Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Teaching What You Believe In

There are a lot of great things out there in basketball in terms of offenses and defenses. There are some great fast breaks, there are great half court offenses and a lot of good defensive stuff. But unfortunately, none of it is any good if you don't believe in it. A coach you know can be running the best offense or defense, but if you do not believe in it as much as he does, and don't take the time to learn it like he has, chances are you won't be able to run it nearly as well. As a coach you have to find something you believe in and are comfortable teaching. If you can do that you are going to be successful at it. If you are running things because others do them, and you don't really believe in them, you are going to have a harder time teaching them (not saying it's impossible, but...) and more importantly you are going to have a harder time getting your players to buy into what you want to do. And if you can't get your players to buy into your system you are for the most part sunk.

What you run has to also fit you as a person. If you are someone who likes control, who is patient, and likes to do things very cerebrally, then you should be running an offense that meshes with that philosophy. If you are a gambler and like to be fast, you should be playing more of an up-tempo game in general. Obviously you have to adjust for your players as well.

In this post, I'm not saying just only run one thing and the same thing every year. What I am saying however is find a system that you like, that you get excited about, and run that. Immerse yourself in learning that system and stick with it for a while. While you keep to the same system, don't be afraid to tinker with the original formula - adding and subtracting things where you see fit and to adapt to your personnel. For instance, after studying the dribble drive motion, I've added some drive and kick looks into my half court offensive philosophy. Now, it's something I'll really emphasize I have the team to do it and will not when I don't.

I think it would be naive to say "run the exact same thing every year", especially at the high school level. For the most part, you are not going to have the same level of talent from one year to the next and you need to adjust your offense and defense to fit that talent. I believe, however, that you can adjust most basic offenses and defenses to fit the kind of team you have. For instance, you love man to man defense. One year you athletes all over the place, then you may run your man to man full court and install some trapping elements in it as well to exploit the fact that you have athletes. You may also throw in a zone press and/or zone half court trap to use your athleticism. Season ends and the athletes graduate. The next year, with less athletic players, you may run your man to man but keep it more of a half court game. You may rely more on a zone full court trap when you are down and install a 2-3 zone in the half court to protect the basket against more athletic teams.

Lastly, I think it's more fun as a coach to teach what you believe in. If you believe in something and becomes very proficient at it, you are going to be a better teacher of the system as well. You can't just run something because everyone else is doing it and having success. Chances are the people that are having success with it also happen to have the players to go along with the system. They could run a lot of things at places like Dematha HS, Oak Hill Academy HS, and the like because they have the talent to go with it. They are running what they believe, and it's good stuff, but if it's not what you believe in don't run it! If you are running it simply because everyone else does and has success then chances are you are not going to know as much about it and will struggle teaching it.

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