Measure Your Success By Your Effort

Footwork Makes You Smarter

Saturday, January 28, 2012

No Time For Skills

The complaint I hear most often from coaches is that I would love to work on skills but I don’t have time. They offer a host of reasons; short season, need to get in my offensive sets in, need to establish my defensive philosophies, I need to get in my slobs and blobs in, it would be nice to teach kids how to play, but there is just not time.

I guess I would have to ask, what is your objective?
Consider this, less than 6% of high school players will play college basketball, and less than 2% of college basketball players will turn pro.
As a coach you probably will not turn out that many players going to the next level. I’ve been fortunate to be able to get some there. Some of them were a surprise, some I felt were more than capable but were over looked, and some did not last once they got there.

It has to be about more than teaching some X’s and O’s. Getting players to do the dance of what you have decided is this years flavour of offense and defense. There is always time to teach skills.

Take these suggestions into consideration.

Transition Versus Half Court Offense
Although true you must be able to execute in the half court during tight games, if you fold a piece of paper down the middle and do a lumber jack tally on each side, one for scores in transition and broken plays, and the other side points scored in the half court offense, you might be surprised that the majority of points will be in the transition and broken plays section. Teaching your players to run lanes wide, approach the rim at a 45 degree angle above the block, run and catch, give targets, communicate, run and pass and finishing at the rim are all teachable skills. You can incorporate these into your drills. Design your drills to be jam packed with skills and habits you want your team to have.

Warm Up Pre-practice
This is an excellent time to bring your teams core temperature up by using skills. Teach footwork drills. If they ain’t sweatin, they ain’t workin hard enough. Try getting players to work in pairs, and have them go through a series of skills that you want to emphasise. If you need help or would like some specific instructions, don’t hesitate to contact me.

You probably like most of us accumulated a stack of Slobs and Blobs over the years. They probably all look very different from your offense continuity or sets. If you want to save time, use your offense and break it down into chunks that can be used as a Slob or Blob. This will trim down on the amount of time you need to teach, this part of the game. Let’s face it, when it’s time to teach Slobs and Blobs the energy level of the practice drops. It’s difficult to keep the verve of the practice going during this section. You can make it more competitive by timing them, as long as they are executing it correctly and they make the time, they have no consequences.

Push Pull Rotations
It’s far more effective if you players understand how to rotate to a new position depending on the ball movement. If there is penetration, which way should you players move in a push pull theory of basketball? When you teach sets, make sure you modify them so players are not standing around, but fill in new spots so there is always the following passes available; a baseline drift, and 90 degree pass, a 45 degree pass, and a player filling in from behind.

Designer Drills
Any drill can be good, if you are teaching skills. Those skills can be specific to what you are trying to achieve in your offense or defense. If you screen in a certain area of the floor, then design a drill that teaches how to get over a screen, how to burry your defender in a screen, how to pick and roll, how to pick and pop, how to make the read on the defender, so your players know how to reject a screen, shoot over a screen, bounce off a screen, turn a corner on a screen, how to attack outside shoulders and split a screen, and how to keep your head up during all of this so you can read the floor.

Help Your Players Become Better Athletes

If for no other reason, make your players better athletes because the tangible improvement players can see will make them more confident. A better athlete will be a better player. If you increase your quickness you will be a better player. If you increase your strength you will be a better player. If you increase your vertical you will be a better player. If you develop healthy habits of exercise and eating right, these are skills you can take forward in your lives, when you are not longer playing the game you love.

If I can help you with any of these suggestions, do not hesitate to contact me.

Do You Like Coaching

Yes I know you like wearing the shirt. You like being called coach. You like the respect and revere that comes with the position. You like the company and community. Maybe you even like the TV appearance. Maybe you like the lime light. But do you really like coaching?
I observe coaches in a state of agitation. I see them angry most of the time. They are upset at practice. They are upset during games. They use foul language, and I know society has become loose with language just as it has with appearance, and behaviour, but that doesn’t mean you have to conform to that standard.
Where does this behaviour from coaches stem from? Is it the pressure to succeed? Is the pressure to keep your job? Is it a reflection, of the measure of your character? Do you have what Ernest Hemingway called "grace under pressure”. Or is it simply you feel inadequate in what you are doing. Did you spend the time to prepare your team? Are you passing the buck and blaming your team for the loss? Wait, it is a team right? You are part of it correct? Then isn’t the blame shared?
From personal experience I can say, that all but two losses I felt I had either not prepared my team, or made a decision during the game that might have produced a different outcome. Two of the best games I coached and prepared my teams for resulted in losses. But I could not have been more proud of the team, and my efforts in those games. They gave it their all, and so did I and my assistants. It stung, but it didn’t last long. It wasn’t our day.

