Saturday, June 30, 2012


Playing the game "Would You Rather" can be thought provoking.  Here is a list of basketball related questions to consider.
Would you rather be a sound defensive team or an explosive offensive team?
Would you rather have a dominating post player or a dominating point guard?
Would you rather have a 25 win season with parent issues or a 15 win season without parent issues?
Would you rather schedule more elite teams or more bottom level teams?
Would you rather play against a man-to-man defense or zone defense?
Would you rather put a defender on the ball or not with your opponent inbounding the ball during a tie game and 2.1 seconds left? (Rick Pitino feel free to chime in).
Would you rather win on a last second shot or win by 30 points?

Friday, June 29, 2012


continued from yesterday...

1.  Maximize your gym space.  As a coach plans for their practices it is important to use as much of the space and/or baskets as possible.  By doing this the coach is creating a practice that will allow players to stay active and prevent them from having to stand in line for periods of time waiting for a rep during a drill.  During drill work players should spend more time "doing" rather than "waiting".

2. Create an environment where players will want to work hard.  There are two key factors in helping create this type of environment.  One is the coach setting expectations.  When setting up a drill or scrimmage session in practice the coach needs to communicate clearly to the team what the expectations are.  Don't give the team a list of ten expectations, keep the number low to give players a chance to focus on what the coach feels is needed the most.  The second factor is the coach needs to be firm but fair with players.  Every coach has their own coaching style that is a reflection of their personality.  Whatever the coaching style a coach can be demanding of their players.  Demanding does not have to mean the coach has to constantly yell at their players. Demanding means the coach pushes their players to meet the expectations set prior to the drill, scrimmage, or game.  How the coach goes about doing this is a reflection of their own personality.

3. Have a good tempo to your practice.  No matter if your team's style of play your practices need a good tempo.  One way to create a good tempo is to maximize your gym space (see #1 in today's blog post).  Another way to create good tempo is to shorten up your transition time in practice.  Transition time is the time between drills in practice.  If the coach is organized for practice this should not be an issue.  The more stand around and wait time the players have during transitions the worse the tempo to practice will be.  Obviously coaches need to allow time for their players to get water to keep hydrated, so this could take a bit more time during a transition.  But the quicker you can move your team from drill to drill the quicker the tempo will be.  You can get a lot more accomplished during a practice with a quicker tempo.

4. Recognize a time when things can loosen up.  Every coach wants their team to show a great work ethic in practice.  But a coach needs to recognize when things can loosen up for their players. The practice environment doesn't always have to be as serious as a tax audit every single minute your team is on the court.  Creating a fun drill or activity for your team can have a big boost for the overall mentality of the players.

5. Use other coaches.  So many times coaches feel they have to do everything on their own.  This is wrong, wrong, wrong!  If you are a staff of one, then you have to do it all on your own.  But if there are other coaches on your staff, use them.

6. Remember what you want your team to be known for.  Every coach should establish what their teams are absolutely going to be good at.  Do you want to be a defensive team?  A team that is great in transition?  A team that shows patience on offense?  A great rebounding team?  Whatever it is for your team, then practice it...every day.  It should be a big focus to all that you do during your practice sessions.   

If you have any questions, comments, or ideas to share with me regarding this post feel free to contact me at

Thursday, June 28, 2012


1. Always have a practice plan written on paper for each practice.  Writing out your practice plan ahead of time means you have given thought ahead of time for your practice.  This will keep both you and your players organized.  Write out your practice plan in a way that makes sense to you.  Some coaches need only the time and name of the drill on paper to get them through practice in an organized fashion.  Others may need the time, drill, diagrams, and many notes to keep them organized.  Do what is best for you.

2. Make your practices competitive.  Create an environment that allows for competition in practices. Some ideas to keep your practices competitive are:
  • Any drill that forces players to compete against each other.  This could be anything from 1-on-1 up to 5-on-5.  Have a winner and a loser within your drills and put a reward for the winner or an activity for the loser.  It could be something as simple as the losing player or team has to do 5 push-ups.  You would be surprised at how much harder players compete if they get the pleasure of watching their opponent do 5 push-ups. 
  • Do things that are measurable.  Example A: If you are doing an individual shooting drill have players keep track of the number of makes.  Players can remember their score and then the next time they perform the same drill each player will have a personal best to try and beat.  Continuing with shooting, Example B:  During team shooting drills set a goal for number of makes in a certain amount of time.  This pushes the players to work hard in an attempt to beat the desired goal.  Example C:  When performing a traditional box out drill players need to get two consecutive defensive rebounds to be out of the drill.  Continuing with rebounding, Example D:  During a rebounding drill keep track of offensive rebounds. The player with the most offensive rebounds gets recognized in front of the team.  Remember that number and the next time the drill is performed the players have a goal to work for.  Having players work hard for offensive rebounds forces the defender to work at best effort when attempting to box out.
  • The coach should set the expectations for each drill ahead of time.  Players should know exactly what is expected from them and why they are actually performing the drill.  This will prevent less hesitation from the players, and give your team the best opportunity to go all out in the drill.
3. Drill the fundamentals.  It doesn't matter what level of basketball you coach, the fundamentals of basketball will be the foundation for every team.  Dedicating fundamentals time to each practice is crucial to the continued development of your players and team.  Drilling the fundamentals can at times seem tedious to your players.  That is not always a bad thing because a coach can really gauge which players are mentally tough enough to continue working hard and not just go through the motions while working on the basic fundamentals of the game.  Coaches can create ways to make fundamental work fun and/or competitive.  Be creative!

