JustPlay Partner Spotlight

Streamline Your Coaching Workflow with Just Play Sports Solutions

In today’s fast-paced sports environment, coaches need efficient tools to stay ahead of the game. That’s where Just Play Sports Solutions comes in. As a partner of the Black Coaches United (BCU), Just Play offers a comprehensive platform that revolutionizes the way coaches prepare and connect with athletes. This all-in-one solution benefits coaches and athletes alike – let’s discover how! 


All-In-One Workflow and Automation Platform 

Just Play is an end-to-end workflow and automation platform designed specifically for the needs of elite sports programs. With Just Play, coaches can streamline their research, preparation, teaching, and recruiting processes all in one place. It eliminates the need to juggle multiple tools and platforms, saving coaches valuable time and effort. 


Prepare, Share, and Analyze with Ease 

The robust capabilities of Just Play Sports Solutions empower coaches to take control of their coaching process, streamline communication, and gain valuable insights to elevate their team’s performance. With Just Play, coaches can truly prepare, share, and analyze with ease, giving them a competitive edge in the ever-evolving sports landscape.

  • Prepare: With Just Play’s digital coaching tools, coaches can easily build and manage content. From play diagrams to interactive presentations, coaches have the flexibility to customize and organize their coaching materials efficiently.

  • Share: Distributing content to players has never been easier. Just Play allows coaches to seamlessly share content with their athletes and track their progress. Athletes can access playbooks, terminology, and presentations from any device, ensuring they have everything they need in one convenient location. 

  • Analyze: Just Play’s advanced analytics feature provides powerful insights built on play data. Coaches can break down quizzes and player usage to identify areas for improvement and enhance their preparation strategies. This data-driven approach helps coaches maximize their team’s performance. 


Products to Enhance Coaching Efficiency  

Just Play offers a range of products that cater to coaches’ specific needs, including:

  • Team System: A comprehensive tool that prepares, teaches, and engages today’s athletes. It enables coaches to manage all aspects of their team’s performance in one place. 

  • Player Quizzing: Improve athlete IQ and retention through video, text, and image-based questions. Encourage competition with team leaderboards and track performance with detailed quiz reporting. 

  • Automated Scouting: Break down opponents faster with automated scouting reports. Utilize automated rosters, statistics, and interactive player profiles to create more engaging scouts for your athletes. 

  • Advanced Analytics: Gain valuable insights into your team’s performance with flexible and easy-to-read reports. Identify trends, make data-driven decisions, and stay ahead of the competition. 


Testimonials from Successful Coaches  

Just Play has been proven at the highest level of sports, and is currently available in basketball, football, and lacrosse versions. Charmin Smith, Head Coach of University of California Women’s Basketball says, “Just Play has made our program better.” And Nate Oats, Head Coach of Alabama Men’s Basketball, describes it as “the best teaching tool in the game.” 


Elevate Your Coaching Game with Just Play Sports Solutions  

Joining the Black Coaches United (BCU) not only connects coaches with a community of like-minded individuals but also grants access to the invaluable Just Play Sports Solutions platform. By simplifying the coaching workflow, providing comprehensive tools, and offering powerful analytics, Just Play empowers coaches to elevate their performance and achieve greater success.

You can request a demo of Just Play directly on their website.


About the Black Coaches United

Black Coaches United strives to foster more diverse, equitable, and inclusive environments – in our sports and in our communities – through training, mentoring, and advocacy on behalf of black athletes, coaches, and administrators. 

Interested in learning more about membership and our mission? 



Educating the Next Generation of Coaches

If you’ve been in the coaching world for any length of time, you’ve undoubtedly heard of Championship Productions. In the athletic industry for more than 45 years, Championship Productions is internationally recognized as the leader in instructional videos and books covering more than 20 sports!

With a Hall of Fame catalog that includes all-access practices, winning playbooks, and agility insights from the likes of Bob Knight, Dean Smith, and Mike Krzyzewski, Championship Productions is known for delivering first-in-class resources made for coaches at all levels.

Their mission is to provide the world’s best instructional products to coaches and athletes who aspire to achieve excellence. With such an emphasis on education and providing superior learning resources for coaches, cultivating a partnership with Championship Productions felt like a natural fit for us at Black Coaches United, and we’re excited to see continued growth for both of our initiatives as a result.


