Let's talk about basketball... and book coaching
I’m a huge college basketball fan.
Some of my earliest memories are of cheering on my Villanova Wildcats, first at Jake Nevin Fieldhouse with my parents, then at the ignominiously named DuPont Pavilion. It was quickly renamed The Pavilion during my undergrad years, and more recently my husband and I have made it to a few games at the gorgeous, new, updated pavilion affectionately known as The Finn.
When the Big East shakeup happened and the Catholic Seven expanded to include Midwest schools like Marquette and Butler, as someone who had relocated to Chicago, I couldn’t have been happier!
I cheered along with my parents in ‘85, and cheered even louder with my husband in ‘16 and ‘18 for those stunner men’s National Championship wins. If you don’t know what Villanova fans mean by “the Shot" or “the Wink,” you can watch those here and here. (You’re welcome.)
This year, there have been some highs and lows, for sure. The men’s team lost Jay Wright and, well… at least they won last night ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
On the other hand, there’s Maddy Siegrist!
Please tell me you’ve heard of Maddy Siegrist!
Now, at this point you may be saying, “Caroline, enough about basketball! What does this have to do with book coaching?”
So, let me tell you…
I’ve been talking this week with a writer about the value of hiring a book coach. Like a lot of writers, she hasn’t worked with a coach before. She is facing down draft seven of her book (give or take) and wants some guidance.
She knows the book is good, and close to where it wants to be to pitch it to agents, but she also feels like professional support through this next draft will make a big difference. And she’s right.
This is a great moment in your writing journey to bring on a coach, when you feel like you’re so close but know a little outside perspective will make you and your story so much better. You’ve honed your skills and have already grown so much as a writer since that first day staring at a blank page. But you know that a little perspective, and someone who can give the right advice, encouragement, and strategies might be the difference between hitting your goals and crushing them!
Like a lot of writers I work with, this writer was hesitant to sign up for a long-term coaching relationship. Despite (or perhaps because of) the proliferation of coaches these days, “book coaching” isn’t something people are too familiar with and I find uncertainty and skepticism are common. Writing is often experienced as such a solitary task; the fact that you can rely on coaching support can often sound strange.
She asked me about meeting once or twice, about working together on a chapter or two, about giving it a month and then seeing how she could do the rest on her own.
Now, don’t get me wrong. There is a lot of value in hiring a professional set of eyes for your manuscript. I love diving in and doing a full developmental edit on a fabulous manuscript that showcases the writer’s Authority. I take a big-picture view of the writer’s hopes and dreams for the book and look to see how the writer is bringing it all to life and where the challenges remain.
And there are instances where a writer might want some targeted advice on only a few pages, and I occasionally do that, too.
But book coaching is a long-term, hands-on relationship that not only focuses on a writer’s big goals for the book, but adjusts to them as the writer writes and revises. A coach responds to their growth, devises strategies as new challenges arise, and encourages them when the pressure of writing feels like too much. It is, for lack of a better way of putting it, very three-dimensional. As a coach, I take into account not only who you are as a writer and what your book is/is going to be, but how you and your story change and grow over the months (or years) we work together.
Now, this writer I was telling you about is an Authority on basketball. It’s at the heart of her story. It’s at the heart of who she is and how she experiences the world. It’s one of the reasons I’m so excited about her book.
As we were talking about what a coaching relationship looks like, it occurred to me that it really looks so much like coaching basketball, and that to help her understand book coaching, I could talk to her about basketball.
(see, I told you I’d get there!)
So imagine you’re and up-and-coming star player. You’ve got a great jump shot, decent foul shooting percentages, and when you go left at the hoop, ooh, the defense better look out! You practice every day and work on putting up the numbers. You put up countless threes and jump shots and free throws every week.
You are putting in the time, but you know you could make that time work better for you.
That’s where your coach comes in.
Let’s look at the Villanova men’s team as our first example. Last year, the team broke the NCAA record for foul-shooting percentage. They finished the ‘21/’22 season with a record smashing 83.0% of shots made from the line (527 of 635). That is an absolutely wild number! And right now, despite a fairly disappointing season overall, they’re still hitting free throws 81.86% of the time!
So how do they do it?
The easy answer, according to Coach Neptune recently, is “recruiting.” But that’s not it at all (sorry, Coach).
Yes, these guys shoot ‘em up all day long. They stand at the line over and over and over again in practice and in their free time. But practice doesn’t exactly make perfect, as I mentioned in an earlier post:
How those guys are getting great and staying great is with a coach.
There is a coach (actually a combination of them) who stands with them on the line and helps them with their form, their strength, their accuracy. And that coach doesn’t just stand there for one or two practices, and doesn’t stand in the same place every time. That coach shows up for the player every day and adjusts, takes in different angles, suggests different techniques, offers a range of extra exercises and drills, all to help the player hit the one goal of making the foul shot.
Is Brandon Slater an amazing ball player overall (and, in my humble opinion, the best hustler on the court right now)? Yes. Could Brandon Slater hit 91.8% of his free throws by meeting with a coach just once at the start of the season and then practicing on his own? Quite simply, no. It’s the day-in, day-out practice, support, and controlled growth that makes the difference between good and great.
Its the relationship that matters, with his coach strategizing and helping him improve to the next level, and then improve again and again that lets him achieve such success.
Example number two is, of course, Maddy Siegrist.
She’s just incredible, breaking records right and left, including setting the NCAA all-time, single-game scoring record (blowing up both men’s and women’s records) with a jaw-dropping 50 points against Seton Hall a few days ago! She’s shooting over 53% from the field and 86% at the line, and averaging almost 10 rebounds a game.
For those of you who don’t follow basketball, it’s sort of like writing NYT bestsellers in multiple genres simultaneously… she’s like if Colleen Hoover also wrote Braiding Sweetgrass.
And she makes it look so easy!
Now, where does a coach come in for such genius on the court?
Coach Dillon and her staff are the ones who help Maddy play her best by strategizing with her before and after each game. They write up the scouting reports that help her prepare for the specific, short-term challenges ahead, and the review the tape with her after the game, highlighting where she crushed it and where she has challenges to work on in the long run. In between, they help her with drills, and advice on form, all coordinated to make her not only a skilled player, but also a confident one.
As I mentioned above, it’s a long-game. The coaching doesn’t stop after the first few weeks, or the first few games. It’s ongoing, it’s constructive, it adapts and grows as she does, and it’s all designed with only one goal: to help her be as good as she can be on the court.
So bringing that long-winded journey through Villanova hoops back to book coaching…
Choosing to work with a book coach is a choice to make that long-term commitment to your Authority.
It’s saying that you are the best person to write your book, so you can only get better.
It’s the decision to trust that you are going to grow and change and improve and at every moment, there is someone can help you make the most of it.
It’s trusting your story and and your skills, while also trusting someone else to honor both alongside you.
Obviously, if you are looking to embrace your Authority on the page, reach out.
In the meantime, Go Cats!