on the court

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.

Lead By Example

If you are going to ask your athletes to do something it truly helps to lead by example. I have learned through experience that if your athletes see you as the hardest working member of the team, it makes it hard for them to question what you are doing or complain. This has been a great area of growth for me over the past couple of years, especially when it comes to strength and conditioning. I first want to preface that although it helps if you have been around the game of basketball, it is not crucial that every coach have played the game of basketball growing up.

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My first couple of seasons at Ontario, I was horribly out of shape and it was difficult to get my athletes to completely commit to our strength and conditioning program. A couple of years ago I committed to fitness for myself and lost over 150 pounds and am now in the greatest shape of my life (shockingly, diet and exercise actually works). Now when we have conditioning before or during practice, I will get out there and do the workouts with my athletes and I no longer get any complaints and notice a guilty look from students who sit out a conditioning workout that I am doing with the team. This is just one example of a way that I have been able to lead by example.

Another great way to lead by example is make sure that you are at the gym before any of your athletes and you are the last one to leave. I make an effort to be in the gym reviewing game film when my athletes arrive and stay in the gym after practice to meet with my assistant coaches. Athletes notice these things and will respect you more if they see that you are committed to working hard and devoting time to the program. Being knowledgeable about your offense and defense will help them respect your knowledge of the game as well. Whenever a question gets brought up about something we are doing on offense or defense, I make an effort to give a solution or answer that has depth and shows that I am in complete understanding of what we are doing, how we need to do it, and what the expected outcome is.

Overall, it’s a great idea to lead by example because you are a role model to these athletes and it will help you be more successful as a coach. I am always open to suggestions so if you have any ideas, suggestions, or questions, please feel free to comment on this post or send me an e-mail.

Know Your Personnel

It is absolutely crucial for you as a coach to know your personnel. When you are game planning and looking at what to do with a specific matchup, you must know the strengths and weaknesses of all of your athletes. In order to make sure to put yourself in a position to succeed you must first know who can help you in certain situations and how they can help you.

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With each of my teams I have a set lineup for different scenarios, including set lineups for each of the following:

  1. Shooters to face against a zone.
  2. Quickness to press.
  3. Size to combat a smaller lineup.
  4. Lockdown defenders when I need a stop.
  5. Ball handlers when I am facing a press.

By knowing the strengths of my athletes, I know who will fit best into each of these lineups. It is important for every player on your team to also know their personnel. If they know what each player can do, they can put that player in position to succeed. By knowing if someone cannot shoot the ball well from the outside, they will not pass the ball to that player deep on the outside at the end of a shot clock. Many other similar scenarios exist.

It is not something that you will figure out in a day either. You need to closely watch your athletes and be aware of what they are doing well and struggling with during practices. It is important to focus on the strengths of each athlete as opposed to their weaknesses. By doing this, you know a way to utilize every plyer on your roster.

Knowing Roles

It is important for coaches and players to all have a role, know their role, embrace their role, and excel at their role. It is easy to sell an athlete on being the leading scorer and taking a majority of shots but you need to have balance on your team. Every time has to have scoring but in order to provide balance to your team, you must have players who can rebound, pass, defend, and bring the ball up the court. Defining roles is all about determining the expertise of each of your athletes and finding a way to cater to their strengths.

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Coaches are no different than athletes when it comes to roles. If every coach is yelling instructions all the time, it will lead to confusion and a lack of efficiency. It is very important to define roles for coaches and I have outlined three roles for me three assistant coaches as follows:

  1. One coach will focus on the defense and report to me on what adjustments need to be made both in terms of personnel and strategy.
  2. One coach will focus on the offense and report to me on what adjustments need to be made both in terms of personnel and strategy.
  3. The other coach will have the same rile but with respect to inbound plays.

By having coaches fill positions much like football coaches who each star in a specific job title, it allows each coach to become an expert in their field and to master one task.

Athletes need to all try and be as strong as they can at every aspect of the game. For example, everyone needs to be the best defender possible. However, only one player can bring the ball up the court, and only one or two players can crash the boards on offense, and finally, only one player can try and be a playmaker on offense.

By defining roles for each player, it allows you to have smooth transition and lots of flow on offense and defense. Roles will also help your team out with having your coaches all on the same page.

 

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.