For me coaching is teaching. Teaching is one of the most honourable professions, if your heart is in it. If you are willing to make a difference, and let the difference be your reward. If your heart isn’t in it, and you are agitated, and angry most of the time, then get out. You need to find something else to do with your time. Think of the effects you have on those players, and the role you are setting for your assistants. You can’t deny the effect you will have on both groups. I see out of control head coaches’ behaviour trickling down to their assistants. Nice legacy.

Stop looking for perfection! Look for improvements. Look for learning. Take the time to enjoy what you are doing. In the end it's about forming relationships.

Try focusing on some of these things.

1.Improve Your Players Skills
A winner is someone who recognizes his God-given talents, works his tail off to develop them into skills, and uses these skills to accomplish his goals.
Larry Bird

2.Coaches Should Motivate Players
You only ever grow as a human being if you're outside your comfort zone.
Percy Cerutty

3.Coaches Should Be Tough But Fair
Life is never fair, and perhaps it is a good thing for most of us that it is not.
Oscar Wilde

4.Coaches Should Make It A Team Effort
Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”
Henry Ford

5.Coaches Should Not Be Demeaning
By lifting the weakest, poorest among us, we lift the rest of us as well.
Bill Clinton

6.Coaches Should Give It Their All
The value of a man resides in what he gives and not in what he is capable of receiving.
Albert Einstein

7.The Sport Should Be Fun, Not Funny, But Fun
When the going gets tough, the tough do what they do, while the wise find the game in it.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Talking On Defense

Talking on defense might be the second most important or effective skill you can use to become a better defensive team. Nothing replaces strong defensive fundamentals, but talk can help your team in at least two ways;

1) Communication between your players will let your players know what is going on behind them, and how they should play their man. If the defender on the ball hears his teammate talking to the ball “I have help at baseline” he knows he can play his man a little closer and force in that direction.

2) There is an intimidation factor that stunts some teams. If a player with the ball hears a help defender talking to the ball “I have help at the elbow”, then they might be less likely to attack the elbow, knowing it’s covered.

However I question the way we teach talk on defense. A lot of noise coming from 5 players to my thinking is not useful. It’s just noise. It’s the difference between hearing and listening.

If the ball defender is screaming “ball ball ball”, can they really listen to their teammates instructions?

Also can they really be effective in covering their man if they are so focused on yelling “ball ball ball”?

If the ball defender is yelling “ball ball ball” and 3 or 4 other teammates are yelling “deny deny deny”, where is the useful information for the ball defender. Do you really think the ball defender can hear and distinguish all the different players yelling “deny” and even if they could, would it be useful information? Would they know where each of their teammates are when they are yelling deny, and would they be able to process that information quickly. Compare that, to these instructions;

Elbow help Sean
Baseline help Eric
Open post Colin

Some will argue that yelling “ball ball ball” will have a negative effect on the player with the ball. I’d like to suggest that, it is really not the case, check your game tape. If it does have an effect, then my guess is your playing against younger teams, and I’ve even seen referees ask teams to refrain from that behaviour, because at a certain age they find it doesn’t fit with fair play rules.

Some will say, yelling “ball ball ball” triggers or initiates the rest of our defenders to play in a certain style or position. I would suggest, that of all your players, playing up on the ball with pressure is the one thing, that we all want as coaches. It’s really a given or a standard, so calling “ball” is more chatter than useful information. The rest of your team are behind the ball. They can see the ball and their man, it’s really the players behind the ball that should inform the ball defender how to play, and let him/her know, that they have support.

