Measure Your Success By Your Effort

Footwork Makes You Smarter

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Flying Under The Radar

How many times have I heard coaches say” no one flies under the radar”? “If you are good enough we’ll find you”. You may never hear something more pompous come out of a coaches mouth than those statements. With all the players out there working on their game, how could this be possible? In fact, it’s mathematically impossible. Just read
the answers to a recruiting survey that I sent out to 45 CIS Universities.
I didn’t make these numbers up; the coaches submitted how many games they watch in a year. You can see by the number of games they view, that if you are not in the right place at the right time you may never be found. You need to take some ownership in this process. You need to self promote.What factors might you have going against you?

Blue chip athletes
Blue Chip athletes are noticeable. They stand out. They are in the press. They get talked about, and they are resultantly on the radar. If you are not a Blue-Chipper, you need to do some work in self promotion, to get noticed. Most coaches see the body and think I can teach that kid to play. All things being equal, size matters, speed matters, quickness matters. Equalize your chances by not only working on your game/skills, but work on your body.

This maybe more of a factor in Canada then other countries, but elite programs tends to be located in hotspots. What dictates a hotspot? Usually geography. Do you live in a densely populated area, where there programs are more likely to be funded? Do you have facilities where you can go work on your game?

Lower Competition
Are the teams in your area competitive enough to get invited to visible high profile tournaments where one a University coach may be in the stands? Is your team good enough to be in a final game at a major tournament? If a university coach is only going to 50 games total high school and rep in a year, they are likely to be at the championship final games. DON’T let any of these things ever be excuses for not getting it done. You can work on your handles in your basement or garage; you can skip in your garage. You can find a way, but it’s not as easy.

Too Many Hats
Are you in a system where your high school coach promotes you to Universities?
They may be limited by time, limited knowledge of the recruiting process, and sometimes just a lack of motivation to promote players. Ask your coach if he actively contacts University coaches to promote players. Ask your coach if they have any reliable contacts.

And if you are still not convinced that you can fly under the radar, watch this video about Steve Nash and how nearly went unnoticed.

Drilling Down

Any drill can be a good drill, as long as you are teaching skills inside the drill. Conversely if you are not teaching skills inside the drills, every drill is a bad drill.

Be sure you are teaching, and explaining what you are looking for, and why it is important. Let your players know how perfecting a technique will make them a better player. Let your players know why you are asking them to do each step.

One of the mistakes we coaches make is trying to incorporate every new thing we see in a clinic into our practices. Don’t blindly accept drills. When you find something new that you think will fit with your team, look at refining it. I think it’s imperative to take every drill you do and give it a renovation. Look at it with critical eyes and try to make improvements. Invite another coach to come out and evaluate your team and your drills. They may have a twist on what you are doing that will make your drill better.

Are your drills game-like? Can you make them more game like? Most coaches run 3 on 2/ 2 on 1. How many of you set this up, with defense at one end in an I formation waiting for the 3 players on offense. When does this happen in a game? Have your defenders off court at the sideline, and have them come into the drill after the offense crosses half court (you pick the markers depending on the talent, I’m just suggesting here). Now you can also work on your defensive transition concepts, and you have created a situation that requires defensive talk to get the stop.

I have been forced to do this in the past. When my practice times were cut from 2 hours to 1.5 hours, I initially thought, how am I going to get all that I need to teach in that time frame. Most recently relocation to a facility that only has 2 baskets forces me once again to look at how I can get my players reps with only two rims. My style of coaching is very active. I like to be on the floor with my players, teaching skills by example. Matter of fact if I can’t demonstrate the footwork perfectly, or the shooting technique, then I won’t teach it till I have mastered it, in at least demo mode. I am not saying this is the best way; it’s just the way I operate. In the past I have had two assistants, and sometimes team managers. My practices are always open to parents or other coaches. But if you are in the gym, you might find yourself holding a blocking pad, swinging a pool noodle or passing a ball in a drill. This allows me to monitor the drill and give out sound-bites of information; ”athletic stance” “Run lanes wide” “catch two handed” “cut back to the ball on good angles” “post up on first marker”.

