Go to Archive Index March 1, 2013     Newsletter #7

Dear Coaches, Players, Friends,

Today's Quote
"I told him, 'Son, what is it with you, ignorance or apathy?' He said 'Coach, I don't know and I don't care.'" - Frank Layden, Utah Jazz president on a former player

Today's theme is "Late-Season Tune-Up - Preparing for March Madness!".

It's late in the season and we're just about to enter our post-season tournament, aka "March Madness". What adjustments do you make at this point in the season?

I'm talking mainly about high school varsity teams here. First, an observation and an opinion... a lot of coaches and players would probably disagree with me here. Over the many years that I have been involved with high school basketball, I have had the fun and opportunity to be involved with excellent coaches and some very good teams. But, to me, it almost seems like the high school season is a little too long (we play 20 regular season games and then the tournament). Almost every season, even with our very best teams, I see kids getting tired toward the end of the season. Practice energy is down. Kids get sick with colds and the flu, they get worn down and tired, nagging injuries occur, and some frankly get sick of basketball. I believe the season could be a little shorter... but that's just me. As I said, many (maybe most) would disagree with me.

So what do you do late in the season with your practices and getting your team ready for post-season play? Do you and your coaches beat your heads on the wall trying to get your players to be more intense in practice... most would. But another observation I have made is that each team has it's own "character"... and characters! And of course, the old dictum is still true that "you play like you practice"... well, for the most part anyway. But some high school kids are frankly a little goofy and immature and just can't be 100% intense every practice. You're going to have an occasional practice where energy and attention levels are down and you want to just scream at them, or make them run.

Late-Season Practices
Late in the season, we shorten practices. We try to get the kids to practice hard and reward their energy and attention by shortening practice to 60-90 minutes. We will do shooting drills and free-throws every practice. We will scrimmage and go 5-on-5 up and get down the floor for some aerobic work-out. By this time in the season, they should know your offenses and defenses, press offense and press defenses. We will however, drill a certain aspect or detail of any of these that needs attention. We might work on some late-game situations. We will quickly review some of our plays.

We will target our practice somewhat to our next opponent... if they play zone, we spend some time on zone offense. If they press, we practice our press-breakers. We will address what they are trying to do on offense and how we intend to defend them. But we don't want to be overly concerned about what our opponent might do... we want to focus on what we want to do, and let them worry about us. Trying to make a big change, such as changing your defense from man-to-man to zone, or vice-versa, at this point in the season will usually cause more problems for you than your opponent. At this point, you have to usually go with what you know you can do.

At the end of practice, we get a cheer and remind the kids to go home and get plenty of rest and sleep, and not stay up all night playing video games. They need their sleep to maintain health and energy, get over sicknesses, heal injuries, and to be good students. We remind them to eat right, and avoid a lot of junk food. Frequent hand-washing will go a long way in preventing colds and flu. We will also remind them from time-to-time (especially before a weekend) to stay out of trouble and avoid making stupid, bad decisions that might get them benched, or kicked off the team.

Retired Coach Ken Sartini, also recommends that at the end of practice, do something fun... a goofy contest where they could make fun of each other... or use some time to run game "situations", which the kids also like doing.

Adding new plays
We play each of our conference opponents twice during the regular season. By the end of the season, every coach in the conference pretty much knows what everyone else is doing on offense and defense. So we will add a few new plays for the post-season tournament. We will purposely "hold back" a couple favorites and put them in just for the tournament. We will usually add a couple new out-of-bounds plays vs man-to-man and zone defenses, and a couple new half-court plays designed to get good shots for our best players, and maybe a new sideline out-of-bounds play. The plays that we select again depend on our personnel. If we have a great outside shooter, we'll put in a play for him. A great post player... we look at something that will help us get the ball to him inside. A great point-guard... we'll try to stretch the defense and let him attack the seams with the dribble.

Go through the web-site's various plays (see Selecting Plays) and you'll be sure to find something for your team.

Sample Tournament-time Practice Plan
Here it depends on how many practices you have before your next game. If we have three practices, the first will be like any regular season practice. If we only have two practices, the first will be moderately strenuous for about 90 minutes. The second will last usually less than 90 minutes and will be less strenuous, with more focus on the opponent, special plays and situations, etc. We still want to "get up a sweat", but not as much, and do a fair amount of shooting.

2:45-3:00 Watch game film.
3:00-3:05 Practice starts... Shooting drill
3:05-3:25 Fast break drills
5-on-0, 5-trips drill
5-on-0, 5-trips drill - run m2m plays
5-on-0, 5-trips drill - run zone plays
4-on-4-on-4 drill
3:25-3:30 Free throws
3:30-3:40 Half-court man-to-man defense vs opponent's offense
3:40-3:45 3-2-1 Shooting drill
3:45-3:55 Match-up press vs opponent's press-breaker
3:55-4:00 Free throws
4:00-4:15 Special plays and situations... "Hail Mary", inbound plays, 4-corners delay offense
4:15-4:20 45-Shooting drill
4:20 Dismiss

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Struggling Through a Losing Season... dealing with a tough season.

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Out of the Past...
Some of basketball's very early rules:
  1. The ball. The original ball was a soccer ball. The official sized ball came in 1894, was an inflated rubber ball, and sometimes was lopsided. So when you hear the game referred to as "roundball", remember that it wasn't always so.

  2. The basket. The first baskets were not peach baskets as the story often goes, but were vegetable baskets nailed to the railing of an elevated circular running track, which just happened to be about 9 or 10 feet high. It was a nuisance to get out the stepladder every time someone scored! In 1893, a carpenter designed a wire rim, with a chicken wire net. It didn't exactly SWISH! The term "cagers" relates back to the old chicken wire nets. Backboards were designed so that fans, reaching over the railing, couldn't deflect the shots.

  3. Number of players. Originally, 9 players were on each team… then 7, and now 5. Dr. Naismith once said that there could up to 40 on each team, if the floor was big enough!

  4. Fouls. On your second foul, you had to sit down on the bench, with no substitution (sort of like hockey), until the other team scored a goal, and then you could come back in. On a flagrant foul, you were disqualified for the rest of the game, with no substitution... so your team might be playing with only 8 instead of 9 players. If your team committed three consecutive fouls, the other team was awarded a goal.

  5. Out-of-bounds. If the ref couldn't tell who hit it out last, the ref would just throw the ball straight out into the court, and whoever got it, got it! The 5-seconds for inbounding rule was original.

Practice Planner Live
Use this online program and get access to the tools professionals use. Plan practices easily, quickly and more effectively. Have all your drills and thoughts in one place. Get access to your practice stats and see if your team play reflects what you are working on... See statistics of your practice. Are you focusing too much time on one aspect of the game? Now you never have to guess! Baseball, Basketball, Football, Soccer, and More! Get the Practice Planning Edge Today!

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Till next time...
Best wishes,
Dr. Jim Gels, aka "Coach Gels"
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