I think the key to developing your defensive language is to get rid of useless chatter, and replace it with information packed key words or phrases. John Wooden would run drills in this fashion and I have tried to adopt this behaviour when running drills. Teach the principles you want to be emphasized in your drill, then when the drill is running, you simply call out words that reflect those principles, when they are not being done; “catch two hands”, “run lanes wide” etc. This same principle can be applied to developing a defensive language.

I would suggest the first thing you need to do is develop a defensive language for your team. Short quick phrases or words or sound packets that are rich with information. The language of course should be built to reflect your defensive principles. Whatever you want to do with your defense, then come up with short phrases or words that communicate these principles.

Getting players to communicate! If you have coached youth boys, then you know this is always a struggle. How do I get them to do talk? I searched long and hard for an answer to this puzzle. I went around from sport to sport, team to team looking for players that were good at this skill and asked them how they developed their ability to communicate effectively. Usually what I found out was that player was a coach’s son or daughter, or they were a natural team leader and the concept came easily to them. So I decided to do what I did for any other skill. I scored it and had consequences for not doing it. For e.g. if you are in a shell drill, score defensive talk, as well as rebounds, or paint touches. Apply a consequence for not doing it. Just like in lay-up drills if a player misses, I have them automatically go to a safe place to do 10 push-ups before they get back in the drill. There is motivation to get back in the drill because we are also scoring team makes. Apply the same technique to a missed defensive instruction. I think you’ll find it works.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Are You Getting In The Mental Weight Room - If Buddha Was A Baller Part II

Buddha said “What we think, we become”. Self-talk is the the way our mind does business. This self-talk can be created by you or by others on a daily basis. So why wouldn’t you want to control this process to your benefit?
The latest studies show that the average person has between 2500 and 3500 thoughts per day, each of which is 12 to 14 seconds long. Top athletes have only 1500 thoughts per day. The reason top athletes have fewer thoughts is related to their ability to be more controlled and focused with their thoughts.
These same studies reveal that the average person spends 90% of their thinking on yesterday or tomorrow, where athletes hone their focus on being in the moment.

Learn to script your internal dialogue, but using affirmations. It is important that the affirmations ring true to you.
You can use different methods, or combinations of methods to help influence your consciousness. You could:
1. write your affirmations in a journal
2. you can recite the affirmations to yourself either aloud or in your mind
3. you can tape the affirmations and listen to them
4. write the affirmations on cards and place them where you will read them daily

To make the affirmations even more effective, you should couple the affirmations with mental visualization using as many of the five senses that are appropriate. To really cement the affirmations you should couple the affirmation with emotional feelings. Using both senses and emotional connection can really put you in the moment. If the moment happens to be trying to achieve being in the zone, then you stand a better chance of getting there by combining these methods.

You should create your own affirmations. They should be suitable for your personality and sport, but here are some examples to get you started.
1. I am on top of my game.
2. The more I practice the better I get.
3. I am improving every day.
4. I learn from mistakes.
5. I stay calm.
6. I play from a state of focus.
7. I learn from watching other players.
8. I feel confident during my game.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Are You Getting In The Mental Weight Room - Part I

There is an increasing focus on sports psychology as we look for any edge to become more competitive, more focused, more confident. It is unclear how much of our minds we use, but we do know there are untapped resources. Stories of chips being inserted in to quadriplegics’ brains so they can navigate computers, and stories of the Backster Effect, where a persons emotional state can have an effect on their own cells even after they are removed from their bodies are just a couple of examples.
There is no doubt that emotions and mental strength can separate the good from the great. In the next few blogs, I will explore some of theories / methods that you can use to help you achieve a mental edge when competing.
Just as there are numerous overlapping training principles when building your body;
1. Individual differences
2. Overcompensation
3. Overload
4. Specific adaptations to imposed demands
5. Use/Disuse
6. Specificity
7. General adaptation syndrome
there are equally as many principles to consider when refining your mental edge

1. Drive Theory
2. Inverted U Hypothesis
3. Individual Zones of Optimal Functioning
4. Multidimensional anxiety theory
5. Catastrophe Model
6. Reversal Theory
7. Anxiety direction and intensity

The scope of the following Mental Weight Room Blogs will not go into too much detail of the above principles, but rather try to give some practical approaches to increasing your mental edge.