Now that I’m assisting on a team, once again necessity becomes the mother of invention. If I want to monitor drills and shout out the sound-bites, I have to retool the drills so the players fill in the spots where coaches once had a duty. If you have to do this, make sure your players filling in these spots, don’t become pylons. Make sure the role they are filling now, becomes a way of working on a skill. If they are passing, make sure they are using all the skills you teach when they are in a passing drill. Make sure they are athletic in their stance, make sure they are passing with their out-side hand, make sure they are creating space, make sure they are stepping through, make sure they are being deceptive with their passes. Insists that ever drill is a passing drill! It’s probably the most under taught skill.

Be proactive in this endeavour. Don’t wait until your gym time gets cut, or you have less help, or you have fewer rims. Scrutinize your drills and make them better before your are forced to do it.

Coach Paul

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Rare Player

At the conclusion of tryouts I always tell the players that if they don’t make the team, they can contact me and I will give them a written evaluation and a program to work on. If they work on the program it will give them the edge up on tryouts next time.
It’s also not uncommon for a parent to call me while the season is in progress with the next MJ. It would be easy to dismiss these parents and their children, but what does it hurt to give them a look. At the very least, it could demonstrate to the player and parent what level their child is at and how they can work towards reaching their goals. At the very most you could find a diamond in the rough. I invite these players to a practice and have my assistants put them through the same type of testing they would have seen in a tryout, before they can get into a drill.
In these situations, I give the player and parent a program to work on and thank them for their interest in playing.

In these situations it has been my experience that only a handful of players will take the initiative of contacting me for the evaluation and program. Out of that handful, it’s my experience only a small few that will work on the program. Those are rare players.

I had the pleasure of coaching “a rare player”. He did go away with his program and worked on it. He did attend my clinics and worked hard, and he did make our competitive team. He turns every disappointment into motivation to get better. I remember in a game where his defensive assignments were more athletic then he was. He got taken baseline several times. Disappointed yes. Did he quit no! He did extra. He worked on his slides, keeping player in his bubble, keeping active feet trying to make players react to him; he worked on his direct and rakes. He did this on top of what we did as a team. He did extra.

Erick you motivate me to be a better coach.
Thank you
Coach Paul

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Losing Sleep – Try Outs A Coach's Nightmare

In my experience few things in coaching are more difficult then tryouts. Perhaps dealing with some parents, but I’ll leave that for another blog. I love getting back in the gym with the players. I love motivating players to give their best and to want to be a part of our team. I love working with a team of coaches to help me run a try-out and to help make decisions. But the decisions can be agonizing.

Having to cut a player that has previously played for you can be an extremely difficult process. Encouraging players to continue to work on their game so they may have a chance of making the team the following year can be a tricky balance. I hate having to disappoint players, but sports are competitive by nature.

