Should You Remove Competition When Teaching?

By Joe Haefner

Here is an excerpt from the FAQ section of the Post Player Development book by Don Kelbick.

What about practicing post moves with a defense? I’ve read that players need less 1-on-0 and more 1-on-1 and situational drills. Once they have a base for some moves, they need to practice those moves against competition. Otherwise, they won’t develop the “feel” of when to make the right moves. Why wasn’t that addressed?

I am completely on the opposite side here. I think players need more 1-on-0 work and less 1-on-1. I don’t believe in competitive teaching. I don’t teach reading the defense. I teach action and counter. There is no right move, there is only what you do well. 90 percent is mentality. The information in this book is exactly what I teach. Then I just send them out to play.

Now you’re probably wondering why I don’t believe in competitive teaching and reading the defense. Even though my feelings on this are too extensive to cover here, I’ll try to address some of my thoughts.

My philosophy has developed over 30 years of coaching in both team and individual situations. I combine that with three degrees in Education. I say that not to blow my own horn or to minimize anyone else, but to emphasize that it is not an arbitrary method.

I believe that to be an effective teacher you have to remove stress from the classroom. I don’t believe in negative reinforcement, running for mistakes, placing penalties for missed shots or turnovers, or winners and losers in teaching situations. All that adds to the stress level of the players you are trying to develop. A basic effect of stress is that it narrows the perceptual field. It limits what the player is able to see, and how they form perceptions.

When you are a big picture teacher, as I am, anything that prevents the players from seeing all the possibilities or puts them in a position to fear failure, as competition does, would be counter productive. I have seen situations where players fail over and over again because they are working out against a better player. That affects self-image and retards development. I have also seen players take advantage of lesser players and never fail. This gives them a false sense of accomplishment and when they fail in a game, it is a hard fall.

I put my competition into scrimmages where they actually have to play and do the things they practice. Admittedly, it goes slow at first but then the curve becomes very steep. I don’t teach reading the defense. Having a defense there so it forces a particular turn does not fit with my philosophy. Shooting over a hand or having to deal with contact are moot points because I try to build an act and counter mentality to the position. I also really push the mentality that shooting is all rhythm. So, getting a shot blocked, bothered or shooting with contact doesn’t matter because I want to ignore those things and just concentrate on rhythm.

In practice, not using competition in your teaching allows for a better pace of learning, more consistent situations, less dropped passes, less bad passes, more skill intensity and better self image.

And then there is the biggest issue; if a player can’t get on the floor they can’t improve or help you. If I had one hair on my head for all the players that got hurt in competitive drills and had to sit out practices or games I would have more hair than the ex-Governor of Illinois (I can’t even say his name properly, no less spell it, but I do know he had a lot of hair). An injury in a game or scrimmage is acceptable. But an injury in a teaching situation is tough to defend. To say they need to knock heads to become better when it knocks them out instead is not acceptable.

11 Comments

  1. kevin m — June 3, 2010 @ 8:19 am

    i agree this is a game and all kids of varying degrees of talent should be able to enjoy and get better

  2. brad — June 3, 2010 @ 9:41 am

    I am not sure what level of BB you are talking about but this seems way off base. I have seen to many kids with great fundamental but when the pace of the game comes their way they have not been prepared to hndle this. I could not disagree with tis article more.

  3. thomas — June 3, 2010 @ 10:15 am

    IMO, there should be no defense at first so as to have the player feel comfortable learning the moves and to correct any mechanical errors. then you introduce 1 on 1 defense so the player can recognize what to when the defender plays him soft, tight, denies the post, etc. finally, you could introduce 2 on 1 to simulate a double team scenario. you want your player making all the mistakes in practice where it can be corrected.

  4. Kevin E — June 3, 2010 @ 11:58 am

    I have 2 comments
    First, to compromise between the article’s pt of view and brads – couldn’t you use a coach as the defense in practice so that they could be tough when needed for the experienced players and easier on those that needed it – as to set each individual player up to succeed and minimize stress?

    This leads me into my 2nd comment. I work w/ dolphins (coach on the side) and use the principles of positive/negative reinforcement daily. I only say this to help you in later blogs/conferences, Joe, (because your website is amazing & i read it daily)… but when you say “negative reinforcement” you are really talking about positive punishment. Positive & negative, in this context, must be thought of as Adding or Subtracting something, not in good vs. bad. The reinforcement, (vs punishment) details the outcome you desire. Reinforcement increases the chance something will happen again, while punishment lessens the chance (say turnovers). So positive reinforcement would be adding something (like a high five or more playing time) while negative reinforcement would be removing something (like suicides at the end of practice for good team play in practice) that will increase their likelihood to repeat it. Punishment (positive.. like verbal abuse, or negative.. taking away playing time) i completely agree with you has little to no place in the coaching (or dolphin training) world when you are trying to teach in a stress free environment. : ) sorry if this is too long but i figured this is the only way i can repay for all of the wisdom you have shared with me.

