NATE SANDERSON – THRIVE ON CHALLENGE & BREAKTHROUGH BASKETBALL – EPISODE 315

Nate Sanderson

Websites – https://thriveonchallenge.com/  https://www.breakthroughbasketball.com/sanderson/

Email – coachnsanderson@gmail.com

Twitter – @coachnsanderson

Nate Sanderson is a long-time Varsity Girls’ Basketball Coach in the state of Iowa. He is currently the Director of Product Development at Breakthrough Basketball and is 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.

We just launched our Hoop Heads Pod Webinar Series with some of the top minds in the game across all levels, from grassroots to the NBA.  If you’re focused on improving your coaching and your team, we’ve got you covered! Visit hoopheadspod.com/webinars to get registered.  We’ve been working behind the scenes to build the Hoop Heads Podcast Network and we’re excited to announce that three new shows will be launching soon.  Thrive with Trevor Huffman, Beyond the Ball with Justin Gerstung & Eric Klummp, and the Coach Mays.com Podcast with Jason Mays.  Look for the trailers and episode 1 of each new show in your Hoop Heads Pod feed so you can check them out! 

Have some pen and paper handy as you listen to this episode with Coach Nate Sanderson from Breakthrough Basketball and Thrive on Challenge.

What We Discuss with Nate Sanderson

  • Switching his major from religion to education started his coaching career
  • His passion for leadership and his love for the game
  • Getting an interim varsity head coaching job in his first year coaching
  • What he said to his AD to keep that job at the end of the season
  • Investing in the little things to turn a program around
  • Creating a culture where no one wants the season to end
  • The Appreciation Line as a season ending activity
  • A player telling Nate, “I wouldn’t trade one thing about this experience to win one more game.”
  • Creating memories for kids
  • The influence PGC Basketball had on him
  • Building his youth program at Springville (IA) High School
  • Ignition & Aspiration are key components of a youth program
  • Youth coach development
  • The games based approach to practice
  • Changing your drills so they reflect the way you play
  • Making sure decision making is always part of your drills
  • Why kids enjoy the games based approach
  • Being ok with “messy” practices
  • Finding the three most important things when watching an opponent on film
  • Using film to highlight the good things players do
  • Do’s vs. Dont’s
  • Why he often says, “That’s bad coaching”
  • How he engages parents in his program
  • Asking players what they want from their basketball experience

Like this show? Please leave us a review here — even one sentence helps! Consider including your Twitter handle so we can thank you personally!

Subscribe to the Hoop Heads Podcast Here

Become a Patron!
  • We’re excited to partner with Dr. Dish, the world’s best shooting machine! Mention the Hoop Heads Podcast when you place your order and get $300 off a brand new state of the art Dr. Dish Shooting Machine!
  • Coaches, we’ve teamed up with Coach Tyler Whitcomb so you can now purchase his exclusive new playbooks right from the Hoop Heads Pod website.  If you’re looking for ways to improve your team next season these playbooks blend affordability with the quality content that serious coaches are looking for.

Just visit hoopheadspod.com/store in and you’ll find playbooks from

  • John Calipari of Kentucky
  • Leonard Hamilton from Florida State  
  • Mike Young of Virginia Tech

Check out these great resources at hoopheadspod.com/store

  • Last year at the Jr. NBA Summit I came across an amazing company called iSport360 and its Founder Ian Goldberg.  Their youth sports app gets coaches, players and parents on the same page. Your team can set goals, share player feedback, training videos, sticker rewards, player evals and practice assignments.  All to foster healthy team communication and culture.  iSport360 is giving away its app all season long to every team that needs a virtual way to stay connected, stay active and strong: share training videos, practice assignments, sticker rewards and teammate chat in the virtual locker room.  Get your team set up here or you can request a demo for your club here.

Being without basketball right now is tough for all of us, so we’ve partnered with Pro Skills Basketball  to offer you a 50% discount on their Ultimate Shooting Guide & Video Program that will put players on a guided path to becoming the best shooter they can be. With ONE YEAR’s worth of workouts that include drills, games and competitions, players will gain access to a blueprint showing them what it takes to become an elite-level shooter.  If you’re looking to improve your shooting at home, this program can help.  Visit hoopheadspod.com/store to check it out.

Includes:

  • A comprehensive 30-page e-book with tips on shooting form, body control and developing a shooter’s mentality
  • A year’s worth of daily assignments
  • Access to videos that explain daily assignment drills
  • Email reminders helping players stay on track

THANKS, NATE SANDERSON

If you enjoyed this episode with Nate Sanderson, let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out on Twitter:

Click here to thank Nate Sanderson on Twitter!

Click here to let Mike & Jason know about your number one takeaway from this episode!

And if you want us to answer your questions on one of our upcoming weekly NBA episodes, drop us a line at mike@hoopheadspod.com.

TRANSCRIPT FOR NATE SANDERSON – THRIVE ON CHALLENGE & BREAKTHROUGH BASKETBALL – EPISODE 315

 [00:00:00] Mike Klinzing: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to the Hoop Heads Podcast. It’s Mike Klinzing here with my co-host Jason Sunkle. And tonight we are pleased to welcome to the podcast. Coach Nate Sanderson, Nate, welcome to the podcast.

Nate Sanderson: [00:00:11] Thanks. It’s great to be here.

Mike Klinzing: [00:00:13] We are excited to have you on and get a chance to talk about your varied experiences in the game of basketball, dive into some of the things that you’ve been able to have success with as a coach, want to start out by going back in time to when you were a kid, give us an idea of how you got into the game.

What you loved about it, or what made you fall in love with basketball when you were younger?

Nate Sanderson: [00:00:31] Well, you know, I grew up,  probably like a lot of people watching the Bulls on TV and playing in the driveway and,  you know, for,  an 18 year career that I’ve had in coaching, I really don’t have much of an extensive background playing.

 my organized basketball career came to an end after playing on the a C team at Southeast Junior High in Iowa City, Iowa. And,  that was just another situation of, you know, misidentified talent obviously, but,  played a lot of [00:01:00] rec and a lot of pickup after that in high school and in college. And,  when I got my first teaching job, I knew at some point I wanted to get into coaching and,  wanted to be able to coach basketball.

And if I could,

Mike Klinzing: [00:01:10] Did you know that you always wanted to be a teacher and a coach? When did you come to that realization? Was that something that you knew. Junior high high school. Didn’t figure it out that you get to college. When did you realize that? Hey, I want to get into teaching and coaching as my career.

Nate Sanderson: [00:01:24] Probably wasn’t until I got into college, I actually started as a study of religion major. And,  somebody told me you’re not going to be able to get a job with that degree. And so I started thinking about some other opportunities and,  the pastor at our church,  was a high school coach and a high school teacher before he got into ministry.

And I thought that might be a good fit for some of the things that I enjoyed. So I switched over to become an education major,  and kind of went on from there.

Mike Klinzing: [00:01:52] What was it about. Coaching that first attracted you to it. Was there some particular aspect of it [00:02:00] that you really enjoyed? Was it the X’s and O’s was it the relationship with players?

Was it the ability to have an impact? What was it about coaching back when you first started that really attracted you to it?

Nate Sanderson: [00:02:11] Well, I think it was a combination of a couple of things. One, I just love the game, you know, even though I didn’t get to play it in an organized setting, like a lot of people did.

 I just loved watching the game. I love learning about the game. I love playing the game. And so I knew I wanted to be around basketball, you know, in some capacity, if I could. And I think when it came to coaching, I’ve always had a passion for,  for leadership,  leadership development, you know, working with kids has been something that’s been really gratifying throughout my career and even just, you know, volunteer activities in college, getting to work with young people was something I always enjoyed.

So coaching kind of brought all of those things together for me, coaching and teaching. And that probably,  kind of was the catalyst for me to get into it.

Mike Klinzing: [00:02:56] What was your first coaching experience?

Nate Sanderson: [00:02:59] So that’s [00:03:00] kind of an interesting story. I started out,  at the wiser Muscatine High School in Southeast Iowa and my first year as a teacher,  I remember sitting in our teacher training before the start of the school year and there’s me and two other guys get called out in the hallway by the athletic director and he brings us out and he says, all right, guys, I, I need two volleyball coaches to start on Monday.

This is like five days from now. He needed a middle school coach and a JV coach because he didn’t have the contracts filled right before the start of the season. So we look at each other, we don’t know anything about volleyball. I’ve never coached anything before in my life, but I said, you know, I’ll do the JV thing.

I was contracted to be the eighth grade girl’s basketball coach that year. And I thought that might be a way for me to get my feet wet work under somebody, get a little bit of experience. So that’s where I started and ended up being an assistant coach for volleyball for six or seven years.  while I was at that school.

But fast forward to the end of the volleyball season. And as I mentioned, I was, I was contracted to be the eighth grade girls coach, but the head volleyball [00:04:00] coach who was supposed to be the JV basketball coach in the winter, had a couple of younger kids at home. And so she wanted the flip flop contracts right before the start of the basketball season.

So we did, so I became the JV girls basketball coach. She took the eighth grade position. And then during that first season, as an assistant,  the head coach ended up resigning in January of that year due to some inappropriate behaviors. And so I became the interim varsity coach for the rest of that year.

 and then ended up getting the job,  after that,

Mike Klinzing: [00:04:31] That is a story. That’s a good one, man. I love that

Jason Sunkle: [00:04:35] I had something similar about your volleyball story. I was asked to coach eighth grade girls basketball. Three days into tryouts. How about that one? That was, that was a good, that was, it was really good though.

The other coats, cause they have like an, we had like two different teams, so we split them and the other coach decided that he wasn’t going to coach after like two days of trial. So I was like, Oh, that’s not a good sign. But anyways,  I took over and it was, it was the best [00:05:00] decision I made. Cause I’ve been coaching ever since.

So very similar, but pretty cool.

Mike Klinzing: So you had to accelerate your timeframe in terms of learning what it was going to take to be a successful first assistant coach and then an assistant, and then eventually a head coach. So talk a little bit about what you remember from those first experiences. What is something that when you look back on it, you’re like, I wasn’t very good at that when I first started.

Nate Sanderson: [00:05:26] Well, I would put just about everything on the list for that.  you know, I didn’t have a lot of coaching experience. As I mentioned, I hadn’t played in, you know, organized basketball setting outside of middle school. So, you know, when I became the interim coach and I should probably give you a little more context to the job as well that the school, the program was in the middle of a 33 game losing streak.

I was the fifth coach in four years.  the two coaches previous to me had been asked to leave because of. Different inappropriate behaviors with students. And so, you know, it’s probably the worst job that you could imagine starting your career off [00:06:00] with. And I remember after the end of that first year, we were 0 – 19, I think in that first year.

