30 second time outs

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.

Lok's Ledger