This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Workouts

SMACKS is an acronym that I like to use for teaching players how to play when they have the ball. Every time a player attempts to score, it can be broken down into each of these 6 stages. When players learn to master each stage individually, they can start putting them together and become better players. SMACKS gives me a way to help teach offensive players in a progression that is easy for them to remember.

S = Setup

M = Move

A = Attack Dribble

C = Crossover Step

K = Kill Dribble

S = Score

The setup is what the player do before they make a move. The setup is probably the most overlooked part of SMACKS. When a player is making a move off the dribble, this is learning to change speeds and levels to freeze the defender. If the player is making the move off the catch, it is learning how to prepare their feet and bodies to make their move without being off-balance or traveling. Players who forget this step often make moves that are ineffective. Players must always learn to set up the move before they make it. In many cases, this setup is not complicated or difficult. The setup can be as simple as playing just a bit slower to make a good read so that they can make the proper move.

The move is probably the most popular part of SMACKS that coaches teach and that players work on. Players always want to work on or learn a new move. The move can include a change of speed, change of level, and/or a change of direction. While the move might be the “flashiest” part of SMACKS, the other parts are just as important to a successful scoring opportunity against the highest levels of competition.

Once the offensive player makes the move, the player must attack the advantage that they gained. This piece of SMACKS is critical to maximizing the advantage that the player gained. The attack dribble must create as much space as possible away from the defender. As a result, a poor attack dribble ruins even the best “move” because it allows defenders to recover and make any scoring opportunity more challenging.

The attack dribble’s partner is a crossover step. The crossover step increases explosiveness and protects the ball from the defender. Many times, this footwork is often overlooked, but mastery of the crossover step can help lesser athletes gain an advantage. Poor footwork by even good athletes can make them less efficient, effective, and easier to defend.

The kill dribble follows the attack dribble in situations where the player needs more than one dribble to score. In some situations, the attack dribble can lead to a scoring opportunity. Although at higher levels of basketball, players must have a variety of finishes in their arsenal. The kill dribble helps players get their feet set for whatever attempted finish they need to use.

The score refers to the different finishes that a player can learn to use. This could be a jump shot, floater, Euro step, pro hop or any number of other finishes that exist in the game of basketball.

Team Workout #2

This entry is part 20 of 20 in the series Practice
MESSAGE OF THE DAY Courage is the commitment to begin without any guarantee of success.
Emphasis of the Day Doing it Wrong vs. Failing
  Dynamic Warm Up Player led warmup
2 Dribble At Dribble 2 on 0 one dribble at and layup
4 Fast Break Drill Be better than we were yesterday (Right side)
2 Ball Handling Player leads: 2 balls stationary
4 Post Slides Dribble 2 on 0 with two attacks
4 Drive and Kick Dribble 2 on 0  one attack
3 1 on 1 w/ shooter Dribble 2 on 0 with on ball defense. Defend and box out (3 dribbles max)
4 2 on 2 Dribble 2 on 0 with 2 defenders. Start at half court with  dribble (5 dribble max)
2 Ball Handling Player Leads: 1 ball motion
3 5 on 0 Teach Baseline drive
4 3 on 0 Ball on Wing  drive either way
4 3 on 3 Ball on Wing (must start with dribble)
4 Fast Break Drill Be better than we were before (Left Side)
2 Ball Handling Player Leads: 2 balls motion
5 Dribble Test 5 on 0 (3 attacks or dribble at)
3 1 on 1 w/ shooter Dribble 2 on 0 from different spots
5 3 on 3 ball starts at top must start with dribble
4 FTs 1 and 1  must make 75%

Everyone was better today. It’s not surprising. The second day of doing something new is always better than the first day. Our attacks were better. Our rotations were better. The defense was better. Our passing was better. We need to improve our shooting, but that will come with time. Our team works really hard. Lesson learned is that we should have done 2 on 2 on the first day. I don’t know why I didn’t practice what I preach, but even I can learn. I will do it better next time.We improved from day 1.

Team Workout #1

This entry is part 19 of 20 in the series Practice

I wanted to share the team workout that we did yesterday. We had 1 hour. Our purpose was simple. Get better. To do that, I knew we had to do things differently. We needed to get out of our comfort zone. So we did. We failed. We failed a lot. We didn’t let the failure stop us. We used the same drill over and over again. Every time we used the drill, we tweaked it. It was never the same twice. We didn’t spend very long on any one concept. We worked hard. We had fun. We got better. We will try again today.

