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To Win More Basketball Games, You Need to be Great at 3 Things!- By Jeff Haefner
Let me share something I learned by attending dozens of coaching clinics, reading countless books, and constantly studying the game of basketball. All of those experiences have indicated that a basketball team can ONLY be great at 3 things!
Yet, few coaches heed this concept. In fact, I believe this SINGLE CONCEPT is what holds most coaches back!
The truth is that your team can NOT be great at man defense, zone defense, fast break transition, motion offense, breaking presses, rebounding, passing, taking care of the ball, ballhandling, shooting, scoring in the post, pressing, and so on.
At best, you will be POOR to MEDIOCRE in all those areas. There just isn't enough time in the day. It's not possible to be good in all those areas, even for professional NBA teams.
However, this is exactly what most coaches do. They try to do WAY too much. They try to be good at everything. Well, that simply does not work. There's a common saying in coaching...
"The coach who emphasizes everything, teaches nothing!"
It seems that almost all the successful high school, college, and NBA coaches have figured out this secret. They know they can only be great at a few things and they must develop an "identity" for their team.
Duke is great at M2M defense, offensive transition, and communication. The Celtics are great at M2M defense, rebounding, and teamwork. North Carolina is great at scoring, fast breaks, and pressure defense.
Think about it...
Would you rather be MEDIOCRE in 10 different aspects of basketball - or would you rather be GREAT in 3 or 4 areas?
I firmly believe that you must choose 3 or 4 things that you will be great at. Then you focus on those 3 areas and do what ever it takes to be great. In other words, you focus on the critical few, versus the trivial many.
This will give your team an identity. This will give you, as a coach, more focus. This will give your players a clearer understanding of what you want from them. This will cause other teams to adjust to you, instead of you adjusting to them.
What 3 things should you focus on?
To give you some ideas, my "3 things" are usually (but not always)...
- GREAT man to man defense.
- GREAT team rebounding.
- GREAT half court offense that is methodical and takes high percentage shots.
This is my personal philosophy for basketball coaching. But you must choose your own three things. Ask yourself the following questions...
- To be successful and win games, what does my team need to be great at?
- What are my players' strengths?
- What are my strengths? Am I very knowledgeable in a certain area (like defense)?
Two of the easiest ways to do that are....
- Shoot a higher percentage.
- Or take more shots than your opponent.
90% (or more) of our practice is spent on rebounding, M2M defense, and half court offense. In particular, we do motion offense with emphasis on low turnovers and offensive fundamentals.
We do almost ZERO work on fast break offense, pressing, zone defense, and so on. We very lightly cover those things, so we're ready for those games situations. But very little time is spent on it. Our team has an identity and the players know what is expected of them.
Our players know that if they win the battle on the boards, get stops on defense, and take high percentage shots -- then we have a VERY good chance at winning. With that said, we rarely discuss winning. Instead we discuss what it takes to be successful in basketball and life.
Youth teams can have identities too, but if your "3 things" are pressing, zone defense, and fast break offense - then you are RUINING your players' futures!
A youth coaches TOP priorities should be player development and having fun.
To develop players you run motion offense, man defense, and teach TONS of fundamentals.
Also, winning should be VERY VERY LOW on your priority list. Your priority should be to develop those young players. To do that, you may sacrifice a few wins at first.
At this point, you might be thinking... "What about the intangibles?"
The three things above are simply "tactical" things for you to work on. I believe you can still emphasize a few intangible things (in addition to the 3 tactical things above).
For example, you could stress teamwork, doing the right thing, unselfishness, hard work, being proactive, responsibility, timeliness, competing, and so on.
Intangibles are important too. Just don't try to emphasize too many things.
Now go ahead and choose your 3 or 4 tactical areas to focus on. Overcome your fear of skimming over the other trivial stuff. Don't be afraid to make some changes.
Once you start emphasizing the right things and narrow your focus, I promise that you'll be much better off.
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