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A Coach's Biggest Mistake & How To Correct It

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A Coaches Biggest Mistake and How To Correct It
by Sidney Goldstein Copyright © 2001

As I hiked with a former college/pro tennis player, I asked how much time does it takes for a tennis player to learn doubles. His answer was, "Not much, maybe 15 minutes." 'Well', I replied, "basketball coaches routinely spend most practice time teaching doubles, ignoring the skills needed to play tennis." Of course he thought this ridiculous. "But," I said, "many coaches spend most practice time on plays, ignoring the skills needed for offensive success." He shook his head.
I could have continued saying that when a play does not work in a game, coaches figure they just need a better play. So they search for that super play that will work. Unfortunately, this search is in vain because offensive skills neither start, nor end with plays.

Let me explain. A play choreographs where and how players move in relation to each other, but not the steps. The manner in which a player cuts, fakes, catches, passes, communicates and so on, are not spelled out in the play. However, the success of the play depends on these skills (which are individual fundamentals).

All that you need for a successful play is for one player in the low post to get a half step on the defense, then flash to the basket for a pass & score. Of course, the passer must be looking at this instant, and be able to throw an accurate pass. This is not easy, but understanding what's involved in this simple play leads a coach to a better understanding of offensive skills.

Remember, the objective of the offense is to take advantage of a defensive weakness or mistake. To accomplish this task each passer must be able to throw fast accurate passes. Even more fundamental, each passer must be looking for a defensive mistake (open player), communicate with the catcher, fake the defense, and then time the pass correctly. The time frame here is in instants, maybe tenths of a second, so there is little room for error. The catcher must properly execute some similar skills- look, communicate, fake, time the cut -plus a few others like catching, making the move to the basket, and shooting. This is no easy feat considering the simplest of plays. Most pros have not developed these abilities to their fullest. Quite often, less able players have not even begun.

Of the 200 or so drills in the coaches manual (The Basketball Coach's Bible), most, not counting shooting, cover the offensive skills that I mentioned above. If you can incorporate these skills into the simplest of plays, then you will have an effective offense. Understand that plays don't teach offense, so there is no need to search. The simplest play will work just fine if players learn offensive skills.

Your comments are welcome.
Sidney Goldstein, author of The Basketball Coach's Bible and The Basketball Player's Bible, has successfully coached both men's and women's teams over a period of 15 years.

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