30 second time outs

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Twelve Weeks of Basketball

In keeping with the Spirit of Christmas I thought I`d leave you with a little song, sung to the tune of "The Twelve Days of Christmas"

*******The Twelve Weeks of Basketball*******

On the first day of practice my team promised me: a Big, Golden Championship Ring

In the next week of the season my team promised me: 2 Made Free Throws, and a Big, Golden Championship Ring.

In the third week of the season my team promised me 3 Point Plays, 2 Made Free Throws, and a Big, Golden Championship Ring

In the fourth week of the season my team promised me: 4 quarters played , 3 Point Plays, 2 Made Free Throws, and a Big, Golden Championship Ring

In the fifth week of the season my team promised me: 5 GREAT PLAYERS, 4 quarters played , 3 Point Plays, 2 Made Free Throws, and a Big, Golden Championship Ring

In the sixth week of the season my team promised me: 6 Deadly Shooters, 5 GREAT PLAYERS, 4 quarters played , 3 Point Plays, 2 Made Free Throws, and a Big, Golden Championship Ring

In the seventh week of the season my team promised me: 7 Guards a dribbling, 6 Deadly Shooters, 5 GREAT PLAYERS, 4 quarters played , 3 Point Plays, 2 Made Free Throws, and a Big, Golden Championship Ring

In the eighth week of the season my team promised me: 8 Forwards Leaping, 7 Guards a dribbling, 6 Deadly Shooters, 5 GREAT PLAYERS, 4 quarters played , 3 Point Plays, 2 Made Free Throws, and a Big, Golden Championship Ring

In the ninth week of the season my team promised me: 9 Solid Passers, 8 Forwards Leaping, 7 Guards a dribbling, 6 Deadly Shooters, 5 GREAT PLAYERS, 4 quarters played , 3 Point Plays, 2 Made Free Throws, and a Big, Golden Championship Ring

In the tenth week of the season my team promised me: 10 Guys Competing, 9 Solid Passers, 8 Forwards Leaping, 7 Guards a dribbling, 6 Deadly Shooters, 5 GREAT PLAYERS, 4 quarters played , 3 Point Plays, 2 Made Free Throws, and a Big, Golden Championship Ring

In the eleventh week of the season my team promised me: 11 Tough Rebounders, 10 Guys Competing, 9 Solid Passers, 8 Forwards Leaping, 7 Guards a dribbling, 6 Deadly Shooters, 5 GREAT PLAYERS, 4 quarters played , 3 Point Plays, 2 Made Free Throws, and a Big, Golden Championship Ring

In the twelth week of the season my team promised me: 12 Strong Defenders, 11 Tough Rebounders, 10 Guys Competing, 9 Solid Passers, 8 Forwards Leaping, 7 Guards a Dribbling, 6 Deadly Shooters, 5 GREAT PLAYERS, 4 Quarters Played , 3 Point Plays, 2 Made Free Throws, and a Big, Golden Championship Ring!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 07, 2009


If the other team has a poor free throw shooter think about fouling to force them to shoot from the line in hopes that they miss. Even if they make both, you are in the same boat as if they had scored, but you have at least saved the time of the whole possession. This stage should not be entered too soon, but at some point you will recognize that the opponent is taking too much time during their possessions to allow you enough time to come back.

I don't like yelling like a wild man foul! foul! or "red! red!" - because then the ref may call one even when it's not there. When we are in "foul mode" we don't really want to foul - we want to gain possession of the ball. Take it from them , go through them, go over their back - whatever it takes. But make SURE that there is either a steal or a foul! I've had referees even ask "if we want a quick one?" and I tell them - "if you see one call it, but we're not TRYING to foul"

We use hand signals for everything. Calls with 1 hand are offense, 2 hands are defense (Two fists, Two open hands, one of each, etc). Our call when we are in "Blitz Mode" is Two Hands Clasped Together. Yes we are "praying" that we get a steal or they call a foul!

Once you are in this "foul mode" and you are going to foul anyway, don’t wait for too much time to run off of the clock. If you score give your pressure defense a chance to steal a pass or two, and then foul. Once it gets really late in the game and every second matters, then foul immediately upon the inbounds pass. At this stage in the game when your team misses a shot go for every offensive rebound with the intent to get the rebound at all costs. If you foul, you were going to do that anyway and you’ll stop the clock immediately. You’ll be surprised at how many offensive rebounds the team gets and the official does not call the foul.

Friday, December 04, 2009

The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Much has been made of the trials and tribulations of the Oregon Ducks Football program this season. And they've certainly had both. I'm not going to lie- after the game one debacle against Boise St, I thought Head Coach Chip Kelly was waaaaay overmatched, as I'm sure many did. Heck, as he walked to the locker room at half-time with NO first downs - the thought probably slipped into his head at least for a second.

After the defeat, the aftermath was worse with the LeGarrette Blount implosion that has been seen far too many time - so I won't link it here. What Coach Kelly did afterwards to set the Ducks back in the correct direction is quite impressive. Rather than ranting and raving (although he may have done a little of that) Kelly told them the story of Alexander - right out of a children's book, and all of the awful things that happened to Alexander on a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Things worked out for Alexander... and the Oregon Ducks. You can get the book here

Friday, November 27, 2009

University of Portland's Hot Start is No Surprise

University of Portland has started the season with a couple great wins - but those that follow them shouldn't be surprised. Here's a great 7-Minute Culture Clinic with Coach Eric Reveno

They run some really good offensive sets, and some serious specials. Here's a nice one they run for a 3 pt shooter - which they have a few of.

Then out of the same set they can attack the post off a great ball reversal

If you like teams that "play the right way" - catch some games in the West Coast Conference

Friday, November 20, 2009

Keep it Simple ... or Simple to Learn

I think a lot of times coaches get paralyzed by the phrase “K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid). This does not mean we have to give up on teaching the game. It shouldn't scare coaches from implementing additional strategies or tactics that they feel necessary. What we can do is ensure that we are as concise and consistent as possible with terminology, principles, and tactics. If you are able to do this you can still take a pretty complex package and make it palatable for your players.

“The Princeton Offense” is looked at as complex, but that memorable backdoor to beat UCLA, in vintage Pete Carril lingo, was called "center-forward…because the ball goes to the center and then to the forward. Complex - but taught simply. Albert Einstein explanation of the complicated conversion of mass to energy is expressed in a formula so simple as E=MC². He once said, "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough."

We should keep that in mind when we coach. We don’t have to BE simple, but we CAN coach simply.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Kansas BLOB for a LOB

Nice Baseline Out of Bounds play run by Bill Self's Kansas Jayhawks against the Memphis Tigers to get Cole Aldrich a dunk.

I see too many teams pass on this great scoring opportunity and simply run a play to get the ball in. Unless you are running some clock - take advantage and run a play to SCORE!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Ultimate Medicine Ball

One of my favorite conditioning activities in the off-season is a game I call Ultimate Medicine Ball (like Ultimate Frisbee). You play the game with a medicine ball (obviously), and play 3 on 3 or 4 on 4 with a 30 yard field, about the length of a basketball court. At each end of the field create a 15’ square end zone, about the size of the key.

The object of the game is to advance the ball up the field with a series of passes & score a point by passing the ball to a teammate inside the end zone. You may set screens or run offensive patterns to help get teammates open. You must only throw
two-handed passes – and encourage two-handed catches – they might even be necessary depending on the weight of the medicine ball. You may not run with the ball and you must maintain a pivot foot – just as in basketball.

Use this and skills such as pressuring the ball, denying passes, moving to get open, understanding spacing, passing catching, pivot feet, and advancing the ball up the floor are all skills that can be learned through this alternatbasketball principles. Plus it's fun and a great conditioner.

Monday, October 05, 2009


From the time I was little I knew I was great
`cause the people would tell me -"you`ll make it - just wait."
But they never did tell me how great I would be
if I ever played someone who was greater than me.

