Measure Your Success By Your Effort

Footwork Makes You Smarter

Monday, March 29, 2010

Off the Rack Versus Custom Made

In an earlier blog “Be a Triple Threat Player” I talked about players who are athletically gifted. Witnessing a gifted athlete, should never discourage you from continuing to work on your athleticism. You should be trying to reach your potential not match someone else’s potential.
But the truth of the matter some players are “Off-The-Rack” in this sense. They don’t work on their verticals other than practicing jumping and yet they can sky. Others need to be “Custom-Made” athletes by building their verticals from a well balanced program, including;
1. Core Strength
2. Dynamic Stretching
3. Resistance Training
4. Plyometrics
5. Sports Specific Jump Training
6. Speed Quickness Agility Training
7. Skipping

How much of each? That should be determined per athlete based on testing on each area. The results from testing will allow for a customized program that will target the areas that need the most improvement. A balanced program will also help in injury prevention.

Check out this video of and up and coming baller, Brandon John. It’s been my pleasure working with this young man from Toronto. Other than practicing his jumping, by working on his dunks, he has done very little specific vertical training. This player is “Off-The-Rack” athletic. I can’t wait to see him become “Custom-Made”.

We just came back from the King of New York Tournament in Rochester New York, where the team won Silver. Watch BJ throw down.

Oh did I mention Brandon is 5.11! (white jersey # 23)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Mirroring The Ball – The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

How do you teach mirroring the ball? Many coaches set the drill up with a close-out to the ball. The player with the ball stands straight legged, and swings the ball around wildly while the defender goes to work at tracing the path of the ball. What muscle memory are we creating here?
Good: Defender gets reps at tracing the ball
Bad: Offensive player develops the bad habit of being inefficient with the ball.
Ugly: Your player stands up in a game under the defensive pressure, swinging the ball around and even takes a negative step while being bellied up.

Try having the player with the ball stay in athletic stance. Have the player use an economy of motion when moving the ball. The player with the ball can rip the ball to the hip, and then countering when the defender reaches towards the ball to mirror its path. The player with the ball can then counter by sweeping the ball below the hand of the defender or sweeping it above the hand of the defender.They can step through to deliever a pass to their partner. Alternatively the player with the ball can create space by sweeping the ball by the defender’s face, or stepping into the defender with one leg between the defender’s legs. When the defender backs up, or straightens up, then the player with the ball can then face the defender squarely.

Now we are creating a good habit for both players. Defender is applying pressure to the player with the ball, trying to disrupt their movement. The offensive players are more able to read the floor, by protecting the ball, and moving it in an efficient motion.

Set this up as man in the middle. Defender can start with 10 push-ups. Every time they get a deflection, touch the ball or get a steal, they can subtract 1 push-up. Every time the player with the ball takes a negative step, or does not rip the ball assertively in a counter to the pressure, they do a freeze-push-up for 30 seconds.

Coach Paul

Newton’s Second Law - Getting Outside Your Comfort Zone

Newton’s Second Law states that and object will accelerate in the direction that you push it. This could represent the initial teaching of a skill. It also states that if you push the object twice as hard, it will accelerate twice as much. This could represent pushing outside your comfort zone to perform the skill eventually at greater than game speed.

We can use this model as coaches and players, in relationship to learning curves and getting to the next level.

There needs to be a progression if you want to get better at a skill. You must first learn the skill correctly. You must then challenge yourself or be challenged to perform same skill at greater and greater speeds or complexity. You need to work at a speed where you are making mistakes. Those mistakes are your challenge! Keep at it until you can perform at the new speed then move to the next speed until you have mastered each new speed or level.

