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Developing Focus and Fun at Basketball Practice

Developing Focus and Fun at Basketball Practice

In my coaching education workshops, I always asked coaches if they thought sports should be a fun experience for their players. Should there be fun at basketball practice? Of course, everyone said yes. So then I would make them the following offer: “If you can give me an adequate definition of ‘fun,’ I’ll sign off on your certification right now and you can leave six hours earlier than everyone else.” I made that offer for almost 15 years running and there were no winners.

Focus & Fun at Basketball Practice

Since the majority of your athletes’ time is spent in practices, it is vital that practice time be a fun, enjoyable experience. If it’s not, it’s not going to be effective. Unfortunately, some coaches feel that, because learning sports skills require discipline and focus, it’s incompatible with fun. But focus and fun are not incompatible at all.

In fact, focus is necessary for fun to occur! Just think of some of the fun experiences you’ve had in your life. You probably remember them very clearly. And that’s because you were very focused on what you were doing, who you were with, and what your surroundings were like.

It’s the same with sports. Sports are fun when three things are happening:

  • Kids are deeply involved in what they are doing
  • They feel closely connected to their “mates” (e.g., teammates, coaches, parents)
  • Kids feel like they are performing to the best of their ability

All three of these items require focus on the part of the athlete. And, as a coach, you can make all of these things happen in your practices and your games. There are ways to maximize your time as a coach. Here are some suggestions.

Developing Focus and Fun

Encourage your players to participate with all their senses.

For example, if you’re outside on a beautiful summer day, take a deep breath, pound your chest and say, “Don’t you just love the way the grass smells on a day like this?” If you’re poolside, you could say: “I love the ‘swoosh’ sound you guys make as you glide through the water. It’s better than therapy!”

Help your players to get to know each other better.

When everyone is pulling for each other, even the hardest drills become more enjoyable.

Focus on skill development.

Improved skills lead to feelings of competence, satisfaction, and accomplishment. These feelings, in turn, create enjoyment and fun at basketball practice.

Provide realistic challenges.

Kids learn and grow through a progressive series of challenges that are appropriate for their skill level and development.

Emphasize personal successes.

Playing well, or the feeling that a person has played well, is an essential part of the fun in sport.

Keep winning in perspective.

Being on the winning side is less important than striving to win. By striving to win, your players learn to concentrate, try hard, and be the best they can be.

Look for ways to energize kids and jazz up your practices.

Be creative. Cal Ripken saw a mannequin in a ski lodge and got the idea to use old mannequins to help kids learn to hit the cutoff man in the infield grass while practicing throws from right field. Just imagine how entertaining (and educational) it was when someone hit the mannequin in the wrong spot.

Other ways to incorporate fun into your practices might include ending a week as ”crazy socks day,” and doing fun, teamwork-oriented drills like “follow the leader.” Don’t think that just because your coach always made you run laps, you have to do the same thing to your players!


Dr. George Selleck, Stanford University Basketball Hall of Famer, Founder of Lead2Play, and author of Kian and Me: Gifts from a Grandson.

A former Hall of Fame athlete and coach, Dr. Selleck—a retired psychologist, organizational and management consultant, and sports education specialist—is the founder and director of Lead2Play, a comprehensive program that encourages youth participation in sports while promoting healthy living and the development of key life skills, such as organization, management, and team-building.

Dr. Selleck was inducted into the Stanford University Basketball Hall of Fame, the Pac-12 Hall of Honor, and named one of the “100 Most Influential Sports Educators in America” by the Institute for International Sports at the University of Rhode Island.

 

Related: 3 Practical Steps to Create Connections

 

 

 

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Basketball Team Building: 3 Practical Steps to Create Connections

Basketball Team Building: 3 Practical Steps to Create Connections

Incorporating team building exercises into practice has been one of the most impactful things I have done as a coach! My mission when coaching is to create an environment where everyone feels safe, valued, has a voice, and experiences joy every day! Coaches should strive to incorporate focus and fun into their basketball practices.

If you want to learn more about basketball specific principles and drills to create a championship culture, please check out my book, “Help Them Up” on Amazon.

The below exercises can be used for all team sports!

3 Practical Steps for Team Building

Question of the Day

Every day at the start of practice, we circle up. I ask if anyone has anything they want to share with the group. I have also used this time to praise someone for a good teammate moment I observed them do, had the team sing happy birthday to a team member, etc. Then, I share a question of the day or ask the team to think of one.

Everyone gets into groups of two or three and during a warmup lap and they ask each other the question. I ask them to pick a different teammate every day, so they get a chance to connect with everyone. They jog back to the circle, and I ask if anyone wants to share something they learned.

The team always enjoys learning about teammates. I have seen friendships develop through this exercise because they find commonalities about each other they previously didn’t know about.

A few examples: 
  • What is your favorite topic to talk about and why?
  • What do you like to do on the weekends?
  • Do you have any pets? If so, how many and what are their names? (With my team, they love talking about their pets!)
  • What is a goal you have for today’s practice and is there anything I can do to help you with it?
  • What are you grateful for?

Dynamic Warm-Up

A few years ago, I attended a UConn Women’s basketball practice. It was incredible! They were in complete unison when executing their dynamic warm-up. Since that day, I have been very intentional with warming-up as a team which prevents side conversations, shows unity, and creates elite level communication!

I have my team line up on the sideline and they do the exercises to the opposite sideline. I select someone to be the leader of the day or ask for a volunteer who then energetically yells out the exercises. The team then responds in a loud and energetic tone the name of the exercise. Then the leader yells, “go” and the team, while in unison, travel across the court trying to stay synchronized with all teammates.

For example, the leader will yell, “high knees” and then the team yells, “high knees” followed by the leader yelling, “Go”. We proceed with exercises like defensive slides, skips, lunges, jog, back pedal, etc.

I love to make this player led and have them take accountability over their team.

Accountability Circle 

A few years ago, I attended a USA Basketball youth development clinic. I was amazed by Coach Joe Mantegna at Blair Academy (New Jersey) and his presentation on building a culture. He shared this concept which happens at the end of practice for 5-10 minutes and after games.

We meet in a circle so everyone can make eye contact with each other. You can choose to have players put their arms around each other to stay connected.

When first introducing and teaching the team this exercise, I shared, “This is a safe space, and everyone needs to be respectful of one another. We will invest time everyday doing this because it will help us all grow as individuals and as a team. We are not stating things about any specific person, rather their actions and words that we witnessed that specific day. For the first few weeks we will only say positive things about each other and then if we do a good job, we will allow everyone to share feedback that may be tough to hear but said with the intent to help us improve.”

However, the coaches can interrupt if someone shares something unkind or not helpful to the team. The coach can explain why what was said was not helpful and why.  It works best when the coaches don’t speak first and allow for some silence so teammates can use their voice to build up teammates. This exercise was key to our team building. It single handedly elevated my team’s culture and use it consistently.

 


Dan Horwitz

Author of HELP THEM UP” 
Leadership Development, Culture & Team Building Consultant
Basketball Coach/Trainer
Website: DanHorwitz.com
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Related: Basketball Team Building: Developing a Positive Culture

 

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Basketball Passing Drill: Passing Lanes & Patience

Basketball Passing Drill: Passing Lanes & Patience

Developing a patient team can be one of the most difficult aspects of coaching. Young and inexperienced teams tend to rush through sets and often leave scoring opportunities unexplored. These teams need to reduce turnovers and play with more purpose. So finding the right drills and competitive practice games becomes a challenge. So here’s a look at a basketball passing drill that works on both the offense and the defense simultaneously.

Basketball Passing Drill: Passing Lanes and Patience

The Passing Lanes and Patience drill promotes multiple things. For the offense, it promotes patience and making good passes. It stresses the importance of working for great shots. It also helps build habits like crashing the offensive boards.

For the defense, this drill promotes getting into the passing lanes, blocking out, and limiting teams to one shot. It stresses toughness in taking charges and playing hard without fouling.

The Set Up

This basketball passing drill requires two even teams. The drill uses competitive 5-on-5 action that should be high intensity.

Coaches implement four 2:30 minute quarters for the drill, with a 45 second break in between each segment. The two teams split time as offense and defense, alternating after each quarter. Subs can be incorporated with each dead ball situation.

basketball passing lanes

The Rules

Coaches set a specific number of passes the offense must complete. (We do 6 passes.)

The offense “scores” 1 point if they reach that number of passes without a turnover or deflection. They also get 1 point for each offensive rebound. The offense gets 3 points for made three-pointers, but 4 points for a made two-point field goal. We stress working for great shots.

The defense “scores” 1 point for each deflection of a pass. They get 2 points for a steal, and 3 points for limiting the offense to one shot in a possession. They get 4 points for each charge drawn. The defense loses a point when a player commits a foul.

basketball passing lanes

COACHING POINTS

  • Emphasize the importance of getting in passing lanes to get deflections & steals. On the line, up the line is a way of life for our program.
  • Discuss scoring with teams & ask them why they think 2’s are worth more than 3’s in this drill & ask them why they think securing a D-Board after one shot and taking a charge are worth so many points.