When I`m in my backyard -I`m king with the ball.
To swish all those baskets is no sweat at all.
But all of a sudden there`s a man in my face
who doesn`t seem to realize - I`m king of this place.

So the pressure gets to me - I rush with the ball.
My passes to teammates could fly through the wall.
My jumpers not falling - my dibbles not sure.
My hand is not steady - my eye is not pure.

The fault is my teammates - they don`t understand.
The fault is my coach`s - what a terrible plan.
The fault is the call by that blind referee
but the fault is not mine - I`m the greatest you see.

Then finally it hits me when I started to see
that the face in the mirror looks exactly like me.
It wasn`t my teammates who were dropping the ball
and it wasn`t my coach shooting bricks at the wall.

That face in the mirror that was always so great
had some room for improvement - instead of just hate.
So I stopped blaming others and I started to grow.
My play got much better and it started to show.

And all of my teammates didn`t seem quite so bad.
I learned to depend on the good friends I had.
Now I like myself better since I started to see -
I was lousy being great - I`m much better being me.

Tom Krause - Copyright 2000

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Why The Elephants Don't Run

The following was forwarded to me and written by Jim Donovan

Do some coaches do this to young players? Have others done it to us?

A number of years ago, I had the rather unique experience of being backstage in Madison Square Garden, in New York, during the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus. To say the least, it was a fascinating experience. I was able to walk around looking at the lions, tigers, giraffes and all the other circus animals. As I was passing the elephants, I suddenly stopped, confused by the fact that these huge creatures were being held by only a small rope tied to their front leg. No chains, no cages. It was obvious that the elephants could, at any time, break away from their bonds but for some reason, they did not. I saw a trainer near by and asked why these beautiful, magnificent animals just stood there and made no attempt to get away.

"Well," he said, "when they are very young and much smaller we use the same size rope to tie them and, at that age, it's enough to hold them. As they grow up, they are conditioned to believe they cannot break away. They think the rope can still hold them, so they never try to break free."
I was amazed. These animals could at any time break free from their bonds but because they believed they could not, they were stuck right where they were.

Like the elephants, how many of us go through life hanging onto a belief that we cannot do something, simply because we failed at it once before? How many of us are being held back by old, outdated beliefs that no longer serve us? Have you avoided trying something new because of a limiting belief? Worse, how many of us are being held back by someone else's limiting beliefs? Do you tell yourself you can't sell because you're not a salesperson?

Challenge your own limiting beliefs by questioning them. If you begin to question a belief, you automatically weaken it. The more you question your limiting beliefs, the more they are weakened. It's like kicking the legs out from under a stool. Once you weaken one leg, the stool begins to lose its balance and fall. Think back to a time when you "sold" someone on yourself. We are selling all the time. You have to sell your ideas to your spouse, your children, and your employees - even your banker. Maybe, as a child, you sold Girl Scout cookies or magazine subscriptions to raise money for your school team. That was selling too!

There is a technique called "fake it until you make it" that works well. I am not suggesting you live in denial, just that you begin to see yourself succeeding. Visualize your successes. See yourself vividly in your minds eye making the sale and reaching your goals. Affirm, over and over, that you are succeeding.

Write your affirmations daily. Of course, make sure you take the appropriate action. As it says in the Bible, "Faith without works is dead."

Remember that your subconscious mind does not know the difference between real and imaginary. Before you go on a sales call, take a moment and mentally rehearse the scene, just like actors and athletes do. Tell yourself, "I'm a great salesperson. " Do this over and over, especially just before a sales call. See the sale being made. See and feel the success. You will be pleasantly amazed at the result. Don't take my word for it. Give it a try. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

It has been said throughout history that what ever you believe, with conviction, you can achieve. Don't be like the poor elephant and go through your life stuck because of a limiting belief you were given or developed years ago. Take charge of your life and live it to the fullest. You deserve the best!

© Copyright 2001 Jim Donovan
Visit Jim at His Website:

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Permanent Pivot Foot or Inside Pivot Foot

In a "catch and shoot" situation. We feel that a player must KNOW if he is open before the catch, when he/she is on the move. If he KNOWS he is open, he should plant the inside foot and rise into the shot. As he is heading towards the pass and he plants the inside foot, and it squares you to the basket a lot faster and is probably more comfortable. Quickness is the key to getting off a good shot. The emphasis on preparing their feet and being "shot ready" gets the player to be thinking about shooting on the catch - that's when a player should be most open. Also emphasize that this is a great time to use the defenders positioning against himself. Making a move to attack that defender is more often than not the best time to do so. But we are not really talking about establish a pivot foot for future use - we are simply talking about preparing the body to rise into the shot in the quickest manner possible. If it turns out that he ISN'T open and he's stuck on the wrong pivot foot (not the end of the world) then we have a discussion about the definition of KNOW !:?) If there is any doubt - he's probably not open for a shot.

So if there is any question that he is not open for a shot or immediate attack, he should establish his PERMANENT pivot foot and "free his shooting foot". This enables him to go into a "rocker series" of moves to attack the front foot (the one that is closest) of the defensive player. Establishing a pivot foot when catching the ball out on the floor is essential to "squaring up" (facing the basket) and getting into triple threat position (the ability to pass, dribble or shoot effectively) The pivot is a fundamental skill that can get a player relief from pressure defense, and can be a great skill to have to begin an offensive move.

HOW to square up (although I don't think you really want to be 100% square) is the question. There are a couple of schools of thought. The conventional method is to plant the inside foot (the foot closest to the middle of the floor when you are moving to the ball. Contrary to that is the method that many coaches and players are using today, and that is to use a "PERMANENT PIVOT FOOT". A permanent pivot foot simplifies the learning process, especially with younger players, and cuts the number of moves to learn in half. In this method, the player plants the SAME foot all the time.

The object is to "free your shooting foot". Now, you don’t shoot with your foot - it’s the foot on the same side as the hand that you shoot with (right handed-right foot). You plant the opposite foot, and now your shooting foot can move to either step into a shot, or use foot fakes (rocker moves) to attack the defense. I think this is a far more comfortable action that allows the player to develop the best rhythm. Given a choice I think most players would prefer to have their shooting foot free. If we watch the NBA, Some of the best perimeter players of the era (Jordan, Kobe, Lebron, Mcgrady, etc) are using the PERMANENT PIVOT FOOT and always have their shooting foot free.

All other things being equal, the players with the best feet are usually the best players.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Effort Goals

Coach Sallie Guillory, Assistant Womens Coach at McNeese St posted the following on Twitter:

Coach Crean has these boards up in locker rooms and watch film after games so they are updated when team comes in the next day...
1.) Deflections (Individual)
2.) Charges taken (2 deflections count as a charge)
3.) Forced turnovers
4.) M.A.’s (missed assignments)
5.) 50/50 Ball + or - in getting to
6.) Shot challenges. Use charts to get percentage of challenged shots
7.) Block outs. Strive for 85%
8.) Blow Bye’s- 1 on 1 defense

Marquette offensive board
1.) Missed Layups- 10 push ups/after a loss 25 pushups
2.) Bad shots vs. open shots
3.) Missed Assignments. Ex: screens, cuts, spacing of penetration, positions
4.) Assists
5.) Offensive rebound attempts

Goals are great. It’s hard to know if you are improving if you don’t set goals and keep track of how well you are doing in moving toward the goals. Most coaches set Outcome Goals, which are highly dependent on the quality of one’s opponent and tend to reflect the results and the scoreboard. Positive Coaching Alliance talks alot about effort goals. Effort goals are largely under one’s control regardless of the competition and tend to reflect a players personal excellence. Effort is everything that leads up to the possibility of having a successful outcome.

