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Wednesday, July 31, 2019

The Rough Reality of Basketball Roles

Role resentment is the permafrost of players...hard to see, harder to change. Unhappy players feel angry, devalued, worthless. Minutes, "involvement" and especially appreciation count. Dean Smith scored points by publicly recognizing reserves making key contributions. In Monday Morning Leadership, David Cottrell writes, "People don't quit jobs; people quit people." 

Even in the NBA, most players are role players. And in the NBA, role players, former stars (Carmelo Anthony) or rising stars (Boston Celtics 2018-19), have trouble accepting reality. Big paychecks don't equal high performance. 

Execution demands knowing your role. There are no dumb questions. If your opinion diverges from the coaches, unhappiness is inevitable. It's a zero-sum game; player A gets more minutes, player B gets fewer. Player C gets more shots, another takes less. What if you get your chance and you're not ready? That's on you. 

A men's team scrimmages the UCONN women daily. They simulate future opponents, play hard, and don't dish out physical punishment. They're not understudies but more than practice dummies. They accept the obscurity coming with their job. 

Excel in your role while striving to overcomePractice well and you have a chance to rise. Dissatisfied? Ask coaches how specifically to contribute more. Do not bring snowplow parents into the equation. Kevin Eastman says, "you own your paycheck."  

Feel trapped? We can't change size, but control athleticism, skill, and attitude. What is your plan TODAY to grow your athleticism and skill? Did you do the work of extreme ownership to earn a bigger role? 

The world judges us not by words but by actions. "Your actions speak so loudly, I cannot hear you speak." Preach sportsmanship, opportunity, and fairness and practice hypocrisy and phone cams and social media will call us out. And they'll be right. No truth. No trust. No loyalty. 

We can't make everyone happy. Communicate better, define roles, and show players that we value them. 

Lagniappe: Ask better questions when assigning roles.

What projected playing time box should each player check? The playing time box is a form that I use at the beginning of the season so that I know where each player thinks he stands–1) Start and play regularly 2) Be in the regular rotation, be on the team–no guarantee of playing time.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

What Should Youth Basketball Look Like? The Power of TEAM.

"One grain of sand can turn the tide; one single spark can light the night." - Bomshel, The Power of One

Youth basketball rarely looks good. First, what should it NOT look like? 

Don't confuse the game with Fight Club. The first rule is "there is no Fight Club." Coaches shouldn't be screaming Banshees, berating officials, humiliating players. No child deserves bench banishment. 

Don't script every possession. Is anything worse than hearing, "Alabama, Porcupine, 15 Alpha?" Gimme a break. 

Forget about Night at the Opera me-me-me basketball. Shot selection can't mean "I see the basket, let it fly." Or "my turn." Don't dribble the air from the basketball and each player's initial instinct isn't "put it on the floor." 

Do you instantly recognize the coach's child, "Shoot it, Billy. Nothing but net..." where eleven other kids are second-class citizens, the chorus to Daddy's Dream? 

A good game gets everyone to lean in. Quit the cellphone. Inhale this game. You know it when you see it. High octane basketball. 

  • Be a great teammate
  • Empower yourself to create within the scaffolding of TEAM. 
  • Go with you best stuff. (Why wouldn't you?)
  • Find ways to imprint a mark on the team experience. 
  • Make everyone around you better, on and off the court.
  • Learn how to play; see the game
  • "Don't cheat the drill." 
  • Focus, engage. 
  • Be "full tilt, full time." Coaches do play favorites, players who give more. 
  • Listen. Two ears, one mouth. 
  • Have fun. If nobody's smiling, you're doing it wrong. 
  • Energize.
  • Develop a philosophy. What does the game mean to you? 
  • Respect the game. Hand the ball to the official. 
  • Encourage your teammates and mean it. 
  • Find mentors and study your mentors' mentors. 
  • Support your child, unconditionally. But support the other kids, too. 
  • Keep your child's health, your family, and school as priorities over sports. 
  • Connect with the other families
  • Remember that the officials are somebody's children, too.
  • Cherish the memories.
  • Help kids make positive memories.
  • Families, school, and a child's health come first. 
  • Never leave the fundamentals.
  • Build a program, not a statue. It's about the players.
  • Embrace a clear philosophy. "Basketball is sharing." - Phil Jackson
  • Teach, teach, teach
  • Build a culture of which you can be proud. 
  • Have perspective. These are children, not professionals.
  • Thank your players for their effort. 
  • Thank your families for their sacrifice. 
  • "Unsure?" What's best for the team? 
"Never be a child's last coach."

