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The Talent Code: Mastering Master Coaching, by Mike Lee


Naturally, keeping it short and not praising your players will not suddenly make you a master coach.  As stated before, you achieve what you emphasize, but master coaching involves emphasizing in the right way.  Here are four virtues to guide you in the right direction.


1. The Matrix: four components with which a master coach must work

    • Technical Knowledge: skill development
    • Strategy: game situations
    • Experience: time spent teaching and coaching, not years coaching
    • Instinct: knowing where students are and where they need to go


2. Perceptiveness: getting to know each player on a personal level so that they can customize their communication

    • Always check to see if the message has been received
    • React accordingly


3. GPS Teaching

    • Deliver information in short, vivid phrases, not paragraphs
    • These need to be stated at the correct time, which is immediately, so you can guide the player in the correct direction.  When working with a player on correcting his form, we provide feedback specific to their technique after almost every shot.  In an hour workout, they receive close to 400 teaching points.
    • Be specific.  If it is good, tell them why, and if it’s poor, tell them why!  Simply telling them it’s good or bad without them knowing why doesn’t help them learn.


4. Theatrical Honesty


    • Mean and tough or easygoing, it all depends on what works for the kids—not how you feel as the teacher.  Always be honest.  Some kids will respond better to you being extremely hard on them and challenging them constantly.  Others will perform better when you are continually positive with them, building their confidence.
    • Before Brandon Jennings’ rookie year with the Milwaukee Bucks, I went to watch them practice and observed something pretty interesting.  In my opinion, Jennings was taking a ridiculous number of ill-advised shots, but former head coach Scott Skiles said absolutely nothing to him.  He would only praise or compliment him when he set up the offense or did something correctly.  Now this might have only been one practice, but I’m guessing that is how he decided to treat Jennings throughout the year.
    • John Wooden: “I will treat all of you fairly, but I will not treat you equal.”
    • You first need to be able to reach and make a connection with a kid before you can teach them.  The first thing a coach should learn before he steps out on the floor is this: “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”  Kids have so much information and advice pushed on them these days, especially some of the more “talented” kids, that they don’t know who to listen to and who to trust.  Everyone has an agenda, including your players, and you need to appeal to that.


Of course, coaching is the principal component of master coaching, but the three style points can elevate your coaching to the next level.  Chances are you’re already familiar with the matrix (technical knowledge, strategy, experience, and instinct), but improving your perception, manner of teaching, and honesty as a coach will open a path to deeper understanding and faster development for your players.


Recognize that different players will require a different approach, then keep your words short and specific without offering praise for praise’s sake.

Mike Lee Basketball Services trains thousands of middle school through NBA players across the country each year in their skill development training, camps and coaches Academies.  The owner, Mike Lee, is also a former Nike Girls Skills Academy instructor and former assistant director for the Stephen Curry Skills Academy. Recently the company has authored 7 skill development DVDs and created miSkillz Online Basketball training. To host an event in your city please email

Click here for more information on Daniel Coyle and The Talent Code

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