“Toughness” – Jay Bilas – ESPN .com
I have heard the word "toughness" thrown around a lot lately. Reporters on television,
radio and in print have opined about a team or player's "toughness" or quoted a coach
talking about his team having to be "tougher" to win.
Then, in almost coordinated fashion, I would watch games and see player upon player
thumping his chest after a routine play, angrily taunting an opponent after a blocked shot,
getting into a shouting match with an opposing player, or squaring up nose-to-nose as if a
fight might ensue. I see players jawing at each other, trying to "intimidate" other players.
What a waste of time. That is nothing more than fake toughness, and it has no real value.
I often wonder: Do people really understand what coaches and experienced players mean
when they emphasize "toughness" in basketball? Or is it just some buzzword that is
thrown around haphazardly without clear definition or understanding? I thought it was
the latter, and I wrote a short blog item about it a couple of weeks ago.
The response I received was overwhelming. Dozens of college basketball coaches called
to tell me that they had put the article up in the locker room, put it in each player's locker,
or had gone over it in detail with their teams.
Memphis coach John Calipari called to say that he had his players post the definition of
toughness over their beds because he believed that true "toughness" was the one thing
that his team needed to develop to reach its potential. I received messages from high
school coaches who wanted to relay the definition of toughness to their players and
wanted to talk about it further.
Well, I got the message that I should expound upon what I consider toughness to be. It
may not be what you think.
Toughness is something I had to learn the hard way, and something I had no real idea of
until I played college basketball. When I played my first game in college, I thought that
toughness was physical and based on how much punishment I could dish out and how
much I could take. I thought I was tough.
I found out pretty quickly that I wasn't, but I toughened up over time, and I got a pretty
good understanding of toughness through playing in the ACC, for USA Basketball, in
NBA training camps, and as a professional basketball player in Europe. I left my playing
career a heck of a lot tougher than I started it, and my only regret is that I didn't truly "get
it" much earlier in my playing career.
When I faced a tough opponent, I wasn't worried that I would get hit -- I was concerned
that I would get sealed on ball reversal by a tough post man, or that I would get boxed out
on every play, or that my assignment would sprint the floor on every possession and get
something easy on me. The toughest guys I had to guard were the ones who made it
tough on me.Toughness has nothing to do with size, physical strength or athleticism. Some players
may be born tough, but I believe that toughness is a skill, and it is a skill that can be
developed and improved. Michigan State coach Tom Izzo always says, "Players play, but
tough players win." He is right. Here are some of the ways true toughness is exhibited in
Set a good screen: The toughest players to guard are the players who set good screens.
When you set a good screen, you are improving the chances for a teammate to get open,
and you are greatly improving your chances of getting open. A good screen can force the
defense to make a mistake. A lazy or bad screen is a waste of everyone's time and energy.
To be a tough player, you need to be a "screener/scorer," a player who screens hard and
immediately looks for an opportunity on offense. On the 1984 U.S. Olympic Team, Bob
Knight made Michael Jordan set a screen before he could get a shot. If it is good enough
for Jordan, arguably the toughest player ever, it is good enough for you.
Set up your cut: The toughest players make hard cuts, and set up their cuts. Basketball is
about deception. Take your defender one way, and then plant the foot opposite of the
direction you want to go and cut hard. A hard cut may get you a basket, but it may also
get a teammate a basket. If you do not make a hard cut, you will not get anyone open.
Setting up your cut, making the proper read of the defense, and making a hard cut require
alertness, good conditioning and good concentration. Davidson's Stephen Curry is hardly
a physical muscle-man, but he is a tough player because he is in constant motion, he
changes speeds, he sets up his cuts, and he cuts hard. Curry is hard to guard, and he is a
Talk on defense: The toughest players talk on defense, and communicate with their
teammates. It is almost impossible to talk on defense and not be in a stance, down and
ready, with a vision of man and ball. If you talk, you let your teammates know you are
there, and make them and yourself better defenders. It also lets your opponent know that
you are fully engaged.
Jump to the ball: When on defense, the tough defenders move as the ball moves. The
toughest players move on the flight of the ball, not when it gets to its destination. And the
toughest players jump to the ball and take away the ball side of the cut. Tough players
don't let cutters cut across their face -- they make the cutter change his path.
Don't get screened: No coach can give a player the proper footwork to get through every
screen. Tough players have a sense of urgency not to get screened and to get through
screens so that the cutter cannot catch the ball where he wants to. A tough player makes
the catch difficult.
