Monday, March 30, 2009

We've Got The Power

There are several small, subtle unoticeable things that happen in basketball that lead to paying huge divedends in the way of a basket or key possession.

You'll often times see players pointing at each on the court as they make their way back to the other end of the floor.

What they are doing is a form of acknowledgement.

Perhaps a player has set a screen to get their team mate open for a shot or maybe offered some sort of assistance on the defensive end to force a turnover.

By pointing, they're saying "Thanks", "I saw that" or "Keep up the good work".

In a lot of ways, it's the little things that make the most difference and this is especially true in basketball as well as life.

Acknowledging the actions of others hold tremendous power and can create waves and ripples that motivate, inspire and improve the quality of our personal and professional relationships.

Having out actions acknoweledged will make us more prone to do the same for others.

Think of a moment that you worked really hard on a project or task. What was the feeling you had when someone recognized and commented on what you did?

Did it make you feel valued and appreciated? Were you inspired to keep going? Did you level of respect increase for the other person?

I believe that we all want to be acknowledged for our contributions to society deep down inside. To know that our actions made a difference to someone else is a great motivator on so many levels.

In her book, The Power of Acknowledgment Judith W Umlas says, "each of us has this power, and it is important to remember to use it appropriately, often, and honestly both in business and in our personal lives."

It's a marvelous power that can encourage others to do great things including help score more baskets!

Thanks for reading!


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Tuesday, March 24, 2009


My first experience coaching youth basketball came when my daughter, who was 8 at the time started playing on an organized team.

I figured that I might as well be of use since I'd be hanging around anyways.

Coaching has been rewarding for me on many fronts and I can truthfully say that I developed a great deal personally from being involved.

Here are four things that I've taken away from my coaching experience:


You can never have too much patience - Each child has their own on/off switch and coaches have to identify the trigger in each to make them go. Learning a new anything takes time and a lot of trial and error.

Kids may not pick up something after the first attempt but a little repetition and patience can help a lot. Who knows, maybe they'll grasp it at trial #1000?

There's Always a Next Time
It can be real easy to beat yourself up for an in game decision after the fact, especially when the final outcome isn't in your favour. During the course of a game, there's all sorts of factors and consideration points that go into making a certain play call or substitution.

I've found that situations have a way of re-representing themselves so that we can get it right the second, third or maybe even the fourth time around.

Follow Their lead
Although you may be the coach, your players will ultimately guide the direction of the team and what you do during practice. If they don't grasp a concept or idea, be prepared to scrap your original plan and start over. Being flexible is key because you really need to be operating at their speed, not yours.

Celebrate Successes

A coach needs to be prepared to celebrate player's individual successes.I may not have won national titles or had a bucket of Gatorade dumped on my head for reaching a coaching milestone but I love the feeling I get when a player who I taught the mechanics of free throw makes the net sing. SWISH!!!

My coaching philosophy quite simply is to teach my players the right way to play the game. This means focusing on skill development, teamwork and having a good court awareness.

Oh yeah, let's have some fun out there!

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Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Last 2 Minutes

There's a saying in basketball that goes something like this, when a team loses by 10 or more points the players are to blame and if the loss is by anything less than five then it’s the coach’s fault.

Coaches generally carry the heavy burden of losing when a team is going through a tough stretch. If a team under performs or fails to win consistently then the onus is on the coach to motivate, inspire and manufacture wins any way possible.

One motivating tactic many coaches use is to break the game down and set up small digestible milestones for players to understand.

For example, coaches will encourage their players to win the last two minutes of every quarter. This tactic moves the focus away from what has happened to what can occur with a bit of focus. It doesn’t matter how badly the game started or what the current score is.

The job is to take control of the last two minutes and finish strong.

Dan Green asks in his video, Finish Strong, `How will you choose to respond to the challenge before you.

He reminds us that the choice always remains ours to make.

We encounter challenging or tough situations on a daily basis but it is important to remember that our attitude and beliefs that will always guide our actions.

To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe.

Anatole France - French poet, journalist, and novelist.

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Friday, March 20, 2009

The Fat Lady Has Laryngitis

I've seen some remarkable come from behind victories over the years but my all time favourite would have to go to Reggie Miller of the Indiana Pacers.

