Tom’s Christmas Letter and Presence at Year’s End…

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Hello again…I know, I know: “where have you been, tom?”…Let’s just say this: I’ve been a busy camper over the last several months, beginning with my Best Effort Camps & Clinics for kids in Seattle, Tukwila and Renton community centers…We had a great summer together…

I also visited the Bay Area to help Coach Bob Hill and Frank Matrisciano (Personal Trainer of the Highest Degree) at a summer-long program they operate…Frank is the gentleman who trained the NBA’s #1 pick, Blake Griffin, for a couple of years while he was attending Oklahoma as an underclassman…That experience was terrific for several reasons…Beginning with working with Patrick Patterson and Daniel Orton of the University of Kentucky and Anthony Goods (formerly of Stanford), and Ed White (former Yale player)…There were about 18 players at the maximum training in the morning with Coach Hill (longtime NBA coach) and running sand dunes in the afternoons with Frank…Great stuff there…will redo that trip again this summer…

While there, I was fortunate enough to visit my high school JV coach, Ned Averbuck and his Family…Ned is and has been one of the most incredible positive influences in my life as a young neophyte in life as a teenage student-sometimes-athlete, teaching me and my teammates the values of working as a team and trusting one another through hard work and best effort always…he and his wife, Maxine, were gracious hosts to my visit in Sebastopol, California…Beautiful city, beautiful home, beautiful people…She is an artist, author and Grandmother extraordinaire…Ned is also an artist, a graphic “live” artist, meaning his work is on a court, not canvas, the colors being participants in his basketball academy, the abstracts defined by their unique skills set, but all blending together as a model of discipline and execution…And to think, I was invited to participate and “add” to his academy…That was one of the highlights of my summer experiences for sure…

Then in September, I was fortunate enough to have the wonder-filled experience of visiting Belfast, Ireland, Madrid, Spain and Boom, Belgium…All basketball related experiences…Belfast, Cork and Dublin, Ireland, were the cities where my Coaches Who Care, International coaches training clinics took place…I cannot begin to describe the exhilarating anxieties of being in my late Mother and Father’s parents country…First, growing up in a parochial academic environment and seeing photos and hearing stories from our Catholic teachers about the religious issues between Protestants and Catholics, and their hatred for one another and that same disdain carrying over from generation to generation in Belfast and all of Northern Ireland…Scary stuff for sure…And here I was in the middle of it all…Accompanying me was my good friend and assistant coach, Larry Stone of Seattle…LStone has helped me before in my clinics and is also a former youth select team girls coach in Seattle…He was kind enough to take the time from his busy schedule to accompany me on this trip and film the program until he returned to Seattle before my departure…We had a great experience together, teaching kids in 3 different cities as well as working with the coaches…

Madrid, Spain…that was an in-between trip, leaving Belfast for 3 days and accepting the FIBA (International Basketball Association) Hall of Fame Award Posthumously on behalf of my Family in honor of Pete Newell, my late father…That experience was an emotional highlight, culminated by thanking those in attendance for the opportunity to celebrate Coach Pete’s contributions to the modern game of basketball…Oscar Robertson was also inducted at the same time, both men representing the Gold Medal winning 1960 Olympic Men’s Basketball Team…

Fast Forward: well, I’m into my coaches training program once again…here in Seattle, Tukwila and Renton, Washington…It is such a great joy to have this opportunity to help volunteer coaches with learning how to teach young participants how to play basketball…Too often, we see former players in high school and perhaps college, become volunteer coaches in youth sports, self-believing that their ‘knowledge’ of playing and competing automatically qualify them to coach kids at the elementary, middle school and teen age levels (AAU)…Little do these coaches realize that they can’t coach basketball unless they teach the game (fundamentals, rules and habits) first…That’s where our program comes in as a mentor of sorts…I really enjoy the challenges associated with these annual trainings…Coach Ernie Woods, former NW college basketball icon, assists me as well…Together, we have provided a genuine template for volunteer coaches to draw from, and hopefully implement with their respective teams…Fingers crossed every season…

