So here’s my first blog – my first opportunity to really have some people shake their heads….what do I say? As the newly appointed female high performance basketball coach (having just completed the first summer gearing towards Canada Games with the juvenile girl’s provincial team) I have really had a great experience working with the athletes that were selected to represent our province. It was an honor to work with such character people. But every weekend in preparation for the National Championships, something happened where I just shook my head and wondered (along with my assistant coaches), why does this kid not know how to do a left-handed lay-up? Why do they seem so lost when we talk about basketball concepts rather than set plays? Does anyone talk about defense anymore? Why are our kids so far behind in basic skills when 90% of them are playing basketball 10-11.5 months of the year in school and in club programs?


who’s to blame? Who do we point the finger to? Is it the grassroots/community
club coaches? Junior high or high school coaches? Club programs? University
coaches? Parents? 

past summer we had 2 athletes represent Canada on our various national
teams and I’m sure a lot of people are claiming them as their own. But for the
athletes who aren’t getting there, who are sitting on university benches for a
year or two (if they even make it to that far) and then leaving the game
disappointed, where did we go wrong with them? Who’s going to claim them? I

Myself. I’ll take the blame. A comment
that was made this summer at Nationals was, “Every year this happens, every
year the athletes know what to do and every year nothing changes.” Completely
true! The 12 athletes who represented Manitoba this summer saw the junior
National team athletes compete, they saw the gold medal game, the bronze medal
game and several other matches and afterwards were asked to make a list of 10
things those athletes were doing that they weren’t or couldn’t. Who’s going to
join me in putting up their hand and saying, “I’ll take some of the blame – and
I’m willing to put the work in to make a change!” Any volunteers? 

what do I suggest? Part of the problem is that we talk about it when it’s done
but then we don’t ask the right questions and take the right steps forward to
get better next time. So, here are a few questions that the provincial athletes
were challenged with this past summer to figure out how they can improve on
their game and a few thoughts that we as a coaching staff challenged ourselves
with to improve individually and as a team of coaches. 

Athletes: What kind of game do I have? What
are my offensive and defensive tendencies? Am I a “complete” basketball player
who is able to shoot, drive, create, rebound and defend? If people consider me
a shooter what does that mean? If I were to go into the gym and hit 10 out of
100 shots does that make me a shooter just because I took them? Am I willing to
go in the gym every morning and take 100 shots until I make more than I
miss?  Do I play well against the top
teams or just against weaker opponents? When I play defense do I play against
the other team’s top player or do I rest on defense and guard the other team’s
weakest player? When I look at a stat sheet after the game do I only care about
how much I’ve scored? Do I think about assist to turnover ratios, defensive
rebounds and loose ball recoveries? Do I know what to do to make my teammates
better? If a teammate is a shooter what can I do to get them scoring looks? If
my specialty is defense and there is no statistic to count defensive stops, can
I still feel good about my game even though others might only look at points?
If I tip the ball and box out to create rebounds for my teammates do I need
stats to know I did a good job? Do I know how to play without the ball in my

Coaches: Which athletes do you single out
after a win? The top scorer, the athlete with the sweetest moves, the star
player or do you recognize the player that hustled in loose ball situations,
recovered back on defense, picked up their check full court when you asked, hit
all of their free throws, took care of the ball and didn’t turn it over, played
with intensity for their entire shift no matter how long or short it was? 

athletes do you single out after a loss? The athlete who missed the last shot?
Do you focus on both positives and negatives in the meeting after a game, or
just on what they didn’t do? Do you practice at the pace you want your athletes
to play? Do you use conditioning as a punishment? Do you emphasize balanced
passing and fundamental scoring looks or just get the ball there any way
possible and put points on the board? Do you have a seasonal plan or is it win
in December, win in January, win in February and win in March? Have you ever
“sacrificed” a quarter, a half or a complete game to make a point about work
ethic, character, sportsmanship or accountability? 

these questions in your mind is one thing but the real answers lie in what we
have to do in the gym for us to achieve the outcomes we are looking for. 

Athletes: How much time do you spend on your
game outside of organized practices? When you’re shooting hoops at an open gym
are you thinking about form, consistency and game shots? Have you approached your
coach or phys. ed department head and asked about extra gym time? Do you know
how to gauge whether you are getting stronger, faster and smarter? Do you pick
the club team program that will emphasize your development as a complete player
or the program that promises the most stuff and the best trips? Do you think
about your eating habits and how that affects your training and your playing
performance? Do you know how much water you should be drinking a day? Do you
visualize or mentally prepare for every game the same way or just the big ones?
Do you goof off when playing against your friends on other teams or do you play
more competitively? If you are the top player on your team do you set the
standard in practice everyday or do you just “show up” for games? 

Coaches: Do I reward athletes for working
hard? Do I practice what I preach when it comes to nutrition, fitness, time
management, accountability and team unity? Am I tougher on the kids who I
expect more from or on the kids who can’t do things as well as others? Do I
teach kids how to play within a system, or do I build a system around the
players I have? Do I teach man to man defensive principles or play zone all the
time because I’m unsure if my team can do it? Do I stress ball-handling with
all players or just the ones I’ve designated as guards? Do I stress post
defense to the tallest kid on the team or to everyone? Do I give out rules to
players based on their skill levels in the present time? (ie. Never dribble the
ball….never shoot the ball….never do this, never do that). 

am I asking these questions because I have all the answers and do the plus side
of all these items? Of course not, I still have A LOT of work to do but one of
the coolest experiences this summer has been working alongside many of our
province’s top high school and club team coaches who have assisted with
try-outs and practices through the past few months and spent time with us just
talking basketball. Sharing ideas and drills that work, laughing about
strategies used against certain opponents, figuring out how to get the best out
of each athlete as an individual, talking to athletes’ future coaches and
asking what they think the athlete needs to work on….That’s what a healthy
basketball community looks like!

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