MESSAGE OF THE DAY If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.
DATE: 4/11/16
TEAM WORKOUT #1 Stretched and ready to go at 3:00
Emphasis of the Day What happens when somebody dribbles
  Dynamic Warm Up Player led warmup
4 Fast Break Drill sprint, make good passes and layups
2 Ball Handling PG Leads  1 ball stationary
5 Teach Attack Dribble Odd & even front, drive right rotate right, drive left rotate left
4 Circle Movement Drill Dribble 2 on 0. Must attack one direction. Progress to attacker chooses direction
4 1 on 1 with shooter 3 dribbles from red line to score. Dribble 2 on 0 with defense. Emphasis on beating defender first. If we kick, block out and finish to rebound.
3 3 on 3 Out of transition (make two people guard you) Progression from last drill with extra defenders and receivers.  Should have probably done 2 on 2. Will play 2 on 2 next time.
2 Ball Handling Player leads  1 ball motion
3 Baseline Drive 5 on 0  (skipped this today)
3 Baseline Drive and Pitch 2 on 0 (skipped this today)
3 Teach Dribble At 5 on 0
3 Dribble At Dribble 2 on 0 with only Dribble At. Progressed to ball on wing.
5 Dribble Test 5 on 0 (5 out) attack or dribble at either direction. Each player gets 3 actions. Lots of failure here. Great learning opportunity.
2 Partner Passing Player calls dribble combination into pass to teammate
3 Post Slide Single attack (skipped this today)
3 Teach Post Slide Dribble 2 on 0 with two actions. Double attack (what happens somebody drives after drive and kick) or dribble-at attack.
7 3 on 3 Half court (must start with dribble) Same as above
4 FTs 1 and 1  (must shoot 75% as a team)


Fast Break Drill #1

Here’s a Fast Break Drill. It emphasizes passing, catching, sprinting the floor, The framework is pretty basic. How can you tweak it to make it different?

Change where the lines start. Dictate the type of passes players make. Put time on the clock. Make a number of layups in a row or in that time, or even both. Dictate that the layups have to be perfect (bank swish). All passes must be perfect. Run the drill to the other side. Add another ball. Make them finish every layup off of two feet.

There are probably lots of other ways to tweak this drill to make it different. You can run the same drill every day, but you don’t have to run it the same way every day in order to help your team improve. Be creative. What different ways can you think of to run this drill so that helps make your team better?

fast break drill 1 Fast Break Drill 2Fast Break Drill 3 Fast Break Drill 4Fast Break Drill 5

Dribble 2 on 0

This entry is part 8 of 8 in the series 2 player combinations

What happens when somebody dribbles? Most players know that when a teammate shoots, you’re supposed to rebound. You might rebound if your job is transition defense, but you get the idea. When a player passes, most coaches tell the players on the team where to go and what to do.  What do we tell them when a player dribbles? How is this not just as important as shooting and passing?  In fact, it’s probably more important. Many players don’t know what to do when their teammate dribbles. They become observers instead of active engaged participants in the action. They wait to see what kind of play their teammate is about to make instead of preparing themselves for what might happen.

This same drill can be used at different instances.  We used it after we taught attack dribble and circle movement. We used it after we taught dribble at. We used it to test the two concepts together. We used it to put two actions together. You can run it from an even front or an odd front. You can move the lines anywhere you want. It’s the same drill. But there are lots of things you can tweak to make the same drill completely different.

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10 Habits of Great Defenders

Great defenders are hard to find these days. There are good ones and bad ones, but I don’t know how many great ones there are. Good defenders exhibit a lot of these qualities. Great defenders exhibit all of them.

