Coaching Great Players

English: Basketball player LeBron James during...

English: Basketball player LeBron James during the game Washington Wizards versus Miami Heat (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So it has been a long time since my last post.  I have enjoyed another great summer filled with camps, AAU tournaments, team camps, and some rest and relaxation on the beach.  Now that summer is coming to an end, I will begin to post on a more regular basis.  Below is an article written by Mike Procopio that discusses coaching great players.  Enjoy!

Great players in our sport don’t come a long very often. I’m not talking about a player that can be an all star level player, but a player that changes the game and is a franchise player that transcends greatness. We look at them and have different takes on how if given the opportunity would coach and handle them.

Many coaches will never have the opportunity to coach a great player in our careers. Some that are given the opportunity sometimes take on the responsibility and the player benefits, and some don’t handle it correctly and the player as well as the program suffers.

Coaching a great young player at any level is like raising in a child where they need to be nurtured and guided to maximize their potential. Some people think the LeBron’s, Kobe’s and Durant’s just became great with their natural gifts. Great players are made for the most part and not just born that way. Yes they tend to have God given ability, but that ability as well as their mental toughness were developed over a period of time. Having had the opportunity to work closely with some of the game’s greatest players I have a strong opinion on how I would develop a great player in their early stages. The only way this will get done is if you deal with it head on. There is no instruction manual that you can follow as every player is wired differently. Most of what makes a great player is developed off of the court than on it. Anyone can be great on the court, but developing a player off the court is three times as important as developing them on it. So many players get caught in the nothingness because they are not socially developed properly off of the court. Drills are important when developing players, but great habits and attitude off of the court trumps it.

Here are some things that I think coaches should concentrate on.

1.) The player is not a finished product it will take time to develop them to maximize their ability

You can’t expect great players while they are young to dominate right off the bat. Developing them is a long journey filled with peaks and valleys. Your entire staff as well as the player need to dig your heels in the ground and expect a long fight.

Don’t make the mistake of expecting young players to be physically and mentally dominant on a daily basis. Continue to be positive and communicate to them their mistakes as well as what steps need to be taken to correct them. They need to know that you have their back and will continue to encourage them and have their back.

Talk to your player  and let them know that they need to be patient that if they take the right steps they will benefit greatly from it. Patience on the coaching and playing side is a very difficult trait to acquire.

2.) The Development of a great player will mostly consist of off the court development than on.

From what I’ve seen in my career is that most great players can adjust in time. They make take more time than others to mature into the great player that they will become, but as far as the on court basketball  side of it they eventually get it.

A lot of coaches that work with players feel as though the more on the court work that they do with players the more that the player will develop. I think most players don’t make it to their potential because of off the court issues. They are uncoachable, players hate playing with them, off the court legal drama, bad work ethic, etc.

Things come easy for great players, and with that they obtain a false sense of how good they are as well as how much work needs to go into it. Coaches must constantly communicate and meet with players to put out fires and keep the player on track. Easier said than done, but never take for granted the relationship that you can have with your players as well as their confidence and psyche when you put the time in with them off the court as well as on.

3.) Great players need to lead by example.

Not every great player is a verbal leader and that should be understood. Some are just not wired for being verbal leaders and coaches on the floor. But what they need to be are leaders by the example that they show.

Great players come to practice early as well as stay late to get their work in. They not only want to develop their own game, but also set the tone for the rest of the team that not only the team’s best player but the league’s best player is putting in extra work to push themselves to be great.

If you look at the Spurs and how Tim Duncan works so hard not only in games, but in practice as well trickles down to rest of the roster. What this does is it picks up the rest of the players on the roster to bring their game and work ethic to the highest level possible.

I think there is an abundance of players that can dominate in games , but not many can dominate in games as well as put the extra work in as well as bring it every day in practice. I think the selective few that can do that not only bring their own games to other levels, but do the same for their respective teams.

4.) Keep them to the same standards off the court and in practice.

The worst thing you can do with any player is to hold them to different standards as the rest of your team. It not only creates bad habits for the player that you are favoriting, but you are creating a very unhealthy environment for your team.