I bumped into a fellow coach, Ted, the other day, and we began to talk about the process. I had coached Ted’s son for a few years, a terrific young man, who is going to be a dynamite referee. Ted confessed to me he was losing sleep over the process. I confessed to him that I would go through the same thing each year. It impresses me that it would have that effect on his daily life. You could simply say “it’s just youth rep ball”.. but I know he really cares about the process if it is effecting him in that way. I know he understands the importance of doing it right.
Here are some things I have learned, that have helped me with that process.
1. Know what you are looking for.
o Even if it’s your first year as a head coach, have an outline of what type of team you want to be. Have some philosophies for defense and offense and design your Try-Outs accordingly.
o Be prepared to adjust your goals depending on who comes out.
o Make sure your drills reflect what you are looking for in players.
 Do you want to be a high pressure defensive team? If so design your defensive drills to reflect what you are looking for.
o Be clear on what you are looking for. Have the players chant it back to you if you think it will help. But make the candidates know what is expected of them to make the team. If possible give advance warning of what is expected do so. I would post on my website what minimal requirements would be for tryouts e.g. level 11 on the beep test. The closer to tryouts the more information I would put on the site.
o Make sure there is some diversity in your drills.
 So you want to be a high pressure defensive team. Where? In the half court? Full court? I had my mind set on a player who could direct his team-mates in the half court and play excellent defense in that setting. That is the setting I always saw him in. 3 on 3 etc. Then in a full court setting I realized he didn’t have the wheels to play in that setting. I still took that player and over the years he continued to get better at all aspects of his game. But you can see how you might fool yourself with your drills. The player didn’t fool you. You fooled yourself.
o Include drills that demonstrate player’s leadership qualities and good soldier qualities.
 We can’t all be leaders, so make sure to grade players on whether they can follow instructions well. Teams need players that can take direction well.
o Include drills that demonstrate players hustle and toughness
o Include drills that can exclude players when you have large numbers trying out, and minimal time to submit your roster.
2. Get help
o Call in favours to get as many eyes as possible. Volunteer to help at other coach’s try-outs in exchange. It’s good practice for your own tryouts to be involved in others. I like to run stations especially on day one. I’ve had as many as 55 players trying out and luckily as many as ten coaches with me. When I say coaches, some of those maybe friends or students looking for volunteer hours. But you don’t have to have a lot of basketball knowledge to run a push-up station or a vertical jump station or time a sprint. You just need reliable people that are enthusiastic. My best tryouts my assistants and I have enough time to look for small things while stations are being run.
o Develop a grading system for your tryouts. For each event/drill/skill that you want the players to perform, have a standard grading system. This comes in handy for at least three reasons
 Often it’s easy to pick out the top kids you want on your team; it becomes trickier to pick out the kids at the bottom of your roster. This takes some of the objectivity out of that decision. Do you pick a kid that is athletic and lacking in leadership or vice versa?
 Be able to give feedback by having tangible scores that you can give back to the parents and players
 You can point players in the right direction for next year. You can guide them on what they need to do to improve their chances.
 You can also inform the parents of children why their son or daughter did not make the team, with some concrete proof. You wouldn’t be impressed if your child’s report card came home with only subjective comments.
o Consider running multiple stations at the same time and have players rotate from one station to another. Have each station manned with coaches that are informed on how to run the station, and how to grade the station.

3. Announce at your tryouts the tryout dates for other clubs in your area. Let players know that there are other options. I’m not really sure if my club endorsed this, but truly we just want to give kids an opportunity to get better. The more kids playing the better chance for improvement. I have called or emailed coaches at other clubs and invited them to my tryouts to see a kid who is on the boarder.
4. Provide players with some feedback and a program that will help them crack the nut next year. At the end of each tryout, I bring the players together and let them know that if they contact me I will give them a break down of what they need to improve on, and will design a program that will help them improve and improve their chances of making our team. I do this each year, even though I know it's the rare player that will take you up on the offer. Refer to upcoming blog on The Rare Player

If I can help you in any way with your tryouts please let me know.

Coach Paul

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ego and Ideals

Phil Martelli once said to me “coaching is egotistical by nature”. I believe this to be true. You have to believe that what you are bringing to the table for your players is better than the next guys. If you don’t believe in it, why should your players. This belief should not be founded on bravado alone. Make yourself as expert as you can. Learn as much as you can about teaching, about skills, about strength training, about systems, about sports psychology. Make sure you have fully learned every nuance to whatever the subject is, before you introduce it to your team.
But most importantly keep your ego in check. Make sure your Ideals are bigger than your Ego. Coaching is about relationships. It’s about mentoring. It’s about getting people to work together for a common goal. It’s about learning about yourself, about your team-mates and about your team. Be learned and humble.

Is it me or is it them
Coach Paul

Monkey See Monkey Do - Hey I Saw A Box-Out

Don’t quote me how many rebounds are grabbed in the NBA. The number of rebounds will be equal to the number of missed shots. What I’d challenge you to do is count up the amount of box-outs you see in the NBA. They are few and far between or is just the camera angle? Blame it on the 80 games plus schedule, maybe it’s impossible to expand that type of energy over that length of a season. Blame it on the fact that professional sports have a huge entertainment value, and you will never see a box-out making a highlight reel. The P.A.S.S. style of NBA basketball Pass And Stand Still is not a good model for young players.
Unfortunately, monkey see monkey do. The swat becomes more intriguing as a defensive tool to young players than does the box out. Have you ever had a player that you could give the assignment of keeping the other team’s best player off the boards for the entire game? I’ve been fortunate enough to have had that experience as a coach. I’ve had the pleasure of coaching players with that type of sacrifice. My eldest daughter Nicole, Mike "The Hammer" Tomlinson, and Evan "Bulldozer" DeGier can be included in that list. Invaluable!
More box outs equals:
1. More rebounds equals more possessions equals higher percentage shots. On the offensive boards it translates into higher percentage shots. Defensives rebounds translate into transition and higher percentage shots.
2. More rebounds equals more possessions for your team less for your opponents’ team.
3. Just ask Tom Izzo. Boxing-Out and rebounding equals a toughness factor to your team. I’ve heard Coach Izzo say “please have your players play football or something to toughen them up before you send them my way.
4. Rebounding is an activity that will land your players on the Free Throw line especially on the offensive glass. More chances to score, and an opportunity to get an advantage by getting your opponents best players off the floor in foul trouble.

