Friday, December 31, 2010

Using the Dribble Weave Against Half Court Man to Man Pressure and Trapping

Recently, I watched a game where one of the teams is known for their stifling half court pressure and trapping out of their man to man. The other team utilized an interesting technique against their pressure and trapping.

They ran the dribble weave from a five out set. They basically ran the dribble weave continuously until they say an opening to turn the corner. They also looked to slip the hand off and throw the ball over the top to the slipping player. Another thing they did was to back cut when one of the defenders left to try and trap the dribble. Once they decided to penetrate it was a matter of the bottom two defenders collapsing and they would either kick out for a three or the corner would cut in to the rim as their defender left to help. Their front three were very wide, around the volleyball line. It just did a good job of making it hard to trap the ball and create turnovers for the other team. I think, however, that you have to have pretty good ballhanlders to make it work.

Along this same line, I was watching a college practice the other day and they did something similar with one of their sets. They would dribble weave in a 3 out 2 in look. Eventually their opposite post would flash to the ball, they would enter it to the high post and look to move or cut from there. They used the dribble weave to lull the defense to sleep and then attack with the pass and the back cut.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Why Chris Carter Was Great

I am listening to Cris Carter, former Vikings wide receiver, sitting in as a guest host on Mike and Mike in the Morning on ESPN. They were discussing the idea of a quarterback and talking to a wide receiver about running a route wrong during a game. The cohost was asking Carter if that is the right thing to do - would he want a quarterback doing that to him? Carter's answer was classic and spot on. He said something to the effect of "Why wouldn't I want someone to help me if I wasn't doing my job right? I want to do the right thing." That's exactly why Cris Carter was a truly great wide receiver. All that he wanted was to be great, and it didn't matter how he got there.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

No Time + No Space = Better Skills

I've started reading "The Talent Code" by Dan Coyle. It's a great book that every single coach should read. It deals with brain research and revolves around the idea that skill is something that you are not born with, it's something that you develop over time, I anticipate that I'll be writing about this book again.

Something that really caught my eye was something written about Brazilian soccer players and their development. In Brazil many young Brazilians in urban settings don't have large grassy areas to play. So they've developed a game called "Futsal". It's played 5 on 5, with a smaller, heavier ball, and on a smaller court. According to research in the book, a big part of Brazil's soccer dominance is this game. It forces players to play in tight spaces, it forces them to play faster, and the gives the players more touches than a normal soccer game would.

How can we do this with basketball? Some obvious ideas are using heavy balls, playing 3 on 3, etc. But what about playing 3 on 3 using 1/2 to 2/3 of the court and having the three point line be out of bounds? That way the players are packed in like sardines. They can't even go outside the three point line. They are forced to play in tight spots, the game will be quick, and in a 3 on 3 setting they get more touches. It's types of games like this that will help players develop skills more quickly.

Give this some thought: In the hay day of the New York City guards - guys like Stephon Marbury, Lloyd Daniels, Rafer Alston, Mark Jackson, Kenny Anderson, and Fly Williams - most of the players played ball on the playgrounds. Most of the playground courts were not regulation size, they were smaller which forced the players to play in traffic and tight spaces. The games were of a run and gun nature, they were fast and required quick decision making. They were also unstructured games that allowed the players to make mistakes and learn on their own- which is important in skill development. The book also talks about "deep practice" where players are correcting themselves.

What are you doing as a coach to create these situations for development? If you have anything please post and share it.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

"It's Not About You" - Maybe the Most Important Idea Players Need to Understand

This statement is one we've been using a lot with our team this year - it's one we repeat many times a practice. Coach Liesener and I have read Tony Dungy's book on mentor leadership and it's something that's been a great resource for us this year. One of the biggest things I have found in that book is the idea that it's not about me. It's about helping everyone else. This team isn't about me or my feelings, desires, or career plan. This team is about me serving everyone else, doing my best to make everyone else a better player, coach, and person. I think that is a mentality that has been lost, or at least over looked, in our "what have you done for me lately" and "I love me some me" society. It's a lot easier to focus on the stats, the playing time, the wins and the losses.

