Coach and players

Simplify the game: 5 steps to better coaching

I have been playing, coaching or just following basketball for more than 40 years. I have seen coaches and players come and go. Coaches such as John Wooden, Dean Smith, Bob Knight, Lute Olson, Jim Valvano, Henry Iba and too many more to mention have been crucial parts of the basketball scene over time. Styles and strategies have changed — even down to the length of uniform shorts!

In some ways I believe we have made things too complicated. My goal continues to be keeping things simple for the coach and player.

Here are five things that I believe every coach at any level can do to create a great experience:

  1. Don’t have too many plays. Basketball has become a game of “sets”. Players have little freedom to create plays. As coaches, we need to develop styles that teach players to play the game. Players should be taught spacing, flow and overall movement – not micromanaged on the court.
  2. Make sure you have a press offense that can be used in both full- and half-court situations. Don’t worry, I have one to share at a later date.
  3. Number your players. I believe it helps with teaching and creates a continuity during the games. I will spend more time on this later, but one example is to always have the same player take the ball out of bounds. If it is the “4” man, it is always the “4” man, regardless of who is playing that spot.
  4. Teach a secondary break. Every team should look to score off the break. However, what you do when you don’t make that basket is key. A secondary break becomes its own offense when done correctly.
  5. Teach an active zone defense. Many players and coaches believe the zone can not create turnovers. Hands up and feet moving in a zone will surprise the other team and create fast break opportunities. Playing man-to-man defense all the time is difficult at the middle school and rec league age. The offensive player has a distinct advantage and it is difficult to teach help defense at this level.

In short, simplify the game!

Coaches, players and parents will enjoy the basketball experience when we learn to make the first easy pass and simplify the game!