Kyle Brasher
Gibson Southern High School
Social Studies Teacher
Lady Titans Basketball Coach

Related: Favorite Basketball Practice Drills

 

 

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Youth Basketball: Reducing Turnovers with Gold

Youth Basketball: Reducing Turnovers with Gold

Gold. Basketball turnovers. What do these two items have in common? The answer is more than you may realize! As all coaches know, a turnover in basketball is one surefire way for your team to be defeated each and every game out. Not only do turnovers mean you do not get a field goal attempt, if the turnover is a live ball turnover, it could mean an easy bucket for your opponent. So basketball coaches seek new and innovative ways in reducing turnovers.

Gold is one of the most precious metals on earth, and an item that has monetary value. Gold is something that people want to protect and ensure that they retain. When playing the game of basketball, we like to think of the basketball as a piece of gold, We like to think of it as something that is very precious, which we hope to retain more than we lose. So using special gold basketballs to aid in reducing turnovers created a competitive practice game with stakes.

Reducing Turnovers with Gold Basketballs

As a program, we instituted gold basketballs in many of our live scrimmage segments to help encourage our players to be more focused on reducing turnovers. Players do not like the punishment of running; players will do almost anything to avoid running, so as a staff we decided to tap into that mindset and try to become a team that commits fewer turnovers.

In live scrimmage segments, we place three gold basketballs out for each team playing. (To create gold basketballs, we found three old basketballs that would not retain air and spray painted them gold.) During the scrimmage, each time a team commits a turnover, they lose one of their gold basketballs. Once a team has lost all three of their gold basketballs, we stop the scrimmage and that team gets on the line to run. After their run is complete, they only get two gold basketballs back.

It is imperative that they retain a high level of focus in not turning the ball over. Once those two balls are gone and they run again. Then, they get the last ball back. Once that final ball is gone and they run, they get all three back and we repeat the process again. The goal is for the players to understand the value of limiting our turnovers and putting ourselves in the best position possible to succeed.

Limiting Use (and Turnovers)

The Gold Basketballs are not something we use every day. As a staff, we feel they may lose their luster if we commit to doing them every practice. We utilize the balls once or twice a week. If we have a game where we just committed a lot of turnovers or an upcoming game where reducing turnovers is important, we may utilize the balls a tad more.

It has given our players a visual cue to look at and realize the importance of retaining possession and putting ourselves in the best position to succeed in all game situations.

Related: Basketball Team Building: Giving Out Game Awards

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Teaching Situational Basketball at the High School Level

Teaching Situational Basketball at the High School Level

Understanding situational basketball comes only after playing the game competitively for some time. Getting young and developing players to understand the ins and outs of different situations takes time, and experience. Coaches can carve out practice time for situational drills, but often, players won’t fully understand until they’ve experienced it in a competitive game.

Situational Basketball: The Background & Problem

Let’s start by setting a scene: low-scoring, hard fought playoff game in a loud high school gym in the first week of March. We worked for this all year long. It’s the month of the season where any coach would work for free just to have the chance to feel that utterly different, barely describable adrenaline that comes with a win to advance to the next round.

So that’s where I was as an assistant coach. Up off the bench trying to diagnose the intended action of a play before our team forced a five-second call on a sidelines out of bounds play. It’s where I was a few moments later, using what was left of my voice to remind our inbounder that we were out of timeouts. It’s where I was when his inbounds pass took our best free throw shooting guard back toward our own basket.

I exhaled as a late whistle negated a steal that would have led to our opponent tying the game. With both hands pressed behind my head, I felt a tap on my shoulder from our older and more composed assistant coach.

“We’ve got to work on late game situations tomorrow in practice,” seemingly oblivious to the fact that we still needed to make a pair of free throws to ice the game.

“I hope we have a practice tomorrow,” I shouted back to him.

We survived and advanced. I knew he was right. Teaching situational basketball was integral. But, in my career and with the coaches I had played for, worked for, or even spoken to, it’s always been the thing that got cut out of practice.

I first heard this response as a high school player when I was talking to a respected and decorated retired coach from my high school as I explained the newfangled approach of fouling in the closing seconds when up three points.

“You’d have to practice that and then hope you get it right with the same players,” he said. “And no one is going to find time to practice that.”

I next heard the response as an eager young coach, trying to offer something different to a coach in my first job.

“That’s great, Bennett,” he said. “But have you noticed that we aren’t even good enough to be in late-game situations?”

“This is why we don’t do this,” I heard another coach say as I watched a comical close to an otherwise fine practice when my situations were marred by managers not being able to run the clock and JV players incapable of handling any sort of pressure defense.

But my idea persisted. I tucked it away in a notebook until finally, called for out of complete frustration, it got its chance to make its way into a practice plan.

“Bennett,” our head coach said. “We’ve got to figure out ways to teach our players what to do in different situations.” I heard this after a weekend where we nearly choked away a double digit lead in a Friday night game. We suffered a very frustrating loss a night later when we gave up not one, not two, but three 3-point shots to close quarters.

 

Our Solution

So what did I propose and implement? Nothing too time consuming. Nothing too difficult. But something that has helped our players think situationally better.

Three to four times in each practice, in little short segments, we blow a whistle, gather two teams, and conduct a situation. It works as a palate cleanser for whatever else has happened to that point in practice or to what might happen next. Of course, there are also consequences. We run when we don’t achieve our stated goal for that situation.

But, above all, it’s a chance to teach, talk, and coach players through a situation that they have seen or could see. It’s the opportunity to work on that last second play, see how long it will take to get into a set and execute it. Teaching situational basketball can reaffirm a recently taught point, or test the mental mettle of your team.

Defining Situational Basketball

Too often, I think coaches envision working on situations to mean the last two minutes, holding a lead or last 45 seconds trying to come back. Those kinds of situations often do take too much time or can lead to frustration when a JV team can’t pressure or a manager doesn’t know when to stop the clock.

Our situations are often short. I think back to the idea of getting a pass inbounded with two seconds left and no time outs. After that situation, we can grade our players immediately as to whether we got what we wanted. Did the right player get the catch or was the pass thrown to a place where it would hurt us the last if it were to be intercepted?

Often our situations aren’t end game either. One of my favorites is putting 45 seconds or so on the clock, giving the ball to us on a sideline out of bounds and saying that I want to win the end of the quarter. Our players have learned to look for quick action off the sideline out of bounds and then to move into a “get the last shot” situation.

Other times, we simply talk about urgency and give the ball to the opposition with 20 or so seconds to go. Give up that last shot? Enjoy a few sprints before we move on to the next part of practice. I reiterate that the most important thing that we do is huddle again after the situation and address exactly what we thought went right and what still needs to be fixed in future situations.

 

What We Like Best

Competitiveness

It’s a great way to bring some intensity to practice, even amongst coaches. I have been given free reign to coach our top varsity unit through the situations. Our other varsity assistant and JV coach, who both work in our building, often find me at lunch to try to figure out what situations we’ll be working on that day and what lineups I plan to use.

By the beginning of practice, I find that they’ve schemed to come up with sets they want to run against the top group in order to force them to have to run sprints. There’s been a healthy amount of competition while our players are also learning. As I mentioned earlier, it can also act as either a bridge to the next segment of practice or a cap on the previous portion.

Teaching

How often do we say to our guys “know the time and situation” or “be aware of the situation”? Now, we have three to four chances each day to teach our basketball players situational awareness. Want to know how and when to foul up three? How about focusing on getting 2-for-1 at the end of a quarter or half? Want to practice turning a ball handler after getting a score with a few seconds left on the clock?

These are all little quizzes that you can more easily incorporate into practice. Better yet, it’s a great way to review the situations you might have failed in previous games. Finally, it even gives us a chance to fit in sets/tendencies of our upcoming opponent.

Lineups

So often because of fouls, you wind up with strange groups on the floor. How often is your big on the floor at the end of the half because of foul trouble? This is a great way to try out different lineups as you envision the best or worst case that might come Friday night.

It’s also a great way to know who you can trust to do certain things. Going back to my high school’s old coach – I can pick one or two guys and teach them how to foul with a 3-point lead.

Data

How often as coaches do we say things like “Can we do this?” “Can so-and-so run that?” “How much time do we need to do this?” So much of the intel that I try to collect and have ready for our games comes from these situations.

I have an “end of quarter” column on a sheet I have with me each game that lets me know exactly how much time each set might take us to run. That way when our head coach calls something out at the end of a quarter, I can let our point guard know exactly what time to start the action. It’s similar with lineups. I know, based often by what guys have done in the past couple weeks, who can handle what assignment or what certain guys actually know how to do.

 

Takeaways

Does this cure all situational ails? Of course not. But, what it does do is it gets players thinking throughout practice. Just the other day, we had worked on how we wanted to finish a quarter by getting a stop and then running a bit of clock before going to a closing seconds set that we call “tap.”

Toward the end of practice, we worked a simple 8-minute quarter as a scrimmage situation. A ball got batted out of bounds with about 30 seconds left on the clock. Without prompting, our shooting guard turned to me and said “You want this like we did earlier?” I nodded and he right away called out and gave direction to his teammates. Something had clearly stuck with him.

How has it helped though? I think some. And the wins and losses do show that to be the case. Going back to that frustrating weekend where our current head coach tasked me with coming up with some solutions. We were 3-12 in two possession games over the past year and a half. Since then, a sample size of a little more than a year now, we are 8-1 in two possession games.