As coaches we can sometimes add competition and consequence into the mix to challenge our players to move to the next speed. I do this with footwork drills. Once I know the footwork is solid, I break the team up into smaller teams, and they compete at stations in timed event. You can even add consequences for missed shots into the same mix.
Here is an example. Team is split up into two equal teams. Players are working on post moves. Starting below the baseline, each player has a ball. There is a chair above the first marker or wherever you like your players to receive the ball in the post. On “go” the player at the front of the line passes the ball out to a coach, behind the chair, who places the ball on the chair. The player comes out square to the chair in good post position to take ball off the seat of the chair and work on their move. The next players in line then go in turn. In each timed session the team is working on only one move. They make their move and if they miss, they get to a spot on the floor and do10 pushups, where they won’t interfere with the drill, before they can get back into the drill. They must do the footwork perfectly and approach the chair perfectly or the bucket doesn’t count. Here we have some pressure to make the shot, or they are no longer helping their team, they are doing pushups to get back in and there is pressure to do the footwork correctly or the bucket doesn’t count. You can add some additional pressure, by trapping the ball in the chair with your hand, so they have to fight to own the ball. At the end of each timed session the team with the most buckets wins that round. The team with the least buckets again will have a consequence.

Consequences and competition are two methods to get your players to work at accelerated rates.

Coach Paul

Quick Draw

I worked at the Ganon Baker Oakville camp this week, hosted by Coach Pat Traynor. During free shoot-around time, a young girl approached me with an excellent question. She wanted to know how she should receive the ball to get her shot off more quickly.

I asked her to show me what she currently does. I had her move around baseline to free throw line extend and back a few times while I passed her the ball. She would catch the ball as if to shoot then pass it back to me. I had her do this from both sides of the floor. I had her repeat the exercise, but this time I asked her to shoot while I observed. This young girl had a lot of up-side her shot-readiness.
1. She was squaring up to the rim on the catch: She had her feet pointed to the rim, and her shoulders square to the rim. This is excellent and shaves time off, when trying to get your shot off. This also means she is making eye contact with the rim early.
2. She was athletic when receiving the ball: Her knees were already bent and she was ready to get up into her shot. She was playing low to high. I see players at much older ages; play high to low to high after the catch. Playing low to high will also allow you to get your shot off quicker. A key point should be, always cut in athletic stance and maintain this stance when get to your spot and are receiving the pass.
3. She was ripping the ball to her hip: This isn’t necessarily wrong; the ball is certainly well protected, but her hip is not her shooting-pocket. Her shooting-pocket was higher. That means additional movement in her shot while moving the ball from her hip into and through her shooting pocket. More movement in the shot means more places for error, it takes more time for the release, and you are less likely to have a one-piece or one-motion shot.
a. You will see some players use this extra downward swing of the ball from shot-pocket, to hip or below, and back up again to gain power for distance in their shot. Also players will sometimes draw the ball back to the crown of their heads to gain power in their shot (I call this the catapult.)These two methods of gaining force in your shot are of course mistakes, and are not good substitutes for using the up force in your legs to lift your shot. Your arms and hands are very complicated. The shoulder is the most mobile joint in your body. The elbow has both a hinge motion and a pronation/supination motion. The hand has 27 bones. We want to minimize the motion of our hands and arms in ours shots, and use the less complicated joints and much stronger muscles of our lower body for lift. Essentially we want to shoot with our bodies and direct the balls flight with our arms and hands.
b. Shot-pocket, shot-pocket, wherefore for art thou? Each person’s body mechanics are slightly different. As a result each person’s shot-pockets can be different but will be located somewhere between the top of the hip to the brow. When a players starts their jump-shot in athletic stances, note where the ball is in relationship to the top of their hip and brow, when they begin their upward motion. This will be their shot-pocket. Make sure there is no high-to-low-to-high motion in their shot. You must note where the ball is, in relationship to their hip and brow ,when the up force of their jump begins.

