Saturday, April 30, 2016

Great Coaches Map Out a Pathway to Success



                                                             
Do we have a process worthy of commitment from players and community? If we do, have we clearly communicated our priorities and emphasis? 

Style and substance matter. As a medical student, I got counseled by an intern who said, "from your writing I know that you know a lot. But you're not speaking up. You have to be more verbal." People judge us continually, just as we evaluate players. 




Who are we? What do we stand for? We need message discipline. Our culture and the character that comprises it stand without compromise. 

Carmine Gallo's Talk Like TED discusses 'message maps'. Does everyone in our program understand the message* ?
*Black Box Thinking means driven to self-evaluation and correction. 

How do we coach? How is our program perceived? 



Ask ourselves, how do we treat people? How do our players see us?



Excellent coaches inform and teach players how to improve. Outstanding coaches model that improvement themselves every day. 


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

What About BOB? Generic to Specialized

I always feel that we should get a scoring opportunity off our inbounds plays. Earlier I showed a BOB Stack reversal. 

Here are a few alternatives from similar sets. 

Everyone runs a version of this. At least it seems that way. 

 Here's a stack with action keyed by the 2. Against aggressive man-to-man defense 2 gets a slip. 

Zones allow us to choose where and whom to attack. X3 gets pressured and somebody gets a shot. 


A different kind of ball reversal forces pressure on the weakside. Change 2 for 5 and an aggressive closeout gets you a post up. 

We can't get crazy about Xs and Os and forget about finishing. If we can't make shots then it makes no difference where we choose to screen, cut, and pass. 


Monday, April 25, 2016

Summer Development - Two Minute Warning


My daughter Paula used to walk onto the court standing tall, head up, chest out, making a statement. "I want everyone in the building to know that I can play." We know that how we carry ourselves has neurochemical impact, as expansive posture raises testosterone and lowers cortisol (a stress hormone). 

People constantly judge us. They analyze our appearance, clothing, speech - including our nonverbal and verbal projection. How we appear depends our PASSION, PRACTICE, and PRESENCE. How does that affect summer workouts?

Coaches develop the total player. We build athleticism, skills, emotional and psychological resilience, game understanding, and teamwork. But we develop the person most. 

I have a small plan for players. During a rest period at practice, each player will (with advance notice) give one two-minute presentation on an aspect of basketball. This is an open book experience. They're not being graded. This is an opportunity for them to learn, to refine presentation skills, and to develop their public speaking. 



They might want to use elements from articles like this

I will randomly distribute topics that are sufficiently broad yet central to understanding basketball as a young player. Suggestions? 



Sunday, April 24, 2016

Bill Parcells on Winning

CoachingToolbox shares

A few excerpts:

  • Leadership is the most visible thing there is – because if it’s not visible, there is no leadership.
  • Nobody cares what you’re up against. The sooner you put those issues out of your mind, the sooner you can direct your focus toward the real issue: pushing your team toward victory.
  • A competent coach should be able to field a team that is strategically sound, that plays with discipline, that doesn’t beat itself.
  • Establish clear expectations – people can’t become accountable unless they understand exactly what you want.
  • A team’s practices will predict its performance just about every time.

Coaching is Coupling

- Ron Sen, "The Simple Guide to Girls' Basketball"

We all 'know' that coaching means connecting, communicating with team members. Now we understand the science behind that. 

Princeton's Uri Hasson has shown that effective communication (storytelling) activates mirror responses in receivers' brains using functional MRI. The communication literally produces coupled electrical activity. The same story told in another language (incomprehensible) doesn't activate the same regions. 

But that doesn't mean that every 'story' will have equal effect. From the time of Aristotle, we know that emotion creates bigger impact. How many times have you told a player "I believe in you" in a transformative way? I recall a player telling me about six months after a post-game meeting, "what I really remembered was you saying, "you live your life the way you show effort on the court. You can't live your life with half-hearted effort." We need to find a way to 'reach' our players. 