Lagniappe: via @John_Leonzo

Monday, July 29, 2019

Basketball: Containing the Dribble, Practical Tips

The skill and athleticism of the modern athlete challenge dribble containment. And all excellent defense begins with containing the ball, preventing dribble penetration. 

How do we reconcile the containment arms race, the defensive mongoose against the offensive cobra?

Mindset and will. Defenders adopt the attitude of winning individual battles. "Stops make runs." Intent and effort must be all-in, all-the-time. 

Conditioning and footwork. Players have ultimate ownership of their conditioning and footwork. Training prior to the period of PEAK HEIGHT VELOCITY will be less effective. "calculating a child’s onset of PHV can enable the strength and conditioning coach or sports scientist to tailor the training programme in synchronisation with the athlete’s biological age." 

Jumping rope improves conditioning and foot speed. Dancing offers alternative means to condition, improve strength, flexibility, speed, and agility. 

Elite performers blend footwork, agility, and conditioning. 

Technique. Different coaches want neutral or directed containment. 

Kevin Eastman's "Force to tape" concept is easy to understand. 

No matter what your technique...practice, practice, practice. Play one-on-one starting with dynamic action like the Foster Drill. 

Communication with help. Packline defense evolved to help contain the dribble. Zone defense dominates youth basketball to force perimeter shots and to control the dribble. But good defense relies on communication for containment. 

Performance-focused, feedback-rich coaching. We reward the best individual defender with a starting position. Because ball pressure matters so much, reinforcing terms are constant reminders. Develop your own. 
  • "Nose" on chest
  • "Don't back down"
  • "Crawl" up into them 
Lagniappe: Another Eastman drill for dribble containment "Dog Drill" 

You find out who 'wants it' and who goes through the motions

Lagniappe 2: I spent my junior season in high school figuratively chasing a chicken, a reserve guard named Frank. I still have nightmares about it. 

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Basketball: Revisiting The Road to Character, A. Philip Randolph

"Sports don't build character; they reveal it." - Heywood Hale Broun (famously attributed to Coach John Wooden)

We model lessons for our players. Imperfectly. Adults teach communication and respect. We shine. We err. Asking players to show character when we don't exceeds a fool's errand. Etorre Messina reminds us, "character is skill number one." 

In The Road to Character, David Brooks shares character through biographies. Brooks writes, "I was born with a natural disposition toward shallowness...I'm paid to be a narcissistic blow-hard...We can shoot for something higher than happiness. We have a chance to take advantage of everyday occasions to build virtue in ourselves and be of service to the world." 

What is character? Character is a person's intrinsic "moral and mental qualities." Character sums our actions not just our words. Character reveals what lies behind the curtain. 

Brooks profiles labor and civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph in his chapter on Dignity. "These qualities—his incorruptibility, his reticent formality, and above all his dignity—meant it was impossible to humiliate him." Randolph had vital roles in organizing the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Workers and an early March on Washington. The Pullman Company agreement reduced the work month from 400 hours a month to 240 hours (still almost 60 hours/week) and increased pay. His negotiations with President Roosevelt led to a Presidential Executive Order prohibiting discrimination in the defense industry and in the military. 

Randolph lived mostly in poverty, refusing well-paying government jobs to work for the advancement of the common man. “Justice is never given; it is exacted and the struggle must be continuous."

Randolph advocated non-violence and served as an anteambulo to Martin Luther King. We might consider him the American Gandhi. He deserves remembrance for his role in both labor and racial justice.

