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SGG episode #49: Thom McDonald discusses connecting and innovating as a coach


Coaches are important educational leaders in our schools, communities, and universities. The Sport and the Growing Good (SGG) podcast provides embedded, front-line insights on winning and positive development. The SGG podcast can be heard here and on all major podcast platforms.

Thom McDonald is the Commissioner of the Iowa Community College Athletic Conference and the Director of Basketball at Championship Productions. Thom was a successful high school and college coach before becoming one of the game’s important shapers of teaching and learning through innovation. In this episode of the SGG podcast, we discussed:

1.  The value of growing up near coaches and being an elementary school teacher.

2.  Becoming known as a “camp guy” as a high school coach and at Drake.

3.  What Rudy Washington saw when he watched Tom at the state tournament: “You don’t know who’s watching you, when they’re watching you, or why they’re watching you.”

4.  Gene Keady: “The first thing you should do every day is shave. Because you never know who you’re going to meet. And that person could change your life.”

5.  His trip to Philadelphia with Rudy Washington to learn from John Chaney and how it made so many future opportunities possible.

6.  Being willing to “take steps backwards in order to move forward.”

7.  How he went about building huge camps: hard work and getting the best people to come.

8.  Camps: “It made me a better coach and it gave me instant credibility.”

9.  “If you’re in the profession but not with someone who can help you, it’s not worth it.”

10.  Being offered the Florida State position from Leonard Hamilton.

11.  Making the decision to leave coaching.

12.  How championship productions has changed the ways coaches learn. (Pat Knight example). “We have the best authors on the planet.”

13.  Bill Bergan as worthy of being a Hall of Famer: “He’s a pioneer. For what he did, when he did it, and how he sustained it.”

14.  Bob Knight: “When you watch his videos, it’s pretty basic. It’s about expectations and imagination. Some of the most successful coaches on the planet are the most simplistic and demanding coaches on the planet.”

15.  “The coaches who stand out are the ones that know how to teach.”

16.  “Video is really important, because video does not lie.” (even when it comes to communicating with parents – you have all those factual things you can go to)

17.  Using both “gut” and analytics.

18.  The many “peripheral” people who make a living off the game of basketball: “They’re all needed, all wanted. You’ve just got to find what is best for you and go from there.”

19.  Webinars and the future of learning as coaches: accessibility and sharing. “I think the future is here. This is the new normal.”