Category Archives: Basketball

Bang Zoom!

One of these days Alice.. one of these days!

One of these days Alice.. one of these days!

Ralph was a big yeller, always yelling at everyone and anyone. After doing a lot of thinking about my own yelling during games, I resolved yesterday to try coaching a basketball game with no yelling or screaming at all.

It was awkward and felt odd to be honest. I guess I’m just one of those guys. But, I did it and I survived the experience. And the odd thing, is that the more I think about it as I write this post, the more I realize that it’s the right thing to do.

The girls I’m coaching range from 9-12 years old (4-6th grade, 2 different teams) and while they need lots and lots of coaching and lots and lots of encouragement, they simply don’t need it at extreme volumes while they play the actual game.

I am slowly starting to remember how confusing and fast it was to play basketball as a 10 year old; the last thing these girls need is me yelling and screaming at them. It’s about time eh?

Meanwhile, the girls played much better tonight. The basics are there but we need more practice time that we just aren’t going to find. Two of our smaller girls played extremely well, one getting a basket and the other coming up with at least 2 rebounds and one terrific defensive stop. It’s pretty much the best feeling to see those weaker players start to slowly but surely improve over the course of the season.



We had game last night and got absolutely crushed. In addition to missing 2 players we came out totally flat from holiday break. It was like all that practice we had put in was totally gone; the girls were sloppy in their dribbling and pivoting and couldn’t keep up with the other team’s fast breaks.

Interestingly, the other team played a very basic 2-3 zone defense and because we were so flat, we simply weren’t able to get any penetration because of really poor passing. We’ll have to take another look at our basic offensive set up and we’re going to have to be a lot more careful about who is playing guard – we need someone with some level of intensity and ball handling skills. We must have turned the ball over twice as often as we took shots.

We’ve got another game on Thursday, then a key practice on Saturday where we’ll refocus on pivoting and ball handling in particular, along with basic rebounding drills.

I didn’t keep stats, but I’m guessing we got 10% of the rebounds in the game – there were at least 2 times the other team had 5 or 6 shots! I was a bit frustrated!

The most interesting thing however, was that the girls didn’t seem to care that much that we were losing. In fact, I am pretty sure that one of them asked me at the end if we had won or lost… wow, girls sure are different than boys!

Update: I watched some of the video I shot from the game last night and am really embarrassed by how I acted. I posted earlier about coaches yelling and have to say, I need to really focus my attention on NOT yelling. In fact, I think I’m going to be a silent as possible from now on.. it will be tough, but after watching the video, I have no other choice. I wasn’t inappropriate I don’t think, but it was close enough to the line that I need to make some major changes immediately.

Video, Video, Video!

I’m addicted to using video with my youth teams, but before you roll your eyes, let me tell you how simple it’s been to set up and use.

I have a tiny Flip video camera (they even have an HD one now!) and a cheap tripod. During practices and games, I just turn it on and point it at one of the hoops and let it run. I’ve been sharing that video with commentary via email with my players and parents and letting them see what they are doing and then using that to help them get better.

I’ve just started using this as a technique, but I’m convinced it is making a difference already. It’s terrific for showing the girls footwork, defensive positioning and showing them where they missed something important (like an open player to pass to!).

Most surprisingly, when I viewed my own daughter taking a jump shot, we noticed that she was using her left hand (she’s a righty!). We were both shocked, and what she took away from seeing that was a need for better practicing, and to try to slow things down a bit and not play so frenetically.

I’ve also become addicted to watching basketball coaching videos on youtube and have embedded one of my favorites here.

Have you used video before with your teams, and if so, how has it worked for you?

Interactive Worksheet for Youth Basketball Coaches

I wanted to share this (free) resource I’ve been using for a few weeks with everyone. After reading every web site I could get my hands on and a stack of coaching books, I’ve developed a simple matrix you can use to develop your practice plans. This is designed to be modular and for you to use it to develop a specific set of skills through progressions.

I *THINK* this is best for 4th – about 7th graders, but feel free to adapt it to your own needs.

This spreadsheet is open and editable by everyone and anyone, please do add your own drills (but don’t delete any) by adding them to the list.