  1. Know what they are protecting
    Playing defense is about keeping the ball from going in the basket. The most obvious goal is to keep the ball from getting to the rim so that players can’t get easy lay-ups. The easiest way to do that is to stay between the player with the ball and the basket. Now this isn’t the only way of defending the ball. The goal could be to keep the ball handler to a certain area of the court or to keep the ball handler out of a certain area. The goal could be to keep the ball from being passed to a certain part of the court or to a certain area. In any case, defenders must know what they are protecting at all times. If they don’t know and understand their purpose their purpose at all times, it becomes more difficult for them to defend well.
  2. Fight to protect it
    Once a defender knows what they are protecting, it has to be a constant mental and physical effort to protect it. Of course defenders must be taught the techniques and concepts of how to defend individually and within the team structure, but it is a constant fight to defend.
  3. Are always ready to move
    Defense is a journey. It’s never a destination. A defender who has arrived is about to get beat. Great defenders are always ready to move. They can’t always predict where they are going to have to move, but when it’s time they are ready. If a player’s feet stop moving, It’s probable that they aren’t ready to react. This is on ball and off ball. We have to be careful when we’re teaching defensive positioning that players know that they are only in the right spot for a split second. The ability to succeed in one brief moment is short lived. As soon as the ball or a player moves, their positioning should probably change.
  4. Move when the ball moves
    There are a lot of defenses and defensive philosophies out there, but all of them start on players moving when the ball moves. If players are late, they are probably going to be out of position, no matter how athletic they are. Players who can learn to move when the ball moves can be great defenders.
  5. Talk with a purpose
    Good defenders talk. Great defenders talk with a purpose. Good defenders call screens. Great defenders tell their teammate what to do when the screen is set. Good defenders see a play develop. Great defenders let everyone else know what’s about to happen. It’s one thing to talk on defense. It’s another thing to talk purposefully.
  6. Go after loose balls with 2 hands
    How many times is there a deflection and a player tries to reach for the ball with one hand to dribble it while losing control of the ball? Whether it’s a loose ball from a deflection or a rebound, great defenders pursue the ball with two hands. It’s not enough for them to touch the ball. They want to have the ball. There may be some instances when players can only get one hand on the ball, and yes one is better than none. We’re talking about GREAT defenders. They find a way to get two hands on loose balls.
  7. Recognize personnel quickly and react appropriately
    The scouting report says that #23 is a 45% 3 point shooter. A great defender closes out and doesn’t give up a shot or a drive. #24 checks in for #23. The scouting report says #24 is 0 for 15 for the year from the 3 point line. A great defender doesn’t closeout on this player if their teammate needs help in the lane.
  8. Help when they are supposed to
    It’s nearly impossible to play good on ball defense every time. There are times when we will have to help. The key is to help with the right person in the right place at the right time. When two people help the defense is in trouble. If the wrong person helps, the rest of the team is forced to rotate in a way that is unexpected. If a player “helps” when they aren’t supposed to, it will force rotations when they aren’t necessary. Great defenders know when not to help as much as they know when to help.
  9. Know how to rebound
    Rebounding is about effort, positioning and then more effort. It’s amazing how players who might not be in position to rebound initially can get themselves in position with just a little effort. Then how many players get position, but then they don’t go for the ball. It’s not enough to just get position. Rebounding requires pursuit of the ball. I’ve coached a lot of players who just want the ball. It’s not complicated, they just like having the ball, and they will do whatever it takes to get it.
  10. Foul When They Want To
    Sometimes players need to foul. Maybe you’re trying to make a last-minute comeback. Maybe you don’t want to give up an easy lay-up and fouling is the only option. Maybe you aren’t in the bonus and you want to make a team inbound the ball against the end of the quarter or half. Great defenders know these situations and know how to foul in these situations. They don’t give up “and 1s.” They don’t hurt themselves or the other team. They don’t get intentional fouls called on them. However, they also have fouls to give because they haven’t fouled unnecessarily in other parts of the game. They know when to try to block a shot and when to stay on the ground. They don’t foul in the opponents back court, just because they missed a lay-up and are trying to get the rebound when they don’t have a chance at it. They move their feet to stay in front of ball handlers and don’t put their hands on them.

Skill Development

Skill development is one of the most critical areas of any basketball program. Even the best players in the game have skills they can improve on.  Some players may have more room to improve than others, but every player can improve.

So then how do you develop a player’s skills?

Well to me it’s like learning how to do math.  You have to master the basics first.  If you can’t do 2+2, you’re going to have a difficult time doing calculus.

However, once you know the basics, you have to learn how to do the basics better or move on to harder problems. You can’t just stay with 2+2 because it makes you feel good.

As you progress from the most basic skills to the more difficult ones, there must be a component of failure involved.  That is not to say that the skills should be so difficult that they can’t be executed.

However, they must get more difficult to the point that players do not succeed every time.  Then when they fail, they  must learn how to succeed. As important as developing the physical skill might be, developing the mental skill of overcoming failure is just as important.

We must constantly challenge players to execute the skill with higher levels of intensity, speed, and precision if we want them to truly develop. When they fail, we must continue to hold them accountable to executing the skill correctly, even if the cards are stacked against them.

Executing a skill on one level two days in a row is good, but executing it at a higher level from day to day is great. We must teach players to be confident where they are, but always looking to take the next step.