And the AD came into my classroom at the end of the year. And he said, you know, Nate, we really appreciate everything that you’ve done for the program and taking it over and set a difficult situation, but we’re going to open it up and we’re going to, we’d like to keep you on as the JV coach, but we’re going to try to find somebody with some more experience and.

And I said to him at the time, I said, you know, I appreciate you coming in here and talking to me, but, and I don’t have a great background in X’s and O’s, but where this program is at, I said, there’s three things that these kids really need. I said, number one, at that school, our wrestling program was our most successful programming.

You know, you could walk the halls and you’d see these wrestlers, you know, the way that they carry themselves, they kind of have a strut and they, you know, they smell sometimes and they kind of spit, you know, like, but there was something about being a wrestler in our school that meant something, you know, it meant that you were sacrificing, it meant that you were cutting weight.

You were in, in the morning and a sweatsuit, you know, that you wanted the challenge of trying to get [00:07:00] to the state tournament, whatever it might be. And I said, this basketball program, it needs to mean something to go out for basketball. I said, the second thing that these kids need is they need somebody that cares more about them than they do themselves.

You know, and as I mentioned, the two previous coaches had gotten themselves into trouble, basically just, you know, acting on selfish impulses and the kids needed somebody that was going to put them first. And I said, the third thing that they need is this, this needs to feel like family and really it doesn’t right now.

And I said, you know, those are the things. If I got the job, that’s where I would start. I don’t know a lot of the X’s and O’s that keep doing what we’re doing as I learn. And dad is a big African-American fellow from New Jersey. He says, you know what, Nate F it, I’m going to go tell him you’re the right man for the job.

And he walks straight into the superintendents office and said, Nate’s the guy we want to hire. And he came back with a contract and we started from there. So even though I didn’t really know what we were doing schematically or, you know, with our system, I felt like we had a pretty good understanding of what our kids [00:08:00] needed in order to start building that program.

Mike Klinzing: [00:08:03] So when you look at those three needs, And then you go into the following year. What does it look like on the ground? What are some concrete things that you did at that time to try to establish those three tenants that you just laid out?  

Nate Sanderson: [00:08:19] Well, the program, you know, it was in such dire straights. That little things meant a lot.

You know, they hadn’t done much in the off season. They hadn’t had a coach that was coming in. Opening up the gym doing skill development. They hadn’t done teen camps before.  and so one of the earliest things that we did was just implementing some off season activities. We started tracking their hours.

So kids that came in, you know, we just kept sort of points for the hours that they were in.  and one of the first activities we did at,  as a result of that was a mystery trip right before the start of the season. So whoever got, you know, I don’t know, 25 hours or whatever it was. Qualified for this mystery trip.

So they showed up at the school on a Saturday afternoon. We threw them in a couple of vans [00:09:00] and we just went, you know, to just random places, went out for pizza. And then we went bowling and then we went for ice cream. And I don’t know, we did some fun activity at the park or something like that. And just, again, it meant something to put some time in, you know, obviously it made us better and we, we gradually improved the program as time went on.

But even that, you know, there was a sacrifice there that we were doing in the off season. There was a reward, there was a unique experience.  none of those things had, they had before. And as simple as it sounds, it started to build an identity for who we wanted to be. You know, we wanted to be a group of people that was going to put the work in and we wanted to do it together, you know, and that’s a simple way that we, we kind of started in that first off season

Mike Klinzing: [00:09:43] As you put it together and you start thinking about.

All those little things and how you need to go about building that family atmosphere that you talked about. When do you start to see, or how do you know that you’re seeing the results that you hope to get? What are some [00:10:00] things, maybe some milestones or just. Maybe a story that you can relate that, and it could even be with a different team, but just when you think about trying to build up some of those things that you talked about, how do you know that you’re having success?

What are some signs that you look for that the message that you’re trying to get to or across the players is really hitting home with them?

Nate Sanderson: [00:10:18] Well, I’ll give you two examples that at my first school, the, the Muscatine, the first year that kids cried in the locker room, after we lost our last game, I felt like we had made it and we weren’t that good at that point.

But it was probably took four years, you know, to get to the point where they didn’t want the season to end. And when you’re trying to create an experience that, you know, obviously when your outcomes are good and you’re winning games, it’s fun to be part of that. But if your culture is building and it’s fun to show up every day, and it’s fun to go to work together and be around, you know, players that you like being around and them enjoying each other, you don’t want it to end when you have a good experience.

And so that was really, we felt like the turning point. In that program was [00:11:00] when kids didn’t want the season to be over, no matter how good or bad that we were. Another example I’ll give. And I know we’ll get into my Linn Mar days here a little bit later in the timeline, but my first year at landmark, we took that program over.

We ended up starting with the worst year in school history in year one. We were three and 19. And, you know, at the end of the year, we do this activity called the appreciation line. So after our last game win or lose, we bring the kids back and we kind of call it the last practice. And so every kid gets like, I dunno, minute, two minutes, three minutes, whatever, with every other player and every coach.

So it takes maybe an hour and a half, two hours as you kind of circle through every single individual. You just get some time with them. For us, we just communicate with them. This is what we appreciated about coaching you and having you on the team. It’s really just a chance to get some closure on the season.

That’s our, I remember Allie Johnson who was a division one softball player, one of the most competitive kids I’ve ever coached. And we were three and 19 [00:12:00] that season. And as I mentioned, it was the worst season in school history. And she said to me, during that the appreciation lines, she said, you know, coach.

I wouldn’t trade one thing about this experience to win one more game. And again, for me, that felt like that same milestone that we got this place, even though we weren’t that competitive where kids wanted to show up every day, it felt like they belong there. They were happy to be there and they didn’t want it to be over.

And I thought that was one of the most powerful statements that an athlete has ever shared with me.

Mike Klinzing: [00:12:31] Yeah. I can totally see where. After having her have that say, and after her saying that to you, that you would just walk back away from that conversation and just reflect and say, wow, that’s a success. I know you often hear when you think about what athletic directors, principals, superintendents, when they’re talking about hiring somebody for a job.

One of the questions that is often asked in interviews [00:13:00] is how would you define. Success as a coach. How do you define your success? Especially if you’re interviewing for a program that hasn’t won for awhile? I think that’s a question that coaches frequently get asked on interviews. And I think what you just said there, if you could just, as a coach relate that story to somebody who was interviewing you to me, that would be how I would define success.

Nate Sanderson: [00:13:24] Yeah, I agree for sure. You know, and I think ultimately when you start looking at a more broad perspective as what we’re doing as coaches, you know? Yeah. We’re trying to win games and we’re, you know, we’re teaching life lessons at the same time, but ultimately we’re creating memories for kids. Right. And those could be positive.

Or negative, but you would have hope that we’re striving to leave a positive imprint. You know, one that they, they look back fondly. And if you get to that point, you know, you’re going to be better. Obviously your culture is going to be stronger. You’re going to be more competitive. You’re going to get more out of your kids, but ultimately, you know, you’re leaving a lasting [00:14:00] impression like that.

I don’t know if there’s a better definition for success.

Mike Klinzing: [00:14:04] Yeah, there definitely isn’t and we all know that unfortunately, in the coaching profession that we don’t just get judged, even though that’s our own definite definition of success. If you had continued to go three and 19 every year, and your kids said, we love being a part of the program, there probably was a shelf life to your employment and that particular job, whether we like it or not.

And so I think you just touched on a really key and important point, which is that all the things that. We talk about when we talk about building the right culture, and we talk about your program, being a place where kids feel like they belong and they want to be there and they wouldn’t trade their participation in that program for anything.

When you set up a program like that, eventually that’s going to lead to and contribute to winning. And I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. If you had an opportunity to be able to build a program like that, to run a season as a coach like [00:15:00] that, You see that there are benefits, not just in that relationship and that feeling, but also in ultimately the results that you get on the scoreboard.

Is it going to happen right away? Is there an instant transformation? No, but I think over the course of time, I think that there is that impact. I want to go backwards and talk a little bit about how you grew early on as a coach, because it seems like you had a good sense maybe of this. Culture piece and this relationship piece, and that, that was something that was important to you.

How did you continue to grow in that area? And then how did you continue to grow as a coach on the technical side, from an access to know standpoint, what did you do to try to improve? Did you have mentors in the coaching profession that you went to? Was it clinics? Was it studying? How did you go about improving yourself as a coach early on in your career?

Nate Sanderson: [00:15:56] Well, I think at my first stop, a lot of what we were doing with the culture and the [00:16:00] relationship piece was just instinctual.  as I mentioned before, you know, leadership development has always been a passion of mine. And,  I had a minor in leadership studies and some interesting experiences with that in college.

So. You know, that was comfortable for me.  and so, you know, we really tried to leverage kind of that leadership development piece as much as we could when it came to the systems and the tactics and teaching technique and that sort of thing.  at that point in my career, probably the biggest influence was,  having the opportunity to go to Point Guard College.

And this was back in the early two thousands when Dena Evans was still,  running the camps by herself, you know, with a van full of interns.  and I remember taking a couple players over to Illinois to Benedictine and having them go through the week and kind of staying as an observing coach and,  got to know Dino a little bit over the week and then started coming back in future summers.

 just kind of volunteering and being able to work with some of the other observing coaches and, and,  that really had a lot of [00:17:00] influence on, you know, the language that we were using, the drills that we were using,  some of the techniques that we were using and some of the base offenses. So there was a lot that I took from that,  at the YC Muscatine, and then,  started to grow much more when I got to my second stop at Springville, but that was one of my earliest influences there.

How

Mike Klinzing: [00:17:20] does the opportunity to go to Springville? How does that come about? How does, how do you get the opportunity to go? Is that something that you were looking for a change? Is that something where somebody approached, you just describe for us the process of how you ended up at Springville?

Nate Sanderson: [00:17:35] Well, it was kind of an interesting mix of circumstances,  at Louisa Muscatine, as I mentioned, you know, we were, we were pretty bad early on and,  just gradually over my eight years there.

Improve the program.  I think it was in year four or five. We won 12 games and that was a school record for wins in a season.  and then we won 16 and then we won 18 and we want a couple of playoff games and, [00:18:00] and,  after,  my, my second to last season at LNM, my mom actually passed away.  and so she had a house in Cedar Rapids, which was about an hour away.

 and so we kind of had a decision to make about, you know, we had a house where we were at at the wise and Muscatine, but we inherited this other one, two mortgages is, is one more than we certainly wanted at the time. And so,  you know, we had thought about relocating and never really felt like L and M was going to be a longterm home.

