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About 20 years ago Pat Riley wrote a book called “The Winner Within,” which was a business leadership book that used basketball teams, players, and situations as teaching tools. In the book he describes the natural cycles that most teams often experience. These include The Innocent Climb where eveyone starts to put the team first […]
The following thoughts on coaching and the coaching profession are taken from a series of quotes by former Wake Forest and South Carolina coach Dave Odom. Coaching is a collection of moments and experiences. It’s a collage of memories that makes this thing we call coaching come alive. It’s private meetings with players. It’s long, […]
I’m always looking for different ways to get into the hearts and minds of my players. I feel that if I can really get to know them and discover what makes them “tick” then I have a much better chance of coaching them effectively. Here is an exercise I found in Brian Biro’s book “Beyond […]
Now is the time of year when lots of parents go to summer club tournaments and think to themselves, “I can do better than this! I’m going to start my own club team!” Being involved in club basketball can be extremely fun and rewarding but like many things can also be much harder than it […]
I recently got back from 10 straight days of watching and evaluating players at two huge summer viewing tournaments and I can’t tell you how many times I heard a parent or coach yell out to a player, “More arch! More arch!” What does a shot with good arch look like? Well, a shot that […]
When most people think of ball-handling they naturally think of just dribbling the basketball. While that is certainly a large part of it, it is definitely not the only part. Being able to pass off the dribble and shoot off the dribble are crucial skills that are dependent on being able to handle the ball […]
Basketball has become a game of possessions – the more possessions a team has the greater chance of winning the game. The most common way of gaining possession of the ball is to take it out of the net after your opponent scores but that’s certainly not going to help you win. Here are 10 […]
1. Shoot from 5 different shooting angles – right baseline, left baseline, 45 degree angle right, 45 degree angle left, and middle. 2. Stand three to four feet away from the basket. 3. Shoot the ball with one hand while concentrating on using perfect form. 4. Shoot with the goal of hitting nothing but net. […]
If you watched any of the recent World Cup soccer action involving the United States then you’ve undoubtedly heard the chant “I believe that we will win!” The great thing about that chant is that it can convey several different messages depending on which word you emphasize. To see what I mean, read the chant […]
George Mikan has long been credited as being basketball’s first great big man. Once when playing for the Lakers, Mikan was wide open in the low post and was adamantly calling for the ball. Instead of passing it to Mikan one of the Laker guards drove the lane and scored himself. While they were running […]
There's a game coming up and it doesn't really matter who it's against. You pull out whatever game videos you have and watch them for the fourth or fifth time. You come up with a list of things your team needs to work on in order to be fully prepared and also make a list of your opponent's tendencies that you need to either stop or defend.
The information you gather from the video is put into a written scouting report that is distributed to each of your players. For the next couple days you put your game plan into action during practice while making whatever minor tweaks and major changes necessary to give you and your team the best chance of winning the game. Game time finally gets here and hopefully everything goes according to plan. But then what? What happens after the game? Do you dwell on it or just forget it and move on to the next game?
Here are 4 things you can do to use the game you just played as a teaching tool:
1. Post Game Meeting
I think most coaches meet with their team right after the game is over. I stopped doing that many years ago. Why? Because players and coaches alike are usually pretty emotional immediately after the game ends and those emotions are almost always detrimental to team meetings. Everyone is either on cloud nine following a big win and so most mistakes and deficiencies are quickly glossed over, (We won the game so we must've done everything right.) or everyone is disappointed and upset and mistakes are magnified. Regardless of whether or not the coach is wonderfully positive or brutally negative, meetings right after the game always take way too long and so the players don't listen! And if the players aren't listening the meeting is useless! Instead, we meet briefly right before our next practice. By then most of the emotions have dissipated and we can get back to business. We talk about facts only and then meeting right before we step onto the court lets the players immediately act upon any criticisms, compliments, and suggestions.
2. Review the Stat Sheet
Depending on your coaching style and areas of emphasis certain stats are going to mean more to you than others. The stats that I am most concerned with are FG%, turnovers, offensive rebounds, and points per possession. I also look to see if our best shooters got the most shots and if we limited the shots for their best shooters. These numbers give me a pretty accurate idea of how we played regardless of what the final score indicates. Once I know the numbers I look to determine "Why" they are what they are and I share that information with the team.
3. Game Tape
When I watch a video of that night's game I find several short clips to show the players for teaching purposes. These clips usually feature positioning, execution, or effort - both good and bad! I've found that if I show the entire game the players don't pay attention when the action doesn't directly involve them. (I know where they get it from - I always get a kick out of watching parents in the stands who film the game when their kid is in but then put the camera down as soon as he or she is on the bench.) I always include at least one clip of the players on the bench so everyone can see who is paying attention, who is cheering, and who is not! And if the camera catches a bench player not completely and actively engaged in the game he better have a good explanation for the rest of us.
4. Written Report
I think many coaches have come to rely too heavily on video tape and neglect to utilize their own immediate observations. As soon as possible after the game is over a coach should make a complete and thorough written review of everything that worked, everything that didn't, and any possible suggestions for next time. This should be done not only by the head coach but by each assistant coach as well and all the reports should be filed away and kept for review. I have large, separate binders for each team in our conference and frequent opponents and another binder for all "others." These reports are invaluable when it comes to game preparation.
During the offseason I hear from a lot of players who ask me, "What should I be working on in order to get more playing time next season?" or "What should I be working on to take my game to another level?" While every player is certainly different and has certain skills that they as individuals needs to develop or strengthen, my response to them will always include one common factor - improving their ability to handle and control the basketball. Great ball handlers possess three primary skills:
1. They can change speeds -whether that is from slow to fast or from fast to super fast the important thing is that they change speeds.