Things like Deflections, Contested Shots. Block Outs, and Offensive Rebound attempts are all Effort Goals. If you contest enough shots (we would strive for a 90% contested shot rate) the opponent will probably shoot a low percentage - the desired result of your efforts. If you block out 85% of the time - you'll get the defensive rebounds you should. And if you just attempt to get enough offensive rebounds - some are bound to bounce your way.

Chart an equal number of *Effort Goals* & mental or lack of effort errors...then use "symbolic rewards" to acknowledge those players with cumulative positive results. Try to make it equal - players need to know there are at least as many *positive behaviors* you will praise as there are negative behaviors you will scold. There should be as many ways to get to the penthouse as there are ways to get in your doghouse!

If you strive to reach your Effort Goals you have a better chance to achieve your Result Goals!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


During the preseason, as basketball coaches are introducing the offensive and defensive game plans, philosophies, and strategies, it is easy to forget some basic actions that can improve players and the team. There are some fundamental things that ANY player can commit to doing, simply by putting their mind to it, without needing to get better at any "basketball fundamentals". These "commitments" can make the player more effective IMMEDIATELY without getting any better at “basketball skills”.

Always stay in an athletic stance. It is your point of maximum explosion. Be just like a track sprinter coming out of the blocks. Have your knees bent. Be on balance. Be ready to move. You will get open on offense more often. You will guard your man on defense easier. The player with the lowest active stance usually wins.

The only person who can score is the one with the ball. Go guard him even if he is not your man. Help your teammates when their man is open. Go guard him. Contest the shot even if it means leaving your feet, but don’t fall for a head fake too easily!

Always catch the ball with 2 hands--concentrate on the catch before you do anything else. Rebound with 2 hands--and try for every one. Pick up a loose ball with 2 hands--pick it up, don’t dribble it. You will get more possessions for your team and each possession is another chance to score.

You will usually break their will with your first three steps. Get ahead of the defense and your teammates will throw you the ball. It will help you get easy shots on offense with your fast break. If you beat the offense back, they may not even try to run their fast break. Getting back on defense will help stop their fast break and cut down on their easy shot attempts.

Passing the ball is faster than dribbling it. If you move the ball, you make the defense adjust and they might make a mistake and leave someone (maybe you!) open. If you see an open teammate--throw them the ball. Don’t wait for a better pass. Remember - "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush."

There are some more "little things" that you can do to be a more effective player for your team.

Establish a pivot foot
When you catch the ball, plant one foot and establish a pivot foot. Now that you have a pivot foot you can use the other foot for a "rocker move" that can fake out a defender, set up another move, or to create a better passing angle.

Face the basket
When you catch the basketball, turn & face the basket, read the defense and make a move on the catch if it is there. If not get into "triple threat position". This is the position that you will be able to shoot, pass, or dribble from. Then the defense has more things to worry about and you will be hard to guard.

Dribble for a reason
If you dribble the basketball, only dribble for a good reason. Good reasons to dribble are: to dribble the ball up the floor, to drive to the basket, to get in better position to make a pass, or to relieve some defensive pressure.

Good shot or Bad shot?
Don’t ever surprise anyone with your shot. If your teammates and coach expect you to shoot, it’s probably a shot that they think you can make. They also will be ready for an offensive rebound or to get back on defense. That makes it a good shot. A rebound gives your team another chance to score. If your team is not back on defense, you might give up an easy fast break basket to the other team.

Pressure on the Basketball
Always try to put defensive pressure on the player with the basketball. Pressure makes the offense worry more about the defense than what they are supposed to do in their offense. Rick Majerus, when he was the coach at the University of Utah, said that pressure is when the referee is counting. If the defense is within 6 feet, the offense can only hold the ball for 5 seconds each. Play close enough to the ball to try to get a "5 second count"

Jump to the pass
When you are on defense, every time someone passes the basketball, take a few steps in the direction that it is thrown. This will put you in a position to stop your man if he tries to cut to the basket. You also will be in the right spot to help your teammates, if their man dribbles by them.

See your man and the basketball
Always be able to see your man & the man with the basketball. You need to be able stop your man AND help your teammates if they get beat on the dribble.

Stop the basketball
When on defense, react to the basketball and help your teammates. The only man that can score is the man with the ball. If he’s open - go guard him. If he passes the ball back to your man, sprint back and be ready to pressure him again.

On offense, make sure that your team gets a shot every time.

On defense contest every shot the other team takes.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

More on the Mistake Ritual

The beauty of the mistake ritual is that it allows players to flush, brush off, throw away, or put mistakes behind them. The only part of the mistake a player needs to remember is that part that teaches them. So we don't want players to simply "forget it" we want them to learn from it. Depending upon the sport you have 5, 6, 9, 11 players to coach and any number of them may have made some mistake on each and every play. You don't have time to make all those corrections so a simple sign or symbol says the rest. If they don't KNOW you saw it - they also don't KNOW it's OK... so you have to do something. If that something is a verbal barrage they'll be afraid of making a mistake next time and if it's a litany of instructions we run the risk of "Paralysis by Analysis". If it's a simple "mistake ritual" it may say, and do, all you need in mere seconds.

I wrote about the few things that have to happen In order to learn from mistakes. The most important thing is that the player must Recognize that a mistake was made. If the player recognizes it on their own, there is no need for the coach to pile on. As a coach, most of the time you can tell whether they know or not - if not you may need to let them know, and thats alright. A player must also have some Reassurance that it's OK and they can play without the *fear* of making another one. That's why I like the word "encourage". It EN-ables players to play with the COURAGE to try... without the fear of making a mistake.

Sometimes, if a player doesn't know what they did wrong, they may need some of that Re-instruction. This works best if it's a short "trigger word" rather than a long explanation. Communicating your terminology and an economy of words is key when it comes to coaching - especially during games. A word or two and they should know what correction they need to make. Whatever your "ritual" is, if the players know it means, "I saw you made the mistake, it's OK, (insert trigger word here), now let's go!" they can learn AND move on. At that point the most important thing they need to get Ready for the next play. They can't do anything about the last one. Except learn from it.

You might ask, "Do we want to treat a mental mistake the same as striking out with the bases loaded? That would lead me to consider "when a mistake is *not* OK". By using a "mastery" definition of winning where trying your best, learning what you can, and bouncing back from mistakes is more important than the scoreboard, it is simple to define what mistakes are not OK. Those that come from lack of effort or repeated mistakes that indicate a lack of learning. Those need to be dealt with. But it's not the "mistake" and how it effects the score that is the problem - it is the action that caused the mistake. So we go back to the drawing board put in more effort, learn some more and try again. Without the worry that accompanies scoreboard watching.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Mistake Rituals

Do any of you use a "mistake ritual" with your players? You probably do and just don't know it. But if not... why not? When a player looks at the bench after a mistake What are they looking for?And what does he or she see? Does it help them 1) recognize it was a mistake, 2) reassure them that it's OK, 3) re-instruct them , and 4) help them get Ready for the next play? Anything else is defeating the purpose. I wrote about it here a little more than a year ago, during the Lakers/Celtics final. The Lakers sure put that one behind them and learned from it.

A "mistake ritual" can help players put that mistake behind them and play without the fear of making another. Some good examples of rituals and those who uses them are here in this blog. But it's really about Positive Coaching Alliance starting a National Conversation on best practices. Read and comment here if you have any thoughts on the "mistake ritual". Take part in the Conversation. Nationally.

And thanks to those who signed the petition already, others if you could take a minute and do your part to creating an official National Coach Appreciation Week

While coaches are teachers coaches deserve a separate week just as teachers do, to bring schools and communities together to honor those that teach life through sports to our next generation.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Three Posts

The typical basketball lineup in recent years has been three perimeter players with two post players, maybe one more comfortable on the block and another able to step outside a bit. A recent trend is going 4-out around a single post and many teams are even playing open-post, due to the shortage of bigs or the versatility of their players. However, many coaches ask, "What if THREE of my best players are posts and I want them ALL on the floor?" Here is an offense that might fit those needs.