Coaching affords us daily chances to make a difference, to help young people with character growth in their formative years. 

Lagniappe: "Love keeps her in the air when she oughta fall down." 

Lagniappe 2: 3 on 3 full-court Run and Jump drill 

"Turn the ball and trap the ball..."

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Basketball: The Main Thing

"The main thing is the main thing." - David Cottrell, Monday Morning Leadership

Get everyone on the same page. Nothing exceeds Pete Newell's "get more and better shots than our opponent." 

How? Fill in the details - offense, defense, conversion. Manage the list. Prioritize symmetry - offensive pluses guide defensive minuses

Offense: "Our shot"
  • Get quality shots.
  • Take care of the basketball. "The ball is gold." 
  • Spacing ("What does that mean to you?")
  • Cutting and passing 
  • Screening
Defense: "One bad shot" 
  • No penetration (contain the ball...HARD)
  • No middle
  • Limit offensive spacing (load to the ball)
  • Challenge shots without fouling
  • Every defensive rebound
  • Anticipate.
  • Sprint. "Basketball is not a running game; it's a sprinting game."
  • Protect the basket defensively.
  • Attack the basket offensively.
  • Practice conversion. Change drill/dynamic starts (not always dead ball)

What's your why? What's your purpose? 
  • Seek mastery. 
  • Share the best possible player experience possible. Everyone won't buy into that.
  • Control what you can...every day, from energy to feedback. 
Share experiences players can take home saying, "Practice was good. I learned. I got better." 

Lagniappe: "Don't have eighteen minutes? How about three?"

Lagniappe 2: The power of spacing, screening, passing, and cutting. Via @BBallImmersion
Lagniappe 3: "Constant interruptions are the destruction of the imagination...your worst enemy will have your most beloved face." - Joyce Carol Oates     

Protect time for thinking. 

Friday, July 26, 2019

Basketball: Why Do Giants Lose?

"Basketball is a game of mistakes." - Bobby Knight

We lose basketball games by making mistakes; win by forcing and avoiding mistakes. We allow a score off the opening tap, travel 30 feet from the basket, or fumble a pass out of bounds at the wing - malignant acts of self-destruction. 

Against a superior chess player, our only chance is their grievous error. And best of however many games, that simply won't happen. 

Because results blend skill and luck, we have to neutralize the advantage of superior talent to defeat giants. Underrepresented skill means reducing mistakes

David and Goliath is the paradigm for why giants lose. They lose because of intrinsic flaws (Malcolm Gladwell argues that the giant has acromegaly, "the Giant is blind."). They lose because of overconfidence (Aesop's Tortoise and the Hare). They leverage the unexpected (Villanova's sharpshooting over 1985 Georgetown)...or an opportunistic score.  

Author Neil Gaiman explains the importance of dragons not in their existence, but in our ability to defeat them. We love the underdog story, Rocky, The Karate Kid, Leicester City (2016), Super Bowl XXXVI.

As Rick Moranis reminded his team in Little Giants, "One time." 

Cobble together our advantages to find the one time. But the "one time" momentous upsets come with caveats. 

Free throws matter
Villanova shot an astounding 78.6 percent in their championship win over Georgetown and shot nineteen more free throws in a two point win. They lost the turnover battle 17-11, including six by five-for-five Harold Jensen. We can't get to the free throw line or put opponents in foul trouble with an overabundance of perimeter play. 

Even in the modern NBA, Toronto outscored Golden State at the free throw line in five of the six Finals games during their 2019 title run. 

Perimeter scoring still helps. That doesn't mean three-point shooting doesn't matter as the winner in each of the Finals games scored more threes than their opponent. 

John Wooden's admonition that "little things make big things happens" is critical during the postseason, as good teams allow fewer transition points, fewer unchallenged shots, and make offenses work harder for everything in the halfcourt. 

Lagniappe: What makes champions? Inspiration...and perspiration. 

