I know that you guys are probably like me.  Last week you were a little bit over all the talk of the eclipse.  It came, it went, it was cool.  This galactic alignment, however, got me thinking about more important things.  Basketball of course.  It caused an analogy to come to mind that may help our players understand what we’re after as coaches.  There are many players who shine bright in individual workouts, one on one games, and in pickup.  You see moments of what could be at different times in the game but they never are able to be consistent.  Their talent is like the sun in an eclipse.  You know it’s there.  You can still see it’s effects, but it’s not quite what it should be.

What are the things that can hold a player back from shining with all they’ve been given?

  1. Selfishness
  2. Unadressed weaknesses they can’t hide in competition
  3. Lack of chemistry with their teammates.
  4. Focusing on goals outside team success.
  5. Lack of confidence.
  6. Overconfidence.
  7. Lack of knowledge of role/scheme/tactics/philosophy.

There is no shortage of why potential remains unrealized.  There are a lot of books on this I’ve read that come to mind.  Talent is Overrated & Talent is Never Enough are a couple the immediately come to mind. It’s important to continue looking for ways to remove these obstacles from those we influence and of course in ourselves.eclipse

Have you ever been walking in to a building and someone holds the door for you and just before you can grab it they let it go? That’s what it’s like when a screener leaves before someone can actually use the screen.
These are the days of the early slip. Rolling before the offensive player has even gotten to the screen. You’re smart, you’re edgy, you’re tricky. You will not allow the defense to hedge the screen. How many times have we seen an early slip taking place when the screener’s defender is not even helping on the ball? When he’s playing flat under or ice defense it’s clear that the post player is not reading the defense he is just looking to slip as soon as possible.

It’s the same problem with off the ball screens. Guys refuse to hold a screen to take a good hit from the defender coming through and create space for teammates. We’re forever slipping to the basket before anyone else can create separation. Maybe we should tell guys to slip then they’ll screen?

When I’m playing pick up I am shocked at how long it takes some guys to get off of a screen. To make the point, challenge guys to hold their screen until the defender is completely off. Who knows, if the screener doesn’t sprint out of the way on first (or in some cases no) contact, the defenders may actually have to make a choice and a mistake.

Screening is a good test of your team’s selflessness and toughness. These days if you give a player a choice between being the primary or secondary receiver…you know where that’s going for most. Would you rather have neither of you guys get open or both of you?

Hold the screen please.

If you are leading, you should be delegating. We all know that there aren’t enough hours in a day to get all the things done we’d like to get done. If you’re like me, delegating is a learned skill, not one that comes naturally.  There are a host of reasons one might be reluctant to delegate:

  1. No one will do it like I can.
  2. I don’t want to burden others.
  3. I don’t want the hassle of follow up. 
  4. I don’t want others to receive credit when the job is done. 

If you examine the reasons you’ll find a lot of them are rooted in arrogance or pride. I would say that delegation is a great exercise in humility. Admitting we need the help of others isn’t weakness, it’s admitting that we are attempting to do something beyond the ability of a single person. Something we should all be trying to do. 

In addition, I believe that delegation can be a great education. Give your players the responsibility of teaching the younger kids in your program. Delegate a set for an individual to teach the team. Not only will you free up time and energy for essential work; you will give others a chance to grow, lead, and shine. Delegating isn’t just dumping off of unwanted tasks; it’s an essential tool for a leader who is trying to make more of others he’s privileged to lead.

Imagine a dance contest. Winner take all. 

One contestant hears the beat the crowd does. One is wearing noise canceling headphones and dancing to another song that doesn’t sync with the one everyone else hears. The second dancer could have all the moves but it’s going to look disjointed and spastic. They may have great skill and ability but they’re dancing to the wrong song. 

