30 second time outs

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