Doc Rivers

What Soccer Coaches can learn from Doc Rivers

Keith Allison Credit:

Today, thinking outside the box ‘Doc’ Rivers. The 2008 NBA Champion talks about his life as a trainer in the Netflix documentary “Playbook”.

“I am a Human Being and I Make Mistakes”

This is how the first part of the Netflix series “Das Spielzugbuch” begins. ‘Doc’ Rivers appears in front of a new team with precisely these words, explaining its fallibility and directly dispelling a myth that coaches can and must know everything. At the same time he shows himself very humble “I’m like everyone else, I make mistakes every day, but try to come in every day and do better.”

Learning for trainers: Humility is a big word that Rivers lives excellently. As a coach, do you admit your mistakes? Are you open about the fact that you will make mistakes every day or are you trying to maintain the appearance of infallibility?

But be careful! This is not an excuse for mistakes. Here we find ourselves in the interesting area between being responsible for every little mistake and being relaxed knowing that we cannot always avoid it.

“Everybody likes each other until things get tough. Then you will find out what kind of team you have, and I understand that as much as anyone.”

“I never called it work”

Rivers spent his life playing basketball. He was a player and immediately afterwards coach as assistant and later head coach and, among other things, champion in 2008 with the Boston Celtics. “Basketball is a game and I love it. I’ve never said that I ‘go to work’. It never feels like work: ‘I just go to workout’. “

Learning for trainers: Of course, this attitude is only possible if you also pursue the appropriate career. Or is it the other way around and you can only pursue such a career if you show this attitude? We will probably never be able to finally evaluate that. The fact is, however, that our vocabulary creates part of our reality. “Do you go to work”, it becomes work at some point. “If you go to training”, you will go with the corresponding joy. “Do you go to what you love,” it will be like that at some point.

“I am not going to be a victim”

Spring 2014, the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers David Sterling expresses himself racist in public and ultimately loses the team and is banned from the NBA for life. Large parts of the NBA players are black, including the Clippers team. Rivers, who “grew up with racism just like many others” reacts dismayed and disoriented. The question was whether they could play “for” this owner on the evening of the incident. After a short time he and the players decided to play and not “make a victim”. Because: we play for our values ​​and our understanding of freedom but not for the owner of the team. ”The Clippers competed, wearing their warm-up shirts upside down so that the team logo was not recognizable.

Learning for trainers: Every coach knows that: All of our players are different. Not only in their way, but of course also in their origin, family background and world views. And the nice thing is that the passion for football unites everyone. An invaluable asset!


“Your team will impress … But do you know the meaning of ‘Ubuntu'”, this is how a lady approached Rivers after he suddenly met three All Stars in Boston (Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen moved to Boston in the summer of 2007 and formed with them the first “Big Three” in years and one of the worst teams became the title favorites) and inspired him to this team motto. He studied the meaning for nights: “It aims at the essence of what it means to be human,” explains Rivers in a nutshell. “We have formulated for ourselves that we can only get better if we do everything we do for others!” Was the idea that he presented to his team a short time later. So someone who brought food always had to give something or bring something for everyone “what you do for yourself, you do for others”. So the motto moved into the huddle before the game and gradually united the team.

Learning for trainers: We can see it coming: Many trainers who have seen this introduce Ubuntu into their team. Copying is of course allowed and in that case not the worst idea either. But think about how you can combine your values ​​and the values ​​of the team in one motto? Ask yourself what should your team represent? Let your team formulate the terms and form a motto themselves!

„We put a light where the Banner would hang”

The Boston Celtics have a glorious history (16 titles in total). They dominated basketball for decades and had legendary players like Bill Russel and Larry Bird. In the new formation around the “Big Three” the expectations were accordingly. “You should never see pressure as a problem. When we play basketball and we have pressure, it is a privilege because it means that we can achieve something, ”says Rivers in a nutshell. “Not everyone makes it into this position, you should be grateful and give your all.” Nevertheless, he lacked a memory, a clue that shows the player the big goal every day. “It was about becoming a champion and nothing else.” Rivers and his staff came up with a clever idea: In their training hall all the banners of the past championship teams were hanging and they had a light installed that shone exactly on the place where the next banner was hanging would. “And it was never to be found out,” added Rivers.

Learning for trainers: a small idea with a big impact. What do you want to achieve with your team? How do you manage to remind them every time they come into the cabin? But: Discuss in detail with them why they shouldn’t perceive this as pressure.

“As a coach, you've got to do what's best for the team. If guys don't like it, they're going to leave. If they stay and don't like it, well, your team's going to suck anyway. Even if this happens, you still have to do it. You can't coach worrying about any individual.“

„Champions get hit“

At the end of the 2007/2008 season the time had come: the title was within reach. In the NBA Finals, the Celtics competed against another glorious franchise, the Los Angeles Lakers around Kobe Bryant. “I looked at the betting odds, they were actually well distributed. Except in the coaching duel, only ten out of 100 people bet on me, ”Rivers reports later. On the other side sat Phil Jackson, one of the most successful coaches of all time, who won a total of eleven titles with the Bulls in the 90s and the Lakers in the 2000s. “But I didn’t want to win against Phil Jackson, how could that work? I wanted to win against his team! ”. “I remembered a saying from Mohammad Ali that champions always get one, but then just keep going.” That carried the Celtics and River personally through the finals and finally into the champagne shower after winning the title.

Learning for trainers: We now read the headlines in abundance: “Mourinho vs. Guardiola”, “Klopp vs. Zidane” and “Tuchel vs. Flick”. In a nutshell: We (and many others) take ourselves too seriously as trainers. Of course we are experts in our field, but the game itself still belongs to the player. We are there first and foremost to help our players succeed. We should never forget that.

“It’s more than winning games”

As seen in many stories, Rivers also sees a greater value in being a coach: “When I started it was always said that you should never be close to your players. After 15 years as a trainer, I can say: ‘the hell with it‘ “. For him, it’s about improving the player not only as a player, but also as a person, which automatically makes them better players, better players and better people. And if you are disappointed once, then you will be disappointed, “that is part of life”. He does not see his players in the current moment, but always coaches them “to what they should be one day.”

Learning for trainers: We can leave it there with peace of mind …


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