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Monday, November 30, 2015

Decisions Determine Destiny

Choose wisely.

Defensive Offenses in Basketball

Basketball analytics show the 'rise of offense' as key winning metrics. But that doesn't mean that defense lacks a role.

Effective defense limits 'easy baskets' and open three-point goals, forces turnovers, and regains possession with defensive rebounding.

What sins prove mortal for basketball teams?

They generally fall into two categories - lack of effort and poor awareness/execution. These lists are not meant to be all-inclusive, but illustrative. 

Lack of Effort
  1. Poor transition defense
  2. Failure to block out
  3. Failure to contest shots
  4. Inadequate ball pressure
  5. Allowing cuts to the ball (give-and-go, weakside cuts to the ball)
  6. Lethargy in defending the post
Lack of Awareness
  1. Missed assignments. If you can't cover your player, you can't play.
  2. Failure to help.
  3. Failure to rotate on the help.
  4. Lack of communication. "Silent teams are losing teams."
  5. Rotating away from open corner 3s.
  6. Allowing back door cuts. 
When you demand ball pressure, players will get beaten off the dribble. Remind players that "the ball scores." It doesn't matter if your player doesn't score when you don't help or rotate. You are still responsible in the five-person task. 

Players need to provide both 'coverage' and 'protection' and aggressive on-ball defenders need to know they will get protection. 

Conversely, coaches appreciate the players who "get it", who play solid pick-and-roll defense, who help and rotate, who trap properly, who dig at the post when indicated, who do the 'little things' that add up. What kind of player are you? 

Grantland Separates the Wheat from the Chaff...Assists and Advanced Shot Charting

Grantland explores why the NBA is focused on the "hard 2".

Okay, there are exceptions...

Chris Paul (CP3) has an array of crossovers and step backs that set him apart. 

First, the most important paragraph from the article:

One takeaway from the data gathered from this tracking is that shots that immediately follow passes are much more likely to go through the hoop than their unassisted counterparts. The best kinds of shots result from teamwork, and the worst kinds are a result of selfishness. Last season, NBA players attempted just over 200,000 shots. Fifty-three percent of these shots qualify as assisted, while 47 percent qualify as unassisted.1Overall, the league’s shooters converted 45 percent of their shots — the assisted tries went in 51 percent of the time, while the unassisted shots scored only 38 percent of the time.

Next, the results of effective process:

...four of the NBA’s top five teams in assists per game also rank in the top five in shooting.

In today's analytics world, it's points per shot and points per 100 possessions that define you. Bad teams in the NBA have a higher percentage of unassisted shots...and that translates to little winning. 

Four of the five assist leading teams are among the NBA elite...part of the problem for the Celtics is their low three-point field goal percentage...the Celtics are 26th in three-point FG percentage (.314) while Golden State clocks in at .429. 

Evan Turner has an effective mid-range/pull-up jumpshot game, but he, Amir Johnson, Marcus Smart, Jonas Jerebko, and even R.J. Hunter are below the Mendoza Line equivalent of thirty percent. 

In today's NBA, the Celtics can't even dream of becoming an elite team until they start draining the long ball. 

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Learning How to Win

Winning demands a process - consistency, attention to detail, preparation, and solution-focused attitude. Deviation diminishes our likelihood of success.

Teams are comprised of people, people who need leaders not managers. Leadership is never complacent. "I'm pleased, but I'm not satisfied."

"Do the next right thing right now." Life is about doing more of what works and less of what doesn't. OMFG (on my own field goals) come with a far lower shooting percentage than shots from assists. "Basketball is a game of cutting and passing", not standing and incessant dribbling. The worst defensive offenses come from blown assignments or failure to recognize "the ball scores."

