About CoachMikeBailey

Head Boys' Basketball Coach - St. Patrick High School (Chicago)

The Fist: Part 4

First three parts:

  1. Communication
  2. Trust
  3. Collective Responsibility

4th Finger of the Fist = “Caring”

What do you see when you look at the person next to you? Do you see him as as…

  • Person
  • Friend
  • Player
  • Teammate

Do you get to know your teammates for who they really are as a person or only as a basketball player?

Nothing demonstrates that you care about people more than spending personal time with them. The more it’s a one on one encounter the better.

It’s more than “I care about you as a person.” It’s also about “I care about the job I’m doing on the basketball court.” It’s caring about the individual, caring about the team, caring about our image of as a team off the court, caring about high-performance, about excellence. It’s also about caring about winning – about being the best you can be.

Caring springs people to action – it causes people to work harder – to screen/block out/take a charge/get on the floor for loose balls/sprint on the court, both offensively and defensively/seal and feed the post/make the extra pass/get in defensive stance/stay and move in their stance, etc. – you care enough about your teammates to do these types of things.

“I’m going to do this because I care about my team and the people I play with.”

  • Renters vs. owners
  • We care for one another. If something happens, we’re there for each other all the time.


  • When you care about someone or something, you show genuine concern for that person in good times and bad.
  • Caring is so important to a team because there are going to be times when members of our team make mistakes. When you make a mistake you become very vulnerable. The immediate response of your teammates will determine how you perceive your mistake. Caring makes you more confident – you know you have someone’s unconditional support.

The Fist Part III

3rd finger of “The Fist”: Collective Responsibility

  • We win and lose TOGETHER.
  • People are going to step in mud puddles. They are going to make mistakes. If you are going to have a great team, there should be no excuses and no finger-pointing when somebody else on your team isn’t perfect.
  • When you point blame at someone else, one finger sticks out and you no longer have a fist.
  • Some people like to win individually and some like to lose selectively. They say “it’s somebody else’s responsibility” or “it’s not my fault.”
  • One of the key components to keeping the FIST strong is taking responsibility for your actions as a TEAM.
  • “It’s our shot” – it’s not J.P.’s shot or Julian’s shot, it’s our shot – this is our game – this is our court.
  • A fist is plural – a finger is singular


Being a senior in great programs is a special time. On one hand, it may mean more attention, but it also involved more responsibility. In most programs, the privilege of being a senior means doing less and putting more responsibility on younger players. In fact, helping with duties that are essential for the team, such as physically assisting a coach by picking up equipment, should not be considered punishment. Helping out should be an honor reserved for those players who have the most invested. Being a senior should reflect an attitude of ‘this is our time to lead and serve’ rather than ‘this is our time to be served.’ Helping the coaches should be a privilege.

One of the key elements in a group of people who want to become a team is the positive example and commendable work habits that one demonstrated by your team’s leaders and seniors. You will never see a great team where the seniors are not the best workers. These teams may win some games, but they will not be a TEAM if the most visible members (seniors) do not model commitment and hard work. One of the key attributes of being a senior involves being the best example of what our program stands for.

If seniors are lazy or inattentive, every underclassmen looks at them and is comforted by the thought, ‘I can’t wait to be a senior in our program. Look, they get to come late, coast through practice and still play.’ The exact opposite is true in programs with a strong tradition of senior leadership. The underclassmen look at the seniors and say, ‘I can’t wait to be a senior in this program and play for Coach Bailey; they are the hardest workers, the best listeners, and the ones with the most responsibilities. That is going to be great.’

If you invest in our program, your turn for leadership will happen. The senior year is special. Seniors are what our program is about.

The Fist Pt. II

Review -> Don’t forget the five points that make up our Saint Patrick “fist”:

  1. Communication
  2. Trust
  3. Collective Responsibility
  4. Caring
  5. Pride

Last week we talked about communication. You need to talk to each other on the court about basketball situations. Every bit as important, if not more important, is talking to each other off the court about problems, building each other’s confidence, and building a TEAM – not just a group of guys who play basketball together.

Today -> Trust (2nd finger of the “Fist”)

On any team, there are no words more important than trust. Trust must be developed among every member of the team if success is to be achieved.

That is why I make it a point to be certain that our players always know that I’m going to be straight with them. At any time, I can and will tell you where you stand and how you’re doing. I’ll tell you what you’re doing right and what you’re doing wrong.

People are not truthful and open with each other simply because the truth is often the most difficult pill to swallow for the person receiving it. It’s also often difficult to express for the person delivering it.

