Sunday, March 31, 2013

Coaching Basketball 101

I got an interesting lesson in basketball this past week that I want to share.    When it comes to COACHING any team (whether NBA, college, high school, kids or even adult recreation league), the coach's goal is win.  To do so, you have to "Maximize your team's strengths" and "Minimize your team's weaknesses".  

Nowhere was this true this week in two of my adult basketball leagues that I play in.  I am the captain / coach of my Monday night basketball league team.  The strength of my Monday night team is balance. All seven players are all about the same level.   Everyone has some different things they excel in.  One of our players is a great shooter when left open.  On the other hand, my Monday team is not all that explosive.  We don't have a definite #1 scorer that we can do to during crunch time.  

Early on, I worked the offense through our best shooter early on.  It worked pretty well early on but as the season has worn on, other teams have adjusted and our best shooter has slumped.  I haven't done a good job getting the team readjusted.  Additionally, I have not yet found a way to overcome our lack of a crunch time scorer.  Thus the team has one win and four losses.  Fortunately, the team's got another three games to recover in the season. 

On the other hand, I also play in a Thursday night basketball league.  The team is super top heavy with three good scorers, a solid fourth guy and four other guys (including me) as role players.  The team has done well and entered this week undefeated at 4-0.  This team's strength is that all of the players are fairly athletic.  We have a good PG (our captain) and two guys who can score at will.  The role players fill in with defense, rebounding and occasional scoring.  If there is a weakness is that we are not the quickest on the perimeter.  Plus, we are not real good in the half court.  We are much better in transition.  

The regular captain was gone this past Thursday so I took over captain duties.  Additionally, another one of our scorers was not present so we were left with six guys.  We chose to go zone defense early and let the other team just dominate us early as we fell behind by about 12 points.   When the other team is scoring like that, it is hard to get your transition offense going.  

The zone defense had made my team a bit passive so a switch to man-to-man was in order.   The other team was a little short on guards (only two present at game, one was out of town) so I stuck our #1 scorer (and also best defender) on the other team's best shooter.  The other team was forced to try and dump the ball into the post which was effective.  But the other team's offense became one dimensional and my team slowly chipped away. 

We were fortunate to get away with the 67-63 win even though we were missing two of our top players.  But it was one of those things where we maximized the strength we had (good defender) and minimized our weaknesses (only six players, 1 top scorer).  

People who just play basketball think it's just a one-on-one game but the reality is you need to take advantage of your strengths and avoid the weaknesses.  

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Calm In The Midst Of Chaos

This afternoon, I left work around 4:30 PM to catch the subway home.  I had some plans in the evening and wanted to get home early to make a decision on my commute plans (train or car).  I figured that if I got home at a reasonable time, I would have time to choose between either option, depending on how I felt.

The plans didn't quite go that well.   As soon as I got to the subway station, I heard an announcement of a delay.  Some accident had occurred and one station (in my direction home) was closed though trains were running.

At this point, I had a choice.  I could go with the regular subway I took or take an alternative system that was also underground.   I'm quite familiar with the alternative system.  I just knew it would definitely take a while for me to get home.  The regular subway is about a 20 minute ride (30 total minute commute).  The alternative is about 30 to 45 minute ride and almost an hour total commute.

I chose to take the regular subway and it was pretty clear I made the wrong decision.  Tons of people were waiting for trains going in both directions.  Not only was one station was closed, it turned out that most of the trains going my direction were getting turned back early.  All in all,  no one was happy.

I remember being a little frustrated initially.  I was hoping to get home and then head to my destination early. Now it seemed like I would not get home early AND would likely be late to my ultimate destination on time (let alone early).

I hopped on a train going home but I got off after about four stops.  The subway was turning back a lot of trains early.  Tons of other folks going my way were also getting dropped off.   Some were frustrated.  Some were calm but had a difficult time trying to figure out which trains were going which direction.

For me, I remained cool as a cucumber and even struck up some conversation with some folks.  After all, there was absolutely nothing I could do.  I figured I might as well enjoy myself while I waited.  At the station I was at, taking alternative transportation was possible BUT just too time consuming.  I chose to be patient and just ride out the situation.

After about 20 minutes, a train was finally going my direction so I hopped on with just about everyone else who had been waiting.   I continued chatting with a few the folks.  There were a few people just like me.  They weren't too overly stressed and we all just had some fun joking around.

When the train finally arrived at my station, I departed.  An older lady that I had been talking to complimented me for "keeping a good attitude and giving her some laughs".

That comment reminded me that I do have a good ability to remain calm under stress.  I can't really explain how or why I have this ability.  When things are seemingly falling apart (especially when it comes to basketball playing or coaching), I just put aside all the emotions and focus on WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE.

While I do have this ability, I sometimes forget and start getting frustrated or worried.  However, today was a good reminder that there is no pointing worrying about "WHAT IF".  You need to be centered and deal with "WHAT IS".

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Not everyone seems the game the same way as you.........

If you play a lot of basketball but have never been a coach or a team captain in any capacity, you owe it to yourself to give it a shot.  It will teach you a great many things about the game of basketball you never thought of.  

One of them is an incredible amount of patience.  As a long time coach and captain, I'm pretty relaxed with my teams.  Win or lose, I'm usually pretty chill.  But tonight my patience got a bit exhausted.   It was because my team has had trouble putting the pieces together.  As a coach, I have a vision of how the team can play but the vision hasn't been 100% realized.  Much of this is on me but to be fair, these adult teams don't practice.  We all just show up to play and I try to piece the puzzle together.  

But one lesson that is learned by coaching is that you understand that not everyone seems the game of basketball the game way as you do.   It's easy to get frustrated but you have a ton of players who have varying experience levels.   You just have to address each person individually.  

In any case, we've got a few games left to play so the season isn't over yet.