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PostPosted: 19 Jan 2014, 20:32 

Posts: 41
My team (7th grade boys) in seasons past has always started slow but usually finished strong, but this winter it is particularly pronounced. I have tried everything. We talk about it constantly (the need for Big Energy I call it), some games I have been vocal at the beginning but thought maybe that made them nervous, other games I don't say much at all in the beginning (which might relax them but then are even more sluggish). I try them in different defenses, even going full court M2M to get the energy going. We do mini-scrimmages and rebounding drills in warm up to generate contact and get game speed. I have them run sprints to get the heat pumping. Sometimes we just do the regular old layup drill. Nothing works (we mostly have introverts on the team so there is no fiery point guard to get them going). The level of competition makes no difference. One game against a much weaker team it's back forth until we make a little run to go up 8 at the half and then turn it on in the 2nd to win by 28. Another game agains an excellent team we start 0-13, losing by 20 at the half, play them even the second half. The other teams where we are more evenly matched it is almost always close or us down a little at the half, but then we surge in the second half. I can't complain too much (we are 6-2 this season) but I can't for the life of me figure out how to solve this problem. Any and all suggestions are welcome.

PostPosted: 19 Jan 2014, 23:31 

Posts: 900
Here's the first thing I would do. Next practice, you set a new standard for what it means to play with intensity. That means every little thing they do from running on and off the court to looking you in the eye with focus when you're talking. If they do nothing else for you, they will play with intensity when they are on the court. Call them on it in practice. No lazy passes, no thinking the other guy is going to get the loose ball, no jogging back on defense, you don't allow blow by's on defense, when you fast break they sprint down the court. In fact, they always sprint. They sprint on and off the court, they sprint their cuts, and they sprint to get a drink. It will take some fortitude on your part, but I think it will pay off. Be ready to tell someone to get off the court and replace them with someone else. They need to know you're serious. Jump all over it in a positive way when you see them displaying the intensity you want to see.

The second thing I would do is tell them the player's who play with intensity are the ones that will start and stay on the court. Who cares of you have a guy that has perfect shooting form if he won't hustle? Raise your expectations and be ready to mix things up a bit out there. Reward what you want to see out on the court.


PostPosted: 20 Jan 2014, 06:54 
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Posts: 1280
I think Rob has a good idea. I really have never had that problem because effort and hustle is what I always emphasize from the very first minute (literally) of the first practice. It's a non-negotiable. The only time I ever raise my voice is when effort is not there. The hardest workers (aka: best defenders and rebounders) get to start. If you don't play D, you don't play. Period. If you don't work hard, you sit on the bench. Also goes back to our core values which we try to emphasize every day and all year.

I think Rob has a good idea to start a new standard. A new season starts today.

Here are the core values for our team.

Our core values and character skills are the number one priority for us...

"Culture and Character are the most important things. It starts there."

- Brad Stevens, Former Butler and now Celtics Head Coach

All of the best programs are built on character skills. We believe that focusing on these skills will give our team the best chance of success. And, even more important, they will give each player life lessons and tools to help them succeed outside of basketball.

Coaches and players will focus on applying, developing, and living these values in every minute, every day, every practice, and every game.

"Character is the foundation upon which you win."

- Mike Krzyzewski, Duke Head Coach

Here are the values that define our team...

Hard Working

• Always give your best effort.
• Do more than what is expected of you.
• Be passionate - do not be lukewarm, commit to excellence.
• Be enthusiastic - your energy and enjoyment, drive and dedication will stimulate and inspire others.
• Prepare (sharpen the saw) - prepare yourself and enhance your skills every day.
• Be proactive - don't sit back, take the initiate and get things done.
• Focus - maintain an exceedingly high level of concentration and intense focus on your work.


• Work together and help each other.
• Look to help others in your life, with nothing expected in return.
• Develop strong relationships, friendships, and respect for others.
• Show unity - do not divide our house, team first.
• Make teammates better, lead by giving.
• Be caring and thoughtful in everything you do. Show kindness.
• Be respectful. Be loyal.
• Treat others the same way you want them to treat you.
• Make friendship a fine art. Be a great friend.
• Being kind is more important than being right.


• Never give up and don't be afraid to make mistakes.
• In order to succeed, you must first be willing to fail.
• Play through mistakes! Do not pout, complain, or drop your head when you make mistakes.
• Play through referee’s calls.
• Never quit on a play! Never!!
• Use mistakes and failures to improve instead of using them as excuses.
• Stay the course. When thwarted try again; harder; smarter.
• Don't become discouraged at temporary setbacks.
• Have a very high frustration tolerance.
• No hanging your head. Avoid negative thoughts and defeatist thinking.
• Spend most of your time thinking about the positive things you are doing, versus dwelling on the negative ones (mistakes).
• Persevere relentlessly!


• Be honest and trustworthy.
• Be someone that can be trusted and always relied upon.
• Show integrity and character in everything you do.
• Be responsible.
• Look people in the eye when communicating.
• Be a role model off the floor – look the part.
• Do all you have agreed to do. If you commit to something or say you are going to do something, see it through.


• Be grateful and thankful for what you have. Not everyone gets this opportunity.
• Be appreciative.
• Show gratitude. Be aware of people around you that go out of their way to help you. Say thank you.
• Enjoy practices and the process. Enjoy the improvement.
• Maintain a positive attitude in practice, games, and all aspects of your life. Your attitude is what defines you. Your attitude affects you and the people around you.
• Focus on the things you are good at.
• Enjoy the process and focus your energy on the positive things (give thanks).
• Have an attitude of gratitude – say “Thank You”.

