn the camera cause they’re so excited. It’s just to have it, to have it automated and to be able to have access to it as a coach is tremendously valuable. And then I think the other piece of it that COVID clearly accelerated was just the ability of those cameras to stream everything and that schools now you could, you could be anywhere in the country and be watching games.
It’s really fun. Like my son is a sophomore this year and my parents were in Florida. I just sent him a text. Hey, we got a game on Tuesday night. It’s going to be, it’s going to be available. Here’s the stream. And my dad could go on and watch the game and get on the phone out with me afterward and talk a little bit about, it’s just, it’s incredible what those cameras have done both from a coaching standpoint and just an ability to connect with family members and friends who otherwise would never be able to see a game and a lot of cases.
[00:34:48] Nate Sanderson: Yeah, for sure. It’s been awesome to see kind of the growth of that technology. And the, the biggest thing that we got out of that huddle assist this year too, was we taped all of our practices that I mentioned. So, but we ran split practices. So our freshmen and sophomores and a couple of our JV kids would go in the morning and then our varsity kids would go after school or in the evening.
And so for my assistant coaches, cause that’s one of the challenges when you’re taking over, as you’re trying to align your curriculum, freshmen JV and varsity, so that they’re using the same language and same drills and the same terminology and same system. And it’s really hard when you’ll practice at the same time.
And so for us, we were able to, like I said, tape our practices at the varsity level. And then we had a running document on Google docs, which is another tremendous technology. That’s made a lot of things easier where I would just open a new tab every day, put our practice planning. And then my lower level coaches could look at our practice plan, use that to navigate and kind of skip their way through the footage on huddle, to be able to listen to how we taught something or see how we organize the particular drill.
And they were, they appreciated that as much as anything else, because obviously they’re trying to set their players up to be successful at the varsity level. So that was a great use of that huddle assist camera for us as well.
[00:36:04] Mike Klinzing: Absolutely. How’d you put together your staff.
[00:36:08] Nate Sanderson: Well, one of the things that I’d heard from a lot of people around the program, even before I got the job, was that the assistant coaches were awesome.
And so that was the first thing the lady said was he’s like, I’m not sure if they’re all gonna want to stay, but I would try to talk them into staying. He’s like, I’m not going to require you to do that, but they’re great. You know, when he kind of told me about each one and. Ironically enough the varsity assistant coach was runner up for the job.
And so that’s, that’s tough, right when you’re asked to come back and weren’t selected to be the head man. But I had another guy that had coached with me a couple of years before that was kind of new Ben, my assistant. And so I asked those two guys to connect before I ended up talking to Ben.
And so once Jake had sort of shared what it was like and what he learned coaching with me and you know, how great the culture was and that sort of thing. By the time I sat down with Ben for the first time, he was like, coach I’m all in. So the recruiting was easy. And then the our JV coach kind of a similar situation.
And I think she had maybe one foot in one foot out wasn’t for sure if she wanted to come back. But I had known her college coach she’s from Mount Vernon, played at Loris and then came back and now teaches in Mount Vernon. And so I reached out to her college coach and he reached out and did some recruiting for me and just said, Hey, I think you’re going to have a great experience with Nate.
You know, I’ve gotten to know him over the years. And so when I first sat down with her, she said, yeah, coach, I’m all in. I’m looking forward to it. So so I had other people did the recruiting for me, Mike, and that seemed to work out well.
[00:37:33] Mike Klinzing: How valuable was their insight in those initial months, kind of in the summertime and heading into the preseason, as far as helping you to understand the players, helping you to understand how things were done in the past and maybe what you could do differently?
[00:37:50] Nate Sanderson: They were awesome. And our staff is they’re awesome for a lot of different reasons. I mean, Ben’s a younger guy. He can jump into practice. He’s been doing it for a while. And so he’s, he’s awesome. Super positive. Miranda, our JV coach is a younger female that played that’s from Mount Vernon.
So you have that dynamic. Our freshman coach is affectionately known as the wise old owl. You know, she’s got her last kid in high school, a couple of kids in college. She’s been coaching at the high school or college level for 25, 30 years from the area, you know? And so it’s just this awesome blend of people.
Number one. And then, so one of the things that we did obviously we’re working together kind of during the summer and having some conversations, but we did a coaching staff retreat in October and Jacob, who I mentioned before the head coach with me at Linmar, he kind of volunteered for us and was around when he could be around, but his parents had a lake house about an hour and a half from Mount Vernon that they let us use for the weekend.
And so everybody came out to the lake house. My wife came out and we made meals together and we just sorta talked through. All right. Here’s, here’s what I like doing with captains. Tell me how you think that’s going to go over. Here’s what I like to do offensively. Here’s what we’re thinking about defensively.
And we just spent more or less a day and a half kind of walking through the plan for the season and just hanging out and drinking beer and playing cards and just getting to know each other a little bit too. It was awesome. You know, like I’ve never done that before, but that was a great experience.
I don’t care if you’re in year one or year 10, just being able to get away with the staff and start to get some perspective on things was, was incredible.
[00:39:21] Mike Klinzing: That’s like the 20 minutes in the coach’s office after practice, but on steroids, right? You get to go and hang out and have those conversations, which oftentimes I think is one of the most enjoyable parts of coaching is just that opportunity to connect with your fellow coaches and just sit and kind of talk and get to know one another.
And talk about basketball. Talk about life, talk about the team and to be able to do that in a setting like you described, and to be able to do it. Everybody on the same page as you headed towards the season, I could see where that would be a tremendously valuable piece of what you want to do in order to get your staff all working together and rowing that boat in the same direction.
[00:40:01] Nate Sanderson: That was something that I’ve learned over the years is that you enjoy coaching with people that are your friends, but we don’t always take the time to invest in building a friendship when it’s not naturally there. You know, I mean, Ben’s a young guy and you know, we talk sports and like that’s an easy relationship we’re in practice every day.
But for us to make an effort to connect with our lower-level coaches that are practicing in a different time and working in different buildings like I think that’s worth the time and the energy and the effort. And so we have kind of four poles during the year that we try to hit, like I said, we do the retreat in the preseason during the season.
We try to do some Sunday night zooms just to get everybody on the same page for the coming year. In the spring, just actually Saturday, a couple of days from now, we’re doing our autopsy where we’re all going to get together for pizza, the whole staff, and just talk through all right, what do we, what do we take away from the exit interviews?
What are things that we want to invest in changing next year? You know, just really trying to get into the weeds of some of the stuff that we’d like to improve. And then in the summer, we’re going to try to get the Wrigley field as a staff and just spend a day go hang out or whatever, and then start back over with the fall retreat.
And I just think that making that time the staff that I’ve been the closest to naturally or not has been as, as valuable as anything else we’ve done to invest in building continuity, inappropriate.
[00:41:22] Mike Klinzing: And that’s all about being intentional, right? Like you can, you can maybe hope that those relationships happen organically, which in a lot of cases, they might with somebody who’s your varsity assistant.
If you’re the varsity coach, just because of the nature of you’re spending so much time together with that person. But as you said, if you have somebody on your staff who is the coach of the freshman team and they practice at a completely different time than you, you may not be able to build that same type of comradery, like what you’re describing you for not being intentional about.
And to me, I think that by the way, you’ve set it up where you have these four touch points throughout the year that these are times where we’re going to get together in a setting. That’s not the pressure of a game. It’s not the stress of practice. It’s Hey, we’re just getting together to be able to talk and get to know each other and talks of basketball and build a relationship that eventually.
We said earlier, right? With the players where the first thing they have to do, if you’re going to be together, if you’ve got a loved one, another, you got to know somebody. And if the only place, you know them is between the lines during practice, there’s a limit to how well you can know them and the deeper that you can get that relationship.
I think the more when times get tough or when times are good, right? It, it, it magnifies the experience and it makes it more meaningful and it makes it more memorable. And that’s what you talked about with your players. And I think the same thing goes for the coaching staff when you can put it together like that for them as well, being intentional about it.