There are countless examples of players that developed big egos and never lived up to their potential, because they were always held to a different set of rules and standards of everyone else. Things like being on time for practice/games/team functions, respect to others, good practice habits, etc are things that have to be non negotiable.

Great players have to be given bigger leashes on the court as far as their shot selection and ability to play through mistakes. I think the only way great players will learn is to give them big stretches on the floor where they can play through droughts and mistakes.  On the court is the separation between average players and very good/great players. Off the court they are held to the same standards, on it they are given more freedom.

Great players will make mistakes in their early phases of development and I think its important to let them play through it to a certain point. Players lose confidence quickly when they are yanked for every mistake. It is better to get film of the game and go over it with them in film sessions rather than just take them out after every mistake because that will cause them to be afraid of making mistakes.

You cant be afraid to suspend your best player. The rest of the team needs to now that talent doesn’t give players the authority to play by another set of rules as far as conduct, respect, being on time etc. They need to know that you have total control of the situation. Having control of your ship is very important and can’t be taken for granted. If your players think that the best players are held to a lower standard than they are you will lose your team.

5.) Teach them to appreciate criticism and look the person that is giving to them in the eye.

Players today really have a hard time being criticized. They get flustered and feel as though you are demeaning them by telling them what the can’t do or what they did wrong. I think the earlier in a player’s career that they can accept criticism the better that they will be. Some coaches that I have spoken to sometimes sidestep criticism for high level players because they feel as though they will lose them mentally or they will leave their team for another.

The urban legend is that great players hate to be criticized. I’ve found most players like being told the truth. Before working for the Mavericks I worked with players like Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, and Rajon Rondo. All of them encouraged critiquing because they wanted to be the best at what they did. The best way to approach players is to be up front with them.

I think players that can take criticism early in their career can be easily coached. Of course you have to critique them in a way that doesn’t come across too negative. I think in the right context it can make a difference with the player and help your team in the long run.

Body language is so important for a player. There is nothing worse than not looking someone in the eye when they are talking to you. I know as a coach it really bothers me when a player or anyone that I am speaking to doesnt look me in the eye. It makes me assume that they arent focused in what I am telling them . Players should look their coaches in the eye or anyone for that matter. It shows that they are engaged to the conversation and enables them to capture more out of it.

From the coaches side remember delivery is the most important part of critiquing a player. Deliver the message directly, but identify what the layer can and can’t take. It is all about the delivery.

6.) Toe the line of over coaching and giving a big leash

All players need to be coached. From the best of all-time to the worst player on the planet a player needs the guidance of a coach to maximize their talent and ability. When dealing with a great player you have to give them the guidance to learn as well as hold them accountable  when needed.

I think there are misconceptions about great players on two counts. First, that coaches need to over coach great players. What this means is that they coach them every possession of every game and practice. Second is to given them only the minimum amount of coaching and wait until they become a dominant player.

Great players definitely need coaching. They need positive and educated influences when it comes to their coaches. The problem that comes up is that a coach feels as though they need to coach a player with a lot of talent too much and breathe down their neck all day every day. Thats is a frustrating thing to deal with as a player an will create friction between the player and coach.

The player should definitely be coached , but it is important to give them some freedom when they make a mistake. Give them some time to process their mistake and give them an opportunity to play through it to see if they can self correct in the game. This is a great way to give your player confidence that they are allowed to make mistakes without being yanked.

Players at all levels do want a certain amount of space especially when they are going through a slump. You need to read your player and know their tolerance level of communication especially heated confrontations. Players need to be told when they make mistakes and be held accountable.

On the other side of it not doing anything to confront or hold your star player accountable is a huge mistake. I’ve seen that approach and it destroys the player. They need a certain level of guidance to know the difference between right and wrong. When they aren’t giving a good effort in games or practice they need to know that. If they aren’t executing their coach needs to tell them. You can’t expect great players to figure it out with no help at the beginning stages of their career.

It is hard coaching in general, but with great players its even tougher because you have to know how much to shorten the leash which is a tricky thing. I think if you let them know that you are on them when they make mistakes to help them not repeat them they will appreciate that. But they also can’t get it their head that they run things and can do whatever they want. It is a specigic balance.

7.) They need to know a GOOD can dominate the game on one end a GREAT player dominates on both.