However the idea of "it's not about me" hasn't been completely lost. Look at many of the sports teams that have sustained success over the last number of years and you can see this idea at work. Look at the LA Lakers over the last couple of years. Kobe didn't start winning titles on his own until it stopped being all about him and started being all about the team. They have gotten guys like Lamar Odom and Ron Artest to take complimentary roles because they have bought into the fact that everyone else is more important, that the team is more important than they are. Look at the Patriots, everyone's darling when it comes to this sort of thing. Why do you think they are great year after year, no matter who they lose. I mean they lost Tom Brady for an entire year and still were able to keep things rolling with unknown Matt Cassel at the helm. Why? Because they mentor each other, they help each other to get ready. Matt Cassel was ready because all of his teammates were making him better every day. It's the positive mentor vibe of the organization that keeps everyone going. They are also willing to part with a player when they are not fitting the tone that the organization wants - no matter how talented that player is. On teams like the Patriots and Lakers you never hear about a player unhappy with their role, because, for the most part, the players understand that it's not about them. It's about everyone else.

I think the bottom line is, as a coach, you have to get your players to understand that it's not about you, it's about everyone else. Once you can get the servant/mentor leadership mentality built into your program, you have come a long way. You will find that players really do start worrying only about making the team/program better. They worry the most about each other and the team. Stats matter less, and even the wins and losses are a little less important. Yes, you still worry about them, but you focus more on the process of achieving the sole goal - making everyone around you better.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Three Unselfish Basketball Plays

Three important unselfish plays from ESPN's Fran Fraschilla:

1. Passing the ball ahead on the break.

2. Reversing the ball.

3. Screening to get a teammate open.

I would share these with your team. Simple things that make average teams good, good teams great, and great teams special.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Cheap Medicine or Weighted Balls

I was watching the old Nolan Richardson video "Razor Back Attack" from his days at Arkansas. He was working a three man weave with what he called "water balls" which are simply basketballs filled with water.

What a great, cheap way to get medicine balls or those heavy balls that cost so much! We all have a few worn out or older basketballs lying around that we don't use anymore. Why not fill them with water and make them useful again? I wouldn't dribble those things on the floor, but for passing and medicine ball work they would be great.

I haven't tried it yet (and a google search turned up nothing), but I would assume that all you do is put the needle in the ball and slowly pour the water through the needle - of course deflate the ball first or you'll have a mess! One thought is to fill the bathtub, deflate the ball, and put it in the tub with the needle in and let the water flow in. Any other thoughts? Reply and let me know!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Coaching Blog

Just wanted to drop a link for a coaching blog I have found helpful. It is a soccer blog, and is selling some type of soccer reports, but the blog itself is great coaching material. Nothing Xs and Os related of course, but a lot of good general coaching ideas. Hopefully it helps.

Zoom Reports Blog

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Talent Is Not Static

Last Saturday I had a chance to sit down with Coach Ken Novak from Hopkins High School. He gave me a lot of great information during our talk, but one of the great pieces he shared was that talent is not a static thing - especially when it comes to basketball skills. I think this is an important thing for coaches to grasp, as we tend to peg players with certian titles early in their career and then continue to believe that label throughout a player's career.

What this means is that we watch a kid early on and make judgements like "he's not a shooter", "he is a bad passer", "he is weak", "he doesn't run the floor", "he can't handle the ball", etc. We make this judgement about a player and then we don't always believe that it can be changed. The player is always going to have that tag. The truth is, however, that it can change - and often does. If players want to work at it they really can become better shooters, rebounders, ballhandlers, etc over the course of their career, from one year to another, and even over the course of a season.

What does this mean for you as a coach then? All it means is you need to constantly monitor and assess the true skill level of players. This allows you to have a grasp of where they currently are - not where they were 2 years ago. It's a hard mindset to break frankly, but its' one that if you break it will allow you to be far more efficient. It will also better allow you to reward players for working hard on their game - to realize the strides they have made and then let them use those gained skills.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Six Sections of Your Life

This is more of a personal growth for coaches piece than anything else. If you are looking for some brilliant Xs and Os stop reading here (but I guess if you were looking for that you stopped reading long ago!).

I got this idea from Don Meyer I believe and it's a GREAT ONE for trying to keep our priorities in life in order. It's something we have to do in coaching when many of us have a "real job" along with our passion for basketball coaching - and if you coach at the college level it's almost the work of two full time jobs. Sometimes other things, important things, get lost in the shuffle of life and that just can't happen. So what I do is use the "Six Sections of Life" format that I believe Meyer uses.

Take a piece of paper and fold it twice so you have three sections on each side. In each section write something that is a priority in your life putting the word better before them. During the week when you do something to fulfill one of those categories you write it in. It helps you to visually be able to see where you are spending your time and to make sure you are not forgetting something important in your life.