[00:42:52] Nate Sanderson: Yeah, no, I agree. A hundred percent and it’s not easy. I mean, our coaches have kids and they live in different places and they work in different places. No, they’ve all made a commitment to finding time to do it. And I think it’s, like I said, it’s been as valuable and made it more enjoyable for the staff as a whole.
Right. So we want that experience to be meaningful and enjoyable for our staff, just as well as we do for our players.
[00:43:16] Mike Klinzing: And we’ve talked now about how you’ve started to try to impact in that first summer, how you’re impacting your high school program. But I know one of the things that you’re passionate about too, is a youth program.
So when you started looking at what do we want to do to build not just our high school, grades nine through 12 program, but we want to strengthen this program from kindergarten all the way up through 12th grade. How did you take a look at the youth program and what did you start to do to implement some changes there, to make sure that you were building the type of feeder program that you wanted to.
[00:43:51] Nate Sanderson: Well, I’m going to be honest with you, Mike. We didn’t do anything with the lower levels in year one. There was enough work at the high school level that, and here’s why, well, a couple of reasons number one, like you come into a new program and you want to bring a lot of change and there’s a lot of work to be done.
I think you have to be really strategic about choosing where you start. And for me, I, I didn’t feel like we could recruit into a youth program if our high school players weren’t talking positively about their experience in high school. You know, if we didn’t have a positive vibe, a positive you know, reflection in the community of our program at the high school, It’s just really tough to get some enthusiasm going at lower levels when there’s nothing to look up to or look forward to.
And so that’s really where we spent a hundred percent of our time was really trying to work at the high school level. Now that being said, it doesn’t mean we weren’t thinking about what happens next, you know? And so as I look at going into year two, there’s a lot of things that we’re going to start working on here to start building things down.
Number one, just getting alignment with our middle schools. You know, we have a true feeder program in that we have a middle school, everybody from eighth grade is going to ninth grade in Mount Vernon. And so just getting those things aligned with offense and terminology and expectations of how practice should go and introducing some game-based concepts there, we didn’t do any of that last year.
But that’s, that’s a huge focus for us here in our middle school camps and open gyms in the summer, and then just trying to work with those coaches before next season. And then when it comes to lower levels than the. Again, I’m kind of fortunate here. We just hired a new boys basketball coach in the last couple of weeks.
And he’s fired up about building a Mount Vernon basketball club, which there were conversations before about doing that boys and girls together. And so I’m not, I’m not necessarily going to reinvent the wheel here. We’re going to try to work with them to build out an infrastructure that benefits both boys and girls for simplicity sake in terms of just some of the logistics that are involved with facilities and that sort of thing.
So you know, that that’ll just start at second, third, fourth grade. And again, with those levels, you’re trying to get kids that I think start in the same place. You know, basketball becomes something that’s fun that they look forward to. They feel like they get. We’ll provide resources for coaches and hopefully we can start to build some enthusiasm at that grade level.
And as I mentioned before, my oldest daughter is seven. So she’ll be in third grade next year at Mount Vernon. And so that’s, that will be a natural touch point for us to, to be able to start to work in that grade where I can help that third grade kind of get organized and work with that team.
And maybe hand that curriculum down to next year’s third grade coaches. And I can kind of build that out as I’m working through it with my oldest daughter too, as we go along.
[00:46:28] Mike Klinzing: And it’s also fun, as you said, if you build your high school program and as you get some success and as the kids have better experiences, now those younger players have someone to look up to and they have somebody that they can connect with and say, Hey, someday, I want to be able to play for coach Sanderson.
I want to be able to be like player X, who I’ve gone to the games on Saturday night and been able to see that. Play and want to be like them. And to me, that’s one of the most important parts of the youth program. It’s just that aspirational piece where I want to be eventually part of a program because I know the coaching staff, because I know the players.
And I think that speaks to kind of what you were talking about that you want to make sure that you have the varsity program in place, that those kids who are coming up through your youth program, want to aspire to be like when they get to high school and be able to have that experience. As you look at that, as you look at that some spring summer, part of what you did in that first year, what was the hardest part of what you had to do as you were heading into pre-season practice?
So not talking about getting into the seat, the actual season yet, but just what was the most difficult part from the day you got the job until the first day of pre-season practice?
[00:47:46] Nate Sanderson: Well, I think again in year one and with no touchpoints or exposure to Mount Vernon prior to getting to the job, getting the job, nobody knows what’s going on.
And what I mean by that is I have a vision for what I want the defense to look like or what we’re going to run on offense or what practice is going to look like. You know what I want it to feel like what I want our coaches to do, but nobody else has experienced it. Like, no, except for my in my volunteer assistant that came with me for a bit when he could, you’re talking about things in the abstract.
I mean, I remember our first pre-season player meeting and I said that line about, we want to create a place where you look forward to being, and it was like, I was speaking Chinese like that’s not something that they ever thought about for basketball and necessarily before. Right. And now you go back and ask them about it and they have felt it, you know?
And so I think that’s the hardest thing is just being able to articulate a vision. Getting some, buy-in trying to explain to the coaches, to the seniors, to the captains here’s the plan and they don’t really have an idea of what that exactly means or what it looks like until it happens. And I think that just multiplied by everything that you’re trying to change feels that way in the beginning
[00:49:02] Mike Klinzing: now to go along with that, this leads me to, I think this is probably the most important slash interesting question to me when it comes to a coach rebuilding a program is you’ve now spent all summer talking about the culture that you want to bill.
You’ve gotten the kids to understand what it is that you’re trying to accomplish from a culture standpoint, you got them understanding those three pillars. You’ve worked in the gym skill development. You’re getting better. You’re they’re tracking shafts. They’re seeing improvement. Everybody’s enthusiasm.
Season starts. You sent me the, your one loss record from this past season. You start the season Owen for, it’s easy to talk about all these different things that we, you and I have been talking about. It’s easy to sell those things when you haven’t played a game and the record is zero and zero. When you’re zero and four, it gets a little bit harder because suddenly what was belief?
It’s easy. If you don’t win games, as much as we want to say, it’s about a lot of other things and it is, there’s still that one loss record at the end that everybody sees. That’s what the public sees. That’s what parents see players, see it, coaches see it. So when you get to that point of the season, where.
You’ve lost those first four games. How do you make sure that all the good work that you’ve done up until that point, that the kids, how do you keep them believing even when those results aren’t there on the scoreboard?
[00:50:40] Nate Sanderson: Yeah. Well, I think that’s a great question. You know, I think number one, there’s a little bit of preparing the soil in a sense that again, at our first meeting parents and players, both, one of the things that I showed them was a graph of kind of what I just called expected wins in our conference.
So I took the percentage of points that a team was returning. So if you have 80% of your points come from. And I multiplied that by the number of wins that that team had last year. And I put it on a graph. So the 12 teams in our league, and I said, just using this as a simple formula to predict where everybody should be next year, here’s what it would look like.
Now you’re talking about Mount Vernon, bringing back 60% of their scoring from a one win team. We’re at the bottom of the list. Okay. My point was that when I told them was, we’re not going to measure success by setting some arbitrary goal. Like we gotta beat these five teams or we’ve got to get to this ranking or this level or whatever it might be.
Our simple goal is going to be when we look back at the end of the year, how far away from this beginning point can we get and I, I knew. Putting in a system and structure and defined roles and using game-based drills. I knew we were going to get better, faster, but we ended up winning 12 games.
I never would have guessed that if you would ask me honestly before the year, I thought if we could get five or six, that would be a pretty successful season. And I think a lot of people would agree with that. But when we started on four if you’re going to preach growth at the beginning, then you have to be able to find evidence of it as you’re going along.
And so we were fortunate and maybe just lucky to be honest with you, that we got a lot of return out of some of those things. Even when we weren’t winning games. I mean, our first game, we went up and played a team from the MVC, which is a bigger league than what we’re in and had a lead late and made.