And so anyway, there was just a pile of circumstances that kind of came together at one time. And so we ended up moving into my mom’s house in Cedar Rapids. You know, I thought I was going to get into leadership consulting and really actually get out of coaching. So I resigned my coaching position and we made the move.

My wife got a job. And then,  I stuck around because we couldn’t sell our house. So I was kind of going back and forth. And,  over that summer, they didn’t L and M didn’t have any applicants for the job. They had zero applicants. And so I kind of hung around to keep doing the open gyms and some of the [00:19:00] summer games and stuff like that.

And. At the end of the summer, the AD, because she knew we hadn’t sold our house yet, if I’d be willing to do one more year. So I ended up staying for one more year, going back and forth between Cedar Rapids and Muscatine,  and ended up having another great season and got out after that. And so,  when we ended up in Cedar Rapids,  as I said, like I was starting to get into some leadership consulting stuff and a friend of mine,  the Springfield job had opened and thought it would be a good fit for me and encouraged me to apply.

And. So I put in for it, didn’t hear anything for a long time and was basically ready to give up on it. And,  anyway, got invited finally to an interview and, and,  ended up getting the position and off we go from there.

Mike Klinzing: [00:19:42] So what were you doing with the leadership stuff at that point?

Nate Sanderson: [00:19:44]  well, outside the context of basketball, I was actually working with some churches,  just on communication strategies and some of that kind of stuff.

So,  it was outside of sports and then it was just dabbling it, you know, a little bit on the side with [00:20:00] friends that would be in basketball camps. I might, you know, parachute in and try to help out a little bit, but,  nothing too significant, but that was kind of the direction that I was going before I got right back into coaching.

Mike Klinzing: [00:20:11] So you get to a new school. New situation, new culture you’re walking into. So talk a little bit about when you first took over at Springville, what were some things that you looked at the program and said, I gotta get this done. Just like you had your three tenants.  your previous stop. What did you have to do when you got the Springville?

Nate Sanderson: [00:20:29] Springville had an interesting legacy before I got there, they had won a state championship in 2007. They brought everybody back. It’s it’s a 1A school. So it’s the smallest class in the state of Iowa. They bring 10 seniors back. They make it all the way to the state title game and lose by one their senior year.

And then they graduate everybody. So. That coach had stayed on for one more year, but there hadn’t been a lot invested in the program, you know, behind those seniors. So I think they won maybe eight games the year before I got the job. [00:21:00]  and so my first couple of years in Springville, there was a couple of things that we tried to really focus on early one was I really wanted to build down in the program.

It’s not something that I had done at the Muscatine. We really didn’t have a lot of contact with our youth programs and really not even that much with our middle school programs. And so from day one, you know, I just started asking. Who are the youth coaches, who are the people that I need to talk to, to start getting some of those teams organized and being able to have some influence,  not necessarily in a, as a dictator, you know, do this, do that, but just to be able to be supportive.

 and so w we started connecting, you know, and doing obviously, you know, doing summer camps as everybody does, but started coaching our middle schoolers in a fall league, which was, is an awesome opportunity for me to start to get to know and work with some of those kids in seventh and eighth grade.  we played in a spring league where I got to coach our sixth, seventh, and eighth graders.

Again, we started doing afterschool clinics for third, fourth, fifth, and sixth graders,  in the spring, and then obviously doing our camps and stuff in the [00:22:00] summer. So for me, it was just getting a lot more contact points,  with kids throughout the program and then starting to implement, you know, just some of our language, some of our drills, some of our systems, some of our values,  and hopefully having them absorb some of those things before they got to the high school level.

Mike Klinzing: [00:22:18] Talk to me about how important it is in your mind. This is one of the things that I always think whenever I’ve talked to a high school coach, I think about my own experiences. And I look around the landscape of high school today. And I think one of the things that is different and maybe it’s not different in every area of the country, but I think it’s different than it was 20 or 30 years ago where kids would grow up in a community and there would be this aspiration that they would have to one day.

Put on the uniform of their local high school, play with their friends, be able to run out and hear the fight song and go through warm ups and just to be a part of the team. And I don’t always sense that, you know, high school basketball today, and again, not everywhere. I’m sure there are places in the country [00:23:00] where that still happens.

But when I think about what a quality youth program looks like, I think about all the things that you just talked about. And I also think about the fact that if I’m the head varsity coach, And I’m going down and I’m coaching those sixth, seventh, and eighth graders. And I’m making contact with the kids who were in elementary school and they start to get to know me and they spark start to get to know the varsity players.

And we get them to come to games on Friday night and Wednesday night and see our players and know them and want to be a part of the program and say to themselves, one day I would like to play for coach Sanderson. One day, I would like to run out onto the high school floor. For warmups with the pep band playing that aspiration to me is something that is really, really important.

Is that something that you see or have seen, or try to incorporate into what you’re doing with your youth program?  what, what you’ve been, what you’ve done over the course of your career?

Nate Sanderson: [00:23:53] Yeah, for sure. I mean,  You know, in the talent code, Daniel Coyle sort of refers to that [00:24:00] as ignition, you know, it’s this sense of motivation where you see somebody ahead of you and you think I want to be them too.

You know, I’ll tell you a story when we were at Springville. And I mentioned before, you know, they had that superclass go through that was state champions and runner up. And I remember that either the first or second summer that I was there, we were doing our middle school camp and my assistant coach had been the assistant on those teams.

 and obviously a great relationship with those kids. So, so were in middle school camp and she says, I’ve got some old tape of the superclass playing middle school basketball in, you know, in the fall league or whatever. And wouldn’t it be fun to kind of show these kids, you know, let them see it. So. What we did was we had one of the,  best players off of that team.

Come back and talk to our middle schoolers. So share a little bit about our experience. You know, we watched some highlights in the state championship game. What was it like to represent the community, you know, and just really trying to get the kids excited about that. And that was, that was really cool.

And I think that as an aside, you know, the more [00:25:00] opportunities that you can give your older players to speak down, you know, to generations that will follow them. The better, but what was really awesome is the next day my assistant brought in these old VHS tapes and she put one in and we’re looking at Katie Ivan and Kelly clawback and Carly Martin and all these other players in seventh grade, just gangly uncoordinated, throwing the ball over the gym, making the same mistakes that our middle schoolers were making.

And you could tell that there was kind of this light bulb that went on that, you know, what. They were in the same place that we are right now, you know, our current sixth and seventh graders, I’m looking at them and thinking we do the same thing. We make the same mistakes. And so did they, we know where they ended up.

Maybe we can get there too, you know, and that that’s the concept of ignition. So I think the more that you can try to. Facilitate that in some way, the more likely you are to have that ambition of, as you described, you know, someday I want to walk through the tunnel, you know, the fight song and get out on the floor and, and have that same [00:26:00] experience, that same opportunity to be able to get to the state tournament.

It’s interesting that our first state tournament run,  you know, the kids that were in that middle school classroom really made up the core of the team that eventually got us there. As we got things going at Springville.

Mike Klinzing: [00:26:16] Yeah, it’s super powerful stuff. I just think that that aspirational piece is something that, to me, I just think about it from my own perspective as a player.

And I remember being in third, fourth, fifth grade, and just looking up to those kids who were on the varsity team. And I’ve said this before on the podcast that. The one thing I always wanted to do was be able to run out and slap the backboard on a layup. Like I would watch the high school players do when I was a kid in elementary school.

And it was just, there was never a doubt that that’s what I wanted to do. And I think that that’s something that has disappeared in a lot of places. And I love it when I hear from coaches who are trying to set up that situation within their program, within their community, [00:27:00] where there is this looking up to the kids who have gotten up and are fortunate enough to be.

Members of that varsity team and kids thinking boy, one day that’s, that’s what I want to do. I want to suit up for that coach and that program. And as you said, that can fuel them for sure that can fuel their fire and get them to think, Hey, if this group ahead of me can do it, why can’t I do those same things or maybe even achieve more.

So that leads me to the next thing. Let’s talk a little bit about, just from your perspective in general, if I’m a high school coach and I’m trying to set up my youth program. What would the ideal youth program set up look like in your mind, if you could just design it from scratch and get exactly what you wanted, what are some of the things that you would try to do?

Nate Sanderson: [00:27:43] Well, that is an interesting question.  because every youth coaching culture, you know, at every different school has its own set of issues and politics and, you know, agendas, it seems like today, I think, you know, where I would start is just making myself [00:28:00] available to youth coaches.  as someone that has resources, someone that can be supportive, you know, if you have questions, feel free to call.

I’d love to come to a practice, get out and watch some games, make, make your practices in high school, open to youth coaches that want to come in and see how you’re doing things. And maybe pick up some of the language or some of the drills or what have you. So I think it starts really with the relationship between the varsity coach, you know, and those lower level coaches.

And again, in a way that’s supportive. Rather than a way that says, you know, you have to do it this way or do it that way.  I heard somebody say not too long ago, that the best way to improve your player development is to improve your coaching development. And I think that’s one thing that I’ve gotten better at over the years, not just with our lower level coaches, but even at,  at the high school level with our staff is not just creating opportunities for them to go to a clinic to develop.

 but really taking time to be able to start building the relationships, sharing our philosophy, you know, we’re, we’re fully [00:29:00] committed to a game based approach and that’s very different for a lot of coaches. So that’s an educational piece. That’s really important for our younger coaches to,  you know, to be able to start to understand and hopefully to implement.

So,  you know, you would hope that you would have some curriculum and some alignment that goes from third grade all the way up until they get into high school. But, but again, I think it’s gonna look different in every different situation. And as I mentioned, I think the more involved the varsity coach can be in a supportive role, the better.

Mike Klinzing: [00:29:28] All right. So let’s go one step further. And let’s talk about the games based approach, not at a high school level, but let’s talk about it at a youth level. If I’m a high school varsity coach, and I want to explain to a youth coach why the games based approach. Is a good one for them to use with their younger players.

Just give us the short elevator pitch for why a games based approach will be good for somebody who’s coaching a group of 10 or 11 year olds.

[00:30:00] Nate Sanderson: [00:30:00] Well, I think the approach is the same, no matter what, the level, I just had this conversation with a coach and a couple of days ago, and I said, listen, we don’t turn the basketball over.

Because we can’t pass and catch, you know, whether even younger kids, once they get the basic fundamentals, they’re able to, to move and dribble and, you know, sort of shoot the ball, your turnovers, don’t resolve from a lack of ability. They typically result from the defense getting in the way. And so if defense is going to get in the way in games, then we want to make sure that there’s some defensive element that’s providing resistance.

