Are You Overcoaching? Maybe You Should Do This Instead

As I look back on my career, both as a player and a coach, the thing that amazes me is how things have come almost full circle.

I think back to the days when I was developing as a player. Joy over dribbling or making a lay-up, making simple passes, etc. As I went along I could actually see myself getting better.

As I improved, I started to play against better and better players. For some reason, I felt the need to get more and more complex with the things I would do. Interestingly enough, the more complex I got, the worse I got. When I finally realized that going back to the simple things would have a positive effect, my game exploded.

Similarly, in my coaching career, I found the same thing to be true. When I first got interested in coaching (I think I was 10), the game was pretty simple. Early in my career, it stayed pretty simple. I was very lucky to have worked for, as an assistant, the people I worked for. They really worked hard at trying to keep the game simple. We had pretty good success.

Making The Game Too Complex

But, unfortunately, as an assistant, I thought it was my job to make things more complex (I was very young). There was no way, I thought, that this simple stuff will work against good teams and good players. If you have ever been an assistant, you know that you have all the answers.

When the time came for me to become a head coach, I knew that I would be better than the coaches I had worked for. I had been very lucky. Before becoming a head coach, I had 6 years as an assistant, 5 years at the NCAA Div. I level. I had become a Div. II head coach when I was 29 years old. At the time, I was one of the youngest head coaches in the country, at any level. Looking back on it, probably too young. I still thought I had all the answers, but what I didn't realize was, they changed all the questions.

Early in my head coaching career, Xs and Os was my answer to everything. As we struggled, my offenses and defenses became more and more complex. I was constantly looking for more and more and more. The things I was teaching my players, which I thought would make them better, was actually confusing them and had the opposite of my desired effect (much like when I was a player). In time, I got simpler. Less Xs and Os, less crazy drills, less wacky skills. I got back to basics, things got better. Much better.

After coaching over 750 games, I decided to get off the sideline and pursue my real passion which was working with players, and trying to help them get better. When I started my Drillz and Skillz Basketball Academy back in 2004, I decided to keep my teaching simple. If you have ever attended one of my camps, you have seen how simple it is. If we have talked basketball at all, you can easily see how simple I think the game is.

The Genius and Simplicity of Kobe Bryant

I am continually amazed at what I see people teaching now. I don't understand how jumping over tables, pushing around cones, rolling on the floor, etc. makes you better. But, if the players feel that doing the exercises help them, then I'm all for it.

Recently, I received affirmation of the simplicity of the game from a very unexpected source. It came from none other than the best player of his generation of players, Kobe Bryant.

Kobe has been out of public consciousness for the last couple of years, due to his injuries and playing on bad teams. Memory fades pretty quickly. But, if you had seen him play before 2011, you can remember how good he really was (or is).

Kobe was speaking to a group of kids about basketball. Kobe's work ethic and desire to be the best are legendary and well documented. However, he is usually pretty guarded about his basketball "secrets" (he doesn't want anyone to get an edge on him). But, to this group of kids, he exposed, what he feels is the key to his game. How lucky these kids are to hear this directly from a player like Kobe. His secret is simplicity. Kobe Bryant, by his own words, has 2 moves. That's it, 2 moves. He said that, every time down the floor he thinks the same thing, "dribble right, jump shot." Time after time he comes down and thinks, "dribble right, jump shot." That's what he does best. Why should he think anything else? He believes that nobody can stop him on his dribble right, jump shot.

But, in the event somebody does play him for that, he goes to his back up move, "dribble left, jump shot." That's it. That's all there is. He said that, all the other things he does comes about only when he can't do one of those 2 things. He says he relies on instinct and footwork (which really is exceptional) to counter defenders. He says that simplifying his offensive game to those 2 moves has allowed him to see the game better, react faster and perfect the parts of his game that have lead to his success.

I have found that you can't be good at everything. The best players I have worked with, players that have had significant NBA careers, NBA All Stars, Olympians, some of the best players in the world only do a couple of things well. Those things that they do well, they do them very well. The leading scorer in NBA history, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, had a hook shot. Shaq had a dribble drop step. Michael Jordan had a cross over pull up. Reggie Miller came off screens. They did it a lot. The great John Wooden, longtime coach at UCLA, said it best, "The things you do the best you should do the most."

Related Resources

Don Kelbick Basketball Camps - Attack and Counter, Shooting, Post Play

Don Kelbick Products

What do you think? Let us know by leaving your comments, suggestions, and questions...


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midd44 says:
5/22/2015 at 1:34:20 PM

i have to disagree with your statement "some of the best players in the world only do a couple of things well".

MJ, Kobe, and all the great players have signature moves which they are GREAT at, BUT.... they also do ALOT of things well!!!

the reason MJ, Kobe, etc were able to be successful with their signature move is because they were GREAT at being able to get to the hoop!!! the NBA has had ALOT of great jump shooters, better shooters than MJ and Kobe, but they WEREN'T as good as MJ or Kobe.

i do agree that we need to simplify things, but to limit yourself to 1 move is to set yourself up to fail.

Kevin Durant said you need to be able to do 3 things:
1. catch & shoot
2. catch 1 dribble and shoot
3. catch 2 dribbles to get to the hoop......

John Wooden said "The things you do the best you should do the MOST." not "The things you do the best you should ONLY do."

  1 reply  

Joe Haefner says:
5/22/2015 at 2:52:41 PM

Don has a skill progression that goes like this:

Take a game-like cut... it can be a v-cut, l-cut, straight cut, curl cut, etc.

Here are how the progressions go:

1. Catch and Shoot.
2. Catch - 1 Dribble - Lay Up
3. Catch - 1 Dribble - Jump Shot
4. Catch - Dribble Move - Lay Up
5. Catch - Dribble Move - Jump Shot

You could also add finishing counters in there.

  1 reply  

midd44 says:
5/22/2015 at 5:20:09 PM

yes, i agree with kids learning that progression series BUT that's ALOT more than just learning to "dribble right, jump shot" or "dribble left, jump shot"

live by the jump shot, die by the jump shot

  2 replies  

Joe Haefner says:
5/22/2015 at 5:43:22 PM

I think the point is.... become really great at something and add counters to your game.

If you're not really good at something, your counters are useless as your initial move doesn't open up potential counters.

And if you're really great at a move, your counters can still be effective without being great.

Develop a global game... shooting, passing, ball handling, moving without the ball, finishing inside, etc...

Then do what you're good at.

There are certainly more layers to this and how Don's teachings fit into this philosophy.

I just know that I've had a lot of success incorporating his philosophies into my training.

Check out his videos. You don't like them... ask for a refund. :)

His teachings are certainly not traditional and aren't for everybody.


Lee says:
5/25/2015 at 11:17:55 AM

Mid you are missing the point. I think we've seen Kobe make plenty of dunks and layups. But just like in football, some teams run to set up the pass, and others pass to set up the run. It's just about simplifying your mindset. In Kobe's case, thinking that way allows him a mental framework from which to attack the defense. I'd say it's been a little successful.


Brian says:
5/22/2015 at 10:06:50 AM

Timely article. I stepped away from the sidelines for a year and during that year I've explored all types of offensive and defensive schemes, most are probably too complex for high school kids. After reading this article, I've decided to go back to basics as well. Keeping the offense and the defense simple. Thanks.


aris says:
5/21/2015 at 8:39:15 AM

Thank you very much!Great tip...


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