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Student vs. Spectator - Get the Most out of Watching Hoops

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With an exciting NBA Finals set to begin, I'm sure many of you (like myself) are already planning out your nights, making sure that you will be around or in front of a TV come game time. The majority of people who watch basketball might be considered "spectators", people that simply enjoy the raw energy and excitement that surrounds a basketball game (especially the big games).

Don't get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this. Without these spectators, sports would not be what it is today. But I think most coaches and serious players would agree that there is a difference between watching the game and investing in the game.

Each game is an opportunity to learn and to better yourself as a coach or a player. There are so many things happening during a game that it can be hard to discern what you can take from it. Below I simply have 1 thing that I think every coach can and should focus on while watching a game and 1 thing that players should focus their attention on.

Coaches - Focus on Situations

Probably the thing that I love the most about NBA basketball is the amount of situations that occur in a single game. NBA coaches are so impressive to me because of the number of times they need to design a play or make an adjustment on the fly.

I know a current NBA assistant coach that has worked in both the NBA and college ranks who once told me, "There is more coaching that occurs in a 20 second NBA timeout than in an entire college game". Obviously he was exaggerating a bit to prove his point, but the point was well taken.

My advice is this: key in on game situations, especially end of game and after timeouts. What does the offensive team run out of a timeout when they need a 2 point basket? When they need a 3 point basket? When they are ahead by 2 and need to use the entire shot clock before taking a shot? When they simply need to inbound the ball so they can get fouled and go to the line? When they are down by 4 with 35 seconds left? Down by 7 with 40 seconds left?

You can make any scenario you want, but each one is important and so much can be learned by watching what each team does. Then, of course, you can flip it for each situation and watch what the defense will do as well.

Players - Focus on Personnel

It sounds simple enough. But I don't mean just watch the players; I mean study the players. Each game, pick 1 or 2 players to study the entire game. The majority of the time it is beneficial to choose a player at your position, but occasionally you should expand out.

If you are a PG, pick a center to watch for a game. This can give you an appreciation for what the other positions do, and there is plenty you can learn from them as well. A few things you can key in on are: How does your player react to officials? How does he react to his teammates and coach? What are his strengths and weaknesses? How does he handle adversity? How does he handle success? What is one thing on the floor that he does well that you would like to improve in your game? What is one thing that he does poorly that you think he needs to improve on? Is he a winning player? Would you want him on your team for Game 7?

What I love about doing this with players is it not only makes you a better student of the game, it also creates a sense of introspection within a player. It forces you to think about what you do or don't do well. If the player you chose to watch does not react well to his teammates or coach, it forces you to think about how you react in the huddle as well.

The NBA Finals present a great opportunity to put these methods into practice. Of course, you can just as easily do it while watching college or high school games as well. The bottom line is this: don't waste opportunities to improve yourself as a player or a coach. By doing the simple things I outlined above, each game you watch can be another step towards realizing your full potential.

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