Welcome from Chandler, Arizona!
I’d like to start out by saying welcome to the 51 new subscribers who joined since last week!
I also want to give a special thanks to Jack, Cody, Bo, Tyler, Zack, and Ryan for sharing this newsletter over the last 7 days. Thank you. I’m grateful.
Now, moving on…
Before we get into the meat of today’s newsletter, I want to tell you about a special project I released this week.
If you follow me on Twitter, you might already know about this.
But, I wanted to share it here just in case.
On Tuesday, I released a brand new free eBook called 10 Lessons for Coaches.
10 Lessons for Coaches is a free eBook for current coaches, aspiring coaches, or sports fans anywhere who want to learn from the best coaches around the world.
The lessons within will help you:
- Improve your relationships with players
- Help your players discover their best frame of mind for optimal performance
- Avoid the trap of competitive thinking in your career
- Ethically and effectively change behaviors
All you need to do to download it is tell me where to send it at the link below⬇
Today’s newsletter is centered around Gregg Popovich, legendary San Antonio Spurs’ coach.
I admire Popovich for the way he integrates life into the mundanity of the NBA.
Phil Jackson once observed that his job “was to make something meaningful out of one of the most mundane activities on the planet: playing pro basketball.”
It’s a challenge that every coach faces, and Popovich is one of the best at injecting meaning into his teams and building championship cultures.
In today’s newsletter, we’re going to focus on three things Popovich does that have helped make the Spurs one of the best organizations in the league. By reading this newsletter, you will learn three things.
First, you will learn how Popovich integrates history into his culture and raises up better men in the process.
Second, you will learn about Popovich’s strategy for team-building off the court through lavish team dinners (and don’t worry, you can do this for much cheaper)
Third, you will learn the importance of a sense of humor for coaches looking to build a strong team culture.
Ready? Let’s go…
Book of the Week
Staying on the theme of lessons from earlier, this week’s book of the week is The Lessons of History by Will and Ariel Durant.
(I promise this will tie back into Gregg Popovich)
The Lessons of History was written in 1968, yet the lessons are as applicable to today as they were back then.
This book is a compression of four decades of historical study into slightly more than 100 pages. It was an impossible task, except the Durant’s pulled it off.
Each chapter is an essay compressing centuries of history into the lessons history teaches us.
The authors conclude that, “History repeats itself, but only in outline and in the large…There is no certainty that the future will repeat the past. Every year is an adventure.”
But, that does not mean that we can’t learn from history. By knowing what happens in the large, we can be better prepared for the future. And as coaches, we can use this knowledge to raise up tomorrow’s leaders.
And in the spirit of 10 Lessons for Coaches, here are 10 quotes from The Lessons of History.
- On the questioned validity of history: “To begin with, do we really know what the past was, what actually happened, or is history “a fable” not quite “agreed upon?” Our knowledge of any past event is always incomplete, probably inaccurate, beclouded by ambivalent evidence and biased historians, and perhaps distorted by our own patriotic or religious partisanship. “Most history is guessing, and the rest is prejudice.”” (11-12)
- On the two biological lessons of history: “So the first biological lesson of history is that life is competition. Competition is not only the life of trade, it is the trade of life–peaceful when food abounds, violent when the mouths outrun the food…The second biological lesson of history is that life is selection. In the competition for food or mates or power some organisms succeed and some fail. In the struggle for existence some individuals are better equipped than others to meet the tests of survival.” (19)
- On the wisdom of the ages: “Intellect is therefore a vital force in history, but it can also be a dissolvent and destructive power. Out of every hundred new ideas ninety-nine or more will probably be inferior to the traditional responses which they propose to replace. No one man, however brilliant or well-informed, can come in one lifetime to such fullness of understanding as to safely judge and dismiss the customs or institutions of his society, for these are the wisdom of generations after centuries of experiment in the laboratory of history.” (35)
- On the dynamic nature of morals: “Pugnacity, brutality, greed, and sexual readiness were advantages in the struggle for existence. Probably every vice was once a virtue–i.e., a quality making for the survival of the individual, the family, or the group. Man’s sins may be the relics of his rise rather than the stigmata of his fall.” (38)
- On the changing tides of national religion: “Puritanism and paganism–the repression and the expression of the senses and desires–alternate in mutual reaction in history. Generally religion and puritanism prevail in periods when the laws are feeble and morals must bear the burden of maintaining social order; skepticism and paganism (other factors being equal) progress as the rising power of law and government permits the decline of the church, the family, and morality without basically endangering the stability of the state.” (50)
- On capitalism vs. socialism: “Socialism in Russia is now restoring individualistic motives to give its system greater productive stimulus, and to allow its people more physical and intellectual liberty. Meanwhile capitalism undergoes a correlative process of limiting individualistic acquisition by semi-socialistic legislation and the redistribution of wealth through the “welfare state.”…The fear of capitalism has compelled socialism to widen freedom, and the fear of socialism has compelled capitalism to increase equality. East is West and West is East, and soon the twain will meet.” (66-67)
- On the madness of revolutions: “To break sharply with the past is to court the madness that may follow the shock of sudden blows or mutilations. As the sanity of the individual lies in the continuity of his memories, so the sanity of a group lies in the continuity of its traditions; in either case a break in the chain invites a neurotic reaction, as in the Paris massacres of September, 1792.” (72)
- On the essence of equality: “Democracy has now dedicated itself resolutely to the spread and lengthening of education, and to the maintenance of public health. If equality of educational opportunity can be established, democracy will be real and justified. For this is the vital truth beneath its catchwords: that though men cannot be equal, their access to education and opportunity can be made more nearly equal. The rights of man are not rights to office and power, but the rights of entry into every avenue that may nourish and test a man’s fitness for office and power. A right is not a gift of God or nature but a privilege which it is good for the group that the individual should have.” (79)
- On progress: “We shall here define progress as the increasing control of the environment by life. It is a test that may hold for the lowliest organism as well as for man.” (98)
- On our ever-increasing heritage: “The heritage that we can now more fully transmit is richer than ever before…If progress is real despite our whining, it is not because we are born any healthier, better, or wiser than infants were in the past, but because we are born to a richer heritage, born on a higher level of that pedestal which the accumulation of knowledge and art raises as the ground and support of our being. The heritage rises, and man rises in proportion as he receives it.” (101-102)
You may be wondering why I’ve decided to talk about history. After all, this is a coaching newsletter.
