Read and React: Monthly Book Reviews and Recommendations (January)

Before the year started I had a “goal” which would result in reading one book a week. I love to read and felt there were only benefits to this hobby of mine. I read about 20 books last year and thought it would be a good idea to try and tackle a book a week. After the first couple weeks, I knew I set myself up for failure. I decided to double my book intake from last year. I figured 40 books was more attainable and could be accomplished. After the first couple weeks in January, something happened that I can’t explain but I started to read about a book a day. Sometimes two. Over the course of this month I have read 15 books. Nine are new reads and the other six are re-reads. I do NOT plan on reading 15 books a month. This worked out well for me because there was no school for 6 weeks so all I had to focus on was work and reading. Now that school is up and running it will cut in to some reading time but will do my best to read at least 3-4 a month. This post is to inspire anyone who wants to start reading, looking for a new book, or wants to also share great books they’ve read. Something I was told is the saying, “Reader are leaders and leaders are readers.” This is one of the tools I use to be better at work, with the players I see every day, and most importantly my everyday life.  Above is a picture of the books I read in order from bottom to top. I hope you enjoy these and would love to get more recommendations!

New Reads:

  • The Know it All- AJ. Jacobs 
  • Legacy- James Kerr
  • Between the World and Me- Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • The Three Signs of a Miserable Job- Patrick Lencioni
  • The End of Average- Todd Rose
  • Practice Perfect- Doug Lemov
  • Everybody Always- Bob Goff
  • Ego is the Enemy- Ryan Holiday
  • Eat Move Sleep- Tom Rath

Re-reads:

  • The No Complaining Rule- Jon Gordon
  • How Full is your Bucket- Tom Rath and Donald O. Clifton
  • The Seed- Jon Gordon
  • The Go-Giver- Bo Burg and John David Mann
  • Freakanomics- Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
  • Switch- Chip and Dan Heath 

My “Top 3” recommendations…

Legacy by James Kerr:

  • There isn’t a book I have taken more quality notes on than Legacy by James Kerr. It amazes me how “simple” things can be and how “complicated” we tend to make everything we do. This book gives you so much that can easily be applied to your program and your own life. Things you can make your own that fits what you are trying to accomplish within the culture you are trying to create. Being able to reinforce the fact that no one in this world is too “big” to do the small things that need to be done is a good daily reminder when things get tough. Go get a copy of the book for yourself. You’ll be better for it.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates:

  • As most of you know I am African American. The everyday life for people of color is not the same as everyone else especially black men. My cultural background and education in its history is extremely important to me and I do my best to read on it as much as I can. I have been wanting to read this book for a while. Heard so many great things and it did not disappoint. You want to get a glimpse of the life of an every day Black man? You’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t read this book. There is only one word to describe it: POWERFUL.

Everybody Always by Bob Goff:

  • This book epitomizes what it looks like to live and love as close as possible to the way God loves us and wants us to live our lives. Being human is difficult. We aren’t perfect, make mistakes, wound, hate and even kill. What makes it more difficult is to show love and grace towards these people. It is easy to love the ones you like but what about the ones you don’t? This books shows you ways to improve in that area. You want to make a difference in this world? Become love? Change lives? Read this book…

Growing Pains, Lessons, and Opportunities Part II

Build genuine relationships with people involved within the program 

Get to know donors, administration, teachers etc. on a personal basis.  Be genuine. Love them, care for them and show you want to get to know them for who they are not how much money they have or what they can do for you. To receive, you must be willing to give without restrictions or wanting something in return. The beauty of giving: you get to experience how much these people genuinely want to help you reach your dreams and goals. 

The things you remember the most are the memories and relationships built

Yes, the wins and runs in the post season will be memorable. However, the dinners, bus rides, conversations in the locker room, training table, pregame meals, shoot arounds, in the hotels on the road with your roommate and much more will be the things you will talk about for years on end. Almost always when I talk to a teammate we bring up some memory that happened in one of those categories. Almost never is it about the games we played who we beat (unless it’s the final four run which tends to come up a lot ;)) those Memories will last a lifetime. Cherish them and the people with them.

Communication is the hardest thing you will learn

Every single situation you will be a part of, communication will be the forefront. I literally can’t stress enough how communication or the lack thereof is such a positive or detrimental part of life. Do it as much as you can even when you don’t want to.

