Thursday, October 17, 2013


Coaches - Here is a question for your to consider about yourself, "What are you doing to continue your development as a coach?"  We are always promoting work ethic and skill improvement to our players.  The coach must also remember that they must continue to work and improve as well.  Below is a list of 8 things coaches can do to help themselves grow as a coach.

1. Meet regularly with your coaching staff.  The off-season is a great time to meet and share thoughts and ideas with each other.  Have an agenda for your meetings.  Talk personnel, X's and O's, scheduling, practice design, overall philosophy, potential changes to be made, etc.

2. Coaches Roundtables.  If you have a chance to become involved with a roundtable discussion with other coaches, do it.  It is a great opportunity to collaborate, learn, and network with other coaches. 

3. Coaching DVDs.  Set aside some money in your team's budget (or personal budget) that allows you to purchase a few DVDs each year.  You may not use everything you see on a DVD, but if you pick up one thing you can use for your program it is worth the purchase.

4.  Attend coaching clinics.  One of the great things about coaching clinics is you get to see a variety of coaches speak on different topics.  Another benefit of attending a clinic is getting to connect with other coaches.  There are a lot of quality side-discussions with clinic attendees that occur at clinics where you can pick up some great information.

5. Attend college practices.  If you have a college team in your area, contact them and ask if you can attend practices. Bring a notebook and be ready to take some notes. 

6. Contact other coaches to learn about something they do that you really like.  Typically coaches are willing to share with each other.

7. Focus on all aspects of coaching.  Don't just focus on the X's and O's of the game. Learn more about building relationships, motivation, and other aspects of this nature.

8. Remember that none of us know it all.  So keep an open mind to listening, watching, and to even possibly change.

Saturday, August 10, 2013


As a coach you always hope each of your players have positive memories of playing on your team.  There are always plenty of positive memories that fill each season.  This blog entry lists some keepsakes that you can put together for each of your players to help them remember the experiences of being a member of the team you coach.
Create a booklet in a simple three pronged folder that includes:
  • A copy of the game schedule with scores from each game.
  • A copy of each box score from every game played.
  • A copy of your season's cumulative statistics
If you have a local newspaper that writes about your team you can create a scrapbook for each of your players.  Cut out and copy every article that was written about your team from all media outlets.  Use a three-hole punch to put together a scrapbook in a three pronged folder.

You need to find a person who is willing to be in charge of taking game action pictures of your players.  One idea is to assign this as one of the duties of a team manager.  Put the pictures on a DVD, add some music to the background, and you have a full season of visual memories.  You could even have your manager take pictures of the team in practice, at team meals, getting an ankle taped, stretching before practice or games, and at team functions for some candid pictures.

Ask each player to write an entry (no longer than one page) that explains some of their favorite memories of the team and season. Copy each player's entry and put it into a folder for each player.

Go through each game and put together a highlight DVD of some of the better made plays from the season.  Include plays from each player. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


333 stands for playing 3-on-3 and needing 3 stops.  The 333 Drill has mostly a defensive focus, but you can also coach offense at the same time.  This drill forces your players to defend at a high level over a period of time.

333 starts with three offensive players and three defensive players playing 3-on-3.  The remaining players form three lines near half court waiting to get into the drill.

The goal is for the defensive team to get three clean stops.  A clean stop is when the defense prevents the offense from scoring.  A clean stop also means that the offensive team does not get an offensive rebound during the possession. If the offense shoots and misses, gets an offensive rebound, and then turns the ball over this would NOT be a clean stop for the defense because they gave up an offensive rebound.

The defensive team must get three clean stops before they are "out".  After each possession a fresh group of three offensive players comes in to play against the three defenders.  This makes the challenge even greater for the defense, as it forces them to play through fatigue while competing against fresh players.

Once the defensive group gets three clean stops, a new group of three defenders come in to attempt to get their three clean stops.

Drill Variations
*Coaches can allow the offense to just play. But you can also have the defense defend ball screens, down screens, dribble handoffs, back cuts, flare screens, or any other specified movement by requiring the offense to execute these during their possession.
*Cap the number of defensive possessions a group of three defenders can have.  For example, if you cap it at six possessions the defense has to get their three clean stops within six possessions.  If they don't, the run.
*Require the offense to get a paint touch before they shoot.  This keeps the offense in an attack mode and prevents them from settling for jump shots.  A paint touch can come from a post entry pass, dribble penetration, or passing to a cutting player in the lane.