2. They can stop and change directions - whether that is from side to side or from forward and backwards.
3. They can keep their heads and eyes up while dribbling the ball.
While the first two skills listed above are certainly important, today I want to share with you a sequence of drills that you can use to improve your ability to keep your head and eyes up while handling the ball.
As a trainer and coach my favorite way to drill this often neglected skill is by using tennis balls. Tennis ball drills involve four segments, the first is the initial dribble, the second is the toss of the tennis ball, the third is the dribbling move itself and the fourth is the snatching of the tennis ball. Tennis ball drills are great because they force athletes to work on their ball handling skills while having their eyes focused on a peripheral target.
There are 4 key teaching points when doing tennis ball drills:
1. Snatch the ball don't catch it
If there is only one thing that you take away from this article it should be this; effective tennis ball drills are all about snatching the ball instead of catching it. "Catching" implies that you are letting the ball simply fall into your hand rather than "snatching" it out of the air. It's like the difference between going after a rebound and letting the rebound come to you!
2. Start slow, its okay to snatch off the bounce
It's okay if you have to start off slow, in fact it's expected. If you are unable to snatch the ball off the initial toss, let the ball bounce on the ground and then snatch it on the way up.
3. It's all about the toss
If the toss is bad the overall difficulty of snatching the ball increases tremendously. There are two keys to the toss. First tossing the ball high will give you more time to complete the dribbling move before having to locate and position yourself for the snatch. The second is that it's vital that your toss is straight. If your toss is not straight then you will have to move your entire body in order to snatch the ball which also increases the difficulty.
4. Add movement and speed
Once you master the dribble moves from a stationary position, take the same moves and start adding some movement. Go to the free throw line and back and then eventually to half court and back. If that becomes too easy then start going even faster. Adding extra speed and mobility factor will make the drill itself that much more challenging.
There are 6 parts to the overall sequence I use with my athletes. (Feel free to add to this sequence, this is just an example to get you started.)
If you have a workout partner you can eventually execute the same drills above but try tossing the tennis ball to each other
I've always been a big believer that a team's best rebounder and best all around ball handler, regardless of size or position will get plenty of playing time. By taking just eight minutes of your next workout and working through this sequence your ball handling skills can improve dramatically.
There might not be a more overused term in the entire game of basketball than "motion offense." Not only is it overused but it is also grossly misunderstood by many fans, players, and even coaches. Part of the confusion lies in the fact that a simple internet search of "motion offense" will return links featuring 5 Out Motion, 4 Out 1 In Motion, 3 Out 2 In Motion, and 2 Out 3 In Motion.
There are also sub categories of motion offense. For example, when it comes to running a 5 Out motion offense I have specific notes that I've collected from other coaches on a pass and cut motion, a screening away motion, and a double screen away motion. Now throw in the Dribble Drive, the Princeton, the React and React, and the Passing Game - all considered to be motion offenses - and it's easy to see why many are at least a little confused. Ironically, true motion is actually none of those things. Instead of resembling an offensive pattern, true motion consists of several fundamental options that can be used as needed depending on how the offensive player wants to attack or react to the defense.
However, regardless of which motion offense or philosophy is being used, if you ask the coach "Why?" he is teaching and using motion the answers are almost always exactly the same:
1. It's simple and easy to teach.
2. It teaches players how to play the game.
3. It is fun to play.
4. It is difficult to scout.
5. It can be used against any defense.
Sounds good, doesn't it? Yes it does! But ask yourself this - if motion offense is really all of things listed above, then why isn't it used by every team in the NBA? To answer that let's look at each concept one by one.
It's simple and easy to teach. No it isn't. True motion requires that each offensive player be able to effectively read the defense, and not only his defender but his teammates' defenders as well. He must also be able to read and understand his own teammates - who is always going to drive, who is never going to pass, who can only use his strong hand, etc. That's a lot of thinking and decision making on each and every possession.
It teaches players how to play the game. Granted it is a great teaching tool because when run properly it forces everyone to play every position but a lot of great players have learned how to play the game without ever running motion. Besides that, the NBA isn't that concerned about teaching players how to play the game nor is it concerned with helping them become better overall players. The NBA is a league of specialists and doesn't appear to be changing any time soon.
It is fun to play. To many players, especially younger ones, "fun" is synonymous with shooting and scoring. In theory, motion offense gives each offensive player an equal opportunity to shoot the ball. NBA coaches (and fans) don't really care about that. They want their best shooters and scorers getting the most shots - and in positions where they can make them; and they know that when running motion the guy who can't shoot is always open!
It's difficult to scout. Again, on paper that may be true but not in reality. Each player has a tendency to gravitate towards his own personal skill set which means he essentially does the same thing no matter which offense you are running. Some players almost always drive; others only shoot 3's off the catch; still others can only go towards their dominant hands, etc. NBA defenses are more concerned with trying to stop individuals than specific offenses.
It can be used against any defense. Any and all offenses can be used against any defense - just not effectively! Most defenses (and defenders) have at least one specific and unique weakness to them. Running the exact same offense against every defense - man, zone, junk, etc. - is not going to expose those specific weaknesses. If you voluntarily run your man offense against my zone or your zone offense against my man to man then I'm going to have a tremendous advantage.
There is one more reason why NBA teams don't run a true motion offense and that is the shot clock. Motion offense is best when several passes can be made in succession which gives the defense more opportunities to break down. NBA teams don't have that luxury of making pass after pass after pass and need to get the ball in the hands of their best scorers right away.
There are many benefits of running motion offense as it does help players learn all positions, improves perimeter skill sets, and promotes teamwork and morale since every player feels like he has a chance to be a major contributor. However, NBA teams aren't directly concerned with most of those things which makes a true motion offense a poor fit for them.
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