Sunday, August 11, 2013

How I would Change the HS game.

   We are always looking to improve the game. Whether it is from the aspect of coaching, athleticism, analysis, skill work, youth development (
Alan Stein & I are working with a group on this), game play & lastly officiating (cough) to make the game as good as it can be. The High School game seems to be the last to adopt any changes. We all know it trickles downhill from the NBA/FIBA to NCAA to High School but it almost seems that the trickle has stopped. Here are a couple of rules or changes that I think would improve our game play at the High School level.

1. Shot Clock
  If you coach in one of the states that uses it I'm jealous. The argument about making the shot clock a part of high school basketball is the cost to install shot clocks at every high school that plays basketball. That has some validity but I don't see that as the major hurdle. To me it would be the personnel to operate it. 
  In my part of the country, a certain sport played on Friday nights in the fall has plenty of people to work mainly because the admin treat it like a freakin holiday. Everything is scripted from coin toss to national anthem to who unlocks what gate at what time. Coaches just coach & everything is handled by admin or the ahletic department. On the other end of the spectrum is an indoor sport played twice a week where the head coach, an assistant or both clean the floor after the PE class is done, set out chairs, unlock the concession stand and hope that the score & bookkeeper show up all while preparing for the game. (deep breath) QUESTION: Why don't schools assign game duties like they do bus duties?  Makes too much sense
  Cost isn't what would keep the shot clock from thriving in high school basketball. It is the lack of personnel to do it. This falls on the local schools. Cost could be minimal. If the cost of a shot clock is an issue, just have one clock  at half court. Talk about home court advantage. If Vanderbilt can play in the SEC with benches on the baseline a high school should be able to get away with having one shot clock. 
  We need a shot clock in High School. I say 30 seconds would be  plenty. I'd like to see it go to 24 seconds for every level. A shot clock forces every player to be skilled which in turn forces coaches to teach skill to every player. Maybe that is the hold up. Some guys don't want to teach their 5 to dribble. A shot clock would add more strategy to the game. More last second shots, better clock management & forces defense. Yes, defense. No more getting a 5 point lead & sitting on it. You'd have to execute & defend better to win down the stretch. Plus, it validates the back court violation. Ever been victim to an 8 or 12 second violation? Moving on...

2. Charge Circle
  A lot of people aren't a fan of this because they feel the officials would belooking at the line more than they are the play. Believe me, the last thing I want to make the officials worried about is something else. I mean c'mon, they already have to keep 10 players shirts tucked in, 2 coaches inside their boxes, make sure their arm is raised perfectly when calling a foul or  violation so adding another thing to worry about could be devastating to them. The circle is needed for the players. It teaches them where to defend. We put one down with shoe polish to show where you have to be. Lastly, it gives the officials an out. It puts the block/charge call back in the players hands. 

3. Quarter to Halves & add time
  If you've ever played in a tournament that uses halves instead of quarters it has a great feel to it. Every rule the NFHS comes up with is to speed up the game so to me this is a no-brainer. Change the game from 4  8 minute quarters to 2 18 minute halves. That would technically increase the game length but it eliminate the minute between quarters & would make an adjustment to the NCAA less of a learning curve. Even leaving it at 16 minute halves would be great. 
  The players that play both JV & Varsity would have a limit of 3 halves a night versus the current 5 quarters a night rule. 

Those are the changes I'd like to see happen to the High School game. If you have any other suggestions or thoughts I'd like to hear from you. 

How to Finish a Game: Dealing with a Blowout

We all been a part of a game that ended badly. Whether that was a blow-out or lack of poise down the stretch. When I first got into coaching, I had a veteran coach tell me "the hardest thing for a coach to do is learn how to win & lose." I wish he could've had that conversation with every coach on every level. It's needed more than you think. 

We have all seen the bonehead, maybe even been one, that doesn't know how to control the end of a game. This is the touchy part because the "S" word sportsmanship comes up & the make every one feel good mentality takes over. These are my own personal thoughts on the situation at the end of the game. It may be what you believe, totally against it or get you thinking about the subject but the key thing about the end of a game is to think. Think about the players, yours & your opponents, the other coach & the game itself. 

These all deal with a game that has been decided & you're just trying to get to the horn. 

1. Play the 4th how you played the 1st 
There is nothing more frustrating than this. You're up twenty, you pull your starters & the genius on the other end decides to press your subs with his starters. Ever seen that? It's frustrating because you are trying to do the right thing & he's "making a run." 
True story: my first year coaching I was up 31 going into the fourth. This was before the 4th quarter mercy rule (clock doesn't stop). I empty the bench, he kept his on & they had a shot at the buzzer to win it. 
Just because you think it's over doesn't mean they do. On the flip side, if you didn't press their starting 5, don't press their bottom 5. Don't use someone's kind gesture against them. It'll come back on you & the next guy too. 

2. Play your style
If you are a man to man team, don't insult me by playing a zone that (a) your kids don't know how to do & (b) you turn the game into a charity case. If you're a pressing team & you've subbed, I'm okay with you pressing. This is as much about your kids as it is theirs. Your 15th man runs every sprint, works his tail off so how is it fair to him to never get to play the way he practices. In some cases he may be a JV guy that dresses Varsity but in some large school situations that may be the only minutes he gets. You can still press without pressure. Say no score in transition, but try to play your style from start to finish. Allow your guys to play, and their team as well. The game is decided so why not get some player improvement out of it. 

3. Victory Formation
This ties in with point #2. Your second & third string guys deserve the chance to play. In practice do you have those guys stand at half court & dribble? This will rub some people the wrong way but I'm for letting those guys play, and equally important coaching those guys. That's your future. Answer this: Why is it okay for the team that is behind to try to keep scoring but not the team with the lead? 
I think the "victory formation" should only be used when both teams still have their best on the floor. Here's a point though-most players will dribble it out not because "it's the right thing to do" but actually they've seen really good players do it & they want to imitate their actions. If you have a player take a last second shot when you're up late you will probably take some heat but it might be that kid's highlight of his career. There has to be a balance. Coaching point: if you're trying to get a senior a shot don't wait until you're up late with less than a minute to get him in. 

Learn how to win & how to lose. If you're behind & it's late, tell the other coach that you're done.  I promise you he's waiting for & wanting you to concede. It keeps him from looking like a jerk. When you're ahead, give your opponent the chance to bow out gracefully. After both teams have subbed, have fun coaching the guys that are so thankful for the opportunity to play. 