In our practice so that we’re working on the exact same thing that they’re going to experience in a game. And so, you know, we start to layer that. I mean, one of the ways that we start this conversation with our youth coaches, cause they’ll ask, well, what does that look like? And we’ll say, well, you know, you might start with traditional layup lines, for example, maybe there’s a warmup in your practice.

So somebody starts at the elbow one or two dribbles, right. And lay up, you know, right hand comes up, [00:31:00] right. Knee comes up. We do the other thing from the other side and everybody can make. Layups right when they’re uncontested. So we would then challenge them. Well, listen, why do they miss layups in the game?

Well, typically it’s because they’re not going as fast as in practice as they are in a game. Well, again, why not? Because they’re not being chased by defense. So we would say, look, why don’t you try this? So take your layup line, move it back to the three point line, put a chair in front of the offensive player and put a defender sitting in the chair.

So the offense is facing the basket. They get the first step. And as soon as they take their first step, the defender gets up out of the chair and they try to chase down that player, going to the basket. Now, what have we added? We’ve got a time pressure. We’ve got a defensive pressure. And all of a sudden that layup feels a lot more like what you would experience in a game.

So we just start to give them all kinds of different ways to be able to do that in their fundamentals of just adding a disadvantaged defender or plain straight up or whatever it might be. Because [00:32:00] we want to practice the same way that we’re going to play in a game.

Mike Klinzing: [00:32:05] Do you often see the light bulb go on?

If you have that talk with a youth coach or do you sometimes get resistance and if you do get resistance, what is usually the resistance to organizing a practice in that way that a coach might have.

Nate Sanderson: [00:32:23] Well, I think resistance. And again, whether it’s a youth coach or a high school coach that you have a conversation about this with is number one, it’s foreign.

You know, if you’ve grown up and played yourself for a traditional coach that does a lot of drills and maybe a structured offense or, you know, whatever, whatever it might be. And now we’re saying no, no. Instead of you teaching, we want to create an environment that teaches the game. That’s very different.

It’s a different way of thinking. And the second obstacle is. How do I do that? You know, I know how to zigzag dribble. I know how to do lay up lines and make 40 layups in two minutes or, you know, whatever those traditional type drills might be. And they might [00:33:00] understand. In fact, oftentimes we start to explain the philosophy of the game based approach.

They’ll quickly agree. Yeah. We should practice the way that we’re going to play, but then the question becomes, well, how do you change your drills and how do you create gains that is going to be able to do that, you know? And I’ve been fortunate that we’ve been experimenting with this for. Probably the last seven years or so.

And I would say that now 90% of our practices are game-based, but for a coach that’s just starting to discover and understand it. It can be a little bit overwhelming, you know, and, and a little bit challenging to think, well, how do I create this on my own? It’s one thing to have poached Anderson in my gym, running a workout, but how do I do this?

You know, on my own throughout the season.

Mike Klinzing: [00:33:42] Alright, so let’s take, and let’s go down a little bit deeper on this. Let’s take a skill. That you might practice in a traditional drill and then let’s change that drill around to make it more game-like or make it fit into [00:34:00] the games based approach. So give us a, a traditional drill and then give us a games based version of that same drill, something that a coach, a quote, old school coach might’ve done, and then how you might adapt that drill to make it more game like.

Nate Sanderson: [00:34:15] Well, when I, I share this at clinics, the example that I use is just basic passing, you know, for a long time in my career, before I got into all this stuff. We would spend time 10, 15 feet apart, and we do a right hand push pass for 30 seconds. And then the left hand push pass, and then the right hand push pass with the bounce.

And then with the left hand, or we do an overhead pass or whatever we would script these passes, you know, as though the kids don’t know how to make them. And there’s a place for that. I mean, I do think you have to teach different techniques to pass the basketball, but again, once they understand the language and how to do it, then the challenge isn’t necessarily just throwing and catching the challenges.

How do I implement that pass? So that’s successful in a game against defense. So what we do now in practice is we’ll play a [00:35:00] game called sorcery. This is kind of our fundamental passing game. And then we expand on it and all kinds of different ways, but we’ll put three players in the lane. So if you can imagine an offensive player with her heels on the free throw line.

So her feet are in the lane. We have an offensive player with their heels on each block feet in the lane. So there is a triangle in the lane, three offensive players. And then two defensive players that are going to be live. So we’re playing three on two in the lane. Now the offense, his restrictions are, they can’t move until the shot goes up and they can’t dribble.

So it’s sort of like monkey in the middle three on to keep away game, but they’re playing to score. And so they can shoot it from the foul line. They could shoot it from the blocks that they shoot it, make it, they get a point. They rotate if they miss it and the defense gets possession or the defense gets a steal, then they get a point.

We played it four or five points, and then we switch it up. Well, When we showed this at clinics and we asked coaches, we showed some video of this drill and we say, okay, what skills are the players using in this sorcery game? And they’ll say things like, well, you’ve got to pass steak and you’ve got to [00:36:00] be shot ready, because if you’re not ready to catch it and shoot it because the defense has so little space to guard, they’re going to be all over you.

Right. And they’ve got to use creative passes and, you know, maybe even look away or whatever it might be. And they’ll talk about the defense what’s the defense have to do to win. Well, they have to play hard. Like they can’t, you know, when they’re disadvantaged, they have to give great effort. They’ve got to have their hands up.

They got to try to get the Fluxions. They’ve got to rebound in a disadvantaged situation. So we’ve just created an environment that requires these skills to be performed in order to win a game. You know, if you can’t catch it or you bobble it, you’re not going to be able to shoot it and score it. If you’re not ready to shoot it, you’re not going to be able to have time to be able to score a point for your team.

So that in a sense is what we try to do with all of our fundamentals. Is this create a game. Change the rules so that we can emphasize one or more particular sets and skills or, or scenarios, and then let the kids play and let the environment or the game, teach those skills within, within [00:37:00] the contest.

Mike Klinzing: [00:37:02] Do you often set those drills up?

But when you just describe with three on two, I always think of that as being advantage. Disadvantage, do you set up a lot of those games based drills where you put either the offense or the defense at a disadvantage or advantage? Depending on which side of the, you know, which side of the floor you’re looking at?

Nate Sanderson: [00:37:22] Yeah, we will, for sure. I mean, there’s lots of different ways. We’ll play that in three on two, and then we’ll go three on three where the defense has to trap the ball. So it’d be double team on the ball with one interceptor and then we’ll, you know, the next day in practice, we might play it in four on three.

So there’s a box with three live defenders and then go four on four and then go, you know, so we continue to, to manipulate kind of the same game, so to speak. By changing defenders, changing the defense’s rules,  and we’ll even change the offenses rules for, you know, as we go along as well. So I’ll give you another one.

That’s one of our favorite games to play, or one of our favorite sets of rules is we might play four on [00:38:00] four, no dribble. Right? So on Monday we play four on four. You can’t dribble. So you’re passing, you’re moving. You’re trying to get each other open,  again, being ready to shoot all those kinds of things.

And then the next day we may add a rule which we call dribble plus one. So, what that means is that we’re going to start the game four on four with no dribble, but anytime the offensive player has the ball, they can use the dribble, but if they dribble, so let’s say I catch the ball on the wing and I see an advantage to attack the basket.

As soon as the ball goes on the floor, either I have to be the shooter or I get one more pass. So it’s my dribble. Plus one pass, whoever I throw it to, they have to shoot the ball. So what are we teaching out of that? Well, we’re still playing no dribble. So we’re still working on all of those things moving without the ball passing, catching.

But now we’re adding a perceptual element here where we want to be aware of advantages when we catch the ball. So if I catch it and I think I can get to the rim, then I want to look for those opportunities. And giving them one [00:39:00] more pass, then allows them to think of their dribble as a purpose. Right? So, or with purpose.

So they can’t just dribble around and pass it, or they’re going to disadvantage the person that catches it. So they either have to use their dribble to create for themselves, or they have to use that dribble to set up, whoever’s going to receive the ball so that they can get the shot up. And so, again, it’s just a simple limitation.

A simple change of the rules in the game, but really adds a lot of procedure, a perception. And then decision-making into a relatively simple four on four game.

Mike Klinzing: [00:39:32] How much do your in player you do your players improve at understanding those restrictions and different things that you put in? Cause I would think I’m just going to throw out an example.

Let’s say you have a kid who is not used to that particular style of coaching. And they come into that environment. So let’s say you get a player who moves into the community. Are you getting a freshmen that are clearly they’ve maybe been in your program, but not at the same level that you’re demanding of them at [00:40:00] the high school level?

How much of an adjustment is it for those players to be able to concentrate, focus, understand the restriction because to me what that is all about and what I love about it is. You’re incorporating decision making into everything that you do when you use the games based approach. And that’s really what it comes down to is basketball is a game of decisions.

When you’re out there on the floor, you’re constantly reacting to what your teammates are doing, what the defense is doing. And so you have to be able to make those decisions. But I can envision in that drill that you just described, where a kid who has not participated in a drill like that is going to come in.

And they’re not going to have any idea how to make a good decision. They’re not going to understand when I should put the ball on the floor and get to the basket. And then if I do put it on the floor and gets the basket and I get shut off. Oh my gosh. Now I’ve got to try to set somebody up and I’m sure that that’s a learning process and that’s part of what the whole thing’s [00:41:00] about.

Nate Sanderson: [00:41:01] Yeah, definitely.  I mean the adjustment for players that move into our program is huge, you know, because it seems like a simple game and we don’t. We would layer our rules and our constraints, you know, as we go along. So as I said, we’d start with just four on four, no dribble one day. And then the next day we just add another rule.

The next day we change our rules. So a lot of the structure to our games stays the same. We just sort of tinker with the rules as we go. But one of the awesome things that comes out of that is that. You know, I can give you an example at Springville, we had a Nicole cane moved into our district as a ninth grader, had a couple of cousins on the team, you know?

And so they said, Oh, well, we, we practice a little bit differently. Well, she had no idea what to expect. She gets into summer workouts and it’s like, you know, the whole world is spinning around her. Like, it’s hard for her to keep up with what’s going on, but what’s awesome about that is it allows her teammates that are more experienced in that system.

To come alongside of her, you know, and to sort of be the mentors, to be the leaders, to be the ones that are vocally, trying to [00:42:00] help her, you know, learn the skills obviously, and being able to learn, even, just learn the games. And I think even that makes it a little bit more player, a player centered experience, which is better for everybody, you know?