  5. HENRY RAY — June 3, 2010 @ 12:24 pm

    iI AM A COLLEGE COACH AT TRANSYLVANIA, LEX. KY. AND I
    USE THE SAME METHOD AS YOU DO. MY POST PLAYERS HAVE
    EARNED PLAYER OF THE YEAR IN CONFERENCE PLAY AND ALL
    AMERICAN HONORS. MORE COACHES SHOULD USE THIS METHOD.
    I’VE COACHED D 3 AND NAIA PLAYERS. ONE OF MY FORMER
    POST HAD A WNBA OFFER BUT CHOOSE ANOTHER CARRER.
    I WAS AN OUTSTANDING REBOUNDER AS A PLAYER. 20 A GAME
    AND 9 AS A GUARD IN COLLEGE(MCNEESE STATE} HOWEVER I
    CAN’T SEEM TO GET PRODUCTION FROM MY POST. CAN YOU GIVE ME SOME SUGGESTIONS OR DRILLS. THANKS AGAIN FOR
    THIS GREAT INFO.

  6. KDDILLINGHAM — June 3, 2010 @ 1:02 pm

    I have coached youth ball for a long time, i feel that having a defense to work against is much more benificial and makes better use of the practice time that I have with the kids. These kids are only eighth graders but they can play. And at that age you dont have a big selection of post players so you need to teach them to play hard. If you coach your way and it works for you thats cool. But i think on this one I will stick with my way, but you raise a good point for coaches to ponder. You have great stuff on your site and I use alot of what you preach. THANX

  7. Damian Hilton — June 3, 2010 @ 3:02 pm

    Whole vs Part learning. I have to agree here with some of the posters. I highly respect Don Kelbick. I also really respect the Haefner clan and only know them from the products I buy.

    There is just alot of self-fulfilling prophecy with some of the stuff on site. I agree with Don on teaching 1-0 but then go game like! If you really want to make players that can be more adaptable you teach the whole not parts. Maybe you microscope parts of the skills or mention keys that you want them to focus on but the best players in the world come from the playgrounds of New York, Chicago, LA for a reason. They are playing all the time! Whole vs. Part learning Don check it out! it might speed up the already great detail you do with players already. Again and I am not nearly the caliber of coach that Don is but people much smarter than myself have proven this over and over and over again.

    I guess what I am arguing is that there is a middle ground. We clearly don’t do what we did 10-20 years ago. Heck I would say the internet has helped us become advancing alot of us do not do the same things we did 3-5 years ago.

    This almost got me started on more appropriate negative feedback like loses in competition. alas I ‘ll hold my tongue and maybe save that for a day we all could debate these things.

    PS all this being said. I like the product for post players. Some gospel is Don’s preaching about the really few moves that are possible and why are coaches giving a million names to really what is a basic few. Why would we want to confuse kids unless it’s more about our egos and sounding knowledgable!

  8. Coach Paul Patrick — June 3, 2010 @ 4:19 pm

    I believe there should be a progression to teaching any skill including Post moves/footwork. I think it is detrimental to learning if you introduce competition in the drill or the defense too early. The players must be able to do the footwork automatically. They need to be able to go one on none, and get out of their comfort zone in that format, before they move to the next step of learning. If you add competition too early the players will cheat on the footwork to win the drill. If you add defense in to the drill too early then they will try to score at any cost and not make the correct read and therefore not use the correct move or footwork. BUT if you don’t add competition once they have the footwork, they are not challenged, they stop working outside their comfort zone and they will get bored. If you don’t add in defense at some point, they won’t be able to recognize what the defense is giving them, and will not use the correct move. Adding in the defense can be staged as well. It could be a coach with a pad, over playing high so whatever you teaching when going baseline they can read it, understand how to play against some contact, and do the correct move. Or you could later have them face a series of different defensive stances. A failure to add in defense will not prepare them for the amount of contact and the ability to make the correct read. I had a player who mastered the up and under in the post one on none. But in games he would do it regardless of what the defense was doing, he would shake a defender,
    not knowing he had done so and come back to the defender with his under move. Adding defense into the drills and competition helped this player as it will help all players.

  9. Coach PAS — June 6, 2010 @ 9:08 am

    Coach Paul Patrick said it all. Everything I was thinking. Read threw his comments one more time. Its perfect. Thanks for explaining so well.

  10. Joe Haefner — June 6, 2010 @ 10:08 am

    Thank you for all of the great responses! Many great thoughts here!

    What Don always like to tell me is that you (the coach) should always do what you’re comfortable with. What works for you may not work for me and what works for me may not work for you. In other words, there is more than one way to skin a cat or build a skilled basketball player in our case.

    Don used to teach the same way that many of you are implying with doing the drill over and over without a defense until the technique is perfected, then adding a defender to make reads.

    You may also want to read and listen to this article to gain more perspective on why he does what he does: http://www.breakthroughbasketball.com/fundamentals/post-play-immediacy.html

  11. david — June 30, 2010 @ 2:47 pm

    I believe 1on 0 and 1on1 are great ways of practice. The more a player practices and plays in the game the better he/she can get.

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