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Sunday, December 31, 2017

Teach the Playground: 2-on-2 Drill Coach Entry

We simulate most offense with small sided games (SSG). We are "teaching" the playground ball we learned as children. Lamenting changing times solves nothing. Rotate players through different offensive and defensive spots.

(Adapted from Bob Cousy, Basketball, 1970)

The coach initiates play with an allowed wing or post pass.

Wing entry

We're trying to simplify. Obviously, 3 could immediately shoot or drive. But we're developing "two-man game." We also not working on DHO (dribble handoff); we have separate DHO activity. Focus on give-and-go and screen-and-roll. 

Post entry: (can work the pairing at low or high post)

3 can cut through to receive pass but at a minimum, understands she eliminates x3 from "digging" or doubling the post. 

3 can relocate to an open area for a possible shot, isolation, or screen-and-roll. 

Make it simple. Keep it simple. Do well what you plan to do a lot. 

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Find the Epiphany

Learn from legendary literature and comic books. Tolstoy opens Anna Karenina, "All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." Tolstoy could write about teams, too. Spiderman shares, "with great power comes great responsibility." Good ideas come from anywhere. Be open to good ideas. 

Discover universal truths by just watching. Great players leverage game understanding using various degrees of athleticism and ability. No 'dumb' great player exists, although even great players make poor plays (witness James Harden's consecutive late offensive fouls recently). 

Excellent teams find strategies to wear teams down. Coaching young (11-12 year-old) girls this season, I'm focused on the long term...skill and will, not tactics. 

Karma. "What goes around comes around." If you want to be treated poorly, treat people poorly. 

Simple. Simple is hard. If we want really want to show people how much we know, simplify. 

Process rules. Study the Richard Feynman Technique. Learn, teach, review, simplify. We can use this for any area. Players first need to defend the pick-and-roll one way. We first teach "fake trap" (hedge, show), and can advance to others (trap (blitz), under, over, switch, etc.) after they show proficiency at one technique. 

Stories are powerful. Become a storyteller. "Someone is looking for something." Is it a journey, a mystery, biography, inspiring, comedy, a blend? Sylvia Hatchell gave her lackluster team a halftime speech. "Put your hand over your heart. Anybody feel a heartbeat? I didn't think so." The UNC women rallied to win. 

Share. "Share something great." Everyone has value. Draw it out. 

Patience. We all know about the Pyramid of Success and how "faith" and "patience" flank the top of the pyramid. Patience doesn't only mean player and team development. Patient teaches, "wait, wait, wait" for the screen. 

Patience also says wait for your opportunity. Don Kelbick shares "designated shooter." 

Movement kills defenses. Young players don't naturally move. There is no playground for them to learn to play. This is simple, but my newbies need this progression (work at multiple baskets).

  • Basic give-and-go
  • Screen away for cut and shot
  • Screen away for curl and penetrate
  • Screen away for roller opportunities
Sprint to the screen. Use angles for deception. Wait for the screen. Set up your cut. The screener is always the second cutter ("screen selfishly"). 

Friday, December 29, 2017

Fast Five: Head Start on New Year's Resolutions

New Year's resolutions only matter when we follow through. Kevin Cruse shared suggestions in a Forbes article. 

1. Increase my work capacity/efficiency. Invest more time; spend less time. Time is the ultimate commodity. Approach every day with 'beginner's mind' to energize and be the Positive Dog!

2. Seek understanding not validation. Ego is the enemy. 
3. Simplify. Simple is powerful. Every player deserves that. 
4. Growth mindset: Read more; Understand the reading better. Quality over quantity. 
5. Mindfulness every morning. I favor "Lion Mind" & "Body Scan." Free UCLA mindfulness.

Write better. Use the Elements of Eloquence. Lead followers and follow leaders. 


Think of it as a Horns "route tree." The point guard triggers actions on either side including high ball screen, blind pig action or screens away, including flex action. Wing entry (e.g. 3 coming up) could set up a UCLA-like cut, or a wing ball screen. It's all nonsense if players can't set up cuts, pass, and finish. 

Double bonus: Celtics vs Houston 12/28/17

I thought this might turn into a modification of "Portland" where 2 comes off the stagger and looks for the trey at top of the key (Celtics down 3). Instead, the Celtics inbounded to Smart (2) and brought Tatum (4) off an Irving screen (1) looking for a was overplayed and Tatum cut to the rim and Smart dropped the dime. 

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Fast Five: Rational choices, Psychological barriers

Self-deception leads to underperformance. "Good enough" seldom produces enough good. Improving our process means asking hard questions.