As leaders we deal with this on any team we coach. To some winning is the primary objective. To others it’s stats, showing someone else up & avoiding it themselves, or any other host of motivations that have NOTHING to do with winning. It’s easy to identify in how they respond to loss.  So many guys out there are playing a different game than the one they should. They only pass when it may be an assist, guard enough not to be benched but not enough to risk being beat, box out enough to say that they “tried” but not enough to make others think twice about crashing. 

I think we could all do a better job of calling this out. Stats may or may not come every game but we’re going to dance the dance we practiced. If there’s another song you’re dancing to; sit down so you can enjoy it…

“No is a complete sentence”.
I love this quote from the book Essentialism.  You have to know your no’s.  What are you going to not do so you can do other things?  I know many of you have likely read it, if not, heard of it and to me it’s worth the hype.  I read it about a year and a half ago but think it’s one of the books I’ve read with the most real world applications in the last few years. Even my kids enjoyed it on a recent road trip and it sparked good discussion. As an economics teacher we talk about opportunity costs all the time. To do one thing is to not do another.  This is an important lesson for us to remember as coaches and I think one of the hardest lines to walk.  Will an additional set be worth the lost time in fundamentals or reps?  Will continuing to grind in drill work pay more dividends than just switching defenses or pulling the 1 kid who just doesn’t get it?  Do we need more skill on the floor or toughness? We make these decisions constantly whether we think through the implications or not. Thinking of what we give up for each addition will keep us from drowning in a sea of yes and being overwhelmed on and off the floor.
To do one thing is to not do another…You can’t do it all.  Choose wisely.
If you like visual book summaries, this is a good one.

Teams that care about each other guard better.  This simple truth was illustrated in a podcast I listened to recently that I really liked.  This was from a SI article last month I missed.  Audio version is on a short but great series of podcasts called “Breakaway” The quotes are from the “Assistance” episode. Great read overall and I LOVED this quote below by Ron Adams:

“Defensively, obviously we’re all connected,” Adams said. “What one person does, everyone else has to adjust to. When one person moves, in the best of worlds everyone moves. It doesn’t always happen. It’s what we strive for. I think defensively, through this, this aspect of connectedness, this concept of connectedness, it’s very altruistic. We do something for someone else that’s not glamorous. Offense is glamorous. Offense is—except to the purists—offense is notable, to the public. Defense is kind of what all of us have to do in life to not only live good lives, but to make other people’s lives better. I think it’s a giving thing. Coach Grant—it came back to Coach Grant at Fresno State use to have a saying that he’d tell the guys that there are two kinds of people in the world. There are givers and there are takers. So we had a really strong defensive program then. And defense is giving. So, like, if you want to take it to the next step, it’s kind of how we have to live, you know?”

It’s a problem that doesn’t impact teams until it really does.  You advance in the state playoffs to the 3rd round and you end up having to play on the other team’s home court due to a coin flip. One of my teams had to travel 3.5 hours afters to play another 1 seed. Fortunately for us, we won, but home court advantage matters.  If one team hasn’t done more than the other to earn it; it seems we could find a way for them to play at a neutral site with their seasons on the line.
I’m proposing that the coaches of the two schools be given 48 hours to find a neutral site they could play at.  They would have to meet GHSA’s capacity requirements and of course agree to do so.  If both schools cannot agree on the site before the time GHSA determines, it goes to a coin flip which will be held universally for the entire bracket as they are doing now.
To make it easier the GHSA could keep an “opt out” list of schools that did not want to be considered at the beginning of the year.  Host school could keep concessions.  I believe the coaches of our state would work together on this to help make our state tournament better.  We’d all probably like a centralized site like the Final Four for 3rd round games but in place of that, I think this is a good option with minimum work required by the organizers.  We could also work towards keeping the list of opt out schools out and have the GHSA assign a 3rd high school site if that worked better.  I’m looking to get the support of our region rep to address any issues there may be before submitting before the GHSA Executive Board’s next opportunity to change is held. If you guys know any athletic directors/executive board members bounce it off them and see what they think.
Send me any suggestions/ideas that may help here.