I am going to propose something that I hope will cause some discussion and maybe even have some people re-think their high school basketball program. Here goes… we should reduce the number of games that teams are allowed to play. This may not apply to all levels of high school basketball, but likely to most of 4A, a good chunk of 3A and few other programs at other levels. The reason I suggest doing something this drastic can be revealed by analyzing the current season.  Here's how...

Take a moment to consider the following facts. The current MHSAA basketball bylaws have the maximum games limit at 25. I do not know of many top teams that only play 25 games. This counts tournaments as only two games and does not count league playoff games. In doing this, a team would usually play 11-12 league games, enter 6 tournaments (sometimes 7 if they play a smaller league) and play one exhibition game to fill out their schedule. They finish with 3 league playoff games before going to provincials.

All tournaments of course have at least 3 games, possibly 4 or 5 (WIT, BSSI). Many teams will also play informal scrimmages against alumni teams with no referees present (note this should still be counted, but no one does). All told, this actually works out to a real total game number from 32-34 games. 

Assuming you can start practices when the volleyball season ends (does it ever end?… this is the subject for another blog!)  Taking this year as a sample, if had you an OK Volleyball team at your school that did not make provincials this season, you would have begun practices on November 24. Assuming you do something with your team for 6/week and you take off ONLY stat holidays and 5 days for exams, you have 75 possible days with your team. Playing your 34 games, and giving the athletes no other rest, you could only practice a possible 41 times. That is barely a 1:1 ratio at the absolute best! Let’s say you are a lazy coach or you actually want to know the names of your family members. You might reasonably take the non-playing Saturdays off, the odd Friday after school off and you might lose your gym to a band concert and an open house on two nights. You now have approximately 60 possible days or only 26 practices and 34 games.     

Much of this time during the season is spent coaching systems and team play.  Consider what an elite coach might do in terms of technical X’s and O’s through the course of a season. Early season, the coach needs to put in a press break, a basic shell offense and one inbound play just to get some structure and make sure you are not blown out in the first tournament. As the season goes on, most coaches will often put in more options to their offense, a zone offense or two, a couple of quick hitters, two more end out plays, a side out play, a last second play, man to man defensive concepts, at least one zone defense and maybe a zone press. Admittedly, some coaches will do less than this but several others will do much more.  With somewhere between 26 and 41 practices, I can guarantee no matter how good of a coach you are:  YOU ARE TEACHING THESE THINGS POORLY.    

I always find it interesting when the American teams come up here for WIT and people are amazed at how they execute their offence and defense flawlessly. There is a reason for this: They have a much longer season and they play even less games then we do.  Overall, they have at least 3 times the practice time we do but play 8-10 fewer games. Many of them would play only 1 exhibition tournament/year. The result, they teach their systems much better than we do and their players have better fundamentals to execute these systems.   

I am of one of the people that believe that the basic fundamental skill level of athletes in our great sport has declined in recent years. While many blame our emerging club system for this, I believe the high school season is also at least partially at fault.

    The solution:

  1. Reduce the MHSAA games limit to 20 and/or count every game, as a game regardless of exhibition or tournament. This would effectively cut out 3 tournaments from everyone’s schedule and allow for more practice time.

  2. Do not start any of the leagues until after Christmas. This will upset the schedulers, as they need every playing they can to fit in the games. However, with less tournaments entered, we could now go back to more Friday night games.  Imagine a Friday night “Game of the Week” between, Neelin and Crocus Plains, Oak Park and Sturgeon Heights, Daniel Mac and Tec Voc, Dakota and Glenlawn, or River East and MBCI.

We may actually be able to promote these games and get out a few spectators! These spectator will enjoy the game not because of the sloppy match up zone some coach taught them in an hour, but because kids actually know how to play.

Imagine that!

As always, I welcome your feedback.

Kirby Schepp is Manitoba's Male High Performance Coach.  Agree?  Disagree?  Login or register at the top of the page and post your comments below!

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