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July 5, 2022

What's Best for the Individual Is Best for the Team w/Hank Plona

What's Best for the Individual Is Best for the Team w/Hank Plona

#47. This episode features Hank Plona, who has been the head men's basketball coach at Indian Hills Community College in Iowa for the past seven years. During that time, Coach Plona has amassed 196 victories, which is the most wins in junior college.  He has also had 57 players graduate and sign at D1 schools, also the most in junior college.

In this episode, we're gonna dive into coaches who have influenced Coach Plona, how he defines success, the uniqueness of coaching at the Juco level, how he gets his players to embrace the hard aspects of life and what sets his program apart.

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Transcript

Luke:

This is episode 47 of The "I" in Win

Hank:

Everybody's not getting recruited by Iowa state, Illinois. Everybody's not playing 35 minutes a night, but you know that what you're doing, even though it's challenging, even though it doesn't look great to the outside world you know that it's worth it.

Luke:

Hello everyone. And welcome to another episode of The "I" in Win the podcast that focuses on the journey and not just outcomes today we have on Hank Plona, who has been the head men's basketball coach at Indian Hills community college in Iowa for the past seven years. During that time, Coach Plona has amassed 196 victories, which is the most wins in junior college. He has also had 57 players graduate and sign at D one schools. Also the most in junior college. In this episode, we're gonna dive into coaches who have influenced Coach Plona, how he defines success, the uniqueness of coaching at the Juco level, how he gets his players to embrace the hard aspects of life and what sets his program apart. From the competition coach. Thanks for joining us this morning.

Hank:

No, I appreciate you having me. Thank you very much.

Luke:

Let's start with your athletic career. I'm assuming you played basketball, but I could be wrong. Uh, you probably played multiple sports growing up. So tell us a little bit about your athletic athletic career.

Hank:

Yeah. I tr I tried, um, no, I, I, I played in high school, but, did not play in college. So in high school, I, I, basketball was my primary sport. I, I grew up in Connecticut. So, you know, if a Yukon basketball was there and I thought, I thought I could be the next Ray Allen or the next Richard Hamilton, but, that wasn't really meant to be, um, I played soccer a little bit growing up. It's more of a soccer BA basketball state than a football state. so kind of played those couple sports, but, but always really enjoyed basketball. And, uh, I went to Providence college in Rhode Island. my father went to school there. So I tell him that he kind of brainwashed me from an early age to, to want to go to Providence. And, and that, that when I, when I realized my playing career, wasn't gonna, last into college, I decided to go that route. Um, and I kind of got working with the basketball team as a student manager. As an undergrad at Providence, I was able to stay on as a grad assistant and kind of get into coaching that way. And it's kind of led me on this journey, to Ottumwa Iowa. And I've been the head coach at Indian Hills for the past seven years going on year eight right now.

Luke:

So tell us about the influential coaches in your life. Many of us who've entered this profession because of the impact that someone had on us while we were coming up through the rank. Talk about seminals influential coaches or even just one specific coach that has impacted you and how you carry the lessons. They've taught you into your current.

Hank:

