Hey Everybody! This weeks post is about playing basketball on balance.......
I don’t know if it is just me, but it seems that more and more players are playing the game off balance every year. At all levels from mini through to university I am seeing players who do not know what it is, and more importantly what it feels like to be on balance. When I was coming up as a player I feel that the jump-stop was taught early and often, from many different sources. My feeling (and it may not be necessarily true) is that the teaching of the jump-stop has taken a back seat to the euro-step.
The most obvious ways that this lack of balance we are discussing is shown on the court are by (1) how many travels get called in today’s game, (2) how poor players are at finishing in the paint and (3) the huge number of turnovers that occur from passing off balance. In both the men’s and women’s game the players are playing on one-leg more than the more powerful and controlled two-foot game. The jump stop has been neglected in many ways, but the most obvious to me is how it has been neglected as a finishing move in the paint. I remember hearing last year that when Coach Buzz Williams was at Marquette he charted “paint-touches,” how many times in the run of a game his team was able to get into the paint with the basketball. To me that is a great measure of how your team is playing and would be a gateway stat to many other important factors such as: points in the paint (PIP), assists, fouls-drawn, FG%, just to name a few. These indicators show that your team is playing aggressive and not back on their heels, all things which are a net-positive at the end of the game. The jump-stop shows a level of control and can really increase one’s confidence by the player giving themselves the chance to make better decisions.
When I was in grade 11, I was very fortunate to attend a very formative basketball camp called Point Guard College, which was hosted in Halifax, NS. PGC was originated by Dick Devenzio and taken mainstream as a North American wide camp by Dena Evans. Luckily for all of us present, Dena was with us all week and it was a game-changer of a camp. It was probably split 60/40 between court-time and classroom time and I took 45 pages of notes! So much information and such a well-thought out approach to teaching. The camp has really made a name for itself now and is widely known as one of the best if not THE BEST camp for player development in North America (I can say without a doubt it IS THE BEST camp for developing a player’s basketball IQ).
At Point Guard College they deal in many acronyms. The one we are going to talk about today is huPPPPy. They say not to HURRY but rather huPPPPy. The P’s stand for: purposeful, powerful, peek, and cleverly, phake. These are all things to do after you have attacked the paint with a fierce, dynamic jump-stop.
You must be powerful, the best way to do this is with a dynamic jump-stop where you will not be knocked off balance, and you are tough and ferocious.
You need to be purposeful, meaning be decisive! Don’t attack the paint and be worried about making mistakes, you are proactively looking for opportunities to exploit the defense.
You have to peek, you have to see the rim. Just like you’ve heard all your life about dribbling with your “head-down,” (a better way to think is to not dribble with you eye’s down), you need to be in control and aware of your surroundings, where is the help defense collapsing from? Has your teammate just moved into open space? Do I have a shot for myself now that I am here in the paint?
The 4th P stands for “phake,” conveniently spelled, the player who gets to the paint and is powerful and ferocious needs to use fakes to create openings for themselves and their teammates, a well-placed pass-fake is a skill VERY FEW players have and it can create so many great opportunities for high percentage shots. The other thing players are weak at is being able to shot-fake and then make a play. Maybe they shot-fake into a bounce pass for a layup for a teammate, maybe you shot-fake and pivot away to hit your teammate filling in behind. A whole new world is opened up to players who are in control, and powerfully on balance.
Watch this video from PGC Basketball comparing 1-foot and 2-foot stops...
This acronym huPPPPy is very useful to use and revisit when you are talking to players about their games. It is a great tool for players to self-reflect and consider what aspects they are doing, and what they are lacking. If they are getting knocked off the ball a lot by their defenders they need to be more aggressive in their jump-stop and create a better physical base.
It isn't enough in today’s age to yell at a player after a turnover or simply say “be smarter,” “be on balance,” “get stronger,” etc, etc. You need to show players what you are trying to say, you need to explain to them what it feels like, looks like, and what the results of it are. Show them by modelling, show them video examples of high levels of play where it is executed (PGC had hours and hours of clips from NCAA men’s and women’s basketball). Show the players how off balance they are on your own game film and show them the options that they would have had if on balance. Being reactive, after a play happens does nothing to solve the problem, give them reminders so they are aware, and ask them what they saw and were trying to do. Weird premise I know, coaches asking questions to their players. You need to level with them to find out what their thought process is, not in a way that makes them play scared to make mistakes.
In closing give your players concrete explanations, meanings and visuals of what you want from them. Use useful acronyms like huPPPPy, or anything else you can come up with, I.C.E for example, for Intensity, Concentration, and Enthusiasm. Ask them information-seeking questions, to understand their decision making and thought process. All of these factors will help support ferocious, decisive players who are great teammates.
Thanks for checking this out! Please spread this around to any one you think may enjoy the read or could contribute to the discussion through commenting below. Happy Holidays!