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Basketball: Tell the Story You Want to Hear

"Don’t write sentences; write the story." James Patterson

Tell the story you want to hear." Maybe you love the brief, meteoric ascent (and decline) of Jeremy Lin. It's Babe Ruth calling his shot. Today, it's a potpourri. 

Humans are storytellers. Kafka wrote, "everyone is necessarily the hero of their own imagination." Great stories capture our imagination. The last song Doug Collins heard in the locker room before the 1972 Olympic loss to the USSR was "What Becomes of the Broken-Hearted?" Did anyone consider making Collins an assistant on another Dream Team? The 1972 team refused their silver medals. Some team members included provisions in their wills that their family would never accept the medals. 

Why do professional sports teams have salary caps? Salary floors keep greedy management from taking all the profits. Do leagues care more about fans and competitive balance or the inability of "principals" to lack restraint and spend too much and create an "Arms Race". Unfettered spending keeps billionaires from getting richer. We hear endlessly about greedy players and never about greedy management. "But the risk?" Where's the risk in buying an NFL team? 
The NFL salary cap for 2019 is 188 million dollars. 

Data to 2017 shows that the New England Patriots captured nearly 600 million dollars of revenue in 2017. 

NBA players aren't afraid of much. But they have a healthy fear of NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like ibuprofen and naproxen. Anti-inflammatory medications are associated with high blood pressure, fluid retention, stomach distress, and rarely kidney disease. But widely-publicized kidney failure (Alonzo Mourning, Sean Elliott) raised red flags for athletes. Teams want players on the field as management seeks to extract maximum value from athletes. Players are commodities to management. 

Wanna beer

Five MLB teams charge more than eight dollars for the privilege. 

Teams traffic on our loyalty to them. How often have they loved you back? 

Lagniappe: Need a three? Via @HoopsSean 
Staggered and elevator screens limit "easy" switching. Yesterday's LOOP and LOOP OPTION action (below) create multiple possibilities. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Basketball: Differentiate Yourself

"Excellence is our only agenda." - UNC Women's Soccer

As a player, differentiate yourself. Carve out a role, bring your set of special skills to the court. Define and cultivate them...defender, rebounder, facilitator, scorer. Bill Russell explains that, "imagination leads to innovation leading to differentiation." Know your role and work to expand it

Up to age 30, the player (above) hadn't done much or played much. "Value" measures a player's efficiency and minutes. At age 30, he moved to the Spurs and averaged about 30 minutes a game, increased his offensive and defensive role, and helped earn three NBA titles. Bruce Bowen and the Spurs made a great marriage. 

Character informs who you are. Legendary EuroLeague Coach Etorre Messina counsels, "character is skill number one." Reveal your character positivity via your attitude, choices, and effort. "Repetitions make reputations." 

Choose a growth mindset. Work today to build tomorrow's better version. 

You have to practice game shots...whether full LOOP or a 3 off screens. (JB = Jaylen Brown). 

What differentiates Golden State from the rest of the NBA? Note the dramatic difference in scoring off cuts and in transition...high points per possession. 

Become a Learning Machine. I watch MasterClass lessons daily seeking transferrable skills and principles. 

Nobel laureate Paul Krugman shares this Adam Smith quote from Wealth of NationsHe intends only his own security; and by directing that industry in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value, he intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention.” Offenses and defenses create mini-economies of supply and demand. Coaches are one influencing Invisible Hand. 

Develop signature play. Players and coaches leave their mark through their execution and style of play. Signature play also offers the element of surprise. Alabama avenged its 1970 thrashing by USC by unveiling the wishbone to win the rematch in 1971. 

Promote core organizational values. "The main thing is the main thing." Our high school philosophy was sacrifice. In a developmental program, we emphasize teamwork, improvement, and accountability. If players embrace these values, they can translate to other parts of their future. 

Lagniappe: Seek balance.

Serena Williams doesn't read articles about herself...she looks at the pictures. She feels that positive articles distort who you are and negative ones can destroy your confidence. She saves articles to read when her career is done. 

