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Saturday, August 12, 2017

Fast Five: The Answer Man

"When I was in high school, we had a coach I learned a lot from - all negative...our coach believed that the answer to everything was drills and conditioning, but the only tragic flaw in his system was that when we lined up, we didn't know what the hell we were doing." - John Gagliardi in The 21st Century Basketball Practice by Brian McCormick

There's the old story about the coach holding a basketball, running his hand over the surface, telling players "this is what there is to know about basketball." He then takes a Sharpie and draws a tiny circle on the ball. "This is what you know about basketball." 

Henry Finkel happened by my office one day, looking for another doctor (I am NOT his doctor). I said, "It's great to meet you Mr. Finkel. I've never met an office furniture magnate before." He laughed. I replied, I know "27 points a game, All-American at Dayton." He said, "how do you know that?" I replied, "it's disturbing." 

I do not have all the answers, by a long shot. But like Diogenes, I'm looking. 

We find some answers at practice. But summer workouts bring a degree of frustration...a small number of players get some instruction and the tetrad of explanation, demonstration, imitation, and repetition (EDIR). But it's a seminar not a lecture hall of eager students. 

Developing and implementing a basketball curriculum is a tremendous challenge, amidst competition for student's attention from a panoply of other opportunities. And teaching "the science" of sport, without the application won't get us far. 

As Brian McCormick writes, "do my drills focus on technical skills or do they include the tactical decision making similar to a game?

Clearly, players need fundamental offensive (dribbling, passing, shooting, rebounding, pivoting, and cutting) skills but need "applied fundamentals" to flourish. 

I call this drill, "10 seconds to glory". 3 needs to learn how to read and use screens to get open. The drill runs on a countdown after entry to 1. If 3 can get open on the wing, she can shoot, get 'iso' if the post relocates to the elbow, play "two-man game", get a side pick-and-roll, dump the ball to a post on the cross screen, or (rarely) get a give-and-go with 1. If 3 can't get open, a post has to flash to the ball and set up a new set of possibilities. But the "clock" is running. Defenders have to decide whether to lock and trail, overplay, switch, et cetera. 

I'm realistic. Middle school girls don't SEE most of these as possibilities. And when they do, the execution seldom is eye-catching. But I'm still carrying the lantern. 

Finding a balance between teaching fundamentals and game action and the ballet of VDE (vision, decision, execution) determines our progress. Even having a process gets stymied by summer reality. Blending the 'science' and the 'art' into a creative success, possession by possession, drives our agenda. 

The UNC Women's Soccer program had a sign in their locker room, "We Have One Agenda: Excellence." 

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