Monday, June 29, 2009

Whistle or Not In Practice?

This may be a trivial thing, but it's still something to think about. Do you use a whistle in practice? If so why or why not? I remember my first day as a coach, freshmen assistant at LaCrosse Central HS. I bought a brand new whistle and was all excited about it. I'd been waiting 19 years to blow that thing. After the first time I blew it, the guy I was coaching with, Coach Colburn, asked to see the whistle because he wanted to look at it. He then promptly threw it across the gym and said there was no way he was going to listen to it all season! I still laugh when talking about that story.

Ever since that day, I've been a voice guy in practice. I use my voice to start and stop drills and always liked it that way better for some reason. I was watching a Phil Martelli video today (14 Ways to Build Mental and Physical Toughness in Practice) and he said he never uses a whistle because you don't use a whistle in games to communicate with players. It's not like you jump up off the bench and blow your whistle to talk to them about changing defenses or closing out better. You use only your voice in those situations.

I completely agree with this, the kids need to get used to listening for your voice and not a whistle to receive instructions. If they are not used to listening for your voice, they many times will miss what you are saying during a game, especially an exciting one.

On the other hand (to play Devil's Advocate here) I've heard many coaches who say they use a whistle for drills because that is what stops play in a real game. We've all heard the phrase "play till you hear the whistle" and it's one that many of us (including me) go by. So then where is the whistle in practice for me? How can my guys (or other "voice" coaches) get used to playing until the whistle when there isn't a whistle most of the time?? It's hard to just turn it on for a game.

After listening to Coach Martelli's comment about why he does not use a whistle and thinking about whistles versus voices, it actually had the opposite effect for me. I may start to now use a whistle in practice in certian situations, mainly to stop drills. That way my guys can get used to playing until the whistle, especially on competitive drills. Maybe that will be the job of the assistant coach, stopping drills with the whistle so I can still be a "voice coach". This way players can get used to keying on both my voice and the whistle. I may just use it for some drills, or may use it for all.

Hopefully this got you thinking about what you do in practice with your whistle or voice. Think about why you use one or why you don't use one.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Run What You Want, Just Run It Well

I've said several times on this blog that it's not what you run that is important, it's HOW it is run and the players you have that make it work. I was reading the Xs and Os of Basketball forum the other day and one of the posters (Titan) hit it right on the head when he said:

As with any offense or defense, the instruction of that offense and the
execution of said offense can be the difference of whether or not it works. For
example, I probably would not be the best coach to implement the Princeton
offense, but that does not mean it does not work. Each coach can make work what
he/she wants to implement if the instruct it proplerly and get the kids to buy
into it.

Again, this is no amazing advice, but it's advice that all coaches need to hear and take to heart. Run what you want, get the players to buy in, and just believe like heck in what you are doing. If you can do that, everything is going to go well for you, no matter what system you run. There is no magic system.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Making Weaknesses Into Strengths

Most people that know me know that I am an offensive minded coach. I love my four out motion stuff and enjoy working on offensive fundamentals. Defense is something that while I am comfortable with it and can teach, it's definitely not my strong suit.

In light of those well known facts, I've decided to spend my summer learning as much as I can about the defense we are going to run this year. Another thing I am doing is making the commitment to work on our defense in practice more than our offense, because deep down I know that defense wins championships and all successful teams are good at defense.

This is nothing earth shattering or new (as nothing on here is), but again I think it's something that is important to do. I think that all coaches should challenge themselves to work on their weaknesses, and aspects of the game they do not focus on, or maybe don't enjoy. There are some coaches that are great at Xs and Os, but not as much in the player development aspect. They will have great stuff, but many times will not have developed the players to run what they want. Other coaches love player development, but are not as focused on the Xs and Os portion of the game and thus while they may have some skilled players are not as good at putting them in the right spots to be successful. And there is always that guy who runs such a great offense, team scores 70, 80, 90 points a game but the defense is giving up 100 points. Or the guy who's defense holds opponents to 40 points, but the team can only score 30. Now everyone is not at these extremes I've outlined, but if you take an honest look at what you do, there are strengths and weaknesses to your coaching style and I would encourage you to take the time this summer to study up on and work on the less refined parts. No one is great/perfect at everything in coaching, we are all going to be stronger in some facet of the game, but if you really do commit yourself to getting better at your weak points it's going to pay off.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Having a "Program Blog"

The other day I opened up a blog for the program here at South Tama County. The blog will consist of things like rosters, schedules for games and practices, announcements, game recaps, player profiles, and hopefully some player writings about the season.