I go back to the coach I worked for (and highly respect) who said there were so many other things that needed to be done before we worried about end game situations. He was exactly right. But, I think winning situations in the first three quarters is integral in getting a lot of teams to the fourth with a chance. Nevertheless, it is something that you can work on in practice tomorrow – if there even is a practice tomorrow.


Brian Bennett is the associate boys basketball coach for Richmond (Indiana) High School. He has coached high school basketball for more than a decade in Indiana high schools. Bennett teaches composition, speech, and journalism.

 

Related: Basketball End of Game Situations

 

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Basketball Team Building: Developing a Positive Culture

Basketball Team Building: Developing a Positive Culture

Basketball team building can be a difficult task. Whether a coach is looking for bonding events or building morale through game awards, building a positive basketball culture remains integral.

Developing a Positive Basketball Culture

A positive basketball culture is the first thing you will need to build in your program.  You will need to fight for this every single day in every thing you do–from the weightroom to your open gym sessions.  When you face adversity your culture will be able to overcome any negativity if you have a strong foundation.

Jon Gordon is a master teacher on culture and I strongly recommend you check out some of my favorite books of his–The Energy Bus, The Power of a Positive Team, The Carpenter, and You Win In the Locker Room First.

When you start to establish your culture and identity as a positive team, you will then need to establish some core values for your program.  We stole ours from Alabama and Nate Oats: Max Effort, Continuous Learning, and Selfless Love.  We even tied Bible verses into these so we can reach our players spiritually.

Our program spent some money and put some cool signage up to improve our facilities with these words all around it for our players to see daily.  The important thing is, you must fight for these values daily as a coach and hold your players accountable to them!

We talk about these values daily and what it means to live them out on and off the court to develop the entire individual.  A few things we do is ask a player at the end of practice or a weight room session to name a core value.  Then we will ask them to tell us how one player on our team lived it out today and why.  This gets our kids thinking about the values constantly!

 

Getting Player Buy-In

When you are building your culture, you have to have players buy into your culture. One way you can do this as a coach is to have your players have some input. We asked our players to create a vision statement and standards they would like to live out daily that correlate with our core values.

One tip I got from a few experts on culture was don’t limit yourself when setting goals. For example: we want to win districts, go undefeated at home, and go to the State Tournament.

While those are great things, oftentimes everyone has those same goals.  And what happens when you lose that first game at home?  What happens when you don’t win districts but you can still advance? Or an even better question: what if your players do get complacent when they accomplish winning districts and going undefeated at home?

You can get complacent and think you achieved enough and you fall short of going even further than what you were capable of doing.  So we made a vision statement instead that has seemed to really motivate our players to the next level.

They came up with the following: The FCS basketball team is a united group of brothers here to glorify Jesus through the game of basketball while exceeding the expectations of others, with the expectation to win everytime we step on the floor.

A few standards our players came up with through guided discussion include: Accountability, CommunicationElevate, Grit, Selflessness, and Servanthood.

 

Avoiding Burnout

Kids have to have fun with the game of basketball and so do coaches! Basketball is a long season, and in a lot of ways it’s year round with post-season workouts, summer, pre-season, and in season.  One way to avoid any burnout is to celebrate little things.  Celebrate progress in the weight room. Celebrate winning two games in a row in season. And celebrate simple things like winning a situational segment in practice!

Another tip to have a positive basketball culture comes with making time for relationships with your players. Something I got from T.J. Rosene at Emmanuel College and PGC Basketball is to write out the names of three players on your practice plan and have a meaningful conversation with those players that day.  Mix up the names each practice and you will be able to reach all of your players consistently.

 

Use Your Assistant Coaches

As coaches we have to trust our assistant coaches–we hired them for a reason!  A tip I want to suggest is to delegate your work and let your assistant coaches lead in some areas of the program.  For example, in the pre- and post-season, my assistant coaches lead all my weight room and skill development days. As the head coach I serve as the manager and see the big picture.

My assistants will run everything by me and make sure it is in alignment with what we are trying to accomplish.  This allows your players to hear someone else’s voice and allows you to save yours more so for the season!  You also are helping your assistant coaches who want to move on to become a head coach one day.

I would also encourage you to write out other areas of your program you can delegate to your assistants.  I really like the defensive end of the floor, so I call one of my assistants the “offensive coordinator.”  We run a read and react/dribble drive hybrid offense, so I give him free reign out of that to come up with ways to improve our offense, drills, small sided games, etc.  This also limits my film, as he will watch everything on us offensively and I will watch everything defensively.

I hope you found some useful tips and strategies that have worked for our program.  Best of luck this season!


Jeff Long is the Head Men’s Basketball Coach at Friendship Christian School in Lebanon, TN.

 

Related: Basketball Team Building: Bonding Events

 

 

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Basketball Team Building: Giving Out Game Awards

Basketball Team Building: Giving Out Game Awards

Coaches know that to win games you ultimately must score more points than your opponent. What coaches also know is that teams cannot win unless there are players willing to do all the small things that amount to winning. Small things like blocking out and getting rebounds, finding the open player for an assist, or taking a momentum-swinging charge. These are oftentimes the things that go overlooked when the local newspaper comes to write their stories about basketball teams.

Well, as a staff, we wanted to reward the players who impacted games in ways that don’t always make the paper. So, we created a system for our varsity game awards where the individual who earns that award will get recognition. We wanted to award them with an item that represents individuals who are tough, gritty people who show up every day to work hard and get the job done. We decided to go with the following three items: a Hard Hat, a Windex Bottle, and a Lunch Pail.

Lady Titan Basketball Varsity Game Awards

The Hard Hat

Our coaching staff elected to use a Hard Hat for one of our awards because construction workers are the type of people that do hard, tough, gritty work. We wanted to reward the individual who earned this award with a hard hat that has our school logo on it. We use a formula to help figure out the winner of this game award. The following stats are worth one point: Rebounds, Steals, Assists, and Deflections. Charges are worth 2 points. You add that number up and subtract turnovers, and the player who has the highest number wins the Hard Hat award.

 

Windex Bottle

As we all know, the team that wins the rebounding battle is oftentimes the team that wins the basketball game. We reward the player who leads our team in rebounding with the Windex Bottle as the person who did the best job “cleaning the glass.” Rebounding is something that is a tough,gritty skill to teach young players, and this is such a winning part of the formula that we wanted to reward it.

 

Lunch Pail

While the first 2 awards are very objective, the Lunch Pail is something that is very subjective. There is no formula or stat we look at for the winner of the Lunch Pail. The person who wins the Lunch Pail is going to be someone who makes a major impact on the game. This impact could be taking a momentum-changing charge, playing great defense on the opposing team’s best player, or being a supporting teammate on the bench. The player who earns this award represents all the people who pack up their lunch everyday and head to work, hence why we found a dingy old lunchbox.

 

These game awards have become a huge part of the identity of our program, and these awards are something our players want to achieve. They understand we can only pass these awards out for games that are victories, and on those victories the coaching staff will walk in with these players having already laid out the awards in anticipation of learning who earned the awards for the night. Those players then get their name on the board and a group picture taken for social media. This stat tracking method brings great life to our program and basketball team.


Kyle Brasher
Gibson Southern High School
Social Studies Teacher
Lady Titans Basketball Coach

Related: Basketball Team Building: Bonding Events

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Basketball Team Building: Bonding Events

Basketball Team Building: Bonding Events

Any team that has hopes and aspirations of a great season needs to ensure that the team chemistry is very solid. An extremely talented team that lacks in the chemistry department could easily fail to meet its ceiling. On the opposite end of the spectrum, a team that is not as talented but has great team chemistry could exceed their expectations. This is where basketball team building comes in.

While the players in and of themselves play a huge role in developing chemistry, I think the coaching staff plays a huge role in that department as well. The staff needs to provide opportunities for the team to develop this culture. Because it cannot be done in your normal practice time. The staff needs to look for ways to create this culture through different activities. Below are some things we have done as a staff to help develop, in our opinion, strong culture through team building.

Basketball Team Building

Lead ‘Em Up

This has been hands down one of the best investments our program has made. Lead ‘Em Up is a leadership-based program run by Adam Bradley It teaches and encourages leadership habits that bring groups closer together. It is a positive-based program with fun activities that teach selflessness, encouragement, and a “green” mindset. This helps propel athletes into leadership roles as they continue to go through life. It’s a program that we run weekly and something our players look forward to weekly.

Dance Routine

We took our athletes to a local dance studio a few years ago for an opportunity to learn a choreographed dance routine to the High School Musical song “Get your Head in the Game.” It started where our girls stretched for a bit and then it was time to learn the routine. From a coach’s standpoint, it was a lot of fun to see our athletes in new situations to see how they would respond. It is safe to say it was a day filled with laughs and memories that will last a lifetime.

Great Basketball Cookoff

This is a new event we are trying this season and it centers around something our coaching staff and program loves: FOOD! Food seems to bring people together, and nothing brings a team together like a great team meal. We will break the athletes into teams, and each team will create the same dish. In addition, we will have a panel of judges who will then judge which group made the meal the best. The team that is judged to be the winner will receive the glory on social media, but at the end of the day what is really important is the team bonding aspect of the event.


These are just a few of a wide variety of ideas that we have implemented over the years. We have had lots of discussions on other ideas and there are other things we have done. The challenge is for every coaching staff to foster a culture and environment where the athletes want to come and work hard every day. We cannot always make everything centered around basketball. I believe that will burn the athletes out very quickly. The athletes need to realize we want to get to know them on a personal level. These fun-filled team bonding activities can go a long way to helping establish that type of positive, team mindset culture.

