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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

LESSON LEARNED: CHARACTER - DO IT THE RIGHT WAY

I came across an interview between Swish Appeal and Tyler Summitt, the new head coach at Louisiana Tech.  As we all know, Tyler is the son of Coach Pat Summitt.  Because of this, I loved the question posed to Tyler and loved even more his answer.

SA: Out of the all the things you have learned from your mother, what is the one thing that stood out the most?

TS: "I think it's character, it's doing things the right way. My mom never cut corners; she always did things right way, treated people the right way. And at the same time, she held people accountable, I don't care what they were doing, they were held strictly accountable to be the best they could be.

"But at the same time, she always did things the right way. She just had (great) character on and off the court, everything she did. So, I'm going to strive to have character as well."

Tyler obviously had a great teacher in Coach Summitt but he was obviously a great learner -- understanding it goes well beyond X & O's.

You can read the entire interview here.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

OFF-SEASON THOUGHTS -- DAY #7: CREATIVE STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING

OFF-SEASON THOUGHTS -- DAY #7: During this 10-day period, we are going to load up our blog on thoughts that are relevant to developing or improving your off-season program.  We will delve on off-season topics from player development and drill work to motivation and team building.  It will be our sincere wish that over the next 10 days we can provide you with at least one item or thought that will help you and your program.

A part of summer has to be the improvement of strength and conditioning.  I have been blessed to have coached at some places with some outstanding performance coaches including Jen Jones here at Texas A&M.  What the best do is that they work the student-athletes in a fashion that they can enjoy that work as much as possible.  A big key is coming up with new and fresh ideas.  It is difficult for today's athlete to maintain good energy with  a monotonous, daily, regimented workout -- whether its on the basketball court, in the weight room or out on the track.  Jen is always coming up with great ways to get our strength, speed and explosiveness developed.  It's why I enjoyed this video of Florida's men's basketball team and their Summer Strongman Competition.

OFF-SEASON THOUGHTS -- DAY #7: SHOOTING PROGRAM

OFF-SEASON THOUGHTS -- DAY #7: During this 10-day period, we are going to load up our blog on thoughts that are relevant to developing or improving your off-season program.  We will delve on off-season topics from player development and drill work to motivation and team building.  It will be our sincere wish that over the next 10 days we can provide you with at least one item or thought that will help you and your program.

Below is J.J. Redick going through a series of shots he likes to work on when facing a closeout situation.  He has five that he works from in his shooting workout.  The question is, what shots are your players working on in the off-season.  Don't assume they know what they need to be shooting. 

Thoughts on developing an off-season program should include:

GAME SHOTS: Give your players the shots they need to hit for you as it relates to how you play offensively.  I was impressed that Redick had a routine for attacking closeouts. Have a plan of what is important to your offensive success and work your off-season program around that.

GAME SPEED: You players must know that game shots much be at game speed.  Be quick, but don't hurry.  Using a stop watch or clock can assist in creating a sense of urgency.

TECHNIQUE: Make sure you give them one simple teaching point for the drill that will help them with better execution.  They don't need a huge laundry list to follow -- because they won't.

MEASURE: A method of measuring makes is important.  The ability to chart improvement will help with their motivation.

FORM SHOOTING: While game shots at game speed are important, players should find time for basic form shooting to reinforce the fundamentals of their basic shot.

Monday, April 21, 2014

OFF-SEASON THOUGHTS -- DAY #6: AGGIE PICK UP GUIDELINES

OFF-SEASON THOUGHTS -- DAY #6: During this 10-day period, we are going to load up our blog on thoughts that are relevant to developing or improving your off-season program.  We will delve on off-season topics from player development and drill work to motivation and team building.  It will be our sincere wish that over the next 10 days we can provide you with at least one item or thought that will help you and your program.

From my days at LSU, I have always had a list of guidelines for our team to follow in pick up.  Let's be honest: pick will rarely if not never be a thing of beauty.  There is no atmosphere more conducive to slippage than that of players playing without supervision from a coach.  To me, there are four things needed for successful pick up play. 

#1 A Definition of Good Pick Up Play
As a coach, you must paint a picture of what good pick up will be and what it will achieve.  For us, a good game of pick up has energy and enthusiasm.  It is a group of players that enjoying playing with each other and playing the game of basketball.  It is also a noisy proposition.  Lots of talking and chattering.  Players are talking the game.  They are encouraging each other and holding each other accountable. 

#2 Leadership
Good pick up basketball has leaders that get things going.  It's time to play -- let's get it!  They have a sense of urgency -- here's out teams...Maroon ball...let's go!  They play hard and smart -- they set a visual example.  They encourage and correct their teammates.  They are the eyes, ears and mouth of the coaching staff.

