If you’d like to read the first two installments of this series, you can find those here and here.
I’ve looked up to this next coach as a personal role model for well over half my life. He is not only one of the top high school basketball coaches in Nebraska, he’s also my father-in-law and my former World History teacher. The fact that he got me interested at all in World History speaks volumes for his innate ability to motivate kids.
Doug Woodard has coached high school varsity boys basketball for over 25 years and is entering his 18th at Class A Bellevue West High School in Bellevue, Nebraska. Doug has had five separate teams win State Championship titles under his leadership (1996, 2000, 2004, 2005, 2014), as well as coached three State Runner-Up teams.
He’s been named Coach of the Year 10 times by different media and organizations. Doug has also administered and directed the Omaha Sports Academy Crusader summer basketball program, which has seen more than 200 student-athletes acquire college scholarships.
I’ve personally seen the amount of time and dedication that Doug puts into coaching young men and can say with utmost confidence that he is as interested (perhaps even more interested) in guiding them off the court as he is when they’re on the court. In addition to coaching the Thunderbird basketball team, he also serves as Dean of Students at Bellevue West High School, has spoken at coaching clinics and basketball programs throughout the Midwest, and has presented at corporate training sessions for Union Pacific, ConAgra Foods, and Hudl.
Although I was particularly interested in hearing his answer to the question, Seriously, how did you put up with Ryan (my husband) for the first 18 years of his life?, my actual questions and his corresponding responses appear below.
Q1: You’ve been coaching high-level varsity boys basketball for over 25 years. How do you think your communication style has evolved over the years with your student-athletes?
Doug’s Response: There are two major areas where I feel it has been necessary to alter my approach: The first is in using more of a collaborative style attempting to give the reasons why certain things are done (required). The days of simply saying do this and don’t question are over. It is critical to achieve “buy-in” that today’s athletes see a reason or justifiable rationale for the techniques or systems being used.
The second is to communicate in shorter segments due to societal trends that have helped shorten the attention span of this generation. Video needs to be shown in abbreviated sections for instance, as watching an entire game is not conducive to good learning or retention. The tension is to try to adjust one’s techniques without compromising in areas that you feel are core principles and therefore not dependent on societal or cultural transition.
Q2: Who would you consider to be a coaching mentor and why?
Doug’s Response: My old high school coach, John Johnette, is one who I see as a mentor. One of the reasons is that I feel Coach Johnette was way ahead of his time. He wanted us to shoot in 8-12 seconds and this was during the 1970’s!
He used techniques and strategies that lived outside the norm and was never afraid of innovation. He also used as his core philosophy to be true to one’s self. He thought if you coached true to your beliefs and philosophy that, at the end of the day, you could take great satisfaction in a job well done…regardless of the result. I remember after we lost in the semi-finals of the state tournament, he told us that the result of the game is never what is important…it is what happens subsequent to that result that will determine if it was a net positive or negative in one’s life.
In this way, a loss in districts could be viewed as a “better” result long-term than winning a state championship if one uses that loss in a positive sense as opposed to one who, as a result of the state championship, makes negative or destructive decisions.
Q3: What are the major lessons learned in basketball that can be carried over into a young man’s life well after his competitive playing days are done?
Doug’s Response: There are so many, but to highlight a couple: The importance of being part of something larger than one’s self and the corresponding need to sacrifice…at times…what is in your personal best interests for the good of the team. Ironically, this selfless approach will, in the long run, bring greater personal success and accomplishment.
A related lesson is that each member of the team has a role and that every role is important to the overall success of the team/organization. This is one reason why so many successful leaders in business have come from the athletic realm. The obvious traits of discipline and work ethic are things that will carry one far in whatever career or endeavor they choose.
Successful basketball teams are built on trust – trust among teammates as well as trust between players and coaches. A culture of trust is one that is critical to long-term success, be it in business, education, or any other vocation in life.
The Sharing Wisdom: A Series of Coaching Perspectives is written by Heidi Woodard.