I trained in the early 1980s with a physician who served as a Navy ship's doctor. He diagnosed the captain with alcoholism (the captain repeatedly needed help boarding after binges). Doctors function as gatekeepers. Ultimately, he relieved the captain medically "for cause," recognizing personal career risk. This situation was not unique

The ongoing NCAA recruiting scandal presents systemic choice. When a system rewards corruption, then it incentivizes corruption ("everyone cheats"). When tough choices confront us, what's our process?

1. What would the rational person do in this situation? Cheating is not an option. Take a breath, step back and look in the mirror.

2. What psychological barriers exist to 'doing right'? We have parallel 'systems' defining our choices, the 'x' (reflexive) system, automatic response, and the 'c' system (reflective) controlling complex decision making. Fear (reflexive) is our most immediate impediment, fear of failure, fear of being caught cheating. Lack of experience (reflective) can produce paralysis by analysis. Overconfidence and arrogance can mislead us into a Custer choice. Framing also impacts decisions. "Win at any cost" may overpower 'color within the lines."  

3. What are the likely consequences of my choice (what if)? Sometimes "black swans" produce catastrophe, illuminated in When Genius Failed, the story of the collapse of John Meriwether's investment fund. What are the worst case scenarios? For example, playing in the face of multiple or unresolved concussions risks permanent brain injury. "Life or death" situations set up impossible choices, such as Wagner Dodge's at Mann Gulch. Michael Useem writes, “If you have difficult decisions to make and insufficient time to explain them, a key to implementation may be loyal allies who are sure to execute them through thick or thin.” 

4. Am I wrong? We may lack knowledge or evidence. Bill Walsh shared his willingness to adjust during games in The Score Takes Care of Itself. But sometimes ego interferes. Oscar Wilde remarked, "I can resist everything except temptation." John Calipari has a "personal board of directors" who help him with life decisions. Stress, fatigue, illness, or have improper motives (e.g. pride, revenge) impair judgment. Do we seek the best way or my way?

Kevin Eastman simplifies the process, "do it better, do it harder, change personnel, $#%& it ain't working." You can apply this to business or basketball strategy.  

5. How can I correct it? When we drive past our exit on the highway, do we continue indefinitely or find a way to get back on the right road? Excellent choices require "ego control" to guide us without destroying self-confidence. Ryan Holiday writes in Ego Is the Enemy, “Do you know how you can tell when someone is truly humble?  I believe there’s one simple test: because they consistently observe and listen, the humble improve. They don’t assume, ‘I know the way.’

"I am better today if I realize I am wrong."

Lagniappe: Brendan Suhr Horns set

Suhr's set provides a lot of options. 

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Wilde about Basketball and Lagniappe

Nobody has the wisdom market cornered. But Oscar Wilde certainly licensed it. The British wordsmith, famous for The Importance of Being Earnest challenged conventional Victorian wisdom and mastered word play. 

"Be yourself; everyone else is taken." Nobody can be Dean Smith or Clair Bee, but adopt best practices from many coaches

"We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." "Make the big time where you are." 

"The truth is rarely pure and never simple." There are many ways to succeed and even more to fail. 

"In this world there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it." - Lady Windermere's Fan (1892) Be careful what you wish for

"I can resist everything except temptation." "Do the right thing right now."

"There is only one thing worse in the world than being talked about, and that is not being talked about." There is no such thing as bad publicity? 

"All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does, and that is his." Nobody's perfect, well, at least us men.

"True friends stab you in the front." Acknowledging our mistakes makes us smarter today than we were yesterday. Real friends tell us when we're wrong.  

"A gentleman is one who never hurts anyone's feelings unintentionally." Time wounds all heels

"To expect the unexpected shows a thoroughly modern intellect." We can suffer the wounds of lack of preparation more often than lack of knowledge. 

Lagniappe: FIBA Horns: Pick-and-pop, back cut...a ball reversal horns set. 

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Fast Five: Overcoming "Handedness"

Our team has twelve right-handed players. This is a first for us. But we are too right-handed on offense. 

Being too right-handed offensively can produce poor spacing, too much offense from the side, and bad driving angles (makes using the backboard harder). 

When opposing defenses understand help principles, we'll struggle even more. 

How can we overcome this? 

1. Skill development. Ballhandlers 'naturally' prefer staying "strong hand" with straight dribbles, hesitation, in-and-out dribble, and less commonly 'double crossovers'. We need to improve our PASSING and "transfers" skill, especially crossovers and spins. 

