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The week leading up to tryouts make sure you are getting plenty of sleep. If you already to have a routine and set sleeping schedule get into one. Go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time. This will help with your energy and alertness level. You should always to hydrating well, but be diligent about it the day before and the day of tryouts. Bring a water bottle, empty milk jug or anything else with you to school to help keep you hydrated and also remind you to be hydrated. There are some neat apps out there that can help track your hydration level if you would like to track it. This will help your energy level throughout the day and into tryouts and also help with recovery. The saying, “you are what you eat” might be cliché but is still very true. Put the correct things into your body such as vegetables, fruits, protein and carbs. After tryouts get in plenty of fluids and quality food. Bananas are a great food to eat after games and practices. Sleeping, hydrating and eating well are all things that will help you perform at your peak and things you should continue to do throughout the season.
Regardless of your skill level coaches are always preaching to bring energy and effort. This is something that can help set you apart from others. Get excited for your teammates and cheer them on, be excited after making a nice play or receiving a nice pass from a teammate. Let your teammate know they made a nice play or thank them for the play. Finally, run to the huddle and run to drills or different stations. When it comes to effort it is about diving on the ball for loose balls, taking a charge, helping a teammate up and all those little things that add up.
Be a Leader
Everyone is nervous at tryouts and it can take a lot to put yourself out there in front of a group of coaches or peers, but to stand out you need to be a leader and take initiative at tryouts. Be the first volunteer to demonstrate a drill, ask questions if you don’t understand and overall just lead by example. Pick up basketballs, jerseys and anything else that might be in the way or need to be picked up. If you are playing 3 on 3, 5 on 5 or any team game, huddle your team up during breaks. Going back to energy and effort, just do all the little things that coaches ask for.
Eyes and ears on the coach when they are talking. This will show coaches you are listening to them and will help you out when you go back to a drill or game to remember what the coach asked or emphasized. Remembering a drill or what a coach emphasized is something simple, but something that players at all levels have forgotten or not paid attention to. Coaches are trying to help you improve and will try to help you improve on a skill, situation, or drill. Don’t take coaching negatively or personally. What I mean by that is often players are told to do something else and they see it as the coach doesn’t like them or they aren’t good or the coach is yelling at them and some players can shut down after this. Instead of shutting down, listen to what the coach is asking and do your best to correct what was asked.
Talk with the Coach
If your school/coach makes teams/cuts face to face then this is a valuable time to ask questions. You may be disappointed with being cut or with the team you made, but you may not know it now but this is a valuable lesson. Failing or disappointment is ok and is something that will happen throughout life. Being able to grow from this is what can make you a better person or player. Ask the coach what areas you can improve upon. If you made a team, ask the coach what role he/she sees who playing on this team so you have clear expectations. If your school/coach does not meet face to face to make teams or cuts then I would ask him/her if you could meet with them to discuss how you can improve and where they see your role on the team. If you are cut, but would like to still be apart of basketball and a team, then you could possibly discuss taking stats or doing film for the team with the coach.
Make the Best out of your Situation
No matter what team you make or if you do not make a team at all, make the best out of your situation. If you are a key contributor to your team then be a leader on and off the court and be a great teammate. If you are a player who made a team, but aren’t getting a lot of minutes then come to practice every day and improve. Work your tail off to be prepared for when your opportunity arises. Be a great leader, teammate and bench player that keeps the energy up in practice and games. If you did not make the team and would still like to be a part of basketball there are still opportunities for you. One of them being a team manager to stay close to the game you love and continue to learn about the game. Other options are to find a playing opportunity outside of school whether it be AAU, YMCA or some other local organization. Many school districts also have intramurals that you can participate in as well. If you are serious about continuing to play, you must not take the year off and find ways to work out and find quality games.
Photo from Miami University Libraries
Scouting opponents is a important part to being prepared as a coach and to help prepare your team. A big part of opponent scout is scouting the opponents players and learning about them. Things to include about personnel are statistics, tendencies, strengths and weaknesses.