Your coaches will have a HUGE impact on your life and who you become (especially assistants).  

 This is one I believe is very true to my story and those around me. I was blessed to have the coaches I did and the more time I have spent in coaching the more I love and appreciate the relationships I have with my former coaches. I am so happy I still am in contact with everyone. Plenty of which I talk to almost daily.  They will help you grow in more ways than you think and will set you up for the ‘real world.’ They will be as close to being your parents in college. Understand they have your best intentions in mind and keep them in your corner.

Listen more than you speak

Especially when you’re the new kid on the block. Being a freshman is hard. You’re juggling school and adjusting to the speed of the game and lifting a dumbbell in a way you probably never have before. Listening will help you speak later once you gain more knowledge.  This will not only benefit you in your sport but will benefit you for the rest of your life. Something I do my best to be aware of and strive to work on every day.  

You are always getting evaluated 

Two things that were said to me that has always stuck with me is, “Every conversation you have with someone is a job interview” and “You never get a first impression twice.” People are always watching you. How you treat the fan that wants a picture with you. How you treat your parents in public. How well you speak in public. Have that in the back of your mind always. 

If you can study abroad… STUDY ABROAD

One of the best things that ever happened to me during my time in college was being able to study abroad in China. Experiencing and studying another culture is life changing while hopefully being around kids that are not student athletes. I not only got to enrich in another amazing culture but I got the chance to do it with those who did not walk in the same shoes I did every day. Being around non-student athletes and building those relationships will be one of the top highlights of my time in college. Study abroad if you can. You won’t regret it.

When you graduate you will still have the itch to play… That’s OK 

Whether you want to keep playing or not, that competitiveness will always be there. You will miss playing for a while especially if you stay in the game (coaching, broadcasting etc.) I missed playing so much my first year at Drake. Every day I kept thinking about it and sometimes wishing I took the opportunity to go overseas especially with the year I had coaching. The itch was an enemy for a while until I went to play in Japan which helped tremendously. Just understand it’s normal to miss something that you lived and breathed for a long time that suddenly just stops.  

If you have the opportunity to play overseas…  PLAY OVERSEAS

Being able to play overseas and see the world is something that shouldn’t be passed up. Obviously, your health is important so if your body can’t do it that’s ok. However, if you can go play professionally, GO PLAY. You do not want to have the regret and always ask “what if.” I had to the opportunity to play in Japan and couldn’t be more grateful for the experience. 

There will be a time you hang up your shoes.

Playing in college. Playing professionally. All that’s great and rewarding while doing it as long as you can. The reality is you won’t play basketball forever. Don’t take it for granted. Enjoy every minute of it. Be grateful for the opportunity and live in the moment. Make sure you do have an idea of what you might want to do once you stop lacing those shoes up. 

Player To Coach Transition Part I

I was given the opportunity to get my feet wet in the coaching ranks after getting asked to come work as a Graduate Assistant for the Drake women’s basketball program. During my transition from player to coach, there were a lot of observations, patience, and learning throughout the successful year we had. Despite winning our regular season and conference tournament, there were some tough lessons that I had to accept and embrace. Below I write Part I of a list of things that I believe can help anyone transition from player to coach. These are things I wish I knew that would have helped my transition be much smoother but I couldn’t be more thankful it happened or I wouldn’t be able to grow like I did throughout the year.

