Shooters Shoot


“Shooters shoot, Hes!  Keep shooting!”

–  Herb Justmann, my high school basketball coach and still a dear friend

Maybe I’m nostalgic as basketball season enters the home stretch for TToTT…  But he and I were talking earlier this week about the coaching tip I got 40+ years ago.

There are two lessons in this time-honored coaching tip.  One for the player.  One for the coach.

For The Player

Play the game you’re best at playing.  If your success hinges on being in front of customers, the pandemic has probably created some angst for you.  Video calls are better than nothing, but there’s no substitute for being in the room, completely engaged and interacting with someone who is in the room, and completely engaged.  So unless the “rules” prohibit getting the shots you’re most comfortable shooting, get to your spot, catch in rhythm and shoot!  If the rules make that a virtual 3-pointer instead of a traditional, in the gym attempt — get on camera, and take your best shots.  Plural intended.  More reps equal more potential of scoring.

For The Coach

Know when a “heat check” is needed or when a change of pace is called for.

A “heat check” in basketball is that fourth shot after making three in a row or that sixth shot after making five in a row.  Maybe a little deeper than the usual.  Maybe a little quicker than the “flow” that got us there.  If it goes in, the team should keep getting the shooter the ball.  If it doesn’t, the coach might need to go to the bench or call a different play.

The challenge for business leaders — managers, coaches, supervisors — in these times is seeing the game from a different perspective.  If half your customers are conducting business differently than they did pre-pandemic, the plays that helped you win before might not even be practical now.  If your largest customer has been hit hard, laying off staff and lowering their guidance, maybe the game plan needs to reflect that.

Most importantly, coaches, know when your best shooters need to know that they’re ok in your eyes.  If the ball’s not going in, “Shooters shoot,” might turn into “Find your teammates.”  In other words, if our best-sellers are in a slump, we need to find a way to give them a fresh perspective, so the rim starts to look bigger again.

“Pat, take a long weekend.  Here’s a gift certificate for that new restaurant that opened downtown.  Take your spouse and get a good dinner on me.  It’s been a tough week/month/ quarter — I just want you to know you’re still my go-to-pro – and I’m confident things will turn for the better.”

“Terry, I want you to take a couple calls with these two customers that left us a couple years ago.  See if you can figure out why they left. See if you can cultivate some knowledge that will help the rest of the team.  No one has ever closed more deals than you, so I want to get your perspective on a couple that we lost.  To see them through a winners eyes…”

Sometimes it’s not the shooter or the shots

Sometimes, it’s simply changing the game.  The conversation.  The perspective.  The context.  Shooters, and great coaches “feel” when things are clicking again.  Maybe we just need to approach the game differently to get that instinctive flow going.  When we do.  Keep shooting.  Shooters shoot.




  1. Megan Holland says

    I’ll definitely be noodling on this one today. How’s the book coming, Steve!? 🙂

  2. Heidi Brown says

    Yes, yes & yes!! Did I mention how glad I am that you are writing again?? Missed this!!

  3. Amen to that, Heidi! I was just thinking the same thing. Steve, just so you know, I share your submissions with my team – most have signed up to receive them directly. Keep writing. It’s impactful, it forces us to think, and it makes us all better. That’s what a good coach does!

  4. David Handsaker says

    good stuff…coach!! sometimes we make things too complex. keep it simple, do what works!! thanks for sharing!!


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