"Be ready when an opportunity comes." Preparation means knowing what is needed, when, and how to execute. The Spartak Tennis Club has produced more top twenty women's tennis players through the years than the entire United States has. Players focus on strokes for years prior to going into competition. “It looked like a ballet class: a choreography of slow, simple precise motions with an emphasis on tekhnika – technique.  Preobrazhenskaya (the lead coach) enforced this approach with an iron decree: none of her students was permitted to play in a tournament for the first three years of their study.  It’s a notion that I don’t imagine would fly with American parents, but none of the Russian parents questioned it for a second. “Technique is everything.” Preobrazhenskaya told me later, smacking a table with Khrushchev-like emphasis, causing me to jump and speedily reconsider my twinkly-grandma impression of her. “If you begin playing without technique, it is big mistake. Big, big mistake!””

Commit to fundamental excellence and focus on borotsya (the struggle). It's the work, not the talent, that builds champions. 

Be the solution not the problem. Part of the process is defeating your greatest enemy, yourself. John Wooden's father taught him, "Don't whine, don't complain, and don't make excuses." We can lapse into attribution bias as we blame outside forces (officiating, field conditions, distractions) instead of accepting how we played.

Be humble. Recognize the contributions of teammates and others who help you succeed. The humble player notes the strengths of others, her limitations, and strives to be her best. Humility encourages sharing both the ball and the credit. Humility means perspective. Humility means choosing what is right, but not necessarily what is right for you. 

Never give up. Dean Smith noted how a Carolina team overcame an eight-point deficit in the final seventeen seconds and beat Duke in overtime. Always take ownership of your effort. Be relentless and resilient. 

Jon Gordon on Greatness

Podcast from Jon Gordon. No time? Okay, I've got annotations. But he's informative and funny. The annotations are the (mostly) secular version of this message (to a Christian radio group).

"One person who answers their purpose has an impact on so many people."

"The Christian shoemaker doesn't honor God by putting crosses on shoes. He honors God by making great shoes."

"Stage I, prepare to be great."

"To work harder, you have to care more...about your craft."

"Distractions are the enemy of greatness."

"We can be a carpenter or a craftsman."

"The only thing they're focused on is their craft."

Stage II, "the planting stage." You can't reap unless you actually sow.

Jerry McGuire moment, "help me, help You."

"It's about making sure we remember our purpose."

"We don't get burned out because of what we do, but we get burned out because we forget why we do it."

"We can bring our mission to our work every day."

Stage III, "the growth phase."

"That pruning, that adversity, that failure is meant to refine you."

"Why wouldn't we choose to believe that our best days are ahead of us?"

"She gave the thumbs up. I don't always get that response, though."

"I learned to just keep running."

"Do we focus on what we have to do or what we get to do?"

"Your greatest challenge will often serve as your greatest opportunity."

"During that growth phase, look for opportunities."

Fourth stage, the harvest stage.

"Experience the impact of what we're doing."

"Become someone who can bring out the greatness in others."

Shot Accountability - A Dirty Dozen Points to Ponder

Basketball process informs results. Process especially determines results with respect to shot quality. I'll share some common and uncommon ideas regarding shot quality.

Doc Rivers calls poor quality shots "shot turnovers." That should become a "thing" like "hand down, man down" or "the bank is open."

Jay Bilas in Toughness writes, "it's not your shot it's our shot."

Every player on a team should know what a good shot is for herself and her teammates.

Poor quality shots can be out of range, off-balance, closely guarded, out-of-rhythm, or some combination.

Shooting isn't just about skill as it reflects both decision-making and execution.

You don't want to see the "what-was-that" face from your coach.

Avoid taking "My Turn" shots. It's...not...your...turn.

Shooting percentage off passes is far higher than off YOUR creation.

I don't use the scorebook to determine your worth...neither should you.

Papa John says, "Better ingredients, better pizza." Better shots, better shooting percentage. "Papa John" your shots.

The quickest route to better shooting goes through better shot selection.

Find four ways to score. None traverses "bad shot land."


As coaches, teachers, and leaders we become STEWARDS of our program. Our position charges us with overseeing the program, the team, and the individual players. We have a great opportunity to become positive (or negative) forces in young people's lives. But we need them to "buy in" by "adding value" in a way they can see. 

Part of that task involves identifying problems and doing our homework to craft solutions. I like to use visuals to help players see the teaching points of who we are and how we play. 