Statistic are easy to include into the scouting report and gives a quick overview of the player. Stats to include: Position, Height, PPG, FGM/FGA, FG%, 3PM/3PA, 3P%, FTA/FTM, FT%, RPG, APG, BPG, SPG. You can keep the format uniform for all players or vary it for each player or just a few who may stand out in a few categories that majority do not. An example of adding a statistic that a player may stand out in would be offensive rebounds per game or steals per game.
Tendencies/Type of player
I think tendencies are the most important part of opponent player scouting because it helps players know and understand how to defend a player. A tendency might be a player favors his/her left shoulder in the post or a player prefers to drive right and pull up or pass going to their left or a player prefers to face up and shot fake in the mid post. Some coaches like to label players based on there tendencies and strengths to give a quick overview of the player. By the player it may say driver/slasher, shooter, 50/50 (a player who can drive and shoot), or post.
Strengths help give greater detail to who the player is. It will help your players know what to expect when they are guarding a specific player. Examples of strengths are good ball handler, athletic guard, great offensive rebounder, really aggressive/active in passing lanes, really good/quick pull up jumper. Some coaches do not like to include weaknesses in scouting reports for various reasons, but if the weaknesses are obvious I like to include them. Examples of weakness are: weaker going over right shoulder in post, not a three point threat, not a great ball handler, etc.
This part of the scouting report gives your players a picture of type of players they will be going against and defending in the upcoming game. Give detail, but keep it brief and simple enough for your players to understand. All of your players should read through and know all of the players in the scouting report because they might defend them in the game or get switched onto a different player.
Visualization in sports and athletic performance has become more common over the last several decades. Teams and players have been using it to help clear their minds, think positively, review the game and improve performance. Athletes such as Carli Lloyd and Lindsey Vonn, actor Will Smith and even Oprah Winfrey have been known to use visualization help their mind and performance. Visualization can help players, coaches and teams overcome challenges and achieve new heights.
Benefits of Visualization
Players and coaches have all experienced feelings of nervousness. Whether a person gets nervous to perform well, a big game, a new situation or anything else that may come up, these are all natural reactions. At times people can become overwhelmed and these nerves can negatively affect performance. Visualization and breathing techniques can help overcome these nerves and fears by calming and centering oneself.
Too often we fill ourselves with negative thoughts or doubts about being able to perform well or be successful. Negative talk is a detriment to performance, and too many players or coaches allow this to happen. Being positive and learning how to control your own thoughts is a skill that can be learned and one that can be improved upon by most people. Learn to remember positive plays or positive thoughts. When negative thoughts or plays come up, you must work to bring the mind back to being positive.
Visualization can help remember plays, games, feelings and emotions of positive outcomes. This can help motivate and encourage a player to perform. This also goes back to positive thoughts and the impact that positive thoughts can have on a person, and the pump up effect it can have when thinking back to when a player played well. Obviously, all players have a role on a team and all roles are different. A role may be to score, rebound or defend - all of these roles are important and one is not more important than the other. All players must believe their ability to play their role, and being aware of these emotions can help get a player gain the confidence to do so.
As coaches, we tell players to start getting mentally prepared, but do all players know exactly how to do this before a game? We often want players to prepare for the game when they get on the bus or once they arrive at the gym. Visualization as a team helps prepare the team for competition, but also teaches players how to mentally prepare themselves for competition, tests, interviews and anything else that life may throw their way.
Depending on your team, players can be weary of visualization if it is something they have never been asked to do before. This is why it is important to explain to players the reason behind visualization and how it will benefit them individually, and help the team collectively. Explaining the why will open players up to the idea of this concept.
After explaining the why, practice visualization with your players. Do it before practice a couple times before attempting to incorporate it before a game. After the players become comfortable with it, it can be up to the coach how often he/she would like to employ visualization. With most teams I have worked with or seen use it, visualization is implemented before games.
Examples to Elicit Visualization
Laying with Legs Up
Something I have done since high school, as my coaches had us do it for football and basketball, was the legs up the wall pose while using visualization. If you do not know the pose, see the image above - it is exactly what it sounds like. Laying with your back on the ground and your legs on the wall, as if in an L position. There are many athletic benefits to this position (improves circulation, recovers swollen/cramped legs and feet, stretches hamstrings and back, and relieves lower back tension), but also aids in relaxation and mindfulness as well. Give it a try during your next visualization exercise.
