Midwest Elite Basketball » What is Your Team Identity?

What is Your Team Identity?

What is your team identity?

I want you to think about what kind of identity your team has…

Are you a pressure team? A rebounding team? A transition team? A team built upon toughness?

Now here is the most important question. Can someone (another coach, general fan) watch your team (practice/game) and know what kind of a team you are? If you emphasize playing fast does your team play fast every game, is your point guard pushing tempo, your team pushing the ball on makes and misses? What do you do that is better than other teams in your league, win or loss? How do you emphasize this identity every single day? Butler Coach Brad Stevens likes to say that they work to create his team’s “defensive D.N.A.”

To be more specific, I was able to watch two Big XII teams practice in the first week of October. The first one practiced very much like we do, fast tempo with no breaks the entire 150 minute practice session. Everything they did defensively centered on pressure by getting into passing lanes and constant ball pressure. Praise and criticism were centered on this identity. I left there knowing that they are a pressure team. They want to pressure and scramble every single possession and their offense centers around getting the ball to their post players. Two days later I went to another major Big XII program. Five minutes into practice half the team was stretching and half the team was still straggling in. They worked on a lot of things. To me so many points were touched on I felt like they emphasized nothing because they emphasized everything. Water breaks were frequent, teachings and terminology were inconsistent and I would be hesitant to say they worked hard. Two weeks later both teams played the same D2 school in Austin, Texas. One team won 96-31 and the other won 64-45. You can probably guess which school won big!

My point is that by establishing identity your create buy-in and trust. If you maintain that identity you increase the chance for consistency, both because your communication and effort can be held accountable because everyone knows who you are and how you play. To me you can’t be a pressure team one week and then try to get your teams into sagging off because you play an athletic team. Our men’s team at Concordia-Texas (NCAA DIII) played Conference USA University of Houston two days ago. You can imagine there was a gap in talent and size. Our guys pressed them the entire game, forcing 28 turnovers and scoring 72 points. Even though they gave up over 100 they played as fast as they have been working in practice and their guys loved the fact that they were going right at the other team despite the difference in level and athleticism. You can believe they are as bought into their identity as any other team in the nation and trust that their coach is going to do what is best for them and coach them in a way where they can be consistent and successful.

On the women’s side at Concordia-Texas we emphasize playing fast, tough and disciplined. To create a “buy-in” we designed practice with no stoppages for the entire session. We transition from drill to drill and always switch ends of the court each time. This makes our girls tougher and our coaches more prepared, our girls can get drinks out of their water bottles on the sides in between rotations. To play fast we have incorporated as many transition opportunities into our daily “core drills” as possible. When we work on our zone shell/breakdowns both the offense and defense will transition out each time. Meaning the current defense must get a deflection and pass after the shot-clock ends and score on the other end. They then come down on offense while the original offense now becomes the new defense. It takes a constant focus to stay organized during this process and helps us build great effort into multiple possessions.

We want to get our young ladies used to getting their hands on balls and having the mentality that when we get a steal we score. Same with 5 on 0 skeleton offense, once we get our shot and score, our nearest post player grabs the rebound and sprints to the baseline to throw it out, the point guard j-routes, the wings run wide and we run our primary break to the other end while the next group of five is coming right through them into their next set. The more chaos we can bring to practice the better. To enforce the discipline aspect we use a lot of perfect possession type drills. Using a 30 second clock the defense may have to have perfect angles on our closeouts or perfect communication on our bump-downs. Whatever we want to emphasize, if one person does not execute this, the clock starts over. You go until your perfect. We focus a lot on our ability to talk in detail (the receiver getting the message of the sender). Every call by our point guard or coach must be echoed by the team (a set on offense, a drill in practice). Once we call out the drill the final time the girls must echo the call and we start counting down from eight. If the drill has not started by the time we are at 0 everyone is now on the baseline running. It helps us have that blue-collar mindset and allows a culture and an identity to form.

We watched our men’s soccer coach start games asking his men if they were ready to play fast. They would then respond, “yes sir,” the same as they must do when given correction. We thought it was a great way to get into practice for our girls as well. After we stretch we meet and ask them if they are ready to play fast, if they are ready to be disciplined. We ask them if will give great toughness today. They give us a “yes sir” on each and we are ready to get into the day knowing what our identity is and what is expected of them. It has been a great way to create accountability and seems like they take pride into filling these roles within our family.