Kyle Brasher
Gibson Southern High School
Social Studies Teacher
Lady Titans Basketball Coach

 

Related: Building a Basketball Brand, Culture and Program

Resources:

Coach Unplugged Podcast

Ep: 407 Team Building ( The 3 H’s)

 

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Why High School Basketball Is Failing

Why High School Basketball Is Failing

Here is the good news: AAU is not killing high school basketball. The bad news is that schools are themselves killing it, or, more accurately, school boards are killing it.

Reasons Why High School Basketball is Failing

No-one to hire. Coaches historically were teachers who taught to coach, or who coached to teach. It was easy to schedule practices after school, Mon-FRI, 2:30pm-4:00pm, plus be away from family 2 evenings per week, and on weekends. You only had to do it 3-4 months. The aim was to win. How you handled players came second, and parents a distant third. Coaching was fun, relatively easy to do, families were intact, and expectations clear.

It is impossible to hire competent non-teachers to coach who can do so mid-afternoon, and put parents first, players second, school boards third, ADs fourth, and, finally, still win enough games to keep your job based on merit. Who can do it, and who will do it for a stipend of $2.000.00-5,000.00?

As for teachers coaching, there is a joke: “The fastest way to unemployment as a teacher–is to coach.” The money has never been worth it; today the risk of coaching outweighs its benefit. Have you calculated recently how dangerous it is to show taught love to kids, so as to make a difference in their lives?

Standardized tests are the sole determiner today of the continued employability of teachers, and principals alike. Test scores, not Game scores, matter in both the long term and short term teaching calculus. Principals are never pressured today on how well their coaches coach, or if their teams win the conference. Teachers get meager annual appraisal points for “making a difference” in lives of players coached. I think it fair to say, of all parent feedback principals receive about coaches, 90% of it is negative.

So while the personal risk to teachers is skyrocketing, to be responsible to coach others’ kids, schools have completely de-incentivized coaching in the name of test scores and US News & World Report rankings.

High School Basketball Isn’t a Movie

Schools drift in nostalgia, in a sort of basketball movie Hoosiers-mode, where kids of mediocre talent come together once per year, in the Fall, to play for their high school to earn a letter jacket, under a wise teacher-coach. In reality, no serious basketball player 16YOA and up waits till October to dribble, and begins to condition only on the first day of practice in running line-drills.

Schools do not care about the other 8 months of a player’s basketball development. That is not the school’s problem. If you ever read a basketball coach’s contract, it generally says you will coach 6th grade, and Coach Joe will coach 7th grade, and Bill JV, James Varsity, etc.

None in the school track the overall, cross-year development of any player. This omission is from elementary school (95% of states do not have school-based basketball in elementary schools) to middle school to high school. As far as the school system is concerned, the first time a basketball player shows up on its duty-radar screen is 7th grade. Can you imagine any player in college today starting to play in 7th grade?

Responsibilities

No one in the school system (even the Athletic Director of that system), “owns” the responsibility to create and run a basketball development program reaching across grades and ages, and skill levels, of players who want to grow in the game. No one manages transitions of players from year to year, and no trains them longitudinally. Further, no one in the school district is responsible to recruit out-of-school season coaches, and build valuable relations with adults in the community to staff a basketball development feeder program. No one coordinates between schools and, say, AAU or travel teams, from March to the next October.

The school sees, and contracts, only in parts. Most school coaches sign contracts just a few weeks before season begins, then wait to see who shows up for tryouts. Some are cut, others kept, then 10 practices are held before the first game. In most states HSB varsity coaches are precluded from coaching AAU, Elite and travel teams during the off-season. And below varsity coaches, few school coaches also coach in these venues. Similarly, very few coaches hold pre-season workouts or post-season player improvement trainings. Few hold camps, clinics or one-on-one trainings, at any time of year.

School System Difficulties

Schools are inherently political. They must satisfy the constituents they serve, who all vote, complain, and run to social media whenever the pettiest slight is felt, or perceived. It is impossible to believe how many people complain to a school principal on a given day.

The problem is not that parents complain (they do in AAU and travel as well). The problem is that no school board, and very few superintendents, will defend you, or hold warpath-parents accountable for their unfounded attacks on you. You get no protection from any quarter. In my experience, not one person above you will say anything good about you on the record, or to the newspaper, once an allegation is raised against you. Instead, you will meet a haunting silence that will fill the space around you.

Internal school system are also difficult. The principal’s daughter will make the team; the coach’s daughter will start, and; the son or daughter of a school board member will get to take the final shot in a close game! Children of fellow teachers also generally make the team, out of solidarity for all that teachers have to put up with to stay in the profession.

Athletic Department Difficulties

Athletic Directors are schizophrenic. Historically coaches had to do 2 things to keep their jobs: win 60% of games, and not hit players. Today the list of expectations is growing, and non-sustainable. Now yelling at is akin to battery. To be “mean” or to “talk down to” players is sister to abuse. To not respond to a player’s every need is to “negate their self-esteem.”

High School basketball coaches today are expected to: 1) Start each parent’s child; 2) Validate them in every way, and; as far as the AD is concerned, 3) Generate copious amounts of money to pay for all the other unsuccessful sports programs in the school. Win 70% of games, and be a “nice guy” 100% in practices, games, interviews, and in all conversations with members of the public.

As for ADs, 75% are full of pride, and the other 25% failed when they were coaches. They are men (almost all are males) who cannot coach, and who do not want to teach. Most see themselves as above principals, and many in fact do report direct to the school system superintendent.There is a clear dichotomy today inside schools: principals hire the teachers, and ADs hire the coaches. ADs function in perpetual plausible deniability.

Social Media Difficulties

In this social media age, every aspect of you as a teacher-coach is under direct, constant scrutiny. The problem is you cannot afford to hire a lawyer, personal security guard, and public relations specialist to defend you. There are no rules of ethics or legal procedures to limit how anyone may attack you. You do not get to argue merits. You can bet that each night while you stay awake to ready the team for the next day’s big event, someone, somewhere is posting something about you on social media that is harmful and not true. If it should go viral, you are dead before morning. I bet a parent is already taping you at games, to edit later, and use however they wish. It does not take long to get from a hostile parent facebook page to your school superintendent. In fact, just two “Shares” will do it.

When you coach kids from 2-parent homes there is a good chance you can reach agreement on what are the goals for the season, and how they define success, and fun, for their child. But with our totally messed up “family” structures today, 70 percent of the friction you face during the season will be caused by those who are not even related to those you coach. Most you will never meet, know or have any dealings with. Yet all can harpoon you in moments, so as to “stand up” in protecting “their” child.

For the reasons above, good coaches regularly leave schools after 2-3 seasons. The reason is because a rolling stone gathers no moss. Nothing sticks to the one who moves. So since 90 percent of high school basketball coaching positions are part-time, if you want to move up to coach full-time, you simply have to move. And move. And move. For coaches to survive today, move in 3, or perish, is the reality.


Mr. Terry Boesch is a Gold-level Certified Youth Basketball Coach with USA Basketball. He is a US Army veteran, and former senior leader in the US Federal Government in Washington, DC. He is a licensed public school teacher, and previously taught in the hometown of his basketball hero, John Wooden, in Martinsville, IN. Contact: terryboesch@gmail.com Website: TexasExpress.org

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Ernest Blood: Basketball’s First Wizard

Ernest Blood: Basketball’s First Wizard

John Wooden, the Wizard of Westwood, is the coach by whom modern-day coaches are measured.  Winning ten of twelve NCAA Championships has immortalized his place in basketball history.  History, on the other hand, has not been as kind to another basketball wizard.  Ernest Blood, who dominated his peers to an even greater degree a few generations earlier in New Jersey, was called the Grey Thatched Wizard.

Ernest Blood, the Grey Thatched Wizard

ernest blood basketballFew basketball purists in California are aware of this first wizard of the hardwood.  “Prof” was a shortened version of Professor. It was the name his players and students called him, but they spoke it reverently.  Passaic High School’s Grey Thatched Wizard was known for his all-around coaching acumen.  His teams enjoyed six undefeated seasons, and during another season, his team lost one game. His truncated stay at Passaic High School was a nonpareil 188-1. Furthermore, his teams would have undoubtedly won many more if jealous administrators and school board members hadn’t interfered.

A recently published book investigates the life of Prof Blood from his precocious athletic youth to the development of his avant-garde system of coaching.  In Prof Blood and the Wonder Teams: The True Story of Basketball’s First Great Coach, California coaches learn how and why this man was a generation ahead of his peers.  His methods and philosophies, which are not always followed today, are still very much worth learning and implementing.

Winning streaks followed these two coaching wizards.  Wooden’s UCLA teams once compiled 88 consecutive victories. While a couple of generations earlier, Blood’s boys went five seasons in a row without a loss, 159 straight, topping the latter-day wizard’s mark by 71 games. Besides the length of their winning steaks, these two coaching wizards had much in common.

Basketball Lifers: Blood & John Wooden

For starters, Blood and Wooden were astrological Libras.  Their birth dates were October 5, 1872, and October 14, 1910, respectively.  If self-confidence is an essential ingredient to be a successful coach, then that explains the reason for their success. And their confidence was reflected in their teams’ demeanor.