Confrontation can be good. Confrontation simply means meeting the truth head-on. True friends and true teammates will tell each other tough things.

If a coach or teammate doesn’t deal with a slump, non-performance, or problem on a team, the team will not achieve its goals. It’s “St. Pat’s beating St. Pat’s,” not “the ESCC beating St. Pat’s.”

We should work hard to focus on the truth, look one another in the eye, and then take action for the good of the team. Once the confrontation is done, it’s over with. The team bond is not jeopardized because the relationship of our team is built on trust.

Trust will develop when you tell someone the truth face to face. How many of you really trust someone? Some of you don’t trust anybody.

If you are bigger than just yourself (St. Patrick basketball) – if you are into something that you identify with (St. Patrick basketball) – if you are part of something that you throw yourself entirely into (St. Patrick basketball) then you will be more willing to trust your teammates.

We want a team where we trust each other, where we have confidence in each other.

The Fist Part I

I look at the members of our team like five fingers of a hand. We want to create a team where all five fingers come together into a powerful fist. “We are five guys as one.”

There are five fundamental qualities that make every team great:

  1. Communication
  2. Trust
  3. Responsibility
  4. Caring
  5. Pride

I like to think of each as a separate finger on the fist. Anyone individually is important, but all of them together are unbeatable. You developed a team to achieve what one person cannot accomplish alone. All of us alone are weaker, by far, than all of us together.

Part One – Communication

The relationships we want to see develop on our team are based on communication. Communication brings about trust. Players that communicate and trust each other begin to act as one.

We need to look one another in the eye and tell each other the truth. No time is wasted trying to figure out what your teammate is hiding or what his ulterior motives might be.

Players on our team come from many different areas around Chicago. From each of these locations comes a different way of communicating.

Game Communication:

  1. Communication must be such that you can react in an instant.
  2. No time for interpretation or misinterpretation.
  3. No time for discussion – things happen rapidly.
  4. Must speak the same “language.”
  5. When in a pressure situation, there is a tendency for players to think quietly and talk to themselves. We don’t want you to be quiet or talk to yourself. We want you to talk and think out loud.
  6. We don’t have the time to stop and call a meeting to what to do next. Talk it out as you go.
  7. You need to talk to each other on the court at all times.
  8. When something is going wrong or something is going right – you need to talk to each other right away.
  9. Utilize player huddles on the court.

Communication with Referees:

  1. Prepare yourself mentally – know that it’s not personal with the refs.
  2. Always be aware of the faces and body language we show during competition – they need to reflect strength.
  3. Complaining to refs, even with just a facial expression, irritates them and distracts us from what we should be doing.
    1. It boosts our opponents – they know their game is getting to us – we are fighting with the officials and not with them.

What is a Good Shot?

With open gyms in full effect, we are playing organized pick-up games several times a week. While coaches can’t really add much structure, now is the best time to start explaining and reinforcing what is a “good” shot versus a “bad shot.” There’s no sense in having players consistently shooting bad shots between now and when our practice starts.

Here is a list of what constitutes a good shot. The most important concept for players to understand is the definition of a good shot varies from player to player. A good shot for one player may not be a good shot for another.

  • A good shot is one that is expected by your teammates.
  • A good shot is one that you are ready to shoot (balanced, square to the rim, etc.)
  • A good shot is one that you shoot a high percentage on in drills and in practice.
  • A good shot is one that can be rebounded by at least two of your teammates.
  • A good shot is one that you can recover and play defense from if you missed.
  • A good shot is one that is appropriate given the time and the score.
  • A good shot is one that is taken when you are not closely guarded except around the basket.

Notes on Reasons Players Reach Their Potential and Commitment

Reasons Players Reach Their Potential
1. High tolerance for pain and hard work.

2. High basketball IQ. Student of the game.

3. Unselfish. Thing TEAM before self.

4. Intangibles in your game. Make hustle plays.

5. Good training habits and physical conditioning.
Continue reading

How to Impress Your Coach

1. Facts
a. Privilege not an obligation
b. You are elite to even be there

2. Three A’s

3. Saying “No”
Most important factor you can learn

4. Academics
Being good in both areas (athletics and academics) allows for more options

5. Attitude
a. Impress
b. Be willing to give 100% (bottom line)
c. Be indispensible
d. The best way to make your dreams come true is to wake up
e. The work will teach you how to get the job done