I think the most important principles to keep in mind are the Individual Differences Principal and Individual Zones of Optimal Functioning. Both of these principals take into account that we all have different genetic blueprints, and therefore we will have different response and adaptations to both exercise and levels of anxiety and arousal. The sports we play or even the position we play may also play a role.

Look for the next Mental Weight Room Blog: If Buddha Was A Baller (What we think, we become)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

How To Get Recruited

If you are not a blue chip athlete being targeted to play at the next level, you have your work cut out for you to get recruited.

You should spend considerable time self evaluating at which next level you can play. It will also be useful to get the opinion(s) of coaches. As part of your development you should always be evaluating your strengths and weakness, so that you can hone your strengths eliminate your weakness. That way you will be bringing something new to the game each season.

Once you have completed your self evaluation, use the following steps as a guideline for getting to the next level.

1. Research and focus on schools where you would like to play
Search the web, news articles, facebook, twitter and any source you can find to learn more about the school. This will help you decide if you want to play for this team, and will also help you demonstrate that you've "done your homework" when you get around to interviewing. This is also another good time to talk to anyone you know that might play or have played for the school and coach.

2. Research the Roster and research the Coach
Make sure the team encompasses a position you can play and contribute to. If you are a PG and the team is already heavy with PG’s and they are freshmen and sophomores, your chances have just gone down. Most D1 schools have the luxury of recruiting to a style of play. As players exit, they bring in players that can fill those spots. Determine if the style of play and the style of the coach is compatible with your personality and style

3. Create a resume
Your resume should include a history of your highlights and accomplishments related to both your academics and your game. There are plenty of free resources for writing a resume.

4. Create a cover letter
A cover letter is a letter of introduction. Your cover letter should be designed specifically for each school and or coach. There are plenty of free resources for writing a resume.

5. Game Tape
Have at least one DVD available to send to prospective coaches. That DVD could be a compilation of good quarters, but should not be a highlight reel. Coaches want to see you perform in a game situation.

6. Knock on Doors
If coaches are not coming to you, you must go convince them that you have flown under the radar and have something to offer to their program.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

52 Weeks A Year

If you are serious about becoming a better basketball player you need to have a year-round training program. That program should include strength and conditioning training, skill development team structured practices, and a rest and recovery phase. These phases are usually defined as;
Each season can be further broken down into cycles.
The true challenge in Canada, is defining when these seasons are. High school ball runs into provincial club ball. Club ball runs into AAU ball, and if you are involved in the Provincial or National programs, these will collide with the above seasons too. The truth of the matter is you have to make choices, about what your goals are and how you can reach those. You can’t do everything at once and hope to gain strength, better your skills, while playing games for all of those teams. One way to make sense of it is to work backwards with this problem. Ask yourself, where you want to play in your post high school career. What level do you want to play at? What venue, will the coaches of where I want to eventually play, see me? If they can’t see me, they won’t know about me, I’ll fly under the radar and miss my opportunity.
Off-SeasonDuring the Off-season, approximately 21 weeks, players should concentrate on building up their body. It should include strength and conditioning program that will not only focus on brining a stronger body to the next season, but also help prevent and protect the body from injuries. The off-season should include speed, quickness, agility drills, and sport specific exercises and movements that help make you quicker on the court. It goes without saying that a proper stretching program should also be part of all phases.
Pre-seasonDuring the Pre-season, approximately 8 weeks, players should concentrate on honing their skills. Strength training focus should change to more sports specific, injury prevention type of resistant training. Conditioning should become more sports specific. Conditioning can all be done with a ball in your hands. Working on skills and conditioning at the same time.
In-seasonDuring the In-season, approximately 19 weeks, players should continue to work on their bodies. Amount of weight, reps and frequency will change to accommodate playing games and team practices. It’s important that an appropriate program is adhered to. If you stop with strength training you will end up being your weakest during play-offs when you want to be strong. Rest and recover play an important role.
Post-seasonDuring the Post-season, approximately 4 weeks, players should take the time to have both a physical and mental break. Your body and mind will need time to recover. At the end of this phase, you can begin to train slowly gearing up for the next Off-season.

If you would like more detail about each of these seasons, please contact me.