We have to blend emotion (pathos), evidence (logos), and credibility (ethos) in players' education. But the emotion can't be a verbal beatdown or false praise. Players understand narrative fallacy. Kevin Eastman says it another way, "You can't fool kids, dogs, or basketball players."

Effective education changes behavior. I preach "possessions and possession." Pace and defense produce more possessions and reducing turnovers and better shooting create more effective possession. 

The math is stunning (logos = evidence). The difference between 15 and 24 turnovers and shooting 45 versus 35% (forgetting about free throws) is almost a doubling (25 versus 13) of baskets. We don't make enough threes yet for that to be significant. 

Ultimately, the success of the team depends more on the players than anything else. When we add value (athleticism, confidence, discipline, skill, teamwork) and help them become their own coach (self-regulation), we help them remake themselves both now and for the future. When they experience success, that helps ingrain better practice and personal habits. That's the ultimate connection...changing lives. 

BOB Stack Reversal

This could be used against man or zone as a variety of options exist. It gets multiple options for a scorer and involves staggered screens. 



One could also use it to get an isolation for 1 on ball reversal or have 5 rescreen for 2 to get a corner 3. 

I'd give attribution but I don't remember where I saw it. 

Passing Drill Improvements



We can't make everything a priority, but we have to pass the ball better. Great passing teams inform better quality shots and reduce turnovers. Sharing a commitment to improve offers teams a pathway to excellence. 

We won't use all the drills (e.g. Figure 8) if they don't reproduce something about game action. 

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Learning from Mistakes: Black Box Thinking


Black Box Thinking - The Surprising Truth About Success from Matthew Syed

Not a substitute for reading the book, but still good highlights. 

Bill Nye and Basketball Defense Conversion Drill





Why do we need to learn continually? Because "everyone you will ever meet knows something you don't." 

The difference between success and failure can be infinitesimally small. We never know when a decision (or a possession) will have consequences beyond imagination. I was at an intersection in my hometown years ago, waiting to make a left turn over some railroad tracks and up a hill. I had seen some bad driving en route. When the light turned, I didn't go. I had a 'feeling' that someone would run the lights at high speed and cause an accident (hitting me T-bone broadside). About three seconds later, that someone blasted through the intersection and I probably avoided severe injury or death. Luck? Divine intervention? I DON'T KNOW. 


1. Do you coach almost exclusively one defense or mix them up? This is a matter of your personality. Coach Bennett discusses the factors including time and talent. 
2. Are your fundamentals excellent? 
3. Is there a shot clock forcing offensive decision-making? 
4. Does your defense get pressure on perimeter shooters? 
5. What is your rebounding situation? 



1. Make your concepts simple. (Clarity)
2. Transition conversion drill (Demands communication and decision-making)
3. Can be competitive (continuous action with three 'teams')
4. The ball has to be stopped 
5. Good discussion about defensive mechanics
6. We can vary number of players involved if we have fewer...

Three words to remember? I DON'T KNOW. 



Friday, April 22, 2016

The Way

Be purposeful. It's popular to use the moniker, "The Way" as in "The Patriot Way". Conversely, we should recognize many paths leading to success or failure.

Regardless of vocation, we need a "work process" such as Michael Seneadza's above. I favor acronyms like PEOPLE.

P (Preparation). "It's not the will to win but the will to prepare to win." I've discussed the RATION sisters, the little sisters Aspi RATION and Inspi RATION and the big sisters Prepa RATION and Perspi RATION. The precursor to preparation is thinking. What is working and what isn't? How can we do more of what works and less of what doesn't.

E (Enthusiasm) - Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Nothing great is ever accomplished without enthusiasm." Enthusiasm is one of the cornerstones of Coach Wooden's "Pyramid of Success." Two people absolutely have to bring enthusiasm every day, the coach and the point guard. Enthusiasm is more than energy; it requires positivity.