6. Team
a. The team comes first
b. Accept your role

7. Impressive Skill Areas
a. Defense
b. Rebounding
c. Move without the ball
d. Score in the paint

8. Defense
a. Defense wins games
b. Be willing to play defense
c. Practice your defense
d. Look to control your man with defense

9. Rebound
a. Against taller opponents
b. Control height of jump with lower body
c. Block out

10. Move Without Ball
a. Be in great condition
b. Read and react

How to Put Your Teammates First

“Ask not what can your teammates do for you? Ask instead ‘what can I do for my teammates?’” – Magic Johnson

Most leaders are very demanding and controlling people with an elitist attitude. They have a philosophy that leaders need to be in charge and tough. They have a “my way or the highway” mentality. They believe that the leader has an elevated status and it is up to the others to serve them.

Good leadership is about putting others first and helping them feel good about themselves:

  • Take others under your wing
  • Compliment teammates when they succeed
  • Support teammates when they struggle
  • Greet teammates when you see them
  • Get balls and water for your teammates before you get your own
  • Bring an upbeat attitude to drills
  • Give teammates quick tips and refocus them

These are some of many ways to gain confidence, trust, and respect of your teammates.

Serving others and putting their needs first is the best form of leadership. You make the team’s needs the priority. It’s more about the team success than your own individual success. Leaders seek to humbly serve others.

1. Do the grunt work

Instead of giving all the chores a team needs to do to the younger players, demonstrate that you are the leader by jumping in and doing the chores yourself.

  • Clean locker room
  • Rack up balls
  • Clean stage area
  • Weight room setup
  • Bulletin board articles for locker room
  • Sweep the floor
  • Carry the equipment
  • Make sure the bus is clean

When your teammates see you, as the leader, taking care of these tasks, they will be more likely to pitch in and follow in your footsteps. Instead of thinking that you’re above them, show that you are willing to do whatever it takes to help the team be successful.

2. Take youngsters under your wing

Look out for your teammates, especially the less experienced ones. Instead of getting frustrated with them, reach out and bring them into the fold. Inexperienced players will:

  • Feel uncertainty about what is expected from them
  • Worry about proving themselves
  • Have fear about fitting in

Reach out and help them during what could be tough times. The best way to help – SPEND TIME WITH THEM – TALK TO THEM. Make them feel a part of the team and the group.

3. “If I knew then what I know now”

Share helpful suggestions and strategies with younger teammates that you might have learned the hard way. Let your teammates know about some of challenges you and your fellow seniors endured when you were younger.

Talk with teammates and freshmen about some of the typical pitfalls, obstacles, and setbacks you went through. When they do stumble, make sure you are there for some support and encouragement.

4. Keep tabs on your teammates

Check in and see how your teammates are doing. Make a point to be accessible for them. Touch base with them on a regular basis. Show teammates that you care about them without being overbearing. Let them open up to you more if they are comfortable with doing so. Trust must be built over time, so be patient.

Tips to use when a teammate comes with a problem:

  1. Focus first on listening and understanding rather than trying to fix the problem. Just talking about it and getting it out in the open is often enough to get a person back on track.
  2. Once you listen and understand the situation you can help them with the options they have. Let them learn from your experiences.
  3. Check back with them to see how they are doing.

Becoming the Type of Player Every Team Wants

* Adaptable *

* Get into others *

* Commitment *

  1. Communication: “A team is many voices with a single heart.”
    1. You cannot have teamwork unless you have players who talk to one another. Without communication you don’t have a team – you have a collection of individuals.
  2. Teammates don’t isolate themselves from others. The more you know about each other the more you understand each other. The more you understand the more you will care about each other. A player who is connected to his teammates is a powerful asset to the team.
  3. Team players make it easy for teammates to communicate with them. If you look at leaders and impact players on a team you will find that they not only stay connected with their teammates, they make sure their teammates are able to make contact with them easily.
  4. Give attention to difficult relationships – these will need attention to thrive.
  5. Communication brings about trust. Players that communicate and trust each other begin to act as one.
  6. We need to be able to look one another in the eye and tell the truth – no time should be wasted trying to figure out what your teammate is hiding or what his ulterior motives might be.

“You have to be a family first to be a team” – Lebron James

  • This begins and ends with communication and trust.

In pressure situations, players will often revert to individual instincts and these are often thought of to be selfish – talking both on and off the court allows a team to think collectively and then you start to rely on team instincts.

As team relationships grow over time and are built on respect, communication, and trust, you find something else happens – you start to CARE about the team and your teammates.