Saturday, October 21, 2017

Horns Quick Hitter Against 2-3 Zone

Horns has a myriad of applications and some advantage against the 2-3 zone. Horns stresses the low defenders who must make coverage choices.

Friday, October 20, 2017

What Do Patients (Customers) Value?

Regular readers know that I study cross-disciplinary patterns. Here's a slide imaged from a Quality Assurance forum I attended today...assessing what patients value.  

Press Ganey (Patient satisfaction polling company) CEO Tom Lee shared this slide. Doctors may have a slight intrinsic edge over coaches because patients want to give us the benefit of the doubt (competence). Focus on the right edge of the slide, let's call it the 3Cs. 

1. Confidence. If patients had high confidence in the physician, only 1.9% failed to recommend them. Confidence parallels trust and loyalty...just like on your team. 

2. Communication (Teamwork). The average patient in a hospital for 5.5 days for heart failure meets over 63 different people (nurses, technicians, aides, physicians, dieticians, et cetera). Patients (think players) don't want to get mixed signals or confusion. When teamwork reigned, patients were satisfied. 

3. Caring (Empathy). Our patients (players) want to feel valued to feel that we are concerned about their welfare. 

No, it's not rocket science but when we treat people right, communicate, and care...they notice. We make their experience better. 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Fast Five: Winning Isn't Everything**

**Winning isn't everything in developmental programs. 

Middle school basketball creates a platform for sport-specific knowledge, skill building, social skills and relationship building, emotional breadth, and positive psychology. Or it can devolve into an Ivan Drago-esque world of winning at all costs. 

How do you "win at all costs?" Coaching involves player selection, individual and team development, motivation, strategy, and game management. 

Player selection. Tryouts aren't only about selecting the "best" players or the most "promising" players. Some coaches don't select a full roster, so they have no "weak" players. We regularly see teams with ten or fewer players. That's their prerogative, creating more repetitions for fewer players, addition by subtraction. That also applies to playing time, not just the "my kid plays more" but "the best players get the lion's share of time." 

Skill building. I won't deny the "less is more" philosophy regarding reps. And maybe these communities have B, C, and D teams and 'rec league' where participation comes first and competition second. Maybe that's just vanilla and chocolate, preference not style or substance. But the player selection track parallels how the playing field is leveled. The best programs we face practice four times a week. We practice twice. Children have school and other activities including music, drama, and student government. 

Team development. We have something called, "Sixth Grade State Championships." Maybe that's a good idea, but we're never going to win one. I won't bury weaker players on the bench as sacrifices on the altar on victory. One of my favorite teams had a competitive player (became a four-year varsity player) crying and apologizing to the team after a loss. Multiple teammates consoled her, one hugged her and shared, "we win together, we lose together." She got it and is in college now. 

Motivation. Motivate to your values - teamwork, improvement, accountability. Motivate to your process, fundamental skills and small-sided games to evolve to part-whole teaching. Motivate to shared experience. The league asks for nominations to an "all-star" team at the season's end. We don't participate because we're avoiding emphasis on the individual and focusing on contributions to the team. 

Strategy. Most of the "elite" or at least toughest teams we play employ zone presses and fall back into zone defense. I won't deny that's the best way to win at this level, as weaker teams struggle with pressure and zones put a premium on perimeter shooting, better ball reversal, and inside-outside actions that younger players usually lack. Whether it's the ideal way to grow players is debatable. I contend that the best individual assignment defenses use pressure on the ball and zone principles away. So maybe I'm splitting hairs. I do weary of some players asking why we don't play zone. It's not enough that we'll struggle defending the pick-and-roll, but do you have to teach moving screens, too? I don't teach flopping or how to draw charges by pulling players down on top of you, but teach how to avoid having that happen to you. 

Here's my long-winded answer. Because. 

Game management. My least favorite part of coaching (after cutting players) is substitution. No, we don't have "blue" and "white" teams like Carolina did or allow players to sub themselves in or out as Dean Smith. The easiest way to keep it 'fairer' is to draw up lineups and substitute at regular intervals to distribute minutes somewhat equitably. Yes, it's flawed and maybe less competitive. Do I use timeouts to scream and yell at the kids? No, but I've seen it...plenty. That's not the model I trust, and those aren't the memories and values I want to impart. Have I ever dressed down the team? Yes, one memorable time, I told them you cannot back down and let the other team push you around. "You live your life as you play the game." If you let others abuse you, then you are a willing victim. 