I mean, we came out our first quarter, made six threes in the first quarter. I don’t know if that made 60 threes in a month the year before. And so that all of a sudden was like, holy cow, what’s going on here. We end up losing that game late. But even late, we lost by three. And we had a chance to execute drop a full core play with like five or six seconds left and got our best shooter, a wide open three in the corner that she just missed that would have tied the game.
And so when you look at the opportunity for them to be competitive right away, that’s not a game that they would have been in the year before, even though we lost now at the same time, we also got blown out a couple of times in those early games. In fact, our fourth loss we played center point or banjos ranked in the top 10 in our class.
And we lost by 38 and we had a turning point in that game because one of the things that we had shared with our kids the biggest struggle for us early was just press break. Right? I mentioned, we turned the ball over 19 times a game the year before. And so everybody wants to press the pants off us until we can prove that we can get through it or we’re just going to keep throwing it to them.
Well, we were very explicit with our kids. The only way that we get better at beating a press is facing a press. And so in the game against CPU we were down by 35, 36 points, whatever it was with 45 seconds, a minute left to go in the game, CPU has the ball, they bring it across half court and they just play patty-cake for the last minute of the game.
Play keep away whatever so we lose by this big amount. And I went up to their coach afterwards. I know pretty well. It’s a good friend of mine. And I said, listen, man, why why’d you pull the ball out and hold it at the end of the game? Like our kids want to play and they want to get better.
You know, like we’re only going to get better if you’re going to try to score against us. And you, you took that away from us sort of half joking, but sort of half serious. And he told me. Well, I appreciate you saying that because most coaches in the league get pretty sensitive about the final score.
So we’re always really careful not to give the impression that we’re running it up. And I said, Phil, we want to get better. And we only get better when you bring it. And so every time we play, I don’t care if we lose by 35 or 50, we want to get better when we play you. And I told him, I said, if we’re ever up by 35 with the ball late, Phil, we’re going to try to score on you.
And he kind of laughed. But when I went into the locker room after the game, I shared that with our kids. And I said, listen, we’re going to be a team. That’s going to run into failure. You know, w if that’s where growth is being pressed and being pressed and bringing press until we figure it out, we can run and hide from it and not get better.
Or we can run headstrong into it, knowing that at the other side of whatever number of mistakes we have to make to figure it out. That’s where growth and competitiveness is for us. And so the following game, we’re playing the worst team in our league, and we’re up by 30, 35, whatever is. And they bring the ball down the floor, late, same situation, except now they have the ball and they’re behind and they’re playing Patty cake just to run the clock out.
And one of my kids on the bench turns to me and she says, coach, why aren’t they trying to score? And I said, not everybody’s made like you are and I told them that story after the game too, but that’s a story that became kind of a signature point for us where it’s like, all right, we’re going to run into failure until we get better.
You know, and we gradually were able to get better. But, and I shared that. I shared that on our broadcast after the game, when we talked to the coaches, I shared that in our weekly email with the parents, I said, this is who we want to be. And so again, that’s preparing the soil for those mistakes that have to happen for us to get better.
The other thing that obviously is that we’re still continuing to track transition points, allowed percentage of defensive rebounds our turnovers per game. Like we’re looking at a lot of metrics below the. The try to find areas. We can say, look, we’re getting better here. We’re getting better here.
If we keep getting better at these things, eventually the winds are going to follow.
[00:56:16] Mike Klinzing: It’s a great point about making sure that you set the right expectations. I can’t remember. Oh, I was, we had a guest on actually one of my high school teammates, Duane Sheldon, who he coached at the division three level for a while.
He’s a high school athletic director now here in the state of Ohio. And Dwayne said something I thought was really insightful that I hadn’t heard anybody else say was that a lot of the problems that you have as a coach frequently come down to the expectations of a situation being laid out incorrectly from the beginning.
So for example, with players, if a player expects that they’re going to play 30 minutes a game and they only play 16, they’re going to be probably pretty discipline. If they thought that they were going to get all those minutes, whereas if they have realistic expectations, they’ve already had a discussion and they understand that they’re going to play 16 minutes.
Then there’s probably not going to be the same level of discontent that you have. If you, if the, if the expectations don’t align with the reality, same thing with parents, like you’re talking about, look, here’s where we were. Here’s where we want to get to. Here’s where the realistic expectation is. If you can set those expectations at a reasonable level, then you’re much less likely to end up in a situation where the expectations were super high.
Not because maybe you as the coach set them, but just because parents and players tend to be unrealistic sometimes and their viewpoint. But when you, as a coach can set those realistic expectations, it ends up that you eliminate a lot of disappointment from people who may be thought one thing, because.
Nobody had communicated with them clearly. And what I hear you saying is that clear communication upfront, right? Having those conversations, that it may not be all that pleasant to hear that, Hey, look, if things go the way that based on what we saw last year, we might very well be here at the bottom of the conference.
It’s probably not realistic for us to think that we’re going to win the conference this year. Whereas if you don’t set those expectations correctly, you can have people who have an overinflated opinion of themselves as a player or their kid as a player or their team. And that’s where you get that, that disconnect between what you expect to happen and what actually happens.
That’s what ends up causing a lot of the disappointment. If you can bring those expectations in line. Reality you’re much likely to get a better scenario. And then like for your team, right, you ended up overachieving, which then gave everybody a better feeling because you had set the expectations that are reasonable level.
If you would come in and say, Hey we’re going to turn this thing around. We’re going to win the league this year. And now you’re 12 and 11 people like, Ugh I don’t know that wasn’t that great of a season versus you set realistic expectations. And now suddenly the things that ended up happening feel a lot better if that makes sense.
[00:59:21] Nate Sanderson: Oh, I agree a hundred percent one of the things that JP and I talk a lot about with coaches when it comes to expectations and what things feel like is that again, if you, if you have an expectation, whether it’s grounded in reality or not, and that expectation is not met the gap between what actually happened and what you expected to happen really dictates the intensity of your disappointment or frustration or anger or whatever that negative emotion is going to be.
But it’s going to be negative. And in the same way, if you exceed those expectations, the greater you exceed them, the more positive you’re going to feel about that situation. And so Mike, we’ve taken that to the nth degree when it comes to even game by game. You know, when I do my parent email every Monday morning, I will do a, a preview of this week’s opponents.
And every time I’m trying to make them sound like state champion quality opponents, I’m sure you’re, you’re talking about their best player. Here’s who we have to guard. Here’s something that they’re really good at. They just had these two big wins. You’re really trying to ground expectations or the very least get people to understand, like, these are the things that are going to make this game hard, even against the teams that are maybe weaker in our league, they still do things well, their coach they’ll shows up and does his homework.
And so we talk about that every week when we do, you mentioned the broadcast before of using the hudl cameras we’re really fortunate at Mount Vernon. We broadcast all our home games. We’ve got a couple of guys that sit up there and do color commentary and they’re great. And so I asked them.
I said, Hey, do you mind if for pregame, if I just record a little Hey, Mount Vernon fans, here’s what you can expect from tonight’s game. And maybe you could play it in your pregame talk. Oh, they loved it. Right. So I just hop on here garage band, I record something two and a half minutes and I’m doing the same thing for the audience.
You know, I’m trying to frame this game. Here’s what the challenges are going to be. Here’s what we’re going to try to do. We’ll see how it goes. You know? So when you’re talking about growth and you’re recognizing growth and you’re recognizing the challenge to that growth, I think all of those things help to anchor some of those expectations so that you can avoid a lot of the disappointment.
Sometimes that as you mentioned, can derail a season or make something feel worse than it really should.
[01:01:34] Mike Klinzing: You’ve mentioned that newsletter a couple of times, talk a little bit about the detail of that, what you put into it when it goes out and just why it’s so valuable.
[01:01:42] Nate Sanderson: Yeah. So it’s probably one of the best things I think that we do when it comes to communicating with parents, making sure players are on the same page, we have probably 150 people on our, it’s not really a newsletter.
