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.