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Team Concepts (Offenses, Defenses, Baseline, Sideline, & Press Breaks)

As you will read tomorrow on the blog, we are going to change the format for a few months. When we come back from the hiatus, we will be running a series of posts on different team concepts that will fill your playbook. Here is an outline of the different chapters of the series that we will delve into:

  1. Offenses
  2. Defenses
  3. Baseline Inbounds
  4. Sideline Inbounds
  5. Press Breaks

 

The Key Fundamentals (Ball Handling, Shooting, Passing, & Defense)

Today starts a series of posts that I will refer to as the fundamental series. Over the next few weeks I will be posting a series of posts detailing different aspects of each fundamental.

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The four main fundamentals that we will be focusing on will be:

  1. Ball Handling
  2. Shooting
  3. Passing
  4. Defense

I recognize that rebounding can be considered its own category but I lumped this into the defense category and will be posting more about rebounding at a later date. If you have anything that you would specifically like to see me cover when it comes to any of these fundamentals, please send me a message and I will include an answer in the post it pertains to.

The hope is that this series will be useful to coaches of all levels as they look to improve the fundamentals of their teams.

Footwork

One of the first things that you can do to help improve your athletes skills is to emphasize footwork. In my first few seasons at Ontario, I jumped right into basic skills like ball handling, passing, defense, shooting, and rebounding. These are all great skills but without proper footwork, your teams will not have the building blocks necessary to compete at their best. This past offseason, with all of my athletes including those with years of experience, we committed to spending part of each practice learning and improving our footwork.

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The result of my offseason emphasis has shown on the court and we improved greatly over the summer in virtually every statistical category. Most noticeably, we lowered our number of turnovers per game which I see as a result of our new found understanding of footwork.

Some coaches might wonder how I can spend an entire post talking about footwork as it only applies to one or two aspects of the game. I counter with the fact that footwork plays a key role in every basic fundamental as I will outline below:

Ball Handling- When dribbling the ball at full speed in a game, I am sure that most coaches have told their players to jump stop. Teaching players how to jump stop and pivot will help reduce the number of turnovers on a fast break. Additionally, learning how to jab step and use fakes with footwork will help players become better scorers.

Passing- Many player will turn the ball over because they do not step into passes on the outside. Step right to throw right and step left to throw left. When trying to get a pass into the paint, you need to be able to step through with your opposite foot to protect the ball and create a passing angle.

Shooting- I have coached a lot of players who do not set their feet before they shoot. When working on jump shots I like to teach players to keep a back foot down and step in with their lead foot to power into a shot. Also, footwork on lay-ups (a euro-step is an excellent move to teach starting in high school) also plays a role in player skill development.

Defense- Pushing off the back foot when sliding is a basic technique when discussing footwork but I also point out the fact that you want to teach your athletes to keep their toe pointing forward and not out to the side because you want to use big muscles like glutes and hamstrings to power your slide. Sticking your toe out to the side works the adductors which do not have as much power and ability to provide you with a quick slide.

Rebounding-Using your feet to seal someone on  a box-out is a great technique to teach when rebounding on defense. On offense you can teach a jab and spin to help improve your offensive rebounding as well.

As you can see from the above that using attention to detail when going over footwork will help your teams get better and also further develop the skills of your athletes. I incorporate footwork into every practice and see it as a huge benefit to us.

Playbook

Every year, I give athletes on my team a playbook and encourage them to study it as early as possible. Our boys basketball coach thinks that I am overdoing it by providing these playbooks to our athletes because they likely won’t really put the time into studying it. My response to him is always, “My job is to put these athletes in the best possible position to succeed and that requires me to go above and beyond what other coaches are doing”. At Ontario, the stigma has always been that basketball is not a priority and that these athletes cannot play at an elite level. My attitude is always that I will not treat an athlete at Ontario any differently than I would an athlete at a program competing for a State Championship.

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In the playbooks that I hand out, they come with 5 tabs, labeled as follows:

  1. Administrative
  2. Defense
  3. Offense
  4. Out of Bounds
  5. Press Breaks

Administrative- In this section I have a copy of our team contract for the year, a list of team rules, team goals, and an expectation for each athlete at their position. Other items that fit the needs of your program can go into this section as well.

Defense- This section includes all half-court and full-court defenses that we will be running that season.

Offense- This section includes all offenses against man or zone that we will be running. I always include a transition offense in this section as well.

