Winning Hoops

May/June 2013

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May/June 2013 Coaching Advice To Help You Build A Winning Program Vol. 27, No. 5 Developing Players Who Can Adapt To The Competition By Rick Elia, Union Township, Pa. IS IT BETTER TO understand directions or learn how to read a map? The first gets you where you want to go, as long as you have someone who can tell you all the roads, turns and landmarks you'll encounter along the way. But with the latter, you can go anywhere you want, whenever you want. That analogy can apply to junior high/middle school basketball and the approach taken to prepare players for the varsity level. Does your playbook consist of continuities and set plays run at the varsity level—a method passed down by the "system" head coach? Or are you following the adage of many top coaches when they say, "Don't teach plays, teach them how to play"? Those of you working for system coaches may have encountered obstacles during the season when the plays just don't match your personnel and their individual skill sets. You may also realize your players need an understanding of the game. That's difficult to obtain when you're busy remembering the multiple steps of a play or continuity instead of seeing what's in front of you and determining a proper response. Think about some of the strengths and weaknesses of continuities, where players flow through all five positions as the play cycles through. On the plus side, there is the possibility of mismatches, such as a mobile big player on the perimeter against a slower post player, or a bigger guard on the block with a small defender. On the down side, players are moving to areas where they may be ineffective or, at worst, being set up to fail, such as a big player now holding the ball at the point. Think about most junior high teams. Isn't the latter more probable than the former? It's true you need some set plays to run after timeouts or in late-game situations, but think about the possibilities of giving your players more freedom on offense in a system that puts them in the best position to score with a few courses of attack to choose from. Now each possession can bring multiple possibilities. And the players, no longer forced to memorize patterns like the "flex" or "shuffle" offenses with predetermined movements and options, now must see the game and make decisions based on how their teammates respond. This is harder to learn. But if your goal is to develop basketball players, nobody said it was going to be easy. Who are the best teachers: those that have us memorize facts and figures or those that show us how to think and learn? I think most of us would say the latter. It's true that this makes a coach give up some control, and that can be scary with young players. But it's logical to think the best coaches would give their players the freedom to learn, guide them through that process and, in the end, see they have put Continued on page 6 Check out our website at PLAY OF THE DAY! Communication is essential for any team. Check out page 8 for a drill that gets players talking while improving concentration! —KEVIN HOFFMAN, Managing Editor

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