Like many of you I always take a book(s) with me while on vacation.  Because I lead some very talented young people at INJOY Stewardship Solutions, I was excited to jump into John Calipari’s Success Is The Only Option: The Art Of Coaching Extreme Talent last week.  As head coach of the Kentucky Wildcats basketball team, few know as much as Coach Cal about recruiting, developing, and building a team out of the nation’s top young talent.

I could not wait to read this and I was not disappointed.  It is a must read for any leader.  You can pick up your copy HERE or the image to the left.  There are so many insights it is going to take several posts to pass them along to you.

Before reading make sure you check out these lessons from Coach Cal’s previous book 35 Leadership Quotes From John Calipari’s Book Players First.

The following are 50 Leadership And Quotes On Coaching Extreme Talent From John Calipari Part 1:  These will take 5-10 minutes to read, days to process, and a lifetime to implement.

  1. “My job is to serve their aspirations, not their egos.”
  2. “My best players, without exception, have been among my most intelligent players.”
  3. “I don’t recruit anyone who I believe is inherently selfish.”
  4. “One way I get them to commit to team basketball – selfless basketball – is by making them understand it is in their self-interest to do so.”
  5. “When you are leading and working with extremely talented individuals – no matter the profession – you have to think differently.  You have to think in an extreme sense.”
  6. “Human gifts and resources are unevenly distributed.”
  7. “If you’re truly thankful, you sleep better, live longer, are more productive, have better relationships, and on and on and on.”
  8. “If basketball is drudgery to you and I get that sense, I’m moving on.  I’m running as fast as I can in the other direction.”
  9. “When extreme intelligence is matched with extreme physical talent, you get superstars and possible future Hall of Famers.”
  10. “Players with curious minds need less motivation to be continuous learners.  They need less of a push.  They’re in that mode.”
  11. “There are business that make a point of recruiting college athletes, and I understand why.  The best of them have a calm under pressure that is rare.”
  12. “Recruiting is always, in part, a risk.”
  13. “I want boldness and what I call swagger – a strong self-confidence that edges up to but does not cross the line into arrogance.”
  14. “In any business, opportunity attracts talent.”
  15. “If you walk in a gym and you’re the most talented one there, you’re in the wrong gym.  If you walk into a gym and you look at the talent and say, ‘Wow!’ you’re in the right place.”
  16. “Talent attracts talent.  The best want to be among their peers.”
  17. “Nothing can screw up a potentially high-performing team more surely than adding the wrong person to the mix.”
  18. “Refusing to accept blame and shifting it to others is about the worst trait you can have on a team or in any work environment.”
  19. “People who blame others for their mistakes lose status, learn less, and perform worse relative to those who own up to their mistakes.”
  20. “I think it would be almost impossible to be a bad human being and a truly good teammate.”
  21. “When things go bad, a gifted player – and by gifted I mean in both talent and approach to the game – will adjust and pivot.”
  22. “People talk about one-and-done.  How about one day and done?  What challenge did I take on today?  What did I accomplish?  What was the most important thing I got done?”
  23. “True joy comes from being a giver.”
  24. “My job is to push each of these players through his comfort zone.”
  25. “The key for all of them is to build from strengths while also developing new parts of their games.  I don’t want them to try things in games they are not capable of, but once they’ve developed some proficiency, you can’t be scared to do it in a game.”
  26. “I never leave a player on the bench as punishment, but it’s only fair to keep the kids out there who are doing more.”
  27. “I believe in stating our intentions publicly.  Say them out loud, and hold a player accountable for what you believe he can achieve.”
  28. “Be wary of early success – the kind that comes to talented people just because they are blessed with more resources…As the competition gets more intense and the stakes get higher, it will become more difficult for them and they will have to build more capacity.”
  29. “Coach your best players harder.”
  30. “There are just two kinds of basketball players: winning ones and losing ones.”
  31. “Play in the present, because it goes by really quick,”
  32. “People in their twenties now stay in one job for less than three years, and estimates are that they will have between fifteen and twenty jobs over the course of a lifetime.”
  33. “I’m constantly looking forward, not back, and our program reflects that.”
  34. “Connect with at least one person each day who has nothing to do with your work life.”
  35. “The bigger a guy like (golfer Jordan) Spieth gets, the more he needs someone in his circle to keep him honest – and he is smart enough to seek that out…The moment that no one can talk to Jordan Spieth is the moment he begins to decline as a golfer.”
  36. “Don’t play just to finish somewhere near the top and collect a paycheck.  Play to win.”
  37. “When you share credit, you’re not giving something up, you’re gaining.”
  38. “Keeping it real will never harm an athlete, as long as it’s done with a caring heart.”
  39. “However well we’re playing, we can always get better.  In addition, I’ve got to make sure we are not succeeding on physical talent alone – or even on effort.  The higher the level you reach, the more important it is to also be technically proficient.”
  40. “One of the main points my players have to understand is that success should make them even more self-critical.  What can they do to take it up to the next level?  That’s what world-class athletes do.”
  41. “If you know about it, you can fix it.”
  42. “Never make the mistake of thinking that by making people uncomfortable – meaning you want more from them – you are making them unhappy.”
  43. “Coaching, like any form of leadership, is not so much knowledge based as it is wisdom based.”
  44. “The sad fact is that if you want to perform at the highest level, if you want to achieve anything in life, you’d better be able to stand up to criticism.”
  45. “It’s my role as a leader to take responsibility when we don’t play well.  I will never blame a player.  When we play well and we win, I give the players all the credit.”
  46. “Specific praise counts for more because it shows that you thought deeply about a person’s contributions.”
  47. “Praise doesn’t cost you anything, so why wouldn’t you give it?”
  48. “If you want a certain behavior, you must reward that behavior in real time and evaluations.”
  49. “The predominant voice on the practice floor and in the film room is mine, and I don’t want it to sound the same way all the time.  I think that’s important for any leader.  Change it up when you can.”
  50. “We want to play with ferocity, so that’s how we practice.”

What is one lesson from Coach Calipari you can use TODAY to make you a better leader?  And do not forget to check back later this week for more lessons from Success Is The Only Option: The Art Of Coaching Extreme Talent.


Click HERE or on the image to the left and as a free gift for subscribing to this site, you can receive my new Ebook 1269 Leadership Quotes: Timeless Truths From 2016’s Top Christian Leadership Conferences.  Featured are the Johnny Hunt Mens Conference, ReThink Leadership, Orange and Leadercast Conferences among others.  If applied, these insights will make you an exponentially better leader.  Enjoy!!!


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