I only have 4 since I'm just not talented enough to get more in. Mine are "Better Coach, Better Teacher, Better Husband, Better Friend". When I talk better I'm talking better than normal - so you could write things like Good Husband, Good Coach, etc. So each week I write in what I'm doing in those areas to be better in them. For instance this week:
Better Coach - Listened to two Bob Hurley Webinars, read "Silos, Politics, and Turf Wars", helped to give a clinic to our youth coaches, watched some tape and did some reading on the PACK Defense, etc.
Better Teacher - Researched a new way of cooperative learning, had my lessons planned well in advance, etc.
Better Husband - Bought flowers, took time to listen to her vent about her day, etc.
Better Friend - Called two friends I hadn't talked to in a while to touch base.

There is nothing wrong with having the same things each week. I'll take time to listen to my wife vent every week, probably a few times a week. But it's just the idea that I am trying to make time for that is what's important. This is nothing special, but the whole idea is that it keeps you a more well rounded person and you don't get focused all on one or two areas and let the others go by the wayside. When that happens you eventually end up with real problems.

Anyway, this is nothing outstanding, but hopefully it will help you keep your life in order during the busy season coming up.

And before I forget, GOOD LUCK to all the coaches out there starting up a new season. I know mine will be a blast again this year and hopefully yours will too!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Discipline in Black and White

I met with Coach Vern Simmons from St. Paul Johnson High School last week. During our almost two hour visit, one of the best things Coach Simmons said to me was that discipline is black and white - there is no grey. This is something I really needed to hear, and love the idea of.

The bottom line, Coach Simmons said, is either the player did it or he didn't. He closed out or he didn't. He sprinted or he didn't. He is playing hard or he isn't. He is being respectful or he isn't. He is being a good teammate or he isn't. There is no gray area here, it's a all or nothing type thing. I think when you approach discipline in this way, it becomes more effective. It also gets you away form falling into choosing certainty over clarity. As a coach you want to be certain he isn't playing hard before you get on him, but the truth is if you think he isn't playing hard he's probably is not.

The Five Temptations of a CEO

I know I haven't updated in a while, but I'm trying to get back into the swing of things with this - I need to start doing it more. I know no one reads, but it's a good place for me to keep my thoughts!

A few weeks ago, after reading "The Five Dysfunctions of a Team" I read another book by Lencioni titled "The Five Temptations of a CEO" and it was great. Lencioni has a bunch of different business books that translate really well to coaching, I would urge coaches to read his work. The book centers around the idea that CEO (or coaches for that matter) have some temptations they fall into as high status leaders. They do these things for a variety of reasons, but all of them negatively impact their ability to be good leaders. I think these translate very well to coaching, I know I was guilty of a few of these last year and after reading the book hopefully I am able to put them behind me. And I think that's the point - be honest with yourself on these and then work hard to overcome them. Below I will go over each of the five temptations and what he talks about in relation to those five temptations.

1. Choosing Invulnerability Over Trust
So many times as coaches we want to appear invulnerable to our players, and try to portray the idea that we don't have faults. But players are smarter than that and see through it, at that point we just come off as insecure and over macho which doesn't really work well when you are trying to lead your players. I think it's far more productive to take time once in a while to show them you are not perfect, that you aren't better/stronger than everyone, that you are human. So if this is a temptation for you, take some time this season to let them know when you made a mistake and to show them your human side. This is one of the temptations that I can say I don't have a problem with.

2. Choosing Harmony Over Conflict
As coaches and leaders, we feel that if there is harmony everything is fine, but that isn't always true. Sometimes harmony is just thin a cover for big issues that will boil over and ruin your team at some point during the season. This idea that conflict is good is a common theme with Lencioni in his writing. If teams learn how to have good, productive, healthy conflict they can put everything out on the table, there is no backstabbing and such. So as a leader instead of pushing the conflict to the side you have to let it happen, and sometimes even entice it to emerge. Because if you have immediate and healthy conflict small issues don't simmer and grow into big problems down the road.

3. Choosing Certainty Over Clarity
As leaders we want to make sure we are making the "right" decision, and sometimes that fear of making the wrong decision paralyses us so much that we don't make a clear decision and that doesn't allow us to hold people accountable. Sometimes, as coaches we need to just make a decision and live or die by that decision. In doing that, it allows us to hold our players accountable and have our players understand what is going on. So as coaches make a decision, stick with it, and back it 100%. Sometimes I fall into this category.

