John Wooden’s First Lesson
John Wooden was born in Martinsville, IN, one of four sons. He started playing basketball in elementary school. His coach was also his school principal, a man of stern but warm character. Each day before practice (their court was outside, beneath tall maple and oak trees) Wooden and the other players had to pick up sticks and rocks, to clear the court for play. The basketball they used was a large rubber bladder which barely fit inside a leather shell, such that after a few minutes of use the players had to take out the bladder, blow it back up with their own lungs, then squeeze it back inside the leather.
Ironically, this led to the team utilizing an uptempo practice, for the secret was to get the bladder in the ball and use it in as many repetitions as possible, before the ball would empty again. Whoever held it at the time had to blow it up–hence, the need to make quick passes to others.
When Wooden was later inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame (he was the first person to be inducted into the HOF 2-X, first as player, then as coach), Wooden said his remarkable ballhandling skills were in part due to the fact he had a learn how to dribble an oblong-shaped ball that lost air on rocks, sticks and in the holes of his outside court in elementary school.
The first lesson Wooden learned in basketball happened at this same elementary school. He never forgot it; in fact, it became a cornerstone of his own coaching years later, at UCLA, when his teams won an astonishing 10 National Championships.
Wooden was the star of his elementary school basketball team. One day he forgot to bring his uniform to school when he left his farmhouse in the morning. Then, after school, he decided he would not walk home to get it. Instead, he would play dumb when it came time to play that evening’s basketball game. As the game neared, Wooden fessed to his coach that he did not have his uniform. Expecting that the coach would feel some sort of sympathy for him as the star, or at least have a strong desire to win that night’s game with him at the helm, Wooden was pleased when his coach asked the worst kid on the team, “Do you have your uniform for tonight’s game?” When that kid answered yes, Wooden expected his coach to tell him to let Wooden wear his unform that night. Instead, Wooden received the shock of his young life, when the coach said, instead: “Good, because you will play for Johnny tonight.”
Wooden’s face fell. He took off sprinting to his house, and back, arriving in uniform just seconds before the game started. But his teachable moment was not over. His coach said to him, “I am sure you are tired, so sit down.” Wooden sat there, watching his team lose the game, knowing it was his fault.
The 2 lessons he learned that day, are these: 1) The player is not above the team. 2) As a coach, the bench is your friend.
Terry Boesch is a teacher in Martinsville, IN (home of John Wooden), and also coaches girls basketball. Feel free to email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call/text at 317-643-6042
Where is your WRITTEN Coaching Philosophy?
FREE OFFER Below, to help Fellow-Coaches
I know, you dont need one, because others will figure you out if they just watch how you coach. Oh, and you are too busy to write anything down. I know; I said these things for 5 years also. As a result, I had no real clear answer to any of these questions about coaching: WHY Do This? WHAT am I about, Really? WHO do I want to produce thru my coaching efforts?
Then it dawned on me, while reading something General Eisenhower said during WWII, when he planned the biggest military maneuver in the history of the world (D-Day). He said that while a Plan may be useless in that it can and will change, the PROCESS of MAKING the Plan, and thinking it through, over and over, is THE MOST useful thing a leader CAN do. I feel the same about making a written coaching philosophy.
Your written coaching philosophy is your business card about you. It makes you better by making your mind clearer. It defines “you” when you dont have time to explain what you are thinking. It helps you make better decisions, for if something doesnt fit within your vision (no matter how great it sounds, or who else may be doing it), the answer is, “Sorry, it doesnt fit with what I am doing.”). A written philosophy simplifies–and who today does not need to simplify every aspect of our lives and coaching? And, writing down your coaching philosophy makes clear to parents, other coaches, future players, and officials, what you believe, why you coach, and what they should expect from you. It defines-up your best. Isnt this what coaching is all about? “Without vision,” the scripture says, “a people perish.” Your written philosophy is your vision.
There are 2 errors in writing a philosophy. First, trying to please others by saying everything. If you work for a corporation (or the government), you know what I am talking about. No one even reads their vision or mission statements, because they are full of words written by lawyers & public relations experts. The 2nd error to avoid is cutting & pasting someone else’s as your own. This is especially true if you are quoting from some famous coach. You cannot Google your way to authenticity. You cannot copy your way to originality. Instead, you must scratch & dig it out for yourself.
Here is my basketball coaching philosophy. I made this; it is original to me. My Basketball Philosophy is:
To teach life through the great game of basketball;
To train each player how to succeed at this, and the next, level of her basketball career, and;
To show all players how to play, and win, within the context of team.
My elements are life, the game, training to succeed individually, and showing how to win collectively.
