In this week’s basketball coaching conversation, mentor, writer, coach, and sports consultant J.P. Nerbun joins the Basketball Podcast to discuss coaching culture and transformational leadership.
J.P. Nerbun helps leaders implement systems and strategies to improve their culture. He supports leaders in sports all across the world, at the professional, collegiate, and youth level to grow as leaders and build transformational cultures. He also authored the book Calling Up: Discovering Your Journey to Transformational Leadership and is the host of the Coaching Culture Podcast.
J.P. Nerbun helps coaches dive into the difference between transformational coaching and transactional coaching, why labeling an athlete as “uncoachable” is more of a reflection on the coach than the athlete, and why every coach should be intentional about their “non-negotiables.”
J.P. Nerbun has coached basketball in Ireland, Lithuania, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania. While in Ireland, JP coached 30 teams in five years. That is a lot of time to learn a lot of lessons in coaching. In 2017, JP started Thrive On Challenge as a blog, and it grew into a sports consulting business.
“In moments when a player is struggling . . it’s really, really important that they feel seen and they feel heard . . so often as a coach . . I would come in with a logical argument . . and that’s not really speaking to the emotional part of their brain.”
“We talk about a term . . ‘tactical empathy’ . . When we’re connecting and empathizing we’re using things like open questions . . to help them articulate so we show understanding, not necessarily acceptance of how they reacted to it.”
“One of the first things I would suggest to coaches is how we listen. Really active listening, [and being] very intentional through our use of questions is important.”
“We want them [the players] to be able to name what is bothering them in that moment and just by naming that fear, that anxiety, that stress, that actually brings our stress levels down, that brings our heart rate down so that we’re more regulated.”
“My biggest struggle as a coach was that I often used my personality as an excuse for my behavior. And I think there has to be a level of awareness to realize that just because something seems natural, or even potentially authentic, doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s right or it’s effective.”
“If we’re trying to build a culture that’s player-led…where players are intrinsically motivated…then short-term.. emotional outbursts to get the results we want really hurts our attempts to build that…culture.”
“[Trauma psychologist] Dr. Bruce Perry . . pretty much said it straight out, ‘Coaches are selling themselves short if they are constantly responding to players or coaching players in a deregulated state because a deregulated adult will never help regulate another person.”
“The last 25 years, brain science has shown us so much . . as we’ve researched the effects of some of these more transactional types of coaching behaviors . . players may be shutting down because, in the past, they had more emotional intelligence.”
“Are we developing the person? We want to develop emotional intelligence. To do that, we have to connect with them [the players] in those emotional moments.”
“That’s really what the core is . . the transformational coach isn’t forcing, or coercing or trying to control people, he or she is empowering people to realize their potential.”
“What’s going to be the best way to move forward? If you demonstrate that unacceptable behavior, then you can ask a few questions . . ‘What do we need to have happen here to hold each other accountable? And how can we support you to come back to that?’”
“When we’re . . transactional it’s about rules and punishment . . but if we move to a more transformational standpoint, it’s boundaries and consequences. The difference is rules and punishments – I’m doing this to you; boundaries and consequences are – you’re doing that to yourself.”
“When it comes to enforcing discipline, one of the most powerful things we can say as a coach is, ‘You’ve lost the opportunity to get better in this drill. I’ll see you in the next drill.’”
“We do this with teams in preseason. When we establish standards we talk about, ‘What if we don’t meet them?’”
[On player feedback] “This is information. Some of this is not valid, but they still feel and think this way. So now you have to address why they feel and think that way . . because that’s part of your culture.”
“You create a lot of opportunities before and after practice for guys to connect and learn about what’s going on with each other and empathize with each other.”
“I use the acronym, ERN. Encourage, Remind, Notify. We talk about those as the three important elements of team communication . . We’re encouraging each other but we’ve got to move beyond being cheerleaders . . we’ve got to give each other reminders, things before action . . and then notifications . . non-judgmental statements of what they’re observing.”
J.P. Nerbun Selected Links from the Podcast:
J.P. Nerbun Breakdown:
1:00 – Mentorship
3:00 – Practical
7:00 – Biggest Challenge
12:00 – Resiliency
15:00 – The Impact of Technology
17:30 – Awareness
19:30 – Transformational Leadership
22:30 – Coach Standard
25:00 – Punishment vs Teaching Opportunity
26:30 – Progressive Consequences
30:00 – Basketball is a Privilege
31:30 – Establishing Consequences
37:00 – Daily Conversations
39:00 – Psychological Well-Being
41:00 – Fair and Equal
46:30 – ERN (Encourage, Remind and Notify)
50:00 – After Care
52:00 – On-Court Synergy
55:00 – Common Shortcuts
58:30 – Warm Up Drills
1:00:00 – Not Holding Kids to the High Standard
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