4. Choosing Popularity Over Accountability
Sometimes, as coaches, we worry that holding guys accountable to everything will make them dislike us and not play for us. This is a trap that I somehow fell into last year and it shames me to admit it. I was so worried that the guys would rebel that I didn't hold them accountable as much as should have been done. We as coaches need to have more of a black and white mentality when it comes to holding people accountable - this is something that I am actually going to mention in my next post here. But I do think you need to work on accountability over all else. It lends to your credibility and makes you a great leader.

5. Choosing Status over Results
In the current state of athletics, coaches loose their jobs quite regularly. I think this makes us all a little bit gun shy to make the moves and do the things we need to do to have a great basketball program. We worry if we institute rule X or follow through with discipline Y that we are going to lose our jobs. I did last year and it was the worst mistake of my career!! It was my first year of head coaching, I was told I had one year to prove I could do it, and was so worried that if I did the things that needed to be done I might not be around next year. That ultimately lead to me having a hard year because I was too worried about losing my job. You have to get the mentality that you are going to do your best, do what needs to be done, and if that's not good enough then it's not. But when you worry about getting fired, you're going to get yourself fired anyway (luckily I wasn't).

So in conclusion, we all fall into some of these temptations sometimes as coaches and there is nothing wrong with that as long as we recognize what we are doing and fix the situation. I wish I would have read this book last year, it really would have helped with some things during my season.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Five Dysfunctons of a Team - A MUST READ

Just got done reading "The Five Dysfunctions of a Team" by Patrick Lencioni and it's a MUST READ FOR EVERY COACH. This book is written buy a guy in the business world, but it really applies to coaches as well. I was at Barnes and Noble last night with the wife getting a book for the mother in law's birthday. I was randomly picking up books and I stumbled upon this one. I started flipping through it and started to notice some similarities between the five dysfunctions and things I noticed with last year's team. I bought it yesterday and read it all today - it's only 216 pages. It's changed the way I'm going to approach program/team building from now on. If I'd had it last year probably wouldn't have been 1-21 and if we were, it was have been a little more positive experience - the foundation would have been better set for following years.

The book centers around the five things that poor teams have: absence of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability, and inattention to results. Most of the book is rapped up in a fictional story about a new CEO taking over a company and having to fix some dysfunctional behaviors - behaviors I think we see on a yearly basis on our own basketball teams. Now it's fictional, but it comes from the author's experiences with real live business teams. The nice thing is that it isn't completely perfect - there is some dissension at first, some hostility, and some of the people on this CEOs staff end up leaving and being pushed out because they were not toeing the line. It also shows how the fictional CEO handles the early criticisms of her staff, just as we might face some resistance early in the year.

The end of the book goes into detail about the five dysfunctions and also lays out some ideas for how to deal with fixing each step and all steps together. The approach is that all five of these are linked and depend on other dysfunctions, it comes at it from a complete approach.

Once again, I highly recommend this book for every basketball coach who wants to be better at team building next season or who wants to completely turn the culture around in their program. I am definately using it if I ever get the chance to be a head coach again!

Thanks to "CoachN" from the Xs and Os message board for adding that Coach Eric Musselman had previously talked about the book on his blog. I would look there as well if you are interested, as Coach Musselman is a far better writer than I!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Offense for "Dumb Players"

Time after time in talking to coaches and reading message boards I hear the theme of - you can only run that offense if you have smart players. I hear this said about the princeton, motion, read and react, dribble drive motion, etc. But really, is there a good offense for "dumb players"??

Lets think about this critically - if you players are not smart it's going to be hard to run a set play offense. They have to remember where to go and know what to do when things break down. The flex offense is useless of you can't react to being denied on the reversals and you can't properly read the screens. The Swing offense works, but again, if it doesn't go perfectly dumb players don't know how to fix it. So what offense works if you have players that are not smart?? What do you do?

In my opinion you can run any offense, if your players are smart it will look like a million bucks, if they are not then it's going to be more of a struggle. I think motion based offenses are harder to run without the IQ, but I think they help build IQ and they get better as the year goes. I am the first to admit I am bias however. On the other hand I do think that using a continuity offense can help the players that are not as savvy, but at the same time a player with poor IQ will still struggle when the offense breaks down or the defense starts to cheat the continuity, what are your thoughts?

