Monday, May 20, 2019

Inside Grovetown's "Off-Season Commitment System" with head coach Darren Douglas

“It doesn't matter what you are trying to become better at, if you only do the work when you’re motivated, then you’ll never be consistent enough to become a professional.”

-James Clear

Darren Douglas, Grovetown High School's new head basketball coach, shared the quote above on Facebook last week. During the last four weeks he has already brought a rarely equaled example of professionalism to the Grovetown basketball program. Shortly after being named the coach of the Warriors beginning next season, he implemented a version of his always improving off season training program - which because of Georgia High School Association rules that only allow a coach to be present with four players at a time for no more than 90 minutes per group each day - separates Douglas from most of his peers in his commitment to using every resource available to him to develop his players as completely as he possibly can.

*In theory*, a high school coach can make available to all of his players the school's facilities, the coach's expertise and feedback, and the coach's time that is necessary to take full advantage of the off season months to fully prepare for the next ultra competitive season. *In practice*, for coach Douglas, that means commuting 20 minutes after finishing his teaching duties every weekday to start a 6:00-7:30 session with one group of four players, only to repeat the process from 7:30 to 9:00 with another group of four before leaving the gym at nearly 10:00 P.M. There isn't enough "motivation" in any coach's system to repeat that process every weekday throughout the Spring, so it is Douglas's commitment to the profession of coaching - which to him ultimately means developing the character of the young men in his care - that enables such an extraordinary regimen.

"People can find us in the gym. That's where we'll be," is what Darren told me last Thursday when I visited a 6:00 P.M. session.

He makes it sound simple. But the sophistication and care he puts into the process is astounding, and the process is the kind of thing that almost has to be witnessed to be believed. It begins with a document titled "Warriors Basketball Off-Season Commitment System, " which explains in detail the commitment required to be a member of next season's varsity squad. A minimum number of points are required, and players can earn them by doing things like participating in basketball workouts at the school, adhering to a weight training program, studying books, making high grades, playing multiple sports at Grovetown and even participating in AAU basketball activities or practicing with personal trainers. Douglas then uses a "commitment tracker" to record the points earned by the players, who can track their compliance with the program in real time.

The portion of the commitment system that Douglas has been most involved with in his first month on the new job has been the 90 minute long, 4 player workout sessions. He has completed 32 of them so far. The first portion of each session consists of skills practice, in which the players repeat fundamental aspects of the game like passing, catching, driving and shooting the ball while using proper footwork. Douglas calls the second segment of these sessions the "competitive cauldron," a player development concept that was first conceived by legendary basketball coach Dean Smith before being perfected by North Carolina women's soccer coach Anson Dorrance.

"UNC has won 20 national championships in soccer, so I figured if it's good enough for them, it should be good enough for us," Douglas explained after showing me how he keeps score so each player can track how they compare to their peers.

Grovetown's competitive cauldron includes various shooting competitions and 2 on 2 play that are meant to instill the belief in the players that "everything counts" when it comes to eventually competing for a state championship, a target at which the Warriors are aimed.

Douglas was able to reach that kind of lofty goal soon after obtaining first head coaching position three years ago when he took the helm at Aquinas. The Fighting Irish won the class 1A private school state championship in his second season, an accomplishment that proved that Douglas's commitment to player development yields results that should make Grovetown a worthy rival in a class 6A region that last season featured at least three other teams that made serious waves statewide in Georgia's second highest classification.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Tyree Myers (Augusta) - Highlights from the Post Season

Augusta's 2019 march to a Peach Belt Conference regular season and tournament championship, along with a third round NCAA tournament finish, produced a slew of individual awards for its players and for head coach Dip Metress. But even though freshman point guard Tyree Myers wasn't one of the five Jaguars recognized at the PBC awards banquet, the rookie played an immeasurable role in Augusta's 28-6 season, which ended when a 15 game winning streak was finally snapped by Southeast Region champion Queens.

It was during Augusta's best post season run since 2011 when Myers played the best basketball of his young college career. He averaged 16 points and 5 assists while shooting 65% from the field and 70% from three point range. Myers is one of five returning players who played at a high level during the most crucial moments of last season's championship run, a fact Jaguar fans everywhere cite as reason to be optimistic about the prospects for next season's defending Peach Belt Conference champions.