I have been blessed to work under a head coach who besides being a phenomenal x’s and o’s coach does an even better job of leading a family to where it needs to go day in and day out. It’s not easy on our level to get everyone bought into making decisions that are made in the best interest for the team. What do we do to help? We tell our young ladies we love them, how proud we are of their effort, thank them for being on time, thank them for going to class and sitting in the first two rows like we asked them to. We are honest and sincere with them and when they come in the office we put down everything we are doing and focus that time on them. When they do what we want and what is asked of them we take a 5 X 7 notecard and express this with a Sharpie. We put it in their locker for them to find the next day and more times than not, that note and others will be taped to their locker for the remainder of the year.

I do not mean to say our way is the only way or the best way. I have seen many of great methods in which coaches create their identity. My great friend, Midwest Elite Basketball Co-Owner and Morningside College Head Assistant Coach Brad Schmit always says “there are a 100 different ways to skin a cat.” He is right; there are many ways to achieve the same objective. I just want you to think about your team’s identity and then make sure you play to it every moment possible. It’s not dependent on who you play or what kind of a practice emphasis you are having. I guarantee you will see a positive difference in the buy-in of your team. Below are some thoughts and phrases I was able to hear this summer and points that I think coaches should see and think about every day. Best of luck with your season!


Brandon Rohr, Women’s Basketball Assistant Coach, Concordia University-Texas

Assistant Coaches Thoughts

#1 Job: Help the Head Coach Do His Job, Help the Players Do Their Job


  • Don’t be a Distraction at any point.
  • It’s NOT about you. It’s about the best interest of the team
  • Tension is the ENEMY of a TEAM
  • What is your % of evaluation vs emotion?
  • Never Emotionally Highjack the team b/c of your personal emotions.
  • Do you self evaluate everything you do? Do you ask for Peer evaluation and want the truth?
  • Get positive, Be positive, stay positive. No one gets tired of being around positive energy.
  • Make others better – everyone around you, not just the ones you like or are more capable
  • Assistant must have ZERO EGO.
  • Take out the Trash: Do the little things that need to be done, before being told to do it.
  • Make your point, Don’t argue your point.
  • Be secure enough to be told “NO” or be wrong.
  • Want the TRUTH from the rest of the staff.
  • Be a Learn It All, not a Know It All.
  • We always have an enemy in our opponent; we don’t need one in our office or our locker room.
  • Success leaves footprints, and leaves heartprints. It only comes from selfless investment in others.
  • Your voice is a weapon. Use it wisely.
  • Energy Giver vs Energy Taker.

X & O’s

BE CONSISTENT: with our expectations, culture, teaching methods, discipline, energy, attitude

  • Do your job. Be focused on job expectations, let others do their job and it will come together.
  • Create working vehicle to take us to success. But the engine can’t do the tires job, so don’t try.
  • Try to see the game from the Head Coach’s eyes, so you can help with his needs.
  • Know the # of possessions there are in a game and what your O & D get from those possessions
  • Be prepared for the Head Coach’s next question before he asks. The game happens too fast!
  • Have an answer before it’s needed, if you wait until the question is posed, its too late.
  • Don’t be the Head Coach’s eco, have your own thoughts & ideas to bring.
  • Players don’t need advice from 5 different voices.
  • Assistants coach the bench, Head Coach has the floor.
  • Help players GAIN confidence, NEVER your job to take it away.
  • Get players back in the game.
  • Be a stats junky. Be accurate IN games. They reveal a lot.
  • It’s not what you know, it’s what you bring.
  • Don’t tell me, show me. Make me believe it.
  • Be a great skills coach, show them you can make them better
  • Have a solution for when a mistake is made, they already know they messed up


  • Be in the Business of People: Relationships take you further than anything else.
  • Be a great COMMUNICATOR, it is everything in this business.
  • Be prepared for your opportunit, rather than concerned about making the opportunity happen
  • Decision Making: You can’t get to the top of the ladder in a single step,
  • but you can fall to the bottom with a single wrong step.
  • Relationships: When climbing a tree, you have a great chance of getting to the top,
  • unless you cut off all the branches that are helping you get there.
  • During the season, you are 100% about the team. During offseason, are 50% team and 50% you.
  • Big Eyes, Big Ears, Small Mouth!
  • Everyone has a Big Invisible Sign around them that says, “I Am Important!”
    • Never strip player’s dignity. Never pass on chance to affirm “They are Important.”
  • Be Extremely Organized. No head coach will dislike that.
  • Leadership: The ability to take a group places they could not have gone without you!
  • Develop your NICHE. This makes you hirable, desirable.
    • What can you do better than anyone else?
    • Develop 1 great ability, then begin working on the next, then the next. Keep Growing.
  • How do you Market/Promote yourself?
    • Name recognition: Emails, letters, calls
    • Face Recognition: Get out and work, be everywhere
    • Develop a reputation of being something special: Hard worker, Recruiter,
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