Offense is spacing, and spacing is offense. - Chuck Daly
The importance of spacing cannot be under-emphasized or overlooked when coaching the game of basketball. The dimensions of the court (and especially the FIBA Court) make spacing in your offense attack of paramount importance. What are ways you can think about spacing?
Above you can see examples of a: single gap, double gap, and triple gap. This is the terminology we use when talking about spacing on the floor. As you can see driving into a single is quite precarious, driving into double and triple gaps (especially towards the middle) is generally what we are looking for. Can you create an opportunity off the dribble and start to attack the second line of defense. Once you get the defense into rotation, can you pass the ball off to the appropriate teammate and keep or widen you advantage on that possession. This should be seriously emphasized in your team’s small-sided games (SSG’s) in practice, so players can get used to looking to beat their defender and get the ball into the heart of the defense.
If players cannot create the advantages on their own off the dribble there are things that can be done such as, providing a ball screen, attacking a long close-out, or getting the player coming to a spot on the floor by using an off-ball screen, again attacking a late close-out.
In this scenario, offense needs to be taught and drilled in terms of decision making, not remembering set patterns. Data chunking so that players recognize spacing and scenarios on the floor will allow them to make judgments and decisions based on: the ball, their teammates, and their defender.
The other side of this coin, is that the defense will be looking to shrink the floor. If you only create single gaps in your offense, the defense can out-number the offense and make the floor seem very small, choking off any opportunity at free movement. Offensively this is where skill development comes in, because you can space the floor all you want, but if you can’t create advantages or can’t makes shots, then the defense’s focus becomes very easy. Make the defense choose what they will take away and then exploit that decision.
When does your offensive possession begin? The connectedness of your offense and defense speaks to the fluid nature of basketball. In order to run good transition offense you must pressure the shooter and focus on keeping the other team off of the offensive glass. Some of your strategy needs to be a reaction to the other team’s philosophy in crashing the offensive glass. If your opponent consistently does not have safeties in place then you must attack that in early transition. It takes some experience and practice in coaching in real-time to see this and not just follow the ball with your eyes. The pressuring of the shooter, and having great person-on-person match-up defense so that your team does not find itself in rotation all the time is very important to running strong offense. If you are consistently allowing the other team to have a high OREB% then undoubtedly they will also potentially get to the foul line at a higher rate and then the climb up hill gets that much steeper. I believe that the best way to practice rebounding is to simply emphasize it in your 5v5 or your small-sided games in practice. You can put a strong emphasis on this by how you score your games. Take points off when the team gives up an offensive rebound, have assistants chart when there are no safeties in place; there are many approaches you can take--Track OREB% in practice (OREB/Total Rebounds).
Conversely speaking, your shot quality on offense directly affects your transition defense. If you average a high number of live-ball turnovers (not all turnovers are created equal) then inevitably your opponent will be able to get not only more possessions but more chances in advantage situations. When planning a philosophy, game-plan, right down to practice plan – we as coaches need to keep in mind that concepts don’t exist in a vacuum, everything is connected.
Today our women's basketball team came in on a Saturday morning at 8:30am to get in extra conditioning as we prepare for our preseason play starting next weekend. It was 8 degrees with a cool breeze but a beautiful morning.
This couldn't help but make me think about people's perceptions of doing: “hard work, putting in extra time, pushing outside one’s comfort-zone,” and just generally doing what’s needed to succeed in a given venture.
I would really like to help dispel the notion of SACRIFICE – the idea of sacrificing to succeed. I think in 2016 the negative connotation of this is ineffective. Instead of thinking of commitment as a sacrifice, it is more useful to simply think of it as a CHOICE. Every day we make hundreds of choices, which can send our life in many different directions. When someone MAKES A DECISION, and chooses they will do what it takes to commit and be successful; it puts the onus onto the individual and allows them to take ownership of their choices.