It’s just the weekly email. And so I’ll start with you know, just a greeting and we do announcements. If there’s any schedule changes, practice, change game change, postponements, whatever. We always do a look back at the previous week. So I’ll give a little bit of a summary of here’s how the games went.
This is what went well for us. This is what we’re trying to improve. We’ll do a look at the week ahead. We’ll preview next week’s opponents. And then I usually put something else in there about like the chart that I sent you about our improvement from last year to the first four games to the next six games, that’s a chart that we shared with that, with that email a couple of times during the season we do mental health days.
You know, we spend Wednesday afternoons in the classroom trying to talk about things more related to mental, emotional. When it comes to being an athlete. And so I’ll always share a recap of what we did there. So if we watched the video and had discussion questions, I share that with the parents so that they can watch the video or read the same article or, or what have you.
And then if there’s any media links, if we were covered in the newspaper, on the news, I’ll put that stuff in there. And then we always end it with the schedule for the week. So there’s a recap of who’s practicing when and where bus times all that stuff is laid out on the bottom.
And I’ll tell you the other thing that I really emphasize, and I don’t know if other coaches are like me, but one thing that drives me absolutely bonkers is when a kid will text you on a Tuesday morning coach, what time is the bus time? I hate that so much. I mean, that just drives me crazy. So I just tell them right from the start, I’m sending you this email to your school account, so you can find the bus time for you.
I care about you. I love you. I don’t want you to ask me when the bus time is because I’m giving it to you every Monday morning and now they know and they go back and, and that the sort of a joke on the team who’s read the email who hasn’t, but it’s the easiest way for there to be a central location for that kind of stuff.
And again, who’s on that list for us. It’s all the parents, all the players, all the coaches, all the coaches, spouses, we’ve got media people on the list. We’ve got extended relatives. I’ve got college friends on the list. Our administrators are on the list. The superintendents on the list, our youth coaches are on the list.
Not everybody looks at it, not everybody reads it, but anybody that’s kind of connected to our program. And just about any way ends up on the list at one point or another. And you know, the other thing that I started doing. Related to that later in the season is about once a month. I’d send an email out to the whole staff in our school districts.
So, I mean, we’ve got three buildings and I stumbled upon this list and in my email, which I don’t even know if I’m supposed to have access to the district list, but I would spam the district and say, Hey, here’s a girl’s basketball update. You know, here’s upcoming home games. Here’s some things you might invest.
We had this win, or we played really well in this game, or we’re really proud of this growth and just, it’s not long two, three paragraphs. But that’s one thing that teachers really appreciated because then they could connect with kids in class and say, Hey, I just heard you guys had a great game.
You know, Tuesday night, tell me a little bit about it. Like, so they’re able to follow along. More of them would show up for games simply because they knew when they worked and we could really honor the kids as well in just different ways. When I sent Valentines to our team about our team, to the teachers, and then the teachers share those things with our kids.
It’s a really great way to reinforce some of the good things that were happening in our program.
[01:05:09] Mike Klinzing: That’s a great point with staff and as you were talking, the other thing that popped into my head is as a parent, reading that email and just hearing from the coaching staff about what’s happening in the week, or what happens in a particular game, that’s a talking point for me, with my kid where I can say, Hey, what about this?
Or, Hey, coach mentioned, this happened in practice or, wow. It looks like your teammate had a really great game. Can you tell me a little bit about that? And so it’s just another way. I think for me as a parent, if I’m getting that email. I enjoy that because it gives me some talking points because we all know that when teenagers come home and you ask them, Hey, I’d practice go, or how a school or whatever.
We know what the answer is fine. It was okay. Everything’s good. And so, to be able to get some actual concrete knowledge from the coaches about what’s going on at the me is always valued because it’s just, it’s a jumping off point for a conversation between just like you said, between teachers and players, but also between players and their parents as well.
[01:06:10] Nate Sanderson: Yeah. And you know, the other thing that we did out of that too, that was kind of fun as you know, every once in a while I just throw in an anecdote like you know, I had in one email, just I shout out to the staff, we had four games in one week. And so relatively long paragraph, I just sorta laid out.
I’m not sure if you guys know how our process works, but coach Canuck has this scout coach Jabin has this scout coach, Orvis has this game and you know, so. So I just kind of honored them. Here’s what, some of the things that the, the assistant coaches do behind the scenes we had one week where I told the story of the legend of the khaki pants.
So long story short, when I was at North Lynn, Coach Wheatley always wore khaki pants and the post-season, he’s a big khaki superstitious guy. And I hate khaki pants with a passion. Mike, I’m telling you, but I had to get some in order to be beyond that staff. And so you know, we, we went through a slump on a Monday night.
We didn’t shoot it very well. And coach Wheatley was like, you gotta break out the khakis. I’m like, oh man, we need something. So I wear khakis and the next game we make 12 threes. I’m like, this is ridiculous. So I go back to the glaze on Friday, we don’t shoot it as well. I get a text, you got to bring the khakis out.
So I bring the khakis out on Saturday. We make 15 threes, Mike and coach Wheatley Friday, may 18. Three’s wearing khaki pants. So I write this whole thing up in our weekly newsletter about the legend of the khaki pants. And anyway, it’s just fun stuff like that, that, that again, just add some color to the program.
Like you said, parents feel like they’re more part of it. And that was a lot of the good things that were said at our banquet at the end of the year is just parents really appreciated. Like they knew what was going on and they felt like they were more part of it than maybe they have in, in any other sports experience that they’d had.
[01:07:46] Mike Klinzing: It’s so true. I, you think about that, not only as a coach, but you think about it as a teacher, right? Just being able to be connected to the families and parents that when you’re communicating all the time, it just makes things flow so much better where you build up that relationship. Then if there ever is the need to have a difficult conversation, you’ve had these preemptive conversations where you’re sharing information and everything is positive.
And then if you do have to get in a situation where you have to have a difficult conversation, you’ve already built that relationship. And as a teacher, just being able to be connected and build that relationship with families as a coach, it’s the same thing that if you can keep those lines of communication open and you can make just like we talked about with players, make that relationship, make that connection deeper.
It just makes everybody be more willing to support and be supportive of. Your program. And when you get parents on your side, as you know, when you have people that are supportive of you in the stands in the community, walking around and talking to each other, it makes it a lot easier to have the type of program that you want to have and build a type of culture that you want to have when you have parents on board, in addition to the players.
And that’s really, I think what that email is doing is you’re, you’re building that community and the community between your coaching staff, your parents, your administrators, your teachers, your players. Everybody’s a part of that. And it’s just one more way of getting everyone connected. So when you sent me the chart that had your record from last season and all the stats had the record from the first four games and your own four, and then you have the final half of the season where you go 11 and six and the stats all turn around.
What did that first win? I feel like what was the reaction from your players? How did you feel? Just what was the atmosphere around that first wind? Like,
[01:09:43] Nate Sanderson: Oh, it was awesome. It was a home game. We played a ranked team and close game, the first game that we kind of broke out our best shooter at six threes in the game.
And, and you know, we gradually got better at closing games that’s, that’s another thing Mike, that I think sometimes is overlooked when you’re starting over. You know, we mentioned that there’s always this temptation to do a lot and change a lot. And we were really disciplined in terms of how we were going to build this thing out.
You know, in our philosophy was essentially, we’re only going to work on half court offense and half court defense and press break. And until we can get to the end of games and have a chance to win. So we lost a couple of games early that we just didn’t know how to win. You know, we didn’t know how to make the right play around the clock, get fouled, whatever it might be, throw the ball and bounce.
It gets a different. And we communicated that. Right. But that first win was kind of the first time. We’re like, all right, we’ve been in a couple of games, we’re starting to work on it. We’re starting to review it in film. Talk about how we want to try to close games. And so we win that close one and then go in the locker room.
You know, kids douse you with water. It was my 200 win at the same time. So that made it kind of fun and great than it was at home against a really good team. It was a lot to be excited about that night, for sure.
[01:10:55] Mike Klinzing: To be able to finally get that win and to be able to see all the things that you have built up to that point pay off.