I believe that sports are at their best when they are a means of building a better society. Coaches have a societal responsibility to train up the men and women of tomorrow. And part of that is teaching your players about the heritage they’ve been given.
By knowing the history of humankind, we can better help our players become the leaders of tomorrow.
And perhaps no current coach does this better than Gregg Popovich.
In Culture Code, author Daniel Coyle tells the story of April 4, 2014, inside the San Antonio Spurs practice facility. The night before, the Spurs lost 106-94 to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Spurs, feeling defeated from a poor performance against their rivals, sat down in the video room.
Every player expected to rewatch clips from the game. They expected Pop to showcase all of last night’s mistakes. Tension was high.
And then Popovich started the video.
Here’s how Coyle described the moment:
They had sat down with trepidation, expecting Popovich to detail the sins of the previous night, to show them what they did wrong and what they could do better. But when Popovich clicked on the video, the screen flickered with a CNN documentary on the fiftieth anniversary of the Voting Rights Act.
The team watched in silence as the story unfolded: Martin Luther King, Jr., Lyndon Johnson, and the Selma marches. When it was over, Popovich asked questions. He always asks questions, and those questions are always the same: personal, direct, focused on the big picture. What did you think of it? What would you have done in that situation?
The players thought, answered, nodded. The room shifted and became something of a seminar, a conversation. They talked. They were not surprised because on the Spurs this kind of thing happens all the time. Popovich would create similar conversations on the war in Syria, or a change of government in Argentina, gay marriage, institutional racism, terrorism—it doesn’t really matter, as long as it delivers the message he wants it to deliver: There are bigger things than basketball to which we are all connected.
“It’s so easy to be insulated when you’re a professional athlete,” Buford says. “Pop uses these moments to connect us. He loves that we come from so many different places. That could pull us apart, but he makes sure that everybody feels connected and engaged to something bigger.”
Moments like these have helped create one of the league’s best cultures. I admire Popovich’s commitment to being more than a basketball coach.
His commitment to teaching the lessons of history have created better men. By focusing on life outside of basketball, Pop created a legacy that will live on beyond his time as Spurs coach.
And the great news is that this sort of thing is available to you and I. We can awaken players to the heritage they’ve been given and play a part in building a better tomorrow.
And when mixed with moments of connection away from the field of play, you just might find your team transforming into a championship culture.
Article of the Week
Gregg Popovich is a food and wine connoisseur and brings the team along to taste the finest food and wine he can find.
I loved this ESPN feature article on Pop from April 2019 about the secret team dinners that have built the Spurs’ dynasty.
While you and I probably can’t afford to take our teams out to the same restaurants as Popovich, there’s a lesson here for us.
Team-building happens both on and off the field. It’s about being authentic to who you and your players are.
Maybe it’s taking a struggling player out for coffee. Or asking them about something outside of their sport. Perhaps it’s learning the language of a foreign player to create some connection.
Creating connection is highly contextual. What works for Pop might not work for you. What works for you might be irrelevant for me.
And sometimes, creating connection within your team is as simple as getting people to laugh…
Random Bit of the Week
Brett Bartholomew taught me that laughter is the shortest distance between two people.
One of the most effective tools a coach has when it comes to connecting with their players is a good sense of humor.
Even though Popovich is known for his tough, rough-around-the-edges authoritarian style, he has a good sense of humor too.
And to see that humor in action, check out this classic Gregg Popovich moment:
Links of the Week
Klopp’s Promise (Full Documentary) – In case you didn’t know, Liverpool won the Premier League this week with their 4-0 victory over Crystal Palace. Jurgen Klopp is one of my favorite coaches in any sport, and this 49 minute documentary is an awesome look into Klopp, Liverpool, and the journey towards the Premier League title.
Words Mean Competition – I loved this short piece from Mike Dariano. This quote stuck out to me:
How This All Happened - A tremendous piece by financial writer Morgan Housel on the changes we’ve gone through since the end of WWII to now. Housel concludes the article with this observation:
“The economy works better for some people than others. Success isn’t as meritocratic as it used to be and, when success is granted, is rewarded with higher gains than in previous eras.”
Photo of the Week
I was so glad to spend the last week with my parents.
We ate plenty of good food, had a blast at Top Golf, and wrapped up the week with the world’s longest game of UNO.
And Dad rocked a Hawaiian shirt through it all.
What a legend.
That’s all for this week. Like always, feel free to respond to this email or DM me on Twitter if you want to discuss anything in this newsletter.
Thank you so much for reading.
Until next time,