This offense can also be run with three perimeter players and two post players out of a 1-4 set, but here is an option with two guards and three forwards/posts. Coaches should work to develop enough perimeter skill in your post players to catch the ball on the perimeter, look to feed the post, and be able to reverse the basketball. Any more than that and it is a definite bonus.

This creates some great post up opportunities by erasing the help, off cross screens and then getting the ball to your posts on the move. All screens are big/little screens which make them difficult to switch. It also has some classic screen-the-screener movement to get your guards perimeter shots and offers more post ups off the screening action. This can be run as a continuity/track offense – or it can reset to a 2-3 after each cycle.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Mindset and Developing Confidence

A players confidence, generally, comes from experiencing REPEATED SUCCESS. This success begins in practice. When a player has worked in practice enough, and done all that she can, she should KNOW that she has prepared enough to play, and that's what's really important. Too often success tends to be defined by results and the scoreboard. The great basketball coach John Wooden uses the definition of success as "Peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best of which you are capable." In much the same way, at Positive Coaching Alliance we strive to redefine and reinforce a more complete definition of "Winning" or success.

The traditional definition of a winner is the person or team that does the best on the scoreboard. Even a team that is outplayed in every facet of a game but comes away with more points on the scoreboard is declared the winner. Whereas the scoreboard definition is concerned with results over which no one has complete control, what we call Mastery focuses on effort over which one almost always has control. The scoreboard framework focuses on comparisons with others, and it spawns counter-productive thinking. "Am I better than she is?" "Is she better than me?" "Are we going to win? Lose?" These are issues over which an athlete has no immediate control and tends to cause anxiety.

The Mastery focus, instead, falls on learning and improvement. It fosters this important line of thinking: "How hard am I trying? How much of myself am I giving? I may not be able to control whether I am better than someone else or whether I can win the game, but I can control whether I continue to learn and improve." This mental framework, which takes work to develop, gives the athlete a sense of mastery, bolsters self-confidence and, as a by-product, improves performance. What is important to know is that a focus on mastery tends to decrease anxiety and increase self-confidence. When athletes experience less anxiety, they tend to experience more joy in sports. And when self-confidence increases some very good things happen.

As parents we can set an example with our conversations. Have a good attitude and it may be contagious. Continue to believe in your daughter and she may believe in herself. There are some great Parent Tips and Tools on our website at http://www.positivecoach.org. Some recommended reading would be a book titled "Mindset" by PCA Advisory Board Member Carol Dwek. Some players may have developed a "fixed" mindset, that thinks performance is based on talent or whether we are "on" that day - and either we "have it" or we don't. What is preferable is if we can transition that to a "Growth" mindset that looks at obstacles as challenges to overcome.

The most important aspect of competition is to continue to have fun in the process. Foster that fun. If a player isn't having fun they tend not to work as diligently as they could to really improve. Make sure she has a GREAT time, and continues to work as hard as she has. With a Mastery focus and a Growth mindset she will know that she has given her all, to be all that she can be, and that there are no problems that she can't work to overcome. Then she'll have CONFIDENCE for sure!

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Basketball Development, iHoops and where to go from here

We've pretty much agreed that in a perfect world the club and HS coaches should work together in the best interest of the kid. In reality, we also realize that in a majority of cases that probably doesn't happen. So now what? How do we create change? We've pretty much identified the problems and rehashed them - now we need to do SOMETHING.

I spoke at Stanford University with Chip Heath, the author of "Made to Stick:Why some ideas Survive and Others Die", who came and visited with us at Positive Coaching Alliance (http://www.positivecoach.org). We talked about his new book coming out in 2010 titled "Switch:How to Change Things When Change is Hard. I read a manuscript and really like the concepts. Keep an eye out for it because it is pretty good. I think this situation applies because this is a very difficult change to make. I will attempt to briefly summarize and avoid his unique metaphors and examples that Chip uses to make the book great, but essentially it is this:

In order to effect the most amount of change in the shortest amount of time there are a few things we need to do.

1) Educate. Every discussion on developing a plan mentions the necessity of Coach Education. Brian's The Crossover Movement outlines a comprehensive plan. People need to know how.

2) Motivate. People need to be motivated for change and there are all kinds of reasons to do so. But the one that resonates with the most people is "what's in it for me?"

3) Simplify. In order to get the change started it is most effective to pick one thing that you think will have the maximum impact.

So we know we need Education. Now how do we answer the question, "what's in it for me?" For everybody involved, Why should I change? After all... I'm right! (isn't that what everyone thinks?) And finally... what is the one, simple thing we can do to provide a good developmental environment for the players

Absent blowing up the entire system and starting from scratch (which can't/won't happen) what ONE thing can be done? My hope is that iHoops will figure that out. With the joint efforts of the NBA & NCAA and the announced funding of $50M, we're light years ahead of where we were two years ago - yet haven't gone anywhere yet, probably because their is so much to do, and so many different perspectives. Some want more school involvement (Weiberg), others want to help fix AAU/Club (Coach K), and the shoe guys would like the camps protected.

Get all states to go along with allowing the HS coach with more year-round access, California being the latest to open this up. The NFHS should join forces as well. Create a summer culture that will convince the good HS coaches that the summer/club/AAU circuit is not "slimy & corrupt" so they will join the fray. Create incentives for those same HS coaches to join forces and develop "clubs" of their own with 3 or 4 team "coalitions" that would create a few levels to compete on the summer circuit. Top 3 players from each program form their top group, and divide the remaining players to create 3 or 4 groups that could compete in the summer showcase/evaluation events. The better players will get an opportunity to be seen and the bottom group will be in the secondary gym on court #8... but those same kids are there now anyway on someone else's club.

The simplest 1st step within the iHoops Web portal framework (if the NCAA is REALLY going to buy into this) might be to only allow their NCAA coaches to attend iHoops certified events. Certification may require at least a minimum of training - online or otherwise. The more education the better, but start somewhere. Clearly skills & drills can be, at least, superficially addressed but the "Art of Coaching" is what may be most lacking. All the Xs & Os are out there for everybody to learn - what separates the good coaches are those that manage the other side of the ball. At Positive Coaching Alliance we have the Double-Goal Coach model that discusses the importance of teaching Life Lessons while you are preparing your team to Win. If that creates a more "sterile" culture to convince good coaches that this is the place to be, we've addressed a bit of the education piece.

High School coaches that try to run a quality program play a bundle of summer games already anyway. They are in any number of meaningless tournaments and team camps (which most are mostly tournaments in disguise) often with their better players off playing with their club, so why not play somewhere else and be around your kids. A system that encourages them to get to these showcase/evaluation events may open their eyes to the value of players playing outside their "system" - of which many are skeptical. Yet they will still be around their players to a certain extent, so they can teach all the "fundamentals" that they worry the AAU coaches aren't teaching. The 3 or 4 team coalitions would allow them to align with coaches they trust and not fear the "transfer railroad" that they are so leery of.

This initial step would place more influence (if "influence"l is good?) in the hands of the HS coach, involve more coaches with the desired "education", and create an opportunity for those coaches to share some of that club revenue to get them through the summer (also answering the question "what's in it for me?") First step? A small one, but maybe the path of least resistance that can get the flywheel moving.

Monday, June 15, 2009

All-Star disappointments

This is the time of the year that youth baseball leagues are selecting their All-Star teams. A small percentage of the players in a league are selected for a tournament team - the vast majority of players do not make these teams. How are parents best equipped to deal with this phenomenon?