I remember being with the Boston Celtics and watching Paul Pierce play. He had unbelievable footwork. With his combination of size, shooting, strength, and deceptive explosiveness he was one of the best young scoring forwards in the NBA. Defensively he gave an effort, but it wasn’t something that he concentrated on strongly. I think what changed him from an all-star player to a franchise player was his commitment to defense. His ability to shut down anyone at his position was a huge part in the Celtics success of their championship runs.

How I always explain it to players is that Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant were both 9 time First Team All-Defense in the NBA. That’s a pretty strong statement on 2 of the All-Time players ever to play the game and their commitment to making stops. Scoring points is an important part of the game, but to combine scoring with the ability to stop people is something special.

Many players have the physical tools to be very good defenders, but lack the focus and commitment to it. It isn’t easy, but it must be something that is preached on a regular basis to your player. I don’t like dropping names while developing players, but once in a while it is good to use names like these to hammer down a point.

Not every player physically is good enough to be a dominating defensive player, but they can always be a good team defender. Continue to teach them and make them buy into how important defense is.

8.) Have an open line of communication with them

As a coach you are the most important basketball tool for your player. They need to know that they can come in to your office or call/text/email you whenever they are having an issue on or off the court.

You need to meet with your player regularly when needed to be able to build emotional equity with them. This will build trust and develop a bond between you and your player. This is something that you should do with all of your players, but definitely needed when developing a great player.

In your communication with them you must tell them the truth and be brutally honest. Honesty is something that all players need. Don’t shy away from confrontation as it is something that will help your players on and off the court. There are so many people involved with our game that aren’t honest with players of all levels and it really hurts the product that is produced. Communication is the key to any relationship and is the key to success.

In closing there is no magic pill, drill, or inspirational quote to get a player better. You need to do most of your work off of the court and needs to be done daily. I always laugh at people who live their life by other people’s sayings and quotes and expect to be successful based on what others say or do. Every one is different. Every player is different and every coach that deals with players are different. What works for Jon Calipari or Bobby Knight won’t automatically work for you.

In the end it is YOU that are in the trenches with your players not John Wooden or someone else. At the end of the day you know yourself and your players better than anyone. You are the difference between players being good and great. Don’t let players go by the waste side by not putting work in. Anyone can get on the court and put layers through great drills. The problem is there is another part to player development and it entails more than what you can read in a coaching book or view in a video. Off the court development with your players is a staple in their development as a player and person. Don’t short change them and yourself as it could help them for years to come.

Please let me know if you have any requests for plays, drills, defenses, etc… Also let me know if you have any articles, plays, drills, etc…that you would like me to publish for you on the site.

You can email me at coachtimmcdonald@gmail.com

How Bad Do You Want It?

NBA Finals

NBA Finals (Photo credit: Paolo Rosa)

On the day of the Eastern Conference Finals Game 7 in the NBA between the Miami Heat and the Indiana Pacers, you can’t help but think about how bad these players and coaches want to win this game tonight to advance to the NBA Finals.  Game 7’s are always intriguing as they are one and done; win or go home.  So I found a video on YouTube titled “How Bad Do You Want It” and I think when the game ends tonight, the team that wanted the win the  most, the team that left everything on the floor tonight, will be the team advancing to the NBA Finals.  Should be a good one!  Enjoy the video!

Please let me know if you have any requests for plays, drills, defenses, etc… Also let me know if you have any articles, plays, drills, etc…That you would like me to publish for you on the site

You can email me at coachtimmcdonald@gmail.com

LeBron James Sports Science

English: Lebron James: Washington Wizards v/s ...

English: Lebron James: Washington Wizards v/s Miami Heat December 18, 2010 Italiano: Lebron James Camera: Canon EOS-1D Mark IV License on Flickr: CC-BY-SA-2.0 Flickr tags: LeBron James (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I hope everyone had a safe and enjoyable Memorial Day Weekend!  Here is a new Sports Science piece from ESPN on LeBron James and how he could excel at every position on the court.  Enjoy!

Please let me know if you have any requests for plays, drills, defenses, etc…

You can email me at coachtimmcdonald@gmail.com

 

My Take on Derrick Rose

Derrick Rose #1 of the Chicago Bulls at the Ve...