Get your hands up: A pass discouraged is just as good as a pass denied. Tough players
play with their hands up to take away vision, get deflections and to discourage a pass in
order to allow a teammate to cover up. Cutters and post players will get open, if only for
a count. If your hands are up, you can keep the passer from seeing a momentary opening.Play the ball, see your man: Most defenders see the ball and hug their man, because
they are afraid to get beat. A tough defender plays the ball and sees his man. There is a
Get on the floor: In my first road game as a freshman, there was a loose ball that I
thought I could pick up and take the other way for an easy one. While I was bending over
at the waist, one of my opponents dived on the floor and got possession of the ball. My
coach was livid. We lost possession of the ball because I wasn't tough enough to get on
the floor for it. I tried like hell never to get out-toughed like that again.
The first player to get to the floor is usually the one to come up with any loose ball.Close
out under control: It is too easy to fly at a shooter and think you are a tough defender. A
tough defender closes out under control, takes away a straight line drive and takes away
the shot. A tough player has a sense of urgency but has the discipline to do it the right
Post your man, not a spot: Most post players just blindly run to the low block and get
into a shoving match for a spot on the floor. The toughest post players are posting their
defensive man. A tough post player is always open, and working to get the ball to the
proper angle to get a post feed. Tough post players seal on ball reversal and call for the
ball, and they continue to post strong even if their teammates miss them.
Run the floor: Tough players sprint the floor, which drags the defense and opens up
things for others. Tough players run hard and get "easy" baskets, even though there is
nothing easy about them. Easy baskets are hard to get. Tough players don't take tough
shots -- they work hard to make them easy.
Play so hard, your coach has to take you out: I was a really hard worker in high school
and college. But I worked and trained exceptionally hard to make playing easier. I was
wrong. I once read that Bob Knight had criticized a player of his by saying, "You just
want to be comfortable out there!" Well, that was me, and when I read that, it clicked
with me. I needed to work to increase my capacity for work, not to make it easier to play.
I needed to work in order to be more productive in my time on the floor. Tough players
play so hard that their coaches have to take them out to get rest so they can put them back
in. The toughest players don't pace themselves.
Get to your teammate first: When your teammate lays his body on the line to dive on
the floor or take a charge, the tough players get to him first to help him back up. If your
teammate misses a free throw, tough players get to him right away. Tough players are
also great teammates.
Take responsibility for your teammates: Tough players expect a lot from their
teammates, but they also put them first. When the bus leaves at 9 a.m., tough players not
only get themselves there, but they also make sure their teammates are up and get there,
too. Tough players take responsibility for others in addition to themselves. They makesure their teammates eat first, and they give credit to their teammates before taking it
Take a charge: Tough players are in a stance, playing the ball, and alert in coming over
from the weak side and taking a charge. Tough players understand the difference between
being in the right spot and being in the right spot with the intention of stopping
somebody. Some players will look puzzled and say, "But I was in the right spot." Tough
players know that they have to get to the right spot with the sense of urgency to stop
The toughest players never shy away from taking a charge.Get in a stance: Tough players
don't play straight up and down and put themselves in the position of having to get ready
to get ready. Tough players are down in a stance on both ends of the floor, with feet
staggered and ready to move. Tough players are the aggressor, and the aggressor is in a
Finish plays: Tough players don't just get fouled, they get fouled and complete the play.
They don't give up on a play or assume that a teammate will do it. A tough player plays
through to the end of the play and works to finish every play.
Work on your pass: A tough player doesn't have his passes deflected. A tough player
gets down, pivots, pass-fakes, and works to get the proper angle to pass away from the
defense and deliver the ball.
Throw yourself into your team's defense: A tough player fills his tank on the defensive
end, not on offense. A tough player is not deterred by a missed shot. A tough player
values his performance first by how well he defended.
Take and give criticism the right way: Tough players can take criticism without feeling
the need to answer back or give excuses. They are open to getting better and expect to be
challenged and hear tough things. You will never again in your life have the opportunity
you have now at the college level: a coaching staff that is totally and completely
dedicated to making you and your team better. Tough players listen and are not afraid to
say what other teammates may not want to hear, but need to hear.
Show strength in your body language: Tough players project confidence and security
with their body language. They do not hang their heads, do not react negatively to a
mistake of a teammate, and do not whine and complain to officials. Tough players project
strength, and do not cause their teammates to worry about them. Tough players do their
jobs, and their body language communicates that to their teammates -- and to their
Catch and face: Teams that press and trap are banking on the receiver's falling apart and
making a mistake. When pressed, tough players set up their cuts, cut hard to an open area
and present themselves as a receiver to the passer. Tough players catch, face the defense,and make the right read and play, and they do it with poise. Tough players do not just
catch and dribble; they catch and face.