The key to being able to handle All-Star disappointments is to start emphasizing the Positive Coaching Alliance's ELM Tree (Effort, Learning, and bouncing back from Mistakes) at the earliest ages and rather than worrying about Results and Comparing your child to others. This will create a mindset where being named to these teams is less important (or traumatic). Rather than dwelling on the setback, this is an opportunity for a player to go out with renewed effort to improve and possibly strive to making that team the following season. Focus on the efforts and improvements that were made, rather than the end result of the All-Star snub. Try hard, at all times, not to equate the players performance on the season with their "self-worth", and negatively effecting their self-esteem, by supporting them unconditionally at all times.

The important thing to remember, again, is for Parents to be Second-Goal Parents and not worry about their child's performance (the first goal) as much as the second, but more important goal in the Life-Lessons their child learns. With this approach even the toughest of situations are manageable for the parent. Not all of the lessons learned in sports are fun ones. Sometimes the most important lessons are the difficult ones. Learning to respond to the disappointment, and sometimes even injustice, of not making an All-Star team enables that child to find a way to cope with that inevitable situation later in life. That same player may someday not get into the Ivy League University they apply to and need to deal with that rejection by making the most of their second choice of colleges. They need to learn to forge ahead when they don't get the job, promotion, etc that they desire when they are faced with that in the future - and there may not be a better place to learn how to deal with disappointments and setbacks than sports.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

"Diagonals" Pressbreak

It's good to have a organized Pressbreak that is consistent with how you attack after any made basket. This should be a set that flows directly from your transition game or early offense. There may be times when the opponent springs a press after a score, and you don't want to be disorganized or have to call a time-out to set up your pressbreak.

In this set after a made basket, 3 would inbound the ball quickly, preferably to 1 around the FT line. 2 would run the right lane for a possible over the top pass, 4 would run the left lane and 5 would sprint to the rim.

When a press is recognized the team enters the pressbreak seamlessly. 2 would come back to the ball and has the entire right lane to get open from the lane-line extended to the sidelines. 1 needs to get open in the box from that same lane-line to the opposite sideline and below the top of the key. 4 can begin cut to the top of the key and look for an open spot in the middle of the press. 5 continues to the rime to stretch the defense.

If the ball is entered to 1 or 2, the 4 man will diagonal cut toward half-court on the side the ball is entered - looking for a pass leading him to the sideline. This limits the chance for a defender to make the steal. If 4 does get a pass the opposite guard (1 or 2) can sprint the middle for a return pass and attack with numbers. After the ball is inbounded 3 needs to step in quickly and get out from under the basket in order to provide a safety return pass.

When one guard gets the inbound pass the opposite guard can drift up the floor a bit, but stay wide, in order to provide a diagonal pass. At all times in the pressbreak the player with the ball should have (in order of progression) a 1) straight ahead pass, 2) a diagonal pass, and 3) a safety pass. If the player is double teamed - and all of those are covered... then the 5 man stretching the defense deep must be open. If it everyone is matched-up man-to-man. The ballhandler should advance the ball via the controlled dribble until they feel pressure. If everyone stays spaced and it remains 1 on 1, this alone could break the press.

If the player feels pressure they should look at the progression 1) straight ahead 2) diagonal and 3) safety.
Now many coaches want someone "in the middle" of the press, as that is a great place to attack. I agree, however I think a bit differently. I think when you just place some one there, or alternate flashing a player, the defense can "get the rhythm" of your pressbreak. I like to CUT players through that middle and try to get them on the move so they can attack.

So if , for example, 2 reverses the ball to 3 they would immediately cut diagonally through the open space in the middle of the press. The inbounder, 3, would immediately look for the "give & go" if the defender happens to relax (that's why Give & Go's work). If it is not there immediately 3 should swing the ball to the opposite guard, who in turn should look at the diagonal cutter. 2 eventually becomes the straight ahead, 4 becomes the diagonal, and 1 should advance the ball up the floor until they feel pressure.

At that point, 3 is still a safety. 1 can reverse to 3, make a diagonal cut through the press, while 4 goes deep. When 1 vacates the lane, 2 can step up and fill that spot (I have never seen this player not open if we've been patient enough to get this far).If nothing has been open they've probably followed cutters and it should be a 1 on 1 situation.

At worse... the ball is now in the hands of what is normally one of your better players, who needs to make a play.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

A Little Fellow Follows Me

A careful man I must always be;
A little fellow follows me.
I know I dare not go astray
For fear he'll go the self same way.

I cannot once escape his eyes,
Whate'er he sees me do, he tries.
Like me he says he's going to be;
The little chap who follows me.

He thinks that I am good and fine,
Believes in every word of mine.
The base in me he must not see;
The little chap who follows me.

I must be careful as I go
Through summer's sun and winter's snow,
Because I'm building for the years to be;
This little chap who follows me.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Motivating youth athletes to listen and play hard

It's important to teach sports in the proper progression. Have reasonable expectations of your level of play and teach to their ability through setting achievable goals for the players. Stretch each player to improve and try not to leave anyone behind by challenging them with drills and activities that measure their improvement over a previous standard or a competition against others. Encourage kids to ask questions by providing sincere answers to all of them. As hard as it is sometimes - it develops a growth mindset they'll appreciate forever.

Your entire team (coaches, players and parents) should strive to achieve the Magic Ratio of 5 positive experiences for every correction/critiscism or negative experience. Consider everything verbal and non-verbal. A great rule of thumb is to Relentlessly Reward Desired Effort! Think about that statement. It means you're always trying, you're attempting to be more positive by recognizing achievements, it means they're learning what you want by doing what's desired and they're giving a good effort. The reward can come through praise (truthful and specific), symbolic rewards (stickers, game balls, etc) and/or playing time.

When organizing practice and dividing playing time, try to provide the maximum number of repetitions and opportunities to be active as possible. Kids get sluggish and discouraged when there is a lot of standing around waiting for their turn. A slow paced practice does not teach kids to hustle. You can't cruise through practice and expect hustle in a game. Players need to learn what it means to give 100%. Create those opportunities in practice and then let them know when they did well. Ask kids if they gave their best and find out if they have more to give (only they really know). Make hustle fun.. then reward it.

Quite possibly the most important thing is for you to have fun. If you're having a great time, players tend to follow the coaches lead and feed off that. Set the tone when they arrive at practice and send them off on a positive not.


Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Message to a new coach

Be yourself.
Have a plan.
Be decisive.
Do what you know is right.
Communicate with everybody - about everything.
Build trust among the group - that might be most important.
Fix "broken windows" immediately - otherwise there'll be more before you know it.
Take kids where they want to go - after you sell them on your vision of where that should be.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Sideline Out-of-Bounds (SLOB)

It’s nice to have a standard Sideline Out-Of-Bounds play (SLOB) that the players can run at any time – but is versatile enough to give your team different options. There have been games where we’ve scored more than a half-dozen different ways out of the same play. Down the stretch in close games with so many stoppages of play, there are often several opportunities to take the ball out on the side. If you can come out of a time out or give the same look – yet attack in a completely different way it gives you a tremendous offensive advantage. The play easily flows into a 3-out/2-in set or works if a team is better suited to a single-post set. Finally, by having a lone multi-purpose play it saves your team practice time to work on other things that are necessary and allows the coach to Keep it Simple-Stupid (K.I.S.S)

As the official hands the inbounder, the 3-man, the ball, the 5-man in the corner looks to down screen for the best shooter, in this case the 2-man. If the shooter is open in the corner the pass should be made. This might result in a corner jumper, a drive opportunity for 2, or a post up for the 5-man... especially if the defense is forced to switch, creating a potential mismatch in the post.

Once the shooter comes off that screen, against a man-to-man defense the entire weakside defense is erased. This opens up an opportunity for an over-the-top pass to the 4-man who is coming off a big/little backscreen by the 1-man.. which may create another mismatch. This will also loosen up the defender on the 1-man which will provide at least a safety pass to inbound the ball.

