Friday, May 15, 2009

Simplicity with Detail

Teaching Concepts not Patterns
Today I will be discussing the importance of teaching your players concepts on offense. First, the why always needs to be answered? Why teach you players concepts instead of a set pattern?
Before answering this question two things must be identified:

#1. The Who (You have)
#2 The What (You do)

In Jim Collins book "Good to Great" the single most important thing is the who. "The who he states is more important than the what". In supporting this statement, Collins adds "you must also have the right people in the right seats". Much of your offensive and defensive philosophy will come from what you have to work with. Building requires having the right materials.
Many high school coaches are not fortunate to have the recruiting opportunities and scholarship advantages as college four-year programs. The lack of selecting your personnel, coaches use more structure "patterns" to guide them in their offensive planning. This gives them the best opportunity to win with who they have. Take example the Flex offense. The Flex is a five man passing game involving screening, cutting, and ball movement. Overtime it becomes a very structured and patterned oriented offense. One common entry starts with a guard-to-guard pass. After the pass is made a baseline cut is made by the weak side forward. The baseline screener positioned who set the back screen at the low post will then receive a down screen by the guard up top. The sequence is then performed again (flex pick, down screen, flex pick, down screen). There are various counters depending on how the defense reacts.
As my coaching knowledge developed I became a firm believer in taking certain concepts such as a flex screen and incorporating it with additional concepts I believed were difficult to defend. For example, three things that are most difficult to defend:

# 1. Dribble Penetration
# 2. On-ball Screens
# 3. Post or Elbow Entries

Identifying what is most difficult to defend, I like using these concepts on the offensive end to support my offensive philosophy. In addition there are certain things I value in an offense:

#1. Ball Movement - 2 reversals shifts the defense side to side.
#2. Player Movement – cutting, dribble penetration, inside/out attack.
#3. Shot Selection- right person taking the right shot at the right time.

Teach your players concepts not one repetitive pattern on offense. I'm a firm believer if you teach your players concepts and let them problem solve, your players will be more successful in the future. A few other reasons to teach conceptual ideas:

1. Less teaching time. For example, there are 3 different ways on reading screens (curl, fade, coming straight up). This can take much of your practice time if it becomes a staple on offense.
2. Let your player’s problem solve vs. you solving from them.
3. Harder to scout. There are not exact patterns each time, just concepts.
4. Unpredictable.
5. Players can utilize their individual strengths within your blueprint of concepts. Best of both worlds.

Coach Newell at his "Big Man Camp" teaches post players perimeter moves on the first day of camp. The question is why? Placing post players on the perimeter forces them out of necessity to use more skill sets. With the basic fundamentals and proper footwork, they become skilled and comfortable on the perimeter. Who wouldn’t want a post player on the perimeter if he could give your team an advantage by shooting the ball? Now, there is a fine line with how much time and freedom you will give them on the perimeter, but the point is to skill each player regardless of size or quickness so they are never under prepared in a game situation.
As season approaches, keep your players in more specific areas where they will be in a game. For example, our bigs attack from the low post, short corner and elbow areas. We consider the elbow area a post touch and is a great area to attack and operate from. If a player can make 8/10 from 3 he has the option to pick and pop off the on-ball concept. My point is teach your players as many skill sets as possible and put them in the best areas through your offensive concepts. No matter what defensive or pressure they face, they will have the skill set to handle the situation.
Teaching your players as many skills as possible is essential in player development. If you always teach your players to attack a certain way, for example your players are right foot dominant, what happens when a team forces you left. If you teach your players ambedexitry, using both pivot feet, they are equipped with more skills to combat the defense. If opposing teams notice this they may be exposing a weakness that will provide problems game time. We’ve found 75% of teams in our conference are right hand dominant. Therefore, we make each player go left. This is a slight advantage but can be a big advantage come game time.
If your job is to prepare your team at all cost, why are you dictating what they are doing verses teaching them skills and concepts then letting them problem solve. One argument as a coach is "I want to control what shot, where, and how it is coming from every possession". This is a valid point but bottom line this game is about players, not the coaching. Your players are making the reads and at the end of the day win you the ball games. You are not predicting what your players will do; you are giving them concepts and letting them play to their individual strengths. Now your players are thinking versus you having to micromanage them. Ultimately, your players win you games. I’ve once heard “It's not about the X's and O's, it the Jimmy and Joe's”.
Players want to play however they don't have the information and understanding of how to play successful basketball. By teaching your players concepts (elbow action, rules of penetration, on-ball screens) and letting them use their individual strengths (penetration, quickness, shooting) with sound execution of the fundamentals (balance, footwork, maneuvering speed) you have recipe for success.As we all know as coaches, one the game starts, it has a mind of it's own.
The team that is best equipped with who they have and what they do (concepts or patterns) will be the victor.

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