  1. It is WAY easier to be a player than a coach 
    • A ton of things happen in those offices that players have no idea get done. It made me appreciate my former coaches so much more. For example, during season there are plenty of times we had an early practice. 7:15 comes and goes. By 9:15 we are done. And guess what… your day as a coach is just getting started. Yes, players still have class, study table and much more but once they are done with that they get to go home and do whatever that may be. Players step across the lines and get to play the game they love. The amount of stress on coaches can be overwhelming especially in this society where wins and losses is what head coaches are measured by.  Coaches go recruiting, have multiple meetings throughout the day, and don’t get me started on watching film after games until 1-2am. Coaching is not easy and I do my best inform those who want to get into coaching. Being in the office is something I had to get used to and I am still working on it!
  2. Every coach has a different formula for success and the way they run things (style of play/system etc). 
    • Just because it doesn’t align with what you would do does not make it wrong. My time at Washington and my time here at Drake could not be more different. Not just from me being a player in one and a coach in the other, but those I dealt with every day. The coaches could not be more opposite yet they both found a ton of success in how they run their respected programs. There isn’t one formula for success and I am grateful to see that difference at my first stop as a coach.
  3. Your mentors, former teammates, and those you were around often will have a big influence on who you are and how you approach every day. 
    • I literally catch myself every day either using terminology my coaches used during my time in college, how I approach certain situations, how I see the current players I work with now and more. All of that makes you who you are as a coach. My advice would be to not change your identity. Be you but keep learning. The number of things you can learn from different coaches’ overtime will help mold you into who you are and how you might run things when you’re a head coach. You will start picking up on some things that you like and even things you don’t like. Make sure you write everything down so you don’t forget and use it to keep growing. 
  4. Have a support system in place to help share/bounce off ideas 
    • It’s good to have genuine relationships built in the basketball profession that you can bounce ideas from and talk to. I’m very fortunate to have a group of coaches I trust that I can talk to about basketball, opponents, things in practice, how I can better assist my boss, and just life. I do not know if I would have gotten through my first year without this circle and their knowledge. They told me things to look for, things to do and not do, etc.  Make sure to also let them know how much you appreciate them for their wisdom. You’ll be surprised how much more they will want to help you. 
  5. Communication is key 
    • Miscommunication is inevitable. Do your best to minimize it. I believe that communication, or the lack thereof, is the reason so many, if not every problem in this world arises. Being able to communicate as much as you can helps in so many ways. While I do think that there are some things your boss doesn’t need to know to lessen their stress, I do think making sure your boss and coworkers on the same page majority of the time is crucial to not only success off the court but on the court, as well. Communication is something that should be worked on every day and be very intentional. 
  6. You will NOT like every decision your Head Coach makes… That’s OK
    • You’re going to have your own thoughts and opinions. It’s called being human. However, know your boundaries and understand you aren’t the leader of the program. The Head Coach makes the ultimate decision. All you need to worry about is giving your input when asked and leaving it at that. Don’t work yourself up for stuff you can’t control. 
  7. Always accept every opportunity to learn and grow 
    • This profession is constantly growing and evolving and making sure you keep up with it is important. Starting out, there’s so much thrown at you it can be overwhelming. Finds ways to stay on course and get ahead of the curve. Read, listen to podcasts, attend coaching clinics if you can, subscribe to newsletters, whatever it may be, learn ways to better yourself and the program you’re a part of. One thing I love to do is attend our men’s basketball teams’ practices. Seeing how different coaches interact with their players, plays they run, ways they teach etc. Find ways to grow every day, you’ll be thankful you did. 
  8. Find what drives you and makes you passionate about coaching. (Make a list) 
    • If you’re in it for the money you won’t last… That dough doesn’t come for a while. Honestly, when I got to Des Moines, I lived by myself which meant more money for rent and it sucked. I ended up becoming an Uber driver just to pay the bills. Things weren’t easy but one thing never changed; my passion for the game. I knew coaching and wanting to help women reach their goals on and off the court was what I wanted to do for a very long time. It isn’t always easy, but finding your purpose in the work you do is what will keep you going. 

5 Instincts Student-Athletes Detect from their Head Coach

Kids want to be successful. I know heading to college I aspired and dreamed of what I wanted to accomplish in my four years. These kids will also put in the work required to be successful. This generation of kids are eager to learn and driven to accomplish great things. I do believe how coaches contribute to that success can elevate or denounce a kid and their confidence. They want to trust their coaches are going to put in the work to help them achieve success. I was blessed with coaches that helped me grow in all areas of life. I credit them for giving me better ways to think and analyze while setting the blocks for me to pursue the goals I wanted to accomplish as a player and now as a coach.  In my experience as a player, my short time as a graduate assistant, talking with other student-athletes and through my in-depth observations, I have witnessed and experienced first-hand what players sense from their coaches. Below I write about 5 instincts–athletes intuition–that athletes detect from their coaches that can help or hurt the culture of your program and undermine trust. Understand that all five of these can also be viewed the other way around which, in return, are positive.

