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November 1, 2014     Newsletter #49

Dear Coaches, Players, Friends,

Today's Quotes
"It's hard to beat a person who never gives up." - Babe Ruth

"One of hardest decisions you'll ever face in life is choosing whether to walk away or try harder."

Today's theme is Basketball Tryouts

Periodically, a coach will ask me how to run youth basketball tryouts, when you have many kids trying out for a limited number of spots on the team. Or it could be that, rather than having to cut players, you are creating several teams based on the skill level of the players... for example an "A" team, a "B" team, a "C" team, etc (although I would never call them that as this tends to denigrate the B and C teams - give them names instead like "Lions", "Tigers", "Bears", etc).

First, make sure you have a complete list of all the players. Explain your rules, policies, and goals, not only for the try-out, but what you expect for the entire season. Ideally, you'll have a few sessions to evaluate the players. It's helpful if you have several trustworthy assistants who can run "stations" at each of the gym's baskets... pretty hard for one coach to evaluate 50 kids. Using assistants, you can either move around from station to station, or sit up in the bleachers and observe everything. At the end of each practice (tryout session), discuss things with each assistant... keep notes.

Some coaches use a form when rating/evaluating players, giving a score of say 1-5 for each skill for each player. I personally don't like that for several reasons. You lose flexibility using such a system. A scoring system may not take into consideration intangibles such as hustle, attitude, "gamers", etc. Also, spending too much time jotting things down takes away from time actually observing, watching and teaching the kids. You want them engaged, playing hard without fear, and having fun. After a few sessions, you can pretty well tell who the better players are by just observing. As that great philosopher Yogi Berra once said, "You can observe a lot by watching."

Some coaches do like using a grading system. They cite that in today's environment, everything must be documented and objectively graded to please parents and administrators and to protect themselves from disgruntled kids and parents. Maybe so... but I'm still "old school". If you do use a point grading system, include categories for those "intangibles" - hustle, attitude, game skills ("gamers"), and weight them 1 to 10, while all other drills are 1-5. That way those things will count more.

Most tryouts will be comprised of (1) drills and (2) scrimmaging. In using drills, observe for not only the skills the players possess, but their general athleticism, speed, quickness, focus, desire, etc. A kid could have real natural athleticism, but not be very skilled yet if he/she has just started playing the game... and in a year or two, could be a very good player.

With several assistants, you can use all the baskets and set up stations, each station employing a different drill, evaluating a different skill. Save time at the end of each session (or the last day) for scrimmaging, 3-on-3, 4-on-4 or 5-on-5 (depending on your numbers).

3-on-3 is probably best as with the smaller number, each player's skills will become more apparent. With 5-on-5, sometimes only certain players seem to have the ball the most. Scrimmaging will help you find those kids that are "gamers"... who play better in games, like to play defense and go after the ball. Mix up the teams so that not all the good players are on one team... don't let them get "clicky" and just play with their friends.

Do station drills and have players rotate through each of the stations (one station at each basket). Typical station drills would focus on shooting, lay-ups, passing, dribbling, footwork, defense, etc. You can find many of these drills here.

If you don't have enough assistants, run sideline drills en masse. For example, for dribbling and dribble moves drills, have the kids all line up on the sideline. If there are too many players or not enough balls, have them partner-up. Have one group of partners dribble to the opposite side and then back... left hand on the first trip, right hand coming back. Then give the ball to the partner and he/she goes. Start with a control dribble, then a speed dribble, throw in a couple cross-over dribbles, a rocker-step (hesitation move), and an "in and out" dribble. Don't expect perfection.

Use the full-court 2-on-0 drills. This drill will show you who can pass and catch on the move and will show footwork and coordination, in addition to how quickly players move, and how well they can shoot a lay-up. Another good en masse drill is the full-court Dribble-Moves Drill. To assess for quickness and conditioning, run a few sprints up and down the court, and defensive slides diagonally down the court (Z-Drill). You can probably think up some additional simple drills. But keep it simple and fun. Be positive and encourage all the kids, not just the best players.

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