Immediately upon throwing the inbounds pass the 3-man can take advantage of the defenses habit of neglecting to defend the inbounder. 3 can sprint to the basket for a give-and-go, and ultimately come off a screen by 4 to create a ball reversal to the opposite wing... along with a post up opportunity for 4 - again, especially if they switch.

With a couple of minor adjustments you can give the exact same look, but by switching a couple players in different spots you can have a last second play for a 3,

and an under :03 seconds play for a 2 or a 3.

The key to this is the 1-man (who probably has the smallest defender) is setting a screen for the 5-man (your biggest, toughest player). The pass by the inbounder (2) should be thrown so it arrives to 5 just as he is coming off of 1's screen and should be thrown high so that 5 has to go up and get it. A good screen may get 5 open. If the defense switches - at worst you have their smallest player against your biggest and the pass is high.

4 is setting a backscreen for a fade by 3, who may be open for a shot and after the inbounder sprints to the 3 point line - if you need a 3 the 5 man can look for 2, 3, or 4 at the 3 pt line for an inside-out 3... the easiest to hit.

This is the one time when a good SLOB is a great thing!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Who plays what position? And When?

In coaching, especially at the youth sports level, what position a player has an opportunity to play is always a hot topic. In basketball forwards want to play guard, shooting guards want a chance to play point guard. In football, players desire to play offense rather than defense and everyone wants to be the quarterback, running back or receiver. In those youth sports, coaches often "stereotype" players into particular positions. I had a 10 yr old on a team while working a basketball camp, and after going through several substitution rotations, the 5 biggest players on the team were on the floor at once. The best of them asked me, "who's going to play point guard".. so I answered that he should. He replied, "I'm not a point guard... my coach says I'm a center". My response was, "There's no such thing as a 10 yr old center!" And he played point guard, doing quite well, I might add. In "Positive Coaching in a Nutshell" jim Thompson writes,

"Some kids mature early. If you have a big kid, avoid the temptation to limit him to “big” positions—lineman in football or under the basket in basketball. Many big kids end up being normal-sized when they mature, and you can do them a big favor by having them learn positions and skills that don’t rely on size for success."

This dilemma is especially true in baseball where the positions of inflield/outfield are so different - both in activity and perception. The perception is that the outfielders are the less skilled players (and at times they are). The distressing problem with that is the player sometimes "buys into" that perception and begins to "feel" like they are inferior. This possibility creates a situation that needs to be handled with care for coaches... and parents.

The first thing to consider is the players safety. My son is 6 yrs old and playing organized baseball for the first time. Frankly, I would rather not see him anywhere right now besides right field... deep, Deep, DEEP right field! I'm not sure that he's prepared to handle an accidental line drive off some 8 yr olds bat (and let's face it, most line drives at that age are accidental). It is the responsibility of the coach to provide maximum opportunities in practice to develop the skills necessary to improve in those areas, with appropriate breakdown drills. The coach should relentlessly pursue the development of each and every player so they are able to play any position. Anything short of this effort is unacceptable. Coaches should demand as close to 100% effort as possible from their players... and players deserve 100% effort from the coach towards their development. The developmental progression may go from ensuring a players safety all the way to being adept at playing an infield position. During this entire process it is important that the coach continue to "Fill the Emotional Tank" of the player and make them feel like a an integral part of the team - regardless of what position or how often they play. When the player becomes more proficient at handling a position in a game or scrimmage situation, the coach needs to look for times in which this can happen. Mismatched or blowout games are an ideal time to give kids a chance to play a different position. In an inning where the opponent is at the bottom of their batting order might be a good time to give at try, as well.

By moving players around and even allowing your "infielders" to spend some time in the outfield while you are are giving the "outfielders" a chance, you are also doing the "infielders" a favor by allowing them to learn and play a variety of positions. My oldest son was different than the "big-kid" syndrome mentioned earlier. He happened to have a late growth spurt and grew out of the middle-infield positions he played in his early years. By giving him the opportunity to occasionally play other positions, it prepared him to play first base in his later years and became an outfielder while playing in college. It was not such a big transition for him, because he had been exposed to all of those positions while playing as a youngster.

Coaches should also make a point to mix it up and have different players start/sit so particular players don't get "categorized" early as non-starters/subs or even infielders/outfielders. In a "continuous batting order" non-starters might even bat closer to the middle of the order to prevent them from being inactive for the first 45+ minutes of the game. Players who are not competing should have duties and activities to keep them engaged and an important part of the team (playing catch/running in between innings, charting pitches, etc). That being said, it is important to note that some players also *earn* playing time with exceptional effort and commitment. It is a great lesson for those players to be rewarded for that, to encourage them to continue, while others might strive to get "rewarded" too. However, not all of the life-lessons learned in sports are rainbows and butterflies, so players could also lose playing time with a lack of effort and/or commitment (within organizational guidelines)

This was a topic on the Positive Coaching Alliance's Youth Sports Nation Blog with an ultimate Response by PCA Founder Jim Thompson:

"Playing time is probably the biggest source of frustration and anger among sports parents, which is saying a lot.

An Unarguable Point
Kids love to play. They don’t like to sit on the bench. Moreover, most of the benefits of playing a sport are tied to competing in games. Kids who sit don’t benefit as much from sports as kids who play. I don’t see how anyone can argue with this.

Good Coaches Get Kids into Games
It is a tenet of good coaching that you get kids into games! Period. Whether there are any external rules for minimum playing time or not. Whether it is at the high school or highly competitive travel team level or not.

Good coaches get kids into games! They may be creative about how they get kids into games in high-stakes situations, because Double-Goal Coaches™ do want to win. But good coaches—Double-Goal Coaches™—get kids into games! "

There were also some further thoughts and good discussion comments that you can read here.

Now, the parent has some responsibility in ensuring that this is a positive and productive experience for the player too . With my 6 yr old son, rather than worrying about the "stigma" of playing outfield, I try to stress the importance of his position. If he is able to stop the occasional hit that gets to right field the hitter is held to a single. However, if the ball gets by him it could be a triple or a home-run. On a groundball to the infield, if he is in the right spot and backing up the first baseman in anticipation of an errant throw he might prevent a runner from taking an extra base. Even a single to left-field should trigger him to back-up the impending throw to 2nd base - in case that one is a bit off the mark. Now he thinks right field might be one of the most important positions on the field! It's also a bit ironic that in the highest level of baseball, the better outfielders actually play right field.

Again, in "Positive Coaching in a Nutshell" jim Thompson describes this scenario,

"I was assistant coach on a strong baseball team with a terrible outfield. I offered to work with the outfield to give us a better chance at the championship. Our outfielders were discouraged. They knew they were the weak link, and that other players resented them for al- ways screwing up. They were disheartened and needed to be pumped up. I held special practices “just for the outfielders.” My initial motivational speech: “The other teams have kids playing the outfield who don’t want to be there. They don’t realize the outfield is the key to winning the big games. All the teams have pretty good players in the infield. But we can be the only team that also has a great outfield. When you play against the better teams, they hit more balls to the outfield! In the big games, the outfield is the key to winning.” Our outfielders began playing with pride, and improved even more than I could have hoped for. In a key game, Jeff, our centerfielder, staggered up against the fence and caught a towering drive, like “a prizefighter who had taken too many blows to the head,” in the words of one parent. Another time Brian chased down a foul fly after a long run from left center field. Matt caught three fly balls in a row, more than he had caught the entire season up to that point. Seeing their potential turned this group of kids into a tough group of fielders who helped win a championship."

