This blog is no longer updated. Head over to Mr. Little’s classroom blog for any basketball info.
Way back on the radio dial; a fire got lit inside a bright eyed child.
I’m not a big country fan, but this song encapsulates the reason why I love to coach, especially in the summer time. There’s something about chasing dreams, putting in work, believing that great things lie ahead of you due to that hard work. It’s such a cheesy idea, but I don’t care. It’s what I most enjoyed the most about playing ball as a kid, too. My best memories of basketball are from the summer… and I believe summers make kids better basketball players, and instills a sense of work ethic and pride that’s hard to do in the season.
Today marks our fourth week of training players individually. We’ve been working with players one on one (or sometimes with two or three players), and training them based on their individual needs. I think it’s been the most fun coaching we’ve done. It might be the most effective, too. Based on this conversation with Brian McCormick on his blog last April, I think I may make it a permanent part of our player development, even in-season. Trumps any summer camp we could have done, too.
…Old enough to get there but too young to get inside.
So I would stand out on the sidewalk.
Listen to the music playin’ every Friday night.
One of those kids I get to work with this summer is Squeek. Kid’s a 5th grader, and tiny. Maybe 4 feet tall. But she shows up every week at 9 am, all by herself. Comes early to open gyms, twice a week.
She’s getting better.
We’ve worked hard on basic movements, like “sticking” a jumpstop, pivoting, and changing direction (thanks Lee Taft). I’ve used some of my PGC power dribbling and passing observations in the finishing drills we do. She’s got a quick little hesitation move. I can’t wait to see her play against 6th grade travel teams next year.
“Squeek” is limited at her age. Her skills are developing. But instead of telling herself she can’t do it, or making an excuse, she’s taking advantage of every opportunity. When she runs with our 8th grade boys and girls, she’s not scoring off of them a lot, or stopping them. But she’s outside, listening to the music. Learning. Getting better. Hanging out with the older girls.
Falling in love with basketball.
I love helping those kids chase their dreams. I’m no Micah Lancaster. I screw up half my demonstrations. But I’m there on a Friday morning in July, chasing that dream with her. What better job is there?
Some dreams stay with you forever.
Drag you around and bring you back to where you were.
Some dreams keep on getting better.
Gotta keep believing if you want to know for sure.
“K12” is one of those older kids. She was our leading scorer and starting point guard for the 8th grade team last year. As a 7th grader.
She’s one of the best players I’ve ever coached, but she doesn’t believe that.
Last year was full of frustration as she developed. Despite an outstanding year, she was frustrated by turnovers and not shooting as well as she’d like. And her coach did a poor job developing her properly because his team was too big. Any feeling of excellence was lost with an early playoff loss to a team we could have beat.
She’s had every reason to go to the pool all summer, or be mad at basketball. Or coach!
But she’s here every week.
She doesn’t want to be good. Or better. She wants to be great.
She even signed up for a double session today. 90 minutes of wall sits, jump shots, crossovers, layups, and reverse pivots. I love coaching this kid. She’s got big dreams. Loves basketball. Doesn’t just play everyday, but works at it everyday. I’m inspired to challenge her every week.
And inspired by, despite how disappointing last year was for her, she believes in her dream. I think she’s starting to believe in herself, too. That’s a pretty damn scary thought for teams we have to play. I’m proud of her persistence, getting through disappointment and following her dreams in spite of it.
Keep on dreaming. Even if it breaks your heart.
I love the summer. Even I was disappointed in myself after last year. But something is cleansing, about the summer. We’re reinventing our program, and being better coaches. I’ve got two college kids – former students/players – giving up their time to help out. I think they know how important it is to have dreams. And to chase them.
I’m chasing mine. Working with these girls. Working with former students. Being an example of how to respond to adversity and disappointment. Helping kids chase their dreams.This is an absolute blast, and I’m glad we’re shaking it up this summer.
What better job is there?
John Wooden is famous for not mentioning Wins and Losses to his team. Easy to say when you win 9 National Championships. Losing stinks, period. But I love these kids, and am proud of their growth over the last few years. Dana, Alexa, Emma, Sam, Jill and Steph will become good High School basketball players. I can’t wait to take my girls to see them play ball in a few years. Our rookies became a great part of this family, even Tyia, who just joined us a few weeks ago. And our 7th grades… man, I don’t think any Varsity team next year returns 3 starters, let alone girls that want to win and be as successful as these girls do.
