30 second time outs

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Post Season Recognition in Youth Sports

There is always plenty of discussion and varying opinions when it comes to post season trophies in youth sports. There is a great thread in the "Ask PCA" page on the Positive Coaching Alliance website Some leagues choose to give "participation awards" to everyone, while others award the top finishers with varying size trophies. I tend to think that initially all players should get a participant trophy. Youngsters get excited at that's what it is ALL about at that age.

As players get a bit older there are many life-lessons that sink in and "earning" awards becomes much more meaningful. This might be at U10 or U12. This is an opportunity to reward hard work and achievement and, in a way, encourage those who didn't get an award to come back and work even harder next season. However, even at that, I believe each player should get some token to commemorate the season. Maybe that is a smaller medal, pin, or even a framed team photo.

I got an idea from my daughters high school coach who would go to the 99¢ store and buy a "gag gift" for every player. Maybe a box of band-aids for the player most often injured, miniature furniture for the player who "did the little things", or sunglasses for a youngster whose "future was bright", etc.

During her high school years some of my daughters most prized awards might be a rock she got as a sophomore because they were "going to build their program on this rock" and a toy "Warrior" she received as a junior for playing thru injuries.

Coincidentally, her college hired a new coach her senior year - and he gave the same kind of recognition and printed "Certificates" such as "Most Likely to Commit Assault" for a girl who fouled too much, and other similar awards. Of course they both talked about how they improved and some good moments on the year too.

Recently, I coached my youngest son's U10 basketball team. I decided at the end of the year to go the "gag gift" route. So I trekked to the 99¢ store and walked the aisles trying to figure the most appropriate "award" for each youngster. It turned out to be a great exercise that I might suggest any coach at any level think about doing.

It was almost like the infamous Survivor "Rite of Passage" that the finalists go through on each season. The remaining Survivors go on a hike and come across the torch of those who have been voted off. At each stop they reflect on each participant. My trip through the store was similar.

I walked up and down the aisle and ended up buying a formula one race car for our quickest player, a megaphone for the kid that cheered the loudest, a calculator for the player who always had something to add, and a game of "Topple" for a big kid who needed to work on his balance. It gave me time to really consider the contributions of each and every player and it embedded a memory of them in my mind forever. We had a great time and a lot of laughs at our postseason Pizza Party Banquet as we passed out these "awards".

Finally, some thoughts about individual awards. Most coaches at higher levels give an MVP, Hustle, and you could maybe go with defense, or a "Coaches Award" which gives you some leeway to make something up for that deserving player who doesn't fit into a category. However, here's something for everybody to think about. Many times I think that we spend so much time preaching *TEAM* and the value of every player... and then at the end of the year we say who is *Most* Valuable???

One of the best coaches I've ever coached for (has over 700 victories) has had 3 of the top scorers in California's Southern Section history (over 600 schools) and doesn't ever give any individual awards at his banquets. Every single kid gets a really nice framed photo with his locker plaque at the bottom. All the same. Each player has equal value. Those who were primarily defenders, rebounders, screeners, or cheerleaders... or the leading scorer in section history.

Something to be said for that.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Why Coach/Teach?

An old man going a lone highway
Came at the evening cold and gray
To a chasm vast and deep and wide,
Through which was flowing a swollen tide.
The old man crossed in the twilight dim
That swollen stream held no fears for him
But he paused when safe on the other side
And built a bridge to span the tide.

"Old man," said a fellow pilgrim near,
"You are wasting strength with building here.
Your journey will end with the ending day;
You never again must pass this way.
You have crossed the chasm deep and wide;
Why build you the bridge at the eventide?"

The builder lifted his old gray head,
"Good friend, in the path I have come," he said,
"There follows after me today
A youth whose feet must pass this way.
This swollen stream which was naught to me
To that fair haired youth may a pitfall be.
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim.
Good friend, I am building the bridge for him."


Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Coaches need to constantly discover ways to improve their drills or get the most out of them. All coaches have their own sets of drills that teach their basketball philosophy, but there are many ways that you can create more intensity, enthusiasm, discipline, etc. This can be done by evaluating all the factors involved in a drill. Drill what fits your own offensive or defensive philosophy. Believe in what you are doing. Practice things you'll be trying to do in actual games.

Give all drills a name so players can identify the procedure and purpose of each drill. For example, "Two-Ball Power-Ups" drills on inside power moves, using two balls in the lane area. Don't waste time on the floor going from drill to drill. Discipline your players to sprint to the next drill station. You don't want to find yourself spending too much time explaining how to run a drill. Demonstrate all new drills on chalkboard prior to practice or give the players a page for their playbook the night before, to avoid confusion on the floor. 