Watching the WNBA

I'm sitting here watching the New York and Indiana play in the WNBA playoffs tonight and I think more boys high school coaches, especially those at small schools should be watching the WNBA for ideas on the Xs and Os of the game.

Most high school guys coaches would scoff at the notion of watching the WNBA, but think about it for a second. Most high school coaches, especially those at the small high schools don't have athletes that are any better than the ones in the WNBA. We don't have guys who can run a backdoor lob for a dunk or hit a three coming off a screen over a defender. The WNBA coaches have some great plays that can be utilized when you don't have these kinds of athletic players.

Most high school coaches can't wait to get their hands on the latest college and NBA play books but you couldn't give them a WNBA one for free. Why?? What is so different about the WNBA? Watch a game once, I mean really watch. They have some GREAT SETS to get backdoor plays, get shooters wide open off screens, etc. They are plays and ideas that frankly most high school coaches, who's players play below the rim, could use and do well with. So when you are flipping through the channels next time and come upon a game, take the time to watch and really study what these teams do - us as high school coaches are really missing out on some good Xs and Os by passing up WNBA play - further more, what other live basketball are you going to watch on TV this summer?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Drill of the Week: De La Salle 2 Chair Series

Coach Dave Thorson from De La Salle high school in Minneapolis is one of the better teachers of the game of basketball that I've seen. This is a drill that is standard in a lot of the development workouts that I do with players. It's a great way to build quick hands and ballhandling skills. I also like the fact that it's game like, it has a finishing element to it, and players seem to like it.

The drill is very simple, all you need is a ball, basket, and two chairs - garbage cans - boxes -etc. You can run this drill from the point or the wings. I would mix it up for fun. I will explain how it works from the top of the key to keep things simple.

Set one chair up at the top of they key, the other one just inside the free throw line. As players get better at the drill move the second chair farther out and closer to the top of the key. The closer the chairs are, the quicker and better your players have to be.

The gist of the drill is that a player dribbles up to the first chair, makes a move, dribbles to the second, makes a second move and finishes at the rim. I like players to come up with their own finished and to mix them up - regular lay ups, reverse lay ups, middle floaters, middle power lay ups, two foot jump stops, etc. After a certain amount of time (1-3 minutes, I like 2 min) you change the drill so they come to the first chair, make a double move, make a single move on the second and finish. After another 1-3 minutes, it's one move on the first chair, two moves on the second. After another 1-3 minutes it's double moves on both chairs. Again, have the players mix up their finishes. It's also important to mix up their moves on the chairs. If they come up and do the same move over and over it doesn't give the same benefit of being spontaneous and coming up with different combinations and moves.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

"Dialing In" Your Game

Just wanted to share a quick mental imagery thought I used with a player the other day. As a player you need to be able to "dial in your focus" to whatever task is at hand. I explained it to the player that your focus is like dialing in your favorite radio station - not the easy digital type, but the old school type where you had to line up the line with the station. Many times you can hear the station, but it's not clear it's fuzzy and sometimes you can also hear another station. In order to really hear your station you need to be tuned exactly in - it needs to be perfect. This is how I explained mental concentration to the player - you might be concentrating on what you are doing but in your head you are thinking of other things as well - your girl, your friends, your life, your favorite song, etc. If you are doing this you really are not perfectly tuned in. You are getting static and other stations as well. So when you are playing basketball, before you play, you need to "tune yourself in" and put the dial squarely on basketball and the task you are performing. Great players have the ability to tune themselves in, average and poor players play with static and other stations playing in their head. It's really a simple analogy, but one that I think will resonate with players to help them imagine the level of focus they need to succeed.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Drill of the Week: Oak Hill Shooting Races

I want to start putting up a drill of the week. If you have one you like, shoot me an e-mail ( and I will try to get it on here. This weeks drill comes from Coach Steve Smith of Oak Hill Academy, his shooting drill DVD is excellent. I like the drill because it's a hustle drill, it has some dribbling aspects, and works on shooting. This is a fun shooting drill to get your guys competing. It's the perfect drill to end a practice with on a hard day to lift the team's spirits.

The drill starts with two teams. Each team starts under the basket where the laneline and the baseline intersect. One player has a ball and starts on the block (each team has a side). The rest of the team lines up behind them.