And I think one of the things that we’ve seen with our players, whether they’re coming in as freshmen or, you know, as I changed schools and we’re, we’re introducing this for the first time is that players love it. Because they’re out for basketball because they love to play basketball. You know, standing 15 feet apart and playing catch with a basketball is not playing the game.

Playing four on four dribble. Plus one is playing the game because you’re doing everything that you have to do in the game. You’re defending, you’re moving, you’re passing, you’re catching you’re shooting. You know, you have the dribble elements. So it’s much more fun to work on your fundamentals, your decision making, you know, all of those kinds of things in the context of a game than it is to break it down into individual isolated drills.

 and that’s probably been one of the biggest rewards from this is that the kids just enjoy practice so much more, [00:43:00] especially because we’ve kind of incorporated it into just about everything that we do.

Mike Klinzing: [00:43:05] I think that’s a transformation that has happened, especially. In basketball over the last five to 10 years where you go back to 15 or 20 years ago.

And I’m not sure that there were a whole lot of coaches who were thinking about ways to make the game more fun for their players. I’m not sure that that was a mindset that was very common. Amongst coaches. And I think as time has gone on, I think coaches have come to realize along with the culture piece and along with the feeling that kids get from being a part of your team, I think that the idea of practice and being a member of the basketball team, being fun, I think just in general, that’s become more important than I think that’s a great trend because not only is it good for the kids in terms of their experience, but as you said, [00:44:00] The games based approach.

Not only is it fun, but it also is teaching kids the game. And I think one of the things that I see in terms of the resistance that you get sometimes from coaches and people that I know that I’ve seen coaching other teams, whether it’s at the youth level or a high school level, or in the AAU set a new setting.

When you talk to them about doing the games based approach or using that games based approach. One of the things that I hear sometimes resistance or people that, that makes them a little bit leery or hesitant of it is when you watch a practice that is a games based approach. There’s that old adage of that old theory of, well, if you’re scrimmaging all the time, and obviously the things that you just described are not scrimmaging.

It’s not rolling a ball out and standing on the sidelines and watch your players play. But there’s this perception that the games based approach can be, if you don’t do it right, can be. Tossing the balls out, [00:45:00] as opposed to, if I’m running a drill, boy, it really looks like I’m organized because I have my cones out or I have lines and the kids are repeating the same skill and boy, they really know how to do that.

Whereas the games based approach is much messier. And I think sometimes coaches have resistance to that. And yet, as you said, when you described the why behind it, and you help them to understand that, look. The game has played in this way with decisions involved in every skill. It’s not just having the skill it’s knowing when to apply the skill, but I do think that there is that shift towards the game being fun.

And the fact that it’s also beneficial to the product that you’re able to put out on the floor as a coach as well.

Nate Sanderson: [00:45:44] Well, I love the analogy that Daniel Coyle shares in The Talent Code. And I don’t get royalties off a pitch in this book, but it’s a great book.

Mike Klinzing: [00:45:52] That’s a great book, by the way. Anybody who hasn’t read it should definitely read it.

Nate Sanderson: [00:45:54] Yeah. He talks about, you know, the flight simulator when they use that in world war II. And I think that’s such a good [00:46:00] analogy of, you know, we can take pilots up in the air and we can work on all these different tactics. And if they crash and training, then they’re dead. You know, when we have to start with a new pilot and when they started using a flight simulator, they could make all the mistakes that they wanted.

They could crash into airplanes, they could run into mountains and they just restart the program, you know? And in a lot of ways, your kids are going to demonstrate proficiency or a lack of proficiency one way or the other. It’s either going to be on Tuesdays and Friday nights on game nights, or it’s an opportunity to sort of use the simulator in practice.

To be able to identify the areas that need more attention or more repetition or more teaching or whatever it might be. And so that, you know, you’re right. Practices are messy as hell. I mean, they really hard, you know, they’re chaotic and they’re unpredictable and that’s exactly what happens in the game as well.

You know? And so our players have to communicate through that, you know, as you get better at it,  you know, we try to teach through questioning instead of just. Lecturing. So if we see something that’s not going right in our three, on two [00:47:00] passing game, we may stop it and just ask the players, okay, what’s working right now.

You know, if the offense is up four to zero, what’s working, you know, and they may say, well, we’re passing the ball quickly and we’re ready to shoot whatever. And then we might ask the defense, well, what’s not working, you know, and somebody might say, Well, they’re playing with their hands down. So it’s easy to move the ball, you know, or they’re not dropping to get to the backside block or whatever it might be.

So we try to get them to get comfortable sharing. Their own perceptions and, you know, sharing that information with each other because as we would tell them, you know, we get to the games that we want to play in at the state tournament, Wells Fargo arena. There’s a lot of people there it’s really now you’re not going to be able to hear me at the other end of the floor.

And we want to be able to function without having to rely on the coach to solve all the problems. So that’s. How we choose to practice and it’s more difficult than it’s, as you said, it’s messier. If an AB walks in and they look at what’s going on, it probably doesn’t look as neat and as clean as maybe a traditional practice.

But there’s no question, at least in our [00:48:00] experience that not only is it more enjoyable, but it definitely accelerates a player’s development at the same time.

Mike Klinzing: [00:48:08] What were your challenges when you started to shift? To the games based approach. What were some things that, as a coach you had to adjust to, you had to figure out what were some of the obstacles from a coaching standpoint that you had to overcome in order to make your program more games based?

Nate Sanderson: [00:48:31] Well, I think initially, as I mentioned before, it’s, it’s sharing the philosophy so that your other coaches understand what you’re doing and why.  as we got better at it, you know, if we have 18 kids in a practice or 24 kids in a gym, obviously your initial challenges are, how do you break those? That, that larger group into,  you know, subgroups that can use the space as effectively as possible.

So whether that’s, you know, side baskets, whether that’s three coaches running three [00:49:00] different games, trying to figure out how to balance teams is always a challenge, you know, do you put your first five against your second five? Do you split the best players up when you’re doing four on four?  do you rotate teams?

How much repetition do your, does your rotation needs together?  and I think even. On a more foundational level, just understanding what is the purpose of every drill or game or activity that we’re doing? You know, one of the things, again, I share with coaches in a clinic setting is that let’s say you go back and you look at your film and you’re frustrated because you’re missing layups.

Well, you have to ask yourself, what is the context in which you’re missing those layups? Is it, is it in full court? Is it in the half court? Is it off the balance? Is it off of back? Cut? You know, not every layup is created the same. I’m guessing it’s probably not uncontested layups on a breakout. So where are those layups occurring?

And so then you figure out, okay, we’re missing, you know, whatever it is, four out of eight layups in our half court offense. And most of those are off the bounce. [00:50:00] So now my challenge as a coach is how do I recreate that situation? You know, a game like situation to practice those layups in the context of our office, where they’re occurring from the same angles, with the same defensive rotations.

So we can get as many repetitions in live play to address those particular layups that we’re missing in the game. And when you start to think that deeply about it, there’s a lot of things that become challenging. You know, again, Using the whole gym getting as many repetitions as you can, trying to match the drill to the exact situation that you’re trying to simulate.

But with enough randomness that it’s going to seem like a game. So there’s a lot of challenge when it comes to the artistry of using a games based approach.

Mike Klinzing: [00:50:44] How much better are you added today than when you first started to implement it?

Nate Sanderson: [00:50:49] Way better. I think when we first started doing it, it was kind of out of necessity.

I mean, I remember at Springville, we had a lot of kids that were multi-sport athletes and so half of our team [00:51:00] would play. JV softball games on Monday and Thursday and the other half would play on Tuesday and Friday or whatever it was. And so we would have open gym workouts with somewhere between four and eight players.

And we’re trying to figure out how do we teach our offense without being able to go five on five? Cause we never had 10 kids in the gym at one time. And so we just started playing with, well, what if we played three on three and we just play on the strong sites. We take like the ball side, half of our authentic.

And just run some of our options, you know, out of that alignment, but play at three on three. And that’s really how it started was just kind of some experimentation to, to make the most of having small groups of kids in the gym. And then we started expanding from there. We started reading some stuff for Brian McCormick around the same time.

 and so, you know, over the years, A lot of the summer to be quite honest, it’s used for experimenting with new ways to do new ways to teach new rules to implement. And then, you know, once we get into the season again, at [00:52:00] our best, I would say that we’re. We’re not rolling the balls out there to see where we’re at, but you know, we’re doing something out of the context of our offense.

Let’s say we’re working on a shuffle cut, you know, and we’re leading the cutter to the basket. And we realized that we can’t seem to get the timing of the past down in five, on five. So we might stop and now be able to back up and have in our kind of Rolodex of drills in our mind, we can go back and say, okay, let’s play.

One-on-one Wildcat cuts. So we’re going to have a pastor who already has the ball, a defender on the pastor. We’re going to send a cutter with a one step advantage and just work on the timing of that pass, you know, in a live situation in two, on two, we’ll do that for two or three minutes, and then we’ll jump back into five on five and see if it’s a little bit better.

I mean, that’s, that’s ultimately where I’m trying to get to is that we can diagnose and always have some sort of a prescription in another game-based format to be able to address. Whatever deficiencies that we happen to see in life play.

Mike Klinzing: [00:52:57] Okay. So that leads me to [00:53:00] a question about practice preparation and planning.

So you’re planning, let’s say a daily practice during the season. What does that process look like in terms of the amount of time that you spend planning for your practice? And then what does your actual practice plan look like in terms of. The drills that you put into it. And then when you run into a situation like you just described, I’m assuming that then you’re able to adjust, like you just said where, okay, this isn’t working in this particular format, but we still want to work on that skill.

How can we adjust the drill that we’re doing to make it work better? So just talk a little bit about your daily practice planning process.

Nate Sanderson: [00:53:44] Well, first of all, I would say I’m not good at planning practices, so I. We used to have a joke on our staff that we were going anytime I would walk in and not have a practice plan, we called it Louisville style.

Cause Jeff Walls at Louisville used to joke about that at clinics of, he would just walk [00:54:00] in on a Thursday to surprise his staff, you know, and they would make it up as they go. And as the season goes on, there’s a lot of act that goes on in our staff. I’ll be honest with you. I’m getting better.  but the way that I think about practice is.

Particularly in season when we’re preparing for an opponent. So let’s say we’re getting ready for somebody. That’s going to run some continuity ball, screen offense. I start working backwards from there and asking myself, what are the things that are going to beat us in this game? You know, if we’re going to be pressed and we can’t break the press and that’s where we’re going to lose, then that’s where we start in practice.

And so a lot of times I’ll literally just walk into practice with a three-by-five note card. That has what I would call our practice priorities. Here are the things that we have to be able to do in order to not lose the game. So it might again, start with press break. Maybe there’s a particular shooter that we really have to make sure that we know where she’s at.