O (Optimism) - There's an old joke that was one of President Reagan's favorites. A little boy goes into the garage on Christmas and finds a pile of manure. He starts digging furiously and says, "I know there's a pony in there somewhere." In "Performing Under Pressure" Weisinger describes the "COTE of armor"...confidence, optimism, tenacity, and enthusiasm.

P (Practice). "Repetitions make reputations." - Kevin Eastman. The player willing to discipline herself, to sacrifice the time and the effort has a chance to achieve excellence.



L (Learning). Read. Listen. Think. Steve Forbes reads at least fifty pages a day. Kevin Eastman of the Los Angeles Clippers reads for two hours daily. That means he devotes 180 hours (minimum) each quarter to refining his craft. We suffer a significant literacy problem in the US. Because basketball is eighty percent mental, the more you do to enhance your understanding of the game, the better you can become. Reading is fundamental to personal growth.

E (Execution). It takes discipline to execute. Execution sums components from people, strategy, and operations. We have to improve our "workforce", have the right strategy for our market (grow the market (TEAM), grow the market (SUCCESS) share), and measure where our operations (ANALYTICS) our succeeding or failing. I know that my team has several big execution needs...improvement in rebounding and global zone offense execution. I need to make those priorities and emphasis within the available offseason workouts.




A Few Quick BOBs from the NBA

via HalfCourt Hoops

 Screen and staggered screen out of a box
 Sandwich screen out of a box with screen-the-screener action
Staggered screen with screen-the-screener action

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Marginal Gains

"Marginal gains are not about making small changes and hoping they fly. Rather, it is about breaking down a big problem into small parts in order to rigorously establish what works and what doesn't. Ultimately the approach emerges from a basic property of empirical evidence: to find out if something is working, you must isolate its effect," - Matthew Syed in "Black Box Thinking"

Enjoy the process and teach students to embrace failure. Expecting excellence to arrive in a quantum leap means assured disappointment. Trying to plug innovation (e.g. pace and space) into your system without the discipline of development will only produce undisciplined, low percentage shots and turnovers. That doesn't mean walk before you run but running before running well. 

Specifics drive the process. If I expect ball pressure, then players must have literal and figurative representation. "Head on the ball, balls of the feet, active hands" gets supplemented by "smell their breath and breathe fire onto them." The devil lies in the details.

Feedback refines actions. That's dead man defense (six feet under) or "that's great discomfort" informs progress. Correction requires a "performance-focused, feedback-rich" environment with willing learners. Students must value success as much as their instructors.

Local incrementalism precedes broader competitiveness. Imagine a spelling bee. An individual speller must strengthen her skills gradually before seeking a wider climb. The buzzword in system development is MVP (minimum viable product). Establishing a working model allows for testing, failure, and progress.

Iteration drives improvement. Subtle changes in a technique or product repeated applied can create championships. The Mercedes F1 racing team is just one example. They first structured measuring parameters and broke down every aspect of performance from parts to pit stops using slow motion photography en route to winning. Ben Franklin literally cut up manuscripts and resequenced and rewrote them to enhance his writing skills. When Michelangelo was asked about the Pieta at age 26, he answered that he had been doing this for ten hours a day for twenty years.

Capture the power of time. Commitment and patience create transformation. When we convince our students to invest in themselves, powerful change can follow. Edison's lightbulb worked because he suffered a thousand failures. Wooden didn't win immediately at UCLA but he sculpted a transformational process that made time his ally.

Discipline is more important than conviction in fabricating change.




Friday, April 15, 2016

How Cognitive Dissonance Impairs Our Judgment and Credibility

I make coaching errors. Is that surprising? Certainly not. I'm susceptible to the same heuristic and psychological bias everyone is.

Player selection is one area where I might project a higher ceiling for one player than another whom I see has more skill. I'm biased toward high effort players and coachable (listeners) players. And I'm probably more likely to share my best decisions than my worst. Sometimes I'm too slow to make changes. Our egos cause us to underrepresent poor decisions and inhibit us from learning from mistakes. 