Baby steps. We can learn from them.

Train to finish plays. 

Eventually, we can advance to complex separate-and-finish drills, like right-handed drives with spin back to the middle. 

2. Drill from the left-side of the basket (habit formation). 

3. Play small-sided games (SSG) from the left side of the split (line bisecting the baskets). 

4. Leverage strengths. Nurture and encourage existing strengths. Teach a few core skills, counters, and adequacy of non-dominant hand skills. The best player we ever had, WNBA draft choice, Shey Peddy, starring in Europe, seldom took more than two dribbles with her left hand. 

5. Teach the middle way. Offenses run through the middle, e.g. 1-4 sets and horns have no "natural" help side. 

Pick and pop

Heat double pick and slip. 

DHO 15 screen

X cross 3 iso

GSW actions

Monday, December 25, 2017

Interdisciplinary Ideas: From Plato to Drones

"I forget what I hear, I remember what I see, I know what I do." - Chinese proverb

Seek understanding of big ideas across disciplines. Big ideas are defined as ideas that are used to explain and make predictions about a range of related phenomenaApply them to your domain. Big ideas transcend disciplines. Paraphrasing soccer commentator Ian Darke, it's an "ambitious try." Necessarily, ideas overlap domains. 

Peter Bevelin wrote in Seeking Wisdom: from Darwin to Munger, "Charles Munger was asked what would be the best question he should ask himself: "If you ask not about investment matters, but about your personal lives, I think the best question is "Is there anything I can do to make my whole life and my whole mental process work better?""

Architecture: Combine best elements to create beauty and function. Our experience and knowledge can trap us beneath excellence. Note the "out of the box" design for the bench below. Solve problems with practice and innovation. 

Biology: Darwin wrote in The Origin of Species, “One general law, leading to the advancement of all organic beings, namely, multiply, vary, let the strongest live and the weakest die.” We need a variety of tools to survive, because humans lack exceptional speed, strength, thick hide, or warm fur. What helps us survive in basketball? We need to apply and withstand (evolutionary) pressure. 

Business: In Good to Great, Jim Collins noted the value of Level 5 leadership combining both humility and ambition (professional will). Stay humble. 

Chemistry: 10 million carbon containing compounds and new ones are produced everyday like plastics and synthetic fibers. Carbon compounds are the basis of life in all living organisms. What is the carbon of basketball? Footwork could be one answer. 

Communications: Data doesn't inform how to best engage your customers. Our knowledge or system doesn't magically spread. How do we teach and our players learn? Give and get feedback. 

Critical Thinking: what are the purposes and the biases that underlie ideas? Are the statements accurate? Is "one-and-done" the way or just another phase in the evolution of professional basketball? Are you an academic institution when you 'hire' athletes for seven months without bona fide educational intent? Obviously, the sign is meant as humor, however unfair. 

Economics: Prosperity, with eyes wandering from risk, sets the condition for future disaster, the "Minsky Moment." Some coaches depend excessively on talent. They won't or can't develop it and therefore are 'at risk' when the supply dries up (economics is the competition for limited resources). 

Education: Carol Dweck's "growth mindset" emphasizes the capacity for growth, not achievement based on intrinsic ability. Steve Kerr preaches mentors, culture, and mindset. 

Finance: "This time it's different." More resources are lost because people forget that temporary conditions are just that. The Houston Rockets have leveraged analytics into the third best record in the NBA over more than a decade, as expounded in Michael Lewis' The Undoing Project. 

Geology: Resources are limited...but in basketball, you can go to your "big gun" more often...unless she fouls out. 

Government: First Amendment (e.g. freedom of speech). The loudest voice isn't the most meaningful, but good ideas won't emerge unless we encourage them. Videographer Nick U'Ren's suggestion to Steve Kerr helped install Andre Iguodala into the eventual GSW championship lineup.  

History: "history doesn't repeat but it rhymes." Combining political expediency and unpopular social policy, Nicolae Ceausescu created tyranny and led to his overthrow and execution. He was followed by "a court of admirers and flatterers." Autocracy has inherent dangers in government and coaching. 

Marketing: "you will never convince someone to understand something whose livelihood depends on them not understanding it." If a player sees herself as exclusively a scorer, she won't become versed in passing and defending. We are salespeople. 

Mathematics: Via Cambridge Mathematics, "PROOF – mathematical statements can be proved or disproved using previously established statements, self-evident truths or assumed statements. This may be through the use of physical objects, diagrams, manipulatives, or algebra." Previously held truths, like defense wins championships can be examined in context and by using larger data sets and experience. 