Yeah, sure. I'll hear I'm, I'll run through just some coaches that I've been around. Um, and, and honestly, some of this haven't thought about in a while, but I'll start with high school. I mean, when I played in high school, I played for a coach named Jim Taft and, and his son was actually a classmate of mine. and I guess to this day, you know, I never remember coach Taft ever saying anything that I didn't think was in our best interest as a player or as a team. you know, I think a lot of us as coaches, we try to see outside the box, try to figure out why people are telling you to do something and, and everything we always did, I thought was focused. Both our ultimate goals, which obviously were to win, but also were to individually succeed from that, you know, so kind of, there's some specific things about high school that, and, and playing for sure that even, even though I didn't playing college, I can remember how to get over a ball screen because as a player I knew I better get real close to the guy with the ball if I want to get over that screen. So to this day, and I can remember coach TAF telling me that, and to this day, we'll have new players come in and they'll say, well, coach, I got screen. And I remember as a player. Okay, wait a second. Like there's a way around that. There's, there's a solution to this problem. When I was a Providence, I worked, under Tim Welsh in keynote Davis, um, as a grad assistant who are two very different coaches, but, uh, I'd say big picture wise. I learned from both of them, how to run a program. You know, my experience at Providence was. Still probably the foundation in the building blocks of what I think is my successful coaching career, because you know, in the big east conference, it's, it's on a big stage, you know, basketball is on a big stage and you have to, you, you know, twice a week, you're playing in front of 13,000 people, 15,000 people. And the important things you can't fight every small little battle, coach Welsh was outstanding at, focusing on the big picture, focusing on, obviously the players, you know, their mental wellbeing, keeping them positive while working very, very hard, but obviously very focused on winning the games, you know? And it sounds simple, but a lot of us, I think when we're young, we think that on a Monday practice in August, Man that guy better do every single thing. Perfect. Where really it's human nature that, it's hard to do that. It's hard for a certain amount of hours every single day to do everything near. Perfect. And I thought coach Welsh was always outstanding at seeing the big picture and kind of keeping and keeping things in perspective, you know, uh, Keno Davis, who, whose father Tom Davis was the head coach at Iowa, was very different. I thought what I learned from coach Davis was just how he. Um, how he felt comfortable in his own skin, communicating with the players, you know, he was never, he wasn't trying to be, it's easy to say. You know, I, I can't imagine cuz my father didn't coach basketball, but he was always very comfortable being himself and he's a very personable. Person, he's not a, he doesn't really ride up and down. He doesn't really get on a roller coaster. Like he's very, even-keeled and, and he used that as a strength to communicate and appeal to the players. So, those two guys were, I worked for province were great. Um, I worked under three coaches, Josh Newman, Jeff Kitter. Steve green as an assistant coach, I worked for Josh Newman at Fort Smith, worked for Jeff Kitter here at Indian Hills. And I worked for Steve green at south Plains and they're all phenomenal basketball coaches. And I'd say we do things kind of similar. Because of my four years at south Plains, which is a very high level junior college, uh, in our four years, we were fortunate enough to win a national championship. One year we lost a national championship game my last year. but that four years that I spent down there in Texas was a, great learning experience. I was given a lot of freedom coach green is very comfortable in his own skin. He empowers players and assistant coaches. I feel I wouldn't be where I'm at today. If he wasn't comfortable. Allowing assistant coaches and players to be the absolute best versions of themselves. So kind of what I do here at Indian Hills, I try I try to take that lesson and I try to help my assistant coaches and my players be the absolute best versions of themselves. And, and I think that that's probably the, the building block of what our program here at Indian Hills is. And I think that obviously my experience with coach green, I was fortunate enough to kind of gain that experience, see it firsthand and, and feel comfortable. Empowering coaches and players to be themselves and to allow them to, do what they do.

Luke:

One thing you said about. Taft that really struck a chord with me is that you knew as a player, that everything that you did and he said was in your best interest as an individual and as a collective team. And I think that's really awesome. And that's something that I think we all strive to be as coaches. We want our players to know like, look, I'm telling you this, maybe it's your style of play. Maybe it's a change of position it's in your best interest. I feel like that's becoming a little bit harder for players to understand that in today's world. That's just my opinion. So how did you know that coach Taft was really just thinking in your best interest?

Hank:

Because I, I agree with you. I think that we all, all pick up on things when someone is telling us something, that's not in our best interest, those things stand. Um, I don't think it does stand out individually when, uh, somebody that's supposed to be a coach or a mentor tells you something to do that is in your best interest, or they give you the right advice or the right guidance that doesn't stand out. I don't think you realize it while it's going on. You simply gain that trust for a person. I tell that part of, of, of my story. I guess we say that here all the time, like, I will always tell our players if there's anything that, that, that we say either on the floor to you as, as an individual in front of the team, whether it's in an individual meeting, which we have a lot of, if there's ever anything that you feel is not in your best interest, let me know, like, we'll talk about it, you know, and I will, because there's never anything that we try to do with any of our players. That is not in their own best interest, you know? Cause I do think what's in the player's best interest and our team's best interest. I think the great coaches, those two things align perfectly. you know, when you hear in BA in our basketball world, when you hear about Mike Shefsky or Jay Wright or Tony Bennett, you never hear I've had a player fortune enough to play for Tony Bennett, like in two years, you know, even though, I mean, he wasn't the leading score, but he never. They were telling him to do something that didn't make sense or wasn't in his best interest. So I, I want our players to communicate if they ever feel, that we're saying something that, that might go against that. And you're right in today's world. It is harder. And in our game in basketball positions, all right. There's people that don't really know basketball, always want their player, whether it's a parent or whether it's a coach from high school or AAU or wherever it is, they always want a player to play smaller. Then what they are, if a guy's six, seven, well, we want him to be a two guard. You know, if a guy's six 11, well, he's a four man. and I don't know if you're watching the NBA finals, but I mean the golden state warriors are playing 3, 6, 2 guys. Andrew Wiggins technically, I guess, is the fourth smallest guy and Draymond. Green's the fifth, he's the biggest guy on the floor and the way the game is going, it's, positionless, it's interchangeable. So. This year, technically I had a kid named Jovan Hadley who's six, six, and he's a guard. If I had to tell you what position he is, he is a guard, but he was our biggest guy on the floor, which so technically, I guess that's the five man. and Jovan is a special player because not, I mean, we explained to him why this was in his best interest. We explained to him how it was gonna help our team. We explained all the positives and I opened it up to him. If there's any negatives, got any concerns. Let me know. And, why he's special. Why he's a future pro is no, there's no concerns, but we won 13 games in a row. He's a first team, all American he's at the university of Colorado, like that works for everybody. So I think that that is the key to everything you do. I think that if you're gonna be successful, what you tell the players and what's in the best interest of the team, those two things align. Perfect. If you ever have to trick or fool a player, I don't think that's good coaching.

Luke:

Mentioned an introduction winning his coach in the past seven years at the junior college level. Maybe this is a tough one for you to answer. I'm not sure, but I'm fascinated by success. I like to read on successful people and kind of steal from them, right? I mean, model their success. So how do you as a head coach even define success?

Hank:

We talk a lot. And even in, when it starts in recruiting, obviously in college, you know, here, the biggest key to our success is we've brought the right people into the program. as you said, we've had 57 guys go division one. There's not one of those guys that I did not think was a division one person and player when we took them. So I think bringing the right people into the program is the key and we talk. How we're gonna help them be successful from in the recruiting process. Like we don't try to get the player and then start coaching them. You know, we almost start coaching in the recruiting process and some kids don't want that. Some kids that's too honest, some kids that scares 'em off. but we talk, I guess the most common thing we say is we want you to be the best person, the best student and the best player you can be. And I intentionally try to say it in that order players always last, but I do think being the growing as a person, I think that's the most important part. And I think, I think the student is, is next. And I think the player is last, but, but if you do those first two, I think the player becoming a better player naturally follows. I think it's impossible to do the first two things and then forget about being a player. You know, the player, part's the easy part. So I think that's how we measure success. You know, I think at the end of the year, I want every player in our program to think want that they grew that, that man, I, I went to Indian Hills and I have matured. I've improved this about my life. You know, I feel more comfortable in my own skin in who I am as a young man, because of this experience. I think if, if guys graduate and, and to play division one, you need a 2.5 GPA. So if they get all CS, I don't view that as success, you know? You need a 2.5, we shoot for about a 3.3, you know, so if you fall a little bit short and you're at a 3.1, I still think that's successful if you're trying your best. so, by graduation, you know, like that is it's me just like winning and losing it's measured. If you graduated, that's measured. and if you're our leading score, our. A starter for our team. There will, there will never be a starter or a leading score or a main player that doesn't graduate because I won't play them. You know, like I won't do it. Like it's more important to me that they be successful in the classroom than on the court. Now I've never had to not to. Not start a kid from time to time. Sure. But I think the players have to know that you genuinely do care about that. And that is what's important because they wanna be successful too. You know, we're not bringing anybody into the program that doesn't want to succeed in school, So I think that's the next part of it. And then I think the winning follows and if you bring the, the talented players, no doubt that are the right people that are gonna get better throughout the. we don't try to go undefeated, but we do try to win every game, you know? So like it's, all one game segments during the year and we try to have the best practice we can have, every day we will set out our objectives. You know, if we play on Wednesday and we're gonna have a hour and a half challenging practice, I'm going, I'm going to tell them exactly. That's what it's gonna be. We're gonna go for an hour and a half. We're gonna play live. This is what we expect of you. This is how we're gonna measure. At the end, we talk about it. If that's a great practice, then on Tuesday, we might try to take care of their bodies a little bit. So it might be more of a mental practice. It might be more, Hey, we're gonna go over a couple things guys. And this is just as important, you know, just cuz just cause we're not going full speed. We're intentionally not going full speed to rest our bodies, but we're gonna need these sets to win tomorrow. We don't want there to be any surprises. We'll outline what we'll do. We'll tell them how long we'll go. Um, I think some coaches practice and just drags on forever and the players are trying to save themselves mentally and physically because they don't know when it's gonna end. So I always try to make sure they know how long we'll be out there. but every single day we try to, you know, we have goals for the day and we try to accomplish.