Midnight may have struck for Cinderella, but they’re still my princesses!
During the course of our season, we spend a ton of time working on teambuilding. A large amount of our drills are competitive, we set goals frequently, have a quote of the day, leave signs on each other’s lockers, and we do some games entirely non-basketball related games, like this:
These games are great for movement, cutting, and conditioning, too. We even ran a capture the flag game that’s DEFINITELY conditioning! Games like these are great way to teach communication, teamwork, strategy, and even movement/spacing concepts. More importantly, they’re just fun. The girls enjoy basketball, but getting away and running around and playing is good for all of us. Relieves stress and takes us out of our comfort zones.
And, it sure beats yelling at them on another goofy Friday practice!
Last week, after a tough first game (and string of scrimmages), we decided to “stop” coaching. This was largely Schwenkel’s idea, or at least her observation. When we did small-sided games in practice, and gave kids little instruction, they actually thought with the creativity and intensity that we were trying to coach into them. In reality, our drills and practices are working, but we hadn’t seen that in our first game.
Since then, we’ve won 4 straight games by wide margins and are feeling confident, at last. We’re not playing perfect basketball, but here are some reflections on including our players in the decision making process.
- Players are thinking about the game more, including analyzing their opponents and deciding which offensive sets and defensive situations give them the best chance to win.
- The team is more unified. Decision making has brought them together.
- We have clear leaders, as this process has forced girls to become vocal and make a stand on something they see. They don’t just parrot what we say anymore.
- Players play with more ownership. They’re not following orders, but executing something they care about and want to see work.
- When coaches do set something up, they listen more intently, as they know “this is important.” Since we don’t speak all the time, so to speak, when we do, it’s actually heard.
- It’s just more fun. How many coaches and teachers let their kids make some of the decisions?!
- Some of the players were frustrated that we just “did the same thing” since it was working. We grew out of this, lately, But we ran too much 2-3 zone and had to deliberately break that habit.
- Some parents have tried to coach the team through their players. I heard a couple of them saying what we should do against a certain opponent, then their daughters repeating it in a pre-game meeting. Not a big deal, actually, as we simply make it a “teaching moment” about why that would or would not work. We’re not coaches that always think we’re right, anyway, so outside opinions are welcome, if they can help our girls. But it could be a problem if you’re a coach that isn’t like that…
I’m sure I’m missing a negative, especially as a constant optimist. However, these values – and the subsequent reaction by the players – is essentially the same response that students in my classroom have had. The girls understood what we’re trying to do. We explained what the goal was, what was expected of the girls, and our rationale. The girls are get it. Parents, too. A few made comments after the games about the difference.
I guess it all comes back to teaching. We are TEACHING basketball. Winning is nice, but helping the girls understand how to ball and how to think is paramount. Eventually, the two are very closely related – winning and learning – but there’s naturally a curve as we learn the process.
And it’s something that makes the process more fun for players, too. Hey, what a thought!
I’ve decided not to coach today.
Well, not entirely, but I’m letting go of the wheel more than many coaches would. After losing a well played game vs. our biggest opponent 2 days ago, our girls have been frustrated. Practice wasn’t fun yesterday. We’ve put a TON of time into player development. We’ve been practicing since November, have scrimmaged a few teams, and generally worked harder than most other schools and players have. I’m proud of them.
But I think we’ve done too much. Girls are thinking about so many options. “Can I drive? Which way? Which move do I use to create space? How do I counter that defensive reaction? Wait – my teammate just cut, what’s the best passing lan – oh, gone. Dang, I stopped ripping the ball through the box!” Jump ball/Turnover.
So, we’re just going to let the girls play ball. I’m naming a starting 5 and letting them decide which offensive set to run, which defense to run out with, and just hoping they’ll ball. My assistant coaches and I will handle substitutions, morale, and managing the clock to some degree. But we want the girls to handle pressure, to make adjustments, and to use their knowledge of the game.
I have all the faith in the world that our girls know the game. We’ve worked hard, and they’re trained so well. However, they haven’t played with that knowledge well enough. They are not instinctive. They’re tentative and over-thinking. Since I believe this is a result of my “over-coaching” and own desire to do everything I can to help, I’m backing off. It’s all them!
Perhaps a successful update will follow.