Jeff Haefner

PostPosted: 20 Jan 2014, 08:20 
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Posts: 3139
Well, there is nothing that I can really add to what Rob and Jeff said.

I have a hard time understanding this..... anybody that knows me knew that I would never accept that, nor would my asst. WE WERE very motivated to succeed and we were very active on the practice floor. They followed suit with how we coached.

I did things like you did... IF I thought my team was laid back at the time, we would come out pressing just to get their juices flowing. IF they were too hyper, I would be more laid back and talk Xs and Os.

You might try this, break your quarters down to 3 minute segments..... so instead of 4 qtrs, you will have 8.... 8 mini games so to speak. OR, as you go to practice, give them the first few minutes to loosen up and then do some TIMED drills like FULL COURT LAY UPS. Time everything and make everything competitive. ( OK, had more to say than I thought :-) )

PostPosted: 21 Jan 2014, 13:51 

Posts: 41
Thanks for the suggestions. It seems to be a more nuanced thing than just effort. Our practices vary in intensity depending on what we are working on and learning. I use competitive drills, timed drills, scrimmage scenarios, disciplinary actions like suicides and burpees for goofing off, but other situations especially when we are learning new things require a more dialed down approach Sometimes I crank the intensity right up for most of the practice but it is hard to keep it at a high level all the time and can wear down players and coach both. I will try it for the next couple of practices for the entire sessions and see if it correlates to the following game. But I do think there is a personality piece to it. For whatever reason I have a lot of introverted kids and it takes a lot to get them fired up. That and I think nerves and the kids just come out passive. The good news is that they seem to find that fire as the game progresses. I am just searching for a way to get it lit in the very first few minutes and save ourselves from having to come from behind so much.

PostPosted: 25 Jan 2014, 18:17 
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Posts: 314
Coach: Have you attacked this problem from a psychological standpoint, all the other coaches on this forum have talked about the physical and have given excellent suggestions. However, you have made statements like 'unmotivated, lethargic, and introverted, at this point, I would be askking them...Do you want to play this game?, why are you here,? whats the purpose for you being on this team.? I have had a few players such as you describe in the past, and found out that they dont really want to play basketball they do it because their parents or someone else wants them to play. I think you need to get inside thier heads and find out where their motivations lie. I have played sports at a high level, and alwayks got excited at the prospect of playing, in fact many times I could not sleep the night before a big game because I just loved to compete. Im sure if you challenge them psychologically, you will find out what the real problems are. Im sure it does not pertain to all your players, However if some key participants are playing lethargically and without motivation, it will affect all members. Just a thought good luck Coach Mac

PostPosted: 25 Jan 2014, 18:49 
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Posts: 3139
Great points Mac - I never had kids that didn't want to play, hard for me to fathom. I find the bench to be a great motivator. They hated that seat right next to me. I was always poking someone... not intentionally - just a reaction to a bad play usually.

How are you feeling these days Mac?

PostPosted: 28 Jan 2014, 11:34 

Posts: 41
Last game the other team started out pressing us from the get go. So our guys had to start with energy and the other team did not have a very good press so we were able to break it with some easy baskets and then take off from there for a nice W. The psychological piece is very important I recognize. One issue I face with a number of my players is they play for multiple teams in the winter -- CYO, rec leagues, school teams, etc -- so it can be a bit of blur for them as one game leads to the next and so some of the novelty and excitement wears off as the season progresses.

PostPosted: 28 Jan 2014, 12:33 

Posts: 900
Coach O wrote:
One issue I face with a number of my players is they play for multiple teams in the winter -- CYO, rec leagues, school teams, etc -- so it can be a bit of blur for them as one game leads to the next and so some of the novelty and excitement wears off as the season progresses.
Been there and you bring up a valid point. I see it not only in basketball but other sports as well. With the advent of club teams, the pressure to play year round is increasing which also increases the chance for burnout.

Looking back at our 7th/8th grade years, we played 3v3 and a fall 5v5 league at the same time, several weekend tourneys in the fall, went into two simultaneous winter leagues, played 3v3 in the spring along with a spring league and weekend tourneys. Played tons of tourneys over the summer and repeated that process the next fall. You can rack up a ton of games that way. That doesn't even take into consideration camps, clinics, and private sessions.

We did it all in the name of "gotta make that high school team", which worked, but sometimes I wonder at what expense. Most likely, none of these kids will turn out to be D1 players (my son included), yet there's even pressure waiting in the spring after the high school season to join the club team, play tourneys and do it all over again in the name of "gotta make that high school team". I'm sure you can fill in the blank with, "Gotta make that _________________" middle school team, club team, etc.


PostPosted: 19 Feb 2014, 14:38 

Posts: 41
Rob, you've hit it right on the head. There are teams out there (not us) that play more games in a year than they do in the NBA. I think for a lot of kids it all becomes a blur. They do become better players but the excitement fades for many of them. As for "gotta make that HS team" there is a definite linkage. These kids do want to make their HS teams. HS's in my area are big (2,500 students) and it is a basketball hotbed but unless you are one of those very gifted athletes the kids who will make the team almost have to be full- or near full-year players. So that puts pressure all the way down through the system.

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