Medicine: Evidence-based medicine established a deeper foothold in the past decade. Process, outcomes, and compensation are steadily getting more traction and linkage. Do we practice "evidence-based basketball?" 

Music: There is an optimal activation level corresponding to peak performance. This follows the 'inverted U' graph. Some athletes benefit from calming music and others excel with more stimulus. 

Philosophy: Plato sought perfection, but understood its unattainability. "Plato believed that the ideal version of love is a meeting of the minds and doesn’t entail a physical aspect―hence the term “platonic relationship.”" Larisa Preobrazhenskaya coached 'love and beauty', caring for players and their fundamental skills.

Physics: Gravity. The basketball has gravity, attracting to both offensive and defensive players. But discovery (like space travel) demands overcoming gravity...SPACING. You can use gravity to your advantage, like cutting to clear out a defender. But the general principle applies. 

Psychology: We share the pain of loss, loss of loved ones, status, opportunity, possessions. We struggle with intelligent risk-taking.  

Religion: Redemption is a common theme in religion, which is why the movie Groundhog Day has meaning for many religions. Sports allows us the chance to individually and collectively redeem ourselves after we struggle. 

Rhetoric: People like symmetry, AB and BA. In his inaugural speech, John Kennedy used chiasmus (rhetorical symmetry), "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." Mae West said, "it's not the men in my life, it's the life in my men." I tell players, "if we don't put an end to the turnovers, turnovers will put an end to us." 

Social proof: we often do what we see other people do, regardless of whether it's useful. The saying goes, "no individual lemming ever got bad publicity." 

Social Studies: "People generally do what is in their self interest." Within team sports we must leverage individual skills with molding social interactions and team play. 

Sociology: Auguste Comte advocated during the 19th that "science can build a better world." He preached basing "theory upon observation." The scientific method has expanded extensively through sports. 

Statistics: "Do more of what is working and less of what isn't." What we might intuit as working, may not actually work when rigorously examined. NBA teams assiduously examine myriads of data concerning scoring efficiency: shots off the dribble or catch, pick-and-roll, transition points per possession, et cetera. 

Transportation: Drones can now deliver critical supplies to remote areas. Norman Foster said, “Drones could go from killing machines to living machines.” "Reverse the ball." 


Celtics' dribble stagger reversal recalls the Spurs' hammer, but I digress. The object of their affection was Jayson Tatum, the NBA's percentage three leader. 

Basketball Tricolon

Tricolon is a form of rhetoric relying upon threes. Veni, vidi, vici. I came, I saw, I conquered. "Friends, Romans, Countrymen." "Duty, honor, country." Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. "Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." You get the picture. Three usually sounds better than two. 

Can we apply tricolon to our basketball lexicon? Yes, we can. 

Bill Belichick and peers cite offense, defense, and special teams. Basketball coaches use offense, defense, and conversion, the split second bridging between the former duo.

Historical personnel often came in threes- Chamberlain, West, and Baylor, Bird, McHale, and Parish, Jordan, Pippen, RodmanPierce, Garnett, and Allen. LeBron, Wade, and Bosh, and with apologies to Draymond Green, Curry, Durant, and Thompson.

The UCONN women had Stewart, Jefferson, and Tuck

Offensive staples are layups, threes, and free throws. Youths learn the "triple threat" position. In Basketball Methods, Pete Newell wrote about basketball offensive pivot roles - scorer, passer, screener.  

The Rockets' 2016-2017 shot chart chitters the conventional wisdom. 

Defensive communication is a must, with emphasis on "early, loud, and often." 

My last pregame talk kept it simple, "attack the basket, attack the glass, and attack the ball defensively."

Dribble, pass, and shoot get the leads, while rebound, cut, and pivot get shorter shrift. Three referees monitor the action and the thirty NBA teams have three letter abbreviations. Three-point shots can be reviewed but never three-second violations. 

New Yorkers have "Let's Go Knicks" while the Thunder chant "O-K-C." Not an accident. 

Less than a handful (ironically, three) of NBA teams celebrate the portmanteau of championship three-peats.

There's something magical about three. 

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Define "Playing Well"

I doubt that my (young) players have clarity on "playing well." They need clearer expectations. In his postgame remarks on December 23rd, Brad Stevens made two key points: 

"You have to try to play well every game." That's an organizational priority. But for some players, that may mean my numbers"What do we have to do to play well?"