Traditional player development consists of breaking up players into guards and bigs, working specifically on post work for bigs and outside work for guards. With basketball becoming more and more versatile and positionless, it’s critical that players be trained in all skills and not boxed into a single position based on their size or current skillset. It can be beneficial to structure player development together to create more well-rounded players. Of course, bigs who are able to shoot creates many advantages, but guards who have the ability to post up can create just as many benefits for a team. When looking at versatile posts and wings in the NBA, people point to players like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Draymond Green, and others. When thinking of versatile guards who can handle, shoot, pass and post up, players like Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Marcus Smart, Kyrie Irving and Shaun Livingston are often thought of. Let’s discuss two philosophies for designing a player development program that trains bigs and guards together.
The holistic approach looks to work on the whole player from ball handling, passing, shooting, post ups and other parts that go into making a complete player who is prepared for every phase of the game. Players are not separated by position – they work together on the same skills for that day. In practice this may be 10 minutes of post work and 10 minutes of attacking on the catch, or 10 minutes of ball screen work and 10 minutes of off ball screen work. During these drills, all players are practicing posting up, passing into the post, setting off ball screens and anything else that you may be working on. This gives all players the opportunity to work on skills they will use in games and not just work on skills based on position. There are multiple benefits to this type of approach, the obvious one being creating more versatile players whose game will expand. Another benefit is to have an appreciation for each position or spot in your offense. Players will see that each spot has its own benefits and challenges.
Example: Holistic Approach
Units can be used in two ways: a holistic approach, or a traditional bigs and guards approach. This approach involves creating units of three players that train together, working on specific actions within an offense from a player development side. The unit can be formed of one big and two guards, or two bigs and one guard – or whatever works for your team. If working on ball screens on a specific day, then a player would be a screener, ball handler and passer. To have a holistic approach to units, all three players would rotate to each spot. To take a more traditional approach, put players in spots where their position typically plays. Having guards and posts work together during player development as a connected unit is more game-like and translates to better execution to the court. Isolating the two groups on opposite ends of the court during training misses the opportunity to build this chemistry, timing and feel for each other that is so crucial during actual games.
Example: Units Approach
It is incredibly important to teach and develop a well rounded skillset to youth players because no one knows what position a player will eventually end up at. The way the game is evolving, traditional positions are not as important as being versatile in as teams are playing non-traditional lineups more often. Approaching youth player development from a holistic standpoint will benefit the player and the program in the long run by producing versatile players who are confident to dribble, shoot, pass and finish with skill. Youth programs are not the only age group that can benefit from working on skills together – it is valuable for high school, college and professional teams as well. Many skills in basketball transfer from the post to the outside and vice versa: footwork, passing, ball handling and finishing are all necessary no matter what part of the court a player finds themselves in. The more versatile and “positionless” an athlete is, the greater chance for individual, and thus, team, success.
Film can be a great tool for coaches to help players learn concepts, philosophies, decisions as well as learning about opponents. Being effective and ensuring the film session is transferring to improved play can be a challenge. Here are 7 ways to create a more effective film session:
1. Keep sessions brief
I have been in film sessions that have drug on for 45-60 minutes and when I look around I see players unengaged and no longer paying attention. That is why I think keeping sessions brief and specific is so important. Try to keep sessions in the 10-20 minute range and keep it specific to 2-4 things you really want to drive home to your players.
2. Good and Bad
Keep a balance between showing good and bad clips. It can be difficult for players to watch themselves on film and many players can put themselves down or shut down completely if film is entirely a grill session. Have 5 good clips and 5 poor clips of each specific thing you would like to drive home.
3. Ask Questions
Don’t give your players all of the answers or tell them what they are seeing. Ask players questions such as: What did you see during this play? How was the defense playing a specific offensive action? What could you have done differently? What was the correct play/read? When the defense is playing us this way what do we want to do? What are our options?