Luke:

Yeah. And what you explain is pretty much the premise of the podcast, The "I" in Win the concept is you make the individual better, the collective hole is going to become better, which is ultimately what you are explaining. And also this concept of you have to win all the time. You cannot just win on the court. You have to go win in the classroom. You have to. When as a, as a son, as a husband, as a big brother, all those things are what contribute to why you are successful on the course. So we're definitely speaking the same language. And one thing with that is you have a unique makeup, at least I'm assuming a unique makeup at the junior college level, because you have kids that are there because maybe they need a little bit more academic support. You have kids there because maybe they're fine academically, but they're looking for something better. From an offer standpoint, right? You have seminar there that maybe just need to develop their skills or are still growing or whatever it may be. So you have all these different dynamics. So how do you ensure that you are meeting the needs of the individual and ensure they're growing as individual people, given the multitude of dynamics that you're dealing with at your.

Hank:

Yeah, that's a good question. And it's, and it's completely accurate. Um, we do have guys here for a lot of different reasons and there, and there is a reason, you know, every, I don't want, I know some coaches don't, don't say this as direct as I'm about to, but I don't want a kid here that grew up wanting to come to Indian Hills. I want a kid that grew up wanting to go to Kentucky or duke or Iowa state or Illinois, because we're gonna help them get there. I want guys that are shooting their goals are super, super high. And, we have to then talk about what we're going to do here to get them there. The best part about this level is it is a stepping stone. There is a, and just like, just like I said, when we practice, they know when it's over. Well, they know when they're experiencing Indian Hills is over too. Like we have a time. if a player transfers in, well, we have one year. If a player doesn't qualify, we have. they know exactly how long they're going to be here. And when we get to know that player from the start, from, from the recruiting process, we talk about the goals and what we need to focus on to get them to where they want to be. and I honestly believe that if I do coach in division one, I'm gonna try to do the same, the same thing. I think a lot of division one and college coaches they try to talk about their place as the destination. and I think that I don't think there's ever a destination in life. I think we're always every human being is trying to look to how to get better, how to improve, how to grow, how to find their next path, you know? and I think that no matter what level you're at. you should be trying to help that individual get to the next spot. So obviously at our level, the advantage of it is it's very clear that there is a next spot. There is a next goal, but I think through communication, you learn about each, person. I think as, time goes on, you see what their great at you see what their strengths are and you see what are the areas that okay. Yep. I can see, I can see what the speed bumps were that prevented him from getting to that ideal place, duke or Kentucky, wherever it is. And I'm not saying a lot of players go to duke or Kentucky, but I want them to shoot. I mean, they all wanna go to the NBA. I don't coach anybody that comes here that doesn't want to go to the NBA. They all want to play there. So. Okay. So like let's set that as the goal and while it's a very high goal, I think if you help them and you identify what they have to do on and off the court to try to, let's say we use that as a goal. Well, then they're gonna do pretty well if they do their best, and it's not about the destination. It's not about the NBA, duke or Kentucky, just like, it's not about winning a game it's about for 40 minutes doing the best we can do in a game. And I think that. Kind of, as people it's not about passing the class, it's not about passing a test. It's about doing the best you can do on the test. It's not about having a conversation with, a professor on campus to get their help. No, it's about genuinely getting to know that person showing interest in trying to learn. So I, I think with, with all of our guys, you know, no matter where they come from, we do have a goal. We do have an end game. So you try to figure out, you get to know them. Allow them to be the best versions of themselves in their areas of strength. And we communicate a lot. I tell our guys in the recruiting process, most kids say they want a good relationship with the coach. They want to have conversations. They don't wanna just show up to practice and see me or our staff. I say, you're not gonna, you're not gonna call home. And think you talked to me too little. It's it's gonna be the opposite of that. If anything, because I think the only way to accomplish what you wanna accomplish is to have communication as a coach, as we, we hold our players accountable, we tell them how they're doing, and then if they struggle with something, we fix it. So, getting to know the players, communication, being open and honest, not being hesitant or scared to address the cold. Facts and truth. if there's an obvious reason why a player's here, that's been his issue, whether that's academics or whether it's their performance on the court. A lot of guys think they can shoot threes and they can't shoot threes. You know? I mean, they can shoot 'em, but they don't make 'em and you have to convince that player. Hey, I know you wanna shoot threes shoot 300 a day. We'll work on it, but you can't fire one in the first two minutes of the. Some guys don't like hearing that, but you have to be direct and honest and have a strong enough relationship to be able to convince them why, what we're coaching them on is in their best interest.