Thursday, July 11, 2013


During pregame warmups I was visiting with the coach of our rival opponent.  The opposing coach has had a long and very successful career.  Personally, I always enjoy competing against his teams because I know I will have to be at my best.  As we were exchanging typical small talk I had mentioned to him how impressed I was with how his team ran their half court offense and sets when I scouted them a week earlier.  He actually started to laugh, which surprised me because I was sincere with my comment.  He then continued and said, "Yes, we might be able to run our offense and our sets well, but it doesn't matter how well you run your offense, or what offense you run if you can't put the ball in the basket."  Hmm...

This was a "wow!" moment for me.  We had always dedicated time during our in-season practices to offensive skill development, but I will admit I was more of a drill coach that liked to break down our offense and defense to keep working on getting better at each.  And I think back to how many times I wished we could shoot a few percentage points better.  And I think back to how many times I wished we had a few more quality ball handlers on the roster.  Or maybe said to an assistant, "They just didn't work hard enough on it during the off-season."  FINALLY, I recognized I needed to make a change instead of just admiring a problem.  A coach always wants their team to improve, right?  Hoping for improvement is one thing, but taking action to fix it is another.

What I had been doing was admiring the problem instead of trying to take control and help fix it. The decision was made to then dedicate more of our in-season practice time to skill development. Dedicating more in-season practice time to skill development will obviously improve the offensive skill of our players.  The result of this becomes less hoping by the coach for a few percentage points increase in shooting percentage. 

Offenses and set plays are a big part of basketball.  But those offenses and set plays will look much better when your offensive skill is better.  Sounds simple, but it's true.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


One of my favorite off-season activities is to visit and talk shop with other coaches.  I've learned a lot over the years from having conversations with college, high school, and youth coaches.  Sometimes these conversations have a specific topic on the agenda, while other times we have a random dialog that leads us into several topics.  Either way, I get a chance to learn.

Many times these conversations will turn to X's and O's.  I would bet that most, if not all, coaches spend part of their off-season diagramming plays in notebooks, on scraps of paper, and napkins when ideas strike.  I was having one of these in-depth X and O discussions with another coach when they made the following statement:

"The better you are at one-on-one defense, the less your teammates have to help you.  This keeps your defense balanced.  This makes your team tougher to score against."

I realize that this statement is not groundbreaking by any means.  But at that moment it was very powerful to me and it simplified things for me ever since.  At that time I had been a head coach for ten years, but this simple statement made our teams better defensive teams from that point on. Simple but powerful!

Coaching points to remember when practicing defending the ball:
1. Practice defending the ball every practice.
2. Each day choose different spots to start defending the ball.
*top of the key
*short corners
*short wings
*mid lane line
3. Limit the number of dribbles an offensive player can make (2 or 3 depending on starting point).
4. Start each rep with a closeout.
5. Make the drills competitive.
*Keep score
*Consequence (run) for giving up dribble penetration to an area you don't want the ball to go.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


2 or 8 is a free throw shooting drill that includes both pressure shooting and conditioning.  This drill is best utilized with two players shooting at one basket.

Player A goes to the free throw line while Player B rebounds for them.  Player A will shoot free throws until they either make 8 in a row or miss 2 in a row.  If Player A misses 2 in a row before they make 8 in a row they run a predetermined number of sprints.  If Player A makes 8 in a row before they miss 2 in a row they do not have to run.

Player A could make 5 in a row, then miss one.  If they miss the next shot, they run (that would be 2 misses in a row).  If they make that next shot their count is now at 1 in a row and they continue.

Player B starts to shoot once Player A is either finished with their 8 makes in a row or running their sprints for missing 2 in a row.

Sunday, June 2, 2013


As coaches we say "We need more shooters."  In reality we should be saying "We need more makers."  Any player can be a shooter, but not every player is a maker.  Every player brings a lot of value to their team.  Each player is important.  But when it comes to taking shots not every player should have the same opportunity.  There is a reason some players are open when they have the ball on the perimeter.  Just because you are open doesn't mean that situation should warrant a shot attempt.  Players need to shoot from where they are capable of making shots.  Because of this it is up to the coach to help their players understand what is and what isn't a good shot for them.
Here are a few ideas on how to help define what a good shot is for each player:

1. Chart shooting drills in practice. This data can be invaluable.  If a player is shooting a low percentage in shooting drills from around fifteen feet, then it shouldn't be a surprise that they aren't making any fifteen footers during games. 

