Episode 10: Winning: It’s what you learn along the way w/Steve Christiansen

May 11, 2018

Make way in the trophy case…


In this episode we meet Steve Christiansen (Head basketball coach a Triton CC) who just got done winning the NJCAA DII national title this past year. To go along with that, Steve also won the NABC NJCAA Coach of the Year and the IBCA Coach of the Year. Pretty heady stuff for anyone…and a good reason for you to listen to this podcast!

In the first part we talk about how a boy who grew up in Hinckley, IL, got to a JC in the Chicagoland area and then win a national title. Steve speaks about the early opportunities that he got and the chance to become a head coach at the ripe “old” age of 24.  We learn of the growing pains that he went through and how an early losing season made him reevaluate what he was doing and how he had to adapt. (We all remember those days…)

In the middle segment we discuss on how a JC might be a good idea for some players, how coaching at that level is different (Two-year players with an eye on getting a scholarship can lead coaches into some difficult situations), and about motivation. We even talk films… Steve also begins to relate on how an older player on his squad became the key leader. The best teams all have someone who fills that role.

The last section looks at the championship season from the start. We learn that it sprung from the previous season and it led Triton to a dominating start of the new season. Some of the games were by surprising margins. With an eye on challenging his team, Steve had scheduled three Division 1 teams in the mid-season and even though they lost all three, he felt that these games only helped to strengthen his team’s mettle along the way (but it didn’t happen without a “scuffle”). Another streak followed, but a late season loss this time turned out to be a good one for his team…its effect fueled their final push to the title game. He also says that this overall maturing during the process led him and his team to not panic when they found themselves down 19-5 in the Semis. Finally, we get a chance to hear some of Steve’s philosophy of the game. It was a good time and I love the chance to talk coaching with THIS guy! Give it a listen!!!


Thanks to Audio Out Studios (Peru, IL) www.audioout.org (815.343.9484 or jeff@audioout.org)


GUESTS: Steve Christiansen


HOSTED BY: Scott Olson

CONTACT: lessonsfromthearena21@gmail.com or jscottolson21@gmail.com 


(Episode 9: Skills Training: Next Level Thinking with Brandon Heyen)

January 9, 2018

In this episode we meet Brandon Heyen, who, after finishing a college career at Illinois
Wesleyan, decided to go into the world of becoming a skills trainer for up and coming basketball
hopefuls. To get there, he tapped into the successful Pure Sweat franchise run by Drew
Hanlen, who trains a number of current NBA players. In recent years, both parents and players
have been searching out “personal trainers” (Brandon hates that term) in hopes of improving
skills with the hopes of possibly getting a college scholarship. Brandon is a successful new face
in this arena and has Francis Okoro (Normal West- #1 recruit in Illinois and 2019 ESPN 60 recruit) and
Anaya Peoples (Danville Schlarman- Notre Dame signee) as clients. Pretty impressive!

In the first part he talks about his start in training and discusses its worth. He sees basketball as a
dynamic, ever-changing game, and his methods adapt to this. He doesn’t focus solely on cone
drills; he would rather avoid the “gimmicky” stuff and concentrate on his player’s ability to make
decisions and reads vs defense. Sometimes this defense is his “dummy” defense while other
times it involves their training partners. Either way, it is a more realistic approach. Brandon also
goes on about the ability to read and adapt rather than playing with “predetermined” moves
(still favors 3 dribble attacks).
In the middle segment we discuss the great basketball teacher Kevin Eastman (Boston Celtics)
and his “Theory of Twos”. This is a crucial component to Brandon’s training. He also talks
about the value of watching video (like John Gruden) in order to more easily tailor his training
to his client’s style. We finish with Kobe Bryant and his “next level” vision when playing.

The last section looks at shooting and scoring. We look at the value of playing with a strong
foot and the ways to create space. Brandon believes that a player needs a “go to” move and a
counter to be effective. His discussion on shooting and why it is important to teach it early is a
point we definitely agreed upon. He focuses on 3 key mechanics and thanks his old high school
coach Scot Vogel (Paxton-Buckley- Loda) and Ron Felling (Indiana/Lawrenceville) in their
helping develop his shot. Finally, we hear about Drew Hanlen’s SWOT (Strength, Weakness,
Opportunity, and Threat) analysis and also making sure that what he teaches fits in with style of
his player’s team’s style. It is good. So sit back and grab a listen. I loved getting a chance to
talk theory about player improvement and I wish we could have gone on for hours. Maybe
another segment????

Thanks to Audio Out Studios (Peru, IL) (www.audioout.org)

GUESTS: Brandon Heyen
HOSTED BY: Scott Olson
CONTACT: lessonsfromthearena21@gmail.com or jscottolson21@gmail.com


Episode 8: Jim Drengwitz (Pontiac Holiday Tournament)

December 15, 2017

(Episode 8: Jim Drengwitz the prestigious Pontiac Holiday Tournament)

In this episode we meet Jim Drengwitz, who for years has been the director the oldest Holiday
high school basketball tournament in the state of Illinois. What it takes to run such a successful
tournament and attract such high level talent is an excellent lesson to pay attention to. Pontiac
is considered by many as the “crown jewel” of high school tournaments and we will look at the
teams, players, coaches, and volunteers who have helped make it so.

In the first part Jim talks about the history of Pontiac. We find out the tournament’s origin and its
development over the years. He then goes on to tell us some of the secrets to putting on such
an affair. Not surprising to our listeners, culture and relationships are two of the main
concepts. Jim even draws on the reality show “Bar Rescue” to underline some points. (On a
side note and shameless plug, that reference tied in nicely with the first chapter of my new book
on Amazon, The Turnaround Coach. OK, now I’m done!) He puts an emphasis on
connectivity as well, making sure to speak to as many people as possible, no matter how badly
the day was going.

In the middle segment we discuss the top teams, players, and coaches of the tournament.
Derrick Rose (NBA), the Douglas brothers, Jabari Parker (NBA), Cliff Alexander, the
Manual entourage, Michael Payne, Walter Downing, Iman Shumpert (NBA)…and on and
on, are some of the payers discussed. Top teams such as Chicago Simeon and Curie, West
Aurora, Benet, etc. are also focused on. Finally the coaches, including greats such as Bob
Hambric , Gordie Kerkman, Bob Basarich, and Wayne McClain, and some newer guys like
Gene Heidkamp and Robert Smith, get the once over.

The last section looks at the lessons learned by Jim from the years of association with all of the
people involved with this great undertaking. We discuss what makes some of the teams so
successful and it all then comes back around to culture and relationships. Simple truths that
are sometimes overlooked in our effort to find complicated solutions for everything today. We
also get his surprise players who went on to big things from the Pontiac experience. So sit back
and grab a listen…and maybe use it to whet your appetite for seeing some good basketball this

Thanks to Audio Out Studios (Peru, IL) (www.audioout.org)

GUESTS: Jim Drengwitz
HOSTED BY: Scott Olson
CONTACT: lessonsfromthearena21@gmail.com or jscottolson21@gmail.com


“Stop Whining…Start Winning” - Tom Anstett (Episode 7)

June 17, 2017

(Episode 7: Tom Anstett “Stop Whining…Start Winning”)


In this episode we meet a coach who has had his feet firmly planted in two worlds: athletics and education. Tom has recently had an excellent book (Stop Whining…Start Winning) come out detailing what he learned from both of these arenas. It is loaded with some solid insights that will help both coaches and teachers alike. Those who are really interested in his educational thoughts, the last 16 minutes are a MUST!


In the first part Tom talks about where the title came from and his writing the book. We go back to his love of 16-inch softball, a Chicago staple, and his late entry into the world of basketball.  Tom points out some key influences during these early years (his father being one) and how he grew to “expect nothing”. A tough attitude that was born growing up in the city helped him get through the tough times and helped him blossom as a player (he averaged 31 points a game in HS!!), eventually helping him get a scholarship to Boston College. While at BC, he had the chance to be coached by the legendary Detroit Piston/U.S.Olympic coach Chuck Daly among others. One great thought springing from this section is when Tom decided to “figure it out himself” during college rather than have his dad intervene. A novel idea, indeed!!


In the middle segment we discuss topics such as sport’s specialization, sharing athletes in high school, and the AAU game. Tom has had plenty of experience with these areas and understands the difficulties.  We don’t solve the problems here, but some suggestions as to how to make them work more smoothly are given (Hint: compromise and communication are a part of it).


The last section hits on education. We cover the plight of the teacher and Tom’s belief that teacher’s need to be elevated and empowered more. He accepts standards, but also believes in giving the teachers a chance to show their creativity (this coming from a 15-year department head in English). Mentoring is also discussed, as is the need for administrators to stand their ground more firmly in this day and age. Finally, Tom hits on education being a “people” business, where relationships are important, and some policy changes that he would suggest to improve our U.S. educational world. Some great “stuff”. I wish the last section had more time because it broke some thought-provoking ground. Ah…perhaps next time!



Thanks to Audio Out Studios (Peru, IL) www.audioout.org (815.343.9484 or jeff@audioout.org)



GUESTS: Tom Anstett


HOSTED BY: Scott Olson

CONTACT: lessonsfromthearena21@gmail.com or jscottolson21@gmail.com


“Intentional Team Culture and Climate” - Theresa Beeckman (Episode 6)

May 23, 2017

In this episode we meet Coach Theresa Beeckman from the great state of Michigan. I first met “Tree” when she presented at the Michigan HS State Volleyball clinic this spring. She's about “team culture” and all of those things not associated with X’s & O’s (you know…most of the important stuff). I was so impressed with what she said that I asked her to be on the podcast! She is currently working as a speaker/consultant for teams interested in trying to establish a winning culture. Tree has worked with volleyball and football teams (some college) and draws her knowledge from many sports and coaches (PJ Fleck of Minnesota is a big one).


In the first part, we discuss the importance of culture and its status in a winning program. Tree talks about the 2 roots of culture, connection and expected behavior, and what they mean. For example, if someone came into one of our practices or games, could they be able to tell what our values are? Sometimes coaches speak the words, but don’t back up the talk (YES!). We then look at how she tries to implement her culture using her season calendar, much like Seahawks coach Pete Carroll. Such days as “Maturing Monday” and “Take Over Tuesday” are discussed. Tree feels that a coach should, as author Tim Elmore believes, stain the brains of their team.


In the second segment we finish up the week calendar before going on to discuss the current climate of coaching in today’s world. Too many coaches are exiting the job robbing us of the development of “master” class of coaches (the wise ones). Outside pressures are causing this and it is tougher to coach today.  Tree tells a story of her own high school football career (yes…she played football!) and how one day changed her life forever. It seems that today, society is robbing many of our younger players the chance to have the same experience. We end up commenting at how important athletics is to the development of people and hopes that saner minds prevail.


This was a joy to do.  I have gone to many of clinics in my career, but 98% of the speakers focused on X’s and O’s. But deep down, I would have to say that the most important aspect of a successful team is CULTURE! Give it a listen!!!!


Theresa Beeckman’s website:  http://www.theresabeeckman.com/


Thanks to Audio Out Studios (Peru, IL) www.audioout.org (815.343.9484 or jeff@audioout.org)



GUEST: Theresa “Tree” Beeckman


HOSTED BY: Scott Olson


“Leadership: Not taught…but caught!” - Pat Sullivan (Episode 5)

April 18, 2017

In this episode we meet Coach Pat Sullivan, who I consider a true scholar of the game of basketball and of coaching. He has won over 500 college games, been the director of Medalist and Milwaukee Bucks camps, written a book on leadership, and is currently publishing a blog and is a speaker for business, school, and athletic organizations. Over his career Pat has rubbed shoulders with the likes of coaching greats John Wooden, Gregg Popovich, Al McGuire, Rick Majerus, Dean Smith, and the like (great list, huh?).


In the first part, Pat discusses his views on the current state of the game of basketball. He shares with us what he sees are the positives and negatives of basketball, and goes on to detail the 3 biggest challenges coaches face nowadays (I would guess one of them won’t be a surprise). Pat also looks at some of the rule changes and how they affected the strategies that are employed by teams. He then addresses the “essentials” that are still true in the game, past or present. During this section Pat also drops nuggets he learned from the coaching and player greats who he had the chance to work with or observe (Michael Jordan being one of those). Not surprisingly, he spends some of this time on Gordie Gillespie, with whom he worked side by side for many years at the University of St. Francis.


In the second segment we go into the realm of leadership, an area that Pat wrote about extensively in his book “Attitude – the Cornerstone of Leadership”. Many coaches today moan about the shortage of leaders in today’s athletics and we analyze this surprising problem. Pat hits on the key traits that he feels that leaders must possess. And he hits on them again! He then goes on to suggest why some players don’t try to take on the challenge and why others fail. Regarding the “born or learned” question, Pat believes that leaders can be developed, but that many of us are not helping the situation. In fact, he believes that leadership can be “caught” from others. Finally, Pat talks about empowerment and some current examples of leaders in today’s world.


Listening to Coach Pat Sullivan is much like sitting in on a doctorate class taught by a distinguished professor. His experiences and observations provide a wealth of information that would help any teacher, coach, or player.  So take some time to listen to the Wisdom of Coach Sullivan…a coaches’ coach!!



Pat’s book:




Thanks to Audio Out Studios (Peru, IL) www.audioout.org (815.343.9484 or jeff@audioout.org) and also thanks to the IBCA.



GUEST: Pat Sullivan


HOSTED BY: Scott Olson


“1st Mr. Basketball Illinois” - Walter Downing (Episode 4)

March 28, 2017

In this episode we meet Walter Downing, a McDonalds’ All-American, the first Mr. Basketball (1981) of Illinois, a collegiate player at both Marquette and DePaul, and a Los Angeles Laker draft choice during the Kareem & Magic years.


In the first part Walter goes back to the start as an 8th grader and his impact on the Providence HS program. A third place State finish as a freshman, a State champ as a sophomore, and the epic OT battle against the #1 team in the U.S. (Quincy) during his Jr. year at the Pontiac tournament solidified him as a major player in Illinois HS history. We also discuss his uncanny knack for blocking shots.


In the middle segment we get a look into the recruiting process of Walter. He agonized over the choice of playing for either Ray Meyer (DePaul) or Rick Majerus (Marquette).  The expectations placed on him early, especially by the Chicago media, caused Walter to begin to doubt himself. DePaul was a national powerhouse then and NBA star Mark Aguirre had just left.  Yes, an All-American and teammate of Michael Jordan in 2 national all-star games, was having to deal with the issues that lesser players think was only their problem. He persevered, grew from it, and changed scenery.  In the end, his stay at Marquette ironically was like going home again.



The last section hits on his short time with the NBA champ LA Lakers. The trials of rookie camp and the prospect of having to guard multiple Hall of Fame players are brought to light.  A strong camp had him on the verge of making the team, but an unfortunate knee injury put an end to that.  After a few pro years in Europe, though, Walter turned to his other early love—“music”.  He relates how both are related to each other and even gives us a sample of his bass “chops”. He has gone so far as being a member and manager of the band Funkshunal Groove.


I wish I could have kept the tape rolling!  Some later stories of Michael Jordan, his thoughts on coaching young players today, and his views on education unfortunately will have to be revisited on a later show. We had to stop recording…dang!



Thanks to Audio Out Studios (Peru, IL) www.audioout.org (815.343.9484 or jeff@audioout.org)


GUEST: Walter Downing


HOSTED BY: Scott Olson


“The Ref’s View” (Episode 3)

March 13, 2017

The game of basketball affords people various vantage points. In this podcast, two veteran IHSA officials, Marty Flaherty and Jim Knauf, give their take on what the referees see and shed some light on do. Early on we spoke about their starts in this career and the early challenges they faced and how they handled them. Jim and Marty then detailed much of what they learned during the course of officiating a game.  They also pulled back the curtain and gave us a view of pregame, in-game, and post-game conversations.


In the middle segment both of them reflected on working downstate in the IHSA finals and what it meant. They went on to recall their most "memorable" games (the Orion/Sherrard regional game made the list...a game I witnessed from the bench).


The last section focused on getting younger officials started, advice on the job itself, the game's toughest calls, technical fouls, coaches/fans, and how being an official has impacted their lives outside of basketball.  Both Jim and Marty said that if they had the chance, that they would do it all over again in a heartbeat!


So give it a listen. Get a better understanding of the game.

Thanks to Audio Out Studios (Peru, IL) www.audioout.org (815.343.9484 or jeff@audioout.org)

GUESTS: Marty Flaherty and Jim Knauf


HOSTED BY: Scott Olson


“I’ve Been Fortunate” w/Gene Heidkamp (Episode 2)

February 28, 2017

(Episode 3  “Gene Heidkamp- I’ve Been Fortunate”)


In this episode we meet one of the fine coaches in Illinois, Gene Heidkamp (Benet Academy/Nazareth) whose team finished 2nd in the state in 2016 and has been a powerhouse in the Chicagoland area in recent years. He has also had the chance to coach such stars as NBA-er Frank Kaminski (Wisconsin), Sean O’Mara (Xavier), and Dave Sobolewski (Northwestern).


In the first part Gene discusses the value of being an assistant coach (St. Patrick under Mike Bailey) for 9 years as helping him develop into a head coach. He learned the game there and knows the role of a good assistant and the relationship with the head coach. He then goes on to explain how working summer basketball camps (such as Hoop Mountain Midwest) has added to his coaching IQ. Next, he discusses the Pontiac Holiday Tournament, his success there, and why it is a key section of his yearly schedule (he even mentions the off-the-court time, including Dairy Queen).


In the middle segment we venture into the world of X’s and O’s. Schemes, philosophies, player development vs just running plays, and the values of playing man defense are discussed. He also relates his ideas on beating pressure and last second possessions. He drops the names of some respected coaches here (I’ll let you guess) and even said that he has “borrowed” some effective plays from his opponents. Gene has also had to adapt his style from small teams to those that featured major college recruits and he explains the thoughts he has had throughout the process. 



The last section hits on his time coaching at 3 private schools and the things he has learned. His reflections on how fortunate he has been to coach such fine people, from star to the last player on the bench, is truly powerful.


I recognize some Brad Stevens (Butler/Celtics) in his ideas and demeanor.  A must listen for all coaches!!



Thanks to Audio Out Studios (Peru, IL) www.audioout.org (815.343.9484 or jeff@audioout.org)



GUESTS: Gene Heidkamp


HOSTED BY: Scott Olson


“Adapt and Move On” w/ John Coons (Episode 1)

February 23, 2017

(Episode 1)  John Coons- "Adapt and Move On” 


Athletics is a great teacher and sometimes the lessons learned are the product of losing seasons or don’t come to a person until years later. In this first episode, John Coons, a teacher and collegiate umpire (and former Triple A umpire), goes back over his high school career as a 3-sport athlete and relates how this period set his foundation for later on. The first segment of the podcast covers his time as an under-sized 2-way player on a losing football team and how it impacted his view on “attitude”. It provided challenges and forced him to develop a mindset. He also speaks on the values of being a multiple sport athlete during his high school days (some discussion on specialization).


In the middle segment we dive into the process of “adapting” in order to succeed. John explains how this helped him and how the lack of this ability has caused problems for others. He also relates his time as a walk-on college football player at Southern Illinois and why he did it. This is also where John got introduced into the field of umpiring, a profession that he went professional in and advanced all the way to the door of the Major Leagues.


The last section focused on John’s times in professional baseball and the things he learned. Things like not letting a “bad” call affect the next, why some super athletes just don’t make it out of the minors, and why David Wright (New York Mets All-Star) was one of his favorite players. We close with some of the lessons that he learned from sports and how they have helped him as both a teacher and an umpire.


So give it a listen.  Sometimes early struggles and adversity have a way of paying off later!



Thanks to Audio Out Studios (Peru, IL) www.audioout.org (815.343.9484 or jeff@audioout.org)


GUESTS: John Coons


HOSTED BY: Scott Olson