Tuesday, November 20, 2012

"But I TOLD them!"

As you can imagine, Michelle and I weren't too happy with our 70 point outburst on Saturday.  Yesterday morning we watched the video and were able to determine after just a few minutes that the players have reached a "decision point."  The initial enthusiasm and newness of playing System Ball has worn off, and they are realizing, "Hey, this is really hard!"

We see them reverting to comfortable old habits:  running back to defend the basket after a missed shot, turning down open three-point looks, etc.  In short, they are playing it safe.

I remember when I taught high school that a common topic of discussion in the teachers' lounge was how the students just weren't mastering the material.  "I told them that ____ was going to be on the test and they still missed it!"  Same thing with our players.   We told them and told them to trap the missed shot, yet the only thing the opposing rebounder saw of us on Saturday was the backs of our jerseys.  And we saw more jogging out of our players on the fast break than the warmup at a cross-country meet.

We told them.  Yes, but we didn't teach them.  As John Wooden was fond of saying, "You haven't taught until they have learned."  But how do you teach so they DO learn?

Well, the mistake I've been making (MY fault, not Michelles!) was assuming that we could do a lot of breakdown drills with this team before they'd really mastered the pace, before the tempo was "hardwired" into their nervous systems.  Before running, trapping, and shooting quick was a HABITToo many drills, too few live 5/0 and 5/5 teaching situations. 

Maybe I could drill more with my veteran System teams at ONU.  But this team needs to get those habits down first, and there's no better way to do that, in my opinion, than creating 5/5 situations and just working on them for 20-30 minutes until you start to get what you want!  One Cycle, full bore, stop, correct and repeat.  That's it.

Here was our plan:
25 minutes- Warmups and 100 Threes
15 minutes- 5/0 Transition after a Rebound: sprint the floor, score and press
30 minutes- 5/5 Blockout and Break, then press on the made OR missed shot

Pretty simple, huh?  It was amazing that for the first 5 minutes they almost refused to sprint the floor.  For the first five minutes they almost refused to trap the ball following a missed shot.  Whistle blows... "Everybody back!  Do it again!"  over and over.  Eventually it began to dawn on them, "Hmm, they really do mean it."

Now don't get me wrong.  We have really good kids.  Really coachable kids.  But they had arrived  at their Moment of Truth:  "Are we going to be a System Team, or aren't we?"  and it was just easier for them to follow the path of least resistance, the comfortable, familiar approach. 

It's at times like this that you realize why they pay you the Big Bucks:  because you are the leader.  Once your team says, "Yeah Coach, we wanna run the System!" then you have to do what it takes to help them succeed.  From that point on, it ain't a democracy any more.  You are the leader, so LEAD!

You want to know why so few coaches run the System?  Because when players reach this point, it's hard to push them past it, and the coach begins to say, "I'm not sure this will work... maybe next year." 

This won't be the last time we struggle this season, but it is a stepping stone in our development.  We'll have our ups and downs, but if we coaches can stay focused on the simple things (Run hard! Trap hard! Rebound hard!), and if we can keep after them until the kids get it, we have a chance to help this team eventually succeed.  

So when your team hits the wall, figure out how to get them to DO what they are supposed to do. Remember, you haven't taught them until they have learned... and they won't learn by just being told. 

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