Intangibles matter. Help your teammates (make others around you better), compete each possession, and find ways to contribute even when parts of your game aren't working. 

This can't happen, but sometimes does. You know it when you see it, especially on the glass or defensively. 

"Playing well" needs specifics. 

Attack the basket 
Create good shots (via player and ball movement)
Take quality shots (ask them what that means)
Limit turnovers
Anticipate and rebound aggressively

Take away offensive intent
Deny transition baskets
Pressure the ball
Avoid needless (stupid) fouls (distinguish between bad play and bad players)
Rebound with superior position and toughness

Recognize and anticipate (awareness and alertness to possession change)

"Playing well" won't always translate to winning, because of nuanced skill, athleticism, size, game understanding, and experience differences among young players. But that doesn't preclude setting better expectations. That's on me. 

Find Energy Daily on the Path to Our Better Version

We need energy. "Nothing great is ever accomplished without enthusiasm." 

Industriousness and enthusiasm comprise the cornerstones of the Wooden "Pyramid of Success." Their sum equals energy. 

Excellent players have the 'four E's' - energy, the capacity to energize their team, 'edge', and execution. 

Each practice, the coach and point guards need authentic energy. Young girls may refrain from bringing energy, fearing being labeled 'bossy' or 'bitchy'. We have to overcome those sentiments and train everyone to lead. 

Jack Clark expounds brilliantly: 

Jon Gordon wrote The Energy Bus. In every community, energy givers and energy takers coexist. Failure lives where the energy takers dominate. 

We radiate energy through our communication, our words, our tone of voice, our non-verbal communication. Or we don't. 

Sometimes we can reinforce energy with an inspirational video, inspiring words, or music. 

MacArthur's rhetoric at West Point is exceptional. Everyone finds their muse. 

Even the harmonica can raise the energy level in the room. 

Movies bring energy and pathos into our lives as well. 

Energy helps you work hard, work smart, and work consistently. "The magic is in the work." 

Work hard enough, smart enough, and long enough and the results might be glorious. 

Lagniappe: Symmetry "winners" from 1-4 sets. 

Saturday, December 23, 2017

A Teacher's Life: The Story of Teddy (and Lagniappe)

Among other devices, the Greeks used three powerful tools for influence - ethos, logos, and pathos. Ethos represents credibility, expertise, or character. Logos uses facts to construct the argument. But pathos, emotion, renders the most powerful persuasion. 

Coach Bob Starkey shares a memorable Christmas story at HoopThoughts. Relationships make all the difference. 

Lagniappe: Just as we need "go to" half court offense and zone offense, we benefit with reliable BOBs and SLOBs. 

SLOB Special (Golden State). We use the cross-screen to inbound and the serial screen to get the layup. I broke my rule about running stuff we haven't practiced. It worked perfectly, up to the point the second pass went off the 5's leg. Credit to the young players who focused during the time out and did their best to execute. 

Close and Late: Touchdown. The PG to the ball is the decoy for the touchdown throw. 

Friday, December 22, 2017

How Does It Feel?

How does it be coached by me? 

Many of us coach children, learning competition, collaboration, and coping with adversity. Many have limited experience with frustration and failure, both individual and collective. Modeling humility and sportsmanship is part of our job. Correction is not criticism, but burying players on the bench is not coaching. "Never be a child's last coach." 

Why are we coaching? Do we have unmet ego needs that only winning fulfills? Purpose not passion provides balance. 

Establish clear expectations. I believe in rewarding effort, engagement, and competitiveness. But that doesn't mean robbing Pietra to pay Paula. Developmental programs owe opportunity to everyone. 

Do we provide conditional or unconditional love? Jack Clark, legendary rugby college coach preaches conditional love. "When you start looking at people who are really successful, who are part of successful organizations, the last thing they are is unconditional. We’re pretty highly conditional here." But for those of us coaching pre-teens, those obstacles are not the way. We're in the business of providing tools to craft futures not applying chisels. 

The origins are unclear but the meaning is not, "if all you have is a hammer, then everything looks like a nail." How does it feel to be coached by me? 

Fast Five: Taking Charges

"Basketball isn't a contact sport; it's a collision sport." 

1. Shaka Smart belongs to the "I'm from Missouri" school of SHOW ME as he demonstrates taking a charge pre-game while at VCU. 

2. Pictures are worth a thousand words. Outstanding FIBA officiating breakdown video

3. Generally, the ball-carrier committed a charge if all of the following are true:

-The defender was still, or moving sideways or backward but not forward, when contact occurred.
-The defender took a legal guarding position before the contact, that is, one with both feet on the floor.
-The defender was hit on the torso (as opposed to the arm or leg).