So we do a game, you know, we play designated shooter or some kind of game where we’re defense is going to practice recognizing. How to track and communicate about a shooter [00:55:00] or, you know, maybe there’s something offensively that we really want to take advantage of. So that’s the next priority. And so by putting them in priorities, we don’t put a timestamp on that.

We don’t put 10 minutes up and say, you know, this is going to be our press break, you know, segment of practice. And when the horn goes off, we move on because we know if we don’t get it, we can’t move on it because we’re going to lose the game. If we can’t break the press. So if there’s 12 things on the list and we only get to number seven, at least I feel confident that we got to the seven most important things,  going into that next game.

And so, you know, again, we just sort of go through that process of alright, press break. What are the aspects of it that we’re going to, you know, where are we going to see pressure? Is it going to be a trap? Is it going to be man? You know? So we start to build out our games from there. And then when we feel comfortable with it, we just move on.

You know, we move on to the next thing on the list. And we try to get through as many things as we can. And the 90 minutes or two hours that we have in the gym.

Mike Klinzing: [00:55:56] When you’re putting together that practice plan, especially I’m thinking about [00:56:00] during the season, what role does film study play for you as a coach?

How much time do you spend watching your own team, watching your opponent?  do you ever take practices and go back and watch those to see how you get more out of them? Just talk to me about the role of film,  in your programs.

Nate Sanderson: [00:56:25] Well, unfortunate that I don’t have a real job and so I don’t teach anymore and I’ve got a lot of free time during the day and during the basketball season.

So I watch a ton of film, you know, and we’re prepared for somebody I want to watch at least. Two full games. I usually don’t watch those on regular speed. I’ll usually watch them either by possessions string, the offensive possessions together, the defensive possessions together, or just a lot of times I’ll watch, you know, a game where they’re playing an opponent.

That’s going to defend the same way that we will. So in our league, you know, there’s a couple of other management teams that follow some similar principles. So I [00:57:00] always try to watch them play against our opponents, if that makes sense.  if there’s something that. Concerns me, like, I’m not sure how we’re going to deal with a particular player or a particular action or a particular defense.

 there’s some coaches in our league that I really respect a lot. And so we have a,  film sharing agreement. So everybody puts all of their film, you know, into huddle so you can watch anybody’s games, but there’s a couple of guys that all always go back and see. How did they attack this one, three, one, because they’ll figure it out and I’ll steal their answers.

You know? So I do that a lot.  just in terms of, like I said, trying to find opponents that guard the way we do,  as well as the stealing from coaches that have played that team before. And then we, again, we’re just starting to build the things that we need to do,  to be able to compete with that team when it comes to our own film now is watch our games the night.

When I get home that night,  just because it helps me to calm down a little bit [00:58:00] and make sure that I’m emotionally reacting to the things that actually happened.  and sometimes that’s helpful for me to get to sleep at night.  but one of the things that we started doing a couple of years ago with film that was really, I think, a good addition for us as we’ll always watch, you know, pregame film about 15, 20 minutes during a practice,  the start of a practice.

And I used to be a coach that was like, all right, we’re going to go through all their out of bounds plays and their set plays and their calls and their defenses and their calls, and just completely overwhelmed our team that there’s no way that they could absorb that much information. And so I realized a couple of years ago, I’ve got to limit myself to the three most important things.

And sometimes that’s us, you know, so if we gave up 17 offensive, rebounds the game before. One of the most important things that we need to watch her, those 17 offensive rebounds to realize how they happen and truth be told most of the time they happen because we don’t guard the ball one on one and we get broken down and then our box outs and screwed up behind it.

Not necessarily because we weren’t boxing out, but that, that would be one theme, you know? And then there [00:59:00] might be, if the opponent has a really, again, difficult press, then maybe that’s the second theme. And then if they’ve got two really good individual players that we have to be aware of their tendencies, Then we watched their reels and then we’re done.

Like, I just, I won’t show them anything else, but we always end our practice or excuse me, our pregame film sessions with a reel of our makes from the previous game. Like I want them walking out of that room, always seeing the ball go through the basket. So I’ll go back and clip those out. In a huddle so that we can see how those shots were created, how we drew fouls and just watch the ball go in, you know, and I think that’s been a great way for us to end our film sessions and feel good going into the gym for practice right afterwards.

Mike Klinzing: [00:59:43] That’s a powerful way to get kids, to visualize and understand that they’re capable of being successful. And I think oftentimes you think about film and coaches use it as a tool to be able to point out. The stakes, which are again, learning [01:00:00] experiences. But I know sometimes that you can be with some coaches and in some programs where you talk to players and they dread going in and watching film because they know it’s just going to be the coach pointing out mistakes and errors.

And I think there’s something to be said for showing them the positive place too. So I think if you’re a coach out there and you are using film in the way that Nate just described, where you’re able to. Show the positive, in addition to highlighting the areas that you need to improve. To me, that’s a great use of film that not only helps the kids learn, but also helps to build their confidence, which we know as a coach, that that’s a really, really important part of having success as a team.

Is that. Your players are confident in their ability when they go out onto the floor.

Nate Sanderson: [01:00:42] And Mike, can I just add one thing to that too? You know, for a long time, I used to do exactly what you’re talking about there, where we would show our mistakes. You know, we let the ball go by whatever.  and we really don’t do that very often.

Like I bet in a 21 game schedule, We might have three or four [01:01:00] segments during the year where we’re really going back and saying, okay, we’re making the same mistake consistently and we need to see it so that we better understand it before we go in and we work on it. Otherwise I’m really trying to show our kids.

Look, we may not do a great job defending the ball and that results in offensive rebounds being allowed. But instead of showing the mistakes, I’m going to bring up four or five clips of this is what great on ball defense looks like. This is what we want every time, because watch this, you know, we contain the ball, we can test the shot, pause it.

Look, everybody’s got their, blockouts why? Because the ball was contained here. And if I can find four or five of those possessions where it’s done, right. Again, I’d rather have our kids walk out of the room with the image of what it looks like done correctly and us doing it correctly. Then the image of them screwing up and making mistakes when it’s done incorrectly.

Right? Like I want to mimic when it’s done. Right. And I want to show them that so that we can do it again.

Mike Klinzing: [01:01:57] I think that’s really a good point. And I think it goes [01:02:00] along with. The idea of being specific in the way that you coach and the things that you asked kids to do. So if, again, let’s just say it’s on ball defense and you just say, Hey, we need to play better on ball defense or this on ball defense.

Isn’t very good. And they’re watching somebody get blown by, on the defensive end, the floor. Yeah. Conversely, if you can go and you can. Pull up a clip of a kid playing great on ball defense. You can now point out some of the techniques, some of the things that they’re doing well, look, look how much they’re in a stance.

Look where their hands are, look how active their feet are. And now when I’m a kid after I’ve seen that. Now, when I go out on the practice floor, I go into a game. I know what some of the movements, some of the actions, some of the behaviors are that translate to success. And to me, that’s a much more powerful visual.

Than it is to just show mistakes where you’re really not seeing someone do things correctly. And as you said, there are moments where if it’s a repetitive [01:03:00] mistake that they need to see the mistake being made. But then if you can couple that with the same situation where they handle it correctly, to me, that’s a much more powerful teaching tool than just continuing to show mistakes all the time.

Nate Sanderson: [01:03:12] I agree, a hundred percent, you know, one of the other things that kind of stems off of that, that we’ve gotten better at over the years is even the language that we’re using to talk about our mistakes. You know, I used to be a coach and a pregame that would say, Hey, we gotta take care of the ball. It’s not turn it over.

Blah, blah, blah. We used to track, you know, the number of turnovers or the turnover, percentage, whatever, but we’ve changed our language now to say, look, we want to get shots on 85% of our possessions, rather than saying, you know, we want our turnover percentage to be 15 or less. Why not put the objective of the possession in front of them every time and say, we want to get shots, right?

That’s the goal, get a shot on every possession.  and just little things like that, the more we can program the positive and the objective and the outcome that we want into their mind. I think the easier it is for them, you know, to chase and [01:04:00] replicate that thing.

Mike Klinzing: [01:04:01] Yeah. I love that. I think that’s something that you hear in education as a teacher, too, that your rules.

Shouldn’t be don’ts they should be dues. So these are the things that we, we do, or we want to do not the things that we can’t do or we shouldn’t do. And there’s a lot of power in that, in that you give kids the opportunity to focus on what their, what they need to do well, rather than trying to avoid making mistakes.

And we all know that the player who is out there playing and is trying to avoid making mistakes or doing things that are going to make the coach mad. As opposed to the player who’s playing loose and free and trying to do positive things. We all know the difference between those two players. Anybody who’s played the game or coach the game, you could probably watch a team play for three minutes and recognize the players who are out there who are playing afraid to make mistakes versus the players who were playing loose and free and trying to really go out and do the things that are going to lead to success.

There’s a huge difference in my mind between those two [01:05:00] mindsets and a player.

Nate Sanderson: [01:05:01] Oh, for sure. And you know, as coaches, we have a tremendous amount of influence over how those thought patterns begin to develop in our players. You know, if again, one of the benefits I think of a game based approach in practice is that it really teaches a growth mindset.

You know, it says, look, we’re going to create this game four and four dribble plus one. And it’s going to be hard to recognize when you should dribble and there’s times where you’re going to dribble and you’re going to pass it to somebody and you didn’t create an advantage. And they made a mistake and you know, or that was a mistake and they didn’t get a shot off, but now we have an opportunity to learn, right.

And our learning doesn’t just occur in practice. You know, we want to value our mistakes in games because they teach us, right. Failure is an opportunity to learn just as much as. Successes. And I, so I think those things become a little bit symbiotic. You know, that when we start to embrace our mistakes as learning opportunities and our failures is nothing more than feedback, then all of a sudden we can play with a little bit more freedom.

We can practice with a little bit less pressure [01:06:00] and hopefully enjoy the game even more on the Tuesdays and Friday nights.

Mike Klinzing: [01:06:05] Let me ask you this, because I think it’s an important point that. Covers the whole spectrum of coaching, but I think it’s particularly relevant after what you just said. And that is that we ask our players to not be afraid to make mistakes and use those mistakes as learning experiences.

And I think one of the things that you always think about as a coach is that when you’re trying to develop behaviors in your players, from whether that’s working hard, whether that’s being polite, whether that’s. Whatever a piece of your culture, that what you do as a coach is so important. Cause your players are always watching you in the way you do things.