 1. Being Shady

The first instinct I will dive into that players can detect from their coaches is the act of being shady. In other words, they know when a coach is telling the truth or not. Kids want communication but they want the RIGHT communication. These days with kids it is not what you say but how you say it or not saying anything at all.  You almost cannot win with them because if you do not say something they get angry but if you say it at the wrong time or with the wrong tone they also get upset. Timing is key. Players want feedback but that’s all part of getting to know them and how they respond.  Females tend to be a little more on the sensitive side so deliverance is a crucial component. I am very guilty of being sensitive at times. If I would have just taken the tone out, and heard the actual message, I know I would have grown up a lot quicker and would have been able to respond faster to what I was being told to be to. Once that is established – you know how to approach situations with them and are upfront – that is when you gain their trust.

2. Lack of TRUST/Confidence

This is probably the biggest detection players have on coaches that has the longest and most negative effect on them. This comes with a better understanding when you know your players and how receptive they are to what you are saying and how you are coming across. Some are very good at taking hard criticism and others are the total opposite. This is really important to when coaching young women. To reiterate, women are more likely to be sensitive and you must be very aware in their constant changing of emotions.

Players can sense when you lack confidence in them which can be shown in many ways. One way is simply the words that you choose to use with your players. Degrading athletes in practice, in front of their teammates, is a fast way to lose respect from that individual as well as other players. Trust within the program will also start to deplete. Another way is how you react to things and your expressions to them. If a kid shoots a shot but you didn’t want them shooting, a simple hand gesture that gives the “why did you shoot that” expression becomes evident. It is important to trust your players before you have to or may want to, but also assist them in earning that trust. This helps the athletes grow and understand that it is a big responsibility to gain trust and an even bigger one to keep it, but it is also ok to make mistakes as long as you learn from them.

3. Intentions

Players want their coaches to have the best intentions for them, whether that is reflected in playing time or not. Sometimes playing a kid for your benefit can end up backfiring on you. While the kid still had a great career, they felt used and did not feel like you cared about them. I like to believe its well known that with great players and wins on the right side of the column, coaches can benefit and are often offered better jobs. Players seek pure intentions. What does that mean? From my perspective, it means being there for them when they might be going through adversity. Kids are resilient but also stubborn and sometimes think they can get though a rough time all on their own. It helps to know a coach is aware of it and is willing to be there to help them through it. This also means being honest regardless of the circumstances. If the kids aren’t good enough to get minutes on the floor, then let them know. Some kids may contribute to your team in ways they do not fully understand, but must not measure their value based solely off minutes played. Just make sure you let them know what they can do to get better and make sure you are noticing their improvement because they just want to be the best they can be.

4. Favoritism

This one is BIG. One thing that players hate to hear from their coaches is that they do not have favorites. One, it’s a lie, and two, it takes away credibility from you as a coach. It is crucial as a coach to not even bring up favoritism for multiple reasons. It can negatively affect team chemistry. Kids can get jealous and girls in particular don’t talk through stuff very well. They get mad and talk to others but don’t address the issue they have with the person they are mad at. This result can backfire and become a bigger issue than it needs to be. It is important to do your best to equally love and care for your players and find similar interests with them individually. Finding off court connections with your athletes will help with bonding and understanding players off the court, which is often positively reflected on the court. For example, I was and still am close to my college assistants so there is a couple I can talk to about anything, but it took a couple years for me and my head coach to really get an understanding of each other. I am reserved and don’t talk very much to people I don’t know very well. I observe and sit back and it takes a while for me to get comfortable. After a couple years, my coach and I finally found something we both shared an interest in: Reading. We started sharing books we read and would give each other recommendations. I truly believe that was the stepping stone in our relationship which helped elevate our trust for each other on the court. The point is, even if you do have favorites, which everyone does, do your best not to show it.

5. BS (Bullshitting)

First of all, excuse my language. (I started this blog to be as open and honest as possible and that may include some explicit language from time to time so I apologize in advance). This area encompasses all the previous points I have discussed. Players can see right through a coach that lies to them or only tells them what they WANT to hear, while avoiding what they NEED to hear. As a player, I would always say stuff under my breath if I thought something was not true and now as a coach, I totally see players’ faces change when they know a coach is undeniably lying to them.  This is rule 101 in coaching. Being authentic and vulnerable shows your kids that not only do you care but you are willing to be human and understand that you aren’t perfect and make mistakes. Telling players you don’t have favorites, your intention not being pure, lacking trust and confidence in your kids, and being shady all attribute to one category… BS. At the end of the day do not bullshit your players. They are smarter than you think.

