I finally received the long-awaited Rain: A Workbook for Players who Really Want to Score Points by Lindell Singleton. For such a small book, there are so many important and interesting points that I did not know where to start. However, since this is a site for coaches and their development, I focused on a chapter (passage) titled “Learning vs. Unlearning (A Paradigm Shift).”
First, Singleton defines bad basketball:
- Poor decision-making
- Poor (or absent) footwork
- L.O.E. – Lack of Effort
He starts the chapter about women’s college basketball, but these rules apply to all basketball. He also adds three universal truths:
- Players want to be trained
- Parents want their kids to be trained
- Coaches crave kids who can play
Again, these are fairly common sense, and most would agree without hesitation. Therefore, if players, parents and coaches want these things, and there are an abundance of resources, why is there such bad basketball?
From a coaching perspective, how can a coach eliminate the three features of bad basketball? How does a coach teach decision-making? Many coaches and the media believe that decision-making is an innate skill – either you make good decisions with or without the ball or you don’t. How do you teach footwork? More to the point, what is footwork as it relates to basketball? Finally, how does a coach ensure that his players play with full effort?
Singleton points out that most basketball is taught “in a linear progression – with clean, Aristotelian logic.” However, he says, “basketball is a game dripping with paradoxes (which firmly collides with Aristotelian logic). I adopted a more GESTALT method of teaching.”
I have made a similar, though less articulate point: most coaches teach in black and white, while basketball is played in multiple shades of grey. If there is always a black or white solution to a situation, what if it does not work?
For instance, take a simple 2v1 fast break. Most players attack as if there is one solution: pass to your teammate. The only question is when to pass, and some seem to have a singular solution: at the free throw line. However, what if the defender defends the pass? There are times when a player should finish and times when the player should pass. There is no black and white solution.
Teaching the black and white solutions makes teaching and accountability easier. However, does it improve performance? I spent the season trying to empower my players to make decisions. I wanted them to see the game in shades of grey. There was rarely a right or wrong solution. However, if the decision turned into a turnover or missed shot, then we evaluated it – was it poor execution or a poor decision?
When coaches teach based strictly on outcomes, we miss the difference. If I attack 2v1, shoot the lay-up and miss, and the coach criticizes the play, I am more likely to pass next time. However, what if shooting was the right decision? What if I chose the wrong shot (lay-up rather than a two-foot lay-up)? What if I simply missed a shot that I should make? My reaction should not cause me to pass next time, just because I missed the lay-up. Instead, given the same circumstances, I should shoot again. However, often that is not how things are taught. If A happened (missed shot), it is because of B (should have passed). This is a rigid way of thinking, and teaching, and ineffective for a game like basketball.
If we agree that players and parents want coaching, and coaches want players who can play, where is the breakdown? Why is there a lack of effort?
Somewhere, there is a disconnect between coach and player. Maybe the player wants to learn something, and the coach focuses on something else. Maybe the player is comfortable with one approach, but the coach has a different approach. Maybe the coach teaches to one learning style, but the player has a different learning style.
There are numerous possibilities. However, from a coaching perspective, the coach must step back and see his responsibility in the breakdown. What can he do differently? What type of teaching do the players need? Where is the discord? Do the players understand the objectives? Do I focus too much on the details and not enough on the big picture? Do I focus too much on the big picture and not enough on the details? Do I focus too much on winning or results and not enough on the process? Do the players feel like practice translates to games or is practice just busywork?
How can I as a coach ensure that the players maintain their desire to be trained rather than crushing this desire? While maintaining their desire, how can I emphasize good decision-making, proper footwork and effort?
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By Brian McCormick
Author, Cross Over: The New Model of Youth Basketball Development and Developing Basketball Intelligence
Director of Coaching, Playmakers Basketball Development League