Derrick Rose #1 of the Chicago Bulls at the Verizon Center on February 28, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last April, Chicago Bulls superstar guard Derrick Rose suffered a devastating ACL tear in his knee in the NBA playoffs.  The injury caused Rose to miss the rest of the 2012 NBA playoffs and also the entire 2012-2013 NBA season.  Currently, his team the Chicago Bulls are in the 2nd round of the NBA playoffs and has a 1-0 lead in their best of seven series against the Miami Heat.  Rose who was cleared to play by doctors before the end of the regular season has yet to play and it is unsure when and if he will play at all this season.  Everyone seems to have an opinion on when Rose should return.  The majority of people have even questioned his toughness because he has not returned yet.  While I do believe that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, I will ask you this:  Do you personally know how his knee feels and what his comfort level is with making the basketball moves he is accustomed too?  You see everyone is quick to compare his knee injury with other players who have had similar injuries.  However, the truth is that no two injuries and no two people are exactly alike.

I have read numerous articles stating that Derrick Rose looks healthy in his individual and team workouts.  But again the truth is that only Rose will know when he is physically and mentally able to return.  To question his toughness is just absurd!  He is a very unique player who utilizes some of the most explosive maneuvers that basketball has ever seen.  When he is ready he will return.  In the meantime, stop judging people you do not know and imagine how bad he feels watching his teammates lay it on the line day in and day out while others just judge and question his toughness.

Please let me know if you have any requests for plays, drills, defenses, etc…

You can email me at coachtimmcdonald@gmail.com

 

Ray Allen – Shooting Drill

77-26117-JHere is a video of a great shooting drill! The video gives a great demonstration of how simple the drill is but also how effective it can be on conditioning players to be ready to catch and shoot. The video is courtesy of BreakthroughBball. The drill needs a shooter and a rebounder/passer. The shooter needs to make five consecutive shots in one line before moving to the next spot (The line meaning you back up a few feet in a straight line after making each shot; the fifth shot in each line is a three point shot). There are five lines at each spot and five spots on the floor: baseline, wing, center, opposite wing, and opposite baseline. If you miss a shot in a line, you start that line over. To simplify those instructions: five lines at each spot, five spots on the floor, make five consecutive shots to advance to the next spot on the floor; if you miss a shot, you start that line over. Enjoy the video and make this an off-season drill for your players to do on their own!

Please let me know if you have any requests for plays, drills, defenses, etc…

You can email me at coachtimmcdonald@gmail.com

Confidence vs. Cockiness

Brandon+Jennings+Milwaukee+Bucks+v+Miami+Heat+xpnHlNZs3-ilThere is a huge difference between being confident and being cocky. However, many times people mistake people confidence for cockiness. For instance, Brandon Jennings a guard for the Milwaukee Bucks was asked how he thought his team would do in the opening round of the NBA playoffs against the Miami Heat and he said that his team would win the best of seven series in six games. He was laughed at and mocked by many but people liked his confidence. Fast forward a few nights later, Jennings was interviews after the Bucks lost their 2nd straight game against the Heat and went down in the series 2-0 and a reporter asked what he thought about his original prediction now that they were down 2-0 in the series. Jennings replied he still believed the Bucks would win the series but may need a 7th game to do so. This time, Jennings wasn’t just laughed at by the media; he was called cocky and arrogant? He was ripped on social media by fans who thought Jennings was out of his mind and was selfish for saying this…Here is my take on Jennings and any player who states that their team will win: YOU CAN PLAY ON MY TEAM ANY DAY! People are mistaking his confidence for cockiness; something that happens all of the time. I have coached and played on some really good teams and some really bad teams; but regardless of how my team was, I always believe whole-heartedly that we were going to win! The second that you doubt that outcome is the second you begin to lose. While I personally don’t think the Bucks have any chance of beating the Heat in this series, I respect Jennings for his CONFIDENCE. If he came out and said I am going to score 50 points tonight; then you can call him cocky. Until then, respect his confidence and learn to be more confident in yourself and your team!

Please let me know if you have any requests for plays, drills, defenses, etc…

You can email me at coachtimmcdonald@gmail.com