Growing Pains, Lessons, and Opportunities Part I

Over the course of my four years of playing at the University of Washington I encountered many unique experiences that resulted in many lessons learned. Through administration, coaches, teammates and beyond, I was able to absorb and apply numerous concepts and ideas that I think can help bolster your college experience as a student-athlete. I have come up with about 40 points to pass along from my experience as a collegiate student-athlete onto you. These have been broken down into four sections.

Below are the first ten…

 

Tough times are inevitable…

  • I remember my freshman year like it was yesterday. I was on a bike warming up a few days before our first closed scrimmage. My coach came up to me to discuss my role on the team for the season. I was more than satisfied and excited to get the season started. The day before traveling to Portland for our first game, I was riding my bike back to my dorm after practice. Before you know it, I am lying on the ground trying to comprehend what had just happened. I had been hit by a car! I was devastated… The injuries from the accident held me out for over a month. I watched as my team developed and grew on the court without me. This put me behind and I was not able to fit into the role that I was supposed to have when the season began. Add that to all the tough times getting to know my teammates, living with the other freshman, it was almost a nightmare. I wanted it to be over and it had barely gotten started. Freshman year was one of the toughest years of my life. I went through so much at 17 years old that I did not expect to go through. Long story short, tough times happen, embrace them. You will have injuries, fights with coaches and teammates, you will not want to go to school most days. Outside influences will be telling you things that you start to believe and that may not be the best advice at that time. Whatever the case may be, understand that it is going to happen. Embrace them, reflect on them, learn from them.

You will make mistakes.

  • This is in all areas of life. On and off the court, with family, friends, relationships, school and beyond. The number of mistakes I made throughout my career on and off the court can’t be quantified. There were so many times that I felt like the sky was falling when it wasn’t the case. A big mistake I made, and still do, is letting the mistakes I make affect me longer than they needed to. One thing I try to think about is whether those mistakes will even matter in five minutes, days, or even years from now. When I put that into perspective, it makes it much easier to let go and move on. Mistakes are unavoidable, learn and grow from them.

Injuries will happen at some point…

  • Injuries suck. I wish they never happened, but they are a reality of the game and any sport. At some point in your career, you will be faced with some sort of injury. It won’t be easy. I’ve had my fair share of injuries, from ankles, to knees, to shoulders, to feet. You name it, injuries always find a way to rear their ugly head and cause you to miss time from practice or games. I was blessed to never tear an ACL or suffer a serious long-term injury, but to those that do; Use it as motivation to come back better than you were. Things can always be worse. You are still very much a part of the team and their success. Find ways to still bring something to the table. A piece of advice I would give is to make sure that you see yourself at a school for four years without sports in the picture.

There will be times you lose confidence.

  • There were a few times in my career that I lost confidence in myself. My bike accident that led to my rough freshman year was one of those times. Find ways to stay motivated. Easier said than done but understand that there’s a reason that you are where you are. You’re more than capable of being great and having a successful career. Just keep working.

Being a student-athlete is hard

  • Really hard… People don’t understand the necessary time that it takes to be a student-athlete. From morning workouts, to class, to individuals, back to class, to weights, to tutoring, to training table, then home to do homework… and that’s only one day! Try repeating that for months. It’s not to an easy thing to do. It’s exhausting both mentally and physically. Not everyone is fit to be a student-athlete. Be proud of what you accomplish in your four years. Whether you have on court success or not, being able to do what you do and go to school and get a degree is something you should be proud of.

Go to class…

  • Yes, being a student-athlete is hard… But, you’re a STUDENT before an athlete. Go to class, plain and simple.

Know the plays

  • This may be cliché but it couldn’t be more true. Don’t be the only player on the court who doesn’t know the plays. Know your position, and every position on the court. This is an area that I am proud to say that I thrived at. There were times that I would even argue with my coach about certain plays. Sometimes it’s easy to overlook execution when you are talented but it’s little details that not only get you playing time on the court but can also be the difference in the outcome of the game. You want playing time, you want to succeed… KNOW THE PLAYS!!