Break down drills and design them so that all your players are working. Take full advantage of the gym's side baskets and your assistant coaches. Many times you can use players not in certain drills as outlets or feeders. Or have them shoot free throws. Obviously, though, there will be times when you'll want them to just watch and listen to all instructions and criticisms. Always do drills on both sides of the court, so that footwork, ball-handling and vision are properly developed. 

Never allow players to complete a drill without having done it properly at least once. Coaches must demand proper execution before we can progress with any amount of success. Having players do a particular drill right a few times builds confidence that they can do it. Repeat all drills throughout the season. Repeating drills correctly, with intensity, develops habits that are hard to break.

Never allow your players to become bored with a drill or to lose their intensity because you stay with it for too long a time. Come back to that drill the next day rather than have your players lose interest. Talk about critical mistakes made in the drill in pre-practice chalk talks, rather than on the court.

We all have players who ask questions during drills in order to take a break. We encourage questions and suggestions from our players about how we might do things better, so long as it done off of the court. To help this we have "teaching drills" where questions and explanations are encouraged and "competitive drills" where it is more game like and the players need to self correct and make adjustments on their own.

You must communicate on the court to be successful and organized. Be sure all coaches and players speak the same language. For instance, some teams may use the word "Go" when switching; other programs may just use "Switch." Constantly be aware that the same words trigger different reactions from different people. Be sure all players understand exactly what your key words mean.

Try to make all drills as much like a game as possible. Using the scoreboard AND calling fouls create game-like situations and may help your players react better in actual games. All players love drills with something on the line, such as a sprint or push-ups. This competition generates enthusiasm and intensity. End all drills with a rebound, turnover, basket, foul, offensive charge or transition. All fouls should be called during practice and offenders penalized as in a game. We like to assign a few push-ups to a player who commits a foul. This reinforces our concern for playing tough defense without fouling. Develop transition into your half-court drills so your players will react to turnovers and push the ball up the court. It also motivates the defense to force errors and capitalize. Also, players seem to enjoy transition basketball.

Keep statistics in practice. This added pressure forces players to concentrate. Evaluate daily stats and post them in the locker room. Keep cumulative stats as well, to provide goals and weekly standards. It's extremely important that your players be aware that you're constantly checking their numbers on field goals and free-throw percentage, rebounds, assists and turnovers.

If you videotape your practices, you'll be able to see the whole court and evaluate how all your players performed at practice. Taping your practices also allows you to evaluate the effectiveness of your drills.

Add options to all drills that will give each a different look and a different emphasis. These additions will generate enthusiasm among your players.

Going 3-on-3 and 4-on-4 puts added pressure on the defense because you remove weak-side help in most cases and force the defense to cover a larger area of the floor. Setting drills so the defense or offense is at a disadvantage forces tremendous intensity and execution to complete the drills successfully.Demand that all drills be run at full speed. Constantly check defensive positioning and talk about breakdowns as they occur.

Never put players in situations where they're consistently getting scored on, or constantly being stopped. Do everything possible to build confidence for both the offensive and defense.

Always demand a maximum effort from your players, both mentally and physically, in practice drills. This will prepare them to face all game situations successfully. Drills should be your best conditioner. If you demand hustle and push your players to execute properly, they'll be in condition to play full games.

We believe in the following rules for our players during practice: go at full speed; never criticize a teammate; always try to compliment a teammate; be positive and enthusiastic. The same goes for our coaches, with an additional rule: Give constructive criticism ("Liked your effort, but here's a better way").

Reward your players daily and weekly with positive verbal reinforcement, plus actual awards of some kind, such as: Weekly Rebound Award ("Chairman of the Boards"); Weekly Free-throw Award; Draw The Charge Champion; Defensive Player Of The Week.

Be able to take time for a "fun" drill each practice session. This will help boost team morale and create a positive practice atmosphere. As coaches, we can better prepare our teams for the tough grind of a season through the effectiveness of our drills. We can make it so our players enjoy drills and practice more through the constant evaluation of our practice sessions.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Lifelong Learner

If you're visiting here then you're probably like me and have a thirst for knowledge. There are so many great sites to visit -and here's one you should definitely give a look to.

HoopsU.com is giving away 5 yearly memberships to Hoops U. Insider as part of the Hoops U. Relaunch Event! Click your way over right now to get in on the fun!

Lok's Ledger