Do we win enough? That's not my call and it's absolutely not my calling. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Schepp Screen Games

Success is defined by decision-making and accuracy of execution (vision, decision, execution). 

Kirby Schepp is a well-known Canadian coach who emphasizes fundamentals. "Teach them how to play." He emphasizes communication, movement, and decision-making. 

2-on-2 with off-ball screener...initially no shooting, then scoring. 

3-on-3 with off-ball screener...

We can adapt these by varying the constraints (e.g. dribbling, space) and scoring them. 


True story: the team enjoyed an excellent season, ready to launch a deep playoff run. But just before the playoffs, a player "hijacked" another player's boyfriend. The team fractured and suffered an early exit, ending a promising season in disarray. 

The sign in the North Carolina Women's Soccer room reads, There Is One Agenda: Excellence. The irony slaps us upside the head. UNITY starts with "un" because unity is uncommon, uncultivated, and unappreciated. 

Chuck Daly opined,"players want 48 - 48 minutes, 48 shots, 48 million." Same story, different day. 

What agendas arise in sports? Ego, publicity, money, endorsements, and power. 

Ego. You have the rare athlete, e.g. Sandy Koufax in baseball, who is almost reclusive. But many athletes want and need the spotlight for both the attention and their brand. At the extremes, consider Johnny Manziel, ego becomes destructive. In other cases, ego drives championship performance, as Bill Russell said, "My ego demands - for myself - the success of my team." Wrestler Dan Gable's ego drove him to excesses of training...and championships. We don't entirely know Kyrie Irving's motivation to get out of Dodge Cleveland, but most believe he wanted to leave the shadow of LeBron James. Bill Belichick's separation from Bill Parcells worked out well for the former. 

Publicity. Publicity, branding, and merchandising go hand in hand. LeBron James' "The Decision," came early in his career. LeBron didn't regret his move to Miami, but acknowledged that he would probably redo it differently. Players work their craft and craft their images. Despite one year of college at Cal, Jaylen Brown cultivates a cerebral persona and makes no secret of his wishes to become the Celtics' union representative. Muhammad Ali forged an outspoken brand of brashness "I am the greatest" but also was convicted of draft evasion for his conscientious objector beliefs

Money and endorsements. Exceptional athletes can literally become billionaires by combining performance and pitchman status. Billionaire Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods are synonymous with Nike. Rob Gronkowski boasts of never spending any of his millions in NFL salary as he sponsors everything from video games to coffee and donuts. He has garnered a fortune in appearance money from everything to celebrity cruises to birthday parties. 

Power. Power comes in a myriad of forms - role, influence, social responsibility, politics, and relationships. Some consider LeBron the de facto general manager in Cleveland, with major input on hiring (coaching) and personnel. Coaches may tread lightly to avoid disrupting the mercurial relationships with their stars. Billy Martin and Reggie Jackson went into all out war. Michael Jordan was Jiminy Cricket to Dennis Rodman's Pinocchio. In Knight, Coach Bobby Knight shared his disgust for lack of appreciation for raising tens of millions for Indiana University. The recent NCAA basketball recruiting scandal shows the destructive potential of the aphrodisiac of winning and its concomitants.

Power can manifest in team role, minutes, and as Daly remarked, "shots." Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen coexisted through a championship although later the relationship soured. Kevin Durant transitioned to Golden State with a championship or outward rancor about roles. 

Athletes become entrepreneurs. Ulysses "Junior" Bridgeman manages a restaurant empire worth hundreds of millions. Magic Johnson is a Los Angeles Dodgers owner and fronts a conglomerate of enterprises. Dave Bing owns The Bing Group. Roger Staubach owns real estate worth over half a billion dollars. 

Some athletes champion social responsibility. Jim Brown, Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Ali had vital roles in the Civil Rights movement. J.J. Watt recently helped raise over $30 million for Houston hurricane victims. Pat Tillman joined the Army after 9/11 and died from friendly fire in Afghanistan.  

Athletes may enter politics. Rhodes Scholars Bill Bradley and Tom McMillen became a United States senator and congressman, respectively. Jack Kemp and J.C. Watts became Congressmen. Vikings defensive lineman Alan Page became a justice on the Minnesota Supreme Court. Kevin Johnson was mayor of Sacramento. Scott Brown had a hardscrabble life in my home town and became a US Senator and is ambassador to New Zealand. 