Former Navy SEAL Brian Hiner reminds us, "Good leadership usually brings good followership. Bad leadership will almost always destroy followership." Effective leadership doesn't just happen. Yes, some people have natural leadership traits, but we can cultivate communication skills (listening and speaking), learn to add move value in skill development, and study how leaders succeed or fail. 

A good steward knows what her team needs and when. When players or your team struggles, bringing a "second helping" of correction, criticism, or something worse isn't 'creative engagement'. It usually feels like 'piling on' or 'adding insult to injury'. After a not-so-well-played victory, reminding players "what is unacceptable in defeat is unacceptable in victory" can sometimes be better absorbed and tolerated.

As organizational leaders, we make mistakes. Coach Mike Neighbors shares some here

Here's an example:

This mistake shares a lot of crossover with the previous one we just talked about. It stemmed from years of observing and collecting ideas. I wanted to start this. And implement that. Wanted to have this and that. Wanted to promote our program in this way and that. I wanted us to travel this way and that. I wanted our locker room to have this and that. You get the picture.

Pictorially, it's this: 

A good steward puts her people in the best position to succeed. That might mean playing a "system" and bringing in players to fit the system or adjusting how you play to the personnel available to you. From the opening practice, I've emphasized a few themes:

First, "we play fast." I'm selling it as "learn to fly." We're small and athletic and the running game gets everyone engaged.

Second, protect the circle. It's about the thirteen girls on the team. Play together. Phil Jackson of "Eleven Rings" fame emphasized a tribal culture of sharing, using the Lakota Sioux as worthy examples. In his book, Jackson extensively discusses Tribal Leadership.

Develop a culture where valuing each other matters. 

Pace and Space

Basketball teaches a grand symmetry...get quality shots (offense) and give one bad shot (defense). Create separation (cutting and passing) and deny separation (ball pressure and denial).

The good steward makes it easy to create good followers.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Shooting Form Breakdown Delle Donne

For our team to develop offensively, we need to shoot much better. "Form begets function." Let's review the ProShot video of Elena Delle Donne, the WNBA MVP.

0:24 Footwork to create separation. You play 100% of the game with your feet.
0:29 One dribble into a mid-range pull-up. Great players need fewer dribbles.
0:41 Dribble into jump stop with jump shot...
0:50 Great extension (arm) on the shot.
1:04 ProShot system (turn, not squared shoulders)...this helps some players get better alignment, including pointing the elbow at the rim.
1:10 This continues with a "dip" and "sway"
1:23 She prefers the 1-2 over the "hop". Either will work.
1:55 She may be the best free throw shooter in professional hoop, men or women
2:05 I often talk about "lifting" the shot. Delle Donne is the example.
2:20 "The bank is open."

Great players build their reputation from the repetitions to develop great fundamentals. "Repetitions make reputations."

Friday, November 27, 2015

SLOB Zipper into Off Ball Screens

Timing is everything.

This SLOB gets the ball into the 3 of a zipper cut, then turns into middle screen. There is some initial delay on the weak side to create a possible separation for 2. If she doesn't get the ball, then she continues through to screen for 1.

Problems? This doesn't get rebounders near the glass and potentially 5 has to be the primary defender in transition. If you have the right timing and the right personnel, this gets a lot of action going to the basket.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Opportunities for the Ball Screener

Some players view setting screens as "gut work" with the 'glory' going to the ballhandler. Nothing can be farther from the truth.

Yes, the ballhandler should attack the basket first and the screen may inform separation for an open perimeter shot. But often the player most open will be the screener.

In this excellent, brief video, observe the roll, slip, and pop options for the screener. If you're hungry to score, learning to screen and to finish can help you pile up points. Just Google Karl Malone if you need proof.

SLOB Jersey

We use a modification of this SLOB. I find this play attractive because it could also be used as a basic offensive set.

It's always important to put your best offensive players in positions to make plays. I think of this as:

1) A diamond
2) Near side off ball screen
3) Screen the screener action for 5
4) DHO into high ball screen

Simple Half-Court Trap Attack

I'm old enough that I'm forgetting struggles. For example, I don't remember overcoming MOST zone defenses as that big a deal. That may be because we had a front line in high school that was 6'7", 6'6", and 6'3" and no shot clock.

