One thing I know will keep me busy is an old habit that I've repeated after every season for 35 years, what the education professors call "reflective teaching." I cannot recommend this process highly enough, feeling that it has had more to do with whatever success I've enjoyed in coaching than any other single thing (except recruiting great players). It started for me back in 1978, when I bought a stenographer's notepad and for several weeks jotted down thoughts about the season past, and ideas for making things better in the future. Did the offense work? How about practice structure? Did I get the most out of our personnel? Etc, etc, etc.
The odd thing is that I've found this to be the most satisfying part of the entire year, this process of learning from the past and considering the future. Even after a third of a century, the game is still fresh and exciting, and I still take joy in contemplating how to be a better coach. Eventually, such contemplations led me to a small college in Iowa, and a thin little paperback called The Running Game: A Formula for Success, a book which changed my coaching life.
So what have I learned from this season, this novel experience of teaching the System from scratch? Here are a few random thoughts that are going into my notebook this spring:
- The System is, more than anything else, about effort. Offensive rebounding and forcing turnovers makes it work, and those "skills" are entirely effort based. If you can coach effort, you can coach the System.
- Grinnell's offense is not the only one that will work in the Grinnell System, but it does place an emphasis on roles more than any other. And the more players stay within their assigned roles, the better they will execute.
- Along those lines, an "equal opportunity" offense may seem good for team morale, but will lead to situations where kids try to do things they aren't suited for. So whatever offense you use, make sure players understand and accept their roles.
- The ultimate key to System success is what goes on in practice, and having a consistent general framework for practice keeps coaches organized and players improving.
- The practice framework I like the most right now is the following: PERIOD 1- SKILLS (4-line warmup and fundamentals, followed by a layup drill, a three-point shooting drill, and stretching); PERIOD 2- SKELETON (6 line shooting, or some version of 5/0 offense, or walking through defensive assignments 5/5. I'd also include breakdown drills in this period) PERIOD 3- SCRIMMAGE (Live 5/5 situations such as offense after a rebound, steal, score, or dead ball, or defense after a rebound, score, dead ball, or vs. a spread-delay game. Master these situations, and you master the System). And last but not least...
- If you want to win a popularity contest, don't coach the System.
This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell, my blessing season this in thee!
(Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 3)