Sunday, October 26, 2008

It’s much easier to lighten up than tighten up....

I am currently writing a paper to go with the student teaching class. This paper is discussing classroom management and I had a line in there I liked for coaching as well as teaching: "it's easier to lighten up than thighten up as the year goes on". I was talking about how I start my school year out really strict, impersonal, and rigid and then slowly ease off and become more personal with the class. Show my class the human side of me as well and also show them that I care about them as students and people too! I believe that it's harder to be really nice early and then try to lay the hammer down just does not work as well as layer the hammer down early and often and then relaxing it as you build relationships with your players.

I use this exact same philsophy with my basketball teams I've coached. I start out the year really hard, quick to discipline, and demanding on them at all times. Don't smile a lot, don't laugh, don't get personal at all. Then, as the year goes on, once I've built the respect that is needed and they understand we are all about business, I will back off and start to express to them that I care about the as people. I will also let them see my lighter side and that I really am a human!

Do you coaches agree? Any thoughts on this philsophy?

Duke, Coach K, and the Olympic Hangover

I was watching "Season on the Brink" today while grading is getting close to the season and I'm getting antsy. After watching the beginning it occurred to me that college coaches who coach our Olympic teams may suffer from an "Olympic Hangover" in relation to their collegiate programs. Coach Knight's worst season at Indiana was the one after he won the Gold Medal. Coach K was announced as the head Olympic coach in October of 2005. Since then, the Duke program has come down slightly from the amazing heights they were perched on. It's not like they've come crashing down to mediocre, but I think we've all noticed that they are not the Duke teams of a few years ago.

The last three years, the Blue Devils haven't advanced past the Sweet 16 and the last two years have lost in the first two rounds to teams they probably should have beaten. I do think, as Coach K returns his complete focus to Duke Basketball, that they will come up again - unfortunately for someone who isn't a Duke fan! Haha.... It will be interesting to see how Duke does this year (I'm assuming another year like the last two) and the years to follow.

There are a lot of different ways that coaches can have a "coaching hangover" that affects their programs. It could happen when a coach gets married, gets divorced, has a baby, has a death/tragedy in their lives, changes jobs, or any other life changes. The hangover may last a couple of weeks, couple of months, a year, or longer depending on the situation. These life changes can pull your focus away from the team/program, and many times they should. As a coach though, when they happen, you have to be prepared for them and hope you have some great assistants that will pick up the slack for you until you can return your focus.


Saturday, October 25, 2008

Bemidji State Beavers

Haven't posted in a while, busy week for student teaching this week, but I made it.

Anyway, I'm going to watch the Bemidji State men's team, the college where I attend, scrimmage today. I'm looking forward to it has they have some exciting new freshmen, a great class of sophomores, and a freshmen redshirt who I think will be a special player for them for the next four years. People are saying they are going to finish second to last in the league this year, I really, truly think that they can finish about in the middle playing 1 junior a bunch of sophomores and maybe a few freshmen. I'm excited to see what happens a year or two from now when that sophomore class is juniors and seniors. I think we could really be pretty solid.

I've always admired the coaching staff here at Bemidji State. They do a great job with what they are given - which is a small budget and poor location. They still somehow manage to get some pretty solid players up this way, which is nice. Whenever I go watch practices or games, I've always got a pencil in hand taking notes and trying to improve upon my knowledge. Hopefully they look good today!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Coaching Clinics

This weekend Hubie Brown is appearing at Cass Lake Bena HS for FREE! It's a bummer that I have prior commitments and can't make it, but would encourage anyone else in Minnesota to make the drive and go. Coach Brown is one of the best minds in the game.

This has been a downer of a fall, as I haven't been able to attend any clinics because of lack of funds and time conflicts, but when you are student teaching it happens! I would encourage all coaches to go to as many clinics as time and budget will allow. Next year, I'm hoping to attend every possible clinic as they are a great way to improve your knowledge (and we all know I need a lot of improvement!) as well as get to know other coaches. Below I'm going to give some of my PERSONAL thoughts on clinics:

First, go there with the attitude that you are going to take down every possible tid bit, but only going to USE the things that fit your system and players. It's good to know everything you can, but it doesn't pay to try and use it all. Many times, it's good to have stuff on a given offense or defense just for the simple reason that if you face that offense/defense during the season you will have some information on it. Remember, the coach doing the speaking believes in what he's talking about, it's part of his system, and he's going to make it sound like a million dollars. I've seen a lot of coaches go to a clinic and try to use everything the speakers talk about the following year. Then they go to another clinic and repeat for the following year.