On the coaches signal, the first two players dribble down to the opposite end and take a pull up jump shot from the elbow. If they make it, their team gets two points. If they miss, they get their rebound and make a layup for one point. The layup must be taken from the same side as the elbow shot (ensures both right and left hand layups). After the shot (layup or jumper) is made, the players dribble back down to the side they started on and repeat. When their second shot is made, they pass the ball to the next person in line who then goes.

You can do the scoring one of two ways. You can play to a set number of points (I like 15 or so), or you can play for a set number of time. As always, the losers have some type of motivation.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Playing Because You Love the Game

The other day, one of our players was going to his high school summer league game later that night. He had been frustrated with his play, and had not been playing very well. We had a very good talk and it was evident that his stress stemmed from the idea that if he didn't play well he wasn't going to impress his high school coach, he wasn't going to get any playing time, he wasn't going to get a scholarship, etc. This stress was causing him to play poorly and he was stuck in that cycle all of us as coaches know about. He had stopped playing basketball because he loved basketball..

With our high pressure basketball culture we've created, sometimes the love of the game has become lost in the shuffle. Players start earlier and earlier playing to get a college scholarship - not because they want to continue playing but because they want that scholarship. They want the prestige of the scholarship. Now, there isn't anything wrong with wanting a scholarship and having college paid for - and there is nothing wrong with playing basketball because you want to play professionally. But those dreams shouldn't make you forget why you started playing in the first place - because you loved the game. If you lose the love of the game, basketball becomes a job and you will eventually burn out. The great ones are the ones like Kevin Durant who play because they love it. You watch Durant play and it's pretty evident he loves to be out there. If you forget that you love the game I think it impedes your ability to work at it. What you need is a combination of goals (scholarship, money, etc) and the love for the game - when you have both you will go farther.

As coaches, I think we need to do things to foster a love for basketball within our players. Part of it is giving players time to just play and enjoy it. Now that time isn't in the middle of a game, but in practices and the off season players need to just be able to play and have fun. So make sure that you are incorporating that into what you do. Also, help your players to be fans of the game. Simple things like talking about the previous nights games, pro and college, will help and you can even step it up by taking your guys to different high school, college, and professional games where they can just be fans.

After having the talk with the player he sent me a text after his game tell me he had a great game. Scored 18 points and pulled down 8 boards. He said it was the most fun he'd had because he started playing for the love of the game again - stopped worrying about everything else and just loved the game again. So maybe there is something to be said for loving the game.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Teaching the Game Using Technology - Teaching to a Techie Generation

During one of our workouts the other day I was trying to explain to a player how to use his feet to set up his crossover dribble better and make it more effective. For whatever reason, he wasn't getting it. I told him, I showed him, but it just wasn't working. I kept thinking about other ways to show him.

After a a couple more minutes, I had an "ahh ha!" moment. I grabbed my blackberry off the stage, opened up Youtube, and downloaded a video of Tim Hardaway highlights with his killer crossover. I was then able to show the player how Tim used his foot work to set up his crossover and make it more effective. That caused the light bulb to go off in his head and he was able to better perform the move.

For me, this brings up a point many coaches ignore. We live in a technology age with players who've grown up with the internet, ipods, cell phones, etc. Our players sometimes learn things well from watching those short video clips. How can coaches use that?? Sometimes it's as simple as finding some online video clips of a concept you want to teach - a move, how to run an offense or defense, etc and sharing it with your players. You could also direct them to different blogs, podcasts, or other web based media that has some significants. I've used many blogs, especially Alan Steins to show players how hard NBA guys work. Sometimes it's more complex, such as making a series of video clips for your guys to take home and watch - or even throw them up on youtube so they can watch at home or on their phones.

I would encourage you to think about how you can use new technology to reach your players for better results.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Take Ten Minutes

The last year or so, I've become so busy with my teaching as a first year teacher and the actual execution of coaching that I've gotten away from taking the time to THINK about our craft. Its important to take time to actually THINK about coaching, not just read about it, watch videos, talk to other coaches, etc. I feel that it's important to spend some time each day thinking about basketball and coaching. The great Don Meyer feels the same way - watching one of his videos is what reminded me about it.

So I'm going to start spending ten minutes each day alone with my thoughts. Just thinking and writing down my thoughts. I'm also going to get back to carrying around a pocket notebook. Reading over an old one of mine the other day, there were some good ideas in there.