4. Taking charges requires both technique and toughness. 

5. Anticipation of offensive actions can set up the charge. Defenders can also fake to one side and react to the opposite to "bait" the offensive player into charging. 

Brief Shane Battier video with inputs: VISION, ANTICIPATION, COURAGE

Each coach must decide how to coach taking charges. 

Christmas Wishes for Student-Athletes

Coaching changes lives. Education changes behavior. It's almost Christmas; here's part of my wish list for players. 

1. Respect your parents. You won't agree with everything they say or do, but listen because they want the best for you.

2. Study as though your life depends on it. "The magic is in the work." As Coach John Wooden remarked, "activity is not achievement." Be fully engaged. If you can learn basketball, you can learn everything in high school. 

3. Read. "The differences between who you are now and whom you become in five years are the people you meet and the books you read." I'm always working through several, currently including Seeking Wisdom: from Darwin to Munger and The Elements of Eloquence (a book about speaking more powerfully). Do extra reading. 

4. Think. Ask better questions. What's the enduring lesson? Why are we learning this? How can I apply this? 

5. Manage yourself. Invest your time don't spend it. 

6. Dream big, work bigger. Match your work to your dreams.

7. Value your teammates. Your family is a team. Your classmates are a team. Play FOR the team not ON the team. 

8. Lead. Model excellence. Be an exemplar. 

9. Serve. Serve the team. Make everyone around you better.

10.Be humble. Be modest in victory and gracious in defeat. 

Lagniappe: SLOBs to win 

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Telling the Truth

Reality exists in the human mind, and nowhere else.” ― George Orwell, 1984


"You can't fool children, dogs, and basketball players." - Kevin Eastman

The Declaration of Independence, our national charter, established a standard for truth. What does that mean for basketball and coaching? 

Sometimes truth presents contradictions. We grow individual excellence but the good of the whole supersedes the wants of the individual (minutes, money, shots). Rhetoric discusses "student-athletes" but reality celebrates "one-and-done." Amateurism drowns in an ocean of athletic scandals capturing some of the biggest names in basketball. How often do coaches say "defense matters" and reward defenders with time on the pine

In the interview below, Sherri Coale "accesses player thoughts" by processing "how they feel about what happened in the analyze their own involvement in the game." 

What we say and how we say it matters.

"They become very well versed at saying the truth about just what occurred."

Truth exists. It's our job to dissect the truth from amidst false hustle, good fortune over good process, and the politics of opportunity. 

Coaching young girls (this year, sixth graders), I filter the truth through parents. That includes needs for more aggressiveness, more effort, and more sharing (selflessness). It might mean position or role changes. Patience and belief count.

Truth or excuse? We're seldom getting more than nine players at practice now, because of epidemic illness (flu). We can't play everyone on the same page when all the Paiges aren't playing. So we spend even more time on fundamentals because "two better players are better than two better plays." Statistics have a role. "She's a great shooter." She shot 2 for 22 on three-point shots. Paraphrasing Billy Beane in Moneyball, "If she's such a great shooter, why doesn't she shoot better."

We don't want to hear truth about size needs, athletic deficiencies, strength training (better when peak height velocity arrives), and 'activity competition' as players have chorus, drama, or play multiple sports. 

Nobody (including us) wants criticism of their substance or style, however truthful. Confirmation bias (reading what supports our beliefs), anchoring (relying on first information available), attribution bias (blaming external factors), and irrationality often dominate. "The behavior of National Football League teams on fourth downs departs systematically from the behavior that would maximize their chances of winning."

Our response usually mimics Red Auerbach's, "so he made a study… I couldn’t care less."

Truth has degenerated to our perception. Can we improve our perception? Here are a few possibilities:

  • Tracking. Last season a parent monitored playing time. Whatever I might "think" happened didn't always correspond to actual time. That allowed me to "make up" additional time for players who got shortchanged. 
  • Mentoring. Atul Gawande, a well-known Boston surgeon, hired a surgeon to oversee his process, comment, and suggest improvements. 
  • Questioning. What do you like about practice? What isn't good enough? "We need more water breaks" or "I need more individual work on this." 
Finding truth requires caring and openness. Acknowledging that "I can always be better" and working toward becoming our "better version" gives truth a chance.


Tom Thibodeau used to run this with the Bulls. High ball screen with a "flat" set designed to create options for stretch 4, screen-and-roll, and corner 3 off help. Simple can be powerful.