#3 Committed Team
Good pick up basketball has a team that is committed to improving.  They understand that every time they step on the court they will either get better or get worse. Teams that get better during the summer are holding each other accountable for effort and execution in pick up games.

#4 Guidelines
I've always believed that a good set of guidelines can help a great deal.  The team is "navigating" through the summer without you but you can provide a "road map" with some good guidelines.

Here is our list:

ALWAYS PLAY MAN TO MAN DEFENSE
Good pressure on the basketball (even if you get beat on the drive)
Get a hand up on every shot
Make contact, blockout, and finish the possession
Ball Screens: Hard Hedge and Recover
Off Ball Screens: No switching

START WITH HALF COURT GAMES
Even if you have enough for 5/5, start with a couple of half court games
Will help us to develop our man defense and offense principles

UTILIZE CONVERSION
After half court games, finish up with full court games

Progression will always be: Primary, Secondary, Offense
Even 4/4 games can be played full court
Regardless of situation, all 10 players should cross half-court on each possession

TAKE ADVANTAGE OF EVERY OPPORTUNITY TO PLAY
3/3, 2/2, 1/1
Play, play, play


COMMUNICATE
No music on during pick up

Talk: Encouraging, Corrective, Instructive 

 
BE A GOOD TEAMMATE
Encourage teammates
Upperclassmen teach our freshman how we play
Help freshman to understand offensive/defensive principles

PLAY HARD
Is there any other way?!



THERE WILL COME A TIME
WHEN WINTER WILL ASK,
"WHAT HAVE YOU DONE THIS SUMMER?" 

 

OFF-SEASON THOUGHTS -- DAY #5: WHAT IS YOUR EMPHASIS IN OFF-SEASON PICK UP GAMES?

OFF-SEASON THOUGHTS -- DAY #5: During this 10-day period, we are going to load up our blog on thoughts that are relevant to developing or improving your off-season program.  We will delve on off-season topics from player development and drill work to motivation and team building.  It will be our sincere wish that over the next 10 days we can provide you with at least one item or thought that will help you and your program.

A key part of off-season development is pick up games.  Most coaches are great to organize their pick up games by scheduling the gym time for the team.  Maybe even helping establish teams.  However, what can you to maximize the time spent by your team when they are playing without your watchful eye upon them?

A great example below are some guidelines that Rick Majerus shared with us one summer while speaking at Coach Don Meyer's Coaching Academy.  He obviously wanted to stress to his team pressure defense over the summer and these are the defensive guidelines he asked them to follow.  He was also quick to point out that if he his team worked to apply this pressure on defense in pick up games, not only would it improve their defense but force their offense to play against pressure in the summer as well

1. Deny every pass & get back-doored every time = Overplay, ear in chest, on & up the line
2.
On catch, put your nose on the chest, force dribble, and level him off.
3.
Stance = On ball, Denial, Help.
4.
Front the Post = At all times when ball is outside of the funnel
5.
Close out to everybody as though they are a great shooter = no jump shots
     a. Get a nose in their chest & force baseline without opening the game
 
What are you going to ask of your team when they are playing this summer?

 

OFF-SEASON THOUGHTS -- DAY #4: COACH McGRAW ON PLAYERS' EXPANDING ROLES AND COACHES GROWING IN THE OFF-SEASON

OFF-SEASON THOUGHTS -- DAY #4: During this 10-day period, we are going to load up our blog on thoughts that are relevant to developing or improving your off-season program.  We will delve on off-season topics from player development and drill work to motivation and team building.  It will be our sincere wish that over the next 10 days we can provide you with at least one item or thought that will help you and your program.

The following comes from "Courting Success" which is a book written by Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw.  It was written in 2003 following their NCAA Championship season and is one of my favorites because it delves into the philosophy that she has used to create an elite program. I have added some comments in bold italics:

"A player who refuses to accept her role will be unhappy, and usually ends up transferring.  I also tell them that if they don't like their role, then they should use the summer to change it."

I think this is critically important.  Players don't have to accept a current role as permanent.  They need to know that consistent, deliberate work in the off-season can add to their game and thus expand their role.  The thing that has to happen though is the communication of this concept from the coach.  Year-end meetings are necessary to help give a player motivation and vision for the off-season.  It must be communicated to the player exactly how you see her/his game.  Never assume they know how you feel -- that is a recipe for disaster.  Let them know what they did well and where they need to improve.  The next step is to give them a blueprint.  Be very detailed in the areas you want them to improve and be specific and how they can improve.  We give our players summer booklets that detail what we want them to work on including specific drills for them to use.  Each book is created individually to meet the needs of that particular student-athlete.