Secondly, take advantage of the down time to talk with other coaches there. Many times, the best advice and information I've gotten from clinics came when talking with coaches during breaks in the clinic. If you see a well respected coach there, or a coach you know, take the time to approach them and ask for their advice. You can get some real gems from these coaches. Also, as a high school coach, these coaches are in the same situation you are and can understand your situation better than some of the big college guys or pros that speak at the clinics.

Thirdly - Bring a ton of notebook paper, blank diagrams on paper, pencils, pens, etc. Write everything down that you can. PERSONALLY, if I DON'T write something down, it's going to be gone before I leave the gym.

Fourth - bring a cushion if you are in the gym. There is nothing worse than bleacher butt after sitting there for a long period of time. A cushion will go along way in helping you to focus on what is being said and not your sore rear!

Lastly - Enjoy yourself! Clinics can be a fun experience. A chance to chat with coaches throughout the state and your conference and learn something new.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Using the Jab Step

This is one of those little things that drive me completely bonkers if not done right. A pet peve of mine is to watch kids jab step sideways and then attack. Not only is it not fooling anyone, it's taking the player's center of gravity away from where they want to go - which then makes them slowing coming back and driving the other way. I think it's vital to teach your players to always jab AT the defender's outside foot and then go the opposite way. Just a little thing that I personally believe can make a big difference at times.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Doing Multiple Things - Keeping Opponents off Balance or Being a Jack of All Trades, Master of None?

This is a question I always struggle with. Is it better to focus on a few things and be VERY good at them, or is it better to do a bunch of different things to keep the opponent off balance? I've heard great arguments for both. I've heard the argument that if you teach a bunch of different things, you end up not being great at any of them. I've also heard that if you do the same thing you will be good at it, but easy to scout and thus beat in crunch time.
My philsophy is that you practice really hard to be good at a few things, but still have a change up or two in your back pocket for when you need it. It may not be something that you work on a lot, but is something you can break out from time to time.

Defensively, I think you have to have a base defense to start with. Whether it is man or zone, I think you have to have a base you are good at. You also have to have a base you can play at a couple of different tempos to win. For instance, I like man, but I have some calls where we trap out of it, and some calls where we pack it in and force outside shots, depending on time/score. We can also extend it full court if need be. If you like to play zone all the time, you may have a call where you pressure and trap, and another where you are packing the lane and forcing outside shots. I also think, to go along with your base, you need a couple of defenses to stir the pot a little. Maybe a zone trap, packed 2-3 zone, and/or a full court trapping defense for when you need it. You don't practice these secondary defenses nearly as much as your base obviously, but you make sure the players know them for crunch time.

Offensively, I feel basically the same. Get good at a half court offense and then add a few quick hitters to compliment it and maybe get a look or two that your half court offense doesn't give. For instance, I don't like to give players free rein to screen and roll in motion because when I've seen that it usually ends up with one player having the ball, 3 players trying to set a screen and roll for him, and one guy standing watching the other four. It may work well for some coaches to let players do that, but that's just my experience on it (although I'll admit my experience is limited). So instead of having players decide when to screen and roll, I may have a call or a set that involves some screen and roll stuff so the offensive package we run still contains that great look.

A lot of this philosophy I have adopted from my time at LaCrosse Central with Coach Fergot. His teams are known for great man to man defense witha little zone mixed in, and a very solid motion offense. He's done well on that and I guess you are always influenced by the people you work under and respect/look up to.

I do get interested in running a ton of different things. There are a million things I would love to do, but realize that with 12 hours of practice a week tops (6 practices a week), I just don't have enough time to get everything in I would want to and still teach fundamentals like I do. So I try to focus on exactally what I believe in and try to get as good as we can with what we do.

What do you guys think? Thoughts? Comments?

Monday, October 6, 2008

Fall League

Well, I got to watch our guys play yesterday at the fall league in Bloomington. They looked ok, considering it was a fall league game. Definately not in mid-season form.

To me, fall league is a nessicary evil in some ways. The games get quite sloppy at times, but it's a good for players to play. This is a great opportunity for the team to bond with each other and learn how to play together. Another thing it does, for me as a coach, is lets me see where our weaknesses are and what we have to work on. It is also a great carrot to keep kids going to open gyms and working on their own during this hands off period.