There's always a winner & always a loser. By knowing how to handle the situation, you can make it a little smoother for everyone. 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Parting Ways: When its time to dismiss a player

   There comes a time, sadly, in most programs where a Coach has to remove a player. I didn't use the phrase "forced to" because I believe it is a choice. The player made a choice to behave in a manner that cause their removal & the Coach chose to uphold the standards of the program and remove them. It really isn't that hard of a decision when you look at it from that standpoint. I have been involved in this situation before & when you remove your feelings it is a clear cut decision that the player made, not you. Some will say you quit on that particular player. They're right. You quit enabling that behavior. Everyone deserves a second chance BUT not for the same behavior. Basketball is a team game. What about the 14 other guys doing it right everyday? Have we gotten so caught up in negativity that we ignore positive behavior & reward negative with second & third chances? Here are the 3 times you should remove a player. 

1. When you no longer have influence 
When your words & actions have no effect on the player it's time to say goodbye. Our job as a coach is to teach through basketball how to be a productive citizen. When you stop listening to authority, you are choosing to take risks that can remove you from your job & ultimately from society. 

2. When it reflects negative on your program
When a player's off the court lifestyle brings attention to the player it also brings attention to you as the coach. Kids are kids but allowing behavior that is detrimental to them & to your program is a costly mistake. 

3. When the only reason you keep them is to win
If the only reason you are keeping a player is the W column you have failed that player, the rest of the team, yourself & the entire profession of coaching. You're not helping the player by keeping them involved, you're sending the message that behavior is excusable as long as talent is there. You risk losing the respect of other coaches, faculty & community support. 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Ignore the Experts: Why Everyday is more important than Experience.

   I'm a young coach. I'll turn 36 in August. (I'll accept gifts from now through November for your convenience though). I've coached high school basketball since 2000. My first coaching job was at the YMCA as a high school senior for a 5 year old team. Wow. I haven't thought about that in a long time. I was a head high school coach at 22 right out of college at a small school here in Arkansas. I heard early in my career that I wasn't experienced enough to be a head coach? When you think about it, when are you experienced enough? Is there a secret chart somewhere that shows when you achieve the desired about of experience? Is it age related? I definitely think not but it appears to be the norm.  Shouldn't experience be the final assessment of a career, not what future success is based on? Are we still calling the winner of the 1976 100meter dash the fastest man on the planet? No, because someone currently is better than he was at the time he was the best. Granted what he did is a great accomplishment but does that guarantee he is good now or will be later? So does good ever wear off? Is there an expiration date on success?   So why is it that we try to judge future success on the past experience of someone? Here are a couple of my thoughts on what the experts think about experience.    

1. Wisdom doesn't come with age, it comes with work
   If longevity makes you a master at something, they why don't companies promote the doorman or a custodian with 20 plus years experience with the company to CEO? They've put in the time. They've earned the right, right? I know a lot of older coaches who still think like they did when they started. The wisdom they've acquired is a routine. Nothing changes for them. I agree that a routine is important to a program but the game has changed in the last 2 years, so if your ideology is from the 70s, 80s you're mistaken about what is taking place around you. 
  To be a leader, you have to be a learner. I read about everything I can when it comes to leadership & basketball. Does it change my mind? Sometimes. More times than none it just makes me think. Thinking is good. It causes us to grow. 
  One of the wisest basketball people I listen to is 13 years younger than I am. Drew Hanlen works hard at being the best. It'd be real easy for anyone to scoff at the idea of learning from someone his age. I dealt with the same thing as a head coach at that age. However, when you see his work ethic, attention to detail, & the amount of work he puts in, that's where you see his genius at work. Another too young to be this good guy is Alan Stein. He has transformed the way people think about basketball strength training over the last 6 years with the birth of the StrongerTeam.  A revolutionist. Kids everywhere now can't wait to work out and prepare. When the masses thought there was only one way, Alan found a better way. 
2. Experience is a polite name for excuses
   If been fortunate to speak to a college class the past two years of future coaches. We talk about interviews, what the "real" job consists of. I explain to them that adding the first job is the hardest. Your résumé is looked at as what would qualify you for the position, not what qualities you have that you would bring to the position. Experience means you've made mistakes. 
   Lets say I offer you a candy bar. i then set two of the same type in front of you. One has definitely had a bite taken out of it & there is a note that tells you how good it is. The other appears brand new but It's note says no one has tried it yet. Which do you choose? Why didn't you prefer the experienced bar? 

3. Believe in yourself
   A lot is being said about the Celtics hiring Brad Stevens. He doesn't have any NBA experience. He also never had any Head Coach experience when he was selected at Butler. He had never coached in the Final Four so he led the Bulldogs to back to back appearances in the Championship game. Based on his experience he shouldn't even be a Head Coach. After all, he was a volunteer to start his career. His experience should have never allowed him to be hired as an assistant & an assistant without previous head coaching experience shouldn't be hired as a head coach, correct? The expert opinion would be find a coach that was a head coach with previous success because that's the smart thing to do.
  Coach Stevens knew he good be a great coach. He just needed a shot. His shot came when he quit a job to take a non paying volunteer spot. He figured out the number of days he could survive on Ramon noodles. It's true. He was prepared to do anything. That preparation is why today he's the head coach for the Celtics. 

Ignore the experts. Believe in yourself. Focus on what you can do & are doing versus what you've done.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Practice: Don't Waste Your Time

   Practice. I can't hear that word without seeing Allen Iverson. "We talking bout practice man." Needless to say some of us have probably felt that way. As a player you've been through some tough practices. It's hard for any of us to remember a practice UNLESS something happened memorable. Usually a memorable practice involved something you wish you could forget. 
   Practices are the lifeline of any program. Talent is the blood. Put them together & you have a chance if the practice is productive. IF.  That's where some people miss the purpose. Practice has to be productive. Just because you're practicing doesn't mean you're getting better or getting something accomplished. A lot of the time all you end up accomplishing is wasting your time. If you aren't practicing properly you are not going to get better. 
   Some summer teams try to cram an entire pre-season into 5 days. Here's a hint: SELECT BETTER PLAYERS. Get players committed enough to work on their own. Players should play, not prep to play in the summer. Find kids that will condition on their own so you can work on skills at game pace. You can't get a team game ready in a couple days. Same can be said for when you get your players from football. They can't be ready to play 32 minutes by practicing 3x a day. 
   Practice with a plan. What can we do today to make my team better tomorrow? Here are my 3 thoughts on how to ensure you don't waste a practice. 

1. Practice to improve skill &/or athleticism
Practice time is sacred, or it should be treated as such. Don't get through practice, get from practice. I love the movies Hoosiers. "My practices aren't designed for your enjoyment."  When Coach Norman Dale tells his team that every coach loved it. I'm not a sunshine guy. I have to work at staying positive. I also know that with today's player if they don't want or like practice they won't come. It's too easy for them to quit & just play pickup or on a summer team. Basketball players have the longest season. Practices have to be to improve. Don't waste practice time. If a team or player can't do a drill correctly pick another drill. If a play isn't working, do you keep running it in the game? I love my job. I love practices. That's why I'm not going to endure a miserable practice. Use that time to improve. If you're not improving, end it. It's that simple. 

