Sunday, August 11, 2013

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.