Here are the things I added to what she was already doing, so that she was able to get off a quicker shot.
1. Call for the ball with your voice: Draw attention from the passer by calling his/her name, or use the hoot if that works for you. Assuming you are getting the ball from a player that has good court vision, you are probably never more open then when you first get the ball. Sometimes you need to bring this to the attention of the player with the ball.
2. Call for the ball with your hand(s): The placement of your hands is important. Your hand(s) should be at the height of your shot-pocket. I say the height, because if you are able to receive the ball with only one hand and bring it into your shot pocket, then the hand closest to the passer can be shot-pocket height but slightly outside your body. E.g, if you are on the right hand side of the court receiving a pass from your left, you are able to catch/guide the ball one handed, do so with your left hand, and bring the ball to your shot-pocket. This will allow you to have your torsos square to the hoop. If you are not at the level of guiding the ball into your shot-pocket with one hand, then you should have both hands receive the pass. Have your hands in the configuration where your guide hand is on the side of the ball and slightly forward, and your shooting hand has a wrinkled wrist and is behind the ball. Basically catch the so your hands are ready to shoot with good form.
a. If you receive the ball in your shot-pocket, you are more likely to have a one-piece or one- motion shot. One-piece shot provides a quicker release. Hitches to look out for:
1) ball below your shot-pocket = extra motion
2) releasing the ball at the top of your jump and not just before. The further out you are from the rim, the sooner in your jump the ball should be released to take advantage of your body’s up force.

Of course it goes without saying, great passers give you more time. A pass right on your target is much quicker to release. Too bad passing is one of the most under taught skills.

Recap of Teachables for Quick Release
1. Be in athletic stance.
2. Have feet pointed towards the rim
3. Be square to the rim. Torso square to the rim.
4. Get early eye contact with the rim.
5. Call for the ball with your voice and your hands. Give targets with hand(s) at your shot pocket
6. Have a one-piece shot

Coach Paul

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Working With Ganon

I couldn't be more stoked. I'll be working at one of Ganon Baker's camps the week of March 15 - 18 Oakville Ontario Holy Trinity Secondary School 2420 Sixth Line
For More Details click here
Anyone who has the opportunity to be trained by Ganon should jump at the chance. His approach to training, his expertise, and his ability to relate to players makes him one of a kind.

Hope to see you there

Coach Paul

Painting By Numbers

Just like painting by numbers, coaching by numbers can almost replicate the real thing.
Inside a singular team, it might even look like art. A player moving around in their system, with expertise, but that is a dance. That can be a well rehearsed dance, but can those same players play the game? Are they skilled?
Don’t coach numbers, coach players. Make sure you are teaching the same skill set to all your players. Depending on the level of competition and the age level players will have to play down or up a position.
How many times do we see players that grow early and get stuck playing with their back to the basket, then find themselves stuck at 6.2 or so, with no perimeter skills. Not to mention, the lack of true post skills that are being taught to those players. At 6.2 if that player is lacking in perimeter skills, how will he be able to play at the next level. Matter of fact, 6.2 is a point guard at the collegiate level.
It reminds of a story an Italian friend of mine once told me about his grandfather. I asked how his grandfather was doing. He said not so well. He’s not really learning any English, and he’s forgetting all of his Italian. Soon he’ll be mute.
Don’t let your players become mute on the hardwood. Make sure you are teaching them how to be a better passer, how to read the floor, how to shoot in different situations (see upcoming blog on being a complete shooter), how to be a good ball handler, how to box out, how to rebound, how to set a screen, how to get on the floor safely to retrieve a loose ball, how to take a charge safely, and how to communicate.

Coach Paul

Monday, March 8, 2010

Be a Triple Threat Player - Skill, Athleticism And, Conditioning

Youth coaches... you have probably run up against teams that have a player who developed early and has some athletic gifts that allow him/her to dominate. In Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, Malcolm discusses the unbalanced distribution of birth months among NHL players. Because youth players are registered in leagues based on their year of birth, the biggest and strongest players tend to be those born in the first few months of the year. Some times we see these kids peak early in their sports careers, if they don’t continue to work on their skills, and only rely on their natural athletic gifts

This phenomenon is not limited to youth basketball. There are athletic freaks at all levels. The higher the level of competition, the more freakishly athletic those players are. I’ve seen players that have never lifted a weight nor worked on their vertical and they look like they were genetically engineered and have 30 plus verticals.