The Knick Killer scored eight points in 8.9 seconds in a playoff game against New York in 1995. I was a huge Knicks fan back then and the image of him stealing the inbounds pass and scurrying back to take a shot at the 3 point line has never left me.

Larry Bird intercepting a pass and hitting a cutting Dennis Johnson for a playoff win against the Pistons in '87 also rates high on my list.

Both moments were made possible because neither Miller or Bird believed it was over. It could have been easy for them to hang their heads down in defeat however, their never give up attitude prevailed and things turned out pretty decent in both instances.

The Economy

Our political leaders, economists and RSS feeds don't have a lot of positive things to say about our current economic decline.

Mass layoffs, company failures and cuts in spending have many feeling less than optimistic these days. And really, it's hard not be concerned.

Despite everything happening around us, I believe that it's more important now then ever before that we remain optimistic.

I tend to see the positive potential in people and situations. I believe that almost every circumstance has both good and not so good stuff about it.

We spend so much of our time focusing on the negative side of things, we forget that our outcome is shaped to some degree by our attitude.

If we are inclined to be positive, we're more likely to be generous and proactive. If we tend to be fearful or worried, those negative emotions can get in the way of making the game winning shot.

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Throwing Two Easy Points

Just thought I'd share following story about sportsmanship.

It's taken from:

"Great Moments of Sportmanship & Extraordinary Sports People"



American basketball captain throws easy points out the window

DeKalb, Ill., High School basketball team traveled by bus for two and a half hours and then waited another hour past game time to get their chance to take a big city scalp when they played Milwaukee Madison Senior on a Saturday night in February 2009.

The essence of sportsmanship was about to emerge.

Hours earlier, the mother of Milwaukee captain Johntell Franklin died at a local hospital (after a five year fight with cervical cancer). The school offered to cancel the game but Franklin asked them not to do so and to play it without him. They had only 8 players but the game went ahead.

After the game had started Franklin turned up to support his team on. Milwaukee coach Aaron Womack Jr spotted him entering and called time out. The team (and some of the crowd went over and hugged him). The coach asked Franklin if he’d like to sit on the bench and young Franklin said he’d actually prefer to play.

Because Franklin was not listed on the official team sheet, it incurred a penalty of two free shots at the basket if a player is brought on who is not on the team sheet. Aware of the opposition captain’s desperately sad news, The DeKalb coach, Dave Rohlman told the umpire they didn’t want the call. However the referees insisted the penalty must be taken.

DeKalb captain, Darius McNeal (he must have Irish blood in him) bounced the ball a few times, looked at the rim of the basket and then threw the ball two feet in the air and let it roll towards the end line. The second ‘shot’ rolled out of his hand and onto the floor. The Milwaukee team turned and applauded the whole DeKalb bench for their gesture of true sportsmanship. Soon every spectator stood and applauded the kids and the coach from DeKalb.

Franklin actually went on to score 10 points in a game which eventually ‘broke open late in the second half as Milwaukee went on to win 62-47.

“I did it for the guy who lost his mom,” McNeal said “It was the right thing to do.” Fair play to McNeal, his team mates and coach Rohlman for they all know that ‘it’s not whether you won or lost….it’s how you played the game.”

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Take What the Defence Gives You

Taking what the defence gives you is a concept reserved for those on offense trying to score.

It's a reactive mindset that encourages players to exercise patience and in the process helps to strengthen decision making skills.

Essentially, an offensive player with the ball takes their cues from their defensive counterpart. The defence wants to control where you go and what you do on the court.

All done in an attempt to make it difficult for you to score.

It's our job on offence to maintain our edge and not succumb to the will of others.

Read the situation and take the best course of action that will get you one step closer to your goal.

Making Your Move

After an OT win against the Utah Jazz, Dwayne Wade, Miami Heat guard said in a post game interview that, "Most of what happens in basketball is about reaction"

He was referring to a play in which his defender, Andrei Kirelenko was playing him particularly tough on his strong right hand.

To get by him, Wade pulled a behind the back cross over dribble from his bag of tricks and finished with a lay-up for the basket.

Kirlenko, an above average defender was left beaten and flat footed.

Wade reacted and made his move once he understood what the defence wanted him to do.

The defender really could be anyone or anything. Life has a way of throwing all sorts of challenges on our pathway.