4. Teach Whole to Part to Whole.  When introducing a new skill, concept, or an offense/defense use the whole-part-whole method.  Show them the end result first, then break it down to its smallest part, drill it and build your way back up to the end result.  Teaching this way gives your players a chance to truly understand what you are teaching.  The better a player understands the less time they need to stop and think about what is to be done.  This allows them to react and play rather than stop and think.

Tomorrow:  Tips For Running A Great Practice - Part 2

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

One Ingredient For A Successful Coaching Recipe

A coach can be compared to a chef.  A chef has to use the right ingredients, and the right amount of each ingredient to create a meal they feel is a success.  A coach is like a chef in that they have to have a variety of the right ingredients to have a successful season.   There are so many different ingredients (characteristics) a team must possess to have a successful season.  You could ask hundreds of coaches for the ingredients they feel are needed to create a successful team and you would get many different answers.   

There are coaches who say time and time again, "I need more talent if we are going to be successful."  Having talent can make things easier for coaches.   But if anyone coaches long enough you know there are going to be years when the talent level isn't going to be as high.  The challenge for coaches is to find a way to be successful during those years when the talent level might be a little lower.  Whether your team is full of talent, or talent-less, there is an ingredient (characteristic) that will give your team the best chance to reach their full potential.

Leadership. Leadership from the coach and players.  Leadership may not trump talent every single game, but it can some nights.  And all things being equal between two teams, the team with the best leadership will often times come out on top.

1. Be organized and prepared. Always have a practice plan ready for each practice.  Write it down and post it for the team to see.  This shows the team that you are putting thought into and have a plan for each practice. Be organized for each game.  Have a scouting report and know the tendencies of your opponents.  The great John Wooden said it best when he said, "Failing to prepare is preparing to fail."
2. Expect the best from each player.  Not every player possesses the same amount of talent, but the coach needs to expect each player's best.
3. Respect. Treat the players with respect.  Treat your staff with respect.  Treat officials with respect. Treat your opponents with respect.  Respecting everyone doesn't mean each day is all "flowers and rainbows."  A coach can demand a lot and still treat everyone with respect.

One of the beautiful things about the coaching profession is you get to work with people.  It also makes it one of the challenging aspects of coaching because each person is wired differently.  Each and every player on your roster can lead.  It's important to remember this, but also remember that each player can lead in a different manner.  Some of your players can be vocal with their leadership.  Others can lead quietly through their actions.

Regardless if a player leads quietly or vocally, the key to this ingredient (characteristic) is that the player who is leading must "walk the walk".  Talk is cheap.  If a player is all talk then their words mean nothing to the rest of the team.  One of the all-time best leaders on a college basketball court was Duke's Christian Laettner.  Laettner was known to be very demanding on his teammates to try and get the best out of him.  If you ever get a chance to read the book The Last Great Game by Gene Wojciechowski, do it.  He goes into great detail throughout the book how Laettner was constantly demanding and expecting the best from his teammates.  His teammates did follow his lead, and the result was Duke winning back to back national championships in 1991 and 1992.  The thing that made Laettner's form of leadership effective was the fact he didn't just throw jabs at his teammates to pick on them.  He was also "walking the walk" as he was a hard worker himself, and also expected the best from himself.

As coaches we have to keep an eye on how our players are attempting to lead.  We need to make sure that players are doing it in a way that can help our team.  If a player's attempt at leading is coming across in a way that is detrimental to the team the coach needs to step in and talk to this player.  Encourage your leaders to continue to raise the bar in a way the rest of the team will want to follow. There may be years when your team can handle a Laettner-type of leadership.  Other years may require a different style from a player or players.

The leadership ingredient is important because when times are tough each team needs to have that person or group of people that they can rely on.  There is no fool proof way to measure leadership, but we know it has value.  There isn't a coach reading this that wouldn't take that ingredient and add it to their own team's recipe for success.

Value leadership.  Commend players who provide it. Encourage and teach others to do the same.