Other similarities of these two Naismith Memorial Hall of Famers include:

  • Excellent, accomplished athletes—one of Wooden’s two inductions into the hall of fame was for his accomplishments as a player
  • Great free throw shooters–Wooden once made 134 straight in professional game competition with the Kautsky Athletic Club, while Blood at age seventy-four, calmly sank 484 out of 500 after a practice session
  • Physical conditioning enthusiasts. With Wooden, it was an obsession
  • Adherence to clean living was a must
  • Adamantly stressed the importance of teamwork
  • Recognized the importance of speed and quickness as essentials
  • Strange eating habits
  • Proponents of a controlled offense, fastbreak, and full court pressing defense. Blood pioneered these innovations and referred to his full court defense as “offensive defense”
  • Shy in social situations
  • Honest to a fault
  • Far ahead of their time as basketball tacticians
  • The only enemies they had were people who were jealous of their success
  • Neither believed in charging a team up before a game. They wanted a calm assurance in the dressing room and in the pre-game warm-ups.

Prof Blood often said: “I train boys for the game of life—not to win basketball games.  If I succeed in that, I have accomplished something worthwhile.” In Prof’s way of thinking, winning remained incidental.

The Story of Basketball’s First Great Coach: Ernest Blood

Before little John Wooden was a twinkle in Joshua Hugh Wooden’s eye, Prof was equating basketball to the more important game of life.  While reading John Wooden’s book They Call Me Coach, you could insert Blood’s name for Wooden’s. You would be accurately describing Blood’s philosophy as well.

The major differences between the two behemoths of the game were their eras of dominance (’20s and ’60s) and their arenas (high school and college).  They had their priorities straight; they were teachers of the game of life.  The differences between the two lay in society’s memory.  Wooden has become a household name synonymous with basketball coaching excellence while Blood’s story has never accurately been told until now.  His accomplishments, contributions to the game and tribulations that have been lost in the annals of basketball have been resurrected in Prof Blood and the Wonder Teams: The Story of Basketball’s First Great Coach.

There isn’t a basketball coach who knows an X from an O who wouldn’t benefit from becoming more familiar with basketball’s first great coach.  Prof’s biography should be required reading for all high school coaches and fans.

***

Chic Hess, Ed. D. is the author of Prof Blood and the Wonder Teams: The True Story of Basketball’s First Great Coach, available at www.profblood.com.  Hess is a former NAIA College District and NABC-Kodak National Junior College Coach of the Year.

Related: John Wooden’s First Lesson

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Using The Funnel Down Defense

Using The Funnel Down Defense

Scheming the right defensive system for your team remains one of the most important parts of preseason preparation for any basketball coach. While defensive principles may largely be the same from year to year, the athletes on the team might not be. Coaches must gear their strategies and approaches to fit the capabilities of their players. That makes systems like the Funnel Down Defense so valuable. Funnel Down stands as a versatile defensive weapon for any team, no matter the level.

The Funnel Down Defense

funnel down defenseThe basic principle of this defensive set up is to prevent opposing offenses from comfortably using the middle of the floor. Funnel Down creates “gutters” outside the volleyball lines, which are present on most high school and even college courts. Defenders force dribblers into these gutters and funnel them down the line to the next man. The ball is pushed down to the baseline and toward “strike zones,” or trap areas in the short corner.

Ideally, the offense never centers the ball, or swings the ball to the weak side of the floor. This defense focuses on shrinking the court for opposing offenses. Funnel Down tries to prevent offenses from effectively using 60 percent of the court.

Funnel Down is purposefully built to get opposing offenses out of their normal rhythm and flow, resulting in turnovers, and bad or rushed shots. When deployed in games that feature a shot clock, the effectiveness of this strategy is further amplified because the offense must spend time getting out of the trap zones.

Why Use Funnel Down?

This defensive system provides coaches with a versatile set up, adaptable to almost any talent level. Funnel Down can be paired with any base defense. It doesn’t matter if a team normally runs man-to-man or zone, funnel down can work either way.

When used correctly, this system disrupts any offense by keeping the ball on one side of the floor. Funnel Down seeks to “pin” opposing offenses to the sidelines and forcing them into traps. This creates an urgency in dribblers that often speeds them up to a point where they are uncomfortable. By speeding up the dribbler, the offense becomes more mistake prone, leading to game-changing turnovers.

And this defense can be taught by any coach, to basically any team. The lesson linked below provides all of the video tutorials, drills and practice plans needed to implement this system. Funnel Down might be the only defense a team needs!

The versatility of this set up allows for any type of athlete to be used on the floor. The defense creates difficult angles for passing and shooting, especially once the ball handler enters that baseline trap area. Funnel Down uses the sideline and the baseline as extra defenders to leverage pressure on the floor.

Incorporating this system into your routine forces opposing teams to spend extra time preparing. That ultimately robs opponents of time to prep for other parts of their game plans.

For more on how to implement this game-changing defensive system, Click Below for the Limited Time Offer!

Click Here for More about the Funnel Down Defense! 

This limited time offer includes teaching sessions and video drills, PDF diagrams, practices plans, a cheat sheet, and a coaching community!

Related: What is the Funnel Down Defense?

Resources: 

Coach Unplugged Podcast:

Ep: 1142. Funnel Down Defense

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What is the Funnel Down Defense?

What is the Funnel Down Defense?

Basketball coaches often find themselves scheming for different ways to defeat the best team on their schedule. Many of those schemes are oriented around the defense. Coaches searching for ways to streamline their practices and become more efficient in their instruction need to look no further than the Funnel Down Defense. This approach provides coaches with a tried and true defense system that dictates pace and generates turnovers.

The Funnel Down Defense

Funnel Down uses something most basketball courts feature and many coaches dismiss: the volleyball lines. This defense focuses on shrinking the court for opposing offenses by pushes ball handlers outside of that key stretch of the floor. Funnel Down tries to prevent offenses from effectively using 60 percent of the court. Instead, it forces them to the perimeter, operating on just 40 percent of the floor.

This approach attempts to keep the ball on one side of the floor. It speeds up opposing offenses to the point where they become mistake-prone. It also shrinks the usable floor space for the offense.

Funnel Down is purposefully built to get opposing offenses out of their normal rhythm and flow, resulting in turnovers, and bad or rushed shots. When deployed in games that feature a shot clock, the effectiveness of this strategy is further amplified because the offense must spend time getting out of the trap zones.

Three Key Concepts of the Funnel Down Defense

Funnel Down Defense1. Pin the ball on the sideline

2. Funnel the ball to the baseline

3. Trap and Rotate in the short corner

The design of this defense borrows its terminology from bowling. The task of the defense remains to “funnel” the ball along the “gutter” of the court to the baseline, where a trap awaits in the “strike zone.” Funnel Down seeks to keep the ball out of the “alley,” which is the main stretch of center court inside the volleyball lines. The traps occur in “strike zones” positioned at the short corners.

Ideally, defenders pressure the ball into the gutters, avoiding the centering pass. This is called a “pin.” This tactic overplays the ball handler away from the middle so that the ball can’t be swung.  Defenders stay ahead of the ball handlers by sprinting, not sliding, trying to stay half a body width ahead of the dribbler. This discourages penetration and funnels the ball toward the trap areas.

The defender “up the line” covers a man below the ball level on the court. This defender needs to remain between his man and the ball in order to help. The defenders continue to “funnel” the ball along the sideline, encouraging the dribblers to head toward the baseline. Once the ball enters the “strike zone” in the short corner, that triggers a trap and weak side rotation.

For more on how to implement this game-changing defensive system, Click Below for the Limited Time Funnel Down Defense Offer!

Click Here for More about the Funnel Down Defense! 

This limited time offer includes teaching sessions and video drills, PDF diagrams, practices plans, a cheat sheet, and a coaching community!

 

Resources: 

High School Hoops Podcast

Ep: 161. Funnel Down Defense

 

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Coaching in a Pandemic

Coaching in a Pandemic

I think it is safe to say that there has never been a course created or an experience a coach could pull from on how to plan for and attack this situation. This has been a trying time for sure. But ultimately, this has been a time where, if done correctly, players and teams could still have improved. At Gibson Southern High School in Fort Branch, Indiana, the Lady Titans basketball program, like everyone else, has experienced our share of challenges and has taken many steps to combat the challenges of coaching in a pandemic

Challenge 1: Coaching with Masks On

Like all coaches, this has been a change for our staff. The biggest part of this is the difficulty in communicating and talking in a loud gym and the inability to show emotion in our facial expressions. There are many coaches, just like the great Pat Summit, who used emotion in their facial expressions to help coach their players. This is something that we have had to adjust in our practices to ensure we are able to continue the teaching of the game that is necessary to improve as a program.

Challenge 2: Keeping Everyone Healthy

It is imperative to emphasize the importance of masking up and putting ourselves in positions to remain healthy. We have consistently talked to our players about avoiding situations where they could be compromised and possibly contract COVID or become a close contact.