Matthew Syed in Black Box Thinking shares a story of a surgeon and anesthesiologist with a dispute over whether a patient's instability relates to latex allergy, potentially life threatening. The surgeon refuses to change his gloves until the anesthesiologist threatens to call the dean of Johns Hopkins hospital...literally as the nurse is dialing. The belief and status of the surgeon was overruling good judgment. 

The Boston Red Sox refused to try out Willie Mays. Racism meant more than performance. Abbie Conant won a blinded rehearsal for the Munich Philharmonic and endured years of the director trying to remove her for being a woman.

Cognitive dissonance afflicts us when our beliefs are contradicted by evidence. Our team played a variant of 'The System', selling out to play fast because I thought that suited our athleticism and lack of height. Like most coaches, I like to win but especially enjoy seeing players succeed.

Our process worked to an extent (21-4), but we struggled against height and zone teams with good transition defense. If we change nothing, then I anticipate having a similar or worse future. We didn't lose because of officials (attribution bias) or overindulging infallibility beliefs (confirmation bias), we lost because I couldn't prepare us well enough to make shots and defeat zones. 

In Jim Collins' landmark Good to Great, he discusses the BRUTAL REALITY that prevents greatness. Often ego concerns and our loss of self-esteem through overconfidence and overcommitment becomes our undoing. Some leaders and performers are incapable of self doubt. We've all played ball with guys who call a foul when they miss a shot or watched tennis players call balls out habitually because they SEE them out. Investors stick with losers and sell winners (distribution bias) to our detriment.

We need flexible judgment. Remember the lyrics of Bon Jovi's Just Older, "You can't win until you're not afraid to lose." To play to win, we need enough ego strength to recognize when change is needed. When Steve Kerr adopted an assistant's recommendation to go small, that helped propel Golden State to a championship. When General Custer led forces into overwhelming resistance at Little Big Horn, his arrogance caused catastrophe. 

Be smart enough and strong enough to make better choices.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Coaches as Limit Setters

"Don't whine, don't complain, don't make excuses." - John Wooden


Coaching is connecting. But connection doesn't mean unchecked freedom. Our profession demands HAIR - honesty, authenticity, integrity, and respect - all of which require mutual participation. Promising a role insincerely might catch a fish today while destroying two reputations tomorrow. We cannot earn respect without showing it. 

Coaches set limits. Players can discuss improving skills and increasing their roles. Coaches don't assign minutes by appointment; players earn roles and playing time. You cannot negotiate more time on the floor. 

How do you Increase your role? Just as implementation beats innovation, effort, good decisions, and execution are central. A consistent defender who values the ball and makes players around her better can earn major minutes without scoring much. An above average scorer who does little else might be a negative overall.

Coaches must encourage great habits beginning with practice and set the performance bar high. Coachable team leaders who profit from criticism add immeasurably. The maxim that "it takes a village to raise a child" is completed by "but one child can destroy a village." Developing new leadership is vital to excellence.

Academic progress is a mandate not an option. Brad Stevens remarked that he had never seen a great defender who wasn't an excellent student. Your commitment on the floor extends to your academic achievement.

Social media deserves attention. I have an entire chapter devoted to basketball and social media in my e-book The Simple Guide to Girls' Basketball. Don't allow 140 characters to compromise a 140,000 dollar scholarship. Set expectations and rules for social media. Never permit public criticism of teammates, opponents, or programs.

Bullying is grounds for dismissal. Players should learn inclusion early and often. Maya Angelou's quote above belongs in their toolkit.

Substance use including alcohol and tobacco have no place for the developing athlete. The health detriment of tobacco is well known and aside from unlawfulness even low doses of alcohol can impair the intermediate-term (3-5 days) memory of adolescents. No means no.

We can expose young  players to using media wisely. Deflecting credit to the team and teammates shows maturity and gets respect from teammates. Coaches shouldn't expect young players to be publicly accountable and need to buffer any questions inappropriate for age.

