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Sunday, March 24, 2019

Basketball: BOB Plays, Reaching Into the File Drawer

I've got a file drawer (FastModel) full of BOBs. Maybe some deserve a second look. Find ways to improve the design, personnel, and execution.

Dartmouth (Game winner)

Stack 3. Elevator screen at the top or corner 3 opposite. 

Baseline Rip. Has some similarities to "America's Play", but sets up 4 with a cross screen. 

14 (Low) Double Stagger. 

Stack "Wham" 

MSU X - crossing bigs screen the high defenders. 

Sandwich across. 

Celtics Triple Stagger Slip

Simple is better. 

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Basketball: Simple Quickness Training for Athletes

The core of John Wooden's Pyramid of Success includes CONDITION, SKILL, and TEAM SPIRIT. 

Don't forget your warmup of your cardiovascular and neuromuscular systems. Dynamic stretching "elongates and coordinates" muscles. Simple exercises are here. Plus, players love exercises like karaoke. 

How can we improve our athleticism? Maximal oxygen consumption (VO2max) is the best measure of overall fitness. Tabata Training is proven to increase VO2max. "The exhaustive intermittent training consisted of seven to eight sets of 20-s exercise at an intensity of about 170% of VO2max with a 10-s rest between each bout. After the training period, VO2max increased by 7, while the anaerobic capacity increased by 28%. An athlete could perform this with either a cycle ergometer or treadmill (under a physician's authorization). 

Jumping rope is validated to improve many metrics in 10-12 year-old boys. "It was determined that weight, body fat ratio, 20m sprint, VO2 max and leg strength measurements were significantly different in favor of rope jump group (p<0.05). In 10-12 year old boys, rope-jump training program was the result of having a positive effect on strength, VO2 max and especially speed."

Here is their training program (3 days/week)

Jump rope. Practical jump rope workouts cycle varies. Some use 30 seconds on and 30 seconds off. describes four useful exercises. 

Hexagon Jump Training, developed by the US Tennis Association. Click link for details. 

Lagniappe: Coaches Clipboard shares Alan Stein drills. I think Pete Carril argues that none of these exercises occurs in a game and therefore are limited. I see both sides. 

Friday, March 22, 2019

Basketball: Raise the Stakes

Raise the stakes to boost engagement. The fate of the world during the final scene of War Games, life or death, true love, the ticking clock, the game on the line. Make workouts and practices competitive by score and time. Set high standards to achieve and beat your best. 

Around the Key - 2:00 to score twice at each, harder with two consecutive at each to advance to the next spot, or untimed to score perfect 18 shots in a row. "Don't tell me why you can't, show me that you will." 

Be accountable by tracking results in drills, whether individual or group. If you fall short of your goal, practice until you meet or exceed the standard

Steph Curry demands that he finish free throw practice with five consecutive swishes. Winnecunnet HS won five consecutive New Hampshire state titles; every girl had to finish with two consecutive free throw makes...22 or 24 in a end practice. 

During scrimmages or contested small-sided-games, confirm victory with a made free throw. 

In high school, we had four rounds of 10 free throws durng practice. These included optional harassment of the shooter (no touching). The overall winner would face the coach. Usually, it took at least 38/40 to represent. Guys made 40. The stakes? If the player won, then no team sprints to finish practice. You'd never win the showdown against Coach with 9/10. 

In March 1973 Division 1 sectional championships at the old Boston Garden, our team made 10/10 at the free throw line in the fourth quarter to send the game into an overtime victory. Raise the stakes

Lagniappe: via @PickandPopNet

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Basketball: Study Your Mentor's Competition, "Reach for the Summitt"

Reading informs, inspires, enlightens. My assistant coach generously gifted me a couple of books after the season, including Reach for the Summitt. 

The book recalls Joseph Campbell's The Hero with a 1000 Faces about the hero or heroine's journey. Not a bad approach, it worked for Homer, every major religion, George Lucas, and more. 