My youngest daughter, Brittany, was an All-Star throughout her youth, but maybe never considered one of the *star* players. Because her biggest role on the team, quite often, seemed to be to lead those dugout softball cheers, after the game our conversations were mostly about how much fun she had and the silly idiosyncrisies of some of the girls, rather than over-analyzing the games. 
She eventually made a High School Varsity Softball team that had been to the semi-finals twice and the finals once in the previous four years. So they were pretty good and she was probably the 3rd best outfielder for the team that was ranked in the Top 10 all season. However, the coach realized that if she started in the outfield he would be left with no speed, literally, on the bench and would have had no flexibility if he ever needed a pinch-runner in a crucial situation. There were a few relatively slow runners in the lineup - so she at least got an opportunity in most games. But it was rare that she got a chance to hit or play the outfield.
The next season she was the starting centerfielder. In the car one day driving home she shared her experiences with an up and coming speedster who we happened to be giving a ride home. This player was in the exact same position as Brittany was the year before - and was getting frustrated with the lack of opportunities.
Brittany told her that while she, obviously, wished she played more during her junior year, it was an honor to be considered the best at a particular skill (baserunning) and that she decided to embrace that role. Any time any of the "slower" players were to bat in an inning, she would go get her helmet on and begin stretching - fully expecting to be put into the game to fulfill her role. In between innings, often, she would run a couple of sprints along the sidelines to stay loose. And she realized that EVERY time the coach put her in the game it was a CRUCIAL spot and SHE was an important run.  The season ended with her on second base as the tying run in the semifinals once again. She is positive to this day that if the girl at the plate had gotten a single rather than striking out she would have scored the tying run from second base - because she was prepared. She took that confidence in her speed with her to college, as she switched from team sports to running cross-country and track.

Navigating the youth sports landscape is one of the more difficult things for a coach or parent to handle... but it can be so rewarding for the youngster when all parties involved keep each individual players interests at the forefront of every decision they make. Please try to do so.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Triple-Impact Competitors

Positive Coaching Alliance says that a Triple-Impact Competitor works as hard as possible to make an impact on three levels:

• Improving yourself as a player and person

• Helping your teammates improve

• Improving the sport as a whole.

This plaque was placed on the wall outside the Florida Gators athletic facility.

Does this "promise" epitomize that concept?
Wouldn't we all love to have a leader on our teams that would make this "promise"?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The MIND of a champion

When people and coaches refer to the "Heart of a Champion", what are they really talking about? Aren't they talking about qualities exhibited like confidence, conviction, focus, poise, dedication, determination, courage, sacrifice, selflessness, and perseverance?

Aren't those all heroic character traits that stem from tremendous *mental toughness*? Isn't that being "more consistent and better than your opponents in remaining determined, focused, confident, resilient, and in control under pressure (Jones et al, 2002). Wouldn't we describe that person as having the "Heart of a Champion"?

Shouldn't it then be, "Play with the MIND of a champion"?

Friday, February 27, 2009

Leave Footprints

When I see the emotion on Senior Nights, or after the final game of the season, it reminds me that one day the ball stops bouncing for the players and how precious the time really is.

It's our responsibility as coaches to value that time and provide the best experience possible. We get those kids that are sometimes like the fresh sand in our SoCal coastline... and we leave footprints. Every once in a while we get players that could be like the late-night beaches... they might need some cleaning up first. It's our job to help inspire them to keep going during that process. Sometimes that's with a "chest-bump", a pat on the back, or a kick a little lower. Figuratively, of course. Sometimes we inspire with a well-placed comment, a little concern and compassion, or simply setting a good example.

I asked some coaches in Fort Wayne, Indiana this past fall, "What is your programs mission?" Dan Kline, retired athletic director and men’s basketball coach at Indiana Tech had a great one.

He said, "We want great people to graduate with great memories"

Think about it. No matter where we coach, if we *graduate* players that are *great people* and they have *great memories*... we've done a pretty good job.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Free Throw Ladder/Free Throw Pyramid

The topic of Free Throw Shooting is always a hot one as the games become more and more important at the end of the season. There are a bunch of great ideas out there to help. Here is one we used. One year created a "free throw ladder" for the team.

Each player shot 100 FTs (during our FT-a-thon) and we placed their name on our roster board next to the scoreboard in the order of finish. The practice before a game we would lower the roster board and shoot 25 ft's. Players would pair off starting at the top. If they beat the person above them they would go to the board and the winner would switch the order of the names. We would raise the roster board and on game day the names were not in numerical order or alphabetical order, but in order of our top free throw shooters. I always worried that opponents would catch on and figure out who to foul at the end of games ! hopefully we became good enough free throw shooters as a team that it wouldn't matter !:?)
Here is a sample of a ladder. In this example, Here Sebastian beats Andy and Marat beats Tim, so they swap places. If Sebastian has lost to Andy, they would both have stayed in the same place.
Another rule is that you can only challenge players who are within a certain amount of places of you (see page 1 – your position determines how many places you can challenge above). Here 10th placed Robby could challenge 3 places above, meaning he could challenge Lleyton but not Guillermo.

During many seasons we emphasized Coach Wooden's "Pyramid of Success"(if you scroll to the very bottom of the page there is a great photo you can steal). If I were to do this again I'd use a "Free Throw Pyramid". Pyramid competitions are similar to ladders. They enable players to challenge each other to a match,just with a bit of variety. The winners move up and the losers move down. The aim is to get to the top of the Pyramid.Here is an example of that:

We've carried out the Pyramid Theme in many ways before. I like this team photo we took one year.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Enduring That Tough Year

The first thing that coaches need to continue to tell themselves during tough times is that it's never going to be as important to them as it is too you. Even on a championship team it isn't. It's the coaches career and we passionately think about it all day. They think about it a couple hours at practice. The second thing to remind yourself that you hadn't forgotten anything in the past year or years since the last successful season. Coaches are no "worse" a coach when they struggle than they were when they were successful, so try not to determine your "self-worth" based on the record. Sometimes it's not the X's & O's but rather, the Johnny's and Joe's!

We tried to build some pride in playing *one possession at a time*. This really was the foundation behind a championship year in which we won a title. We had them convinced that a single possession in practice should be approached with the same intensity and focus as a play during the 4th quarter in March. That, kind of, became our rallying cry and took the focus off the score, which led to a number of comeback victories. We continued that philosophy when we struggled and tried to stay the course. We really tried to forget about the last play and execute the next one. It worked a bit. Didn't necessarily win more, but the effort stayed the same.

I found out that during difficult years what hurts the most is when team unity in the locker room begins to deteriorate. Players developed a lack of trust and that carries over onto the court. When things get tough, individuals tend to try to do it on their own and step out of their comfort zone to make something happen. Then it unravels even more... and in a hurry. At that point a good focus is the need to regroup and try to win the next couple minutes. We had a game just like that against Jordan Farmar's HS team during a most challenging season. Right there, down 8, PG is outscoring Farmar, a couple things happen and everyone tries to do their own thing. A flurry happens, the deficit was now 22 and the outcome is decided. But we regrouped and won the last 3 minutes with some inspired play. Former players still talk about the game almost as if we won, `even though it was close to a 30 pt loss.

I wouldn't lower the standards of discipline or execution... I'd just limit the things I'd ask them to execute. I would continue to work on creating intensity. The intensity should come from emotion that's released by inspiration.... and maybe we need to provide that inspiration. Making every drill in practice competitive can help with this. You can't always take them there - sometimes you can only give them direction and help them find the way. Sometimes we want them to get there way more than they do, so keep in mind what's in this story "Why They Call You Coach"

One of the first books on coaching that I read was by Dr Jack Ramsey called The Coach's Art and there is also a great excerpt here that might help put things in some perspective.

... and a good coaching freind of mine always reminds me, "...It's never as good as it seems... and it's never as bad as at seems."
Good Luck


It was only one possession, Why must my coach scream,
My poor defense permitted the basket, But what can one hoop mean?
As the pass comes my direction, And I fumble it into the stands,
The coach's voice rings loud and clear, "Catch with you eyes and hands!"
C'mon, coach, it's a single possession, Our team will be okay.
It's just the first two minutes, My gosh, we've got all day.