More from Coach McGraw:

"Great players work more individually outside of practice than the average players.  The really great players are the ones who come in early, stay late, and come in on their own.  Beth Morgan, Ruth Riley, and Katryna Gaither are examples, and it's obvious why they were the best players.  They knew their weaknesses, and they worked on those weaknesses.  We've had good players who came in and worked hard in practice.  But after those two hours are over, they leave.  The only way you can improve as a player is by what you do on your own.  To that extend, I believe that players are made over the summer.  If you put the time in over the summer, when the coaches aren't allowed to be there, that's when you really see the improvement.  It's very evident who put in the extra effort."

What I liked about Coach McGraw's passage above is that she called out the names of the players on her team that had excelled in the off-season.  As a coach, it's important that you acknowledge those that are dedicated in the off-season.  First, because they have earned your compliment.  And second -- and more importantly -- that you let your entire team know that you as a coach recognize those that are putting in the work.

And as Coach McGraw points out, the off-season is also a time of dedicated work for a coaching staff as well:

"At the end of the season, we begin preparing practices for the next year.  We review our offenses and defensed.  We watch a lot of game film.  Then we try to decide, based on which players will be returning, what will work and what won't next season.  We might talk about introducing new things depending upon our personnel.  It's important to do this because we can spend the summer learning.  We visit coaches and go to clinics.  If we think we'll be able to press in the upcoming season, for example, I'll assign an assistant coach to go visit Rick Pitino to learn more about presses.  In other words, for coaches, summer is for homework."

Again, the obvious approach of Coach McGraw and her staff in the summer is to work and continue to improve.  But the other positive effect to this is that her players see that the coaches are dedicated to off-season growth as well.  There is a reason that continuously successful programs continue to be successful -- it's a year-round occupation!


Friday, April 18, 2014

OFF-SEASON THOUGHTS -- DAY #3: UTILIZATION OF MOTIVATIONAL VIDEOS

OFF-SEASON THOUGHTS -- DAY #3: During this 10-day period, we are going to load up our blog on thoughts that are relevant to developing or improving your off-season program.  We will delve on off-season topics from player development and drill work to motivation and team building.  It will be our sincere wish that over the next 10 days we can provide you with at least one item or thought that will help you and your program.

We are big believers in the utilization of video.  For most, this means observing video of our own team and players of them performing well or poorly -- for corrective measures.  We also show video of other players and other teams correctly executing.  Another important part of the process is providing motivation.  We are continually showing our players video with an inspiring message and one of the best ways to do that is with players they admire.  We provide them passouts for their team notebooks but there is something about video for today's young people that grabs their attention more.  And we try to share things with them as much possible.  We will show them in team meetings, individual meetings, or we might email them a video clip or text one to them.  It needs to be constant.  One of my favorite Zig Ziglar quotes is: "People often say that motivation doesn't last.  Well, neither does bathing -- that's why we recommend it daily."

Where do we get these videos?  Everywhere.  Coach Don Meyer used to always preach about having a blank tape in the video recorder for such possibilities.  DVRs make it even easier.  The internet, specifically youtube are great resources as well.

An example? Here's one that we showed our team last spring before the semester was out.  It's on Kevin Durant and shows how one of the games absolute bests is still working hard in the off-season on his game.

 


OFF-SEASON THOUGHTS -- DAY #3: MORGAN WOOTTEN'S POST SEASON EVALUATIONS

OFF-SEASON THOUGHTS -- DAY #3: During this 10-day period, we are going to load up our blog on thoughts that are relevant to developing or improving your off-season program.  We will delve on off-season topics from player development and drill work to motivation and team building.  It will be our sincere wish that over the next 10 days we can provide you with at least one item or thought that will help you and your program.

One of the first books I owned as a young coach was "Coaching Basketball Successfully" by the legendary Morgan Wootten.  As a high school coach why not learn from the very best.  In fact, I still refer to the book from time to time at this stage of my career.  It is an outstanding book for coaches on levels but if you coach on the junior high or high school level, it is a must-have for your library.

There is a section in the book about how Coach Wootten went about his duties during the off-season.  If you have the book, each of these sections delve into greater details but here is a quick look at the things Coach Wootten would do in the period immediately following the season:

A coach’s job is not over when the season ends; it just changes. Rather than working hands-on with players, you will be evaluating and planning for the future.
POST SEASON EVALUATION

No matter what kind of season you had, you need to sit down and thoroughly evaluate your program.  What you want to find out is where you were, how you did with what you had, and where you are going.

