Rising high school basketball coach prepares key leadership lessons | Business Observer



One of the coolest spoils of winning a championship in high school or college basketball is the tradition of cutting the net. Players and coaches, usually capped by the head coach, take turns on a ladder, scissors in hand, cutting a 12 loop.

Lakewood Ranch High School boys’ basketball coach Jeremy Schiller wanted the experience so badly for his players that he executed a clever leadership technique: He had the team practice cutting the nets, a real experience. “We wanted them to get a piece of it,” Schiller says, “so they knew exactly what it would do.”

Schiller coached the Lakewood Ranch High Mustangs for a decade, from 2011 to 2021, leaving last August to take up a coaching position at IMG Academy in Bradenton. His tenure was noted in Florida high school athletics for a massive culture shift off the court and a change from worst to first. Schiller’s teams won four district titles en route to three regional finals, two final fours, and a state championship runner-up season. Lakewood Ranch High never had a 20-win season before Schiller arrived.

A Brandon High School assistant and head coach at Osceola High in Pinellas County prior to the Mustangs, Schiller was the keynote speaker at a recent Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance event. Held May 18 at the Carlisle Inn in Sarasota, the event was titled Breakfast of Champions: Creating a Winning Culture. (Full disclosure: I sit on the Board of the Business Alliance and co-chair the programming committee that organizes events like this.)

Statistics aside, Schiller, the 2019 National Federation of High School Association Men’s Basketball Coach of the Year, brought his positive, positive coaching and leadership philosophy to the event. “The biggest hallmark of success is consistency,” says Schiller. “When you’re building a culture for 30 years, you can’t (only) focus on the game that’s right in front of you.”

Pick and roll

Schiller’s key points for creating and sustaining a winning culture include:

Flexible movement: Being nimble and flexible can manifest itself in different ways, Schiller says, but the main point is not to be shy about changing strategies to deal with new circumstances. This happened once between seasons, when he went from a 7-man rotation that mostly played a slow-paced format to a deeper 10-man set that could play faster. In the competitive sports environment of high schools, it is important to act quickly to find talent, just like in business. “This change has allowed us to keep talented kids in our program,” Schiller says.

More flexibility? A conscientious planner, Schiller schedules practices down to the minute, so players know, say, from 2:05 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. they’ll be shooting free throws and then dribbling drills. The precision of times is not meant to be strict, he says, but to provide a basis for being flexible when needed. “You can adjust from there,” he says, “but you have to have a plan to start with.”

Enjoy the ride: A known hyper-competitive person, Schiller says the year the Mustangs went to a regional championship, he made a conscious effort to enjoy it more. “My guys told me I was a lot more fun than I had ever been before,” he says. “We didn’t skip any steps. We focused on the journey.

Arrange it: One of Schiller’s key principles is internal communication, not only with the players, but also with the players’ parents, his coaches, the school and the community. He speaks like a culture-focused executive when talking to parents about playtime and other concerns, always looking at four years, not just four quarters. “The reason most people leave or transfer,” Schiller says, “is because they don’t have a vision.”

Bend, Don’t Break: Schiller says it’s critical to recognize the difference between negotiables and non-negotiables and rules versus norms. He prefers standards to rules in many cases, because with standards the players “have no control over the consequences”. With rules, he says, a player can take the approach that if he just has to run a mile, then maybe he’ll give up training. The standards allow Schiller to use its flexibility in dealing with the difficulties of players who are also teenagers. “I’m very black and white, but we still need to have some gray areas.”
That said, Schiller remains convinced that sometimes difficult decisions must be made. For this, he approaches the conversation with frankness. “If you can’t look someone in the eye and explain it, it’s probably not a good time to bend over a bit.”

quick break

Follow to the end: Schiller says he practices servant leadership, down to sweeping the gym floor. He says hello to everyone he sees and preaches the same approach to his players. “It’s important for me to let the team know that no one is above doing anything,” he said.

Culture of trust: Schiller says he’s learned to alter the way he begins feedback sentences, a subtle but significant modification that removes “if” and replaces it with “because.” For example, if he sees a player not boxing for a rebound, he will not say “if you want to win, you have to box”. Instead, he’ll say, “’cause you want to win, you have to box.'” Schiller says doing it that way is an acknowledgment of what he and the players already know: they want to win.

Jeremy Schiller led a turnaround, in wins and culture, in a decade of coaching Lakewood Ranch High School’s men’s basketball team. (Courtesy picture)

Public audience: A central theme of Schiller’s approach is that communication with players, coaches and others – and he insists on communication early and often – be transparent, forthright and forthright. “I have an open door policy,” he says. “The players know they can talk to me anytime. You can tell me you hate me. Just tell me why so we can improve.

Adjust the screen: Tied to an open communication style of feedback, Schiller says, is doing it in a non-adversarial way that holds the player to account for their behavior. Instead of old school, calling out a player with a shouting session, Schiller will say something like, “I saw you do this and it’s selfish. Am I wrong?'”

Buckets to come: Schiller says the key to a winning culture is having a “growth mindset.” He will constantly look for ways to improve, setting plays, using talents and more. “I’m not afraid to call people, other coaches, and say, ‘Can you help me? »

Know why: An assistant coach at Eckerd College and graduate assistant at the University of South Florida before taking the Lakewood Ranch job, Schiller says his motivation is team-driven. “I get a lot of joy from helping others reach their maximum potential,” he says. “I like to bring together a group that can do more together than they can individually.”