Watch film

  • This is one factor that I wholeheartedly believe differentiates good players from great ones. There are so many kids who work as hard as they can in the gym, and that’s great, but the ones that do more than just get shots up and spend all their time in the gym separate themselves from the pack. The smart ones learn from their mistakes through film. Whether you sit down with your coach or watch it yourself, analyzing film on yourself and the team is crucial. You not only become aware of mistakes, but it can also help with learning the plays if you struggle with that. Being an underclassman, I think watching film with your coach is very important. Them being there to turn each play into a learning opportunity will benefit you later. By the time you’re an upperclassman, you will be able to self-evaluate. Unfortunately, not every program has the same resources. If you have access to an iPad provided by your program, great. If you don’t, ask your coaches to make clips for you that you can put on a hard drive, or ask for their synergy login. Like my coach always used to say, every rep is your rep. Mental reps are equally important to physical reps.

You will always get an opportunity…

  • Someone can get hurt, a player can transfer, anyone can foul out of a game, whatever it may be. There is always an opportunity that comes your way. However, it’s on you to seize it. Make sure that you are prepared for these opportunities. If you stay ready, then you don’t have to get ready. There are countless times when I got the opportunity to start because of different circumstances. Some of my teammates also had those same opportunities. You see it all the time when a player who was a walk-on or doesn’t play comes in and makes an immediate impact. One of my favorite people in the world, Jenna Moser, or better known as “Sniper,” was a walk-on and used to kill us in practice when we went against our practice team. After we graduated, my class and our coach left the program. This gave her an opportunity with a new coach in a new system. Months later she was the only player to start every game for them and killed it during the season. You can be one of those people. So, don’t get discouraged, keep working hard and when the opportunity presents itself, do the best with whatever time you get.

Ask questions…

  • Learn about the people around you, places, and what’s happening on campus. You can never stop learning and growing. Get to know your teammates. Ask them about things that they like and don’t like. Get to know your teachers. Ask them any and every question about issues or curiosities you may be having in class. Most of the time, teachers reward you with better grades for putting in the effort.  If you don’t know things on the court, ask. Most of the time the question you have, someone else is wanting to ask. Know the events and things happening on campus. There could be things that peak your interest that you want to attend. Be curious about life. Asking questions and the eagerness to learn will broaden your interests and help you become a more well-rounded person. Don’t let thinking your question is stupid stop you from asking. There is nothing wrong with laughing at yourself sometimes.

WELCOME!

They say that if you think you are too small to be effective, you have never been in bed with a mosquito. I think the same goes for the youth of the world. We are often told the older, the wiser. But does knowledge only come with age, and why is credibility repeatedly measured by it? First, we should ask ourselves, what is wisdom? Wisdom defined is, “the soundness of an action or decision about the application of experience, knowledge, and good judgement”. I believe that wisdom is not just a question of time and age, but of perspective, awareness, personal background and more. Knowledge comes from experience and wisdom comes from challenging yourself in unfamiliar circumstances. With this blog, I want to share my knowledge and bring my perspective to the game of basketball. I’ve been blessed to be around some very wise people who have taught me many lessons and have helped me grow in all areas of life. I believe every experience and perspective is worth hearing and important to present the youth opportunities to share those stories with people of all ages.

Basketball is the sport I play, coach, and love. It has taught me so much about life, preparing me for the real world in ways a classroom cannot cover. Because of basketball, I know the value of time management, what it takes to work within a diverse team, and most importantly, striving to be your best every day, despite the highs and lows that are inevitable. Furthermore, basketball has taught me hard work. It has given me a consistent support system through good and bad times. It has taught me how to trust better, love better, learn from mistakes, be vulnerable, be self-aware, and most importantly, to understand and embrace who I am as a person. I like to believe that the coaches I’ve been fortunate enough to cross paths with during my career have been challenged by me one way or another. Why do I believe this? Well, those stories might be too embarrassing to share, but many coaches will tell you they learn just as much from their players as they do from fellow coaches and guess what… those are the successful ones. I created this blog with a purpose of bringing about the athlete’s perspective of how we see and go about things. This will be a platform to express and share our experiences and thoughts. Join the conversation and become a part of changing the way the youth is perceived through The Athletes Way Of Thinking!

– Chantel Osahor