I offer these tips to help you. Use no more than 3 bullet points; this will force the cream to the top of your thinking. Otherwise you will start to list things, and in the process go too far. Start with the really big picture, almost at God-level, then break it down from there. Include values at the individual and team levels; for basketball begins with a person, but is played as a team. Do not worry, you will not get it right the first time, even the first fifteen times! But keep working it over in your mind; say it aloud, even type it (my method). As you do so, it will emerge from the fog like a big ship. But here me: your philosophy must both be descriptive (defining how you see yourself now), and it must be prescriptive (meaning it must pull you to get even better–in your practice planning, in your selection of offensive & defensive schemes, in your hiring of assistants, and in your tryout of players.
With a good coaching philosophy, you, too, will be ready for the D-Day of this year’s basketball season.
MY FREE OFFER (I am serious) is to help you craft your coaching philosophy. If you want to share your philosophy ideas with me, send me an email. I will give you my honest feedback, for free. I love learning from, and sharing ideas with, fellow-coaches.
Terry Boesch is a teacher in Martinsville, IN (home of John Wooden), and also coaches girls basketball.
Email me at email@example.com and I will have Terry Take a look at it…
Block out the Block-out (#3 thing I no longer teach on Defense)
Tom Izzo gets the credit, but I thought of it first! (Just kidding). I did realize this point on my own as a coach, however, and only later learned Izzo agrees with me 🙂
Izzo deserves credit for his courage, for he challenged the Big 10 Creed that when rebounding a player must first Find his (or, a) player, Spin around, Put his butt into gut, Spread his arms & legs out (wide), Lean back into his man, Hold him there for, say, 2 seconds, and THEN go get the ball.
How many years have we seen coaches teach this same thing to players? Answer: Too long. Truthfully, it doesnt work, at least not for anyone outside the paint.
The only thing that matters in rebounding is getting the ball. Anything more is just a dance. What does matter is what I outline below, which is what I now teach regarding How to Rebound. First, though, some background.
Recently I happened to be watching another coach practice with his team. Dutifully, they did the 3-Man Box-out Rebounding Drill. But this time I saw what was actually happening each time the coach shot the ball. When his shot went off, his players looked AWAY from the ball, to find a person to go try to box out. They ran AWAY from the basketball to go get that person. Then when they got to where that player was, they tried to turn around to locate them with their butts. But by then that offense player (who was facing the basket, and watching the ball the whole time), easily got around the spinning rebounder. In 80% of time the boxer-outer rebounder never even made contact with the moving, reacting offense player. No contact! Instead, just wasted effort, and an unsuccessful solo dance.
I have since noticed this same phenomenon at other practices (disclaimer, including at my own!)
This is what I now teach on the 4 Steps to Get a Rebound:
First, ASSUME every shot is going to miss (this may sound obviously, but most of our players assume every shot is going to be made–which is why 90% stand there watching the shot floating in the air toward the basket, and dont move). They assume the ball will go in; a good rebounder knows it will not.
Second, ANTICIPATE where the missed ball is going to bounce after it hits off the rim or backboard. And while anticipating, take your first step in that direction. Go when no one knows where, not after it is obvious. Let me ask you as a coach, isnt rebounding more about positioning than player size? Will not the smallest, slowest player on the floor get the rebound if he is in the right place, than a taller guy who is out of place and gazing flat-footed?
The truth is, most players stand where they are and hope the ball bounces to them. Almost none move. The next time you are at a practice note how many stand where they are when the shot is taken, and dont move more than 4 inches in any direction. Instead, they freeze & gaze.
Third, POSITION yourself between the ricocheting ball and ANY other player who may be standing in that same area on the court (even if it is your own teammate). As coach, I am okay with one of my players getting in front of another of our players, to grab the rebound. The point is to get the rebound; it doesnt matter to me who on our team gets it.
Fourth, JUMP to meet the ball at the highest point in the air. Again, this sounds obvious. Yet it is surprising how many players only partially jump, if at all; and, instead, they assume the ball will come to them, so they wait for it.
One of my original observations about basketball is this: The first-mover wins the play. And, rebounding is all about who moves first, to the right place, and there jumps first & highest.
Watch your players–are they dancing, or actually getting the ball?
Things I Don’t Coach Anymore (Stop the Slide)
Let me ask you a question as fellow-coach: How do we think our defense player is going to move as fast sliding sideways, as his approaching dribbling offense player is going to move sprinting toward him?
I have watched 100+ coaches teach players to shuffle side-to-side on defense. That this is somehow going to “close the door” to the basket for a penetrating offense player on the dribble. I confess, for 25-years I repeated this same mantra to my players. But why? Because I assumed every coach had to say it this way. Not a good reason.
This is now the second thing I no longer teach on Defense–to shuffle-step left and right to stop an offense player from penetrating the ball. To be sure, we should teach our defense player to position his legs wide, and square, in front of the offense player, on the hope this deters him from going around us. But after that, then what? Our human bodies are MADE to sprint forward, not to slide to the side.