The onus falls on our shoulders to respond accordingly.

A Few Points To Keep in Mind

Before you jump in reaction to a situation, take a moment to understand what's happening around you.

Make sure that you're aware of the possibilities before you make your move.

Finally, be prepared to have a plan B if the first one doesn't work out.

In Closing...

Keeping these points in mind will put you into better scoring situations and help you get your two points.

Thanks for reading!

Click here to listen to the podcast.


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Monday, March 16, 2009

The Game Plan

The NBA has had some special teams come together to form hardwood magic over the years.

The early Celtic squads of the 60's established a new brand of dominance the league never saw before by winning 11 championship titles in 13 years.

The city of Houston garnered the nickname "Clutch City" after their hometown Rockets delivered clutch performances in '94 & '95 to capture back-to-back NBA titles.

At one stretch, the Chicago Bulls had fans believing that they couldn't lose as they became the only team in NBA history to record 72 wins in a single season.

The accomplishments of these three teams were tremendous but only possible because they shared a common factor. The Celtics, Rockets and Bulls all had an established identity from the start.

This clear vision of who they were allowed them to understand their weaknesses and maximize their strengths. Management, coaches, players and athletic trainers were able to see the direction the team was headed and how they were going to get there.

Everybody knew what the game plan was from the start.

What Can It Do For Us?

This process of figuring out who you are as an individual can produce similar results with the exception of an NBA title. Taking an honest introspective look at ourselves does a few things for us:

1.It gives us the opportunity to evaluate the situations where we could take full advantage of our strengths and helps to better identify areas of improvement;

2. It allows us put our circumstances in better perspective and makes our boundaries and limitations clearer;

3. It assists with managing our personal relationships with others more effectively and specifically helps us to understand what we each can "bring to the table."

The difference between a good team and a great one is that great teams have a clear and established identity from the start. They know who they are, what they want to accomplish and how they plan on doing it.

This sense of clarity helps to put you in a better situation to achieve your goals while building on your strengths and addressing your weaknesses. As well, knowing where you fit in can go a long way towards figuring out the bigger picture.

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Monday, March 9, 2009

Just Accept It

Imagine you're a player in the NBA and you wake up one day to find out you've been traded.

No advance notice, no rumours on the internet - NOTHING!

The team that drafted you out of college has now severed ties and it's time to go.

Pretty startling stuff huh?

NBA player Shawn Marion said after being traded from Miami to Toronto, "It's a business, you just gotta accept it."

What Is It?

The process of being traded isn't an uncommon occurence amongst professional sports and is pretty much the same right across the board.

You play for the team you're contractually obligated to and they decide when and where you get moved.

While we may not all be professional athletes, it's a form of change we all deal with.

Change is one of things that happens in our lives that when we least expect it.

When it does take place, we have two simple choices.

Accept it or not.

Whether it's ending a relationship, loss of job or having to learn how to use a new computer program - change happens.

We, unlike the example of a player being traded to another city, have a bit more flexibility as to how we choose to respond to it.

What Can I Do About It?

Here are 6 quick tips to keep in mind when your jersey number gets traded:

*Life is full of surprises so be as prepared as a squirrel is for the winter.

*Understand the things that are in your realm of control - once you let go of the kite string, the wind is the master.

*Take the necessary time you need to deal with the change before adjusting to it.

*Having a clear sense of who you are will help you respond appropriately when change occurs. Think of incoming waves smashing against a rocks, no matter how large the tide gets, the rocks still maintains unstirred.

*Maintaining an upbeat, positive attitude on the situation makes easier to see the good things. Take off your sunglasses and face the light.

*Lastly, recognize when its time to move on and leave a situation. Don't waste time mulling over something that's already happened. Assess the circumstances and understand when its time to move on.

Kenny Rogers said it best in his hit song, "The Gambler"

You gotta know when to hold em
Know when to fold em
Know when to walk away
Know when to run

Thanks for reading!


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Passing on a Fast Break!

The Pass

Being able to make crisp accurate passes is a fundamental skill in the game of basketball. Pinpoint passes allow the ball to move up the floor quicker and puts your team into better scoring situations.

The most effective players are the ones that have clear idea of who the intended recipient is before allowing the ball to leave their hands.

They recognize the importance of understanding who to pass to and when to make it.

