What can schools learn from the Golden State Warriors?

Photo credit  Keith Allison

Photo credit Keith Allison

During a recent workshop for a corporate client, executives had a debate:

What was the best way to give feedback to rising talent? (Their job calls for regular public presentations and sometimes high stakes, client-facing interactions.)

"Have you considered filming them while they practice?" I asked.

"Yes! We used to do that," said one of the partners. "We should go back to doing that. As soon as you watch film of yourself, it's easy to spot what you're doing well and what you need to change."

This epiphany resonates with the insights from this fascinating analysis of the half-time ritual for the Golden State Warriors:

"The Warriors actually begin preparing for halftime as soon as the game begins. Assistant coaches will identify plays that the team may want to review at halftime by signaling them to Willie Green, an assistant and 11-year N.B.A. veteran who sits one row behind the bench. Green is in charge of keeping track of the time and score for each of the plays in question.

" 'Put that on edit!' the coaches shout. Or simply, 'Clip that!'

"Periodically throughout the first half, various other members of the staff — including Samuel Gelfand, the team’s analytics guru, and Kyle Barber, the strength coach — run portions of the list back to the locker room, where James Laughlin, the video coordinator, assembles the clips on a computer.

"During the first half of Game 7 against the Rockets Monday night, the Warriors played so poorly their assistant coaches kept simultaneously shouting “Clip that!” whenever the team had a decent possession. They knew that Kerr, who loves to emphasize the positive, would want to show the players those plays at halftime. When he did, the sequences reinforced the message that good things happened whenever they moved the ball, and reminded the players at a fragile moment that they were better than the 11-point deficit suggested.

"Yet Kerr does not want to be the only voice in the room — far from it, in fact. He has carved out time for others to speak. Once Kerr finishes making his main points, the associate head coach, Mike Brown, often speaks to the group. Then, the senior assistant coaches, Ron Adams and Jarron Collins, add their thoughts. Kerr likes to close by seeking input from the players, too, especially in the playoffs.

" 'Do you have anything for us?' he asks them. 'Do you see anything?'

"As for strategy, the Warriors run a read-based offense — meaning they look to pick apart the soft spots in opposing defenses. Halftime gives them the chance to recalibrate.

" 'After you play a half, you can see what teams are trying to do,' Fraser said."

How might this process work in schools? 

Small teams of teacher-coaches could pop in to their peers' classes and, during a break in the middle of class ("halftime"), help the instructor to "recalibrate" according to how students have responded during the first half of class.

The implementation challenge would not be primarily technical. Rather, you would need a culture in which teachers crave feedback and in which administrators focus on the growth of talent than the evaluation of employees.

Does your school give your teachers the best possible feedback to help them to grow?


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Christian Talbot