When you do this, just let the ideas flow. Don't spend time worrying about coming up with all great ideas, because you won't. But if you open your mind up and let the ideas flow some that come out will be worthwhile for you! Again, I encourage you to find ten minutes a day (five if you are really busy) to do this, it will definitely be a good investment of your time.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Real World Doesn't Care

We had a talk with our players tonight about making connections between sports and the real world. One connection that I try to make with players, and I think needs to be a priority with coaches is that while you as a player are performing your "job" (playing) what is going on in your life doesn't matter. The fact is that when you have a job, your boss isn't really going to care if you are having a rough day, week, or month. Your boss won't care that you had a fight with your mom/wife/husband/girlfriend/boyfriend/friend. Your boss isn't going to care about what you have going on outside of your job in your personal life. What your boss is going to care about is how you perform your job at work. It's hard, it's cutthroat, but it's the reality that we live in. We as coaches need to stress that to our players as well.

Sometimes it's easy to let a kid slide because he had a bad day or he has stuff going on at home. And while that's great and compassionate, it does a disservice to the player. It tells them it's ok to bring your baggage to work - when in real life that isn't true most work places. We need to demand just as much of a player and hold him to the same standards on his best and worst days. Our players need to learn how to turn off the personal life at the door and focus on the task at hand - whether it's practice or a game.

But I think as soon as the "work" of practice/game is over then we can turn on the compassion. We can talk to that player and help them solve/deal with/cope with their problems. Or at the very least we can just be good listeners. It's then outside the game/practice that we become the compassionate men and women we need to be. Outside of "work" is when we give them a break, sit down and really communicate with them. Taking this tactic will also benefit them more in the long run by actually dealing with their issues.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

"Renters" vs "Owners"

This is another quick Don Meyer thought that I love. Many times when you look at a house you can tell if a person rents or owns it by the way the house and yard are taken care of. Owners care far more about the house than renters do on average because they have a stake in it. The same idea is true with your players and their view of the program/team you run.

If your players are "renting" their spot in the program/team they are not going to care enough about it to take care of the program. In the end all they care about is using the program. They are just there taking up space and in turn hurting the program. You need the "owners" the guys who buy into the program, have a stake it in, and care enough to want to better it. You need guys who are always representing your program well. Working with younger players, doing well in class, behaving classy on and off the court, being a positive community role model, and just going out of their way to help the program any way they can. The more owners and less renters you can get in your program, the better your program is going to be.

Players Echoing Commands

I watch A LOT of tapes with Coach Don Meyer (amazing former coach from Northern State University), and something he does with his guys is teaches players to "echo" his commands or call them out to their teammates as they hear them. They echo them until everyone is echoing the command. This is a great idea as it teaches players to communicate and it also ensure that every player knows what is going on. He uses it in practices as well as games with great results.

Something to think about!!

Friday, June 18, 2010

What I Learned This Year

Well, this is my first post in a long while. This season was a rough one, and I didn't feel like I had much to say. Its hard to keep the guys into it when you are 1-21 for the was by far my most disappointing season I've ever had. I made a lot of mistakes this year, did some things well, and learned a lot. Unfortunately for me it was not the right fit, and I've since moved on. I decided to wait until school was over and I was gone to share my insights on my season. I'm going to be open and honest about the season and what I learned in the hopes that it helps other young coaches along the way.

What I Did Wrong

1. Didn't have enough confidence in what we were running to be steadfast about it.

-I knew from previous experience that what I was doing worked, but I wasn't completely sure of it and I think it showed right away and didn't help when I went to tweak what we did throughout the year and the players saw itwas changing because it wasn't working. Not exactly a great way for a new coach to breed confidence within the program! I should have stuck to my guns more and paid deerly for that!

2. Was too positive at the beginning of the season.

-Although I wasn't dumb enough to predict that we would win X amount of games, I did give our players a lot of feedback saying we could compete with anyone and have a positive season this year - which to them meant wins. Instead I should have been more realistic about our chances in our league and should have stressed that all we just play hard and that's enough.

3. Was not harsh enough or honest enough about players roles on the team.

-While I did define players their roles, many times I tried to "soften" (read - sugarcoat) their roles on the team. I would tell a limited role player that they were important, their effort was appreciated, and I would try and get them minutes when I could - they would then get disappointed when the minutes didn't come. Instead I should have told the players that were role players simply they were role players and would likely not see the floor. That way they would appreciate minutes they got.

