5 Things Coaching Basketball Taught Me About Life and Running A Business

Written by:  Brett Blevins

It was 2008, and at the ripe old age of 24, I had the pleasure of joining Tim Sullivan’s coaching staff at Cooper High School (Union, KY) for the school and the basketball program’s inaugural season. Those next 5 seasons provided me a front row seat to the joy and the struggles of building a basketball program from the ground up.

As a fledgling program, we took some lumps. No – I mean – we took some SERIOUS LUMPS. And, there is nothing in life that will humble you and make you learn as quickly as taking a good ol’ fashioned ass whippin’. Luckily by the end of my tenure, we were the ones handing out the beatdowns instead of receiving them. And it comes as no surprise that under Coach Sullivan’s leadership, the Jaguars are now a perennial power not just in N.KY but across the entire state.

Those 5 years taught me a lot as I watched baby-faced freshmen, thrown into the fire, grow into young men. I will forever be grateful for the opportunity and will always have a deep connection with the program as it continues to reach new heights. As the Jaguars hit the stretch run once again, I got to thinking. What are the 5 biggest take-aways from those 5 seasons and beyond??


The whole country seems to have caught what I call the Excuse Epidemic. Virtue signaling is the new religion of the masses and new drug of choice. The media and our politicians are infecting our kids and society with a victim mindset. None of which leads to anything positive. At the end of the day, there may not be an adage more true than “Life Isn’t Fair”. Funny how you don’t hear that saying as much anymore. As my Mamaw Jean used to say in response to whiners and negative-Nancys, “You can walk around pissed off all day if you want, but no one really gives a big rat’s ass.” Timeless advice from a great woman. I think the world is losing sight of this. Humans are competitive by nature. Life is competitive. The job-market is competitive. Business is competitive. Your competition doesn’t care about your feelings. Our opponents sure didn’t care that we were out-manned and under-gunned. Stand on the tracks and get run over. It will never change. Your best help is staring back at you from the mirror. If you are waiting on things to be fair, take a number because it is going to be a while. Don’t whine, DO BETTER!


“It’s relationships stupid”

We put a premium on relationships at Cooper High School, and I consider the men I coached with and others involved with the program to be lifelong friends. I still keep in touch with many of our players or “our guys” as we call them. There is no greater satisfaction than seeing these young men become successful in life. We held these young men to a high standard, but it was always done out of love. I played for screamers and men who coached out of intimidation. If you try to lead thru fear – respect will go out the window. Relationships first, success will follow. Most all of my successes in life have been due to one thing: RELATIONSHIPS. Treat people right, and you will be amazed at how that will pay off in the long run. The ability to build relationships is key in all aspects of life and one of the main traits we look for in job candidates.


“One man with enthusiasm can inspire all of those around him”

That was the quote that Coach Sullivan had on his desk in our coaching office. Sounds great, right? Imagine coming to work with enthusiasm after taking your 10th straight 20-point loss. But that is exactly what we did. We prepared each day to win and brought great energy. Our energy was rewarded by having a bunch of hard-nose kids who took on that identity. We played hard to the whistle and to the final horn regardless of the score. The same applies in business and in life. Take great pride in what you do, and do it to the best of your abilities. Maintaining a positive attitude and an enthusiastic approach will pay major dividends in the long run.


“Perseverance is stubbornness with a purpose”

I’ve had a poster of Larry Bird hanging in every office I’ve ever had. It simply says: PERSERVERANCE – The act of being resolute and firm in purpose. The word purpose is key here. Being tough without purpose isn’t perserverance it is stupidity and pig-headedness. The power lies in knowing your purpose and your core values as a team or an organization. When you can hone in on those ideals and pursue them with unwavering grit and determination, that is perserverance. Purpose isn’t a stagnant target either, it can change. As our agency continues to grow, we have an even greater purpose and greater ability to help others. We’ve had our growing pains, but we’ve stayed true to our mission of serving our communities. The Cooper program could’ve went the way of many other programs, a perpetual downhill slide. But a resoluteness of purpose, a true day-to-day perserverance, pointed the ship in the right direction.


No matter what our win-loss record was, we always had fun. Some of my favorite memories involve our epic Thanksgiving practice traditions and blaring music and dancing with the guys. Sometimes in life we focus so much on the negative that we miss the beautiful lessons right in front of our eyes. Even in the hardest of times, there is a lesson to be learned and an opportunity to be seized. Being present and in the moment is something that ALL OF US could be better at. I miss those days of coaching, but I’m also enjoying the new challenges and ventures that life has presented. I hope when I do lose the moment (as we all do time to time), that I get the reminder that my yogis always preach: BE. HERE. NOW.

Brett Blevins, M.Ed, BCBA, LBA, is Owner and Executive Director of Bluegrass Behavioral Health Group headquartered in the Northern Kentucky area. He has over 18 years of experience working with all ages and abilities in a variety of settings. Brett began his professional career in education as a Behavioral Consultant specializing in school-wide discipline, classroom management, alternative school programming, and individual behavior intervention with the EBD and ASD populations. He has experience training school district staff in the areas of Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS). During his time in education, he also helped found and develop the Boys’ Basketball Program at Randall K. Cooper High School. Currently, Brett has developed a model of practice at Bluegrass Behavioral Health Group that emphasizes a mixture of ABA, mental health counseling, and skill-based learning.

Brett’s personal philosophy is centered around building lasting relationships and putting people first. His professional goal is to help his community, by helping the families and individuals he serves improve their lives. Brett has many other business interests and passions including entrepreneurship, sports performance and psychology, employee wellness, and servant leadership. You can contact him at brett@bbhealthgroup.com

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