Luke:

There's no doubt. You never can over communicate as a head coach. Completely agree with that. And before we hit record, another thing we agreed with is the learning curve of becoming a head coach. And I know when I first became one, I was surprised at how many responsibilities came before the X's and the O's. And that's one thing I wasn't totally prepared. How do you continue to learn in order to stay on top of all these things that need to be done off the court, such as relationship building, helping players discover who they're gonna be. Post basketball. Right? So how are you learning in that realm? Is there certain podcasts you listen to? Are there great books on leadership or, you know, there's a lot of social, emotional disorders that are going on with our players in today's world. How you stay on, on top of all of these dynamics that have nothing to do with Xs and OS.

Hank:

Yeah, in the world for sure is always changing. Um, I, I think you, whether it's podcasts or whether it's books or whether it's, you know, there's a lot of, you know, obviously social, media's huge now. I mean, you know, in social media, you see very small sayings, phrases or clips, whereas if I read a book, um, I literally, I know I'm not gonna remember. There's a hundred things in that book that make sense to me. But I try to make sure I remember five of them, you know, and I try to make sure I highlight those. And I mark those, because if we try to remember everything, you know, when a player studies for a test, if they just look at a 20 pages worth of notes and they don't write anything down or highlight it and they just look at it, they're not gonna remember anything. If we go over 20 plays to get ready for tomorrow's game, they're not gonna remember. If you just focus on three or five that are key takeaways. I think that helps as a coach. It helps you grow. And obviously I think as a head coach, you've gotta be the best version of yourself. You know, I gotta be the best version of myself. We can't try to be somebody else. So I think the more listening, learning, reading, studying you do, I think you, you discover things, you know, I mean, yeah. I followed John Gordon on Twitter and I've read three of his books, there's no, that's not, he's not the only guy in the world, but obviously he specializes a little bit in positive leadership, and certainly how it relates to coaching. So, you know, when there's an author or where there's a former coach that has an intended audience, that, that are people like us, no doubt, like there's a greater chance that you'll find through those three or five things that you can take away and you can learn. you know, I guess the last thing I, I, I do think that when it comes to, today's kids and how it's in everybody puts positive things on social media. Every you're not gonna look at hardly anyone social media and see, man, I'm having a rough day, it's all positive. Just like to just like, if you watch the six o'clock news, that's mostly negative. Well, social media is mostly positive. And what that does, especially for these 18 to 20 year old. When they're struggling, it makes them think that they're the only person struggling. And because they look on Instagram and everybody's having fun, everybody's doing well. Everybody's putting up highlights of themselves, you know, for basketball to dunking or, their highlight video or this or that. Nobody's putting anything out there when they have a rough day, when they have a rough day, that kind of keeps themselves. So everybody, I think in today's generation thinks that when they struggle or when they have a bad. They're the only ones going through it and they're, and they hesitate to communicate outside with other people. About that, you know? So I guess on our, as you said, you can't overcommunicate. No, I truly believe that impossible. I ask guys everything you good. You good? Is there, I mean, before we practice, I'm intentionally with a purpose, gonna walk around and talk to every player individually, you know, and it might just be 10 seconds, but I'm just gonna try to get their vibe. I'm gonna try to see how they're. I'm gonna try to make, see, see if they're acting any different, because I want to know those things before we practice, because if somehow, mentally they're off after in practice, I don't want to coach them like, everything's going good. Like, I can't, you can't expect somebody to do something if they're mentally not in the frame of mind to do that. So I just, you know, I guess those are some ways that I learned those things, but I think that this topic and, and. When a kid walks in my office and sits down, I always get up from, from the back of my desk and walk around to the front, to sit there casually. I don't want the desk being in between. That feels like you're at the principal's office. if they need something I don't want, I don't wanna feel like some kind of crazy authority to them. So I think you learn, listen, you read, you learn to just find little, tricks or little things like that, that stick out.

