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.