Lagniappe 2: via @HalfCourtHoops  The quality of cutting and passing often determines the quality of shots.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Basketball: Separation Advice for Players

It's not rocket science. Every coach knows this information. I guarantee that young players don't

Listen up, Youngbloods. "Basketball is a game of separation." Offenses want it; defenses deny it. The ball is the gold in Fort Knox. Separation is your security system. Protect the gold or steal it. 

With our MasterClass theme, teach techniques to get (and overcome) separation. 

Five players, one ball. Sharpen your greed to score, create separation without the ball (the eighty percent) or with the ball (twenty percent). "Ball skills" demand more time to develop, so you'll overweight time with the ball. Either way, it starts with footwork and geometry with defenders. 

Think "change of pace and change of direction." 

Without the Ball

Read the defender. What is your relationship (positioning, vision) to the defender? And what is your position relative to obstacles (screens, officials) that collaborate with your goal? What does the defender see? 

Take high defenders higher and cut back. Take low defenders lower and front cut. 

When a defender helps up, relocate. 

"The ball is a camera." Open the driving lane and create opportunity for yourself. 

Another version of the same concept. 

Inhabit your defender's "headspace" walking lower, you become temporarily invisible. 

Defender plays off? Cut at her and react to their movement. Restated, attack the defender to get separation. 

Got a screener? 

Read the screener. 

Head-turning defender? Defenders must "see both." Make them pay when you become invisible. When baseline drivers beat their man, rotating bigs CAN'T see you...get to the open spot. 

With the Ball

Do you have the dribble or have you spent it? You attack with your dominant side, your non-dominant side, or combinations (e.g. double crossover moves). Develop a consistent move and counter. I saw one unstoppable freshman girl who only used hesitation, crossover, and combinations of both. 

Dominant side: 
  • Speed
  • Hesitation dribble
  • In-and-out (fake crossover)
Non-dominant side:
  • Crossover
  • Through-the-legs
  • Behind-the-back 
Ball screens are another discussion. Screening isn't "grunt work." The screener is the SECOND CUTTER. Screen to score. 

If you want the ball, work for it. 

Lagniappe: Via Chris Oliver @BBallImmersion 

Floppy into Stagger *(Multiple actions) 

Monday, July 22, 2019

Introduction to Your MasterClass, Basketball: Five Hearts

Basketball differs for each of us - challenge, distraction, obsession. Do what James Patterson says, "make the pages turn themselves" as you fit the puzzle together. Never forget why you love the game. 

Game understanding finds solutions amidst basketball symmetry. Pete Newell reminded players, "get more and better shots than your opponent." Offensively, that implies more points per possession, including offensive rebounding. Defensively that suggests:
  • disallow quality shots
  • "one bad shot" implies high defensive rebounding percentage
  • get more possessions via forced turnovers and steals
Five hearts beat as one. Winning starts with small victories in individual battles. As players 'discover' those keys, better results follow.

Constantly acquire new knowledge and concepts; edit and refine into useful bites. A Turkish proverb informs us, "measure a thousand times but cut only once." Clarify and simplify. We can't use everything, nor should we. 

Individual excellence competes with mastery of teamwork. Lao Tzu wrote, "Mastery of others is strength; mastery of yourself is true power." Spiderman's uncle echoed, "with great power comes great responsibility." 

Chef Thomas Keller says, "the techniques are the most important part of any recipe." We say it different ways:
  • Great offenses spread you out; great defenses contain you.
  • "Great offense is multiple actions; great defense is multiple efforts."
  • Win the battle of (achieving and preventing) separation. 
How we communicate, how we learn, how we practice, and how we play reflects our commitment to each other

Usher Raymond IV advises us, "study your mentor's mentors." For him, that meant studying Jackie Wilson, James Brown, Fred Astaire, and Gene Kelly. For me, that means studying John Wooden and Dean Smith. But Shakespeare advised, "This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man." Be yourself. 

Master your footwork, balance, and maneuvering speed. Constantly acquire and refine your tools. How good is your footwork? 