Now for my annual “Gem from the Gym” for parents, kids and players alike…

I made this statement awhile ago, during an interview with� a sports journalist in Canada during a break in one of my clinics/camps...I share this with all of you this Holiday Season, as a reminder about what you do have control over when you're on any team, especially basketball...Merry Christmas, Happy New ALL Year and thank you for your commitment each time we train, each application on our repetitive moves, and more importantly, thank your parents for me, please, for their trust and confidence that I am helping you become more knowledgeable and efficient as a Team Player...Being a Leader is a Feeder...being negative is Destructive...Teach yourself how to be Constructive and Productive...Coach tom

"I think every player on any team has the potential to be "great"...Great as a sub...great as a backup Point, Post, Forward or an end of the bench player who never gets to play but is invaluable to his/her team in practice because of their hustle and effort plays...Great as role player...Great as a Team Player...Great in the locker room...Great in the community, volunteering to help where help is needed...Great at making "value decisions" socially...Great in school...Great with fellow students and fans and in the stands." tn 2004

Part II of my Presence to all players at any level in basketball and sports in general…This reflection is to, hopefully, disarm the angst and disappointment that may be affecting parents, kids playing on a team now, and the overall emotions attached to being on a basketball team today…

As a Starter: This position on a basketball team is one that is earned a couple of different ways today: one is that if you possess innate basketball skills or a unique skills set (ballhandling razzle dazzles; shooting prowess; pogo stick jumping ability; elongated length not present in other teammates, etc.), then there’s a pretty good chance that you will be given the chance to shine…Now “given” this anointing, one has to bring his/her skills set everyday in practice and/or games, less the coaches lose confidence in your abilities and then you lose your self confidence and joy of playing, which means it is NOW no longer fun to lace up the sneakers, put on the gear and get out on the court…I do NOT know ANY participant and/or player in organized basketball that has not experienced the personal feelings and thoughts to “quit” playing at one time or another because of not having fun anymore with the game…Really, it has been this way for many many years and the many many tears of all players…This I know about basketball: it is an activity of adversity personified, daily, but in reality, diversified in so many facets of the game itself: turnovers, air balls, missed layups, missed FTs, poor defense, injury, social issues off the court, insecurity about playing in front of others, etc…So, when it comes to being a “starter” in high school, you enter a rare strata of “expectations and revelations” in basketball at ANY level: Sadistic Statistics overtake the reality of being a Team Player and just playing to continue getting better and helping the team succeed…In other words, for some reason, parents and kids think that “if” they start they NEED to SCORE POINTS and START if the opportunity is going to evolve towards the “next” level of competition and maybe, just maybe a scholarship that would reward the parents for the monetary “investment” in summer AAU tournaments and playing interstate games…The “rare strata” is definitely an eye opener to expectant Dads and Moms, trust me…and the kids themselves…Let me explain the “why” here…

IF a player in high school is NOT playing to the level of expectation (coach/parents), AND the team is losing, well, it is known as the “deep freeze” in basketball jargon: kids go mute, because of frustration…parents go batty wanting “answers” from their son/daughter, coach, other parents…and coaches having self doubts about skills of player(s) and second guessing “choice” of player(s) starting…Conversely, the kids on teams that ARE winning early, and everyone happy, to a point, STILL have an expectant level of results, thus “persecuting” their minds and psyche over and over again daily, until they have a “better” sadistic statistic (points, points, points…assists, assists, assists…rebounds, rebounds, rebounds…) that they can “sleep” on…Sounds crazy doesn’t it? It IS!! What we all need to do PRIOR to any season is sit down, independent of one another (parents, kids and even coaches), and write down 5 “expectations” of what each envisions for the upcoming season…Then, on the other side of the paper, write down the “revelations” that you fear most with your expectations…Example: starting or not…scoring or not…lots of playing time or not…better than others or not…adversity and not overcoming same…When you complete this exercise, you really and truly now “enter” a strata level of reality, that is healthy to you and your sportslife son/daughter that will evolve over the course of 3 parts to the season: the beginning, the middle and the end…Try it, it’s not too late…