But a lot of teams wrestle with zone defenses and traps because they lack an attack mindset, with no specific scoring intent.

The ball moves faster than the quickest defender.

Establish multiple options for passers.

Keep the 2 behind the 1 in the backcourt.

Move the ball quickly to distort the zone.

Flash into gaps.

Pass then cut.

"Drive for show but putt for dough." You have to finish the play, not just advance the ball.

Overcoming Adversity Starts with You

“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.” - Ernest Hemingway 

Adversity is your companion on life's journey. People who survive said, "I'm going to take control of my thoughts."

One exercise people have recommended is writing a letter to yourself giving yourself a road map or plan into the future. Your challenge, day to day, is following that blueprint to your destination.

Admiral McRaven shares his life wisdom.

Small choices can massively change outcomes. "Changing the world can happen anywhere and anyone can do it."

  1. Make your bed every morning. "The little things in life matter."
  2. "Everyone must can't change the world alone."
  3. "Nothing mattered but your will to succeed." What is the size of your heart?
  4. "You still end up as a sugar cookie." "Keep moving forward."
  5. "Everyone made the circus list." Failure can make you stronger. 
  6. "Slide for life." "Sometimes you have to slide down the obstacles head first." 
  7. "Stand your ground." "Don't back down from the sharks." 
  8. "You must be your very best in the darkest moments."
  9. "The power of person can change the world by giving people hope."
  10. "If you want to change the world, don't ever ring the bell."

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Impact of Praise

This video restates Carol Dweck's remarkable work in "Mindset".

Praise for effort is far superior is to praise for achievement/intelligence. Success follows effort and the struggle, sometimes called 'grit'. "The group that was praised for effort worked harder, longer, and actually enjoyed this test more than the group that was praised for their intelligence."

Praise effort.

Basketball Shooting Baby Steps

We have to stay in fundamental mode. Too many young players have 'idiosyncratic' shooting form...meaning they do what they do.

Jerry Krause shows proper technique to kids. Our players can learn from these younger players.

Fred Hoiberg shares proper alignment and warmup.

                 You can't have "too much" form shooting.

If you practice doing something incorrectly, you reinforce that process and don't develop proper technique.

                  Paul George.

Maya Moore

If you have your elbow out (chicken wing), you simply won't shoot consistently. Some coaches are teaching 'the turn' to correct elbow positioning. Hip, shoulder, elbow, and wrist must line up.

There is only one person who can correct your shot.

Monday, November 23, 2015


Danny Amendola is interviewed by ESPN Boston today.

“I had a feeling it was the case before I came here, but then I got here and I was just in awe with how hard he works,” Amendola said of Brady. “I feel like the best of the best in any sport not only plays well, but they get everyone around them to play really well, and the best they can. That’s what Tom is about. He gets everybody around him to work really hard, and in turn, that gets everyone to play hard for him and everyone respects that.”

Whether a player or a coach, you need to determine what you want and whether you are willing to pay the price. 

In "First, Fast, and Furious" Brian Hiner writes about the "swim buddy" system employed by the SEALs. It assures that organizational performance is higher and that individual performance becomes subservient to team goals.  

"Two are one and one is none," is how they express that. The stronger member of the team helps the weaker excel and collective performance improves.

Optimizing communication at every organizational level (coach-player, coach-assistants, player-player) is one of the great challenges faced. Part of that is normal until everyone's goals are aligned. 

Last year we had only one award, the "Teammate Award", presented to the player voted by her teammates as best representing the concept of a "good teammate." I'm considering awarding  a different award this year, called the "Craftsmanship Award", to the player the girls vote as working hardest at the craft of basketball.  Danny Amendola's comments reflect the craft excellence of Tom Brady and how that informs the Patriots' success. 

Top Ten Passing from FIBA

Basketball excitement isn't all about the US. As basketball expands around the world, player show creativity and imagination combined with astute decision-making and execution.