In this first ever blog post (YES!) I want to talk about how Pareto’s Law (the 80-20 rule) can be applied to basketball coaching, and more specifically how we can use our practice time more effectively.
Pareto’s law states that generally 20% of a given unit (we’ll say actions) are responsible for 80% of results. In its origin Vilfredo Pareto was referring to income distribution in his native country, Italy. In management circles it is simply referred to as the 80-20 rule. The concept was brought mainstream and reintroduced to me by Tim Ferriss in his book “The Four Hour Work Week.” In that book Tim speaks to efficiency and how to optimize our personal and professional lives by honing in on what is our 20%. This could be which 20% of your clients are responsible for 80% of your sales, what is your 20% of time when you are most productive, or alternatively looking at exactly how much time is wasted and not efficient.
Now coming back to the basketball side of things. This 80-20 analysis has really sparked me to look at how time is spent with my team in practice, and how that practice manifests in results, aka: game performance. How much time is wasted? I invite you to think about how much time in your practice is spent with your “pet drills,” your go-to layup lines, 3-man weaves, defensive slides, etc. I know I am guilty of falling into a routine of execution when it comes to practices and not really analysing the WHY. WHAT is the purpose for certain drills, HOW does it apply to the game, are we executing it WHEN it would happen in a game? WHO is involved in the drill. WHERE does this fit in making us or that specific player better? (Now keep in mind that my examples are coming from the university context. At a youth level there will be more universality to skill development and acquisition).
I think if you do a true analysis of your time, you will realize there are a lot of superfluous drills and elements that when looked at objectively, are not transferring over to results. This can be tough, as I am sure given enough time many coaches could 'explain-away' the benefits of their long-time favourite drills. However, so many things today need to be taken into consideration. First and foremost, what are the rules of play? In a FIBA game what is the point in learning 5 reversals of the Flex Offense? It is a quick-hitting 24 second shot-clock, where once again we circle back to the theme of efficiency. In a no shot-clock game, persistence is almost as important as execution. In their original iterations, the FLEX and PRINCETON offenses were designed to wear teams down until an opportunity presented itself. If we run this pattern long enough EVENTUALLY we will get a good shot. That is not the reality in the evolution of the game of basketball (and also it is no fun for the players). We want to increase possessions and create opportunities for ourselves as soon as possible. There will be future posts about the learning process and how that manifests itself in player development, but just consider are you the chess-master and placing them in spots? Are you simply teaching your players how to run to places on the floor and how the pattern works? Or rather, are you teaching players HOW TO PLAY and how to create opportunities for themselves and their teammates? The players need to be able to look past the set play or pattern and towards the spacing of the floor and the defense. We need to look for our advantages and attack disorganized defenses, put the defense in “chase-mode” through ball-movement (think San Antonio Spurs the last number of years).
Take a look at the spacing on the floor, is your player in a position where they are taking away opportunities from their teammates, by closing up gaps? Is your player putting the defense into an easy position where they can guard two people at the same time? These are huge points of emphasis to consider at all levels, but it IS NOT having them run to a designated spot on the floor and make a predetermined cut.
There are many things that can be done to analyse how effective you are in games, even at the youth levels you can easily get video of the game and start to really break it down and look at what’s going right and what’s going wrong. There are so many cheap and free resources out there to use, I have been using the iPad app Game Changer, which I will be talking about in a future post. It does all the basics but also includes shot charts, status updates during timeouts, and gets into some basic analytics such as Effective FG% and Assist/Turnover Ratio.
Coming back to the 80-20 rule and how we can apply it. The most basic understanding is that for any situation you have 20% which is vital and 80% which is trivial. Dr. Joseph Juran applied Pareto’s concept universally speaking to the “vital few and trivial many.” Applied to how we coach, the trick will be to flip that equation and spend 80% of our time on that vital 20% which gives us results. If you have a great transition team who can really get up and guard then you would be much better suited to spend 80% of your time working on your press and converting your defense into your offense, building that fast-paced identity. When you do that honest analysis of your practice plans, you may find that half of your time easily gets used up in warm-up and then those favourite, pet-drills. Look for ways to optimize, the players can warm-up in a hallway before practice, so when they get in the gym they are immediately ready to get into basketball-specific work. Have players put their water bottles in an easily accessible place so that they can get to them in the flow of practice and you don’t have to waste 5 minutes giving them a water-break. There are many creative ways to be more effective with your team and many resources on the web to tap into.
This first post definitely turned in to a bit of a ramble but compliments to those who got through it! Check out the hyper-links in the body of the blog if they are of interest, there are some great resources there. Eventually as this grows I want it to be a conversation, so please if you happened across this blog, leave a comment in the comments section and start a coaching dialogue!
Everyone enjoy their weekend wherever you are! ----- Matt
Picture source: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20130104190854-94530-pareto-never-said-to-ignore-the-tip-of-the-iceberg
Coach Matt - Father, Coach, Life Long Learner, Basketball Addict