Who knows how skilled Dwight Howard is? I’d love to see him in some skill drills. I do know this; he doesn’t have to employ a full skill set to achieve his success. He doesn’t have to have great handles. He doesn’t have to have great defensive technique. He doesn’t have to be able to create space to get his shot off. He doesn’t have to be a great passer. He may have all of these aspects in his game, but to do what he does, he does need to be very athletic. Howards stats for last season include.

Year 2008–09
Team Orlando
GP 79
GS 79
MPG 35.7
FG% .572
3P% .000
FT% .594
RPG 13.8
APG 1.4
SPG 1.0
BPG 2.9
PPG 20.6

Now keep this in mind. I’m all about the skills. I’m a skills coach, but how many times have you seen skilled kids passed over for athletic kids. Perfecting your footwork will make you smoother and faster. It will give you an edge, but you can’t ignore becoming more athletic. Perfecting your shot mechanics will make you more consistent, but you still need to have your feet get you to a spot, where your hands can take the shot.

When skilled kids are passed over for athletic players, it often boils down to two things:
1) Coaches see the body and believe they can teach that kid to be better skilled.
2) Its about right now, not tomorrow, and not what potential and kid has, it’s more about kinetic. The higher the level, the more true this statement is. Coaches at higher levels are putting together teams that may need to compete in the near future. They are not looking to develop players; they are interested in moving the chess pieces around the board.

Take stock of what you have as weapons. Become a Triple Threat player.
1.Are you working on skills?
a.Do you think Steve Nash is an athletic freak? Believe me compared to you and me, he probably is, but not on the stage he plays. Become more skilled, work on your ability to pass, ball-handle, shoot, rebound, read the floor
2.Are you working on athleticism?
a.Don’t let the fact that some people are more gifted athletically disappoint you and make you be a defeatist. If you are
working on that aspect of your game then you are getting better, and getting better is progress and moving forward. Moving forward is success!
3.Are you working on conditioning?
a.Everyone can shoot when they are fresh. Can you shoot when you are tired? If you are not in great shape, then you will find it hard to play full-out defence.

Imagine where you can take your game if you are working on this three pronged approach to your game.

If you are having a hard time imagining it, have a look at Chidi Majok. A player I had the pleasure of coaching for three seasons. When he started playing for me he only had a 18 inch vertical. Watch him throw this put back down.

Coach Paul

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Competing Outside Of Your Personality

As a coach you have probably dealt with your fair share of players that do not fit the stereotypical model of a competitive athlete. You have also probably dealt with players that were lacking in confidence when they came to you, or have watched their confidence slip during the season. Keep in mind that what you teach in sports should become life skills for your players. They should take away life lessons they can apply to other parts of their life. Like it or not, they will, so make those lessons constructive.
This blog is as much for players as coaches. Players have a responsibility to come to the table with a competitive edge. Effort and desire are qualities a player can offer to a coach, that do not require the coach’s expertise.
It is also the responsibility of coaches to teach to their own curriculum and create an environment that nurtures competitiveness. It is important for coaches to recognize the value of diversity. Drawing on the variety of talent and personalities in a team, means being willing in some cases to adapt the environment to the individuals rather than the other way around.
Here are a few things for your consideration when trying to get your players to play outside of their personalities.

Personality types
According to some experts there are up to 16 personality types. Others like to categorize into Introverts and Extroverts or A type or B type personalities. It’s foolish to think that only certain personality types can be successful in sports. Do some personalities lend themselves better to individual or team sports? Can you find ways to help these different personality types be successful?
Stereotypes are not quite what one would think of as a personality, but surely it’s become part of the psyche of both players and coaches that there is baggage that comes with stereotypes. It takes strength to play outside of these stereotypes.
Racial: You’ve heard it, I’ve heard it and certainly Tiger Woods and Justin Armour have heard and dealt with it.
Gender: Often when women step outside traditional gender roles through sports, labels are soon to follow.

What can you do to help play outside of your personality?