Two seasons ago I began to de-emphasize shuffling, and to teach instead an inside-full leg step around method to get in front of an offense player who has gotten around us. It is difficult to explain in words, but easier to see demonstrated on the court. After a couple tries, most players get it, though still some want to revert to their old coaching, and slide.
I call it the Step-Around move.
The player on defense, if beaten to the outside, takes a full step with his inside leg in the direction of the offense player. At the same time he swings his hip and upper body around, planting that foot straight behind him in the direction where the offense player is moving, i.e., toward the basket. Then when he takes his next step, and lands it too on the floor behind him, he immediately pivots on that foot toward the offense player. This results in his body being in a solid defense position between the offense player and the basket. It also happens so quick that I have seen a number of offense players take a charge running into our defensive player.
If the offense player goes to our right, we step around with our left leg; if he goes to our left, we step around with our inside leg. Give it a try, see what you think.
P.S. In this photograph I include, you can tell the green defense player is beaten. She tried to slide her right foot over to get in front of the offense player; it did not work. So now the green player is totally beaten, with no ability to recover.
Terry Boesch is a teacher in Martinsville, IN (home of John Wooden), and also coaches girls basketball. Feel free to email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call/text at 317-643-6042
Coaching is a learning profession. The coach who humbles himself to learn, will grow. The one who fossilizes himself around fixed points, especially of his own imagination, will not.
Here is 1 thing I no longer teach on basketball defense. First, let me say, growing up in Indiana I thought this rule was inviolable, like the 11th Commandment in the Bible. I share this with you, to ask you to think about it yourself (if you still teach this?). Also, to ask you to share something on defense that you no longer teach as a basketball coach. I almost feel like I need to apologize to Coach Bob Knight for saying this,..
Here it is. I no longer teach “Denial” of the pass to the player one-pass away from the player with the ball. I think it fair to say that every coach in America has told his players on defense, I know I have, many times, when coaching the Defense Shell Drill, “WE must do 3 things: We must Stop Penetration, We must Deny the Pass to the player one-pass away, and We must play Helpside Defense.” To paraphrase Meatloaf, “2 outta 3 aint bad,” for the first and last points are true. But the second? I dont think so. Here is why.
As a matter of logic we should never as coaches expect our players to do that which is impossible for them to do. Watch any basketball game, at any level, and you will see it is impossible to deny the pass from the player at top of key to either wing player of his choice, or vice versa. If they want to make the pass, they will make it, even if the player without the ball has to circle high above the 3-pt line to get it, or go way out on the wing for the catch. Truth is, that pass WILL be made 95% of the time. Thus it cannot be “denied.” We are creating frustration and unreasonable expectations in our players’ minds when we scream out to them, “Deny the pass!” when it simply cant be done. To deny means to prevent, stop and render impossible. It is impossible to stop the pass from being made.
More importantly, there are at least TEN (10) times where we WANT the other team to make the pass! In these instances, we should never deny it, but instead, ENCOURAGE it.
For example, we never want to deny passes that move the ball away from the basket; passes to players standing outside their shooting range; passes when the other team is inside the final 5 seconds of a shot clock; passes to the corner, where we can trap the player; passes East & West that accomplish nothing, and which dont hurt us; passes into the post where we can quickly double-team the post player from high and low (stripping the ball); passes from their best ballhandler to a lesser dribbler; passes from their best shooter to a weaker shooter; passes to a player with a low Free throw shooting % near the end of a half or game; passes to any player on the other team who is their #7-8-9-10 on the bench.
We should never Deny these passes–we should ENCOURAGE them. Why?
This is why now I teach “Stop, Steal and Sag” on Defense. The Stop means to stop penetration, while the Sag means to play helpside defense (just like we were always taught). The Steal however means that I place my best, quickest defenders (with best judgment), out on the points of our defense at the high-elbow/3-pt line area on the court (where their best players are positioned). There I teach my players to lay back far enough away from their player to entice a pass (which also helps block penetration lanes), but close enough to steal the ball once it is in the air. I teach players to read the eyes, and body language, of passers. They never lie. I also reinforce to players that as coach I will never blame them if they go for the steal, but come up short. But I will hold them accountable if they go for the ball with less than full intentionality and speed. In other words, the worst thing a player can do is kinda, sorta go for a steal, while still trying to play it “safe.” It is all-in, or nothing. We spend time in practice on how to steal a ball, and how to deflect it. But I also teach, “If you are going for the steal, I better see you flying to get it, at all costs!. For there are no half-steals in basketball.”
Again, my apologies to Coach Knight. But I think “Deny the ball” is impossible to do, is unwise to do in at least 10 instances, and in approximately 4-6 times per game we can steal it–if we read the body language well and truly throw ourselves into it.
So, what do you no longer teach on Defense that you once did as coach?
“Terry Boesch is a teacher in Martinsville, IN (home of John Wooden), and also coaches girls basketball. Feel free to email him at email@example.com, or call/text at 317.643-6042