Coaches have a great opportunity to help young people grow, but setting limits expertly helps our players navigate potential mine fields. When it goes well, it's a beautiful experience.





Fast Five: Learning from Mistakes (Practical Essence)


                                             

In 1601, Captain James Lancaster experimentally proved the value of lemon juice in preventing scurvy, a consequence of vitamin C deficiency. One crew of four ships received lemon juice daily and three did not. The death rate was zero versus 110 of 278 on the other ships. 264 years later the British Board of Trade mandated a change in dietary guidelines.

That's how I feel about most players' response to instruction about playing defense - ball pressure, ball side and post denial, and weak side help in the paint (ideally near the split). It takes a long time to implement change. 

Matthew Syed has compared the autopsy to the aviation "Black Box" in assessing failure. We have a black box available routinely in basketball - game video. Many us remember watching grainy 8 mm black and white film...seeing yourself give baseline, overcommit to a shot fake, or pass into traffic. Bob Knight's Power of Negative Thinking had very specific, graphic meaning. The CEO of Virginia Mason Health said, "you can have he best procedures in the world but they won't work unless you change attitudes toward error." Progress demands learning from your mistakes. 


  1. This begs the question, "within my program, how much training is provided for error discovery and correction?"
  2. "One mistake - bad play, second time - bad player, third time - bad coaching." We have an 'accountability rule' agreed upon by all players, that if you make three mistakes, then you must come out. 
  3. Football uses quality control coaches extensively. "You're an analyst. You're a guy that checks for potential landmines for things that might go wrong." I need a quality control coach. 
  4. I don't have the resources (time or money) to break down practice and/or game film to reduce mistakes. But there's a lot of quality free information and video on the Net. 
  5.                                                                                                                                      I'm not sure that our players have the spare time to invest in watching other people's technique and/or mistakes. It's worth the effort...and the Aristotelian persuasion inputs (ethos-credibility, logos-evidence, pathos-emotion). You can't do it WELL unless you know how do it RIGHT. Correction is not criticism. My job is translating "Know That" (I KNOW THAT, Coach) into "Know How".                                                                                                                                                                When I see a shooter's elbow fly out over and over after I've reviewed it fifty times and why that leaves shots wide and/or short, I know that's bad coaching. 
Distill the game into its practical essence. 


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Fast Five: Messages to Players...Coaches' Eyes

"They're not cattle." - Pete Newell

Players need to know "why". Understanding "why" you do something obviates 'memorization'. 


  1. "Performance-focused" and "feedback-rich" environments create understanding.
    Spacing is offense. Repeat until done well.
  2. Establish symmetry goals. 372. Get three consecutive stops, seven times a half, both halves. Offensively, avoid three consecutive possessions without scoring. 
  3. Players should start to understand the game through "coaches' eyes". They should identify mistakes real time. 
  4. Punish opponents' mistakes. Don't break the press to advance the ball. Attack the press to score. Your defender "loses" you? Cut to score.
    Defensive transition without total concentration? Layups.
  5. Allow no easy shots. Contest without fouling. Hard 2s. Competitive play. Be hard to play against easy to play with. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Not Just Big, the Real Aristotle


"I am a salesman." - Chuck Daly

Coaches sell every day. We're looking to find willing buyers, true believers in our product. We need all the tools at our disposal...to master the psychology of persuasion. We can't control the whole narrative, but we can represent ourselves differently. 

Aristotle described three forms of persuasion - ETHOS, LOGOS, and PATHOS. 

We use all to sell our program. 

Ethos informs our credibility. In medicine, there was an expression that an expert is "anyone more than fifty miles away from home with a carousel of slides." Of course, now that means PowerPoint presentations and slick videos. Maybe we're holding up a trophy, an award, or better still a testimonial from players about respect and fairness. 