So let’s say there’s a situation where you as a coach make a mistake. How do you go about with your team owning that mistake and modeling for them? What it’s like to make a mistake and then recover [01:07:00] from that mistake and learn from it.

Nate Sanderson: [01:07:02] Well, one of the phrases that my players hear all the time in practice is that’s bad coaching, and it’s not me calling out my assistants calling out myself.

You know, as I mentioned before, we like to experiment with a lot of different games and rules and,  you know, creating different things in practice. And sometimes those don’t work. Sometimes I don’t communicate those very well. Sometimes we try a game and it’s too complicated and the kids can’t figure it out, so they can’t really play.

And so we just pause and we’re like, okay, That was bad coaching, go grab a quick drink, give me a minute to talk to the staff and figure it out. And when they come back read, they’re going to try it again, but I’m going to explain it better or make it better, or we’re going to just move on, you know, certainly in a post game conversation in the locker room, you know, if there’s something that we did wrong in terms of a game plan or a strategy or something like that,  we will own up to that right away.

I mean, I don’t. I don’t have a lot of pride when it comes to being a coach, because I’ve, you know, as we’ve gone through [01:08:00] my history, we’ve won a couple state championships and I’ve been the head coach for winless seasons.  and so there’s not a lot of ego involved anymore, you know, it just comes down to.

This, we tried this, it didn’t work. This is why we did it. And this is what we’re going to do differently now going forward. And a lot of times, you know, that those kinds of things may come out of the film session. They make them out of practice. They make them out of the halftime where we’re saying, look, we tried this.

It was a stupid idea. It’s my fault. We’re going to do this instead. And we just, you know, here’s why, and we, we go out and we, we give it our best, you know, in the second half. So I think you’re right, you know, that growth mindset, that ability to bounce back from mistakes to learn from them. It starts with the coach.

You know, if the coach is unwilling to admit an error or admit that a strategy didn’t work or decision didn’t pan out, it makes it a lot harder for kids to own their mistakes and want to learn from them as well.

Mike Klinzing: [01:08:49] I love what you said about designing a drill and practice that you think is going to work.

And then you go out to try to execute it. And so being a complete disaster, I think [01:09:00] every coach has probably been there. I know I’ve been there several times, myself and you get in a situation like that. And I don’t know that I’ve used the phrase, that’s bad coaching, but I know I’ll stop a drill and I’ll just be like, well, I thought that was going to be something really good.

I thought it was really going to work and guess what? I was wrong, it’s too complicated. Or it’s just whatever my intent was, didn’t ended up, you know, it didn’t end up coming out the way that I thought it was. And at that point you just have the conversation with players. You’re like, look, here’s what we’re trying to do.

It didn’t work. We’re still going to work on that same skill. And as we talked about before, if you’re a good coach, I think you’re able to make those adjustments on the fly and say, okay, we can still work on this same scale, but we’re just going to adjust. The way that we’re going to do it. I think that’s part of, as you said, numerous times tonight, that’s part of having a growth mindset is being willing to get out of your comfort zone, both as a player and as a coach, try something new.

Sometimes you’re going to hit on something that works. And then there’s often going to be times where, what you try doesn’t work and then you have to be [01:10:00] human enough to admit your mistakes and let the players see that. Because clearly we’re asking our players to do those same things. We’re asking them to learn from mistakes and try to grow.

And so as coaches. I really think that being a role model is so important because there’s that old saying of, you know, players can’t hear what I’m saying, because they’re watching what I’m doing or whatever that saying is basically I can’t hear you because I’m watching what you do. And that, to me, that’s, that’s so, so important.

And so I want to make sure that we get a chance to talk about your, the way you handle and the way you engage parents in your program. Because to me, that’s one of the things that.  I discovered this,  the way that you did this a couple of years ago, I’ve used maybe not the whole part, whole thing, cause I haven’t been a high school coach during this time, but I’ve certainly used bits and pieces of this,  with the teams that I’ve coached at the, the AAU and travel basketball level.

So I would just want to go into sort of your [01:11:00] system for how you engage parents in your program, because I think this is something that can be. Used by coaches at all levels. And it’s very, very applicable. So let’s just kind of go through and talk a little bit about how you engage parents in your program.

Nate Sanderson: [01:11:16] Yeah, well, a couple of years ago I wrote an article for breakthrough basketball, about a parent meeting that we had at Springville. That was a little bit different than anything we’d ever tried before. I remember telling the parents that night, you know, we’re either going to change the world or we’re never going to do anything like this again.

And my thinking going into that meeting was for so long, you know, we talk about culture and we talk about our values and we talk about our standards and what we want our program to be like and what we want the experience for kids to be like, And then we try to hold parents, you know, at arms length, like stay outside the fishbowl.

You know, you can look through it, you can watch us have a good time, but really we don’t want to have any interaction with you. You know, a great year for me as a coach is one where I don’t have to deal with the parents. [01:12:00] Right. And so, as I started thinking more and more, you know, love each other was one of the phrases that was really important to us at Springville.

We really weren’t doing that with the parents. And so during this parent meeting, we essentially, we did two things. Number one, we translated our values into parent behaviors. So the first thing that we really, you know, as big for us, it’s just the idea of playing hard giving effort, doing more than what’s required.

Well, we, we explain and we brainstorm as a team, what that actually looked like, you know, for us in practice and. In the gym on game nights and that sort of thing, but we never really thought about what does that look like for a parent, you know, for a parent that wants to participate in our culture. What does it look like to play hard?

And so we gave them a list of, you know, here are things that you can do, you know, to sort of share in that experience. It might be doing the score book. It might be hosting team dinners. It might be doing the laundry, you know, whatever it might be, but just giving them some concrete ways that they can serve the program that [01:13:00] they can sacrifice a little bit in order to, to, to play hard, right.

To do something beyond what’s required. And then that second piece for us to play hard, love each other. You know, we talked a little bit about how do you best support a student athlete, you know, as a parent, as a sports parents, and really just introduce some of the literature and some of the things that have come out from John O’Sullivan’s work and many others about, you know, what.

Is most impactful to help kids have a great experience. What can you do from a parent’s role and shared some of those things. And then our third thing at Springville was we just do what we do. You know, we practice different. I think we ran kind of a unique offense, you know, and kind of our style of play in our culture.

And all those things were just a little bit different from a lot of other places. So what are some unique traditions that our parents can participate in? And I’ll give you one example. The first year we went to the state tournament. In 2015, we were ranked like number 11 in the state. We kind of made this solar Cinderella run to get there and then [01:14:00] ended up making it all the way to the state championship game.

But after every game that we played at Wells Fargo arena, our parents just kinda congregated outside of the elevator where the team would come up from, from the locker room, after we’re done with the media and you know, our talk and all that stuff. So for the next three years, when we ended up going back to the state tournament, after every game.

The Springville community was lined up in this spirits on all halfway across the Concourse at Wells Fargo arena. Like that became something that was ours, right. Something that was unique. And so it was the parents thing. So we just tried to brainstorm just other traditions that became unique to our program.

So a lot of that was just inviting them in sort of creating some boundaries. Like if you want to serve, here’s how you can serve.  if I was going to do another parent meeting tomorrow, I would add some things, you know, that maybe you shouldn’t do these things playing hard. Doesn’t mean I don’t need Scott reports and suggestions about how to run our offense and defense, but that’s another conversation, but I do think there’s, you know, there’s room for that as well.

[01:15:00] And then the second thing that we outlined in that article is I had the parents.  we handed out some note cards in this meeting.  three note cards, the first note card we asked them, I want you to write down. What your individual goals would be for your daughter this season? Just something that’s measurable.

Do you want her to be on varsity or JV? A starter rotation score, certain number of points, you know, whatever it might be, but what would be a couple of goals for your daughter and on the back of that, what would be a couple of goals that you would have for her team this year? You know what I’m trying to gauge their expectations a little bit, but, but it was also good for them to put that stuff down.

Then we go to the second card and really asking them. Maybe the most important question that we can ask them. And we tell them this, what if I told you tonight that no matter what we do, no matter how hard your daughter works, no matter how much film we watch, no matter how many weights we lift, no matter what, she’s not going to be able to accomplish the goals that you just wrote down.

And as a team, you might want us to finish in [01:16:00] the top three in the conference. You might want us to get to the state tournament or be above 500 or whatever. But what if I told you no matter what we do. That is not going to happen this year. What do you want your daughter’s experience to be like, even if we can’t accomplish any of our goals and here, we’re really trying to get them to think outside of just the outcome, you know, what would make this experience meaningful, even if we don’t accomplish any of those goals.

And so they write these things down and then on the third and we had them share a little bit, and then on the third card we ask them. About their experience, like their experience as a sports parent, we said, listen, you guys are going on the road. You’re, you’re sitting in these bleachers, you’ve been doing it your whole lives.

What would be the ideal experience for you in the stands? And they talk about things like, it’d be great if it was a friendly environment, you know, if all the parents cheered for all the kids,  if [01:17:00] everybody said hello to each other, And just having them share a little bit of that with each other, empowered them to be able to start creating that experience to be valuable for them in the stands as we went throughout the season.

Mike Klinzing: [01:17:17] Isn’t that crazy? That it’s kind of amazing to me that when you think about a parent talking about the kind of experience that. They would like to have, and the things that you said totally hit on, if you’ve been around a high school program or you’ve gone to a high school game, or, you know, people whose kids are on a high school team.

And even when you said that the parents say hi to each other and the parents cheer for everybody on the team, the fact that we even have to say that to me is. Almost amazing. I know we do. I’ve seen it almost everywhere that I’ve been where you have [01:18:00] this group of parents it’s over here and this group of parents sits over here and they don’t talk to each other because of whatever reason, maybe it’s something to go with the current team, or maybe it’s something that happened back when they played fifth grade basketball.

And it’s just, it’s one of those things that I think just by getting them to talk about it can make a very, very powerful impression and just make them. Self aware of the situation that they’re putting themselves in. And I heard, I can’t remember where I heard this, but it was something that has stuck with me ever since I heard it.

And that was, you see parents sometimes in the stands at a high school game. And they’re yelling at the coach. They’re yelling at the official, they’re yelling at their kid, coaching them from up in the stands. And sometimes I’ll sit at games and I’ll watch parents that do those kinds of things. And what I read was is that should that [01:19:00] experience of watching your kid B enjoyable, and if it’s not enjoyable, Then why are you going to the games and watching your kid play?

If every time you go, you’re just miserable and yelling at everybody and all these kinds of things. And it just really made me think about what the experience is like for sports parents. And this is a question that I’ve done this activity with parents on teams that I’ve coached since I read your article.