SENIOR FEEDBACK
The first step I recommend in analyzing your program is to have your graduating seniors write out their thoughts on the program.  Tell the seniors that you are not looking for flowery accolades, but substantive ideas and criticisms that they believe will improve your program.  It should be private, personal evaluation by the seniors; for it to be helpful, they must be completely honest.

ASSISTANT COACHES’ INPUT
I also ask all of my coaches for a written evaluation of the past season. I learned a long time ago from George Allen, the late, great coach of the NFL’s Rams and Redskins, that if you really want someone’s opinion, get it in writing.

EVALUATION OF ASSISTANTS’ PERFORMANCE
At the same time, you should evaluate your staff.  Again, I suggest you do this in writing.  Then sit down with each member of the staff and go over that evaluation with him.  Tell each of them what you honestly see as his strengths and weaknesses, and what he can do to improve.

PURPOSE OF EVALUATIONS
The evaluations should be completed for positive reasons, primarily so that all of the players and all of the coaches (including the head coach) can grow.  From examining the strengths and weaknesses of the coaches and the overall program,  I can get a pretty good picture of what I’m doing well or not doing well.

POSTSEASON PLAYER EVALUATIONS
My assistants and I evaluate our personnel the same way we evaluate ourselves and our program.  We have each player submit a written evaluation of himself to the coaching staff.  I will then meet individually with each player and discuss with him his own and the coaches evaluations.  At these meetings, I will share with each player the things that the coaching staff believes he needs to do to become a better basketball players.  I remind each player that individual evaluations continue throughout the year, and that he will undergo the same process during summer league play. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

OFF-SEASON THOUGHTS -- DAY #2: THE TWO ADVANTAGES OF INDIVIDUAL WORKOUTS


OFF-SEASON THOUGHTS -- DAY #2: During this 10-day period, we are going to load up our blog on thoughts that are relevant to developing or improving your off-season program.  We will delve on off-season topics from player development and drill work to motivation and team building.  It will be our sincere wish that over the next 10 days we can provide you with at least one item or thought that will help you and your program.

One of the things I enjoy most about the off-season is the individual workout time you have with a player.  Not only can your work directly with a player but it is the perfect time and environment to grow and improve a relationship.  Players never feel more special than when a coach gives them individual attention.  With that comes trust and more open communication.  It's a major reason I was thrilled that the NCAA created some guidelines that allow us to work individually with players in the summer.  Certainly skill development is improved but so do more important things like learning and understanding each other at a higher level.

Along those lines, I'd like to share some guidelines form Bill Walsh (from "Finding The Winning Edge") on working with players that speaks to teaching as well as relationships:
 

·         Have answers

·         Be an expert in your specialized area

·         Isolate the skills and the techniques that are essential to each position

·         Develop a plan on how best to teach these skills and techniques

·         Treat each player as a unique person

·         Demonstrate sincere interest in each player

·         Gain the players’ confidence by working with each athlete to help him reach his full potential by enhancing his level of abilities

·         Determine how each player best responds to instruction

·         Be sensitive to and flexible with the players’ moods and demeanors while teaching and coaching

·         Search for and implement new ways to teach and impart information and to get and maintain the attention level of the players

·         Move on quickly to a different method of handling the situation if your current approach to dealing with and teaching your players is not eliciting the intended level of results

·         Exhibit strength and persistence in your dealings with your players. Hold your players to the highest expectations

·         Be personal with your players, but not too familiar. Excessive familiarity, in a misguided attempt to be socially accepted by your players, will prevent you from fully developing their performance potential

·         Avoid attempting to communicate with your players in their vernacular or their 1990s dialect. Be natural in all of your dealings. Anything else will be perceived as phony

OFF-SEASON THOUGHTS -- DAY #2: DON MEYER INDIVIDUAL BALL HANDLING DRILLS

OFF-SEASON THOUGHTS -- DAY #2: During this 10-day period, we are going to load up our blog on thoughts that are relevant to developing or improving your off-season program.  We will delve on off-season topics from player development and drill work to motivation and team building.  It will be our sincere wish that over the next 10 days we can provide you with at least one item or thought that will help you and your program.

We are big believers in the work involved handling the basketball and how it not only effects your dribbling but all areas involved that utilize the ball such as passing and catching.  We have ball handling routines that we use with our players -- and that includes our post players.  Much of what we do we have learned from Coach Don Meyer years ago and it is still relevant to improving our players offensively today. Handling the basketball in the off-season is something that is important but can be overlooked.  Most players want to grab a ball and immediately get some shots.  I think it is important that you create a ball handling routine and encourage your players to start each workout with those drill.  Here is a look at some of his ball handling drills -- we are very big on the two-ball dribbling drills.