2. Anyone can make someone sweat
I have had the pleasure of watching some of the greats practice. I've attended practices at Duke, North Carolina, Indiana & Butler all in the past 3 years. They get it. I've also had the misfortune of watching some really bad practices. Sadly, most of those occur on youth or summer level. Those types of teams are when & where players are suppose to be improving. I've attended practices where at least thirty minutes of their hour and a half practice was spent with the team running while their "coach" is screaming, enjoying it. ANYONE CAN MAKE SOMEONE SWEAT. Heck, I can run anyone until they're sick. That doesn't mean they got a good workout or any better. That means the time you could've spent on skill work they spent throwing up. Did they get better? How about the team? Our program conditions. We don't just run to be running. We have a purpose. 

3. Practice isn't to show what you know but to pass what you know on. 
Have you ever been to a practice that served as a "look or listen to what I know session"? Practice is about the team. The Coach's time has past. Practice is about passing on what you know. Show them. jump in a drill to let them see how to do it then get back to coaching.  Teach them. Tell them what to do but practice is about player improvement, not coach reliving the glory days. If your players are struggling with a drill or concept, maybe you aren't doing a good job teaching it? I catch myself all the time realizing I could've done a better job explaining something. 

                            Players need to know the why, how & when in practice. 

I'm not against conditioning. Check this out. Conditioning 
Every program that is worth anything has players in game shape. 
I just don't see the point in wasting time or ruining a great practice with mindless conditioning. 

Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Truth about July Basketball

As the calendar turns to July, players with hopes of catching the eye of a college coach will be covering the country to play during the last evaluation period. Not until recently did you hear of kids going to Disney World & NOT planning on seeing the Magic Kingdom & the thought of taking a group of underage kids to Vegas seemed ridiculous but that's the evolution of summer basketball. 
   I am a fan of summer basketball, particularly AAU, as long as it isn't used as a replacement to skill development. I do think there are too many teams out there, as evident by the beat downs some will receive during pool play. I love what Nike did with the EYBL in bringing the best of the best together.
   For what ever reason, players & parents crave exposure. They need to be found. What happens  more than often is they get found out. I would rather they crave competition. That should be the reason for playing: To compete versus the best competition in front of college coaches. Sadly, summer basketball has become an escape from "structured" basketball. "That Coach won't let him play his style." Blah. If a kid can play, any coach is going to play them. 

Here's a couple thoughts on Basketball in July. 

1. Defense is 2nd in July but 1st in March

    I can't tell you the number of people that tell me "he just plays better for his summer team." My usual answer is "that's because summer defense makes your son look like Moses parting the Red Sea." That goes for all summer basketball, high school team camps included. The hardest part of the year for a basketball coach  is (1) getting football kids in basketball shape & (2) stressing defense after your players have played in the spring with their other teams. 
        I Believe that Spring/Summer should be used to increase offensive skills & athleticism. 

   That doesn't mean I agree with just ignoring defense but it does take a back burner. Here is why.  College Coaches will tell you they recruit offense, toughness & teach defense.  Coaches are watching a kid that can score, run & show some toughness by finishing & handling under less than perfect settings set by officials.
                  Side note: When I coached AAU I loved early games because that meant fresh legs on officials. I hate games that have an officials observer. The officials get too caught up in their performance's appearance instead of getting calls right.

    Summer teams don't stress defense. Most summer teams that is. I've seen some very well coached teams that took pride in defense but for the most part it isn't stressed.  Their defense is often based on a press or trap & relying on athleticism. Most teams are going to play a zone. I'm not faulting a summer coach or any coach for playing zone if its to their advantage. Today players can't pass. Sadly, a player cant make a pass without trying to make it a no-look or something fancy. They struggle to read the defense & they all stand and watch the ball being over dribbled. 
     The teams that play M2M usually aren't that good at it for an obvious reason: They don't practice everyday. To be a great M2M team you have to practice it everyday. You can get away with pressing & trapping because teams aren't working on press breaks or pressure releases either. 
   In a team camp at a local university this month, our team played versus a team that featured a guard that has offers from a Big East, Big 12, 2 Missouri Valley & a SEC schools. His coach said he "blew up" in the spring. Good for that young man.  He's a very good player but just because you can score in the spring/summer doesn't mean you'll be able to January through February against more disciplined defenders. We played M2M, held him to 6 & 8 & won both games comfortably, all with a player without a 1 D1 offer. It's a different game.

2. Character Counts
  I'll never forget this. I was walking through the gym at a large tournament in Dallas when a "coach" from another organization in our state stated this, loudly. " Ya'll suck because the F$&"ing High School coaches don't teach you s*^t. You can walk your a$$ back home." Not only was I furious I was embarrassed because right there on his chest said enough. Arkansas. I apologized to a couple of Moms & promised that not only was he not part of our organization but he didn't reflect the citizens of our state.
 Some summer Coaches seem to have this identity that yelling & cussing is coaching. You're not coaching if you don't coach hard. Some Part-time guys make what full time guys do almost impossible. 
Quite frankly, that is why you're doing what you're doing. You couldn't survive with principals, media & rules. That is why I respect AAU & PCA so much. Guidelines. Rules. It's a Real organization. That's why the other tournaments started. They allow coaches to act nuts. I've said it before but you don't call every car a Cadillac so we shouldn't call every summer team an AAU team. That's why I refer to it as summer basketball. On twitter, the hashtag #AAUBINGO points out everything wrong with summer basketball. Again, not all these teams are AAU clubs but its worth a look. Some one let this guy on their sophomore team. 
    Yep, that's an ankle monitor. Apparently the community service he is doing is court ordered & not
    because he cares about the community. Here's a couple tips to remember:
       * No one is there to watch the Coach coach. It's a game not a show. 
       * No hats, Bluetooth, Jerseys & definitely don't shoot with your team. 
       * Select Kids that are good citizens. No coach wants to wait for charges to drop.
       * If you are going to use a State or City's name as part of your team name, please remember that
         before you act.
       * When your team walks in a gym, have them take off their hats, beats, & act like they are going to 
          a game.
       * NO HEADPHONES during warmups. 

3. Motor & More Motor
Play hard. If you're going to play, play the right way. It's that simple. When on the floor play as hard as possible. Don't take plays off. If a player can't get a minute's rest because the bench is that bad then there is the sign this team shouldn't be playing in a certified event. Coaches want to see players compete. The excuse of playing multiple games a day isn't one. Players signed up for that. The biggest place to play hard? Transition, both offense & defense. Don't just run hard with the ball or when you'll get it. Run back on defense. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Growth: What every Coach needs to address this off-season

This time of the year should be a time for growth & rest for coaches on every level. Whether you've coached 30 years or are starting your first job in August you need to grow. If you're one of the coaches that knows it all & doesn't need to get better its time to retire. 