1. Be Transparent: Have philosophies, rules and expectations for your players. Don’t let your mood dictate consequences and rules or how your practice is conducted. Talk to your players as a team and as individuals about what is expected in terms of effort, learning and conduct. Except when you are wrong, say you are sorry, and correct the situation. Recently I saw a player taking some heat form his coach about missing a defensive assignment in a drill. The player didn’t actually miss his assignment but took the blame for a team-mate. When it was pointed out to the coach, the coach took the opportunity to let that player know, he was in the wrong for not communicating that it was not his check. He pointed out to the team, that you are not helping the team by taking the blame for someone else. We can’t correct the problem if you are not being open and communicating what is really going on. This was all done in the spirit of team, and was not demeaning to any of the players.
2. Make drills competitive: by making drills competitive, you raise the competitive level of the team, and consequently you raise the competitiveness of the individuals. You will nurture a competitive environment. Score your drills and have consequences to winning and loosing. Highest scores in the drill do 1 dribble suicide and lowest scores in the drill do 3 dribble suicides. I like making consequences skilled if possible. That way they are working on their skill while they are getting conditioned. If you do dribble suicides make sure your players are working on both hands. Down the court with one hand and back with the other hand. You can change up the dribbles between lines, cross-overs, through the legs, and push-dribbles for the long trips.
3. Add toughness drills in the mix. You hear coaches screaming about getting on the floor, or taking a charge. Don’t just scream it, teach it. Teach your players how to get on the floor safely and own the possession at the same time. Teach your players how to take a charge and drill it. Let them know how much it is worth to the team. Make sure it is in your team’s personality to have the whole team reward those efforts with praise and cheering. You would be surprised by the effect that offering the reward of a sports drink and protein bar makes on players’ efforts to take a charge. It’s not the drink or snack; it’s the competitive nature of getting a reward and recognition for doing it. With the possession arrow replacing jump-balls, does it make sense for your players to get on the floor every time? Maybe you want to be aware of that possession arrow, so that you can get over that player on the floor and get a closely guarded call.
4. Finding the right match: Find situations and techniques that will make players successful, don’t put them in a situation where they will fail. I coached a player with good size, good skill development, good footwork, but she was not naturally assertive or aggressive on the low post. On defense she could not bang with big players down low, but she could front her defender and play defense like they she was on offense in the post. Sitting in the chair, hands locating her assignment and preventing the ball from getting kicked in. On offense, she could play well in the mid to high post, and had a sweet mid range shot. So the aim is to make her a multi-dimensional player by encouraging a new more physical aspect to her game, while honing her Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitzki. Why shove a square peg into a round hole? If you find places where individuals can be successful, then the team is successful.
5. Help players build confidence: I’m not going to minimize the effects a coach can have both positively and negatively on a player, but in the end just like any skill, confidence is something the player needs to hone and refine. Being able to chart your drills, will aid in boosting your players confidence. Helping them set goals will increase their confidence as they get closer and closer to their goals. I have my players take a mental snap-shot of where they are now. Down the road we do it again and see how far they have come. Use these lessons of hard deliberate, goal oriented work to achieve goals as an example to be applied to other aspects of their life. Let them know, that the effort they put into basketball can be used to become a better son or daughter, to be a better sibling, to be a better student, to strengthen their Faith. If you work on fitness, plyometrics, core strength, then chart their progress; it’s amazing how something tangible like gaining some height on their vertical can spill over into confidence in their game. Above the obvious benefits hard work plus measurable gains equals confidence. Try to guide your teams through sports meditations. Help them learn how to visualize on their own or be able to control anxiety, or do focus drills.
6. Measure your success by your effort. This is a philosophy I buy into. I tell my players that there are fewer feelings worse then regret. When you give your best effort, sometimes great things happen, sometimes mediocre things happen and sometimes disappointing things happen. If you gave it your best, there is nothing more anyone can ask of you. If you are giving it your all, then in my eyes you are already successful.

Coach Paul

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

If It Didn't Brown Up In The Pan Maybe It's The Chef's Fault

How many times have I heard coaches complain about their players, stating they are dumb? One coach once said to me, “I’ve been running this drill for five years, and not one team can get it right”. Hey is it me or is it them. Could it be the drill? Could it be the way you are teaching it? Could it be it has no relevance to the game of basketball? You are a coach, it's your job to find away to connect and get it done.