Something like this is VITAL for any program for a number of reasons. Most importantly, it is a way to keep your players/parents/fans up to date on what is going on in the program. It's helpful for them to have one place to go to get all kinds of news on the team/program and it is a good way to positively promote the program and what we are trying to do. Also, it is a great way to announce any types of schedule changes that occur. Living in the midwest (Iowa), weather in the form of snow, rain, sleet, hail, or tornadoes can change things in a hurry. Having a blog allows you to post things immediately for people to read, which makes things easier and allows people to know more quickly. A public blog is also fun for the players, especially when they get to post their own articles. Of course, I would have to proofread them first, but either way the players are getting themselves out there.

I would greatly encourage every coach that reads this blog to start a blog for your program.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Winning the Mental Game

Hope everyone is doing well, just a quick note. I'm almost finished reading Court Sense:Winning the Mental Game and this is a book I would recommend for every coach that reads this blog, even if you are not a basketball coach. This book, by John Giannini has a ton of different nuances that can help coaches and players both. I have found it extremely helpful in terms of motivation, handling players positively, building relationships with coach-player and player-player as well as helping to run a quality basketball program. It's got a lot of good teaching examples you can use with your team, as well as teaching examples you as a coach can relate to. If you read one book this summer, make it this one!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The First Interview

So today I had my first interview for the local newspaper in town here. It was exciting, but at the same time made me a little nervous. It is my first real interview and I am always cautious about not putting my foot in my mouth. Unfortunately, it happens to everyone sometimes! Luckily for me it's was just a couple of basic questions: where you are from, what style of basketball do you like, and so on. So it was very positive. I know it's pretty mundane for most coaches, but for a new head coach like me it was kind of fun.

I think it is important to get to know, and forge a good relationship with, the local media. They do a great job of covering and publicising the program. If you are respectful, the relationship will be positive and good things will come of it almost every time. The more information that is out there about your basketball program the better, in most cases. I've seen some coaches who work well with the media and keep most of the information about their respective program positive and upbeat. I (and everyone else) has also seen coaches who do not treat the media with respect and it tends to backfire on them.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Burnout in the Summer - Getting Kids to Do it On Their Own

Sometimes you hear people talk about "the good old days" when kids worked hard and didn't have to be pushed to go out and play basketball. They did it on their own. There are often negative comments made that kids are spending too much time on the computer and X-Box and not enough time playing basketball. I PERSONALLY think that kids are playing more STRUCTURED BASKETBALL than ever, and that might be part of the reason for not seeking more of it.

When high school players played back in the "good old days" they did it all on their own. They called their friends up and facilitated things for the most part. You usually hear stories about how "we got the keys from the coach and let ourselves in". Obviously in today's lawsuit happy age you can't get away with that, so now coaches come in and open the gym (many times coaches, like me find they really enjoy it). When coaches are in a gym, many do what they like to do in a gym, coach. And because they are there they want to make sure most of their guys are there. The open gyms don't even begin to touch on all the other "structured" opportunities high school players get every year in the "off season" - 100s of summer camps where there were only a few years ago (if any), the extreme growth AAU, high school summer leagues, etc. So those structured activities have now replaced the non-structured activities and has also allowed players to not have to work at or seek out their own opportunities to play. It is all there for them.

Another side to this is, I personally feel, is some players find basketball less fun because they are being pushed to do it. As an example: when you feel like getting outside and mowing the lawn or doing other housework outside you enjoy it because YOU made the decision to do it. Now imagine that your girlfriend/wife nags you to get out and mow the lawn instead. Suddenly, with someone pushing you and supervising you the task becomes less enjoyable. Sometimes I think that this is what has happened with the summer for some players. Because they are being supervised and pushed it becomes a "chore" instead of something that is fun. I feel that too much of it can become a negative thing.

What is the solution? Go completely away from all structure??? Of course not! The structure is great and it shows with more and more talented players each year. It's what quality programs do. I try to get my guys in the gym for fundamental workouts as much as I can. But I also think you have to have some balance and with the structure and teaching of the open gym also give players time to just play and have fun. Another thing I think is important is to give the players a chance to be leaders and get each other in there. Don't get on the kids that are not in the gym; instead challenge the player's peers to motivate them into the gym. I think doing this makes the situation more enjoyable for all. Also, I never want to force a kid into the gym or make it mandatory. I want kids to get in the gym because they simply want to be there.