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Be Agile, Not Fragile

Many business people turn to sport for inspiration in delivering high performance, developing a winning culture, and leadership development. And in the majority, the coaches, players, and leaders share learning from their professional sports experience. Who wouldn’t want to know how Tom Brady has excelled for such a prolonged period, the methods Sir Alex Ferguson adopted to create his Manchester United dynasty or the application of marginal gains to British cycling?


It is the reason I couldn’t wait to listen to NBA Performance Coach Alan Stein Jr. talk about his experiences working with Kevin Durant, Steph Curry and Kobe Bryant. They are all greats of modern-day basketball who adopted his techniques to be present, stay grounded, and, most importantly, deliver consistently. It’s an incredibly insightful conversation about operating at an elite level.

But, for business leaders, Stein Jr.’s high school coaching career provides intriguing experiences to consider. Before this week, I had never heard of DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville, Maryland (apologies to the alumni). Between 2010 and 2015, the Head Performance Coach for basketball was Alan Stein Jr. During this time there, the Stags Head Coach was Mike Jones, who enjoyed a dominant 20-year career at the helm, with an 81% win rate.

Jones’ had a fascinating approach to risk management which proved you can build consistent high-performing organisations regardless of personnel.


The team were serial winners, so much so that Nike supplied them with the same kit and equipment as NBA or high-performing Collegiate teams. But Jones recognised this could change based on one poor season and adopted a pay-it-forward culture. By making it clear to every player each year that the teams before them had created the opportunity to access the best resources, he empowered the present to afford the same luxury to the future.


Coach Jones was also brilliant at mitigating the risk of losing. In the build-up to a game, he studied the opposition, their players, the plays they run, and how they react in certain situations. His coaching staff would not only run their plays but practise defending against potential opposition attacks.

But Stein Jr. also shared insight into what happened the night before the game. After telling the coaching team that he didn’t expect to lose, Jones asked his assistants one question, ‘But if we did lose, why do you think that would be?’ Being empowered, the staff were comfortable sharing their thoughts and formulated plans to mitigate those risks during the pregame layup. The team had prepared for many scenarios to become fluid during game time, responding rather than reacting at the moment.


On the 1 in 5 occasions the teams failed to win, the coaching team didn’t become frustrated but explored why they lost in a controlled manner. They developed methods, drills, or training to avoid a repeat. By keeping their emotions in check, ongoing success was more likely.

The three behaviours of paying it forward, empowerment, and being present created a sustainable high-performance environment. And one that business leaders can apply to deliver consistent results while building organisations that can stand the test of time. Why? Because the consistency of DeMatha’s basketball team isn’t limited to the last 20 years.

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Joshua Kantarges

In fact, Coach Jones’ achievements pale into insignificance compared to his predecessor and mentor, Morgan Wootten. Coach Wootten amassed 1,274 wins across a 46-year career, at a win percentage of 87%. For nearly 70 years, the DeMatha Catholic High School basketball programme has produced serial winners and many high performers within the NBA, both as players and coaches.

That is what consistent, sustainable, and effective leadership is all about. Building empowered teams that can adapt to any situation and recognise sharing knowledge is powerful.

Be agile, not fragile.

Have a brilliant week!

David Rogers

Founder & CEO, Fuelled Fit and Fired Up Ltd

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