The heroine (Pat Summitt) begins early life as a farm child, learning everything from tractor driving, to milking, to tobacco unforgiving journey, "milk cows don't go on vacation." Her background creates a work ethic up on time, pay attention, bust your butt. Recall that Nick Saban's father owned a service station and that young Nick washed cars. Leave a spot unclean and his father demands he rewash the whole car. 

She explores the players in establishing rules, like curfew. Ownership is everything. You can't argue with the rules...they're your rules

Her Tennessee coaching career wasn't an overnight success. Ascending to the Tennessee job as a graduate assistant in 1974, she first won an NCAA title in 1987...after she had won Olympic silver (1976) as a player and Olympic gold (1984) as coach. She had six losing trips to the Final Four before breaking through. 

Every player won't sail through. She describes struggles with punctuality for Nikki McCray, whose grandmother strapped on her watch after McCray was late for early meetings. 

She insisted that players call her Pat as she felt titles set up barriers and discouraged openness of communication. A high school coach once insisted on being called Coach when being addressed. I knew a specialist in the Navy whom the players called Mr. X behind his back. Position is granted; respect is earned.  

Summitt hated like tattoos and piercings, demanding that players cover them up with bandaids or cloth. 
She structures her book around her "Definite Dozen" values. She considered herself responsible for players...recognizing many were far from home and vulnerable to everything from drugs, bad influences, boys, and AIDS. 

Summitt didn't believe in privilege. She kicked her team out of their plus locker room (couches, wood paneled lockers, television) for a month because of poor attitude. A month? She said that it took her that long to get over their transgressions

At the time of writing, she reported a 100% graduation rate for four year players, which earns her credibility as an educator. 

Coach Summitt points out that sometimes you aren't the best, so surround yourself with better people. She hired Mickie DeMoss as assistant because Mickie a better recruiter and signed better national players than she could. Don't let stubbornness stand in the way of success. 

Lagniappe: Usher reminds us in his MasterClass to study your mentor's idols. Why study Summitt? She was the anti-hero to the Auriemma-led UCONN dynasty. My corollary is "study your idol's competition." What makes your competitors tick? 

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Basketball: Get More from Your Offseason Workouts

"Repetitions make reputations." 

Excellence inspires us. Coaches don't make players; players make players. How do you intend to get the most from the offseason? You can't think and train like everyone else and expect different results. Your task is to become the hero of your story within the team context. 

The offseason allows you to figure out your identity. Figure it out or ride the pine. 

Have a plan. "Plan your trade; trade your plan." - Linda Raschke

Examine, write, and study your plan. Ask coaches if you need help. Make out a realistic schedule of the specifics - how often, how long, what activities. Remember SMART - specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely. 

Playwright David Mamet says about your process, "this will kill them (your opponent) or this will kill me." 

Athletic performance training: aerobic (running), balance and footwork (e.g. jumprope), strength (weights) - I'll shares specifics soon. 

Skill building: ballhandling, shooting (be specific), basketball moves (e.g. 1-on-1). This blog recently reviewed footwork development. You must learn to finish. 

Knowledge: Reading, film study. Develop "next level thinking." If you're a high school player, what would college players study? If you're a college player, what would pros study? 

Emotional: Mindfulness training. Olympic athletes and NBA players do it. 80 percent of the most successful people harness the power of mindfulness. Why wouldn't you?  

Collaborate. If you're in the top 10 percent, elevate teammates with you. If you're in the middle 80 percent, commit to becoming a top 10 percenter. Work out with a partner. It's more fun, more efficient (e.g. you have a rebounder), and fosters competition. 

Do it right. Practicing bad technique only imprints your flaws. Get a parent, sibling, or friend to film your shot. Examine your footwork, balance, loading from the arches through the core (hips), elbow position, extension, follow-through, backspin. Steph Curry remade his shot in high school. 

Track. Yes, I'm repetitive. Darren Hardy writes in The Compound Effect, "winners are trackers." Motivation doesn't cause results. Results cause motivation. 