4. Let our offense be too loose.

-I wanted a free wheeling offense that allowed players to play. I thought it would bring some energy and excitement to our program and help it get going, especially at the younger levels. But upon reflection, I think our offense was little too wide open since we were one of the top teams in the state in shots taken and turnovers. With the group we had we should have played a slower more deliberate game and should have managed the shots a little bit better.

5. Let the parents intimidate me.

-I'll admit that I let the parents throw me in my first year. Many times I was not as forceful in defining the roles of parent and coach as I should have been. It's easy to handle parents when you have a head coach above you to have your back. It's much harder when you are the "lone ranger" so be ready to be tougher than I was! I let parents talk with me about topics and at times I never should have. I also should have communicated better to the parents what was going on throughout the season. We had the traditional meeting at the beginning of the year, I had individual meetings with each player and parent before the first game to define roles. In hindsight I should have had at least one more private player/parent/coach meeting in order to keep the lines of communication more open.

6. Not demanding enough at times on certain aspects of things.

-I was demanding in terms of behavior and effort. But where I wasn't demanding enough was on the execution end. I used the cop out of - it's the first year and they don't know the system as well because it's the first year, it will get better. I shouldn't have done that. I should have demanded they do things right and the way that I wanted them done every time.

7. Didn't communicate enough with our other coaches on the staff.

-This was something that I was dead set on doing this year, but as the season started I got "deer in the headlights" syndrome and kind of was overwhelmed with everything we had to do. I was constantly checking with them to make sure everything was OK, but with weights in the AM and practice after school, I did not attend as many games and practices as I should have (we didn't play at the same time as our other teams). I also had a couple of preseason meetings where I gave the coaches the playbooks of what I wanted them to run. But never found time with everyone's schedule to have a meeting - and that's something I should have been a stickler about and made time for.

Things I Did Well

-After reading the above, you might thing the year was a complete disaster. In many ways I felt like it was and I really regret that I couldn't have helped the guys get more wins. But, at the same time we were within 6 points of the #1 rated team in the state in the fourth quarter of a game, we were down 23 points in the first quarter of our playoff game before rallying to get it to within three in the fourth quarter. So, throughout the season there were some positives to be had as well.

1. Staying positive and continuing to grind it out the entire year.

-This is the #1 greatest thing I feel that happened with my coaching this year was I was able to stay positive the entire year even at 1-21. I've always had a hard time being positive when things are not going well, and it was a goal of mine to get better at that aspect this year. Even when we were 1-20 in the first playoff game and down 23 in the first quarter I wasn't belittling the guys and telling them how crappy they were, I was still staying positive with them to the end. Truth be told, I was too positive this year, but at the same time it was a learning thing for me coming from being very Bobby Knight esque in previous years. I think it really did help the players to be able to gut out a tough year. For me, there is a great deal of pride in the fact that I coached the last few practices as hard as I did the first practices and didn't give up all year, while that's never been my personality, it's good to see being 1-21 doesn't change that about me.

2. Getting players in the gym in the off season.

-This was something that hadn't been a regular thing in the community. But I put it out there to the guys what it would take to get better, gave them plenty of opportunities, and they took them. We had almost all of our varsity players and younger kids regularly at our workouts and open gym sessions getting better. I tried my best to make it fun, exciting, and worth their time.

3. Got involved at the younger levels.

Along with the older kids, I ran twice a week open gyms for the middle school players and once a week open gyms for the elementary. I think it made a difference working with those grades and ages to get them more excited.

4. Being creative and taking a risk.

For years the program had had a walk the ball up slow it down style and the players were ready for a change. I've always been a push the tempo guy, so I took a gamble and went to the extreme with my tempo. In the beginning this created a lot of excitement and interest within the program which was good. I think if we would have ran it for a couple of years players would have adopted the system more readily and been better at it. While this is a mistake as well, there is something to be said for going out on a limb and shaking things up. It's a better feeling to have tried it and failed than never given it a shot. We also played a lot of different and junk defense I wouldn't normally play, and it helped us out. We were able to be within 6 points of the #1 ranked team in the state because we went stick and three on them a lot of the game.

5. Learning from my mistakes

As a first year coach, you are going to screw things up, a lot of things, I promise you that. And if you don't make any mistakes your first year you are probably not looking hard enough. So make sure when you make a mistake you step back and learn from it, make yourself better.

Again, I hope this post can be helpful to young coaches out there that are taking or have yet to take their first coaching gig. I tried to be as open and honest as possible with my comments.