Here’s how to use it…

  • The left column shows fundamentals that must be taught. Without getting these right, you will have a rough season
  • Across the top are 3 levels of drills that you can use to interactively pick for either the group or individuals
  • As you develop your practice plans, keep the fundamentals and skill levels in mind!

I’d love any comments you might have as well!

Book Notes: Rebound Rules

I just finished reading Rick Pitino’s latest book “Rebound Rules.” I was looking for some inspiration in both my professional and coaching life and found it here. This is a breezy read for those of us who read a lot of self help books, much of what Pitino talks about is well-tread in other books.

That said, I especially liked some of what he has to say about managing young players. Granted, the difference between the type of coaching he does is a galaxy away from the type of coaching I do!

What I loved most about the book however is how Pitino recounts his Celtics failure and how he rediscovered himself and his passions. His “PHD” (Passion, Hunger, Drive) framework is something that I will be using personally as I begin to plan for 2009.

One other phrase that I really liked was the “darkness of doubt.” I’ve had some recent failures myself in my professional life and realized that the doubt I felt was natural, but something that I simply need to move past. That’s a phrase I’ll keep in mind for a long time to come.

It’s a good read and worth your time.

Playing Next Year: Job #1

At a recent holiday party, the conversation turned to one couples son (age 9, I’ll call him Joe, not his real name) who is playing recreation level basketball. Joe is on a team with a capable coach who runs terrific drills and keeps practices a lot of fun (according to his parents).

The problem lays unfortunately at the coaches feet and in his desire to win over what should be his #1 priority. Apparently, the coach instructs Joe and several other players to get the ball to one particular player. If players get rebounds, they are told to immediately get rid of the ball and move away.

Because the team is so young, there is no real offensive system, the coaches use  a set play where “Ed” gets the ball to “Randy”” who shoots, pretty much every time. Set plays are a big no-no in my opinion (I’m backed up by article after article  about why having a set play at this age is a mistake).

I’m a huge proponent of giving all of your young players a chance to score and to contribute to the team. This way, every single player becomes part of the  team and gives you the leverage to keep even those disinterested kids focused (peer pressure!). Teamwork is also my own coaching success strategy; far too often  teams lose because their star player doesn’t feel well, play well or the other team figures out a way to shut him or her down on a given night. I feel like if  I have a team where every player can contribute, then we ultimately have a chance to win every game.

The bonus (and the real reason) for developing such teams, especially at young ages is that kids just want to play. They are more interested in fun than in winning. When I ask kids if they would rather win every single game during the season, or get a chance to play all the positions and have fun they vote for playing and fun, not for winning. Sure, winning feels great. But I can tell you from personal experience that it feels a hell of a lot better when everyone on the team feels like they contributed to the victory.

Meanwhile Joe is completely discouraged and no longer wants to play basketball. It’s a shame and a tragedy. I’d say with certainty that a someone coaching kids younger than 14 in semi or non-competitive leagues should have a singular, overriding goal each season.

That goal is to simply get 100% of your team back again next season.   By teaching them teamwork, the basics of the game this isn’t impossible. It’s Job #1 for me, especially for the girls that I am lucky enough to coach.

Teaching Fundamentals

It all seems to come back to fundamentals. I took an hour today and went to see the local high school girls team play and was surprised, but happy to hear the head coach really focusing on the fundamentals.

More than once, I heard him tell his girls to “box out” and to get their arms into the right shooting position. The team played a very simple man-man, highly aggressive defense all game and used one particular very athletic player to create problems for the other team. I also really liked how he yelled “ball” and “open” to simply indicate that someone needed to cover the ball or pass to the open girl. I’ll steal those calls straightaway for myself!

On offense, they used a pretty good looking motion offense and did a good job of setting screens again and again. It payed off and they won going away.

At our 5/6th grade game tonight, we again focused heavily on defensive basics and continued to work on the core elements of the motion offense. We struggled a bit, but because we’re a big, athletic team we won easily although that wasn’t what really mattered. Our biggest problem actually, is lack of focused practice time to hammer home these concepts.

I think the girls are starting to respond to the repititions however (getting set up, moving around and triple threat) although they still dribble way too much. It got so bad at the end of the 2nd quarter, we made them play an offensive set with no dribbling allowed, just like a drill we use during practice. That calmed them down a little which was good.

Part of what we’ll be working on going forward is spacing, motion and more passing with lots less dribbling.