Use old fashioned graph paper or a spreadsheet program. You'll shoot better AND learn how to use spreadsheets and spreadsheet graphics. Many jobs require a working knowledge of using spreadsheets. 

Shoot, shoot, shoot. Game shots from game spots at game speed. Warm up properly with flips and close in shots. 

Picasso said, "Good artists borrow, great artists steal." Steal Steve's workout

Shoot off the catch, off the dribble, off fakes, off screens (we used trash cans as screens). 

Use the glass. Many players would shoot better if they invested time in using the backboard. "The bank is always open" and scientific study shows about a 20 percent advantage to using the backboard within 12 feet. 

Finish better. Fall in love with easy. Making or missing layups and close in shots often separates success from failure. Warm up with the Mikan and Reverse Mikan drills. The Tates Locke box drills are great to initiate separation. Excellent players have versatile finishes off either foot, with either hand, from either side of the basket. There's nothing wrong with spending the majority of your time on finishing inside. 

Prioritize free throws. Coach Tom Hellen says, "teams that can't shoot free throws last as long in the postseason as dogs that chase cars." Take and track free throws and work them in-between aerobic training so you shoot under conditions of sweat and fatigue. Shooting is a perishable skill; you must practice. 

Contain the ball. There's only one way to learn ball containment. You have to play. If individual defense isn't important to you, you won't be a good defender. You can jump rope and do defensive slides all day, but that won't teach you defense. With so-called positionless basketball, everyone defends away from the basket. 

Look in the mirror. Realistically assess your progress. Build upon your strengths and diminish your weaknesses. How will you leverage your strengths to improve your team? Will your weaknesses limit your playing time and production? 

Lagniappe: MSU Double Stagger Dribble Handoff PnR via Doug Gottlieb

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Basketball: Fast 5 - Offensive Footwork, No Secrets Just Work...Plus Candy!

Dance like your life depended on it. Dancing is footwork, not totally, but critically. So is basketball. Identify players committed to craft by their footwork. 

Coaching legend Pete Newell emphasized mastery of footwork, balance, and maneuvering speed. Footwork and balance are inseparable. Master the details. What techniques define you? 

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then videos are force multipliers. No single comprehensive footwork blog post exists, but excellent videos teach it. Don't reinvent the wheel. Show your players the videos...

Bad footwork inevitably leads to poor balance. As coaches, we routinely see footwork struggles because:

1) Feet are too close, not at least shoulder width apart.
2) Players are too upright, with a high center of gravity.
3) Players fake with too big a step.
4) Players forget to protect the ball
5) Players have slow feet

The videos: 

Kevin Eastman calls it perfect feet...six boards apart to maximize balance and range. Steph Curry would say, build your shot from your arches with your nose behind your toes. 

1) Drop step
2) Fake drop step, shot
3) Fake drop step, face up, crossover

1) Reverse pivot, shot
2) Reverse pivot, rip to basket attack
3) Reverse pivot, crossover 

Learn to finish with either hand from either side

Basketball is a game of separation. Eastman demonstrates the shoulders game where low player wins...using footwork, shoulders, and hips to separate. 

This introductory video (series of ten) introduces a series of ten videos of Newell footwork...sharing the reverse pivot into the deep step from the wing.   

Lagniappe: Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point, David and Goliath, What the Dog Saw, and others gives readers the entree and candy. The entree makes us think; the candy gives us something to talk about. They work together. Sharp coaching gives players the entree and candy, too..."knockout", "dribble tag", "capture the flag", "three-point contests" and more. 

Monday, March 18, 2019

Basketball: A Survey of Shell Drills

I grew up with Batman on television. He had a "utility belt" with fantastic tools. Batman had batarangs, a taser, smoke pellets, a grappling hook, and more. Find tools for your utility belt.

Coaches from elementary school to the NBA use variations of SHELL DRILL to teach defense. But shell drill teaches defense, offense, and communication with a little imagination. Variety helps players see the game through different lenses. 