These clips illustrate the diversity of play around the world.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Part-Whole Player Development

Although basketball is a team game, it begins with winning the individual challenges starting with one-on-one play.

There's a saying, "good players need two dribbles, excellent players one dribble, and elite players no dribbles." In this video, Coach Collins shares a drill with a spin-back into one-on-one with a one dribble limit. Teaching players how to practice has great meaning.

We say it other ways, "make the dribble take you somewhere", "play with purpose", and "play north and south."

More on Checklists

I may never be the best coach, but I can become the best coach I can be. Phil Ford said of Dean Smith, "I got a coach for four years, but I got a friend for life." I believe in checklists to assist in that process.

In what areas is a team proficient and where does it need improvement? We have our first games next weekend with a holiday tournament. I've assisted with another team from time to time and saw them play two games yesterday which helps me with assessing our team progress.

As previously discussed, checklists help promote competence and excellence in many areas including aviation, construction, investing, medicine (surgery), and restaurants. When we watch our teams play what primary and secondary competence areas deserve scrutiny?
  1. Am I preparing players for their bigger "life's task?"
  2. Would I want my child playing in this program because of added value?
  3. Do I have the team's pulse socially, emotionally, and physically? 
  4. Do the players know and care about our basketball philosophy
  5. Can we apply and defeat defensive pressure
  6. Do we have a major weakness on offense, defense, or conversion?
  7. Can we score both in transition and in the half-court? (The latter becomes especially important against better teams, zone defense, and in the post-season.)
  8. Do we have offensive and defensive solutions for special situations (key possessions against man, zone, BOB, SLOB, delay, time-limited decisions)?
  9. Do we do enough of what we do well or too much of what we do poorly?
  10. Are we improving, static, or regressing, especially at "seeing the game"? 
We've had four practices (total of seven hours) together and I certainly don't have answers to all these questions. For example, I believe in being on time and being ready to go when it's time to go. Youngsters dependent on getting rides to practice don't have control of that. Parents may struggle to get their child to practice on time because of work, family commitments, and special circumstances.

Winning youth basketball games isn't my first priority relative to adding value to prepare players for success. But wherever we coach, if we focus our curiosity on developing character, commitment, and competence, the players have a chance to flourish through developing a meaningful process.

Develop your own checklist and monitoring system. Successful individuals have self-awareness, self-regulation, social skills, empathy, and responsibility.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Pure Shooting Drill and Imaging Sampler

37 point drill. Modify for your player age and experience.

Another view.

              Coach Nick on "The Hop."

Whatever the language, the shooting stroke speaks for itself.

Developing a Simple Two Guard Front Offense

Most coaches have a well-defined offensive philosophy. If you have five players who can put the ball on the floor, pass, and shoot you would want to play "dribble drive" with penetrate and pass options. Most of us won't be so lucky.

If you have limited practice time, you can spend it teaching players fundamentals and how to play (2-on-2 or 3-on-3 actions).

But times arise where you want simple actions from simple sets. I call this the "Hinkle" series after former Butler great Tony Hinkle. We are small and reasonably quick and I want players to execute 'simple' basketball actions.

When there is post entry, simple options are blind pig (wing back cut), running 1 off the 5, 5 isolation, or weak side screening action. In this 2 has floor balance responsibility.

With wing entry, 1 has a UCLA cut and goes through, 3 can isolate or get a ball screen and there is weak side screening action.

Alternatively, 3 has a clean isolation and/or wait for screens away.

5 can set lower and get 'split action' (conventionally the passer goes through first) to create pass and cut or a perimeter shot or a handoff pick-and-roll with 5. Here 2 screens and 4 pops or you might want a different alignment with 4 high to get the screen and roll action. It's easy to imagine how you can modify this into "Triangle Offense" but the more you do, the less well you do it.

It's always more about the ability to execute and finish than the complexity of the actions developed.


What's better than one screen? Some coaches will argue 'multiple screens' that come in multiple forms - staggered (sequential) screens, double screens, elevator screens, and screen-the-screener plays.