The conversations we have with one another work on a very similar premise.

What Do You Mean?

The message represents the ball, the sender is equivalent to the point guard and the recipient is the receiver of the message.

For the most part, the responsibility of initiating dialogue falls squarely on the shoulders of the sender. If it's unclear, confusing or incoherent then the sender risks dropping the ball and may need to either repeat the message or rephrase it.

How many times have you been in a conversation with someone and not understood what they just told you?

Was it what they said or how they said it?

Or both?

In those instances, how many times did you blame yourself for not understanding?

Essentially, the passer is 100% accountable in making sure the ball gets to where it has to go.

Good Hands

Former Utah Jazz, John Stockton is regarded by many as one of the greatest point guards to play the game. He leads the NBA with over 15,000 career assists. Part of his success came from the fact that his favourite target, Karl Malone always had his hands up ready to receive the ball.

You risk getting a face full of Spalding if you're not paying attention and ready for the pass.

There are all sorts of elements that can come into play and cause us not to be open minded and ready.

Our own personal bianess, moods and past experiences act as a reference point and can filter and potentially distort how a message is heard or comes across.

Our frames of reference are determined by our attitudes, values, beliefs and experiences. We won't all necessarily receive the same message the exact same way because our reference points are different.

Even messages that are crystal clear can still be misconstrued.

While we may never have 100% understanding of others and their situations. Taking the time to try and figure it out puts us one step closer to choosing the right language, tone and terminology in helping get your point across.

Communication is definitely a two way street. The sender has the responsibility of delivering clear understandable messages and it's the receivers job to be ready to throw down a two-handed jam when they get it!

If you meet the Buddha in the lane, feed him the ball. ~ Phil Jackson

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Saturday, March 7, 2009

Who Am I?

Audley Stephenson is a professional speaker, talk show host and hoops junkie who's passionate about helping individuals and organizations recognize their leadership potential.


Audley is a self admitted basketball junkie and has an appreciation for the game's creativity, athleticism and constant action.

He started his professional career in the not-for-profit sector where he delivered leadership skills workshops for young people who were preparing to enter the workforce. The workshops were designed to improve participants self-esteem and increase their awareness of the world around them.

One of the realizations that Audley came to is that a high number of young people he interacted with failed to recognize their own leadership potential or how their day to day actions could make a difference in the lives of others.

He later began coaching his daughter's little league basketball team when she was eight years old.

It's at this point where he developed an appreciation for the game from a leadership standpoint and taught lessons such as teamwork, dedication and focus.

Our society is in an era where greater expectations exist around productivity and output but unfortunately, the level of resources hasn't risen with the same speed.

We're required to do more with less therefore, which means we'll need individuals to step up, take action and be the next generation of leaders to guide our society forward.


Audley is the host of two successful internet talk radio programs, "Hard Court Lessons Radio" and "The Breakdown with Dave & Audley"

Through these programs, Audley has personally interviewed several NBA stars and leadership experts such as former Phoenix Sun and first African American mayor of Sacramento, Kevin Johnson, first Canadian NBA head coach, Jay Triano, internationally acclaimed speakers, Mark Sanborn and John Baldoni and best selling authors, Robert Greene and Steve Farber plus many more.

Audley now takes these parallels from the game of basketball and the lessons learned from his guests to help audiences recognize their leadership potential.

He may be a basketball guy but Audley believes that developing leaders is more than just a game.

About Hard Court Lessons

Hard Court Leadership Lessons is a leadership development blog and radio program that's designed to enlighten and motivate aspiring leaders of tomorrow using parallels from the game of basketball and sports.

As our society continues to mature and face new challenges, it becomes increasingly important for up and coming leaders to be ready to step into roles that will help move us collectively forward.

Our generation has placed greater demands on leaders to maintain or increase productivity with less resources, time and support. Leaders are looked at and expected to provide guidance and direction particularly during tough times.

Hard Court Leadership Lessons helps individuals and organizations realize the current leadership skills that already exists by first understanding the direct link between effective leadership and our individual behaviours.

Hard Court Leadership Lessons believes that leadership development is more than just a game.