Challenge 3: Volatility in Schedule

We had arguably the best schedule our program has seen in over a decade scheduled for this season. Then we had received an invitation to play in an 8-team holiday tournament with seven schools more than double our size, many of which routinely play for sectional championships. Due to our county COVID status, we were forced to drop out of that tournament. Luckily, we were able to get in a shootout with two other quality teams to partially make up for the games lost in the holiday tournament. We have had multiple other games rescheduled or dropped within 24-48 hours of tip off. This volatility of scheduling has been very difficult to coach through. Needless to say, our Athletic Director has earned his money this season.

Challenge 4: Inability to conduct Team Gatherings

One of the things we pride ourselves in as a program and staff is developing a strong team culture/bond. One way we do this is through team gatherings and give-backs. We were unable to host our annual holiday giveback, where we’ll volunteer time to ring bells for the Salvation Army and/or donate gifts and time at our local YWCA. Unfortunately, we were unable to have our annual team Christmas Party as well. We have had to become more creative to help develop these strong bonds.

Challenge 5: Ticket Guidelines

In Indiana, every county has different ticket guidelines. Some counties allow two tickets per player. Others allow two tickets per player but can only be parents. Some allow six tickets per player. Others tickets are sold at gates, while others sell online. It can be a major challenge to stay on top of the various ticket guidelines from game to game.

Related: Best Face Mask for Basketball


Steps to Overcome Challenges Coaching in a Pandemic

Step 1: Daily COVID/Temperature Checks

One step our athletic department has established to help keep everyone healthy is a daily COVID and temperature check. We record everyone’s temperatures and ask a series of questions to check everyone’s health status. Then we file these away in case an issue arises in the future.

Step 2: Networking

With the volatility in our game schedule, it has become that much more important to network around the state with other coaches. I talked to a veteran coach this past week and one thing he mentioned he will miss when he retires is the camaraderie of the coaching fraternity. Every coach can understand and relate to the difficulty of fulfilling a schedule during these trying times. This season has shown the needed importance of developing those relationships with coaches around the state.

Step 3: Ornament Party

In an attempt to keep some semblance of normalcy for our players and do some form of team-building activity, we held a socially-distanced ornament party with our players. We got the players soft drinks and individually packaged snacks. With Christmas music playing, the girls paint their own ornaments. We then took the ornaments and had them “fired up” at a local pottery store that finished the ornaments. Many of the girls commented on how fun this activity was and we feel it met the important goal of team-building and improving our culture.

Step 4: Ticket Sales

One piece of advice: Try to have your athletic director conduct ticket sales online. This could take the collection of money and distribution of tickets out of your hands. It is important to be organized and have a system in place to ensure all money is collected and all tickets are distributed. As much as can be done online or via mobile sales, the better.

In conclusion, while this time is difficult, it is important to look at it through the lens of we still have a great opportunity to coach this great game and see young people grow. If we view this time as a positive, our players and those around us will view it the same way. Good luck and coach them up!

Related: Building a Basketball Brand, Culture and Program

Resources:

Coach Unplugged Podcast:

Ep: 802. Covid, Coaching, Sacrifices, Opinions and the WIAA

Ep: 584 Basketball Coaching NOW with Coronavirus, Covid-19 and Quarantines

 

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Dr. Dish Back to School Campaign

Dr. Dish Back to School Campaign

The team over at Dr. Dish has released their newest Back to School Campaign designed to help any team develop Championship mindsets and habits.

The free campaign download includes access to:

  • A 35-page Championship Guide PDF including coaching tips, practice plans, and more!
  • Custom interviews from the best programs across the country, including Baylor’s Alvin Brooks, Louisville’s Sam Purcell, and more discussing what goes in to building and maintaining a championship program and championship culture.
  • Planning templates designed to help coaches and players set goals and run effective practices.

In addition, anyone who downloads the guide will get exclusive discounts on any new Dr. Dish machine, as well as early access to our 2021 Ultimate Giveaway where we’ll be giving one lucky program a new Dr. Dish completely free!

Our goal is to add value to as many coaches, parents, and players as possible  within the basketball community. The link to the campaign is below for you to access.

Free 2021 Championship Guide 

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Thanks so much for your continued support of Dr. Dish!

Dr. Dish Back to School Campaign

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What Everyone Gets Wrong About The Princeton Offense

What Everyone Gets Wrong About The Princeton Offense

When I was in college I would get through some of the most tedious lectures by drawing out basketball plays within my notes. And that evolved into designing offensive sets that would seamlessly flow from one right into another. At the time I didn’t have a big picture in mind but I was being creative and I was trying to solve a problem.

Little did I know the problem was already being solved. And the journey through the rabbit hole began.

Concerns About The Princeton Offense

The Princeton Offense is more often than not a polarizing topic for offensive basketball discussion. Coaches seem to either love it or they will say, “you’ll never catch me running that offense!”

There are three main reasons coaches will not entertain running Princeton and these are the actual words they say to me:

1) The Offense is too much. It is too hard to learn. It’s a slow down offense… and even if I wanted to run it, I don’t even know where to start.

2) The Offense is too complicated, too hard to break down, and takes too much time to install in practice.

3) I just don’t have smart enough or skilled enough players to run it. And my best players won’t buy in. It will bog them down.

And on the surface… these concerns ARE valid.

Simplifying the Offense

1) Yes the offense can be overwhelming and yes most teams run it as a slow down offense. But did you ask “why” those teams slow the game down? For example: Princeton University vs any Tournament Program. Northwestern vs The Big Ten. The Air Force Academy vs The Mountain West.

The teams we typically see run the offense slow it down because of who the can recruit and more importantly who they compete with. Have you seen Chris Mooney’s Richmond teams play lately?

2) Sure Princeton looks like an extremely complicated offense. It has many moving parts and an unorthodox philosophy. But have you actually seen a good coach break it down “correctly” in a practice situation?

One thing I have done is I’ve completely abandoned the “Whole-Part-Whole” philosophy of teaching. Sure that is a little controversial. But what I’ve learned is teaching (especially Princeton) in a progression based manner which I am calling The Progression Method, is much more efficient at getting reps and covering every scoring action and counter action. And it is simple because it addresses them step by step.

3) Having less than skilled or instinctual players is something we all battle with. But I am going to repeat some of the best advice i’ve ever received as a coach, “So you’re players aren’t good… Well, Coach Em Coach!”

The Princeton Offense: Helping the Role Players

The Princeton Offense will actually do MORE for your role players because it has the ability to “manufacture” shots that they cannot create on their own. So the advantage of running an offense like that versus one where you hide your role players is this. Now the defense has to stay honest and they cannot as easily target your best player with double teams and stopper defensive philosophies. I actually argue Princeton can actually “FREE” up your best player(s) rather than coup them up.

The Princeton Offense is designed to take the tension out of the game and to help even the playing field especially for the underdogs. And it might be the championship game but eventually we will all be the underdog. How will you compete to win that game?

And when you do have players, alright who wants to lace them up now!!!

 

By: John Wheeler

 

If you want to learn more about The Princeton Offense go to www.teachhoopsprinceton.com for a free training. Coach John Wheeler has 20 years experience with The Princeton Offense in both girls and boys programs and has a unique ability to simplify what is complicated and emphasizes the details of the game that elevates a players’ ability to execute under pressure.

 

Related: How to Break the Princeton Offense Down

Resources:

Princeton Simplicity Diagram PDF

 

 

Coach Unplugged Podcast

Ep: 705 How to Breakdown and Teach the Princeton Offense

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Top 10 Basketball Movies

Top 10 Basketball Movies

As the days of summer heat up, stay cool inside and watch some classic basketball movies! Here’s my top 10 basketball movies and a few honorable mentions.

For Free Basketball drills, videos, practice plans and much more CLICK HERE

Top 10 Basketball Movies

Honorable Mention #1: Teen Wolf (1985)

This might be a stretch, as far as basketball scenes, but I have fond memories of watching this my senior year in high school.  “A struggling high school student with problems discovers that his family has an unusual pedigree when he finds himself turning into a werewolf.”

Honorable Mention #2: Like Mike (2002)

The revolution of the Air Jordan brand helped this movie become a cult classic. “A 14-year-old orphan becomes an NBA superstar after trying on a pair of sneakers with the faded initials “M.J.” inside.”

Honorable Mention #3: Semi-Pro (2008)

I could not put Anchorman on this list so Semi-Pro had to do. “Jackie Moon, the owner-coach-player of the American Basketball Association’s Flint Michigan Tropics, rallies his teammates to make their NBA dreams come true.”

Honorable Mention #4: Blue Chip (1994)

Not sure this deserves to be on the list but it shows the corruption of college basketball. “A college basketball coach is forced to break the rules in order to get the players he needs to stay competitive.”

#10 Love and Basketball (2000)

I had to list one romantic, date night movie. “In 1981 in L.A., Monica moves in next door to Quincy. They’re 11, and both want to play in the NBA, just like Quincy’s dad.”

#9 The Fish that Saved Pittsburg​h (1979)

A cult classic that everyone should watch at least once, not to mention it has a young Julius Irving! “The Pittsburgh basketball team is hopeless. Maybe with the aid of an astrologer, and some new astrologically compatible players, they can become winners.”

#8 White Men Can’t Jump (1992) 

A movie that is referenced a lot in mainstream media.  “Two basketball hustlers join forces to double their chances.”

#7 He Got Game (1998) 

A great movie showing the pressure of family and basketball in today’s society. “A basketball player’s father must try to convince him to go to a college so he can get a shorter sentence.”