Luke:

That's a great point that you've made on social media and the assumptions we make through these little snippets we see into someone else's life. Most of the listeners of this podcast are coaches. And they'll read about you. They hear about your success. As I mentioned, introduction. I know one mistake we all make as coaches is we, we see someone who is successful like yourself, and we assume that you have it all figured out that you aren't struggling with some things yourself within the realms of being a successful coach. Now, what we both know is that isn't true. And what we both know is that once you're on top, the truly successful people. Are constantly finding ways to improve and to stay on top because you can make an argument. I know Nick Saban talks about this. It's harder to stay on top than working your way up to the top. So with that said, what are some areas that you're working on yourself as a coach? And again, I'm not talking about Xs and OS on the court just. As a coach and being your best version that you're trying to improve upon. and you're reading about, and that's a goal of yours, right?

Hank:

Um, I think for sure at the beginning of our season, I'll tell you what I'm focused on right now as we we're about to start summer school in July and when we're on the court, because I, our, my relationships with, with our new players won't be. Built up and as strong as they will be in month 10 and 11. Um, I don't know their entire background and just, just say their basketball experience. take a transfer, for example, when I say, well, what happens your last school? I know that I'm gonna get a skewed version because they're not comfortable enough yet with me to be completely open and honest about the ups and downs that they went through. So the thing that I'm right now that I'm focused on as we start is not letting, not at all, whether positive or negative being emotional when coaching these guys. Being supportive, explaining, being calm, almost going full Brad Stevens mode. I don't know for those coaches that know Brad Stevens, he's super, super calm during the game. And it's kind of a new school, more than an old school way of coaching and, and his explanation that I can't remember where I've read it, but I've read it is, well, you can't be emotional because you can't make the best decisions for your team. When you are emotionally reacting, either happy or upset when something happens. and I think that when we start coaching brand new players, I don't think any kind of emotion positive or negative helps or motivates. So, I think especially as the world moves out of the pandemic, I think in general, this is a generalization, I think young. 18 to 21 year old men's college basketball players, which is what we coach, I think they want to come across like they're confident and they believe that they're gonna figure it out. But I think they're as cautious and nervous as ever. because. You and me know that the pandemic world was just a blip and that's not the real world, but that's all 20 year olds know, like they almost like the world. They almost expect things to go a little bit wrong out of their control, which is what's happened. So as we start this new year, I, I think supportive. Is is certainly the key word that I wanna make sure in July that I am with our new players. And I wanna make sure I'm explain overexplaining everything that we do. I don't want to assume that they know something. I think a lot of coaches assume that a player has been taught or something has been explained, but I don't think I can hold a player accountable for something that I personally have not told him, explained to him and taught him. So kind of right now, as we start. That's kind of where my mindset is at. And that's what I think that certainly in year seven, eight, I think I'm way better at that than in year one or two. And I think it's paid dividends. I think that I'm a, a better coach because when you, when you remove any kind of evaluating a player or, you know, I talk to division one coaches sometimes and they change what they need every day, because, well, we liked our point guard yesterday. We don't, we don't. Wait a second. That should never happen. In my opinion, like he might have had a bad day, but you, you believe in the person you coach the person, you know, guys are gonna have good and bad days, but it's your job to explain and to, to put these goals out there, um, and allow them to work towards them. So, I think I've definitely trended more towards that over the past two years, but I don't think you can ever get too good at that. So that's kind of what I guess I'm focused on right now, as we start new, here in.

