Last Wednesday, my professor in my Motivation Theory course asked me why my players play basketball. I did not have a definitive answer. They are fairly typical freshmen, trying to fit in at a new school, make friends, and expend energy. I don’t know that any of the guys are Basketball Players. I think that they like basketball and like being on a team and like walking around school in their basketball gear.
Thursday, midway through practice, I asked the team if they really love playing basketball. I did not really see it. However, every player said yes. At the end of practice, I asked the team if they wanted to practice on Friday and Saturday or on one day or the other. The unanimous decision was that 10:00AM was too early, and they only wanted to practice on Friday.
Monday started with a disappointing loss this week. After the game, I got on the guys. We need more intensity and concentration, and it starts in practice. I reminded them that they said that they love to play basketball, but an hour later begged off of a Saturday morning practice. I told them that no longer was I guaranteeing everyone playing time. I don’t want to feel compelled to play a player who looks out of it or who doesn’t play hard during the game. We have one tournament left in the season, and I told them that they had three practices to earn the playing time. I told them that I would re-start the practice scoring system, so everyone had a chance to earn the opportunity to start.
The lecture did not have much effect. Yesterday, I stayed after practice. All the other teams were away, so we had the gym to ourselves and finished at 4:30. I left out the balls and shot for a while. One player shot for 5-10 minutes. Everyone else changed his shoes quickly and took off. I made 56/60 from the free-throw line and left, and guys were still outside waiting for their rides.
The players listen and are respectful; however, they don’t know what it takes to be successful. Today, we started practice with a drill called “20-minute Shooting” from 180 Shooter. When I watched a college team do the drill, players hit over 100 3s. My high scorer was 38. I don’t expect a high-school freshman to equal a D1 player in terms of shooting or effort; however, I explained the difference to the team to illustrate where they have to get to if their goals include playing at a higher level.
We are stuck in our comfort zone. We do what we are comfortable doing, at a pace with which they are comfortable playing. With a team full of players playing in their comfort zone, we don’t have anyone to push the others to go faster or to play harder. We start slowly in games because we have to adjust to the faster pace that other teams play, from getting the ball up the court to making sharper cuts, etc.
I am frustrated with myself this season because I have been unable to get the players to move beyond their comfort levels. I see a couple players who show demonstrated improvement, but overall, we as a group have not moved beyond our comfort zones with enough regularity to improve greatly. All the small-sided games, all the competitive cauldron ideas, all my talk of comfort zones has not registered or changed behaviors. I continually changed drills and changed approaches, but the changes typically lasted for one day.
If I started the season now, I would be harder on the guys from the first day. I would do more shooting early in the season. I would play more cut throat and less 5v5. I would spend more time teaching the minor details like bench decorum, pointing to the passer, thanking the screener, etc. I would be tougher on the team when we don’t talk on defense. I think that I felt some of these things would improve as the season continued, as players improved, as players became friends, etc. However, I should have been more proactive from day one.
By Brian McCormick
Author, Cross Over: The New Model of Youth Basketball Development
Director of Coaching, Playmakers Basketball Development League