#6 Fast Break (1979 for us old people)

Another favorite movie from my childhood.  “David Greene is a New York basketball enthusiast, who wants to coach. He is then offered the coaching job at a small Nevada college. He brings along some players, who are a bit odd.”

#5 Glory Road (2006)

A historic story that changed our game forever. “In 1966, Texas Western coach Don Haskins led the first all-black starting line-up for a college basketball team to the NCAA national championship.”

#4 Hoop Dreams (1994)

The only documentary on the list and one of my all-time favorites. “A film following the lives of two inner-city Chicago boys who struggle to become college basketball players on the road to going professional.”

#3 Coach Carter (2005) 

A story of a coach who puts the game in perspective.  “Controversy surrounds high school basketball coach Ken Carter after he benches his entire team for breaking their academic contract with him.”

#2 Space Jam (1996) 

I love this movie and thought it was a great twist of live action from Michael Jordan, one of my favorite players, and cartoons. “Michael Jordan agrees to help the Looney Toons play a basketball game vs. alien slavers to determine their freedom.”

#1 Hoosiers (1986)

This movie gives every high school player a dream of winning it big.  I remember the day I watched this movie for the first time as a freshman in college.  I wanted to live that dream and did it with 3 state titles!  “A coach with a checkered past and a local drunk train a small town high school basketball team to become a top contender for the championship.”

For Free Basketball drills, videos, practice plans and much more CLICK HERE!

Related: The BEST Basketball Coaching Podcasts

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The BEST Basketball Coaching Podcasts

The BEST Basketball Coaching Podcasts

Where can you find the best basketball coaching podcasts? I have always loved listening to podcast and especially podcasts that would help my basketball coaching. I look for podcast that not only inspire me, but also are inspirational, interesting and very entertaining.

Look no further! Every basketball coaching podcast you need is listed here! Some of the podcasts will be X’s and O’s others might talk about the psychological part of the game.

I like to listen to podcasts while I’m in the car, mowing the lawn or walking my dogs around he neighborhood. They’re perfect to fit into your day at any point when you are doing a task that doesn’t require your full attention….which during the Covid process is most of the time!

These are in no specific order…..

The Best Basketball Coaching Podcasts

1. Elevated (Click Here)

This is a new podcast but is by Drew Maddux and Virgil Herring and they discuss the extreme importance of mindset as it relates to sports, business and everything in between. They have a great book by the same name GET IT HERE

2. Basketball Coach Unplugged.(Click Here)

This is a shameless plug for my own podcast, but I am really proud of it and it comes out 5 days a week. It is a mixture of Coaching tips, interviews, Drills, X’s and O’s and everything in between. This Podcast will discuss basketball coaching with Coach Steve Collins. Coach Collins will do this with interviews and on topic discussions. (Discussion will revolve around basketball topics such as: Offense, Defense, Motivation, Team Building, Youth Basketball, High School Basketball, college basketball and much more…) We will publish weekly shows at 6:00 am….. Please check out our site if you like our podcast.

3. Coaching U Podcast (Click Here)

This podcast is an extension of the Coaching U education and training program. Coach Brendan Suhr moves the lessons off of the court and into your earbuds with interviews of coaches on their career journeys, coaching philosophies and challenges they have overcome. Weekly podcast featuring the best coaches in the world hosted by 2-Time NBA World Champion, Brendan Suhr.Each episode Coach Suhr and his guests give you insight into some of the best and newest trends, techniques, philosophies and lessons from not only the game of basketball; but also in leadership, culture, professional development and life.

4. High School Hoops: (Click Here)

A Discussion all about being and coaching Basketball at the High School Level Scrimmage, Preparation, Practice Planning, Parents, Getting your Players to Play Hard, and everything in betweenMUCH MORE….

5. Conversations With Coach George Raveling (Click Here)

Coach Raveling is considered by most as the godfather of college basketball coaching. On his podcast, Coach Raveling shares lessons for personal and professional growth through his conversations with other coaches. This is truly a hidden gem that I found several years ago…

6. 1 Question Leadership Podcast (Click Here) 

The 1.Question Leadership Podcast is designed to highlight executive and organizational leadership with a heavy emphasis on college athletics. 1.Question is primarily hosted by @TaiMBrown, but features occasional guest hosts.

7. Coaching Youth Hoops ( Click Here)

Are you a new or experienced youth basketball coach looking to cut through the noise and have someone just tell you what works?  It’s easy to waste time and money learning how to coach kindergarten through 8th grade basketball on your own.  Join season youth basketball coaches Bill and Steve as they give you the blueprint you need to succeed on and off the court.  In each episode, you’ll discover easy-to-imp

8.  The 5 Minute Basketball Coaching Podcast(Click Here)

It is a short looking into coaching basketball and basketball drills, plays, practices, tips and much more.

9.  Hidden Gem (No Pun Intended) IDAHO BASKETBALL Coaching (Click Here)

Interviews about coaching high school basketball in the Gem State. If you are a high school basketball coach and would like to talk hoops, send a DM on Twitter or email at Idahobasketballcoachingpodcast@gmail.com.

10.  The Funnel Down Defense Podcast. ( Click Here)

This podcast go through the Funnel Down Defense and how it can change the way you coach the game. The defense can be used with any type of athlete and any team. It takes your opponent out of there offense in seconds

Bonus;  Here are some Bonus Basketball Coaching Podcasts and a few that are just fun.

Coaching Culture The podcast for leaders in athletics. Sharing practical ideas on how to build character and leadership with a like-minded community.

Teacher Side Gig Do you have a side gig? I have colleagues who drive for Lyft/Uber, work in the service industry, clean houses and businesses, run online businesses, drive trucks, and work in all sorts of other industries during the Summer AND school year. Some have even left teaching because their other job pays more and provides better benefits.

Greatest Game Podcast
The Greatest Games Podcast. Our intention is to create a light and fun environment where we can just talk hoops, and hopefully offer some wisdom to young coaches and seasoned coaches alike about some of the lessons we have learned along the way. We really appreciate you coming by.

A Pen and a Napkin:  Great interviews and inspiration to take you on this great journey of coaching

Related: Top Basketball Coaching Websites

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Favorite Basketball Practice Drills

Favorite Basketball Practice Drills

Developing a practice plan can be one of the most daunting tasks for a coach at any level. Coaches need to consider the talent of their team when assembling the plan. They also need to keep in mind how they want their team to improve over the course of the season. That improvement gets jumpstarted in practice with targeted drills. Coaches often have a set of their favorite basketball practice drills aimed to do just that.

Here are Coach Steger’s 2 Favorite Practice Drills and a couple of videos below to show their use.

 

Basketball Practice Drills: Closeout

Basketball Practice Drills

The first basketball practice drill that holds a great deal of value is a basic close out drill. This drill should be a regular for any team playing man-to-man defense. In addition, this drill aids in the instruction of help-side defense.

In this drill, two players start on the floor, occupying the wings. The defenders wait in a line beneath the rim and one positions himself in the “help side” spot in the lane. The drill begins with a skip pass from one wing to the other. The defender is expected to run from his help side position to close out on the shooter.

This drill can use a coach as the passer, or rotate players into that position. Coaches should emphasize defensive placement and positioning when integrating this drill. The close out defender should not over-run the shooter, but stop just before with one hand up.

This drill can be altered to force the shooter to drive baseline. The drill can incorporate another defender at that point, who also moves into help side positioning.

 

Basketball Practice Drills: DeMatha Finishing Drill

Basketball Practice Drills

The next of Coach Steger’s favorite basketball practice drills is the DeMatha Finishing drill. This drill can be particularly valuable as both a practice drill and as a pregame warmup drill.

This drill pits two players against one another in a simple clash of offense and defense. It’s a high-impact, fast-paced drill where the offensive player attacks the basket and the trailing defender needs to recover. The drill features two lines and usually a coach for passing. Players can stand in for the coaches as passers if need be.

The drill itself can be situated in a number of different spots on the floor. Where the drill starts can be dictated by the coach and what the team needs are.

The drill itself is simple. The passer feeds the offensive player, who must finish at the rim from their starting point. The offensive player can try   a dunk or layup. The defender, meanwhile, must contest the shot as best they can. Physical play can be encouraged for the defense to help the offense improve finishing through contact.

 

Related: 3 Favorite Basketball Practice Warm Up Drills

Resources:

Coach Unplugged Podcast

Ep: 376 3 Favorite Practice Drills from Coach Steger

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Coaching Interview with Marc Skelton

Coaching Interview with Marc Skelton

The TeachHoops.com community connects coaches throughout the nation and all over the world. In this basketball coaching interview, Coach Collins connects with Coach Marc Skelton to discuss his basketball journey and his approach to the game.

Coaching Interview: Marc Skelton

Marc Skelton is a former all-state basketball guard from Derry, New Hampshire. He graduated from Northeastern University, then served two years in the Peace Corps in Moldova. Skelton holds a master’s degree in education and Russian studies from Columbia University.

Skelton teaches history at Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School in the Bronx. He’s coached the boys’ basketball team there since 2007, winning two citywide championships and one statewide championship.

Coaching Interview: March Skelton’s Favorite Drill

coaching interview marc skelton

Coach Skelton reveals in this coaching interview that his favorite drill one he calls “Popeye.” In this drill, a lone shooter spends at least one minute attempting to find the right angle for a shot that only touches the backboard and net. After a set amount of time, the shooter switches sides.