Is it me or is it them
Coach Paul

Signs Of Intelligence

A Chemistry Professor I had once said Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Turns out he was quoting Albert Einstein. How many times do we see coaches badgering referees? This action is repeated throughout the game, and through out their season. You have to stop and ask yourself, is it working? Have I ever got a referee to reverse a call? Even if the answer is yes, and I have seen it happen once, is the energy used to badger the ref worth the outcome. When I saw it happen it was a tipped ball out of bounds, and although possessions are important. It really had no effect on the game.

Here are some reasons to reconsider the energy spent questioning, yelling, and badgering the referees.

1.You are no longer coaching. Spend that energy on your team. Cheer them, instruct them, and make adjustments. There is an energy crisis, don’t contribute to it.

2.Believe it or not referees are human. If you think yelling at them will get them to answer your question in a civil way? Do you think how they are made feel will not bias the occasional call?

3.Be a role model. Would you expect this behaviour from you players? Show them how to conduct themselves on and off the court.

4.Be a student of the game. Engage a referee in a conversation. Invite a referee to your practice and have them talk about the game and then do a Q & A with your players and the referee. After a big time defensive smack on the backboard when one of my players was going to the cup, I asked the referee, can you explain to me how that is not goal-tending, when the shaking of backboard and rim are clearly effecting the shot. Answer: I can’t be expected to interpret the intention of hitting the backboard. So if the defender is smacking the board on the same side as the shot, then, I have to let it go. Now you and I know that all smacks to the backboard are an attempt to effect the shot, but the point of the matter is I was not informed and dropped any frustration with this call never being made. My expectation changed, and I can now coach around this.

Is it me or is it them
Coach Paul

Is It Me Or Is It Them

A good friend of mine, when pointing out the obvious, would always say “is it me or is it them”. In that light of pointing out the obvious it’s very amusing. I think I will borrow that phrase for my sign off.
Thanks Mike
Is it me or is it them
Coach Paul

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Being Out Coached

One of the toughest issues to deal with when you are a coach is being out-coached. Having had a very successful coaching career over the past 5 years, I know that most of the losses my team had were a result of me not preparing them for their competition. Not giving them the tools to get the job done. Not making adjustments quick enough on the floor. With each one of those losses, I went back to the drawing board and worked harder to make my teams more mentally tough. I worked harder to bring my players better skills and better fitness. Worked harder to recognize situations and patterns and adjust to those.
You have to keep your ego, in check, so that you can recognise your role in each win and loss. You have to be willing to admit it and fix it. When you loose a game, you should not be just disappointed in the loss, but that you responsible for the disappointment your team is feeling.
Work harder each day at becoming a better coach. You wouldn’t expect less of your players.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Talent is Overrated

In books like Geoff Colvin’s Talent is Overrated and Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers we learn that deliberate practice of habits will lead to success. Check out this video. It represents countless hours of practicing the following steps. Each step is a note, and when strung together makes for a great song.

1) Cuts to the ball in working in straight lines with hands ready
2) Right side of the court, moving away from the basket, left foot set as pivot foot ready for a sweep and go, or rubber band
3) Hard to see (number 25 steps in the line of the camera angle) but if you frame by frame it, defender's hands are down, put the defenders nose in his ear, by sweeping ball across his face to create some space.
4)Athletic stance dribbling the ball on outside of knee, below knee with chicken wing out
5)Cross-over below the knee, with chicken wing out.
6)Enters the paint through the elbow.
7)Offers 33 his left arm for contact, leaving his shooting arm fee from the contact.
8)The focus to finish in traffic.
9)The vertical equals 2 years of strength training, plyo and core to achieve a 40 inch vertical.

Coach Paul