At the 10-minute mark I remember, That the center is strong and stout.
A putback for two, quite simply due, To my failure to turn and block out.
But it was only one possession, I didn't commit a crime,
My team is ahead and I'm playing well, And there's still plenty of time!

As the halftime buzzer is sounding, And I watch the ball bank in,
I know that I will hear from my loving coach. Of my questionable effort to defend.
But it was only one possession, Coach - don't have a heart attack!
We're down by one, but we're having fun, I know we'll get the lead back!

The second half mirrors the first, But it's early, it's not a big deal.
That my failure to use a pass fake. Results in an unlikely steal.
But quickly I sink a jumper. I'm greeted by high fives and slaps,
But next possession I give up a layup. While suffering mental lapse.
But it's only one possession, C'mon, Coach, chill out.
It's crazy to see you disgusted. As you slap the assistant and shout.
"Victory favors the team making the fewest mistakes.
Single possessions are the key. So treat them like gold and do as you're told,
And play with intensity."

I step to the line for one and one, But I have a concentration lapse.
The ball soars through the air - Good Lord, it's a brick!
I'm afraid the support will collapse. In post game I sit at my locker,
Pondering what more I could do. I realize the value of each possession,
What a shame that we lost by two.

Jeff Smith

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Right Shot Chooses You!

In "The Legend of Baggar Vance" the movie was in a golf setting but was a tremendous analogy for coaching, life, or the game of basketball. The title character is a mysterious caddie and in many ways, the consummate coach. Bagger Vance helps a down-on-his-luck golfer named Junuh find the deep place inside, where his ego is quiet and where he can “be” with only himself, and where he can be at one with himself. The vehicle for his transformation is the game of golf where he becomes one with the game. This is only possible when he sets aside his ego and the need to validate himself with individual achievement. At one critical point in the movie Bagger says,

"...it’s time...time for you to see the field...feel that focus. Alotta shots to choose from, duffs `n` tops `n` skulls. But only ONE shot is in perfect harmony with the field. An "authentic shot". And that shot chooses YOU. There’s a perfect shot out there trying to find each and every one of us - and all we got to do is get ourselves outta it’s way and let it choose us." He continues with, "Can’t look at that flag like some dragon you gotta slay. You gotta look with soft eyes. See the field. Find that place where the tides, the seasons, the turning of the earth comes together and becomes one. You gotta seek that place with your soul. Seek it with your hands. Don’t think about it. Feel it. Your hands is wiser than your head ever gonna be." Field. Focus. Shots. Harmony. Slay. Soul. Feel. What does it all mean?

See the floor. Concentrate. Understand the game plan. Be yourself. Play your game. Don’t force things. Do your personal best. Let the game come to you. It’s all the same thing.

Like Junah, when faced with adversity and a critical lack of self-confidence, players must reconnect with their potential and trust their instincts. Practice and hard work gets players to the point where they recognize their abilities, understand their weaknesses, and have developed their habits into instincts. Then they should be able to simply go out and play so that everything just happens the way it is supposed to, without really thinking about it.

In a well designed offense, there are shot opportunities for all players, and a progression of options that players need to be able to follow. They should not try to force the ball into places, but rather use counter attacks to the defense’s strategies to their advantage. The space on the floor should tell players where to go. The opponents positioning tells a player what is open. Eventually, with proper execution, a shot opportunity will present itself to a player. And that is the right shot to take. But the player did not choose the shot - The shot chose him.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Positive Sports Parenting

I had an opportunity to finally read Positive Coaching Alliance founder and Executive Director Jim Thompson's newest book Positive Sports Parenting from cover to cover on a flight to Florida on the day of the BCS National Championship game - unfortunately to Tampa and not Miami !:?).

Jim's book is a must read for parents whose kids are participating in youth sports. It is a very easy read and provides some real tangible tools for parents to provide the best experience in sports, navigate some youth sports landmines, build a great coach/parent partnership, and strengthen their relationship with their children - which is far mor important than any athletic success.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Combo Offense vs. a Man, Zone, or Matchup

We've been highlighting the 2-Guard Continuity that is, primarily, an offense used vs man-to-man defenses, and some specials run out of it. Now we've "tilted" the offense for use against a zone, leaving the *continuity* from position to position as the same. However we now use cuts and slides to put pressure on the zone, rather than setting and using screens to help get players open. This allows the offense to be as effective against all zone defenses and match-ups as it is against a man-to-man. I prefer a zone offense that relies on the principles of ball and player movement, getting into gaps, and penetration via the pass or the dribble. However, many match-up or very active zones make that a bit more difficult. When facing a match-up zone, one of the toughest things for the matchup to cover are multiple cuts which force decision making on who will defend what cut, and whether the cutter will be passed or "bumped" to another defender.

When run against a man-to-man offense, on a ball reversal the player at the block sets a flex-screen for the wing to cut to the opposite block. When facing a zone, that screen is not so effective, so you'll see we have the wing flash thru the "gut" of the zone (the area below the free-throw line but above the dotted circle) instead. This has become an interesting cut as it is a little unconventional and a difficult one for any zone to continue to cover. After the first ball reversal the only difference in the spots on the floor that are filled are the player who would be at the block will now end up in the "short-corner" and the 5-man will spend most of his time in the mid-post gap - instead of the high post elbow.

I've included the 2-3 zone defenders and who *might* cover the next pass. I suggest you play with it against a variety of zones, with different players responsible for the different cuts and slides. I think you'll see that someone - somewhere - will be difficult to cover. And THAT'S the player the offense needs to find!

Friday, January 02, 2009

101 Basketball Tips-by Ray Lokar

After years of writing for Lifetips.com as their basketball "guru" they made an offer to publish some of the over 600 tips that I've written over the course of the past seven years if I would compile them into a book. The first of those books is now available at Amazon.com

101 Basketball Tips contains some of the most important fundamentals and is written in short, concise, stand-alone tips that are void of too much technical jargon and diagrams. It gives written descriptions of the fundamentals and should be a great tool for the coach looking to find a way to build a knowledge base, or the coach who may be looking for a different way to present the fundamentals they are presently teaching. While these might not be the 101 most important tips in the game of basketball, I hope that there is something for everyone. I've tried to provide some ideas that may not be mainstream, some might be presented in a different manner than usual, and a few that initially might not come to mind. I hope that each coach may find some tips that will either "square" with what they already knew, make them look at something from a different "angle", or provide something new that completed the "circle" for them. The Table of Contents is as follows:
1) Be Big on the Little Things (9 tips)
2) Shooting (11 tips)
3) Dribbling (16 tips)
4) Passing (12 tips)
5) Movement and Spacing (12 tips)
6) Defense (26 tips)
7) The Mental Game (15 tips)

More than anything I need to thank the many mentors that I have had in the basketball world that have helped develop the ideas presented. The hours of "debates" that I've had with fellow coaches helped solidify those beliefs and the players that I've had the pleasure of coaching that "bought in" to the philosophies, fundamentals, techniques, and strategies have proved them to be solid in concept. Foremost among those players are my three older children: Shawn, Heather, and Brittany, who I could not be more proud of. They've worked harder than anybody at trying to "play the right way", and the constant banter we share makes everything crystal clear. My final hope is that my youngest son Tyler (shown here at 18 months - with GREAT form!) follows their lead and does whatever he enjoys with the same effort and commitment that they have shown. If I'm lucky - I'll have a chance to coach him as well, and share the same love of the sport.
He doesn't have to like basketball...

unless he wants to eat!
Just kidding!

For those who have ever had a book published you know that it is an arduous process, and I want to thank the several editors at Lifetips who have put effort into finally getting 101 Basketball Tips on the shelves. The second basketball book in the Lifetips series has been completed and I am hoping that 101 Basketball Coaching Tips is ready for a March Madness release.

I'll keep you posted

Lok's Ledger