I’m sure that it had to be tremendously gratifying and just to be able to do it at home and wow. It just had to be exciting for your kids. And I’m sure that they appreciated the opportunity to go ahead and do that. And now you win that first game. What do you remember about the next practice after that first win in terms of what was your approach?
Hey, we got the first one. Let’s keep it going. Just, what do you remember about that practice following that first.
[01:11:30] Nate Sanderson: You know I think if I remember right, we turned around and played right away the next night. And so interestingly enough, but I think that the overwhelming feeling for the kids and you could sort of see this happen kind of like watching a car crash in slow motion, but in a more positive example than that, I guess, but where their confidence just started to build where like the first time they felt like maybe we can win some games this year, you know?
And I remember probably a couple of weeks after that we had won a couple of lost a couple and we’re starting to gain a little bit of momentum. And I just told them, like, I think there’s, we found a way forward. Like we were shooting the ball really well. You know, I think we shot at 41% from three over the last half of the season.
And so our mo became, we kind of jumped out on people and then we hang on for dear life at the end. And as we start to learn how to close games and make some free throws and not turn it over under. You know, we’re going to just get big, be that much more difficult to be, but that was the formula.
And that was the only formula we could win with, by the way, like if we were trailing multiple possessions with three or four minutes to go, we were going to lose. Cause we couldn’t turn people over. We didn’t press it all. I mean, we could get into full court man, but it wasn’t very good. And we knew that, like we just knew we, we don’t have time to spend on that yet because if we spend time on that and can’t get to those moments again, it’s not going to matter.
Right. And so we were fortunate that we shot at well enough that we did lead in quite a few games and got better closing as time went on.
[01:12:57] Mike Klinzing: When you think about working on how to win games, and sometimes as you said, if you’re from a program that hasn’t won before. Maybe your group coming up as a player, you haven’t won very much when you’re in middle school, you haven’t won very much as a freshmen player as a JV player.
And so you really got to go over the hump of, Hey, how do we, how do we win games? How do we close this out? As you said, how do we not turn the ball over against pressure? How do we make free throws and pressure situations? How do we attack? And we’re down by a basket we need to score. What do all those things look like?
So in addition to getting that practice in actual game situation, which is obviously the most valuable, what are some things that you do in practice to be able to help your players to understand and get them to think about what it means to be able to close a game. And when are you putting time and score situations where it lets two minutes to go?
Here’s the situation, two teams going against each other? Just what do you do in practice? What does that look like?
[01:13:58] Nate Sanderson: Yeah, we actually started in the film room. The first game that we lost, we were playing Williamsburg. I think it was our second or third game of the year. And we were up double digits at halftime.
I think we were up seven or eight go into the fourth. They came out with their hair on fire and full court man. And we turned over a bunch and ended up losing by five or seven or something like that. And took some really bad threes, like up by three with three minutes ago and we’re shooting a rush three and transition you know, that kind of thing.
Right. And so the first thing we did is we just ran the film and talk through it all right, here’s the score we’re up by five there’s, three and a half minutes to go, what should we be thinking about how are these three minutes different than if it was three 30 left in the third quarter?
And we started talking about, is this a good shot? Why or why not? You know, is this a good shot? Why or why not? What are we looking for in these possessions? And so it really started with a classroom session of just talking through. How you win games at the offensive end. And then at the other end we give up a couple of defensive rebounds or turn it over against the press and you talk through some of your spacing situations and what have you.
So we started there and then we just started doing a little bit more in practice of like we, we call it the dice game where we, we roll dice to do the scores. You got black and white at scores five to three rolled again, the high score gets the ball. You roll it again for fouls. And then we roll a one through six for where the possession starts.
So let’s say whites up by five to three. If they roll a one, they’re throwing it in the back court. If they roll a two, they throw it in a half court. If they roll a three it’s baseline out of bounds under there. If they roll a four they’re shooting, one free throw. If they roll a five, we start with a one-on-one and if they roll a six, then we start with two free throws and then we roll two dice for the time and we do 10 seconds per dot on the dice.
So up to a minute and 20 as low as 20 seconds. And so those go pretty fast and kids like doing those, it’s kind of a fun way to randomize things. And we started doing a few more of those at the end of practice. And then there was also some times Mike, where we just put like six minutes up.
Like, I remember we played a game, this is going to sound crazy, but we were up 18 with six and a half minutes to go. And with three minutes to go in the game, the score was tied. We gave up an 18 point lead in like three and a half minutes. It was the most unbelievable thing, North Carolina, Kansas. Yeah.
Right. And we ended up winning the game in overtime. But we went back to practice and we said, all right, let’s just try this again. So we put our first team out there. They were up by 18 with five and a half minutes to go six minutes to go, whatever. And we just played it out against our JV and talked through all the situations as, as we were playing.
So we’d stop and say, okay, was that good? Was that bad? Why come down here, what should we be thinking on this free throw, rebound situation? What should we be thinking if they come out of the press? And so, and then we flipped it and we would do the JV up 18 and talk about it from the other side, if we’re down that much, how are we playing?
You know, and that took a long time. I mean, those would take like 20 minutes to run that much time off the clock and talk through. But if we did one of those a week we just learned a lot faster by really diving into it. Like I said, with an extended film session where you’re really going through the last three, four minutes in detail and then taking some extended time to, to talk through some situations like that was really helpful for us.
[01:17:08] Mike Klinzing: I know this has probably happened to you multiple times. And I know it’s happened to me as a coach and it’s happened to me as a fan where you’re watching a game and one, team’s got a big lead, let’s say they’re up 10 or 12 or 15 with two or three minutes to go. And then next thing you know, you turn around and the score is tied or the other team’s going ahead.
And when you try to think back on it, you’re like, how did that happen in that short a period of time? And then you go back and you watch the film and you’re like, oh yeah, there was just that one bad turnover that led to this. And then the kids stepped on the out-of-bounds line and then they made a three.
And before it it’s like, you, you, it feels like there would be no way that you could lose that big of a lead in that short of a period of time. And then you go back and you watch the film and you’re like, oh yeah, I understand that. And it’s, it’s always amazing when I see situations like that, where you’ll have decisions that kids make.
And part of you just wonder like, wow, if you ever played or watched a basketball game, that that’s the decision that you’re making. And so then obviously your job as a coach is to be able to educate them and use the film and use situations like you just described to be able to put them in those situations and to help them to understand what.
A good play in that moment would have been. And yet you can go to any gym in America and watch situations like that. And probably as a coach cringe 3, 4, 5 times a game where there’s a situation, time and score where you’re just like, oh my gosh, like, how does the player not realize that? And look, we all probably did it as players and as coaches, we all make mistakes too.
When that’s one of the things I think that the film provides such a value in those situations where you look back on it and you’re like, I can’t believe that happened. How did it happen? And then you can actually go back and look at it and then design your practices as you did around the situations that actually occurred in a game.
[01:19:08] Nate Sanderson: Yeah, no, I think that’s right. And I think the other approach that’s, that’s healthy for coaches, although we sometimes try to avoid this, but you know, I remember thinking that first game that we lost when we had a lead. And we just haven’t coached how to finish if a player steps out of bounds, throwing it in, or make some mistake in a press break that you haven’t worked on.
Like, we would always come back to that as a coaching staff. We have a coach that yet that’s not on them because we haven’t coached it yet. Right. And so on the one hand, you kind of have to accept that. Like I said before, if you’re emphasizing all your time on offerance defense and press break, there’s a lot, you haven’t coached free throw situations and game situations and quarter situations whatever it might be, but that’s the reality of it.
And we shared that with parents when we lost that first game and we look back at the week before we said, we spent zero seconds on how to win. And now that we know we can get to that point, now we start to work on it, you know? And we’re just really transparent with it like that. That’s where we’re at and that’s okay.
We know we’re going to get better at it, but if we haven’t coached it, we shouldn’t necessarily expect it to happen the way that we want it to.