Growth doesn't have to come in the form of drills, Xs & Os or philosophy. You can grow as a professional by learning from other areas. I recommend reading books on leadership & business. 

Hopefully we all want to come back a better coach just like you expect your players to come back better. You need to examine mistakes you've made. Most of us remember a play we wish we'd have made an adjustment on or something we should've worked on more.  To be a truly successful coach, you have to know yourself. No one knows you like you do. I use this a lot. "Don't take advice from someone with nothing at stake by giving it." Listen to yourself but know how to talk to yourself. 

Here are a couple of areas I think EVERY coach has to work on. 

1. Don't compound a mistake

We've all seen it. We've all done it. A player makes a mistake & the coach is livid. It's so bad you can't hide it from anyone. The coach is screaming at the player during action & at the first dead all substitutes for the player so he can get all over him. All that did was make you look like an idiot. Did it change what happened? Did your player do it on purpose? You can't answer yes to either of those questions. If you answered yes to the second one you have bigger problems than mistakes to worry about. 
Don't compound a mistake. Attacking a player after a mistake is as bad as ignoring it. That type of action can't never happen. Did you catch the double negative in the last sentence? That's the reminder of compacting a mistake. Don't do it. If you want to be mad be mad at yourself. The mistake formed in practice because you didn't prepare your team for that situation. 

Now, lack of effort...well...Coach Izzo showed you can address that and still make the Final 4. 

2. Learn to talk to officials

This is the simplest but hardest thing for coaches to understand and become good at. Its a relationship. Seriously. You need them or its PE & they don't have to like you. Depressing isn't it? I've decided to hate every official; that way I don't have to be let down by the good ones or shocked by the bad ones. I say that half-heartily but that's kind of how coaches approach it. We all have to do a better job, both coaches & officials, of talking. We've all been on the side where we are attacking the rim & no whistle to be followed by a hand check called on our end. Or you're playing a zone & they're in the bonus already while they're playing full court man & haven't fouled yet. I could keep going but you get the point. Some of you are angry now remembering a similar situation. Ever seen a judgment call overturned followed by a technical, in the state tournament?! Grrr...
The problem we all face is how we talk to officials. Most, hopefully will talk to coaches. They don't want to be showed up anymore than you want to be ignored. Ask what they saw. If they don't answer, move on. Talk to their partner. The most important thing to remember is this. You have to get through that game. Afterwards, call the assignor, send film in but you owe it to your team & yourself to manage that game. 

3. Pick the hill worth dying on 

This is the most important thing in my opinion. Know which fight to fight. In almost every situation you care more about the gym floor than anyone else on campus. Knowing that, when the principal lets Student Council have a blood drive, or a pep rally has an egg toss know you're probably not winning your argument. Just be proactive. Put a tarp down. Suggest other things or locations. Offer to help set up so you are there to protect it. 
In the south, basketball is the sport between football & spring football. The only reason they don't play HS football on Sunday mornings is so the preacher wouldn't have to decide where to be because everyone knows where the congregation would choose to be at. That's never going to change. That's only a problem if you see it as one. 
Fight for your program. Demand excellence from yourself & players. Let the rest fall into place. 

Please contact me at I'd love to hear from you. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Repairing a Broken Relationship: Fixing our game from PeeWees to thePros

    I feel this is one of the most important things I've spoken about, but I feel it is needed and honestly I know I'm not the only Coach that feels this way. Our game is broken. I take that back. The American game is broken. We have to take a hard, long look at how we teach the game of basketball and where our emphasis is. We begin playing games with kids as young as 6 years of age instead of focusing on fundamentals and functional body movements. Players do not work on their skills during the off-season because they'd rather play games in the spring and summer. Youth coaches, any coach from PeeWee to Middle School, would rather sacrifice skill for a W. It is what it is. We value a win while ignoring the fact we are doing our players and the game an injustice by not teaching it the right way.

    It is not just the way we teach the game but the way we treat each other as well. PeeWee Coaches, or "Daddy ball" as it is often referred to, think Junior High Coaches are too restrictive. High School Coaches want Junior High Coaches to teach fundamentals better while also competing at a high level. College Coaches want High School Coaches to be better teachers of the game so players arrive prepared to play. Same can be said about the way Pro Coaches feel about College guys. Then you bring in summer coaches. There is a truly a hate/hate relationship between high school and summer coaches. High School Coaches hate the fact that when Conference and State Tournament time rolls around there is that guy lurking in the corner promising and persuading so he can go win a weekend tournament that no one will know about. The player starts talking about "can't wait for summer ball" and before you know it the season is over. Sound familiar?

   Before I go on I must say I am painting a negative picture about summer coaches and their relationship to get my point across. I have a lot of respect for programs like MoKan,  the Banshees here in and Arkansas and guys like Boo Williams that do it the right way. 
That is another sermon for another day. You don't call every car a Cadillac so why label every summer team/coach as AAU? There are some summer programs doing it right. Some, not all. Just like everything else. Back on topic...

Here are a couple of areas that I feel we must address as Coaches to improve our game.

Youth Level (5 years old - 11 years old)

Teach them  HOW to PLAY not run plays
This is the ground level where most of our mistakes are happening. We are so caught up in winning that we, coaches and parents, miss out on teaching the importance of learning how to play. Players this age group, in every sport, should be learning basic fundamentals and functional body movement to perform this skills versus competition. Is the desire for competition for the player or the parent? Don't think it's important enough to not worry about the score? Think about the time you lost a game because your player couldn't finish a left or right hand layup or traveled because he didn't use the correct footwork. It will matter, eventually.

Coaches and leagues are so caught up about winning games that there is little importance put on skill development. It's put on a back burner, sometimes not even on the stove. It's about scoring, not how to score. I hate watching youth teams and hearing a coach screaming out set plays every time down the floor. What's even worse is the team that presses the entire game to fall back into a zone defense. THAT TEACHES KIDS TO REACT TO A SITUATION, NOT TO DEFEND. Kids aren't being taught to play, they are learning the easiest way to win. Why wouldn't you run a zone & force a 7 year old to throw it from 19 feet? Sickening, not strategic.

Every player in this age group should be able to:

  1.  dribble with both hands
  2.  shoot a layup with both hands 
  3. pivot, forward and reverse, with both feet
  4. understand offensive spacing
  5. understand man to man defense principles
  6. be able to perform the 6 movements of basketball correctly.
    1. Sprint
    2. Backpedal
    3. Defensive Slide
    4. Pivot
    5. Jump
    6. Lunge
Emphasising wins over skills during this time of development often proves to be a fatal mistake. Between the first two levels is where the first "ripple" happens in the basketball relationship. Until now, players have either played for a parent or a non-professional coach. Does having a degree with a Coaching endorsement mean I'm smarter than someone without one? No. It just means I chose to pursue a degree to allow me to coach in every possible setting. The Youth Level coach at times thinks the "School Coach" won't let the players play their game and is too controlling. "When I coached them..." doesnt matter. The fact is they are having to reteach and break a lot of habits that could have been avoided.