Don't get split: If you trap, a tough player gets shoulder-to-shoulder with his teammate
and does not allow the handler to split the trap and gain an advantage on the back side of
Be alert: Tough players are not "cool." Tough players are alert and active, and tough
players communicate with teammates so that they are alert, too. Tough players echo
commands until everyone is on the same page. They understand the best teams play five
as one. Tough players are alert in transition and get back to protect the basket and the 3-
point line. Tough players don't just run back to find their man, they run back to stop the
ball and protect the basket.
Concentrate, and encourage your teammates to concentrate: Concentration is a skill,
and tough players work hard to concentrate on every play. Tough players go as hard as
they can for as long as they can.
It's not your shot; it's our shot: Tough players don't take bad shots, and they certainly
don't worry about getting "my" shots. Tough players work for good shots and understand
that it is not "my" shot, it is "our" shot. Tough players celebrate when "we" score.
Box out and go to the glass every time: Tough players are disciplined enough to lay a
body on someone. They make first contact and go after the ball. And tough players do it
on every possession, not just when they feel like it. They understand defense is not
complete until they secure the ball.
Take responsibility for your actions: Tough players make no excuses. They take
responsibility for their actions. Take James Johnson for example. With 17 seconds to go
in Wake's game against Duke on Wednesday, Jon Scheyer missed a 3-pointer that
bounced right to Johnson. But instead of aggressively pursuing the ball with a sense of
urgency, Johnson stood there and waited for the ball to come to him. It never did.
Scheyer grabbed it, called a timeout and the Blue Devils hit a game-tying shot on a
possession they never should've had. Going after the loose ball is toughness -- and
Johnson didn't show it on that play. But what happened next? He re-focused, slipped a
screen for the winning basket, and after the game -- when he could've been basking only
in the glow of victory -- manned up to the mistake that could've cost his team the win.
"That was my responsibility -- I should have had that," Johnson said of the goof. No
excuses. Shouldering the responsibility. That's toughness.
Look your coaches and teammates in the eye: Tough players never drop their heads.
They always look coaches and teammates in the eye, because if they are talking, it is
important to them and to you.Move on to the next play: Tough players don't waste time celebrating a good play or lamenting a bad one. They understand that basketball is too fast a game to waste time and
opportunities with celebratory gestures or angry reactions. Tough players move on to the
next play. They know that the most important play in any game is the next one.
Be hard to play against, and easy to play with: Tough players make their teammates'
jobs easier, and their opponents' jobs tougher.
Make every game important: Tough players don't categorize opponents and games.
They know that if they are playing, it is important. Tough players understand that if they
want to play in championship games, they must treat every game as a championship
Make getting better every day your goal: Tough players come to work every day to get
better, and keep their horizons short. They meet victory and defeat the same way: They
get up the next day and go to work to be better than they were the day before. Tough
players hate losing but are not shaken or deterred by a loss. Tough players enjoy winning
but are never satisfied. For tough players, a championship or a trophy is not a goal; it is a
destination. The goal is to get better every day.
When I was playing, the players I respected most were not the best or most talented
players. The players I respected most were the toughest players. I don't remember
anything about the players who talked a good game or blocked a shot and acted like a
fool. I remember the players who were tough to play against.
Anybody can talk. Not anybody can be tough.
Friday, July 26, 2013
Saturday, July 20, 2013
Top lacrosse talent to coach PCHS boys
Todd Faiella to serve as performance and technical director
Submitted by Park City Lacrosse Organization
Posted: 07/19/2013 04:54:13 PM MDT
Hall of Fame coach Bill Tierney was the lacrosse version of Lewis and Clark. Leaving behind a hallowed career at Princeton that included six NCAA national championships, he headed west to Denver University, quickly rising to prominence in an East Coast-dominated sport. Now another pioneer has followed. Call it "Lacrosse Manifest Destiny," or the lure of Rocky Mountain beauty, the sport's explosive growth and rising talent brings another eastern leader to the great American West.
Todd Faiella one of the most accomplished players in the game has joined Park City High School boys' lacrosse team as the performance and technical director. In this role, Faiella will oversee player and coaching development and create elite-level athletic programming to enhance physical, nutritional and mental aspects of the game. He will work closely with varsity head coach Andy Langendorf to develop on-field systems for all of the high schools boys' teams and act as defensive coordinator for the varsity squad.
Faiella's athletic resume includes the 2011 NCAA National Lacrosse Championship with the University of Virginia, where he earned ACC All-Academic honors and received UVA's Tom Rixey Award as the team's most spirited and emotional leader. Although primarily a defenseman at UVA, Faiella's lacrosse knowledge and athleticism allowed him to play goalie, midfield, long-stick middie and close defense during his college career.