[01:20:15] Mike Klinzing: There’s no question about that. And I think sometimes we as coaches and sir. Parents in the stands who just don’t know that. But we as coaches sometimes do forget that.
I know I’ve, I’ve been guilty of that in the past. Are there situations where like, so for example, I, my daughter’s sixth grade team, we’re playing against a T a travel team and they’re playing a one-three one half court trap. Well, guess what we haven’t worked on, we haven’t set our team up. I don’t want three, one half court trap, just so we can work on the off chance that some team might throw that at us.
So of course you see that you come out, you call time out and you’re trying to diagram it in the huddle for a group of sixth grade girls and explain it to them and really the place that they have to be able to make in order to beat the one through one, to throw a diagonal pass and be able to throw over the top are all things that they made.
May or may not even be physically capable of doing that. And so part of you as a coach, you’re standing on the sideline and you’re frustrated because you see the plays that can be made. And yet at the same time, you’re like they just got drawn something on a clipboard for 15 seconds. There’s no way I can reasonably expect them to be able to do this in real time and have any kind of success.
So you just try to talk them through it and share them on and do the best you can. And then after the game, you talk to them about it, maybe in practice, you talk about it a little bit more. And as you said, you can’t prepare for every eventuality. You have to go and work out and prioritize what it is that you want to, you want your kids to be good at.
[01:21:46] Nate Sanderson: Yeah, for sure. You know, and that can be frustrating for everybody. But I mean, I remember an exact situation like that when I was coaching a seventh grade team at Springville, a number of years ago, and AC Earl who played at the university of Iowa and then played in the NBA. Some daughters that went through.
And so he was coaching on the other side and they were all 1, 3, 1 half court trap. And so we played him in this league four times, twice in seventh grade, twice in eighth grade, we just told our kids, like we’re not working on this until it’s time for us to work on it. Just because this one team exploited for 20 points against us every time.
And eventually the last time we played them, we beat them and that was so gratifying for our kids because it was like, we finally got to the point where we’re ready to work on it and got good enough at it. You know, that we beat these rivals the pink snakes and you know, that was a big deal. Oh yeah.
Even Mike in practice being like, all right, I think we’re ready to work on, press break against the 1, 3 1, because I feel good about where we’re at on other things almost feels like leveling up in a game. You know, even that felt like an accomplishment. So I think the more you can share those things with your players and recognize what’s the most important and commit to them.
And then again, just keep monitoring and showing their growth is a great way for that to happen.
[01:22:56] Mike Klinzing: You make a great point that I think that I know I sometimes take for granted, and I think that there are probably other coaches out there that do, and that is the ability to prioritize what it is that you want to work on in, and your situation where you’re coming into a new program.
It’s probably more, I don’t want to say clear, cut what you work on, but it’s more clear cut that. That’s probably what needs to be done. Whereas in a lot of situations, I think we as coaches, sometimes you chase, I got to do this, I got to do this. I got to get a million things in, instead of focusing on there’s three things that we need to do well, and these three things are gonna have the biggest impact on winning.
And by putting all our emphasis on these three things, we may miss out on items, number four, five, and six, that in certain situations, could they help us, but to your point, maybe they’re not ready for that. So when you’re thinking about. How you went through last season and how you’ve gone through seasons in the past.
How do you know when your team is ready for that next thing? In other words, what are you looking for in the main three things or two things, or one thing that you’re trying to teach? How do you and your mind know that, Hey, we’ve kind of got this down now we’re ready to move on to the next deal. What are some of the things that you’re looking for in that case?
[01:24:20] Nate Sanderson: Yeah, I think it just depends on the phase of the game. And I think, again, as I’ve done this more and more over the years, simplicity, I don’t care if you’re in your 10th year, first year, whatever you senior Laden team, young team, the more simple the game can be, the more I think effective your players are going to be.
So I mentioned before, like we, we played two, three zone. We had two coverages for the high post and we didn’t do the second one until mid January and really and what were we looking for? We’re just looking for a smoothness in our slides where it didn’t look like we were thinking on film we’re, we’re, we’re where we’re supposed to be.
Or in front of the ball, we’re playing in front of the ball, the way that we should be in terms of where we’re sending it that sort of thing. The second piece for us in, in zone defense was rebounding. Like we didn’t talk about rebounding for, for one second when we were putting it in. But eventually once we became comfortable with coverages, then we started talking about rebound responsibility.
And that’s why our defensive rebounding percentage went up six or 8%. The second half of the year, we never worked on it in the first half of the year. We never looked at it on film. We never talked about it because it didn’t matter if we weren’t sliding in the right rotation. It wasn’t going to matter if we knew how to box out or who to box out if we weren’t there anyway.
So I think just having a deliberate scaffold or curriculum or priorities, whatever you want to call it of this is phase one. It’s most important. We can’t rebound better if we’re not in the right position. So positioning starts on the offensive end. I think we went through the whole year and had maybe three entries into offense in otherwise we’re just playing concepts in four, out with a dunker or a high post player.
And we just played a lot out of that. You know, we’re going to add maybe a couple of things in year two, but if you watched our film, we, 80% of the time we’re initiating and probably one of two, maybe three different ways, but we got pretty good at those things, you know? And then the question becomes all right, how much more time does it cost to putting a fourth entry?
And is that going to be worth it or do we do something with what we currently have and those questions there’s not always an obvious answer, but I think the thing that I always come back to cause I’d have players ask me, coach, are we ever going to do any man-to-man defense? And I said, well we could, and I coached, man, my last job, that’s all we did was man to man.
We got pretty good at it, but it’s going to cost us. So what do you not want to do? Do we want to shoot less? Do we want to do less offense? Do we want less Press break? You know, it’s going to cost us something in our practice. So. Less important that we can cut out. Well, that’s a hard question to answer so press brake, we ran one press break.
You know, we were just really, really simple and tried to use those simple things to be able to, to execute them against as many different looks as we could to get the most out of what we were investing in. I don’t know if that makes sense, but
[01:27:09] Mike Klinzing: No, it makes total sense. I think what you’re talking about is there’s a progression through the things that you think are most important and you have to get through that progression in order to get to the next thing.
And then there’s an opportunity cost. If you’re going to do more of one thing, that means intuitively you have to do less of something else. And so if you’re still in the growth phase of one or two or three priorities that you’ve identified as these are the things that we really need to be good at, and you’re still working your way through that, then if you’re going to add something else you’re taking away from the potential growth.
In that area that you’ve already prioritized. And so that’s part of the art of coaching, right. Is figuring out what it is that you want to prioritize and then figure out when are we ready to add something else? When are we ready to maybe cut back a little on the time we’re spending here? Because we’re fairly good at it.
We’ve got that. I don’t want to say we’ve got it down. Cause he’s never got it down completely. But we feel like we have a handle on this where we can now add something to what we’re doing and it’s going to actually add value to us in the game. Right? Because it goes to the games based approach that if you’re doing something and you’re just getting good at the drill and it’s not translating the games, then how’s that help you.
And it’s the same thing. When you’re talking about from a team standpoint, if you’re going to do something, it better be adding to the value of what you’re going to get in a game. And you have you as a coach have to decide what is going to add the most. The value is adding something new, going to add value or is continuing to refine what we already do, going to add more value.
And that’s part of the art of coaching.
[01:28:48] Nate Sanderson: Yeah, I think that’s right, Mike. And know, I’ll give you two examples. I mentioned rebounding before when we felt comfortable with our slides and this was probably mid December, kind of right before break. We did a film session where we had given up, I dunno, 14 offensive rebounds in a game, and you’re going to give up some offensive boards again, zone.
I don’t care how how good you are with your box outs, just because of rotations. But we saw on film that like nine of those 12 were because our tops were not coming down to help rebound or Warbucks out shooters or know rotating the weak side, whatever. Again, we hadn’t coached it right. But we did like a seminar on here’s the next level tops.
This is the responsibility we haven’t talked about, but watch this if you were to move here and box or out, if you were to be here and recognize that not only do contest the shooter or the weak side rebound or whatever, You can impact 75% potentially of the offensive rebounds. And we could give up on a given night.