Logos describes using ration and facts to support our argument. That might include our resume' and the use of data and evidence to make our point. That doesn't mean that someone won't mislead, misrepresent, or spin the facts. "You've proven that you're an excellent ballhandler and defender and you can contribute a lot to our team." Of course, the coach might conveniently omit that she has a four-star recruit ahead of you and she's targeting you for a backup role. 

Pathos targets emotional appeal. Young people need mentors. A culturally relevant mentor might appeal to them. We can help them design and build their dreams. Our enthusiasm and positivity can convince them to become part of something 'special'. 




With your experience, your authenticity, and your connection with people, sell something great but always be prepared to deliver. 

Second Look: Process, Culture, and Identity

Process Informs Results*

"One band, one sound."
What comes first, culture or process? There's a saying, "success doesn't bring happiness, happiness brings success." There's more to the recipe than just having a cabinet full of worthy ingredients.
Develop your process; trust the process. The product flows from philosophy, culture, and identity.
                                                                                                                       Philosophy is our overarching approach to the game of life, the why. Culture is the atmosphere, the feeling enveloping the organization, the what. Identity is who we are and who we are not. In this HBS article, the author argues that implementing the right process defines the culture, not the reverse. 
                                                                                                                              Leaders find solutions. The article discusses how leaders of different organizations connected and improved the process. Every team will have 'fix-it' opportunities and challenges. For example, at Ford: "Mulally instituted regular meetings where several levels of executives gathered to share updates on their units. They used a color-coded system (green for good, yellow for caution, and red for trouble) to assess Ford’s overall performance on a variety of initiatives quickly and holistically."

The Golden State Warriors succeeded with a detail-oriented approach within a championship culture. "Efficient ball movement and shooting" informs assist-turnover ratios." Statistics aren't everything, but they reveal something.

Yes, process informs results but culture still matters.



Fast Five: Pressure Cooker (Drills)

Huh? After the Celtics' game last night, I heard the CSN sports show announcer say, "the Celtics have trouble with teams that move the ball and shoot well." Everybody does, which is of course a reminder about the game.

CoachingToolbox.net shares some great ideas for pressure drills

My favorite pressure drills:

1. Manmaker - three players start along the baseline with three defenders opposite. The ball starts in the middle. The players must stay in their 'lane' and advance the ball by passing and cutting, but with only one dribble after receiving the ball.

2. Advantage-disadvantage. This can be played half-court 2-on-3 or 3-on-4, or full court, for example 5-on-7. I prefer this be done without dribbling. 

3. 2 on 8. The court is divided into four segments and players must advance the ball 2-on-2 within the segment. 
4. Carolina
Coach inbounds the ball to 1 with trappers 3 feet away. Offense is given a set amount of time to break the trap and score (4 on 5). 

5. 1 on 2 full court. 
 
What are your favorites?

Monday, April 11, 2016

Fast Five: It's (NOT) Okay

Differentiate between supportive and instructive. Encourage confidence within accountability. 

Starbucks is an international franchise with service at its core. CEO Howard Schultz has a great reputation within the retail and market communities. One concept Starbucks teaches its employees is LATTE

  1. LATTE is an acronym. It represents: LISTEN (to the customer), ACKNOWLEDGE (the problem), THANK the customer for bringing attention, TAKE care of the problem, and ENCOURAGE the customer to return. 
  2. "Basketball is a game of mistakes." - Bob Knight; We succeed by reducing ours and forcing others'. 
  3. Players commonly tell a player after a bad pass, travel, forced shot, or other error..."It's okay." It's NOT okay. We must correct decision and execution errors or they multiply like rabbits. Refocus players with your favorite, "next play", "play in the moment", "positive play". 
  4. Don't allow one mistake to become two. Every game we see a player take a bad shot or turn the ball over then immediately commit a "frustration foul". I see you. SMH (shaking my head). This is EPIC (see video below). 
  5. Be warm and demanding. Analyze mistakes. Why did you get outrebounded? Was it height or failure to block out? Did you anticipate and show quickness on the o-boards? Was that shot in your range? Did you see the defender and the help defender? Did you come to the pass? Did you have an open driving lane and chose to shoot? Was that good clock management shooting with fifteen seconds left in the quarter? Did you catch and immediately put the ball on the floor? When we accept mistakes we encourage their repetition. 
Matthew Syed has written a new book, Black Box Thinking, that examines processes and error. He notes that "Social hierarchies inhibit assertiveness." That means that nobody tells leaders that they are wrong or distracted out of respect, even when that results (aviation industry) in fatal accidents. We coaches make mistakes, too, in how we prepare, train, analyze, and execute. We may be too rigid in how we substitute, use timeouts, or stick with what's worked in the past. It's not okay for us, either. 