Middle School Level (12 years old-15 years old)

Increase Skill, Erase Labels, Add Competition
Does anyone know who the number one rated 12 year old in the country is? First of all if you do, step away from the screen and find a hobby. Secondly, who cares? Is that really important to know? a stud at 12 is usually because he is maturing faster. As adolescences begins, so should the players skill and movements increase. Now is a great time to introduce strength training. First of all, strength training is not weight training. If you can't differentiate between the two you need to hit up my friend Alan. Players need to be able to control their bodies and perform fundamental skills near perfect. 
Unfortunately, by the time a player has hit age 12, they have played in multiple games and are already labeled by position based on height. We've all seen it. The kid that that it an early growth spurt so he's a post player. Never gets taught how to handle the basketball, never learns to defend out on the floor and by the time he reaches high school he is of average height with below average skills and virtually worthless as a HS player. Wonder how his youth coach feels about those wins now?

  1. Every player needs to go through "guard" work at this age, regardless of height. 
  2. Train every player as if they will all be Point Guards
  3. Train every player on proper footwork in the Post.
This is also where team competition can and should be added as well as continued skill work. 3 on 3 is a great teaching tool & introduction to competition because it incorporates spacing on offense and on defense players learn to contain and the first levels of help defense are instilled.

By ages 14 & 15 players are ready to participate in 5 on 5 games. That statement seems a bit odd when you look at our current system. We have kids playing for National Championships in the 2nd grade! If you win a National Championship in the 2nd grade what else is there? Is winning a State Title in High School a letdown? How about a Conference title? We need prepared players, not just players. I'm not saying 5 on 5 before now is bad, the emphasis on winning shouldn't be included until now.

Varsity Level (16 years old - 18 years old)

Preparing for The Next Level, Finding Competitive Satisfaction
    It's a painful truth that basketball discriminates against talent. At some point we all reach a level that we can't play and compete at the highest level available for us anymore. Most players find that out after High School graduation. Some of the greatest memories a player will have come from this level of playing though. This is the glory days. Playing for your school, sometimes the town. Doesn't get much better.
   During the varsity level of development, two things are occurring: Mastery and Separation. Assuming players continue to work on their skills, the lower level player will have reached his level of mastery. A higher level player will begin to separate himself with the possibility of earning the right to play college basketball. Coaches on this level must see the bigger picture. Regardless of size of school or style of play you choose, we must continue to teach skills, especially with players who may have the chance to play on the collegiate level. A 6'4" player may be your post player but would be a guard on the next level. He deserves the right to work towards that goal. All it will do is make him a better player. The player that is separating himself usually does this through his play during the season and with by playing in the spring/summer evaluation periods. Here is where the relationship strains again.
    The relationship between High School/Summer/College Coaches is strained and in dire need of repair. In general, High School coaches dislike the fact some Summer coaches act like they are responsible for the players becoming a college player. Summer coaches feel like they don't get the respect they deserve from High School coaches. (That could be based on the blue tooth, hat backwards and "Do Him" offense. More on that in another post). College coaches MUST have a relationship with both. Sadly, some summer coaches will ask for favors, manipulate players and undermine the High School coach and make the recruiting process difficult. Same can be said about HS coaches that dislike summer ball.
    Before we go on, are all summer coaches bad guys? Absolutely not! But we can all agree that the bad outweigh the good and that is why they have a bad reputation.

At this level, this list is a must for each program:

  1. If you're summer coach says you are being recruited, the college coach will contact your HS coach and your parents. That's how you know you're actually being recruited.
  2. Playing in the summer should not replace skill and strength training, but accompany it.
  3. Limit the amount of games your players play in the summer. Pick one team. Play with them. 
  4. Find a team that best meets the needs of the player.
  5. Summer coaches, don't approach a player directly before or after a game. Evaluate them, then speak to them with a parent or high school coach present.
  6. High School coaches, respect the commitment, financially and time, that the summer coach is making to provide a way for your player to be seen. 
  7. Lastly, Do not bad mouth the other guy to the player.
 Collegiate Level 

What's the problem?
  "If you can't play basketball because of an injury, would you still be happy on that campus?" That is the advice given to a player choosing where to attend college. What advice do you give the player that picks a school, becomes unhappy with his situation and decides to transfer?
   Transfers are happening at an alarming rate among Division one NCAA programs. First let me say that if a player is recruited by a coach who then either takes another job or is fired I'm okay with that player seeking a transfer. The Coaching staff played a major role in that decision. What I don't like to see is a player leave over lack of playing time. One of two things happened. Either the player didn't come in and work hard enough or the coaching staff didn't keep up their end of the promise. I tend to lean towards the second choice when a freshman transfers because if they come in expecting a lot of minutes either the program is in bad shape, they are a high caliber player or someone told them they would play. All could've been avoided with honesty.
    Another issue is the lack of time coaches are allowed to spend with their players outside of the season. There is still a need for skill work at this level. High level skills can be taught while enforcing and sadly correcting flaws in their game. The NCAA has included hours coaches can spend with their team in the summer but it fails drastically in comparison to our International counterparts. There is a reason more foreign born players are being selected over NCAA players. They are more skilled. They don't rely on athleticism to be the separator. Think about Marc Gasol versus DeAndre Jordan. Same position. One can hit a 18 foot jumper. One can't. Skill is the true separator. Gasol returned to Spain after high school. Jordan attended a NCAA school, Texas A&M.

Pro Level 

We're All Watching
    The NBA is a business. A thriving business. Unfortunately for us, the players have become businessmen first & players second. Long gone are the days of Larry Bird bouncing his head off the floor & returning in the same game. Today's player might miss a couple games with a jammed finger. I get that the contracts are bigger & sports medicine is a lot smarter but I know I miss the days of players just playing. Michael Jordan was & is THE ICON when it comes to basketball but even he put his competitive greatness first before he put on his Air Jordans, slammed a Gatorade & later put on his Hanes t-shirt.
    The NBA is entertainment. Offense sales. Why else would the league have defensive rules like it does. I enjoy watching & learning from coaches like Gregg Popovich, Doc Rivers, Tom Thibodeau, Mark Jackson, Kevin McHale & Kevin Eastman but I struggle to enjoy the game at times. I know they are the elite players. if it looks like they're coasting at times they probably are. A car & a bicycle can cover the same distance, one just does it a lot easier than the other. Quite frankly, it's become soft. Superstars want to be catered to, not coached. Their body language is awful. THEY WALK BACK ON DEFENSE!!!
     So how do you fix the NBA problem? The league needs to stop worrying about flopping & just call the game. The league should address players complaining after every call instead. You became a superstar because you were blessed with talent & worked to improve your skill. If you achieved superstar status by complaining every time you got bumped then we've all been doing it wrong. 
     Young players are watching. I hope they are watching the work ethic, the skill level, & the athleticism instead of the complaining, the lack of effort in transition defense & the business side of the game. 