Watching is not seeing. Reading is not learning. Hearing is not listening. Be aware about our thinking. Develop an eye for the long game. See something in a player that others don't see...the grinder who becomes your stopper or toughness in a future rebounder. Find the group that will...not...quit. 

Ask better questions. "What am I missing?" Keep looking for a better way. "What does our team need now?" Help them find their voice. Help them embrace a truth of style and substance that can wear opponents down

Director Mira Nair says the director (coach) needs "the heart of a poet and the skin of an elephant." Regardless of level, we face adversity and need resilience. Nobody gives you the best way. Keep searching. 

Good ideas come from everywhere. Capture the answers between the lines. But we have to get on the court to learn our craft as players or coaches. 

Lagniappe: Cut hard to get free...a matter of life or death. 
Lagniappe 2: The game changes...but only with our RAM - recognition, acceptance of change, and management of change. 
Lagniappe 3: Dated but discoverable (Carolina multiple defenses 1991)

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Basketball: Philotimo...We Need More

Words matter. Basketball carries its own language - ICE, blitz, Iverson cut, zipper, drag, brush, hammer, floppy, lock and trail, and legions more. 

The world uses powerful words without precise meanings, like philotimo, the Greek word without clear translation. “Doing the right thing,” Pinelopi Kalafati, a doctor, told me. “Loving and honouring God and your society,” said priest Nikolas Papanikolaou. "Striving for perfection,” answered actor Kostis Thomopoulos. “Stepping out from your comfort zone to help someone in need..."

McArthur's speech to graduates at West Point references "duty, honor, country" another rough approximation. 

Philotimo in sport encompasses selflessness, honor, service, community, and sacrifice. "The saying “actions speak louder than words” comes to mind when trying to explain Philotimo, as it’s easier to give examples of when you have experienced Philotimo, rather than trying to define the word itself."

Bob Costas noted, “It’s the Greek spirit of doing what’s right and what’s honorable, even when one’s own interests and maybe when one’s own life are placed at peril.”

Philotimo conveys worthiness of spirit and tradition. We need more of it. 

Lagniappe: @BBallImmersion shares a variation ("wrap") off a dribble handoff with the non-receiver scoring off a basket cut.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Reciprocity Rings, "Basketball Is Sharing"

We might underestimate the otherishness of our peers. Adam Grant's Give and Take elaborates a world of givers, matchers, and takers. Effective coaching is a giving profession. 

In his Wharton class, he challenged students to form RECIPROCITY RINGS, to help others achieve one desire, for themselves or others. Reciprocity rings force communication and actions to benefit others. Some students said that wouldn't happen because Wharton students are all takers. 

But a funny thing happened; students collaborated, helping each other. Public exposure encourages takers to give. “Being altruistic is often seen as ‘good’ and being greedy or selfish is not,” according to Duke behavioral economist Dan Ariely.

Grant writes, "We have social norms against sounding too charitable," Wuthnow writes, "such that we call people who go around acting too charitable 'bleeding hearts,' 'do gooders'." We have prejudices against people who are too good.

Grant also writes that Wharton students don't want to look vulnerable, referring to a Dean's description as Game Face. To get help, even in a Reciprocity Ring, you have to ask for it. 

In the hospital where I worked, nurses contributed "paid time off" to coworkers, especially those with serious health problems like cancer. They sacrificed some of their vacation to support a colleague in need. 

We've all taken a practice or a game for colleagues with unavoidable absence or conflicts. Most coaches welcome other coaches at practice, camps, or simply to discuss their approaches and teams. But we have to ask. 

Outstanding teams sacrifice individual achievement for victories. I call this "letters over numbers." Some players take "discounts" to increase a franchise's chance of winning. 

Phil Jackson famously said, "basketball is sharing." 

Don Meyer answered questions at his web site, asking nothing. "The Reciprocity Ring is a vehicle for creating an environment where the natural impulse to help can be cultivated and supported." Reach out and help colleagues. 

Lagniappe: BOB toss back downscreen into three-pointer