Thinking about sacrificing to succeed essentially puts things in terms of opportunity cost; and resembles a deficit model. This deficit model of giving up things in order to do other things, leads inevitably to some form of regret or thinking “what-if,” – what if I wasn’t doing this and was doing that. Having people understand it as a personal (and in a team – collective) choice, puts a more positive and less cognitively taxing framework around the concept of going the extra mile, or taking on great challenges on a journey to success.
It’s a powerful thing when you can get a group mentality of moving forward and choosing to succeed. So to conclude in the same way as this began….I’m happy to say our group of student-athletes took positive steps this morning on their journey.
The concept of Kaizen was brought to North America from Japan in the 1980’s. The term signifies continual improvement. Essentially there is no end destination as there are always iterations and changes for the better that can be made. Kai - stands for CHANGE and Zen means GOOD. Adopting the philosophy of Kaizen means you are fully committed to a journey of development.
There is no magic end-point in one’s search for excellence. To fully embrace this is to fall in love with the process and the iteration involved with continual improvement. This is why you see coaches who have one heaps of national titles, or people in business who have risen to the top of their industry - still striving to be better. You must indeed be humble in order to adopt such a philosophy. There is no secret code, you never truly “beat the game,” each new season, each new quarter is a chance to make changes for the better. The humble nature needed and wisdom that there is not one formula for success is an essential element in adopting this philosophy. Put the joy into the journey, never be satisfied, always be striving!
Basketball is all about opportunities.
In spending the last 4-5 years deeply immersed studying and coaching, I have come to believe that controlling the first ⅓ of the shot-clock is essential. Bobby Knight has spoken at length about the importance of “conversion,” - that is the transition between offense and defense and vice-versa. The ability to attack a disorganized defense and see an advantage as it’s presented to you, is essential for winning basketball. Players must be developed to create, and see, opportunities that arise in a possession. Key foundational pieces of this are: spacing, movement off the ball, and reading the different layers of defense.
The goal of all teams should be to move seamlessly between offense and defense. Spatial awareness in running the floor is of the utmost importance. Teams cannot simply run as if they are doing a 5-on-0 drill in practice. Players must be taught to read gaps, and where the ball, themselves, and their defenders are in relation to each other. If you are able to score in the first ⅓ (8 seconds) of the shot clock, that means the offense has seen an opportunity and taken advantage of it.
Opportunity Cost is the foregone value of something you give up by not acting or rather by choosing against it. The opportunity cost of not being able to take advantage of situations early in the shot clock is a tough possession in which the defense dictates the play-- over a 40 minute game this significantly strains a team. In FIBA with a 24 second shot clock the best chance on the offensive end is not to swing the ball back and forth waiting for the defense to break down. The offense needs to quickly create and the seize their opportunity to get a great shot.
On the flip side, defensively, teams should look to control the first 8 seconds by keeping the other team from scoring in that first ⅓ (duh!). That is done by taking away their initial actions. If you can take away the other team’s primary option and make them go to Plan B, it goes a long way to controlling each possession. If the other team’s offense always begins with a wing entry, then take that away, and see if they can adjust. Obviously in this day and age with video-analysis the way it is, teams will all have each other well-scouted.
A NOTE ON VISION AND DECISION MAKING - One thing I have been studying recently is the rim-runner in transition. I believe a team’s ability to take advantage of the defense depends on knowing where their teammates are. Defensive rebounding will leave players in various positions as they convert to offense. It is not realistic that there will always be a forward out ahead of the pack. If a team stalls waiting for that forward, many times they have given up an opportunity to score. Sometimes the forwards will lag behind if they were battling down low for a rebound, in that case the early-offense needs to adjust to that. Perhaps it is an early spread ball screen with everyone else spaced outside the 3pt line (ala Classic Phoenix Suns with Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire) or any other host of creative entries.
The ability to have flow in your transition offense and not freeze the ball is often the difference between a coach keeping their hair colour or greying very early!!!
The video posted above is one of my favourite sound bites I've heard in a very long time. The coach from Wisconsin is voicing a common gripe of many coaches, and of course many people who are looking at this younger generation and wondering how to relate and get through to them.