And I really do think that what it does is it makes people aware of. Their own behavior and its impact on the people around them. And I think it’s just a really, really powerful question. And so I’m curious just for you to share maybe some of the results that you got in the moment in terms of what people would say, and then also kind of how that translated across your season.

Nate Sanderson: [01:19:57] Well, the first year that we did it, I came home that night [01:20:00] after the parent meeting and I thought, man, I don’t know if that was the dumbest thing we ever did or the greatest thing we ever did. And I got a text message, not too long after that from one of the dads in our program. And he said, really appreciate the parent meeting tonight.

Never been part of anything like that before your second question really made me think about what I want Riley to get out of her sports experience. And I’ve never really thought about it that way before. And I thought, I mean, he’s coached her since she was in third grade and, you know, been doing it his whole life and.

Forgive the thing for the first time, what do I want her to get out of this experience that would make it meaningful besides being all conference or having a winning record or whatever? To me, just about as much as anything, you know, we had a board member, then I had a daughter in our program that year.

 and at the next school board meeting, he said, I just want to get this on the record, make sure that this gets in the minutes, but I went to the girl’s basketball pyramid and the other night, and it was the most amazing parent meeting that I’ve ever been a part of. And then he [01:21:00] shared a little bit of the things that we did, you know, so immediately I just think the parents responded because they felt like they were invited into something rather than just sort of fenced off into an area and asked not to screw this up for everybody else.

You know, there’s another story that I tell from that season where we had one senior on that particular team that was not chosen to be a captain.  and she was devastated. So we, we do an election and I don’t rig it. So it’s what the kids want for their captains. And that’s a whole nother process, but she went home that night, slammed the door.

She just balling, you know, and she’s so upset. And so know, mom reaches out to me and sends me a text and just said, you know, I’m just sharing this with you. That kg is really upset because she wasn’t chosen to be a captain. And I just would like you to talk to her and I could tell. From the tone of voice that mom was also mad about this, but she was trying to funnel it into a conversation between me and kg.

So the next day at practice, you know, [01:22:00] next couple of practices, she’s putting on a good face and doing what she’s supposed to do. And the next time that we had a road trip, I think we had a Jamboree or something like that a couple of days later. And I sat down next to her on the bus and we just talk a little bit about it.

And I said, kG, I know you’re disappointed that you weren’t chosen to be a captain this year. And I said, there’s nothing that you or I can do about that now. But I want you to know that you don’t have to be at the pregame meeting to start, you know, a game to be a leader on this team, you know, and I just tried to encourage her of all the things that she does well as a teammate and she can still lead.

She can still be there. She can still be supportive. She can still set a great example. You know, she can still leave a great legacy as a senior and her mom came back to me at the end of the year and said, Just that she appreciated me, you know, having that conversation with her and said that that changed the trajectory of her senior year.

You know, she could tell that something was different after we had that conversation. And I think that that may not have happens if we didn’t invite parents in and [01:23:00] encourage them to understand sort of their role in the program in the same way that we have very deliberate conversations with our players about what their role is on the team.

By allowing parents and sort of empowering them to share that information with me, allowed me to, as I said, change the trajectory of kg’s season, right?

Mike Klinzing: [01:23:21] That’s certainly coaches have probably all been in similar situations where that could have gone completely in another direction where that player maybe doesn’t bring to your attention what the problem is, and you’re searching for it, trying to figure it out.

And in the meantime that player’s performance maybe goes down or maybe they start infecting the people around them and grumbling, and then you end up with this whole other issue. And I think by opening it up, one of the things that’s to me really, really important to building a great team is to be able to have that open and honest communication.

And that’s something that we as coaches preach very, very often to our players, that we need [01:24:00] to be able to communicate open and honestly about. Where we are and what your skills are and where you are, and what’s your role on the team. And then as you’ve said, a couple of times during the course of this discussion with parents, oftentimes with parents, we just want to shut them down and we don’t want to hear what they have to say.

We don’t want to know what they think. We don’t want their opinions. And yet I think when you do open up and you do engage and you do have those lines of communication open, you can oftentimes find out things like you found in that situation. You’ve just described that ultimately end up being.

Beneficial to the student athlete to you as the coach, and then ultimately to the parent who cares about the wellbeing of their child and the experience that they’re going to have as part of your program. And so I think what I loved about this when I first saw it, and it was great to be able to talk to you more about the specifics of it is it’s just a different way to be able to bring parents into your program and [01:25:00] to often.

What I’ve seen is a case where the parent and the coach, there’s really not much in the way of a relationship built. And you think about the amount of time that you as the coach spend with their child, especially if you’re talking about at the high school level, where you might have that kid as a part of your program for four years of the interacting with them for that length of time.

And yet how much time you really spend. Talking with parents or being involved with that child’s parent. And to be able to open up those lines of communication, one, it just helps no matter what the situation is. And then if there ever is a difficult issue that has to be discussed, if you already have that relationship, it makes it so much easier to have that conversation when you’ve already had positive communication with the parent.

If you haven’t talked to them and suddenly you’re. Having to have a conversation about playing time or a discipline issue, that conversation’s gonna be a lot tougher if you don’t have a good relationship already established.

Nate Sanderson: [01:25:58] Yeah, no question laying the [01:26:00] groundwork ahead of time is crucial.  can I share one other thing that we’ve, we’ve done in the past?

That’s been really good in terms of just trying to get parents to congeal around a common purpose. Absolutely.  a couple of years ago, we started asking our players before the season started. You know, we send them a Google form with some survey questions, and one of them was, you know, what do you want your experience to be like this year?

 and so they would listen things and we would, we would keep track of those, but we would then ask them, what are some things that your coaches can do to help make sure that you have that kind of experience? So they talk about, you know, we want to work hard. We want to feel like family. We want to make sure we’re getting better.

We want to be competitive. Well, what are things that we can do as coaches to help create that experience for you? And the next question is what are some things that our coaches can do that would keep you from having that experience? So we’re getting really good feedback just on our own coaching, right.

Going into the season, and then we ask them, well, what about your teammates? The same two questions? What are the things your teammates can do to [01:27:00] help you have that experience? What are things that your teammates could do that would keep you from having that experience? And we share that at our preseason player meeting, but then we also ask them, what are things that your parents can do?

To help you have that experience. Cause I think even when parents come in to that room, you know, for your preseason parent meeting and they have their own agendas, you know, whether it’s for their daughter, for the team or whatever it might be, you can typically get them to agree that they want their kids to have a great experience.

And so if the players can articulate what they want that experience to be like, and you can share that with the parents and then you can say, listen, the players said. Here are things that parents can do to help us have this kind of experience. And we just put the survey results right up there and shared it with the parents in a PowerPoint, you know, and it’s simple things like I want mom and dad to show up for as many games as they can, if the parents could cheer for all the kids and not just their own, you know, like little things like that, that make a difference to [01:28:00] kids.

It may be a little bit passive aggressive to try to come at the parents and say, look, here’s, this is really good sports parenting behavior. But really, if they can agree that they want their kid to have a great experience and the kids can say, well, here’s how you can help us do that. We found that that’s a good way for parents to kind of congeal around that purpose as well.

And then we also share the list of what are some things that your parents could do that would keep you from having that kind of experience. And what comes out of that oftentimes is don’t embarrass me by yelling from the stands. Don’t criticize the coach or my teammates when I come home,  don’t yell at the referees cause that’s embarrassing too.

You know, it’s the things that, as a coach, you’re sitting here thinking, I wish I could just tell them this, this and this, but the players feel the same way. Right. And again, you’re bringing them back to the idea of when you do these things. It’s not just that you’re embarrassing yourself or our program, you know, or you’re standing, sticking out in the stands.

But you’re actually detracting from the [01:29:00] experience that your daughter wants to have. And so we just sort of become a conduit and it’s anonymous because there’s kids that, you know, they can’t tell their parents that they don’t want to be coached when they come home, but that comes out four or five times a year.

You know, that there are kids that. They don’t want that car ride home. They don’t want dad waiting at the kitchen table to go over all their mistakes. And this is a way for them to express that again, in, in a, in a way that is not threatening and brings us all sort of aligned in the idea that teammates, coaches, and parents, they’re all things that we can do and things that we shouldn’t do to create the best experience possible for this team.

Mike Klinzing: [01:29:38] That’s awesome. I love that. I think that. That’s a great way to wrap up as we come up on an hour and a half. I think that when you talk about getting all those different constituencies on the same page, coaches, players, parents, when everybody’s rowing that boat in the same direction, and everybody has this [01:30:00] idea of what they want their experience to be like, I think in general, it’s going to become more of a self fulfilling prophecy in that.

Hey, we recognize that this is the situation that we want to create. Now let’s go out and do the things that we need to create it, whether that’s us as a coaching staff, whether that’s our players or whether that’s the parents that are a part of our program. I think that’s a very, very powerful message that you’re sending out to all those different constituents.

Before we get done. I want to give you a chance to share what you have going right now. What are some of the things that you’re doing in your career at this point beyond high school basketball coaching share, where people can find out more about what you’re doing, your website, your social media, give all that information out.

If there’s one final point that you want to make before we finish up, go ahead and do that. And then I’ll jump back up, jump back in and wrap up the episode.

Nate Sanderson: [01:30:53] Well, that sounds great, Mike, I appreciate you having me on,  coaches can find me on Twitter at coach N [01:31:00] Sanderson.  that’s probably the easiest way to kind of keep up with some of the things that we’re doing.

As you know, I work with,  JP Nirvana at thrive on challenge. And during the pandemic year, we’ve been offering webinars during the week.  and I’ve been doing a lot of small group webinars with eight to 10 coaches on just a variety of issues,  for coaches from all sports, which has been interesting to have them sharing some of their experiences.

I’m the cohost of the coaching culture podcast,  with JP Nerbun. And that says something we’ve been doing together here for about a year and a half,  that we really enjoyed.  and other than that, I just,  do occasionally I write for breakthrough basketball and publish some articles there.  and I worked for JP and our mentorship program at thrive on challenge as well.

Mike Klinzing: [01:31:43] Nate, we can’t thank you enough for spending an hour and a half with us tonight. It’s been an absolute pleasure. Getting a chance to talk to you. Go through the things that you’ve done and learned throughout your career to allow you to have a successful coaching career.  I know that all the things that you’re doing with JP, we had him on his [01:32:00] episode and the things that he brought to the table were tremendous.

And I know you guys are doing great things with Thrive on Challenge. So I’m excited to see where you guys kind of take that platform and what you’re able to do and build it and to everyone out there. Thanks for listening. And we will catch you on our next episode.

Thanks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *