Coaches: Make Your Team Part Of The Family

Coach Brandon Shaver is a basketball coach at Pine Tree High School in Longview, Texas, who has made a lasting impression on his team. He was anonymously nominated by someone in his community who wrote to let us know about the many ways this coach goes the extra mile for his athletes.

Our anonymous informant had this to say about how Coach Shaver challenges his team to keep growing and striving for greatness: “He cares about the little things! He creates extra opportunities for his guys to put in the extra time by opening the gym on Sundays so his athletes can get in a little extra work. He pushes them to be leaders by doing things like arriving to practice on time and ready to work, and to be upstanding in the classroom.” 

When it comes to team building, we’re told that Coach Shaver is always striving to build a family, not just a basketball team; he has even opened up his home to his entire team for several homemade meals and team dinners. When you ask Brandon Shaver about what inspired him to invite the team over for a meal he’ll tell you that he simply wants his players to know that they are family, and family eats together.  “My office and my home are open to them anytime they need anything at all. I want them to know that I don’t just care about them while they are on the court,” Shaver said. 

The Shaver Family, Photo via PTISD.org

Inspired by the great Buzz Williams from Texas A&M, Shaver says he employs a lot of Coach WIlliams’ motivational ideas, team building techniques and strategies to draw out the best from his athletes. “It’s no surprise that Buzz Williams won SEC coach of the year this season, because he has proved that kids will give you everything they have on the court when they know how much you care about them off of it,” Shaver noted.

He models great sportsmanship and helps this team know what’s most important: creating a sense of mutual respect and positive team culture. “After tight games and hard losses he is still certain to congratulate the opposing team. Although he will be firm and constructive with his team, he will not tear them down or embarrass them over a mistake,” our nominator said. 

Coach Shaver believes that his athletes “have to trust that you have their best interest first. The saying I live by is, ‘They don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.’ I know I can’t just talk about it, I also have to live it out every day,” Coach Shaver added.

“Brandon always encourages the team that they can never stop growing, and he lives that philosophy out in his own life. Seeing his tenacity for learning and improving has brought that into a new light. He’s not only seeking to better himself and his team, but the entire program and the opportunities for his players post-high school. He’s learning ways to support his coaching partners from junior high through high school and is constantly building connections with coaches from all levels to create opportunities for personal growth as well as the growth of his school’s program. He is not afraid to put in the time and hard work needed if it means his guys will grow from it.”

Coach Shaver leads by example when it comes to showing his athletes the importance of work/life balance. Our nominator says that “Although he puts in massive amounts of time into his coaching career, he still makes sure his kids have quality time with their dad. He brings them to open gyms and even morning practices. He makes sure to be at his son’s junior high games at every possible chance. Shaver even somehow finds time in his crazy schedule to coach his son’s basketball team! While his varsity team ranks high on his priorities, the players get to constantly see that life is more than just basketball.” 

Shaver acknowledged that work/life balance can be a struggle for a coach, but his strategy for success is to make the job a family affair. “Knowing how limited my time is during season, I try to spend as much time as possible with my kids in the offseason. I bring them to school in the mornings, I like coaching their little league teams, taking them on trips, including them in projects around the house, and praying with them before bed,” Shaver said. “During season it is a little tougher. Some of the small things I do is allow them to come to my office every day after school so I can see them, and sometimes they are able to ride the bus with us to away games. I want my athletes to see me being a father to my boys in the gym, while still being a coach to them. I hope this helps them see that being a good father is just as important as being good at your job.” Shaver also raved about his wife, saying “there’s no way I could do everything I needed to during season without her. She sets up our pregame bags for each of our players, organizes alumni events, helps out in the concession stands, and is like a mom to the entire team. She is invaluable to me and our program.”

“I believe that sports can teach us a lot about life and one of the biggest lessons is work ethic. Nothing is given in my program–you have to earn it because nobody owes you anything. If my team learns this at an early age, they will become better at everything in their lives, not just sports. At the end of every practice I give them a character challenge. Some of the challenges are to open doors for everyone they see that day, write an encouraging note to a teacher, or say ‘yes ma’am’ or ‘no ma’am’ all day, even to their peers,” Shaver said in describing how he tries to make life lessons part of the team playbook.

As if that weren’t enough inspiration, Coach Shaver, having just been hired as Pine Tree High School’s head basketball coach in 2019, has jumped in to this brand new environment and created an entire learning program, the Junior Pirate Program, for even the youngest athletes in the elementary school. This program allowed kids ages 5-12 to learn and play basketball every Saturday for eight weeks. Knowing the financial struggles of students in the district, Shaver sought out sponsors to help offset the cost. Through his hard work he offered the program at an extremely low cost and offered financial assistance for anyone who needed it. In just the first year the program brought in over 200 kids! 

Coach Shaver has always faced the obstacles on his path head on. “As an athlete I felt like I always had to prove myself. I came from a small school so people didn’t believe that I could compete at a high level. Knowing this built a strong work ethic in me that has carried over into coaching,” Shaver said. Shaver pushed himself and competed at the D1 level in college, but a major injury ended his career prematurely. “I struggled for years over losing basketball, but always knew I could make a difference with all I had learned from studying the game. For about 7 years, I pursued other job opportunities but always knew I should be coaching,” he said. Shaver’s coaching career has also been a challenge. He’s been catapulted to head coach because of his hard work and dedication after just a few years. “Being a young coach, one obstacle I’ve had to overcome is proving that I belong, while facing some of the best coaches that East Texas has ever seen. I have to be sharp and prepared every time I go out to compete. I firmly believe the work ethic that I learned at an early age has carried over into my coaching,” he added.

With new challenges every day, specifically the state of global pandemic the world finds itself in now, he’s digging deeper with his efforts for his team. “I send out personal texts to each of them every week, checking in on them to make sure they are doing well, have what they need, and are completing all of their assignments. I send them a daily workout every morning so that they can stay in shape and keep working on developing their skills. I want to maintain that family culture so they truly understand how much I care about them outside the game of basketball, even when we can’t physically be together,” Coach Shaver explained. 

“No matter the circumstances, Shaver has never looked down. He kept his head up, determined to give it everything he had,” our informant said. “Brandon Shaver cares about his team and his program more than a majority of the coaches I know. His integrity as a person is inspiring. His hunger for knowledge about the game itself and dedication to building the positive culture for his guys sets him apart. You won’t hardly be able to find a more dedicated coach.”

We admire Coach Shaver for his tenacity and for being a positive role model. Special thanks to Coach Shaver and the individual who nominated him, for sharing this truly worthy Sport Fuels Life story. Do you know a coach or athlete who is doing amazing work? Nominate them today for a chance to be featured right here on our blog!

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