When John Calipari had individual meetings with his players before September workouts even started, he had just a couple of questions he wanted them all to answer.
"What I got them to do was tell me what a dream season would be for them and what it would mean as a team and individual and what would happen to make them happy," said Calipari.
As each player answered, the new University of Kentucky coach asked them what skills they needed to develop and what strengths they had that would help make the dream season happen. "Basically, what I was trying to do was not have them to anxiety riddled. You have three or four things that are skill levels that you will play to and three or four things you have to develop. I wrote down all the stuff they told me — and if playing time is important they will develop."
Calipari also sent his players a letter about team goals. He made it a little longer than normal because he also wanted the players' parents to read it and have a better understanding about him and his aspirations for the team.
"It basically was to get them to understanding what this summer was about. The individual meeting was me asking questions and I pulled their answers out of them. The first question was to assess what kind of summer you had. Some of them were so excited about their summer and others were like, ‘I did okay.' Let's expound on that. But I also told them that even if they had bad summers — I've had players have bad summers, lose their minds and not do much and then get it going and I've had guys great summers and it didn't matter — but it is where you are starting. Don't be delusional.
"It was a little bit harder for the returning players to dream as big as I wanted them to dream in that individual meeting. The young kids just come in with pee and vinegar. ‘We are doing this and I want to do this and that.' We have all been there in our lives. You are young and think, ‘Bring it on.' Then you get a little jaded when you get knocked on your butt once or twice. Now it's like I am afraid to think that way because I may fail.
"I told them there are no wrong answers. I put in there, ‘If you are truly driven to greatness, you will look at every choice you make and truly ask yourself two questions. Will this help me get to where I am trying to go? Will this embarrass my family, my teammates, my coaches or me?' I may not do that a year from now because they will all know that. I am saying things now because if something happens, I want to have talked about that. I kind of did that in this letter.