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Are You Ready to Go?


Believe


"Glue Guy"

Unbreakable. The "Glue Guy" or "Glue Girl" helps make teams unbreakable. 

Alan Stein shares the Glue Guy concept here. We've been fortunate to have a number of "glue" type players over the years, and my current team has several. When every player embraces their role and does it to the best of their abilities, you can have something special. 

Here's an excerpt:



Sometimes the glue guy has other names like "dirt dog","lunchpail", or "hard hat". One of our Glue Guys is "The Badger." But whatever they're called, they do the not-so-little things that separate success from failure. 

Fast Five: The Help


The Help is a 2009 novel set in Jackson, Mississippi in the 1960s. Kathryn Stockett tells a fictional story of the struggles and triumphs of African-American maids. 

                 
In basketball, The Help often determines whether you succeed or fail. Without great help, defense surrenders easy baskets, buckets that good teams simply don't allow. 


  1. "The help can never get beat." - Kevin Eastman   The help sees plays develop. When they don't see or CARE (concentrate, anticipate, react, execute), bad things happen. Defense is always about the integrated play of five defenders. 
  2. "Great defense is about multiple efforts." That often means multiple players, e.g. The Help. 
  3. "You don't get beat on the help, you get beat on the recovery." My coach always used the terms, "help and recover" because helping isn't enough. You might TRAP and recover, SHOW and recover, STUNT and recover, DIG and recover. But all presume multiple efforts. 
  4. Help across not up. When low help comes up, good players simply dump the ball into the post and an even easier scoring chance arises (see diagram below).
  5. Help the helper. 3 isn't in great initial position (closer to the split), but when she sees x1 get beat, she needs to recognize immediately where the help comes from and she needs to drop and help the helper. Excellent defensive teams help the helper. 

Simplify responsibilities as much as possible. If players embrace "pressure and contain, deny, and help" then we might actually become pretty good. 

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Fast Five: TEAM

"The star of the TEAM is the TEAM."

Basketball, well-played, is the ultimate team sport. Players must play both sides of the ball, working together to create or prevent scoring. There is continuous action without strategy before every play. There is no "designated hitter" and players do not routinely play shifts as in hockey. 

Our tasks as leaders demands that we find solutions, promote team, and the solve the paradox of growing individuals while strengthening the team. 


  1. The African proverb says, "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." The 2008 Celtics embraced the Swahili 'ubuntu' philosophy of connecting a community to each other. 
  2. Alan Williams' "Teammates Matter" shares his experiences as a walk-on at Wake Forest. He provides numerous examples of how teammates supported him because they were teammates. When he had to try out again because of a coaching change, all his teammates came to support him. 
  3. Kevin Sivils writes about TEAM in Teaching the TEAM Concept in Sports. One of his great ideas is awarding a "Teammate Award" to a player whom the TEAM votes to be the best teammate. He capitalizes TEAM for emphasis. 
  4. I teach players, "Not everyone can become a great player, but there's no reason why everyone can't be a great teammate." 
  5. There's no such animal as a great player who is a bad teammate. Many coaches, such as Dean Smith and Roy Williams have shared that they're not interested in recruiting players who put up big numbers but are bad teammates. 
Additional thoughts: 

  • Is it about Ego or We Go?
  • TEAM - Together Everyone Achieves More
  • Self-regulation: Are you the kind of person who values more what you achieve or what we achieve?
  • Coaches...recognize players who don't get the media recognition. Everyone on the team needs to feel valuable, regardless of their role. 
  • Is your program about building a program or a monument to yourself? If you excel, you will be recognized. 
  • Don't get hurt patting yourself on the back. 
  • "WE is a more important word than I". - Carmine Gallo...what I cannot do alone can often be easily done together.