And so we show them and then we go down the stairs and we start to work on it. Right. And we start to emphasize it and look forward in practice and that sort of thing. So I think there’s that deliberation that deliberate step-by-step and I’ll give you one more example too. Like we did absolutely nothing between the circles this year.
I mean, we never pressed and we didn’t really run in transition at all. I mean, we just wanted to possess the ball. We felt good about our half court offense. We didn’t push, we weren’t fast, whatever. Well, we get to the post season and our opening round opponent. Everybody’s just pressing the hell out of them all year long and they’re turning it over 20, 25 times a game.
And so we talk as a coaching staff is it worth it for us in three practices to work on a press that can fall back into two, three zone that might turn them over to maybe get a six or eight easy points or what have you, knowing that we weren’t going to be able to. The the team in the next round or anybody else for that matter on the way through the post-season regionals.
And so we decided it would be worth it to give it a try. So we spent 10 minutes, each of those three practices putting in a two to one and just falling back into a two-three, we didn’t trap out of it. We just sort of matched up and pressured it and tried to play passing lanes. And so we go into the game, we play them in the opening rounds and we score zero points out off of turnovers in that game.
Now we turned them over in the press. They turned it over nine times against the press, but we never worked on what happens next. So, so it felt to me after the game, like a waste, like we wasted that practice time because it’s not going to help us win our second round game. But when I went back and watched the film, I realized that we didn’t score out of that directly off a live ball turnover, but that was nine empty possessions that they had in the game.
They scored 14 points in the first half, which gave us a pretty good opportunity to get a healthy lead that that may not have happened if they’re getting shots on those possessions, if we’re just falling back into two, three. So sometimes even the way that it feels after you do something like that, you really got to go back to the film and look at the numbers to figure out yeah, that did have a really positive impact on the game.
Even if it didn’t manifest itself in the way, maybe that we thought it would where we get six or eight easy points.
[01:31:52] Mike Klinzing: It’s kind of funny how much you can learn from the film and how different your perception in the moment of things can be. And that’s one of the things I’m always amazed by when you go back and you think, oh, here’s something that.
We did really well. And then you watch it, like maybe we didn’t do that, all that well, or conversely, there’s something that you thought you struggled with and you’re like, Hey, we really did a good job, but maybe the other team just made shots over the top of our good defense or whatever it is. And to me, I think that that, that film room is, is so valuable and it certainly pays dividends spending your time and trying to figure out what that, what that looks like and how it can help you to improve.
All right. I want to wrap up your season and then talk a little thrive on challenge before we wrap up. So first, or I guess last is when you think about the totality of your first year, and you think about that season, when you look back on it, what’s your favorite memory or what’s the thing you’re most proud of what you’ve been able to accomplish as a program over the last year?
[01:32:58] Nate Sanderson: Well, I’m going to tell you a weird story here, Mike. So, wait, you asked me what did you ask the D when you got the job? And I said, who do I need to talk to? And my lady said, the first person needed to talk to is Mya Bentley. And I said, okay, who’s Mya Bentley. My family was a senior at Mount Vernon this year.
That is a division one soccer player. She’s got chance to be the Gatorade player of the year in soccer this year. She is an unbelievable female athlete. I mean the best athlete in our school, for sure. Maybe in the conference, I don’t know, but she she’s unbelievable. She played basketball. Her freshman year had a bad experience was probably the best basketball player.
At least from what I heard in that class, all the way up played third grade until ninth grade, and then burned out on it, started doing more clubs stuff. Didn’t have a good experience, as I mentioned before. And so she’d been away from the game and he said Maya’s a person that can help you from day one, just because of how athletic she is.
Even. She hasn’t done anything with. In three years, this is in may. And so I don’t remember if the last time we talked, we talked about the wiffle ball field that we built in our yard, but the softball team, which Maya’s also a first team, all-state softball player made it the state tournament and they came up and played wiffle ball in our yard.
And so I had coached another division, one soccer player at Lindmar. Who’s also going to Drake. So Maya and Holly, going to the same school for college. And so I had Holly come out and play wiffle ball with us and just introduced her to Maya and asked her if she would sort of share a little bit about her experience playing soccer and doing club soccer while playing basketball, trying to get her to recruit for me.
Right. Well, fast forward the story here, I get a recruiting week meeting with Maya finally, the week before basketball starts. Okay. And so I sit down with her and I bring cookies and I lay it on as thick as I can about the kind of experience we’re trying to create and what our goals are and our values and how I think she’ll fit into it.
And not only is she a great athlete, like she’s just an unbelievable person, super positive, super smiley, super friendly, worked super hard. I mean, she’s, she’s amazing. Right? So we have this recruiting meeting and the night before the season starts, I get a text from my, and she says, coach, I don’t think I’m going to be able to do it this year.
And she said, I’ve got 14, 15 soccer dates where I’d have to miss basketball. And I just don’t feel like I’d have a commitment to the team. If I had to be gone that much traveling for tournaments and whatever. So I’m sad about this, right? But I feel like I’ve built a decent relationship with her.
So nevertheless, we fast forward here and I subbed at the building a little bit. So I say hi to Maya. When I see her, we talk a little bit, we get to January and we have a night where a fresh off in JV are gone and I only have seven players left for varsity practice. And so I think maybe I’ll text Maya and see if she would want to come in and work out with us.
Because I had asked her in the recruiting meeting, why would you even think about coming out for basketball? You know, you have a play for three years. He had a bad excuse. And she said, well, honestly, coach playing basketball sounds like more fun than trying to stay in shape on a treadmill. So I just texted her and I said, Hey, you want to skip your treadmill workout today and come and work out with us instead.
And she said, yeah, that sounds like fun. And so she came into practice with us and it was amazing. Mike, just to give you an idea of like the kind of kid I mentioned before we do some partner walks to start practice, right? And so I said, Maya, you’re the guest today? Why don’t you pick who you want to walk with?
You know? And she’s like, I want to walk with Aaron Jackson who was our only freshmen in the gym at the time. She’s like, I had never had a class with Aaron. I don’t know her that well. I want to get to know Aaron like she didn’t choose her best friend. That was also standing right next to her. I just, to me, it just says so much about her character, right?
Well, anyway, the end of practice, she’s like coach, here’s your practice Jersey back. And I’m like, Maya, I don’t want that thing. You know, you hold onto that just in case you ever have an itch that you want to come and work out with us again. Well, we get to the end of the year, she doesn’t come back. I did put her on the email list by the way, but she still didn’t come back to a practice.
So we’re at senior night. All right. And she’s leading the the student section and stuff. And after the game we’ll win the game. It’s actually the game we blew the 18 point lead, all right. One in overtime. And so Maya’s handing out cookies in the student section and celebrating with our kids and stuff.
And I said, Maya, how would you like to come back just for the season and be part of our scout team? You know, we’ll give you a role and you’ll have a specific job and you can work with some of the JV kids just to help us get ready for our post-season games. Would you have any interest in that? She’s like, yeah, coach, that, that actually sounds like fun.
So the last two weeks of our season, we brought in this division one athlete to be on our scout team. And I mean, she was unbelievable just talking and encouraging and working hard, making her guards better. I mean, it was great. She didn’t dress, but she was in sweats and rode the bus with us and sat on the bench and all this energy.
And so at the end of the year, we lose in the regional semi-final the team eventually goes to the state. And I’m riding home, sitting in the back of the bus with the seniors, just sort of talking about the season and stuff. And one of the other seniors says to Maya, I told you you’d regret it.
She’s like, what are you talking about? And she said, I told you, if you just had a taste of it, you would want to be out. And she said coach, if you would have been my coach, my freshman year, I probably would have stayed out for four years. And she’s like, I do regret it. Now that I’ve been in it for two weeks, I wish I would have been here the whole time.