IF you are a Substitute, active off the bench: this is a critical position in basketball, much like soccer, in that one HAS to be ready to perform on a moment’s notice: “teammate gets hurt…teammate starts off poorly…teammate not ready for prime time…teammate not playing defense…teammate playing selfishly…teammate not bringing leadership…teammate not executing…”…Substitute “teammate” for “Starter” and now you understand how very very important the “Sub” becomes to every team…This I know well: NO TEAM HAS 5 PLAYERS WHO PLAY EVERY MINUTE OF EVERY GAME AND PLAYS PERFECTLY…Do you know such a player? If so, please contact me directly…So, back to the “Sub” role: YOU ARE THE GLUE to any team’s success…You have the responsibility to be like a Fireman when you hear your name called, and the Fireman hears the bell for a call of action: respond, adrenalin rushing like a Winter River’s runoff, KNOWING exactly what the team NEEDS from you at that point in the game…HELP…Never ever take your position on any team lightly, EVER…If your best role on your team is to come off the bench to “spark” the team on Defense and Offense with your intelligence, skills set, best effort, well so be it: be the best freakin Team Player that ALL YOUR TEAMMATES and Coaches and parents could ever imagine or observe…I LOVE Subs, Bench Players, Role Players off the bench, Backups, you name it, whatever you want to call them, THEY ROCK!!! Parents understand this: Coaches in high school sometimes LOSE sight of player development, and will inevitably “pigeon-hole” your son/daughter because they’ve seen them at an early age in the program and unless they grow to 6’5” or above, will continue to pigeon hole them UNLIKE a college coach who evaluates high school talent this way: “intelligence on the court and off…skills set…player understands ROLE on team…has innate Team Player skills…integral part of team’s success…listens in timeouts as a Starter or “sitter”on bench…”, and there are other elements that college coaches take mental notes on, believe me…So, keeping this “pigeon-hole” mentality in place and your mind’s eye, you will now understand why I am not so supportive of AAU high school select ball, when in fact attending any college basketball camp during the summer months will be more beneficial to helping your son/daughter “see” firsthand and listen closely to “what” a college coach looks for, remembers about what he/she sees at THEIR camps regarding each player’s participation, and ultimately build on one’s confidence level when they return to their respective school programs…Booohlyah…now we’re gettin somewhere!! Okay, so now that we have “discovered” the all important role and position of the “Sub”, I think it’s safe to say that ol coach here has “tweaked” the egos and psyches of both parents and kids…oooops, maybe even coaches too, if they have continued to read on here…very few have the kahonees to do such, which doesn’t bother me in the least…I’m about helping parents and their student athletes at this point in my sportslife…

The “No Play Day” Sub on every team: This role player is really an important asset to each team as well…as long as they understand and accept this role without malice or disgruntled feelings towards coaches, teammates and parents…Every team has 1-2 players who may never wash their uniforms after a game or games…They don’t mind, they’re happy to be a part of the team and do a GREAT job supporting each teammate along the way…Their role is defined earlyon in high school basketball: they are limited in their skills set compared to others they practice during the season…They invariably get “pigeon-holed” by a coach this way: “he/she is limited, won’t PLAY at the next level, anyway, BUT has been in program for last 6 years (feeder program included)…”…The most important fact here is this: usually these players have decided AFTER they get their license to drive and have the privileges of driving a car of their own, their commitment and focus changes dramatically>they no longer want to put the time in to improving their skills set, strength and conditioning and establishing attainable goals…It is a phenomena of sorts, that is natural and expected at the interscholastic level, sometimes to the extreme disappointment of their parent(s), and in that demise, you immediately see the parent separate from other parents’ interests in the team’s season, success or not, just a quiet separation from expectation…What a shame…for the student athlete, because they decided to make a choice as to what was more important at that time in their life (structure of team skills development) and their parents (“I can’t believe I spent all that money on AAU ball when they were in the 7th, 8th and first two years of high school…”)…Do you see any similarities in my examples here, as a parent of a starter…a Sub…and a non-descript team member? This much I do know: without these team players on the bench encouraging their teammates’ efforts and supporting them during the game, on the court and when they come off, basketball would be a sorry example of what a Team Sport should be…

Take care, Happy Holidays to each and every one of my friends in this wonderful world of family sportslife today…Much love, Coach tom

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