Friday, April 8, 2016

Fast Five Plus: Rebounding

There's no one way to succeed at rebounding. I believe that great rebounders are born not made, but certain factors apply. If a player is a fantastic rebounder with an unorthodox technique, then I won't try to reinvent the wheel. That doesn't mean that less effective rebounders can't improve or that teams can't improve. 


  1. On the defensive boards, positioning and toughness dominate. On the offensive boards, cultivate aggressiveness and anticipation. 
  2. Block out with hands up. Coach Wooden emphasized the "jumping frog" position. You can't rebound with hands down and I believe that medicine ball training can help develop better 'hands'. 
  3. Rebounding margin was one of the 'big four' analytic factors in Dean Oliver's pioneering evaluation of statistics and results. 
  4. Rebounding 'matters'. 
    A cursory look at NBA defensive rebounding shows some correlation between defensive rebounding and results. 
  5. Coach Tom Izzo of Michigan State is famous for using football helmets and shoulder pads to aid in rebounding training. 
  6. Another approach is making ALL rebounds LIVE, including made baskets. The offense can "score again" after made baskets in this drill. 

Jeff Haefner shares some ideas about improving rebounding...discussing anticipation, aggressiveness, and positioning. 

Two areas that don't get much attention include: 1) practicing tip-ins and 2) tip outs. Notre Dame won a game in the tournament with a tip in and even though you can't grab the rebound, you might tip it out to a teammate. Individually, I'd practice tip-ins by trying to miss underneath in a way that saw the ball bounce off the rim to become available to tip. I wouldn't overindulge time on this, but it's a small point that might help some players. Some programs have basket inserts that force rebounds and that's an alternative. 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Fast Five: Dear Young Player: Build Your Toolkit


We're here because our ancestors upgraded their toolkits. They learned over millions of years...to make fire, to chip rocks into sharp edges for cutting tools (see the obsidian glass knife above), to braid plants and animal sinew into cordage, to fashion spears and atlatls, to work metal into knives, and shape and fire clay pots.

The young player wishing to flourish must enhance her toolkit. 

1. Athleticism. You don't need a lot of fancy equipment to train. Uber-athlete Bo Jackson did situps and pushups. Bundled newspapers (duct tape or string) can become a jump box. Chalk with 18-inch lines making a hexagon creates a platform for in and out jumping clockwise and counterclockwise to improve footwork and balance. Your local school has steps for you to run "stadiums" (to improve leg strength and endurance. A jump rope costing less than ten dollars is a great conditioner.


2. Shot Skills. Create your own workout. Warm up your shot by making twenty in a row from each block with great technique. Make ten in a row in the Mikan Drill. "Dribble the lines" (court boundaries and lane lines) half court. Play 'elbow to sideline' (above) with a partner...elbow shot...sprint to sideline and back...catch and shoot...repeat for a minute. Rest by taking free throws (3). Repeat and switch with your partner. The possibilities are endless. 

3. Improve your finishing. 
         Finishing off two-feet is an important skill. 

4. See the game. Learn how to watch film. 

Watch successful players and learn how to imitate (model) their individual and team examples. 


5. Read. Find your Muse. What inspires you, inflames your passion to succeed? LA Clippers executive Kevin Eastman reads two hours a day. If you did that for just three months, imagine how much more you would know. It doesn't have to be basketball. Read about leadership, excellence, education, biographies. Commit yourself to lifelong learning. 

Your toolkit is your responsibility.