Why screen? Screens challenge even able defenders. They exact a physical toll, can create separation, mismatches, free shooters, and corrupt defenses by forcing compromised help and rotation. Teams use them to create direct scoring chances and sometimes to draw fouls.

Of course, you can deploy screen-the-screener action in regular sets or special sets like the BOB above or SLOBs.

Coach Pintar shares this elegant screen-the-screener action with both diagram and video. Only our imagination limits our creativity. Execution requires the right admixture of timing, deception, and finishing ability. 

Web Wisdom - Quick Ten

The Internet excels at providing content; you must provide the context. 

Leaders relentlessly upgrade their team, using every encounter as an opportunity to evaluate, coach, and build self-confidence. - Jack Welch

The best decision you'll ever make is to choose a positive attitude!

Small minded people believe you are rejecting morality when you reject their visions of morality. - Will Spencer

"Lead People to Believe in Themselves"

You cannot become distracted by success. Losing focus happens just as much through prosperity as it does adversity - Rick Pitino

I’ve found the most common trait among the great players I’ve coached is that they’re all willing to learn and coachable.

"Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad." < Noise vs Signal

You can die from someone else's misery—emotional states are as infectious as diseases.

"Just remember that nothing is as bad as it seems, and nothing is as good as it sometimes appears." Truth is in the middle. - Troy Aikman

Whatever your mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve. Trust yourself.

Grease the Skids

In Brian Hines' "First, Fast, and Fearless" he describes the value of "ethos" in getting things done. He includes the stated company values of WD-40 led by CEO Garry Ridge.

These values inform a successful process that translates as well to basketball as the corporate world.

Here are the first five:
  1. Do the right thing. 
  2. Create positive, lasting memories in all our relationships.
  3. Make it better than it is today. 
  4. Succeed as a team while excelling as individuals. 
  5. Own it at and passionately act on it. 

We could substitute individual words by adding "how do we" first:
  1. Care (about others)
  2. Communicate (with others)
  3. Improve (the culture)
  4. Share (with others)
  5. Embrace (the task)
WD-40's vision captures collaboration and competence, teamwork and excellence. As Hines writes, "They are not a set of rules; they are a set of guiding moral principles." 

We need to communicate to our TEAMS our expectations and help them internalize and live them. 

BOB into Offense

I like inbounds plays that have an option to flow 'naturally' into offense. I also like the 'Horns' set, which takes interior defenders away from the basket.

Here's an example:

The play starts with a 'vanilla' box. After an inbound, the 3 might have one-on-one action, but it's designed to free the point guard at the top via an "elevator" screen. 4 and 5 'close the doors' on the elevator after the inbounder (1) cuts through.

If you have a point guard who has three-point range, they might get an open trey, or you are set up for a 'natural' flow into the Horns set. There are a lot of choices at that point, including high ball screen, a quick 'slip' to the basket for one of your twin high posts, or any of the many 'horns' options.

Friday, November 20, 2015

O-D-O (Offense-Defense-Offense) Three Possession Games

Practice activities should translate to game play. Practicing special situations also matters. Why not combine them?

We have loads of issues getting teams prepared for the season, especially with new players and a new style of play. But we can combine special situations into scrimmaging with "O-D-O" three possession games. Because we have thirteen players, we usually scrimmage with three groups - 4, 4, and 5. That also allows different groups to play against each other.

For example:

Free throw (offense) into defense (can be pressure, man-to-man, zone, combinations) then offense with competitive scoring. Offense can work on transition, specific sets, or even delay during its possession(s).

Baseline out of bounds starts the offensive possession. This allows players to practice against live defense and if you want, you can even put in a new BLOB with the defense "naive".

This might have come from or not. 

Start the sequence (O-D-O) with Sidelines out of bounds (SLOB). I favor BLOBs and SLOBs that can run as independent offensive sets.

You can also initiate the action as an "after time out." For example, assign the defense as maximum pressure and ask the offense to execute "close and late", e.g. down by 2 or 3 with five seconds to go in their own end.

