Friday, February 1, 2013

Role Playing

To follow up on yesterday's musings about our offensive woes, it may come as a surprise to you that I am not an enthusiastic advocate of the Olivet offense.  Now don't get me wrong... I know and greatly admire it's inventor :-)  But the offense I developed at ONU was a result of trial and error to fit a particular situation and team, and although it has many strengths, I have always wrestled with the question, "If I love the Grinnell System so enthusiastically, why have I resisted buying into it's offensive approach?

The simple answer, or excuse, is that I coach women and have felt they could not a) understand the options of a complex screening game, and b) execute the passes even if they could read the options.

As for "a)" above, I'm not sure that this says so much about female players as it does about me.  Those of you who know me also know that I've gone back and forth about using Grinnell's offense because although I love the concept ("everyone screens for the best shooter"), I had a hard time explaining to my players, in concrete terms, how it should work.  Women athletes, in my experience, like things in black and white terms, and maybe that's why I'm a women's basketball coach...  I think that way too:  "Pass here, cut there."

As for "b)" I've come to believe that I'm simply wrong about this.  Grinnell averages 15 turnovers or less a game... my teams, using my supposedly "simple" offense, average about 21-22 over an eight year period.  Why is that?  As Hamlet famously said, "That is the question."

The reason Grinnell's offense averages fewer turnovers is that it is clearly an approach that emphasizes roles!  Shooters shoot, drivers drive, passers pass.  Who are the passers and drivers?  The point guard, 90% of the time.  My problem as a coach has always been that I want to believe "Every child player can succeed."  Sure they can, but not in the way you think.  They can succeed only if you put them in a role they can perform successfully.  To piggyback on my previous example, you don't cast Tom Cruise in the role of Hamlet, unless you are doing a comedy.

Think of it this way, using an extreme example:  What if you told your post players to bring the ball up the floor against the press, and your point guards to play the low post?  Do you know what the technical term for this approach is?  STUPID.  Tom Bradey doesn't play linebacker.  Shot putters don't run the 4x100 relay.  I know this is obvious stuff, but I've spent my entire career telling myself, "I can teach that kid how to handle and shoot and pass... I owe it to every kid to develop their skills."

Yes!  Totally true!  But that doesn't mean everyone should handle it (or shoot it) equally in a game.  And that's all Grinnell's offense is doing: making sure the point guard handles it most of the time, and the best shooters take the most threes.  I made a nice living with the Olivet offense, mostly because I was a decent recruiter and with our depth of talent could afford to use more of an "equal opportunity offense."   But frankly I'm tired of watching non-handlers traveling, kicking the ball off their feet, and having passes deflected or intercepted while trying to dribble into two defenders. 

I wish I was 30 years old and know what I know now.  The first thing I'd do would be to buy Walmart stock at $6 a share.  The second thing would be to learn Coach Arseneault's offensive philosophy inside and out, and perhaps finally grasp that it's not really that complicated: 

Give the ball to your best handler, and screen for your best shooters.  Then repeat 100 times per game.

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