But sometimes 'control' controls you. After interviewing for the Lakers' coaching job, Jerry Tarkanian returned to Las Vegas to find his agent with a bullet in his head in the trunk of a car. The message was clear - stay at UNLV. Athletes, like many others, go off the rails into crime, too. 

Athletes succeed through skill and will. They leverage those into opportunities - good and bad - in society. As coaches, we can help channel those into powerful positive forces. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Core Concepts for Youth Basketball

Fresh (middle school) faces arrive for their introductory basketball education. Where do we start? 

Overarching priorities are:

1) the player experience 
2) player and team development 

The "player experience" includes fairness, respect, communication, and overall process. "Never be a child's last coach" encapsulates player experience. Development means fundamentals and learning the game. Pete Newell described the coach's responsibility helping players to "see the game." Winning comes as a bonus but not the highest priority. Are we playing "the long game" or "the short game?" 

Set expectations:
   "Take care of your business." 
       - Family obligations - responsibilities and chores
       - School - Academics "no ability without eligibility"
       - Basketball 

Create your culture:
   "Play the game right."
       - Respect the game, officials, teammates, coaches. 
       - Put the team first. 
       - Create opportunities for your teammates and yourself. 
       - Compete. Create the "competitive cauldron." 

Forge your identity: 
   "This is who we are and who we are not."
       -Match your style to your teaching and personnel.
       -Accept no deviations - selfishness, laziness, dirty play.
       -Our teams' character should reflect who we are.
       -Energize every evolution - meeting, practice, game. 


    Model exemplary behavior. "Your actions speak so loudly I cannot hear what you say."
       -The loudest voice isn't necessarily the most worthy one.
       -"Plan your trade and trade your plan." 
       -A "performance-focused, feedback rich" environment creates sustainable advantage.
       -Make players write it down. 
       -Create leaders on the court and in the classroom.
       -Details inform results. 

Learn from other disciplines. Ray Dalio shared his in Principles. Peter Drucker set standards in The Effective Executive. Books like HBR's 10 Must Reads on Leadership guide good leaders to become excellent ones. Here is a comprehensive summary

It's too easy to cloak ourselves in platitudes "I'm really good at what I do" instead of doing the hard work, chasing our better versions. 

Monday, October 16, 2017

The Head Game and Harvey Dorfman

We talk about Inside Baseball, the Head Game, or The Game Within the Game. Yogi Berra famously said, "ninety percent of baseball is half mental." Summarize that! But what processes initiate resilience training?

This diagram might define the challenge to our students. 

Or this mantra from Polynesia.

But shortcuts to mental toughness don't exist. Teams don't perform to the level of their education; they perform to the level of their training. Remember the "Undefeated General" Alexander Suvorov, "He set out to transform the lives of his peasant recruits, to render the difficult possible and the unthinkable more palatable."

Master communicator Harvey A. Dorfman wrote Coaching the Mental Game

I share some quotes from Chapter 5:

"Good relationships are established through effective communication..."deal with them" or "establish effective relationships." 

Frank Robinson improved as a manager because he changed. "I try to always leave them with something positive."

Bill Belichick changed after an ineffective stint in Cleveland. "His was an act of will, not of personality."

Donovan McNabb said of Andy Reid, "if you have a coach you can talk to, not just about football, but about anything, that's all you want."

The poetic parable of John Saxe discusses six blind men and an elephant, variably describing a snake (trunk), a rope (tail), and a tree (leg). Their lack of communication produced a poor description of the animal, although each was partly right. 

Some wisdom never changes. James Thurber wrote in 1961, "Precision of communication is important, more important than ever, in our era of hair-trigger balances, where a false or misunderstood word may create as much disaster as a sudden thoughtless act."

"An athlete communicates...behavior that may be based on a lack of understanding, lack of self-confidence, or lack of listening skills...the coach may interpret the athlete to be resistant, uncooperative, selfish, or stupid." 

Billy Donovan said, "the most important  the players to believe the coach is being fair. There has to be constant communication."

"Perception is not necessarily the same as reality. The more the coach communicates with the athlete, the closer the two can come to understanding what is real to each."

My comments: Education changes behavior, but only when the recipient sees value and feels valued. Sharing the truth demands immense trust. How we achieve that is the art of coaching.