Three possession games offer more realism than some forms of static scrimmaging and permit a lot of flexibility and competitive play. The less teaching interruption during the 'game' the better the flow. The possibilities are myriad.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Great Share from Coach Pintar

In the NBA, some say 75 percent of plays involve screens, because defending screens presents a constant challenge.

Coach Pintar shares a high ball screen into an "elevator" screen.

Try to visualize what it would look like before it actually happens. It's easy to see how the 'Horns' set could inform this play.

Stay Fundamental to Improve Shooting

I dislike the term "back to fundamentals" because we don't ever leave fundamentals. After this week's practices, we need to spend more time on basic shooting. Frankly, struggling with players shooting the ball correctly is better than having more success with poor form.

Coaches at every level are frustrated by an inefficient offense, especially from a low shooting percentage. Finding solutions demands a dual track - focus on better form (form begets function) and better shots.

Shot selection. Every player should know not only what is a good shot for them but for each teammate. Quality shots come on balance, in rhythm, in range, and not closely guarded.

Range and shot selection. You build range from the inside out. But you also have to work on developing a variety of 'game shots', coming off screens, shooting off the dribble, and finding basketball moves that will create separation to get you to your finish.

More on mechanics. Have ten toes to the rim. Kevin Eastman has a saying, "Eyes make layups and feet make jumpshots."

The dominant foot should be slightly ahead of the non-dominant foot. I was taught to have shoulders square to the basket, but an equally valid theory has the lead shoulder in front. Both elbows should be in, "squeezed" together. The guide hand is on the side of the ball but not pushing the shot, and the ball should rest on the finger pads, not the palms. The arc of the basketball (scientifically) is optimized at 53 degrees and 3 Hz (revolutions per second). This has been proven with basketball 'shooting machines'.

Power (distance shooting) comes from your legs.

Targeting. Pete Maravich discovers targeting in the third video.

Appropriate warmup. Few things make me as crazy as seeing players come out to "warm up" their shot by shooting perimeter shots.

                Steph Curry shows both concentration and technique shooting what I call 'flips'.

You need to have enough separation to get your shot off. But Redick starts his workout by making 25 layups from each side to cement his form.

Form shooting helps "purify" your shot. What it does is lay down myelin around neural "highways" in the brain making your action quicker and more reproducible.

Elena Della Donne has the highest Player Efficiency Rating in professional basketball history. The narrator discusses the 1-2 (versus the 'hop'), and Della Donne's technique involving the turn (shoulder in front), dip (of the ball), and sway.

We're going to devote half of next week's Monday practice to shooting mechanics and shooting development.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Leadership Imperative

Because I coach middle school girls, I have an exceptionally important job, to reinforce positive traits to help them mature into responsible adults and good teammates. Succeeding at basketball can be the byproduct of 'doing the next right thing right'.

Core leadership principles reflect core values.

  1. Communicate. "The Legacy Builder" (by Rod Olson) describes speaking greatness.
  2. Be positive. Catch people doing things right. 
  3. Establish your priorities. 
  4. The welfare of the team comes before individual concerns (especially those of the leader(s)) US means 'unity' over 'self'. 
  5. A "performance-focused, feedback-rich" environment informs competitive advantage. What is not learned has not been taught. 
  6. Authenticity is great unless you're an authentic jerk. 
  7. Ask "how do I improve today?" Be a committed learner. 
  8. "Don't whine, don't complain, don't make excuses." - John Wooden
  9. Be detail oriented. "Take care of your business."
  10. Make sure players realize that you're on their side. Add value. 
  11. Respect other people's time. That means punctuality and productivity. 
  12. Create and refine a process that others can identify, grow, and enhance. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Good Teams

Kevin Eastman says that great offense is multiple actions and great defense is multiple efforts. That translates to predictable actions for 'good teams'. 

What do good teams do? 

  • Good teams don't allow easy baskets (transition, put backs, layups, free throws from bad fouls). 
  • Good teams make excellent decisions. 
  • Good teams take care of the basketball (limit turnovers).
  • Good teams take better shots.
  • Good teams pass well leading to easier shots. 
  • Good teams communicate on both ends of the floor. 
  • Good teams are in exceptional condition. 
  • Good teams are mentally tough, disciplined, and compete. 
  • Good teams care more about the scoreboard than the scorebook. 
  • Good teams P U S H Through. They have passion, unity, servant leadership, humility, and thankfulness. 
  • Good teams focus on how WE GO, not ego. 