And when I think about that story going all the way back to kids, don’t even look forward to coming to basketball. There’s no enthusiasm for it. They dread going to practice and you have a kid that burned out with every excuse in the world, not to be there that wanted to be there and wishes. She was there the whole year.
To me that says as much about the progress that we made as anything else,
[01:38:25] Mike Klinzing: That’s a great story. And I think it does encapsulate everything that we spent the first hour and a half. Talking about in terms of what type of program you want to build and what type of impact you want to have on your players.
And to have a girl who played basketball, got burned out, came back, participated as a, part-time not really full-time sort of person that contributed to your success at the end of the season. It just speaks volumes to what you’re able to do. And I think that that’s, when you think about the experience that you want for your kid as a parent, like that’s the kind of environment that you want to have them in is one where the culture is positive.
One where you’re developing. Friendships one where you’re developing the kids as people, not just as basketball players. And when you can do that, that’s really when you’ve met and reached that holy grail where you you’ve, you’ve had an impact in more ways than wanting to me, that’s really what coaching is all about.
I think that story does a great job of illustrating what it is that you’ve tried to build. And I think what any coach should try to emulate in terms of that’s what you want your program to look like, where a kid who really wasn’t even a part of it for the full season, but comes in and contributes in a small way and then says, wow, this, this would have been something that I would have loved.
To have been a part of, and that I’m sure that’s going to be a memory. Those two weeks are going to be a memory for her, for the rest of her life.
[01:40:10] Nate Sanderson: Yeah. I think that’s right. You know, and, and we had a lot of change of heart. I mean, I, I can tell you stories about other kids that we have two in particular that their parents made them go out.
I mean, they didn’t want to play. They told us they didn’t want to play. Their parents made them. And that at the end of the year in their exit interviews both of our there’s a sophomore and a freshman post player, they’re super excited for the off season. They can’t wait for next year. You know that just again, and it wasn’t because we won 12 games, right.
It was because of the environment that they walked into every day and the way that they were treated. Their coaches and their teammates. And I mean, that, that’s what it’s all about. Right. That’s what we’re trying to do.
[01:40:48] Mike Klinzing: Absolutely. All right. Let’s jump to thrive on challenge real quick before we get out, you and I were talking before the podcast about what you and JP have going on and the mentoring program, and you have your retreat coming up this summer.
So just talk a little bit about those two things quickly and share what you guys have going. Cause I know those are great opportunities for coaches to continue to grow and improve themselves.
[01:41:10] Nate Sanderson: Yeah. I know JP has really built out the business here, thrive on challenge over the last five years, we’ve got our podcast, the coaching culture podcast, and that’s been a lot of fun just to share a lot of practical ways that coaches can try to build their culture.
JP has really built out an infrastructure for a mentorship program that you know, we worked with, I think, 40 coaches over the past year in all sports just trying to be a culture, coach leadership coach for them, a sounding board for them, somebody that’s got proven strategies that have worked in other programs be a resource for them.
And you know, someone that can troubleshoot some of those kinds of challenges, the human problems and challenges that we all face in coaching. And so it’s been really exciting for us. It’s an awesome job for me. I mean, I get paid a little bit to do it. And Mike I’ve learned so much from the coaches that I’m working for, or I think sometimes that I’m getting more out of it than they are.
But, but it’s been amazing. And of course, JP is just phenomenal. I’m with that as well. And we’re starting to expand in some other things. We’ve got our third annual retreat coming up this summer. We take about a dozen coaches up into the mountains outside of park city, Utah. And just talk about transformational leadership and what that looks like and doing a little work on ourselves and talk a little bit about how you build that into your culture.
It’s a very experiential way of learning. So instead of giving coaches a playbook on here’s some team building activities you can do, we treat our participants like the team, and we just do the activities and learn that way. And it’s a really fun time, very unique time where you don’t often get a couple of days up in the mountains to really unplug from your phone and your notifications and that sort of thing, and really dig into a purposeful approach to transformational leadership.
So we’re looking forward to that. That’s July 6th through the 10th, this summer. Still have a couple openings for that as well. If coaches want to check that out, you can go to TOC culture.com and click on our retreats button there. And then the last thing we’ve been doing, Mike, we just launched a cohort group here in April.
I’ve been working with again about a dozen coaches going through Cody Royal’s book, the tough stuff. And just talking about the hard things in coaching that nobody really talks about at clinics. You know, how do you handle criticism? How do you have a healthy identity? That’s not tied up into your wins and losses?
How do you deal with imposter syndrome? You know, the fear of failure and that sort of thing. And that’s been an amazing experience. A lot of coaches that have been part of that have been having some awesome conversations. Being vulnerable enough to realize that golly, we’re not alone tackling some of those challenges that we all face from time to time.
So it’s been great seeing the business grow and seeing the impact that JPS having on coaches. And we’re always looking forward to meeting and making new connections and appreciate even a relationship. I know you’ve had some conversations with JP as well, and it’s been cool to see that that grow as well.
[01:43:52] Mike Klinzing: I think what’s been interesting, and this is one of the most gratifying aspects of doing the podcast. And I’m sure you can speak to this and all the different things that you’ve done with your podcasts. When you get an opportunity to talk with somebody, whether it’s at a retreat, whether it’s in person, whether it’s through a podcast, whether it’s somebody who’s a part of your staff, you set yourself that you oftentimes.
Learn more, even if you’re supposed to be the most knowledgeable person more often than not, you end up learning as much, if not more than the other person in the conversation, especially if you’re open to growth. And that’s been one of the most satisfying pieces for us of the podcast. Nate is just the opportunity to talk to great people from all different levels of the game of basketball coach and all different types of teams with different philosophies.
And every time we have a podcast, I feel like I learn multiple things that I write down and try to incorporate into whatever it is that I’m doing. And sometimes. Basketball specific specific thing. Sometimes I’ve learned things about parenting. Sometimes I learned things about just being a better human and improving myself that way.
And if you get an opportunity to interact with other coaches and whatever the forum is, and I could speak very highly of JP and what he’s done, he’s been out with us a couple of times. Now this is Nate, second time. And if you’re a part of the audience and you do have an opportunity to interact with. With Nate and interact with JP, whether that’s through their retreat, whether that’s joining the mentorship program, whether it’s just going on the web website and reading some of the blog posts that they have up there, I listened to the podcast.
There’s just, there’s so many different ways that you can learn. And I think you, two guys, Nate, you and JP do a great job with everything that you’re doing. And again, I think when you look at the totality of the coaching profession, our mission, when we started this thing was to try to be able to have a positive impact on the game of basketball, in whatever way, shape or form, whatever audience we have out there, whether that’s coaches or parents or players or whatever was going to listen to this thing.
We hoped that we were going to have a positive impact. I know you guys are trying to do the same thing and I appreciate you being willing to come on again and take the time and share the story of your season. I think it’s one, like I said, off the top that a lot of coaches find themselves in that same position where they’re taking over a program, that they have to change the culture and rebuild.
And I think that. Through going through and, and talking about this, we were able to pull out a whole bunch of things that any coach who listens to this I think could pull out a ton of nuggets. So again, I thank you for that. One more time before we wrap up, share how people can reach out to you, find out more about you connect with you, connect with thrive on challenge, and then I’ll jump back in and wrap things up.
[01:46:35] Nate Sanderson: Yeah, Mike, I really appreciate that and appreciate all the support you’ve given to us over the years as well. But you can follow me on Twitter at coach and Sanderson. If you want to reach out to me by email, it’s the same firstname.lastname@example.org. And as you mentioned, we’ve got tons of resources on the thrive on challenge website, that’s TOCculture.com.
And you can find information about our retreats in cohorts and mentorship, and there’s lots of free resources and articles organized by subject there as well. So we really try to provide value with. Supporting us and writing a check or you just looking for a way to work your way through a problem.
We want to be there to be able to support coaches as well. So appreciate you giving us a little plug there, Mike.
[01:47:13] Mike Klinzing: Absolutely. And to everyone out there. Thanks for listening. And we will catch you on our next episode. Thanks.