Practice key elements. Princeton coach Pete Carril held that man-to-man defense 1) contains the ball, 2) controls screens, and 3) challenges shots. 

The BASE shell drill tests:
1) defensive stances, ball pressure, and core position (ball-you-man, ball-you-basket)
2) drop to the level of the ball
3) load to the ball (helpside "I")

The simplest iteration passes the ball around and skips to reposition defense. Generally, we play "LIVE" shell, with all scoring options allowed. Everything starts with ball pressure and containment. A team that can't contain the ball will never defend well.

Add difficulty with passing, cutting, and filling. 

More difficulty ensues with off-ball screens. Coaches decide whether to teach lock and trail, going through or under the screen, or selective switching. I teach weak side defenders to go under or through. 

"Whistle off" a defender to create a 4-on-3 scenario requiring recovery. You can disallow the defender from returning into play. 

Add a designated screener to create more complexity. 

Shell 3-on-3 with recover on the pass. 3 consecutive stops to win. Run at multiple involve everyone. 

Find other variations that work for you. 

Lagniappe: Regular execution of routine plays defeats the occasionally spectacular play. 

"Focus is more important than genius and there are perennial winners at every level of basketball (and other sports) from high school, to college and to professional who exemplify this. Their “genius” is their ability to focus when other coaches and programs around them give in to distraction." 

"It's the economy, stupid." 
"Rule 1, don't lose money. Rule 2, never forget rule 1." 
"The Low-cost airline." 
"Keeps going and going..."
"Democracy dies in darkness." 
Football: "block and tackle." 
Pitching: "work fast, throw strikes, change speeds."
Basketball: "get quality shots and deny easy shots." 

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Basketball: Selling Sacrifice

Winning is a privilege not a right. Our process invariably conflicts with our goals - development and winning. 

Programs arise from content and context. Language isn't just vocabulary. It's grammar, syntax, and style. How we weave our words makes all the difference.  

"Look at all the things you have to do to win: You have to sublimate your individual greed for the sake of the team. You have to conform to certain training rules that deny you the chance of having as much fun as your friends are having. You have to provide total mental concentration. All those require a great deal, whereas losing requires absolutely nothing." - Pete Carril, The Smart Take from the Strong

The distillate of sacrifice, discipline, and focus offer the chance at skill and will and their byproduct, winning. 

How can we best prepare the way? My coach, Ellis "Sonny" Lane emphasized sacrifice. Sacrifice means fulfilling roles that best advance the team.

Sacrifice speaks in many dialects: 

"The scoreboard is more important than the scorebook." 

WE  (We over me)

Letters  (Letters...wins...over numbers)


"The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few...or the one." 

Unity stands out as a Don Meyer prescription. 

In Why the Best Are the Best, Kevin Eastman defines sacrifice as "giving up something that may be best for you but not what's best for the team."  

But how do we convince individuals to sacrifice for the group? Sell it as our culture, our shared ownership. Build collective skill and will. On selfishness, Coach Shawanda Brown preached, "that is not how we play." The Navy SEALs teach, "two is one and one is none."

In Daly Wisdom, Pat Williams quotes Kelly Tripucka about Chuck Daly, "Chuck's philosophy was to get his best player to buy into his philosophy. If you can accomplish that, the others will follow what you are trying to do. Things will take care of themselves." 

Learn the psychology of influence. The Greeks used ethos (character), logos (logic), and pathos (emotion). Model excellence. Sell truth. Appeal to emotion. 

Learn Robert Cialdini's techniques from the landmark book Influence, especially the practical ones: 
- Commitment and Consistency ("sticking to your guns")
- Social proof ("everybody says")
- Halo effect (liking)
- Authority ("they know their stuff")
- Scarcity ("winning is rare, it's special") 

Many of history's great leaders lived lessons of sacrifice - Mother Teresa, Mandela, Gandhi, Lincoln. Sacrifice endures. 