Building a Strong Foundation

Recently, we had the opportunity to sit down with Recruiting Coordinator and Sports Director at Championship Productions, Thom McDonald, to get a more in-depth look at the heart behind their organization:

“Many coaches think we only focus on basketball. And it’s true, our basketball videos get the most views. But we cover every major sport, including content on coaching theory, creating culture, self-esteem building, strength training, and conditioning that applies to all sports at all levels. While there’s value in the Xs and Os play videos, and they do get the most traction, the real wins come from learning the fundamentals of how to effectively coach. We want to equip coaches with what they need to build a strong foundation for their teams, not just the routes to run a play.”

We couldn’t agree more! As an organization, Black Coaches United aims to support coaches – from grassroots to pro levels – through training, mentoring, and advocacy. When we work to build a strong foundation, just as Championship Productions pointed out, our players reap the rewards as well.


What’s in It for You

Do you want to learn coaching theory from the best? Are you looking for new practice drills to run, the next winning play to route, or team building exercises to implement? With Championship Productions you can access 6,000+ videos designed to take your coaching skills to the next level.

BCU Founders Shaka Smart, Tubby Smith, Rodney Terry and many of our grassroots and high school coaches have all contributed excellent instructional content that you can check out.

At the BCU, our mission is to build strength, unity, and advancement, and our valued partnership with Championship Productions help us create a larger, stronger network for coaches like you who are pursing athletic excellence among your teams every day.


About the Black Coaches United

Black Coaches United strives to foster more diverse, equitable, and inclusive environments – in our sports and in our communities – through training, mentoring, and advocacy on behalf of black athletes, coaches, and administrators. 

Interested in learning more about membership and our mission? 

Learn More

The Unspoken Impact of Mental Health on Coaches

Black Coaches United

The topic of mental health is the subject of many discussions in the media. On Instagram alone, a search for #MentalHealth results in 42.5M posts.  

Poor mental health can affect anyone – from young children, to the elderly, to our most prominent public figures – it doesn’t discriminate. The coaching profession is not exempt, so it’s worth taking a deeper look at the causes and solutions to this health crisis. 

The pressure is real, on and off the field.

A coach’s world is wrought with high demands and stresses at every turn. Yet, coaches typically take care of others to the detriment of their own well-being. The irony is that in order to be an effective coach, they have to be healthy themselves. 

What’s causing the strain on mental health for coaches? In a 2021 study of 119 elite-level coaches, over 95% pinpointed athlete injury, long hours, and team performance as the most prevalent stressors.  

  1. Performance:

    Pressure from all directions of their organization to pull together a successful program. This includes concern over potential player injuries, team performance, and budget capacity within the program. 

  2. Organizational:

    Coaches today are expected to perform well beyond just coaching on the field and in the locker room. They’ve got to answer the call for fundraising, field media questions, work through NIL regulations, plus a myriad of other ancillary duties. 

  3. Personal:

    In every profession, we are more than the sum of our job, and this applies to coaches. Hectic travel, media, and social stressors can amplify and many find the ability to disengage from the role of coach difficult. Their personal responsibilities can tend to fall to the bottom of the priority list. The resulting guilt is a major stressor. 

A winning playbook for managing mental health. 

Not managing these situations appropriately can cause a disruption in overall health and daily functions such as lack of sleep, depression, emotional outbursts, and poor eating habits. Too much of any of these disruptions can result in poor judgment and hinder decision-making abilities.  

Unmanaged mental health impacts a coach’s ability to do their job if they’re not intentional about their physical, mental, and spiritual health. Typically,  coaches aren’t focused on or aware of their mental health and its effects on their daily living, but the solution may lie in becoming more self-aware and intentional. 

The outlying stressors may be out of the control of a coach, but figuring out how to handle them isn’t.  

Coaches need to first come to grips with the impact that their poor health may have on their lives as well as those they interact with daily.

Next, it’s important to recognize stressful triggers and build a game plan for addressing the challenge. 

  1. Physical exercise:

    We preach it but don’t always practice it. It’s not just about building strength. Tight muscles, a pounding pulse, heartburn, and insomnia are all physical symptoms of stress. Exercise releases endorphins in your brain to relax muscles and relieve body tension. Healthy body, healthy mind. 

  2. Healthy eating habits:

    Being mindful of what you’re putting in your body provides beneficial nutrition for your physical and mental states. Refined sugars and fatty foods have been on the chopping block for years. Opt instead for high-protein foods that can supply your body with the nutrients it needs to produce serotonin – a neurotransmitter with the sole purpose of regulating sleep, mood, and pain. 

  3. Mental well-being:

    Finding a means to inner peace for sports coaches may feel like a foreign concept, but the benefits are vast. Focusing on self-care and elements of spirituality and overall wellness encourages people to have better relationships with themselves, others, and the unknown. It can help you deal with stress by providing a sense of peace and purpose and can become important in times of emotional stress. 

There’s a real need to create solutions to overcome poor mental health and it starts with awareness. 

While coaches have a personal responsibility for advocating for the space they need and their own mental health, athletic programs have a responsibility to provide coaches with the same level of support they afford their athletes.  

For the sake of coaches, it’s time to open up and talk about mental health causes and solutions. 


Upcoming Webinar: Unpacking Mental Health: The Unspoken Impact on Coaches

Interested in learning more?

Join us for our upcoming webinar at 6 pm on November 2, 2022 – Unpacking Mental Health: The Unspoken Impact on Coaches, featuring Dr. Kensa Gunter, Licensed Clinical & Sport Psychologist and Dr. LaKeitha Poole: Assistant AD + Sport Psychology and Counseling at LSU.  


Register Now


About the Black Coaches United

Black Coaches United strives to foster more diverse, equitable, and inclusive environments – in our sports and in our communities – through training, mentoring, and advocacy on behalf of black athletes, coaches, and administrators. 

Interested in learning more about membership and our mission? 

Learn More

Tommy Amaker: Practice Planning and Teaching Methodology

Practice How You Play

At Harvard Basketball, we want to practice how we want to play. Since we want to play an up- tempo, high-energy style, we emphasize pace, communication, and quick transitions in everything we do – whether in converting from defense to offense, or in moving from one drill to the next. Everything about our practices is purposeful. Our practices are designed not only to work on scheme and skill, but also to instill the values and principles that are important to us and our program. We want to accomplish this goal while keeping the focus on being efficient, organized, and productive with our time. In this short essay, I want to share a bit about how our practice planning and teaching philosophy has helped build our style of play and culture. I hope that the ideas may help you and your program.

From a holistic perspective, we structure our daily practices using the “whole-part-whole” method. Philosophically, I want for our players to see how all of the pieces in our system fit together, before then breaking down into small groups to work on the component parts. For this reason, we traditionally start with a team fast-break drill and then segue to 5-on-0, up-and- back, on two courts. In our fast break drills, we are building our early offense while also creating energy and communication in the gym. In 5-on-0, we prioritize execution of sets, as well as “attention to detail” in our fundamentals – passing, cutting, screening, etc.

After the “whole” segment of our practices, the “part” portion involves daily defensive stations, post/perimeter shooting, and 4 on 4 Shell. It is during this “part” portion that we build up the habits and skills that are required to excel in our system. In building these habits, much of what we do is about repetition. This generally means short bursts of teaching in order to prioritize high quality reps. I am fortunate to have an outstanding staff of assistants that leads this portion of our practice. I entrust my assistants in these areas in order to create shared ownership and also to expose the players to different voices and teaching techniques.

Following our breakdown work, we build back up to 5-on-5 and go live. Our scrimmage segments are typically full-court and involve one or two specific points of emphasis (i.e., 5 on 5 with an emphasis on “shot selection” and “valuing the ball”). We also try to make this segment of our practice competitive by keeping score and penalizing the losing team. It is our hope that our players, who have now worked on concepts in small groups, can integrate those pieces into 5 on 5 seamlessly.

In addition to the actual flow of practice, there are a few key themes and points of emphasis that guide our teaching. First, as mentioned, we want to be efficient in everything that we are doing. We organize water breaks by class, for example, so that three classes are shooting free throws and rehearsing free-throw block-outs while one class is getting a quick drink. In this same vein, I am a firm believer in utilizing all resources at your disposal. During shooting segments, we almost always utilize all six baskets in our gym and have student managers to help with rebounding and passing. We never want players “standing around” or wasting time. We want to arrive, get our work in, and get out. Second, we want to be connected in everything we do. Communication is of paramount importance. Players are expected to “echo commands” as we move from one activity to another, which creates unity and camaraderie. In addition, teammates are expected to “pick each other up” when needed. One of our program’s standards is to “never have a bad practice.” This is a collective standard for which we are all responsible. If one player is not in it, it’s on the other players to get him in it. We are not trying to get “through” practice, we are trying to get something “from” practice.

I hope that this brief summary gives you a sense for how we structure our practices and the concepts that we try to implement. Though the duration of our practices varies depending on the time of the year and the layout of our game schedule, the general “whole-part-whole” structure remains consistent over time. In addition, our culture and teaching methodology does not change.

Practice is our opportunity as coaches to structure the growth and development of our teams. It is essential to use this time wisely.
To view this originally posted article from NABC, please click here.

Tommy Amaker: Harvard vs. Howard is much more than a game

Harvard and Howard: Something Bigger

Ahead of Harvard University hosting Howard University in their first football game this week, I find myself reflecting on how meaningful our team has been at Harvard and how meaningful this game is to our respective universities, athletic programs and greater communities. To me, this is more than just a game, and Harvard and Howard are more than just schools. They are, and we are, representative of something bigger.

It has been a tremendous honor to represent Harvard and all that Harvard stands for over the past 12 years while serving as the head basketball coach and special assistant to the president. At the time I was hired at Harvard, there weren’t any African American head coaches on staff. I am proud to have played a role in helping former Harvard president Drew Faust, and current Harvard president Larry Bacow, in their mission to inspire our community to embrace a “One Harvard’ vision.

I have viewed my role as being more than “just a coach.” My goal is to TEACH. LEAD. SERVE. our student-athletes, and to have a positive impact on their lives and our community. The partnership between our basketball program and the Howard basketball program is a significant step toward accomplishing this mission.

We purposefully started a series of basketball games with Howard in 2013-14 in order to expose and present these two amazing institutions by competing in the great sport of basketball. We have strategically held the game on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and weekend, bringing our two communities together over a common purpose. The continued series has allowed us to incorporate additional educational events, including taking our team to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial to teach them about Dr. King’s mission and legacy. We talk about the word “sacrifice” within a basketball context a lot with our players, but our relationship with Howard has allowed our players to learn the importance of the word “sacrifice” outside of the 94-by-50-foot hardwood. Additionally, it has allowed me to teach our players the meaning of being a part of something bigger than just themselves.

Former Harvard president Drew Faust, for example, shared an article with our worldwide Harvard alumni that John Feinstein wrote for The Washington Post about our game against Howard in 2016. Feinstein’s article was aptly headlined “Harvard traveled to play basketball at Howard for higher learning.” That phrase captures the essence of what we are trying to accomplish with our program and this relationship.

Howard president Dr. Wayne Frederick and Howard athletic director Kery Davis are aligned with this mission and have done a terrific job of stewarding the “Harvard of the HBCUs.” Coach Kenny Blakeney, who played an integral role in building our program at Harvard, has already done a tremendous job of instilling the same message: “Bigger than basketball.” As a Washington, D.C., native himself, Kenny will be an incredible asset as Howard continues to educate and teach their future leaders.

Through the genesis of our games together and in getting to know Kery, I have learned that the connection between Harvard and Howard runs deeper than even expected. Kery made me aware that, upon the commencement of Howard football’s inaugural season in 1893, Harvard sent a goodwill gift in the form of football uniforms — one “HU” in the North helping another “HU” in the South — maybe one of the first acts of future fellowship among two historic institutions. The Harvard vs. Howard football game on Saturday is something that both communities should be excited about and proud of. It is another opportunity for us as educators to TEACH. LEAD. SERVE. and make our students aware of our communities’ shared history. It is more than a game.

We are constantly striving to make our community and alumni proud of how we expose our students to all that our sport and our amazing institution have to offer. In the athletics world, our forum to do that just happens to be a basketball court or playing field. Combining all of the layers and opportunities that can come from our sport, and other sports, especially at institutions like Harvard and Howard, are incredibly meaningful. Why wouldn’t we have these two great institutions compete against each other to bring our communities together? How cool is that?