Guiding Principles

1. We establish ourselves as leaders through our actions as opposed to our titles or positions;

2. Anyone can exhibit leadership skills, they have to make the choice to want to;

3. Effective leadership is about having a positive effect on others; and

4. The parallels that exist between basketball and life are very relevant and lessons from the game can be applied to leadership.

These guiding principles can help us manage our relationships effectively, enable us to be better contributors to society and be better leaders.

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”John Quincy Adams


"It was awesome to be interviewed by Audley Stephenson. He was very prepared and I greatly appreciate the message he is sharing with his audience. Keep up your great work to help make the world a better place."

Coach Jim Johnson
Speaker & Author

"You're doing some great work! Fundamentally, people should tune in, listen to the ideas and most importantly implement them. Whatever I'm saying, whatever leaders you're bringing on. We need this information distributed to society so I applaud your efforts."

Gary Ryan Blair
Speaker & Author

"Thank you - it was good to be with you."

Vince Lombardi Jr.
Motivational speaker and author

"What a delight to do this talk with you! We are so pleased that we were able to share these ideas with you."

Dave Ulrich
HR Expert and Co-Founder of The RBL Group

"You're an easy interview - I appreciate the style, you made me feel like I was with a friend in a safe place. It was delightful."

Jim Cathcart CSP, CPAE - Hall of Fame Speaker and Best Selling Author

It is a pleasure to be interviewed by someone as thoughtful and well prepared as Audley. In his own words, "Effective leadership is about having a positive effect on others." And this is what Audley does so well, bringing his audience the latest leadership ideas, insights and practices, synthesized into easily digested bytes. Bravo!

Susan Scott, Author of Fierce Conversations and Fierce Leadership

Audley is a well-prepared and well-versed interviewer. He has not only knowledge but an indelible passion for "Hard Court Lessons" and it translates in his delivery as a radio host. He is more than just a talking head as he offers useful and practical advice to his listeners. He has a knack for bringing out the best insight from his guests and doesn't shy away from offering his own insights and opinions. I enjoyed being a guest on his show and would gladly do it again anytime.

Vera Jones
Business Motivational Speaker

Audley has a wonderful gift as a interviewer; his thoughtful questions allow those being interviewed to express themselves thoughtfully and insightfully. Thank you for inviting me on board.

John Baldoni
Leadership expert, motivational speaker & author

In a turbulent world, the old models of leadership are coming up short. Audley brings a necessary fresh perspective to the vitally important issue of leadership in the 21st century. Using basketball as both an analogy and incubator for new approaches, Audley inspires and challenges us to find new ways to lead. It was a pleasure to interview with Audley – and I found the time personally inspiring.

Dr Graeme Codrington
New World of Work and Multigenerational expert

In our unstable world, a leaders greatness is determined by the positive impacts their actions have on others. Audley understands this and successfully uses his knowledge of the game of basketball to bring home the fact that anyone of us can demonstrate effective leadership skills through our actions. It was a pleasure to interview with Audley.

Azim Jamal
# 1 Amazon bestselling co-author of The "Power of Giving"

Audley Stephenson is a leader's leader. Not only does he write, guest lecture, and radio broadcast about the topic, but he also walks the talk. His desire, vision, creativity, and knowledge base make him an influential figure in this space, More importantly, Audley is well respected by many. Look out for many more Hard Court Lessons to follow.

Peter Robert Casey
Basketball journalist & social media expert

Audley understands what it takes to develop leaders and uses some great basketball illustrations to make his points.

Mark Sanborn
Leadership expert & consultant

Audley possesses an intellectual curiosity, a personal sense of community commitment, and a passion about leadership. He constantly seeks new and better ways to explore, communicate, and express ideas about taking individuals and teams to more desirable outcomes.

William S. Kane
Global HR Executive, Business Change Expert, Author, and Leadership Consultant

Sports is such a great training ground that produces so much more than wins and losses and your unique approach to the subject is perfect in a day when we all need to be inspired by real leaders.

Don Yaeger
Motivational speaker, bestselling author and associate editor of Sports Illustrated

Audley understands that being an effective leader is less about what you believe and more about how you behave.

Eric Harvey
Walk The Talk founder and president

Our society desperately needs role models and leaders to step up and guide today's youth. Audley takes an innovative and creative approach to help our young people understand how their actions can contribute to a better future.

Tracy Murray
12 year professional basketball player in National Basketball Association