Cutting Corners

A Physician's Assistant I know asks everyone for a small piece of wisdom or life advice. I recommend, "Share something great." 'Great' doesn't necessarily mean some universal truth or high intrinsic value. You could recommend an outstanding book, a vacation spot, a recipe, or even a fishing hole.

I prepare a practice schedule but often deviate because of time constraints or find that a drill or segment isn't working. Because we have thirteen players, we usually scrimmage with groups of four, four, and five. The scrimmage involves a certain amount of possessions before the next group substitutes in.

Here's yesterday's practice schedule.

At one point, because of the team's overall lack of concentration, I stopped practice and sent the players on a a test. At the UCONN women's practice at Gampel the other day, I watched the players take a couple of warmup laps before practice. No player cut a corner. NONE. At our practice most of the players cut the corners, some never even got outside the lines. I considered this a teachable moment, explaining that excellence comes from preparation and attention to detail. Coach Wooden might have said, "if you don't have time to do it right now, when will you have the time to do it right?"

Doing it right matters. Working your process matters. When you 'cheat the drill' you cheat yourself and your teammates.

If you're a young player and you give a lackluster performance at practice, what does that say about you? Do you 'cheat the drill' when you do your schoolwork or at a part-time job?

UCONN won their road opener last night against 7th-ranked Ohio State, 100-56. If excellence is your ethos, you don't cut the corners.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Off the Shelf: "First, Fast, and Fearless" by Brian Hiner

The Navy SEAL experience has captured the imagination of Americans not only because of their gallantry but because of their shared values, teamwork, and leadership.

Brian "Iron Ed" Hiner shares his insights as a SEAL and SEAL trainer in "First, Fast, and Fearless."

He emphasizes the debilitating impact of toxic leadership, whether in the military or business community. Fear and stress related to poor leadership dampens imagination and problem solving.He shares its negative effect on productivity, resilience, retention, and morale. He notes that SEALs have the highest retention in the military, but poor perceived leadership doubled the departures.

He explains the SEAL leadership as 1) Brand, 2) Brotherhood, and 3) Battle Rhythm. For us in the basketball community, this translates to who I am, who we are, and how we play. Alternatively, we can view it as character, teamwork, and execution.

Those of us who teach young people basketball have a great responsibility to model effective leadership. Books like "First, Fast, and Fearless" help us to help them. Sometimes we can learn as much as we share.

Body Language

We all communicate verbally and non-verbally. Some expressions are unmistakable and others more nuanced. Vanessa Van Edwards briefly reviews body language in sports. 

Certainly these are the expressions we're looking to generate, but life often doesn't work that way. 

Even great players manifest bad body language.
I'm guessing Blake Griffin questioned an official's decision. 

The "shirt in mouth" doesn't exude confidence. 

Even blind athletes assume the "victory" or "Pride" position. 

Some coaches work to limit expression. Danny Ainge said of Brad Stevens, “Sometimes people can misinterpret competitiveness by facial expressions and demonstrative and yelling and screaming and throwing coats. He has a great control of his emotions, a great temperament, and is not nearly as demonstrative. But he is extremely competitive.”

Amy Cuddy reports (along with neurochemical changes in testosterone and cortisol) that body language shapes who we are. Better body language correlates with stronger performance and better results in job interviews. We can consciously control and improve our body language

Notre Dame coach Mike Brey discusses body language in this brief video. 

The Genard Group has a body language 'cheat sheet'.

As coaches, we should avoid conveying dismissive or negative body language to our players (closed positions, back turning to players, excessive finger pointing, unintended tone of voice, etc.). That doesn't mean ignoring play or behavior deserving correction. But we should make an effort to maintain control to get the desired results (better decision-making or behavior). 

As players, increase your awareness of how your negative behaviors may adversely impact teammates, coaches, and officials.