Out of Bounds- All baseline and sideline out-of-bounds plays are included in this section and I like to include plays for situations that put us at odd angles (ball is tipped out of bounds).

Press Breaks- This section includes my press breaks against man and zone presses.

This level of organization will not only help your players be put into a position to succeed but it will also put you in a position to have an understanding of what plays are available to you and put you in a position as a coach to succeed. It always helps me to keep a play chart with me that shows what we have available and what it will work against.

What you put into your playbook will be different based on the needs of your team and I will be posting about this at a later date.

Basketball IQ

Moving on from some of the off-the-court issues I have discussed, we now delve into some on-the-court topics. Basketball IQ is a great trait that you hope your athletes have before they get to you. It is especially helpful to have a point guard who has a high basketball IQ. Unlike some coaches, I believe that you can build basketball IQ in your players over time through training.

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It is first important to note that basketball IQ has nothing to do with overall intelligence or how smart your athletes are. Basketball IQ is based on the understanding of the game and ability to see things on the court before they develop. I have had some athletes with a 4.8 GPA who did not have a great GPA and at other schools have seen athletes with a low GPA who have very high basketball IQ.

Some coaches think that a player either has a high basketball IQ or they don’t. They base this upon the amount of basketball a player grew up playing and watching. Additionally, some coaches think that youth coaching plays a role in the basketball IQ of an athlete. I agree with the assessment of the coaches who see IQ as a result of upbringing; however, I believe you can still grow basketball IQ in a high school athlete.

I have seen a software being marketed that claims to be able to improve the basketball IQ of athletes through the use of a computer game. At my school, we use twice a week to participate in a basketball classroom setting where we teach concepts and ideas about the game. Also, by providing scouting reports to athletes, they are given something to use as a study aide and tool for learning. In my first two years I saw a mild amount of growth when it came to IQ but this year the growth is off the charts. As with anything you remain persistent about (see my post from yesterday), you can see improvement if you commit to a plan and adapt that plan over time.

The effect of higher basketball IQ will be an ability to improve on the court. Your players will be able to execute game plans and also do things on the court that they could not do prior to having a high basketball IQ. As an overall result, you will see your teams win more ball games over time.

Be Persistent

Those of you who read my story on what t took for me to break into coaching know that I showed persistence. I encourage all coaches to show persistence when it comes to finding their first job. It is not just finding a job that requires persistence. When it comes to improving your team both on and off the court you must be persistent as well.

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Here are just a few examples of situations that require persistence:

  1. Getting a job.
  2. Improving team chemistry.
  3. Getting students to improve performance in the classroom.
  4. Improving skills of your players.
  5. Winning basketball games.

Persistence requires hard work and a dedication to achieving a goal. Refer back to my coaching journey for an example of persistence when it comes to getting a job. Team chemistry is a topic that we covered last week and I gave examples of ways to being persistent about improving off-the-court. Improving in the classroom will require you to monitor students grades and then work with them to improve. Skill development requires work every day in practice. Winning basketball games requires planning and hard work over a long period of time.

Overall, persistence is a key with every aspect of your team and it is a trait that will benefit you and your teams. Persistence always seems to pay off in the long run.

In The Classroom

This is not going to be a very long post but it is an important one. I want to make sure to emphasize that a coaches primary job is to be a teacher. Emphasizing academics is a key aspect of coaches that I believe is undervalued. With most rules calling for a minimum 2.0 GPA, coaches simply do what is needed to make sure their students are eligible.

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If your primary objective is to be a true coach both on and off the court to your athletes, you need to show them the importance of academics. Last year I implemented a 3.0 minimum GPA and this year I have implemented a minimum 3.5 policy. Typically I have one or two athletes fall short of the minimum GPA but a 3.3 GPA that falls short is far better than a 1.8 GPA.

Here are some things that I implemented into my program that have helped us rise from a large number of students not being eligible for college prior to my arrival at Ontario High School to a team that had the 26th highest GPA in all of Southern California:

  1. Weekly Grade Checks.
  2. Team running at the end of the week for all athletes under the minimum goal.
  3. Setting higher expectations with GPA and behavior in the classroom.
  4. Assigning each athlete an academic accountability partner.
  5. Partnering the highest academic achievers with those that are not doing as well in the classroom.

Lastly, remember that if your athletes are achieving good grades, it will allow more colleges to recruit your athletes.