John Wooden said “you haven’t taught until they have learned”. I think Kelvin Sampson’s twist on it might even be better “Nothing is taught until it is learned and nothing is learned until it is taught”.

Players have different learning styles; visual, auditory, kinesthetic, try to appeal to all of these. Maybe the way you are teaching only effectively covers one of these types of learning styles.

Here is a story how I missed the boat in evaluating a player. I had been working out this player in the off-season with a few other new hopefuls. When it came to tryouts, my conclusion was this one player, just wasn’t browning up in the pan quick enough. The team this player was trying out for had become pretty competitive. I didn’t want to take players that I couldn’t promise time to. At 15 and 16 years of age, it’s better that they find a team where they can contribute and get significant floor time. Test the skills they have been learning in practice.
The cut phone calls. I hate them! This was a particularly hard, because I just liked this kid and his family. Great folks!. During the call, the father said "let us sit with the news for a few days Paul, and we’ll get back to you about it". I agreed but for the life of me couldn’t understand what the father meant. I cut his son. They called back a day later and he said, “we talked it over, and we don’t care if you can’t give our son floor time, he is developing with you and he likes being there”. I was stunned but agreed to carry him. This young man has so much character, work ethic, and verve, he willed himself into earning floor time. By the end of the season in play-offs he was getting significant floor time, was a major contributor to the team and one of my best Rebounders. The following year he was a starter.
During both those seasons I thanked him and his father for sticking with me and proving me wrong. In this case it was definitely the Chef’s fault.

Coach Paul

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Being In The Moment

Basketball like life is best when you are in the moment. You must learn from your past, prepare for the future but while you are playing, you must be in the moment.

Learning from the Past: If you make a mistake(s), don’t dwell on it either in practice or in a game. In practice you can not get better unless you are working at a pace where you will make mistakes. Anyone can bounce a ball, but you will not get better simply bouncing a ball. You have to go so fast using correct technique that you risk loosing control of the ball. Keep working at that pace and eventually you will be able to be mistake free (or nearly mistake free) at the new pace. Once you have achieved the new pace, you must chase the next level. In a game, if you make a mistake you have to leave it behind and concentrate on the next task at hand. Make a mental note, shot fell short, focus on back of the rim, and then move on to get a rebound or a defensive stop or what ever the game and your coach dictates you do. Don’t fill your head with negative thoughts. If that is a stumbling block for you, then work on doing a replace with a positive thought, and move on

Prepare for the future: In practice evaluate your skills and determine what you are struggling with. Work harder on that skill; trying to perfect it, After all, practice is like the homework that prepares you for the exam. The game is the exam. Set goals using the SMART technique. You need to have short term , mid range and long term goals to work towards. if you are looking for nothing you will surely find it

Be in the moment: It might take some buying into this principal because you hear sports analysts say, that you need to be able to see 3 or 4 plays down the road to be great. Or do you? When you are living in the moment, there is no stress, and you are free to be creative. You are more likely to be able to respond to situations. We have all heard the phrase, take what the defense gives you. That’s a form of responding with confidence and lack of stress. It is not seeing 3 or 4 plays down the road; it is read and respond to the current situation. It is that feeling of being in the zone.

Coach Paul

Monday, March 1, 2010

Newton’s First Law - Be Unbalanced In A Good Way

Newton's first law states that an object that is at rest will stay at rest until an unbalanced force acts upon it.

The unbalanced force can be the coach, or a competitive environment that the coach constructs to make players reach a new level.

There is of course a role for coaches and mentors. People need instruction, motivation, and opportunity to learn from others. They need competitive environments to elevate their efforts. Need evidence? Have you ever noticed that when you make a drill competitive that the eyes of your players brighten?

In all facets in life, it’s rare to find people who find an internal drive, the intestinal fortitude to push themselves daily outside their comfort zone

Can you make the unbalanced force come from within? Remember players, the one thing you can bring to the table that a coach can not give you, is desire.

If there is something I can help you with don't hesitate to contact me

Coach Paul