Luke:

I like what you said about, we can't make assumptions. You are going to intentionally explain what you want to explain, rather than assuming they already know, go into the pandemic. You know, one thing we're struggling with. In high schools, and this is happening across our country is we're back to in person learning and the behaviors just, they're not desirable. And a lot of teachers, coaches are really frustrated and you hit it on the head. We forgot an important element. We just made an assumption like, Hey, we just turned your life upside down. You're 17 years old. Now come back to school and just act like nothing ever. We didn't take the time to again, explain expectations. this is what we want in the hallway. This is our expectation on the court. And, uh, yeah, I think we assumed that maybe they could just come right back so that that's a really good point that you made about being intentional.

Hank:

And you're right. Like when they first come back, when I have a new team first come together. They intentionally don't know they do this, but they intentionally will do some behaviors to stand out. You know, like, especially in the last couple years they've been sitting at home and L communication is on the phone or social media, a lot of guys, especially athletes that are, that are strong and confident in sure. Themselves like. They know that a behavior, even if it's the wrong behavior, they know that if there's a behavior that stands out, that everybody's gonna know who that person is, you know, and at least that person will, you know, and that's the wrong way to go about it, but I see it year after year. So we try to get, you know, I think the same thing on our level, we try to make sure guys are comfortable. Be you, you don't gotta get out of character to make a statement. We're gonna get to know you. you don't have to stand out for the wrong reason to claim your spot.

Luke:

we mentioned John Gordon a couple times. I listened to his podcast and I just heard Jim Rome on there recently. And he had a really powerful statement about the concept of embracing hard work. And he said he always chooses hard because all that is good is on the other side of hard. And, and I love that. And football has been struggling with numbers and everyone's been trying to figure out why that is my own hypothesis is I think it's because it's hard. I think it's a really, really difficult sport to play and many kids. Don't want to do hard anymore. I know there's a lot of hard things that need to be done in basketball. Taking charges, playing defense, rebounding, being selfless with the ball and moving around rather than being the guy to get your name in the paper and score all the points. So how do you get kids to embrace the hard, uncomfortable parts of the game?

Hank:

Yeah. And I'll, I'll even add, you know, maybe before we went on, you asked how many guys shoot on basketball. There's 12, 13 guys on a team and five of 'em play. It's hard. To sit over there during a game when your parents come to watch you play and you don't get to play as much as you want to. That is really hard in this immediate gratification world we're in. Uh, there, I, I agree with you. I, I think that again, not to go back to what I talked about, but we always talk about our end goals and we always talk about why, what we're doing is worth it. How, what we're doing is worth. if we try to get guys to take charges, we're gonna show them clips of professionals doing that. You know, we're gonna talk about how Marcus smart and Draymond green are in the finals right now, making some ungodly amount of money, doing the things that are difficult and challenging. everybody wants to play basketball, but does everybody want to succeed and make this a career? No, that's very, very. Um, I think you have to, I mean, I know we try to constantly talk about why it's worth it, and, and we also try to make sure they know that well, if basketball or football gets hard, when they start saying, well, I, you know, they might not say they don't wanna do it, but their actions show that. Alright, I was late to that class or, because I didn't play as much as I wanted to yesterday. I didn't practice very hard today. That's something that's gonna happen in our first couple games for sure. Okay. Why is that in your best interest? What did you gain? What did you gain from that? All right. If you're not, if you do those actions, obviously you probably can't be on the team for very long. so what are you going to do instead? You know, I think it's, we all. Well, this is getting hard. I don't wanna do this. Okay. What are you going to do instead? you're gonna sit around, do nothing. Are you going to join the band? Are you gonna be on the math team? I mean, you know, you gotta do something, and a lot of times the answer's nothing, you know, and, and it's not really thought of it's. so life is hard, to be special, to be different, you know, you've gotta be able to attack challenging tasks and, and things in life. Everybody says they love playing basketball. I'm sure most of your guys say they love playing football. Okay. Well, the, the higher levels you get, the older you get, the harder it gets, but professionals, they wake up in the morning, they do their job, they hit the weight room. They put their work in, if they're still in class, if it, if it's college players, they take most guys do their schoolwork in the morning, you attack the things that are challenging. And again, we always try to say this. If you're not gonna play, what are you gonna do instead? And then if you do do these things, even though you didn't play a lot last night, have the best practice you have. If you, if you don't have the best practice, you, how would you feel if somebody else didn't play? And then they had a bad practice and I played them on Wednesday night. How would you feel if I did that? I wouldn't think that's fair. Exactly. so don't, do that to yourself. Like you gotta chip away at it, you know? And, when our guys go home for Christmas, we're probably halfway through the season and I give them a heads up. So your, your family and friends are gonna say, how many points are you averaging? How many minutes are you playing? And who's recruiting you. And for most of my players, all three of those answers on December 25th are not going to be as sound as cool. As what those friends expect. You know, everybody's not averaging 15 points a game. Everybody's not getting recruited by Iowa state, Illinois. Everybody's not playing 35 minutes a night, but you know that what you're doing, even though it's challenging, even though it doesn't look great to the outside world, you know, that it's worth it. So we always talk, you know, we're very outcome oriented, but we get there by focusing on every single individual play day practice. You

