Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Ghost of System Past

I've been doing this since 1977 (coaching, not writing blogs), but fortunately about seven Christmas Eves ago in my pre-System days, I was visited by some Spirits who warned me to "Snap out of it!"  Or words to that effect. 

What did I need to "snap out of?"  Well, micromanaging my team, for one thing. Running Shell Drill every day, for another.  Oh, and last but not least, teaching way too many plays.  But even now I haven't totally learned my lesson, and (to paraphrase Marley's ghost) "it's during this festive time of year that I suffer most," because it's during the preseason that I am most tempted to overcoach, particularly during a preseason as long as this one! 

We've finally entered the last week of preseason practices and are looking forward to our home tournament opener this coming weekend.  I'm glad that we've had time to put in the things we need for our first game, given that we are starting from scratch, but there's no doubt in my mind that with a veteran System team, five weeks of preseason would be way too long!  I've heard Coach Arseneault mention on a few occasions that Grinnell's fall break comes in mid-October, and rather than keep his players around for that whole time, he prefers to just send them home.  Now I understand why.  With DIII practices beginning on October 15, and the first games played on the weekend before Thanksgiving, it's tough (no, make that impossible) to maintain an edge for that length of time!

That's certainly one of the issues many System newcomers have to come to grips with: avoiding the temptation to put in too much, just because you have the time to do so.  This stuff isn't rocket science.  Yes, there are some things to learn, and yes, players can improve their skills throughout the preseason practices.  But honestly, there's no reason a high school team with just two weeks of practice couldn't put a decent System product on the floor right away. 

One of the reasons this is true is that the System is not "timing" oriented.  A structured offense tends to rely on precision (remember "chess basketball?"), but System ball is more about concepts and effort. 

A second reason is that if you keep it simple (as you should), there's not as much to learn as you might think!  But my problem has always been that I do like to teach a variety of dead ball plays, and that's what eats up your practice time.  I've always admired Gary Smith's approach at Redlands:  he didn't teach any deadball plays, but instead just used specific called options within the offense.  Example:  Just call "Trail" as a play out of your normal offense.  Or call "Away" and have the trail (5) get involved in the triple screen for the preferred shooter. His "OB-underneath" was really just one play from which players could freelance however they wanted.

I love that approach, and someday maybe I'll get over my tendency to control those deadball situations by creating multiple plays. Someday I'll learn to KISS.  Oh, wait, I retired (or tried to), so my "someday's" are limited! Time is running out on my efforts to correct my bad System habits. 

But it's not too late for you, so remember what Marley's ghost said to Mr. Scrooge in  A Christmas Carol:

"Hear me, my time is nearly gone! I come tonight to warn you that you have yet a chance and hope of escaping my fate."   And the warning is...

KEEP IT SIMPLE, STUPID!  Or else I'm going to send 3 Spirits to visit you.

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