4. Allow Players to Ask Questions
A lot of times we don’t give players the time or allow them a chance to ask questions. Players must be comfortable enough to speak up during film sessions when they need clarification or have questions. Allowing players to ask questions will help individual player understanding and overall team understanding. A lot of times this can create dialog and other players can answer the question.
5. College/Pro Example
When introducing a new concept to your team or one they are struggling with it can be helpful to show them clips of college or pro teams using the concept. This can increase engagement and attention when watching film from some of the best players in the world. There are plenty of clips and videos on YouTube that you can easily pull up if you do not want to create your own.
Give players a notebook for the season. Have them take notes during film. You can structure how players take notes or give them the freedom to be creative with note taking.
7. Hit the Court
After showing specific video clips on what you are trying to improve and what you want to do, immediately hit the court to work on what was shown and discussed. It can help to go over the concepts and ideas on the court as they are fresh in the players’ minds.
Attached are notes on shooting from The BBall Breakdown Podcast with Coach Ryan Pannone. Some really great nuggets and stats on shooting. I really enjoyed how Ryan backed up his philosophies with stats. The episode is from December 7, 2016. Some of my favorite stats from the episode are:
The Dr. Dish Shooting machine is a great tool for any program to have and one that has several uses. I have compiled a list of game based shooting games to incorporate with your team. Many of the drills start without a defender and progress to having a defender so the shooter has to make a decision whether to pass or shoot. Check out the Dr. Dish Game Based Shooting Playbook below and let me know if you have any others to add.
Point systems are used in our everyday lives and even more so in the lives of players. Point systems are used with driver licenses, grading, video games, apps and much more that players see and use every single day. As coaches, we can use point systems to help create player behavior, habits and team philosophies. Listed below are some of the ways I have used or have seen point systems.
Point systems for areas on the floor:
This is a way to emphasize actions, paint touches, rotations while on offense. Many coaches have there own philosophy when it comes to seeing things before a team shoots the ball. It may be getting 2 reversals in before a shot or getting a paint touch before a shot. Whatever your philosophy is, you can add point values to it to increase the chance your team will execute it. I like to add point values while playing 3v3, 4v5, or 5v5 and it is added to the teams total score (ex. if a team scores on a layup and gets a paint touch then there score would be 3) Here are some examples of using point systems for areas on the floor:
Post touch= +2
Paint touch = +1
Ball reversal= +1
2 Ball reversals= +1
Point systems for shot selection:
We often hear coaches and fans complain about a player’s shots selection. On most teams, every player may have a different what is considered good shot and bad shot. Some players are great 3 point shooters and some aren’t. Some may have a really good pull up and others may not be able to shoot off of the dribble. As coaches, we also have our own philosophies on what kinds of shots we want our team getting. Some coaches may be a 3 and paint, while others may emphasize paint and mid range. It can be hard getting players to understand what is a good shot and poor shot. Point values can help players better understand what type of shot the team wants and what type of shot they want. Below is an example of a shot selection point system:
Layup= 3 points
Catch and shoot= 2 points (This can be a 3 pointer or within a players range)
Pull up or contested shot= 1
Points systems for rebounding:
Rebounding can be something coaches spend a lot of time on and have specific drills for. I like to emphasize rebounding in all of our drills and games. A simple way to emphasize rebounding is to give rebounds value. Adding points to offensive or defensive rebounds to emphasize the habit. Below are some examples of point values to rebounding:
Offensive rebound= 2
Defensive rebound= 1
Offensive rebound= 1
Defensive rebound= 2
Points systems for negative outcomes:
Instead of always adding points to emphasize habits, you can subtract points from a team for something negative the team did or didn’t do. Examples are turnovers, offensive rebound given up, not running back on defense, arguing with official, not communicating, etc. Examples:
Every turnover= -1
Offensive rebound given up= -1
Point systems can be implemented into any part of your practice that you wish and areas you want to emphasize. I would suggest keeping the point systems simple and not emphasizing too many things all at once because it can get difficult for players, coaches or managers to keep track of scores. Be clear on your explanation of point values so players know what to keep track of and do not have false scores. Point systems can also help keep drills and games competitive.
Thanks for reading! If you have and comments or questions please feel free to ask or comment.
Written by Jordan Petersen