The Solution
    Our game is broke, but it's still the greatest game on the planet. All anyone has to do is watch a game in a driveway, see a kid shooting in an empty gym or take a drive through Indiana & you'll realize it's a way of life. We can complain & do nothing or we can all be moved to action. We need coaches on every level dedicated to putting the game first, the player second & the coach last. We need discussions between every level of coaches, (think Coaching U). We must all teach how to play the game, the love of the game & most importantly the respect of the game. High School coaches & summer coaches have to have a peace summit. The game needs it. Pro coaches need to stop raiding the college game for talent so college coaches can develop better pros. 
    The responsibility isn't all on coaches though. It's on the players as well. We all must but priorities in the right order. No shortcuts. Don't worry about looking cool but about playing the RIGHT way. Dont get so caught up in winning games that no one will remember or care about the outcome if that means we neglect skill work. 
    It's an easy fix. The hard part is starting the change. So who's with me? 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Why you MUST attend the D1 experience

The D1 experience is a premier camp for players seeking more from camp than a t-shirt. It incorporates the 2 most important areas in player development, athleticism & skill, by bringing together the top two professionals in those areas in Alan Stein & Drew Hanlen. This is not your "daycare get away for Mom & Dad" camp. This camp was 3 days of intense, world-class instruction accompanied by a great facility, the Spiece Fieldhouse in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. Here are the 3 points that make this an incredible experience. 

1. Foundation of Athleticism
If you're familiar with Alan Stein's StrongerTeam you know that his expertise in that field is second to none. What each player at the D1 experience receives is focused, functional & interactive instruction. We've all seen camps where the Coach never interacts with every player. You won't find that here. Every player receives individualized instruction. 

2. Skill is King
Drew Hanlen is becoming a household name in the NBA. He is an incredible skills coach. His attention to every detail makes it no surprise that his NBA clients are becoming NBA All-Stars. He carries that passion over to each player at the D1experience. Ever seen a Coach at a camp be "to good" to work with a camper? Drew's ability to teach skills from the NBA to the middle school level is why he is the best in the world at what he does. He takes as much pride in helping a junior high player understand the reason behind a particular drill as he does when he's working out a potential NBA lottery pick. 

3. What Separates the Camp from Others
Details. You'll struggle to find a staff more dedicated to providing your player with an experience that will drive them to become a better player. The D1 experience gives each player a taste of what a D1 athlete goes through. Players go from the floor to the film room, back to practice just like a college player. Think of it like a "fantasy camp" in that each camper will participate in a college level environment. The camp serves as an introduction into what it takes to achieve the level of commitment required to play on the collegiate level. 

For the attending coaches, imagine watching Alan & Drew instructing on the floor then meeting every day for a staff meeting. You'll learn new drills, how to teach them & have a wealth of knowledge at your disposal. 

Please check out for future dates & locations. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Screening: How to Use as an Offensive Weapon

Just to let you know, last season we used the Read & React offense and used screens in less than 20% of our offense; mainly because we had speed and utilized the R&R offense to beat our man of the bounce and create help. I have a fundamental belief that screening is a great offensive weapon. Outside of having a great scorer, I'd take a team that screens and understands how and why to screen.

How to Screen
Most of us were taught to get to a spot, stand straight up with our hands "protecting" ourself and be still. The game has changed so much since then. If your player is screening like that versus us we are going to floor him. The screener should:

  •         Get Low, be in an athletic stance
  •         Lean Forward to prepare for the contact
  •         Be prepared to "shape up" to the ball

How to Recieve a Screen
We all probably tell our players to wait for the screen. How often to we explain why or even how to wait? Players have to learn how to set their defender up to ensure the screen is the most beneficial. Here is how:
  •        Get close to the defender by taking away from the screen first.
  •        Sprint to the screen
  •        Come off the screen low as the screener is. 
BONUS TIP:   If your opponent likes to hard hedge and "stand up" the cutter. Run directly into the hedge. Hard. This will free up the screener on a slip. 
     Example: Think Big on Little Screen. Your 5 is screening for your 3 on the block. X5 hard hedges to                   
                    bump the cutter out so X3 can chase. 3 should sprint right into X5's chest and stand him up and 
                    allow 5 to "shape up" and find the ball. 

Here are my three beliefs and how I teach the importance of screening.

#1 A Screen is a Collision
Players have to understand that a screen is a collision. Players have to expect and want the contact. (Check out this post on Contact.) I know Coaches have different uses of screens. I have two types. The first is a location screen. {Ex. elbow screen.}The screener goes to spot on the floor and the cutter is responsible for using it correctly. The second is the Linebacker. The player goes to find the defender and makes direct contact. Both of these take time in teaching but using both gives you two different types of weapons.

#2 Have a Lineman Mentality
Players have to have a mentality of an offensive lineman. An offensive lineman's jobs are to protect the quarterback and open lanes for the running back. Most of us would struggle to name ten offensive lineman in the NFL but we all know the one who misses the block or  gets a holding call. Missing a screen has to be addressed so players understand the importance of it. Nothing is more frustrating than a great play being erased by an illegal screen called. Players have to be willing to sacrifice their personal glory on a play to make sure that the team succeeds. If each player thinks like a lineman, some might become a tight-end, which leads to...

#3 Better the Screen, the Better the Scoring Opportunity
The beauty of Screens is everyone defends them different. Switch all, switch guard to guard, chase, go over the top. Everyone does it based on their belief. By selling your players on screening, the screener has a great chance to be the scorer. If you practice different types of screens, once you scout how the defense defends screens you can attack them however you need.

That's my take on screening. Check out this post on Defending Screens too.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Exposure: What You Need to Know: A Must Read for Coaches, Players, and Parents

The first NCAA live evaluation periods are over and as the College coaches return to campus to target the needs and players they will watch in July, you should be doing the same with your players. Most players have the dream of playing college basketball. Most players and parents when you mention college basketball they automatically assume your talking about Division 1. People don't realize how difficult it is to play college basketball on any level. This past month there have been hundreds of teams spend thousands of dollars to travel the country seeking exposure. Players are chasing dreams. Parents are paying for that dream and unfortunately there are people out there profiting off the sale of that dream.

Exposure is a tricky thing. Players can either gain exposure or get exposed. For some coaches and players the thrill of playing in front of a college coach leads to some poor decisions. This isn't just playing decisions. There are players all across the country that think the reason schools aren't recruiting them is because of where they go to high school. YOU'RE NOT GETTING RECRUITED BECAUSE YOU'RE NOT A COLLEGE LEVEL PLAYER. If you are a next level player they will find you.