He transferred to UVA from Brown University where he was captain of the lacrosse team and won Ivy League championships in both lacrosse and football (linebacker). In 2008, he received Brown's Rick Whelan Award, recognizing unselfish play, dedication to the lacrosse program and overall commitment to excellence. A senior-year Achilles-tendon injury ended Faiella's Brown career, where he graduated, but the NCAA granted him an extra year of eligibility. Faiella enrolled at UVA to pursue his master's degree, and brought much-needed leadership to a nationally-prominent lacrosse program.
In 2011, Todd played professionally with LXM Pro's STX Team Philly. That year he also co-founded Native Lacrosse Company in Utah and developed a connection to the Salt Lake and Park City lacrosse communities. But the move was temporary, and this spring he coached at Marin Catholic High School in the Bay Area, where his team finished as NorCal State Runner-Up. But contrary to the famous San Francisco song, Faiella left his heart in Utah. He's back in the Rockies, and sees an opportunity to continue the state's explosive growth in lacrosse and bring success to Park City's program.
"Park City reminds me of Duxbury, Mass., close to where I grew up," Faiella said. "Lacrosse was the town's biggest sport, they had great facilities and the community embraced the program. They were surrounded by other lacrosse programs, but they dominated year in and year out. I see the same opportunity in Park City for years to come."
The timing couldn't be better. Park City's varsity squad made the state playoffs last spring despite a roster loaded with sophomores and including two freshman starters. And the Park City youth lacrosse program will continue to supply the flow of talent. The middle-school division won this season's Utah Lacrosse Association's state championship, and over the last two years Park City has contributed more members to the Utah National Team which selects the state's best players than any other program.
To enhance his efforts with the high school team, Faiella hopes to tap into Park City's elite athletic and Olympic-level infrastructure.
"We have so many resources here the headquarters of Athletic Republic, the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team and so many world-class athletes and coaches," Faiella said. "The sky's the limit for the lacrosse program as we make these connections."
He also hopes to bring in some old friends to help from time to time, like UVA teammate Steele Stanwick, 2011Tewaaraton Award recipient as the NCAA's top player.
"Steele was an attackman, so I played against him every day in practice," Faiella said. "He's a close personal friend as are so many other great players. They'll definitely be out here to help on occasion. And we'll start developing a pipeline to attract other top-tier players to come out and coach in Park City after graduating."
While working with the Park City program, Faiella will continue building a Utah-based lacrosse business and conducting camps, clinics, tournaments and lessons throughout the state.
Posted by Peter Carey at 1:11 AM
Monday, July 1, 2013
A wonderful article by Whitey Ford, of the Charlottesville Daily Progress on one of UVA's new Men's lacrosse recruits, Zed Williams!
Top recruit arriving on grounds
By Whitey Ford, The Daily Progress
Read it all HERE
Top recruit arriving on grounds
By Whitey Ford, The Daily Progress
Read it all HERE
Dom Starsia’s college roommate from Brown is a Native American, a member of the Mohawk tribe. Over the years, he's turned into one of Starsia’s closest friends.
Starting today, Starsia will be coaching a member of the Seneca tribe – and he hopes the relationship can be just as prosperous.
Freshman Zed Williams, one of the top lacrosse recruits in the country, is scheduled to arrive as part of UVa’s summer transition program.
For Williams, that transition figures to be a little more challenging than most.
Williams has lived his whole life on the Cattaraugus Reservation – a part of the Iroquois confederacy that is located just south of Buffalo, N.Y. He attended nearby Silver Creek High School, which had just 65 graduating seniors last year.
“I hope this is such a fascinating exercise for everybody,” said Starsia on Monday, when asked about Williams’ arrival. “Culturally, for a young man coming off the reservation to come to the University of Virginia – I think he’s got a lot to offer.”
Especially on the lacrosse field.
Williams, who also starred in football and basketball at Silver Creek, shattered the all-time New York high school record for career points, notching 175 more than previous record-holder Casey Powell.
A member of his varsity team since the eighth grade, Williams finished with a whopping 444 goals and 284 assists (which is presumed to be a national record).
“This kid has the most potential to excel at the college level as any high school player I’ve seen,” said Casey Vock of Inside Lacrosse. “He’s athletic. He has tremendous stick skills. He is a ferocious competitor.
“Best of all, he’s a humble human being. He’s a great kid.”
Starsia is doing his best not to put too much pressure on Williams, a midfielder.
“It will be an adjustment for him,” he said. “He may not light it up right off the bat the first time he steps on the field because he’s never done anything quite like this.
“But I think he’s a terrific player. He sees the game at a high level. He’s a really neat guy who I think will be really fun to play with. I think it will be fascinating to watch him as he acclimates himself.”
In his final high school game, Williams won 20 of 22 faceoffs – an area that was a problem for UVa last season.
“He never comes off the field,” Starsia said. “He plays man up and man down. He can run all day.”
Read the rest HERE
Posted by Peter Carey at 7:40 PM