2. Before allowing a player to shoot three point shots have them earn their 3-Point License. There are various ways to earn a license. One would be to shoot a series of 50 three point shots and having to make a certain number of those shots.  This must be done three separate times (not necessarily in a row) before a player is allowed to shoot a three point shot.

3. Talk to your players and be specific.  Examples:  Let them know that you don't want them shooting a runner.  Let them know they aren't allowed to shoot a three point shot off the dribble. 

4.  Help your better scorers understand what good shots are for them as well.  Sometimes scorers feel they can take a high number of shots, but many of those are contested.  They must understand that because they can score doesn't mean every shot is a good shot for them.

5. Put players in position for them to have success.  If a player is a true post player and excels at scoring around the basket it wouldn't make sense for them to be playing out on the perimeter for half of each possession.  If you have a small guard who would struggle in the post, why would you have them post up in the block?

Players want to and love to shoot the ball.  It's part of a basketball player's DNA.  The facts are that some are better "makers" than others, and those players need to be getting more of the shots your team takes. Taking shots on offense is not an equal opportunity system.

Saturday, April 27, 2013


One of the first things you need to consider when your off-season begins is personnel.  Figure out what the strengths and weaknesses are of each one of your potential returning players.

Once you have a good grasp of they type of players you have returning, now you have to see how your next team will fit into the X's and O's you are currently using.  You may have a 'system' or a way you always do things, but based on personnel some changes may be needed.  These changes might be large or possibly a small adjustment is needed.  The fact is that you need to have X's and O's that will help put your players in the best position to be successful.  When personnel changes, so might your X's and O's.

Schedule time to have exit interviews with your players after the completion of your season.  This is a time for player can coach to share thoughts on the previous season and where to go from this point on.  Coaches can also use this time to give players guidance on what they need to work during the off-season.  Also, check in with your players from time to time when you see them in the gym or at school. 

This should be done sooner than later.  Give your players a calendar with all of the off-season opportunities your program offers.  Getting this calendar of events earlier gives your players a chance to start planning their own summers. 

One of the great things about the coaching profession is that coaches are willing to share ideas.  If you are interested about a certain concept or topic, contact a coach who might.  Or plan a get-together with a group of coaches and share thoughts and ideas.  This can be as easy as sitting down at a restaurant to diagram X's and O's or share philosophies of coaching.  Coaches will share.

Sunday, January 27, 2013


1. Shorten the length of practices as the season progresses. 
  • Keeping your players fresh is important.  As you get into the last 1/3 of your season you may want to consider shortening the length of practices.  Fewer minutes on the court can be a psychological boost to your team.
2. It's ok to have some fun in the gym on occasion - just for the sake of having fun.
  • Organizing some fun basketball related activities at the end of an occasional practice session will keep your players spirits up.  Get your work done first, then allow your players to experience some fun together on the court.  Let them see the coaches enjoying it too.
3. Give your players a day off. 
  • If your schedule allows you to give your players a day off, go ahead and do it if you feel your players need it.  Make sure you give your team enough practice time before your next game though.  
4. Add a variety of new drills to your practice routine.
  • Coaches emphasize in practice what they want their teams to be good at - or known for.  Those emphasized areas are drilled throughout every practice.  As the season progresses coaches need to create a variety of drills to emphasize these priorities.
5. Without overloading your team, add new X's and O's to your team's inventory.
  • Adding a new wrinkle to your offense or defense can add some much needed excitement to your players.  
6. Arrange for a guest speaker to visit with your team.
  • Give your players a chance to be motivated by others outside your program.  Bring in an ex-player, a business leader in your community, a respected teacher, or someone who has experienced success in their area of expertise to deliver an inspirational message to your team.
7. Have your team re-evaluate team goals that were set early in the season.
  • Allow your team to meet without the coaching staff to discuss and possibly adjust the goals that were set at the beginning of the season.  It is possible that the goals may need to be scaled back.  Or it could be that they would like create even higher goals for the remainder of the season.
8. Organize team bonding activities.
  • Getting your team together outside of the gym is important.  It allows them to have fun and get to know one another better without having to deal with the rigors of basketball.