Here are a few things to watch out for:

1 Be Careful Where You Put Your Trust
Sadly, there are people all across our game that are profiting from sale of false hope. These are the guys that give summer basketball, trainers and coaches an awful reputation. With a little work and the help of Google you can get the number of every basketball office in College Basketball. Most of us involved in High School basketball and the top level summer coaches have contacts on the college level. Name-dropping shouldn't impress you. Here are the top questions to ask a summer coach or trainer that say they can deliver a college scholarship:
Who have you coached that received a college scholarship? May I have their number?
Have you called my son/daughter's HS Coach?
The schools that you say are interested in haven't contacted my son/daughter's HS Coach. Why not?

2 Congratulations, You've been selected...
Exposure events aren't only for teams. You will find numerous exposure camps that promise a ranking and getting your name out. The "prestigious" camps also come at a prestigious price. Instead of spending a couple hundred dollars to send your player to a rating camp, print off postcards and mail them to every college you want to. Then you know without a doubt that your player's name made it to these schools.

3. Time Spent vs Reward
Kids are kids once. I understand certain things require sacrifice but what are we requiring these kids to miss? Not every kid will be a college player but every kid can attend prom, can have a weekend with friends and family.AS A COACH YOU CAN REQUIRE COMMITMENT BUT YOU ARE OBLIGATED TO BE TRUTHFUL. What separates college players from high school players isn't commitment. It's skill, athleticism, and size. If you're 5'9, you can get up at 5:30 every morning to workout to prove you're commitment but if you go up against someone that plays the same position you do but is 6'3" the majority of coaches would select the 6'3" player. That doesn't mean always but more times than none. The goal of each Coach should be to take each player to their top level of play. Set the ceiling. 

LAW OF 1000
What is more beneficial to your player? Spending $1000 to possibly play 1 game in front of a college coach that might be interested in you are spend that weekend getting 1000 shots up?

Pride yourself on  honest player evaluations. You don't benefit from players wanting to play college basketball. You benefit by providing the means for them to do so. This starts with honesty. Not everyone that plays high school basketball is going to play college basketball. That is an easy fact. "With hard work anything is possible." If I train a jackass to run will it ever win the Kentucky Derby? We have to be honest with our players and set them up for the success they can achieve. Encourage kids to strive for goals but have enough common sense to not allow them to be destroyed by not achieving that goal.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Selecting Your Team: Picking from the Cards You are Dealt

"It's not about the cards you're dealt, but how you play the hand." - Randy Pausch

Try-outs can be a very trying time on both Coaches and the young people that are desiring to be a member of a team. The Coaches want to be as fair as possible while the young men and women that are trying out want to prove they belong on the team. This is a very vulnerable time for both groups.While I believe every try-out situation is different and each Coach will have their own methods and drills I want to share with you the process we use and its benefits to our program.

#1 Blended-Family
As a Coach, it is very important that during tryouts you don't treat the participants like a blended family. There shouldn't be a feel of my kids and the new kids. If you have returning starters or a lot of returning players group them together while mixing in a few players that their skill level is comparable. If the divide is too great then we will have each group include a returning player along with players we are needing to evaluate deeper. One of the most important factors is that every kid leaves feeling they had a fair chance. To ensure that, you have to give every kid a chance.

We use groups as a way to evaluate skill. UNLESS YOU ARE TRYING TO REPLACE YOUR RETURNING POINT GUARD, DO NOT GROUP AN INCOMING SOPHOMORE WITH HIM. There is nothing fair about that. If your returning starters don't dominate that situation then you have bigger problems than try-outs. We blend players of similar skill and also players of the same position. This is a great way to look at your younger returners with new players. This also ensures the fairness that you are trying to ensure.

We do drills that focus on skill, to see if  they are coachable and  watch their composure. By the time we do any team activity we have already made the selections. Some Coaches may want to play 5 on 5 and make your selection then. If you've ever been to a showcase or a "Top 25" camp then you know that the assist and team defense are absent at those events. 5 on 5 doesn't tell you who is a good player.  Here are the questions we ask:
Would I want this player as a teammate?
Would I want to coach this player?
How does this player impact our program and its culture?

#2 Sophomores Stay
If you are lucky enough to have a Sophomore basketball team or period use it correctly. If you don't have one, you need to fight for it because it is a great thing for your program. The Sophomore season is awkward enough for some players. With our setup we are able to keep some players that we would normally have to let go because of numbers. The goal is to have a productive practice where every player improves each day. That is impossible with 30 kids in one period with 2 coaches.

Our goal for each Sophomore is to improve. That is a developmental year for most. Last season, 4 of our top 8 were Sophomores. This allowed us to keep more Sophomores for our sophomore team.

We will keep a Sophomore over a Senior from a numbers standpoint. That rubs some folks the wrong way but here is the logic behind it. What if? I'm an example of what can happen in the sophomore season. I grew from 5'10 to 6'3" during the season. In our team picture at the beginning of the year I was back row on the end. Our team picture in the state finals I was in the middle. In our idea setting, Our program looks like this:

Varsity - Top 12-15 players, regardless of class
Junior Varsity - 12 players, Sophomores and Juniors
Sophomores - 15-20

#3 Respect
Honestly, I don't know what the right way to let a kid know he's be cut is. I've done everything from:
Post numbers
Post names
Call names out of those that made it
Call names out of those that didn't

It's a hard process. Feelings are going to be hurt. Dreams shattered. The most important aspect in this process is respect. With our last try-outs we called out the names of players that had made the team. The instructions were this:
1) Sit quietly
2) Listen
3) Do not show any emotion, positive or negative
4) After all the names are called you are free to go.

You hope as a Coach that you've taught your returning players how to win and lose with dignity and that the only outburst would be from a new player. Afterwards be available for questions. Thank everyone for giving their effort. There will be some that think you've made a mistake or they just had a bad day. A couple will think you missed their name. Some guys will just leave. Again, handle each situation with respect.

2 Shot Bonus: Cutting a Returning Player
There are two times that this should happen. The first is usually the jump from the Sophomore to Junior season. In our program we keep as many Sophomores as possible. This means that the next year the move to the Junior Varsity. This is tough to explain IF you are not upfront with the sophomores during that season. 20 will not go into 12. This keeps your sophomore season competitive and ensures that process is being made.

The second time deals with problems. This may be academic, attitude, or bad-decision making.
When your words and actions no longer have an effect on a player's behavior then it's time to release that player. This is not only for their benefit but also for the benefit of the program. I think the biggest trait we can teach our players in Accountability. Hold them accountable until they learn to hold themselves accountable. Then you both do it.

If you'd like a list of the drills we use during our try-outs email me at

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Closing the Season: How to Have a Productive End

Unless you're the coach of the champions, your year ended on the losing side. Hard to swallow sometimes, but for whatever crazy reason we chose this life that the odds say will end each season lacking our goal. The finality of sports is a great lesson for us all. No redos. Lose and all your work seems in vain. But that's not real life. We get a second chance, a lot.

