Who is Your Mentor?

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Whenever we undertake a new venture, be it coaching basketball, some kind of business startup, a hobby or whatever—we usually need help. Help could come in as simple a form as a brochure, but if we’re really starting something that is taking us into our own unchartered waters, we will be better served having a guide, rather than trying to figure out how to do whatever it is we’re trying to attempt.

Henry Ford, in running his company, had a bank of buttons on his desk. When he needed advice on accounting, he pressed a button to call in his accounting guru. For engineering, he pressed another button. Henry Ford was successful, in part at least, because he knew that he couldn’t know and do it all by himself. He kept a stable of mentors-gurus who were knowledgeable in areas where he wasn’t. 

Most of us don’t have the luxury of having gurus at our beck-and-call. However, in this computer age, we are closer to being able to reach out for a mentor, anywhere in the world we may be, and anywhere in the world a mentor might be.

We can go one-on-one with someone who knows what we want to know without ever leaving our home.

I was in a group with a financial mentor who told us to, “find someone who has what we want, do what they did, to get what they got”. I’ll admit, I tried that, but didn’t get quite the results I’d aspired to, however I learned a lot. This method works for some highly dedicated people, but most of us average folks may come up short, as I did.

I’m ready to retire, and want to have a renewable income source to keep me financially secure for the rest of my life. I decided to take everything I’d been doing for more than fifty years in basketball and market it to the world. This would have been extremely difficult for me in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, but now in the new millennium, I can accomplish this via the internet.

Cool. I’m ready to go. Now, exactly how do I go about this? My computer knowledge and abilities are minimal. So, I got a mentor. That got me started. Now I have three mentors, and have gone through a couple of others. Because I need new information all the time, I can keep reaching out there into cyberspace to find the help I need. I ask, “what do I need to do?” and they tell me what to do and how to do it. Do I pay for this? Yes. What’s the alternative—going to school for years to hopefully gain some of the knowledge they bring to me immediately, or use the trip-fumble-stumble method of trying to do it myself?

When I first started out as a basketball coach, I was a nineteen year old and college student running an after-school recreation program at an elementary school. Even though I had played basketball in high school, I was by no means qualified to teach it.

Upon graduation from college my first basketball coaching position was at the middle school level and I found quickly that I needed more education.

During those formative years of my coaching I searched for as much help as I could get and found it from some of the most talented people of that era.

In the 1960’s, I fell in love with teaching basketball defense after reading a book entitled, “Mosquito Defense”, written by Al McGuire, Marquette University’s coach.I used his methods of swarming defense successfully for many years, at the junior high and then at the high school levels.

I worked hard at teaching myself how to coach basketball and each season I improved, but it was a slow process.

A few years later, and with some seasoning behind me, my journey to “teaching-coach” moved up a notch from just reading about basketball to becoming proactive--attending clinics, seminars and camps. Among the clinicians to whom I owe much of what I know about teaching defense was Bobby Knight. This was in the 70’s

Knight, at that time, was the acclaimed guru of defense. His approach to playing defense and how to teach it, was innovative and genius to this young coach from California. His man-to-man defense philosophy and techniques gave me the ability to teach individual defense and then be able to build this knowledge right into my team defense. What I learned from Coach Knight, combined with my early success with “Mosquito Defense”, enabled me to develop my own brand of defense and my “Giant Killer” defense emerged. Defense was to become my hallmark as a coach and later as an international consultant and lecturer.

These talented “mentors” inspired me to want to be more than just a successful high school coach. I read what they wrote; took notes on what they had to say at coaching clinics; I participated as a coach in their camps; I even took my players and my small sons to listen to them speak, to attend the camps as players, and to watch their teams practice. None of these “mentors” knew my name or would remember me, but they influenced my early growth in becoming the teacher of the game into which I evolved.

Now I’m a basketball coaching mentor for others. Oh, certainly not like Bobby Knight, Abe Lemons, Pete Newell, or John Wooden. But, I bring my teaching DVD, e-Books, basketball coaches tutoring, monthly newsletter and more to a special niche market. My more than 50 years of basketball playing and coaching experience have been successful, by won-loss standards and in the number of coaches and players I’ve helped to develop all around the world.

My focus is on the niche market where new, aspiring coaches venture into the sport without much more of a clue than a 19 year old boy in California had in getting started. I work with these “newbie” basketball coaches, with coaches who have some experience but are still learning, and even with more experienced coaches looking for a splinter of information which might give them the help they need to get to the next level of basketball coaching success. I work with high school players, whose goal is to play college ball, and teach position specific skills to help them be successful. My goal—and my promise—to each coach or player I work with, is that I will take them to a higher level of teaching and playing than they were at when we got started together.

The role of the mentor is to teach and guide the student to a higher level of understanding and skill, no matter what the field of interest may be.

Are you looking for a higher level of success from where you are? Who is your mentor?