I am currently 28 years old, and likely one of the youngest college coach's in the country. Now when I graduated high school in 2005, the smart phones weren't quite as smart. Flip phones were still in, and Blackberry's were the magical smart phone. iPhone's hadn't arrived yet, Facebook hadn't arrived yet, and of course Twitter, SnapChat, Instagram were not around. The biggest element of internet addiction to this point was internet chat, MSN Messenger, previously ICQ (really dating myself now). The amount that technology and specifically for this conversation SOCIAL MEDIA have taken over people's lives in the last decade is truly mind-blowing. Sitting with your thoughts seems a thing of the past, and unfortunately that means true self-reflection may go into extinction as well with the younger generation. No one ever has to be bored any more. It is so easy to spend hours and hours, just distracting one-self.
Further to the point, I wonder how much social media, cell phones, etc, have impacted people's competitive nature. Specific to my demographic, student-athletes, I feel that the ability to be somewhere without being invested in anything but the screen in front of your face has a massive impact. As an athlete, I didn't take well to losing, I would replay actions over and over and over in my head about how things could have been done differently. I would typically blame myself (and still do) for whatever loss was incurred. I would sit and stew for hours. My gripe echoes Coach Bobbi Kelsey's in the video above about work ethic but I am going to hypothesize a step further that technology in its current form has made athlete's less competitive. Pre and post-game preparation and subsequent reflection have been hijacked by stupid videos, pointless following of celebrities and everyone hunting for "likes" "retweets" "shares," etc by trying to be a comedian all the time. It would be very hard to believe ten years ago these are the types of things coaches would be up against. Can an athlete just go to the gym, without having to post on some social media site that they are there and hope people see how "hard they are working?" There is a whole other conversation about player-development, hours of practice vs. too many games, helicopter athlete-parents who suddenly become experts in a given sport when their child is old enough to play.......and those all have very negative consequences as well for athletic development as well.
This season, I have really made it a focus to stay on top of all of our statistics (league stats are never accurate unfortunately) and it has really paid dividends for the team and for the focus of our teaching. We are using Hudl for our video storage and editing, GameChanger for keeping track of our season stats, and I have created a few different Excel spreadsheets (see below) that track everything from total possessions, to Dean Oliver's Four Factors, as well as /40 minute stats (which may up to this point be the most revealing on an individual player level). These Excel sheets don't convert well formatting-wise below but if you take a look you can at least get an idea of the types of things we are doing.
What is working?
I really find the Four Factors (Rb%, FT%, eFG% or TrSh%, and TO%) have worked well in a goal setting standpoint as it has hammered out for us some specific goals we want to reach each night ---ie: get to the FT line at least 20x a game and keep our turnovers below a certain number.
Individually I find that the per-40 minute metrics have really helped to make it clear how effective a player is on the court and what they are really contributing while they are out there. There have been some clear things come out in the data regarding players who have a average number of minute but turn the ball over at a high rate, and those who may need more minutes because they rebound so productively. I find it really helps to cut through the natural bias and typical lens through which we see the game as coaches.
If you got this far thanks for reading!
This post is all about foot care. This is something I’ve recently read up on a lot, and realized what a massive deal this should be for players. The human foot has 26 bones and 33 joints, and is often neglected, and in what is seen as relief often moved into flip-flops post-game and post-practice, and that is actually the worst thing you can do. Katy Bowman has a blog post from last year (which I will include in the notes) which outlines exactly what happens to one’s feet from wearing flip flops for extended periods of time.
Without any backing on the heel, your toes are always clenching to compensate in order to keep the flip flop on. That clenching causes tension and can lead to many different trigger spots and shortening of the plantar fascia. As a player’s primary and most responsive connection to the ground this can eventually lead to, or magnify ankle immobility, which will eventually work its way up the chain --- knee—hip—back, etc.
