“Something I’ve always wanted to do is bring in an outside guy to augment what we’ve been doing as a coaching staff,” said Reggie Hobbs, Lexington’s 11-year boys’ basketball coach. “I’ve always been a big believer in the life lessons we’re teaching through basketball.
“But I think now, even for the kids, that has to be at the forefront.”
Gorman, a former role player at Dom Savio, started his coaching career as a freshman at Suffolk University. After earning a degree in community social psychology at UMass Lowell, he founded an AAU club, New England Storm, and eventually organized the well known North Andover Fall Ball leagues.
Always a student of the game, Gorman began holding a “Fireside Chat” on Twitter on Wednesday nights throughout the pandemic, creating a space for coaches to discuss the X’s and O’s of basketball.
That is how word about his team-building workshops — which a select few programs have utilized over the past seven years — began to spread, and his calendar began to overflow.
Before heading to Tewksbury Sunday morning, he had already visited teams at Salem (N.H.), Newburyport, Wilmington, Lexington in the past week, with plans to stop at North Andover, Rockport, and any other programs he can squeeze in before the season starts for many leagues on Jan. 4.
“We don’t do a ton of [chalkboard]stuff with the workshops,” said Gorman. “This is more about getting the group together and getting them to communicate, take accountability, and become better teammates.”
“I felt this year, with the pandemic, what I offer is more important than ever.”
Gorman’s two-to-three hour sessions are designed for both coaches and players. This year, they begin with a check-in about the highs and lows kids are experiencing during the pandemic, an exercise most coaches found to be a powerful outlet for players who may have kept their angst bottled up all year.
The workshops include icebreakers, guided imagery, and role playing in which the players act out examples of being a good teammate (or “Green Teamer”), an inconsistent teammate (”Gray Teamer”), or a disruptive and selfish “Red Teamer.”
While the kids never touch a basketball, players like Newburyport senior captain Jacob Robertson claim the workshops have directly translated to success on the court as they’ve become a staple for the Clippers over their past three preseasons.
“[Gorman] always has something new and there is a base of what he taught us that transfers each year,” said Robertson, a two-time Cape Ann League All-Star wing who enters the season with 693 career points. “It helps us identify roles and gets everyone closer together. That transfers to the court and you end up playing better because of it.”
A few programs are finding productivity in Gorman’s workshops at a time when conventional practice isn’t an option.
Following a 17-6 season with a trip to the Division 2 North semifinals, the Wilmington girls’ basketball team was three days into tryouts when the school system went to a remote learning model on Dec. 17 and put a hold on any on-court activities until Dec. 26.
During the break, fourth-year coach Jessica Robinson had Gorman meet her team at a dance studio.
“It was really important to continue the team bonding aspects even though we weren’t allowed on the court,” said Robinson.
“There’s so much more to these girls beyond being a basketball player, and in this forum, Rick was able to help them see that together. You could almost sense the bond growing. They were able to be so open and honest. For me, finding out what drives each of these girls is definitely what resonated most.”
In one exercise, Gorman asks each player to provide their “Why” in terms of why they play the game. He said some have said they play it for their grandmother, who raised them. Some play for their dad, who taught them the game.
Those personal anecdotes often make an impression on teammates, by inspiring them to be vulnerable in turn, and on coaches, by highlighting a player’s positive aspects beyond their skills on the court.
“Every year we look at our guys and try to pick the best people we can,” said Newburyport boys’ basketball coach Dave Clay. “They have to be talented, but we hold the type of person they are just as highly as their talent.”
With consecutive CAL titles after a 13-year drought, it’s safe to say the Clippers are moving in the right direction, and Clay admits Gorman’s preseason workshops have played a key role.
“Rick’s in high demand so we get him whenever we can. I think it’s a large reason we’ve been successful over the last two years,” said Clay. “I kind of like to keep it a secret, but I guess the secret’s out.”
▪ The MIAA Football Committee met to discuss five proposals (two with amendments) for the football season and postseason structure. A subcommittee was formed to survey MIAA member schools about key issues and the Football Committee is expected to vote on the proposals next month . . . Another subcommittee will meet in early January to create modifications for football in the Fall II (Feb. 22 – April 25) season.
▪ New Mission hired Brandon Wilbur as girls’ basketball coach.
▪ Marshfield principal Robert Keuther, former Douglas principal Kevin Maines, Archbishop Williams athletic director Gordie McClay, and MIAA volunteer rules official Carolyn O’Donnell were recipients of MIAA Distinguished Service Awards for 2020.
▪ The following athletes recently announced or formalized their college commitments:
Basketball: Thomas Arrigal, Xaverian (Western New England); Jake Gomez, Weymouth (Suffolk)
Field Hockey: Alison Michalik, Quabbin Regional (Saint Joseph’s of Maine);
Football: Walter Morales Jr., Lawrence Academy (Bentley); Kyle Philbin, Leominster (Brown); Zach Richardson, BC High (Union); Nick Yohn, Milford (University of New England)
Lacrosse: Will Nolan, Duxbury (Bentley);
Softball: Mia Ly, Lowell (Plymouth State)