Lagniappe: Sacrifice recurs as a basketball theme. @BBallImmersion 

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Basketball: Passing Considerations

"The difference between good writers and bad writers is that good writers know when they're bad." - Dan Brown

Fall in love with easy shots. Better passing earns better shots. Great passing pleases the eye. Consistent passing smells like victory. 

Selfishness, sloth, bad decisions, and poor execution inform bad basketball. Basketball offense tells a story; passes supply the verbs. Don't bore the audience with passes into the 8th row or dribbling the air from the ball. The beautiful game features multiple actions. Passers serve teammates; passing makes memories. Shame shuns passing. 


"Only the penitent man will pass." 

Why did you or didn't you make that pass? What did you or didn't you see? 

Willing passers create ball movement and stress defenders, who must cover more of the court. The highest points per possession (above) comes from scoring off cuts...the jazz of cutting and passing. When players won't make the right pass, was it vision, inability, or selfishness? 

Excellent passers create opportunities without turnovers (high assist-to-turnover ratio) and create "hockey" assists (above). 

Effective passers understand creating better angles, get scorers possession in their spots, use of space and time, and deliver catchable 'scoring' passes. Good timing with bad location (passes to knees, to off hand) hinders shooters. 

Receivers are responsible to "get in the picture" when "the ball is a camera." Sinking (above) helps passers find receivers. 

Know when NOT to pass. 
-Some players handle the ball poorly in transition, so their catch in the open court begs a turnover. Don't...pass...them...the ball. #PaddleHands
-Non-shooters shouldn't get the ball when there is a better alternative.
-Little guards cutting into the trees invite blocked shots. Don't encourage bad passes by receiving them in dark alleys.  
-Coach Knight said, "just because I want you on the floor, doesn't mean I want you to shoot." The corollary is to "know your receiver." 
-If someone is a poor free throw shooter, hide them in crunch time. 
-A player might "seem" open, but a help defender may lurk. Beware the help defender. 

In 'youth' and high school games, watch for the "Steal Me Pass" (left) of wing to top, worse still because it usually becomes an opposition score. And beware the "Bermuda Triangle" top to post pass through a sea of hands. It's not just age that turns coaching hair gray. 

Lagniappe: Quotes relating to passing: 

"Basketball is sharing." - Phil Jackson

“Passing is your best weapon against man to man. Dribble penetration is your best weapon against zone” – Bob Knight

“Praise behavior that you want repeated.” – Dean Smith

“A key basketball skill is imagery. The best players “see” situations before they happen so they can be prepared.” – Dr. Jack Ramsay

“The extra pass and the extra effort on defense always get the job done.” – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

“The pass is a very powerful team builder; whereas the dribble can destroy the spirit of teams and crack the foundation of team play.” – Kevin Eastman

“There is a direct correlation between the number of ball reversals and defensive breakdowns” – Kevin Eastman
"It doesn’t matter who scores the points. It’s who gets the ball to the scorer.” – Larry Bird

“The quality of the pass leads directly to the quality of the shot.” – Pete Carril

"Basketball is a simple game. Your goal is penetration, get the ball close to the basket, and there are three ways to do that. Pass, dribble and offensive rebound.” – Phil Jackson

Friday, March 15, 2019

Basketball: An Open Letter to a Young Player

Dear Young Player: 

Former Princeton Coach Pete Carril wrote, "It is hard to teach things that take time to learn." That's basketball. Get past hard

Learn what matters. It's not about you. Value starts with making your team better. 

Do well what you do a lot. If you're a defender or a rebounder, do that well. If you want to score, then you must learn to finish and shoot. 

Buy in; get value added.  

Buddy Hield grew his game and improved his shooting and scoring (above). Dante Scarnecchia coached up Patriot tackle Trent Brown; winning and performing at a high level got Brown rewarded. 

Model great relationships with your coaches, like Dean Smith and Michael Jordan, John Thompson and Patrick Ewing. 

Skill transcends dribbling, passing, and shooting. Playing hard is a skill. Toughness is a skill. Energizing teammates is a skill. Reliability is a skillKnow your talent and your role. 