Pay attention to your feet and when you foam roll post and/or pre-practice, workout or game……grab a lacrosse ball and roll that thing on the bottom of your foot. In the videos included you will see the various ways to really roll out the bottom of the foot and release your plantar fascia. As with foam rolling, it is as basic as exploring your own body and muscles and when you find that point of pain known as a ‘trigger point’ really stay on that and even try and put some more pressure on it to release the tension. If it is extremely painful in the beginning that is a good thing and you know you have some work to do, spend 3-5 minutes on each foot every day and you will see great benefit and relief.
In recent years the importance of rest and recovery and incorporating this in proactive and effective ways has really come to light. Whether it’s making sure you approach sleep the right way (consistent bed times nightly, blackout blinds, reducing blue-light exposure), recovery nutrition or myofascial release all play an integral role in reaching peak performance for the serious athlete. Once you spend some time really working out your feet and toes, you realize how much damage the constant bracing, high heel-toe drop and reliance on “arch-support” have caused over the years. The more time you can spend in bare-feet and connecting the feet to the rest of your body instead of being laced and locked into stiff shoes the better.
Hope this opens some further research for coaches and athletes, there is lots of great information out there!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DQOKAkksdHw – Kelly Starrett on flip-flops
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EOJPKu7DUfU – Lacrosse Ball rolling 1
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DsELllw7XsQ – Lacrosse Ball rolling 2
Today I want to discuss the latest angle of basketball and coaching I'm learning about lately and that is Analytics. Applying advanced statistics or analytics to your basketball program can be easier to implement than you think and can be very educational. I have found this season in using basic advanced statistics with my team that it is very good at cutting through coaching bias', and can bring an element of concrete reality to the lens we sometimes see the game with.
I'm going to start very simple and probably get into a deeper post about this as I continue my self-education in advanced stats. One of the easiest things you can do is have someone keep a team shot chart. Try to get an idea of where you are getting your shots from, how often are you getting in the paint, are you settling for 3's, are you shooting a lot of low% midrange shots? The shot chart can be an introduction point and something you can use to delve deeper into contributing factors. Maybe your offensive sets you are relying on are causing you to shoot a lot of mid-long range 2's. This can be a gateway into looking at Points Per Possession or (PPP). How many points are you scoring for every offensive possession that your team has? This is discussed by the late Dean Smith in Multiple Offense and Defense. Points per possession shows one the importance of getting to the foul line.
Dean Oliver's Four Factor Analysis
Another great way to try and get the most out of your stats is prioritizing the statistics you are getting. It is one thing to have tonnes of numbers, but do you know what to do, how to adjust and how to implement what you are learning about your team? I like Dean Oliver's Four Factor Analysis (from Basketball on Paper) for focusing one's thinking. Oliver, after years and years of analysing statistics concluded that the four statistics that when controlled most often correlate with winning the game are:
(1) FG% (measured with eFG%
(2) Offensive Rebounding
(3) Turnover differential
(4) Getting to the foul line.
If you can control these four aspects of the game and win these statistics over your opponent you have a great chance at winning. Analyse these stats and then combine that with your feel for the game and the ebb and flow of a game, and you may learn why your results are turning out the way they are. How many points are your opponents scoring off of your turnovers? Look at how turnovers and offensive rebounds can lead to high percentage shots.......everything fits together.
Per 40 minute Statistics
Something I began using this year is Per 40 minute Stats. It is as simple as taking your boxscore (points, rebounds, assists, turnovers, steals, etc) statistics and calculating what they are for the players every 40 minutes played. This is very effective in showing what a player is really doing and contributing out on the floor. If you see that you have a big who is only averaging 3 rebounds/40 minutes then you have a problem. Likewise if your point guard is turning the ball over 8 times/40 minutes you are going to be in tough. This stat is great for looking at your players coming off the bench as well, because it levels out the minutes for an accurate comparison. Perhaps if given more minutes this player would contribute more than your current starters, it is a great tool for evaluating your players.
That's it for today, I expect to add a more detailed post on more detailed statistics in the near future, but I wanted to start the discussion and add some ideas for anyone who happens across this blog. I'm setting a goal to write more, so if you have anything to add or comment on please include it in the comment section below, thanks!
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!
Coach Matt - Father, Coach, Life Long Learner, Basketball Addict