Some coaches are ready for the season to end. Maybe you had issues that made your year unbearable. Maybe you lost some key players to injuries or grades. Maybe you just weren't very good. The end of the season means rebirth. You go from worst to tied for first. There is optimism.

Regardless of how your season ended, we all need to put an end to it. How do you go about closing the book on your season? Here are my 3 points for Closing the Season.

#1 Improve Yourself

Take time to learn. The defense you couldn't score on; Learn it. The offense you couldn't stop, learn it. The game is evolving. 10 years ago we didn't know what a Euro-Step was. I'm around some coaches that are set in their beliefs. That's fine. My bag phone was really sweet back in the day too. I'm not saying abandon your program beliefs or philosophies but broaden your basketball IQ. If there wasn't anything that gave you any trouble then let me congratulate you on your undefeated season.

#2 Improve Your Players

This is a major key. Don't expect your players to come back a better player just because they are playing in the spring. You should have an active role in their team selection. There are as many good teams as there are bad ones. Have an opinion. If you're not active in your players development you'll be very active in the correction of it.

Skill work must become a priority. The areas that need work are not just weaknesses but the players strengths must also be improved because that will be a major focal point of your opponents next season.

#3 Get Away From The Gym

Refresh your mind. Read a couple of books. Do something that you enjoy. Don't be the hard line guy "250 days until our first game." Really? Those guys are missing the point of athletics. Athletics teach how to live, not why we live. I'm the first to say I love basketball. It is my free time enjoyment. I love talking about it here, posting plays on FastDraw & watching it. Jon Gordon said it best. "We don't get burned out because of what we do, we get burned out because we forget why we do it."

Take some time to rest.
Give your assistants & your players a break.
Let everyone have closure.
Try to avoid starting individual workouts complaining about last season.

I hope this helps you. Have a productive off-season.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Speak Up! Talk to Take Your Team & Your Game to the Next Level

There are two skills in today's game that are diminishing. Passing is the first. The dribble has become more powerful these days. Power can be good or bad. I see a lot of over dribbling. Penetration & Kicking has led to some poor passing habits.
The second skill I think that has diminished might surprise you. Talking. How or more importantly why would I consider talking a skill? Skill, by definition, is "the ability, coming from one's knowledge, practice, aptitude, etc., to do something well. We all know how to speak. I'd wager none of us remember being taught how to do it but we all do it. It is a diminishing skill in society. If I'm standing with a stranger, I will smile & say hello then it's right back to texting or tweeting. Technology has allowed us to be connected with anyone, anywhere. "Small talk" doesn't exist. On our bus trips, players will text each other seat to seat versus talking. I'm guilty of that too. That's enough sociology.
Talking is a high level skill. It separates great players. It is required to achieve greatness as a team. Here are three reasons why I think talking is so important.

#1 For Yourself As A Player

Talking keeps you mentally engaged. Jimmy Dykes says "If you can't say it you can't do it." If your mouth is moving your mind is working. You are mentally in tune with what you are doing or about to do. I want players having meaningful communication. I wrote a post on communication earlier. Players should be saying (1) what they are doing & (2) what they will do! "Mike I'm here, I have help on your left." Talk for yourself.

#2 For Your Teammates

When things are going good everyone has something to say. What about when things go wrong? A player who is comfortable talking all the time will know what to say in this situation. This doesn't have to be yelling. There is nothing more disheartening to a team for a teammate who just made a mistake to be the one yelling. A leader will point out their mistake first, then try to help fix the problem. When you're talking for yourself, you're talking for your teammates. It gives them confidence in their job that you're doing your job. If an on the ball defender hears you have help, they are less likely to feel like they are on an island. Knowing you're there is good, hearing you say you're there is better. Talk for teammates.

#3 For Your Opponents

Talking intimidates. I'm not talking about talking trash although I don't mind a little chatter but I'm talking about having to listen to your opponent talk on defense. It is a sign of a well disciplined team. They know what they are doing. It rattles weak teams. When screens are being called out early, constant talk between teammates, it's hard for an offense to work. Same for the offensive end. When teammates are talking to each other on both ends. There is a bond & sense of confidence. Talk for opponents.

Here are also a couple of thoughts on talking:

Volume of talk has to be that of the loudest gym you'll play in once DAILY. - Jimmy Dykes
Players don't talk for 3 reasons: scared, stupid or selfish
Talking makes you Faster. - Shaka Smart

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Protecting Your Player this Spring/Summer

If you have read any of my posts here or on twitter you know that I coach High School and I'm involved in AAU. I also coach a 9 year old team which is a totally different animal. As the high school season is winding down for us the spring and summer evaluation periods are just around the corner. AAU programs are evaluating and contacting players, however the best programs are not interfering with the High School programs. Players shouldn't be attending workouts or practices until the end of their season. If a spring coach is requiring that there is your first warning: It's about him, not the kids. Here are a couple of thoughts I have to protect your player this spring and summer.

1. Where is the Money Going?
The Spring and Summer circuit is expensive. Teams are traveling Coast to Coast. In most instances money is raised to help fund these teams. First of all, it's your time and money. You should ask where the money is going and how is it being spent. Our organization, the Arkansas Wings, is as clear as glass as to where our money goes; to the players. We cover everything from uniforms to food and travel. If you are being asked for money and it doesn't cover everything then where is it going? Is it to pay for the coach? I know time is valuable but if you're asked to pay ask what for.

2. You Don't Have to Play every Weekend
There are two reasons I believe in that statement. First of all because of the money involved and also Players need skill development and rest. The evaluation period is the only time Coaches can attend games so what is the purpose in playing every weekend? A few years ago the thought process was more games. Now, thanks to guys like Ganon Baker and Drew Hanlen and Nike creating the EYBL player development is a major push.

3. Too Many Teams
It seems now that everyone that wants to play can play. That's fine, but when you attend some tournaments and you're seeing 80-20 pool play scores who is benefiting from that? The EYBL assures that every game is competitive with top-notch players. I watched a highlight video of a high level player but the first thing that stuck out to me was the level of competition. The top players should be playing vs each other. The next tier the same thing. That is what AAU and Nike have done that is so great. If you declare D1 then you'd better be ready for D1. D2 you'll have a couple of teams that "sandbag" for a better chance at winning.

And 1: Not All Teams are AAU teams

When a car breaks down, you don't say that Ford broke down to describe every car. That's unfair to that manufacturer. Same thing can be said for summer basketball. There are tons of tournaments and teams everywhere. They are all not AAU! AAU is a great organization that runs first class tournaments that require coaches to be PCA certified and also have background checks. Please don't call any team an AAU team.

I hope that informs you and helps you make the right decision.