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.