The drill continues with a dribble progression from there. The shooter uses a ball fake, then attacks with the dribble. The shooter is seeking the same “Popeye” shot off the dribble that they’d found in the stationary portion of the drill.

Check out the full interview below!

Related: Basketball Coach Interview With Eric Bridgeland

Resources:

Here’s a link to Coach Skelton’s bookPounding the Rock: Basketball Dreams and Real Life in a Bronx High Schoolon Amazon!

PDF Downloads:

Popeye Hall Court Offense Drills

Cardinals Horns Half Court Offense Set 

Coach Unplugged Podcast

Additional YouTube Links



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10 Ways to Evaluate a Basketball Game

10 Ways to Evaluate a Basketball Game

Coaches always need to consider data when evaluating their team’s latest performance. That data often instructs what the focus might be for the next practice. But any given basketball game provides hundreds of potential data points. These contests also vary wildly given external and uncontrollable factors. So here’s a look at 10 Ways to Evaluate a Basketball Game.

10 Ways to Evaluate a Basketball Game

  1. Turnover Margin
  2. Rebounding Margin
  3. Field Goal Attempts
  4. Shooting Percentage
  5. Free Throw Attempts
  6. Defensive Effectiveness
  7. 3-Point Game
  8. Floor Game
  9. Assist Margin
  10. Momentum

The Breakdown

These 10 ways to evaluate a basketball game may seem arbitrary but they each focus on specific production.

Turnover margin and rebounding margin both indicate how well your team is controlling the basketball. Naturally, your team wants to limit turnovers on offense and leverage turnovers on defense. The same is true with rebounding. If your team is securing more missed shots, then your team has more opportunities to score.

Tracking those scoring opportunities are important as well. Considering no team will ever make every single shot it takes, having more total shots shifts the odds in your team’s favor. However, not all shot attempts are created equal. Your team should focus on quality shots.

Offense

Having quality shot attempts will improve your team’s field goal percentage. This efficiency stat stands as a key market for in-game success. Furthermore, your team should be look to leverage your best shooter while minimizing the weakest ones.

Free Throw Attempts stand among the highest percentage shots available, so piling up those tries are key. But it’s not enough to get the attempts, great teams make their free throws at a high clip.

Defense

For defensive effectiveness, your team should look to limit the opponent’s scoring opportunities. What’s more, your defense should make it a goal to limit opposing players to no more than 10-15 points.

The three-point game stands as an opportunity to leverage effective offensive play. Look to get your best distance shooters open shots while preventing the opposing team from similar opportunities. Your defense should force opposing shooters into creating their own offense rather than standing still and hoisting from deep.

Your team’s floor game consists of getting loose balls, 50-50 balls, taking charges, saving the ball, etc. These moments can be hidden on a traditional stat sheet, but they create additional opportunities for the team.

The team should always look to help each other and create offensive opportunities for teammates. Creating those opportunities stresses opposing defenses. Likewise, keeping the opposing team from creating a similar offensive flow hurts their rhythm on that end as well.

And each of these builds to swinging the game’s momentum in your favor.

Related: Conducting Effective Basketball Tryouts

Resources:

Coach Unplugged Podcast

Ep: 382 10 Ways to Evaluate a Basketball Game

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3 Levels of Basketball Mastery for Players and Coaches

3 Levels of Basketball Mastery for Players and Coaches

The internet holds a seemingly unlimited supply of resources for basketball players and coaches. But in an effort to gain mastery of the sport, players and coaches might need to turn to unlikely sources of information.

Basketball Mastery

LEVEL 1: COGNITIVE MASTERY

I see this all the time in my math classroom.  A student will see or hear something and they will think that they mastered it.   But in reality, understanding is only the first step toward mastery.  You have seen it with your players.  ” I got this coach” but when they try it in a game or practice it does not work.  It takes repetition and working on those skills to really understand your body movements.  “Repetition is the mother of skill”

LEVEL 2 OF MASTERY: EMOTIONAL MASTERY

“Emotional mastery is where you start linking consequences and doing. You act on what you know instead of just know it. When you add emotion like pain or pleasure to repetition, the link becomes stronger and the action more automatic”.   For example if your player does a action ( IN my world its a turnover )….They are going to get a negative reaction from my entire coaching staff.  Pretty soon, they know not to turn the ball over.

Now, apply this concept to your team. Maybe you kept the wrong player,  but you ignored what your instincts tried to tell you. What happened ? I bet you had enough pain from that experience that you think more carefully the next time you pick a team?. “But even if you’ve been burned once, does that mean you never get burned again? No. People repeat the same mistakes over and over because they haven’t yet associated enough pain with the problem, which holds them back from reaching the last level of mastery: physical mastery.”

LEVEL 3 MASTERY: PHYSICAL MASTERY

“With enough repetition, enough emotion, we can get to physical mastery Physical mastery, you don’t have to think about it, you just do it. It’s automatic. No extra effort required. This is the level of true mastery”.

We have all been there on the court when we just play the game and everything comes easily…You do not have to think about setting the screen and rolling to the basket is has become second nature.  It is our goal as coaches to get this level.  Where we have coached enough, felt the ups and downs, and just know what to do for our teams.

Let TEACHOOPS.COM be that for you!

*Quoted material from Tony Robbins (www.tonyrobbins.com)

Related: Developing Your Coaching Philosophy

Resources:

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Basketball Coaching Interview with Gene Durden

Basketball Coaching Interview with Gene Durden

One of the most engaging aspects of the TeachHoops.com community is the ability to connect with coaches throughout the nation and all over the world. In this basketball coaching interview, Coach Collins connects with Coach Gene Durden to discuss his basketball journey and his approach to the game.

Basketball Coaching Interview

Coach Durden enters his 34th year coaching at the high school level this coming season. Currently, Durden coaches the Buford Lady Wolves. He’s headed that program for 15 years. During his time, Duden-led teams sport eight state championships in three different classifications. His teams have played in 10 of the last 12 state championship games. Furthermore, Durden’s Buford Lady Wolves have four straight state championships in class 5A. 

In addition to his coaching duties, Durden teaches Personal Fitness and Team Sports at Buford High School.

Prior to his time at Buford, Durden coached at Dade County High School in Trenton, GA for 14 years. His Lady Wolverines team won seven Region Championships and competed in 13 AA State Tournaments. His teams competed in three Final Fours, and in three AA State Championship games.

In this interview, Durden discusses the three parts to becoming a complete player. He lists preparation of the body, skill development, and play of the game as those three parts. He says individual players are made in the offseason, whereas teams are made during the season.

Check out Coach Collins’ coaching interview with this high school basketball legend, Gene Durden!

Related: Basketball Coaching Interview with Liam Flynn

Resources:

 

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Open Gym Rules and Games

Open Gym Rules and Games

Open gyms provide basketball coaches with a good look at potential talent for a new team. Although normally unstructured, an effective open gym needs rules and games in order for coaches to get the best look at the assembled talent.

Open Gym Rules and Games

One of the most difficult aspects of coaching remains the integration of unstructured time either in practice or during preseason. Too often, open gyms lead to players not working hard and poor decisions being made. It’s rare that an open gym features any kind of meaningful defense.

These runs end up looking so different from a regular season game that it’s sometimes hard to recognize your team.

But players love the freedom of an Open Gym set up.

What our basketball program did several years ago was implement a set of rules or games players can use to improve specific skills during an open gym.  They can play regular 5-on-5 and then pick a couple of these rules.

I remember the days of playing entire games during the summer and only using my “weaker” hand or only shooting baseline jumpers. I was trying to work on specific skills while still playing with my friends. (Those were the days when we used to go to the park and play, bring our boom box, and the big milk jug of water.  Remember those days…)

That is how with the help of other coaches I came up with the MAGIC 25.  Let me know if I am missing anything? ( steve@teachhoops.com)

Here are the Magic 25 Open Gym Rules and Games

  1. No Dribble 5-on-5
  2. Zone On Makes, Man On Misses 5-on-5
  3. 5-on-5 Hockey (ball has to be dribble across half court by the person who rebounds it)
  4. 5-on-5 Run an Action
  5. Beep Beep 5 on 5 (Have to shoot in 5 seconds)
  6. Everyone must Touch before you can score.
  7. Post must touch
  8. Weak-hand Layup is worth 3-Points
  9. 1-2-3- Paint shots are 1 point, 3’s are worth 2, mid-range is worth 3 points
  10. NBA Three is worth 4 Points
  11. No 3 point shots- everything is worth 2 points
  12. Everyone must cross Half Court if not the Offense Keeps the Ball, vice versa Offense doesn’t cross everyone the Basket doesn’t count.
  13. 10 Minute Games
  14. Games to 1, 3, 5, 7 Points
  15. 21 players 3 Teams Of 7
  16. No dribbles on Offense until the ball get inside the 3 point line
  17. No inbound on Made basket
  18. Every Foul is one Free Throw
  19. No ball screens
  20. After each make you get to run an Out of Bounds Play under ( 1 shot)
  21. Switch all screens
  22. Offense must score on ball screen or post pass
  23. Must dribble only with your “weak” hand
  24. Offense can stay on offense even on a made if they get the ball.
  25. Must switch the type of defense you run each possession

What am I missing?  Email me at steve@teachhoops.com

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