Practice What You Do Most

One of the things I love about this website is the attempt to “rattle the cage” and ask “why?”.  This website is a community of outside the box thinkers who do not accept, “it has always been done that way” as an answer to questions about coaching while keeping in mind that some methods are still around because they are truly time tested.  The joy of coaching is finding out what works for you and your program.

Recently, I have read a couple of articles from about various sports that recommend practicing what occurs most in games.  For example, in volleyball, every point starts with a serve.  If the serve makes it over the net, then a serve reception occurs, followed by a set and spike.  The pattern continues until the ball hits the floor.  Based on this thinking, serve reception is extremely important and every drill should start with a serve.

I began to think about basketball and what occurs most in basketball games.  Some articles I have read break the game into skills: ball-handling, passing and defense.  Other articles I have read break the game into various aspects: transition defense, handling pressure and inbounds.  Keeping in mind, it depends on the level you coach and the author of the article.

As a girls varsity basketball coach, for our team, handling pressure and transition defense are definitely priorities.  In our league, if you can’t break a press, it doesn’t matter what your man or zone offense is because you won’t get a chance to run them if you can’t get the ball past half court.  However, in the boys games I have seen, rarely do teams struggle the entire game with the press.  For example, in the championship games of the two highest classifications in Arizona, neither boys teams pressed.  However, in both girls games, one of the two teams pressed.  For those wondering, one pressing team won and the other pressing team lost.

After some thought, I wanted to add another way to break down the game.  Here are 4 things that I think happen on every play: 1) movement, 2) decision making, 3) contact, 4) communication.

  1. Movement – I’m not talking about cutting to the basket.  I’m talking about changing direction and changing speeds.  Studies have concluded that in basketball a change of direction happens every 2 seconds.  Rarely do players run in a straight line the entire length of the court.  In addition, the movement patterns can vary.  When a player takes a first step off the dribble, they are doing a lunge.  Their front leg may not be the desired 90 degree angle desired by strength coaches, but the movement is similar.  The lunge may also occur in numerous planes, not just straight.
  2. Decision MakingOffensively: Do I shoot or pass?  Who do I pass to? Do I cut? Where do I finish my cut?  Defensively: Do I help?  How close do I guard the offensive player?  Do I force the ball handler a specific direction?  There is no limit to the amount of decisions that are made on any play.
  3. Contact – I believe all good offensive players seek out contact to neutralize the defense.  As a defender off the ball, any cutter the to the ball should be met with contact.  In theory, as the ball or an offensive player gets closer to the rim, contact should increase.  Contact occurs or doesn’t occur on every play.
  4.  Communication – Communication is one thing that most coaches talk about.  However, is communication taught and emphasized?  If so, how is it emphasized?  Can the drill occur without communication taking place?  Communication occurs or doesn’t occur on every play.

By no means is the above list inclusive of every possibility of the four items that occur on each play.  However, my hope is the examples serve as a starting point.  I encourage you to create your own list of things that occur on every play.  Once the list is created, the next question is how do you teach and emphasize?

By Brian Hutchins
Campo Verde Head Girls Basketball Coach

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