Embrace fundamentals. "Technique beats tactics." Develop an elite skill. Ask yourself, "what can I improve today?" 

Look in the mirror. "If there's any doubt, there's no doubt." If you wonder about having enough gas to reach your destination, you NEED gas. If you wonder about your skill, then you need more.  

Study your mentors and your mentor's mentors. Your mentor studied to grow their knowledge. Their mentors had a wealth of knowledge to share. Drink deep from that well. 

Never stop learning. How does practice, a drill, or a lesson advance your story? What helps us score or stops opponents from scoring? We can always learn more, learn better, teach better. "See one, do one, teach one." If it looks good but doesn't accomplish anything, stop. 

Overcome what limits you. Improve your conditioning. Study the game (film, reading) to improve your vision. Plan your execution; execute your plan. 

Don't tell me why you can't; show me how you can

Lagniappe: it's a team game. 

Horns into Flex with Flare Screen option...

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Basketball: Surviving "The Life Parts" of the Game and Triple Lagniappe

Pete Carril writes in The Smart Take from the Strong, "When you teach basketball, it has its technical parts and its life parts." 

Coaches and players deal with humanity within the game. Humanity expresses itself as joy and anger, energy and fatigue, elation and frustration, sacrifice and selfishness, clutch and choking. 

We don't choose what happens; we choose our response. Don't allow frustration from missed shots to translate into sulking or doubling down into an immediate stupid foul. Don't let an officiating call become "halfhearted" disengaged defense. 

Coaches succeed by convincing players to play not by games or quarters but by competing possession by possession

Coaches understand that player relationships with each other, friends, and family affect effort and performance. A 'serious' student who gets a poor test grade can lose focus during practice or games. Take the pulse of individual players and the team. When we ignore the life parts of the game, the technical parts suffer. 

Lagniappe: Chris Oliver shows how teams use horns to slip. 
I teach the post player to be aware of the defender getting her shoulder in front of yours. 

Lagniappe 2: Various Horns actions from BBallImmersion

Sample from above, handback around. 

Lagniappe 3: Tips from Stephen Curry on Pregame professional preparation
- Adequate rest
- Stretching
- Nutrition
- Film study
- Pregame practice routine
- He has a two-ball and one-ball dribbling routine and a form shooting routine

"Hard work calms nerves." 
"Approach every game the same." 

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Basketball: The Mortar of Belief

"Do you believe in what you do? Every day? It turns out that belief happens to be a brilliant strategy.” - Seth Godin, in Tribes

We can only be as good as our self-belief. We need reasons to believe, a track record of getting things done. Belief finds balance between doubt and arrogance. 

The Wooden Pyramid of Success has FAITH and PATIENCE flanking the top of Competitive Greatness. Substituting BELIEF and TIME works for some people. 

Pete Carril writes in The Smart Take from the Strong, "When you teach basketball, it has its technical parts and its life parts." Mastery of the technical part is always incomplete; fill the gaps with the mortar of belief. 

Belief is always under construction. Build belief with preparation, practice, and endless repetitions. Earn belief through work and performance under pressure. 

Great athletes have insecurities, too. That's why they use advanced techniques like mindfulness and sports psychology for empowerment. Derek Jeter relied on coaching from Performance Psychologist Dr. Tom Hanson. Hanson counsels clients to focus on one pitch at a time. Belief lives here and now

Belief changes behavior. Patients are more likely to take their medication when believing in its effectiveness. Players do the work when they see measurable results...making tracking (from weight benched to free throw percent) important. 

Belief has limits. Belief in our power doesn't make us Superman. Cancer patients may not live longer because of a positive attitude, but they live better

During the "life parts" of coaching, we develop or destroy belief. Invest time in raising confidence that players have in themselves and each other. When players and teams earn it, remind them, "I believe in you." 

Bill Parcells reminds us, "confidence comes from proven success." 

Lagniappe 2: via Coach Liam Flynn
We couldn't execute the first pass, so we'd have to modify it. But the concept is good with
screen-the-screener action after ball reversal.