Luke:

your time. And there's just one last question I wanna ask for you. Hang. What do you think we collectively, as coaches can do better or differently?

Hank:

I think you gotta treat every player fair, but you don't have to treat every player equal, You've gotta get to know each person, if you're, I think a really good teacher, if you're teaching history, I think you should try if you really want those kids to learn. if you really want them to learn as much as they can, you gotta get to know each student, you know, cuz everybody learns a little bit differently, so be fair to them, but you can't have just a one shoe fits all style of teaching. And I think coaching is the same thing, you know, and I think we've gotta continue to, Not just to say, this is how we do it, or this is what we do here, or this is I I've been winning before, what have you ever won? Listen to me, you know, like, eh, like I think we have to know that every year is different. Every kid is different. Every game is different. Every day is different. I don't think you can build a strong enough relationship with your players. I think it, it, you gotta, I think that is the key to the whole deal. I think. Again, I don't have a lot of sayings and phrases, but this is one, I, I think kids don't care how much, you know, until kids know how much you care, and I, I think that that is the key to coaching in this generation that we're in right now. and I think that we're in a world where no person wants to put themselves in another group with people that don't care about them. I think the days of I'm the coach, you're the player. Just listen to me. I think those days. I think that's the situation. We have to try to figure out how to continue to be better and to get the absolute most out of each player while I guess keeping that in mind.

Luke:

Well, your success speaks for itself. I really appreciate you being so generous with your time. As I mentioned earlier, I, I just love learning from successful coaches like you, and I know you made me and all of our listeners better, and I'm excited to follow a new basketball team, the Indian Hills community college, I mean, and how you loving the flatlands of the Midwest, by the way.

Hank:

Oh, no, shoot. It's it's funny. I was

Luke:

flat, right?

Hank:

it's flat. It's flat. I was actually back out in new. A couple weeks ago. And now, man, that seems a little crowded. It seems a little it's too much out there, man. This is where it's at. So, um, but no, but you mean obviously I'm going on year eight, um, at Indian Hills. Sure. We'd love to have as many fans and followers as possible. Uh, you guys can follow us on, on Twitter and on Instagram and all that. We usually just promote our program. And if any listeners wanna come to a game, I can hook you guys up with tickets. So come on.

Luke:

Outstanding. And to our listeners, I will put, coaches, Twitter handle and his programs, Twitter handle, and social medias, and feel free to, follow them. And. Take coach up on his offer. I just, all I ask is I would like court side

Hank:

Yeah, we'll make it happen. We'll make it happen.

Luke:

Awesome. Well, thanks again for, being on and, uh, look forward to following your continuous success and maybe, uh, maybe you'll be the guy driving the bus at duke someday. So.

Hank:

Ah, shoot out here. I tell my guys, this is my duke. This is my Kentucky. So I think wherever, I think wherever you're at, you gotta treat it. Like it's the most important place and thing in the world. And I do that here. Again, career pass. Those things naturally happen. But now again, we all love to be on TV or make more money. Sure. At the same time, I couldn't be more happy with where I'm at and privileged to be the head coach at Indian Hills.

Luke:

Well, thanks for all you do for helping mold, the future leaders of America, and we will stay in contact.

Hank:

Sounds good. Thank you. Congratulations to you as well.

Hank Plona Profile Photo

Hank Plona

Indian Hills CC, Head Men's Basketball Coach

https://indianhillsathletics.com/sports/mbkb/coaches/Hank_Plona?view=bio