Friday, October 24, 2008

UTSA update!

After attending a recent UTSA workout, the following is very apparent:

  • Jordan Stark can shoot the lights out. Stark's has NBA range.
  • Whitney York is a blur. York changes directions on a dime and has a shifty handle.
  • Monica Gibbs is incredible!! Gibbs is a freakish athlete. Her leadership is amazing.

Coach Eric Musselman's blog recently featured an article regarding "The Secret of Great Groups" by Warren Bennis. I could not help but think of a few of his thoughts on leadership within Great Groups as I watched Gibbs. Bennis writes these characteristics of leaders of Great Groups:

1. Provide direction and meaning. They remind people of what's important and why their work makes a difference.

( I constantly witnessed Gibbs practice with a purpose. She was recently named to the Preseason All Conference Team while her team is favored to win their division but her intensity is remarkable. She goes hard and expects the same from her teammates. She leaves no question about her intentions. She wants to win and win bad. She cheered with exuberance as her team continuously won timed scrimmages. )

2. Generate and sustain trust. The group's trust in itself -- and its leadership -- allows members to accept dissent and ride through the turbulence of the group process.

( Gibbs teammates can not help but to trust that Gibbs will be Gibbs. Consistency builds trust and Gibbs constantly went for the jugular in scrimmages and drills. Her teammates knew that she expected them to compete with the same passion that she does. Gibbs can create her own shot at any given time but she always finds the open teammate. She constantly broke down the defense and penetrated into the paint only to kick it out to a wide open teammate for a jump shot. As the ball was in the air, she would say something like " OHHH YEEAAH that's good", even before her teammate received the pass. This confidence that she has in her teammates is infectious.)

3. Display a bias toward action, risk taking, and curiosity. A sense of urgency -- and a willingness to risk failure to achieve results -- is at the heart of every Great Group.

(Gibbs is the best player on one of the best teams in the conference yet she finishes first in every drill that takes effort. She sprints the court as if possessed. She jumps center against a teammate that is 4 to 5 inches taller and wins the tip. She repeatedly followed up her own missed jumpers to get offensive rebounds. She is all about decisive action. She throws risky passes off of the dribble and sacrifices her body by attacking larger defenders. Most importantly, she does not hold on to her mistakes too long. She has that "It's OK, I'll make up for it" attitude that all great players must have.)

4. Are purveyors of hope. Effective team leaders find both tangible and symbolic ways to demonstrate that the group can overcome the odds.

(This is an area in which Gibbs really stands out. She is very vocal and encouraging with her teammates. She plays with a mischievous smile as she verbally jabs the competition but showers her teammates with praise. She high fives and throws her hands up with every important bucket by a teammate.She motivates!!! She watches the game clock in scrimmages to keep a running score and time limits in mind. Gibbs makes you believe her team is always going to come out on top and her teammates feed off of that confidence)

I happened to have a couple encounters with Gibbs over the summer.

The first one was when my 11 year daughter was practicing with an older club. Gibbs came to work with the high school age girls. The girls were doing a transition drill that allowed them to attack a set defense on the other end of the court. The defense was instructed to pick up the offense at half court. Gibbs was having none of that. She pressured my Middle School daughter with intensity. She disrupted the entire transition break drill with her full court pressure. She could have cared less that this kid was 11 years old. All that mattered was that this kid was on the court and she had better be ready to play. SHE MADE MY DAUGHTER BETTER BY DEMANDING HER TO STEP UP. Gibbs ripped her a few times while yelling " OH YEAH, THAT'S MINE". This left a considerable impression on me and my daughter. You can not help but to get better when playing with or against Gibbs.

The other encounter with Gibbs happened at the UTSA team camp. A couple of my girls mustered up enough courage to challenge Gibbs and Whitney York to a game.Of course, Gibbs and York did not go full throttle. They allowed my Middle School girls to have some success but also put them in their place. The amazing thing was how approachable and enthusiastic Gibbs was. She laughed, taunted and toyed with them. The girls ate it up. I was sweating at the thought of one of my girls accidentally injuring the UTSA starting back-court so I interrupted the game and said it was over. Gibbs told me in so many words to "Don't be a chicken, let the girls get the beating they asked for". My girls loved it. They loved that this college star wanted to continue to play with them. They loved that she continuously talked to them. Most of all, they loved that Gibbs had just told their coach to get lost and let the girls play.

Gibbs is the type of player that you see and hear play. She is a joy to watch.