Category Archives: Coaching

Be Great When You Don’t Have to Be

Be BetterThe following advice comes from former high school, college, and professional star Danielle Viglione, who is now helping others follow in her footsteps at the Sacramento Skills Academy.

It is so simple yet can have a major impact on any player’s (and/or coach’s) career. I am going to read this to my own team this afternoon!

I’m sure you all have dreams in basketball. When I was a girl about your age all I had was a ball and a dream. I think about all the countless hours I spent in a gym or on an outdoor court by myself when no one else was watching.

I broke Cheryl Miller’s record for points in a season my junior year in high school. That same year I broke the national record for three pointers made in a game with 14 and I scored over 3000 points in my high school career in just 3 years.

I was the California player of the year two years in a row  and went on to play at the University of Texas where I started breaking records my freshman year.

I still hold the Texas single game scoring record of 48 points and also received countless scholar-athlete awards because I put an emphasis on school. I started my professional career playing for the Sacramento Monarchs and then spent 10 years playing overseas in Israel, Turkey, and Italy.

But the thousands of hours of relentless training, the hours with no one in the stands, no one to cheer me on but my own ambition and desire – that is what made me successful. I was great when I didn’t have to be!

 I was giving 100% when no one was watching. The toughest competition in my life is that which I set up for myself when no one else was watching. You need to do the job that doesn’t have to be done and do it better than it needs to be done.

Be great when you don’t have to be great!



Coaching Advice from Ohio State’s Urban Meyer

Coach AdviceWhen Ohio State was announced as the fourth and final team to get into this season’s inaugural football playoff many were disappointed, especially TCU and Baylor.

Anyone who has followed Urban Meyer’s coaching career certainly couldn’t have been surprised because the guy flat out knows how to win!

However, when author Pat Williams asked Coach Meyer what advice he would give coaches just starting out in the profession, his answer undoubtedly surprised many,

Here’s the best piece of advice that I can offer any young coach: you don’t have to be a nutcase to be successful as a coach. If you don’t have balance in your life, you’ll be consumed by the job. You’ll destroy your family and end up in the street without a life. You can be a successful coach and still be a good husband and dad. You can have all the success in the world, but without a balanced life you’re not a good coach as far as I’m concerned. You’ve got to have something other than coaching.

That’s great advice at any time of year but especially important during the holiday season. Don’t be so consumed by preseason games and Christmas tournaments that you completely forget about your family, your friends, and the reason we celebrate this time of year.

5 Ways to Use a Ball Screen

1. PNR1Reject the screen.
Fake into the screen and when your defender starts to cheat over the top drive in the opposite direction

2. Attack the hedger.
If there is a hard hedge by the screener’s defender then attack his front foot. As soon as he opens up his stance you will have a clear path to the basket. If the defense likes to show and retreat then start by driving hard and stopping quickly to freeze the defender and then drive hard again.

3. Bounce back.
This is  an effective technique to use against defenses that want to trap on ball screens. Start over the screen and then bounce back dragging the defenders with you. As the defense extends more space is created making it more difficult for the defense to rotate and cover up.

4. Drive the screen.
Pictured on the right this is the most common method of using an on ball screen, especially at lower levels. Once the ball handler drives past the screen he can go to the rim, stop and shoot the ball, hit the screener rolling to the rim, or drive into the paint and then kick it out to an open teammate.

5. Stop behind and shoot.
If your defender goes behind the screen then stop right behind your teammate and shoot the ball. Just make sure you don’t go past the screen or your defender will be waiting for you.

Are You Making Things Harder for Your Coach?

USA CoachIn a recent article in the Hartford Courant, UCONN’s Hall of Fame coach Geno Auriemma says coaching is harder now than ever before.

Why would he say that?

“Most of it is the players who are coming out of high school now, they’re not as well prepared to play college basketball.

What you’re dealing with is a certain level of expectation that they have vs. the reality of what they can and cannot do.

Kids get in there and the minute they struggle, which they are supposed to do, they want to find somebody who is at fault for it.

Coaches are dealing with the expectations these kids have but it takes a while to reach those expectations. Unfortunately, we live in a society now where everything has to happen quickly or it’s somebody’s fault.”

As a player are you realistic about what you can and cannot do? Do you expect to be great without taking the time to put in the necessary work? How do you (or your parents) react when your development doesn’t happen overnight? Is your approach and mindset making things easier or harder on your coach?

Coaching Advice from Robin Williams

Coaching Advice RWThe late, great comedian and actor Robin Williams who died tragically and unexpectedly on August 11, 2014 was no stranger to sports.

He used soccer as a teaching tool in Dead Poet’s Society, played football in The Best of Times, boxed in Popeye, and was even a Denver Broncos cheerleader in an episode of Mork & Mindy.

Even though they were not written specifically for or spoken directly to coaches, several of William’s most memorable movie lines contained great nuggets of coaching advice. Here are some of them:

1.  Carpe Diem. Seize the day boys! (Dead Poet’s Society)

As coaches we are always looking forward to the next game, the upcoming class, and the next season. In the regular season we worry about the playoffs. During the playoffs we worry about spring workouts and summer league.

In the summer we worry about the first day of practice. The cycle goes on and on. What we usually don’t do is enjoy each and every day for what it is – a chance to still be competitive while teaching and influencing young people! The worst day of coaching is still far better than most everything else we all do! We should act like it!

2.  You’re not perfect and let me save you the suspense: this girl you’ve met, she’s not perfect either. But the question is whether or not you’re perfect for each other. (Good Will Hunting)

You’re players aren’t perfect but let’s face it, neither are you. They need to get better at what they do and so do you. The question (and challenge) is can you take all of your collective strengths and weaknesses and combine them and nurture them so well that you become a great team?

3.  You treat a disease, you win you lose. You treat a person you’ll win no matter what the outcome. (Patch Adams)

No matter what level or gender we are coaching, we are ultimately working with people who happen to play basketball. We are not working with basketball players who happen to be people. Coach them up? Of course! Critique their performance? Absolutely! Just always be respectful of who they are, regardless of what they do and always let them keep their dignity.

4.  I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must look at things in a different way. (Dead Poet’s Society)

This advice probably applies to older, more experienced coaches than it does to younger ones. “Because that’s the way we’ve always done it,” is not a good answer anymore. The game has changed over the years and so have the players.

The most successful coaches in the game are constantly looking for better way to do things while maintaining their own personalities and philosophies. For example, Coach K, John Calipari, and Geno Auriemma are all examples of coaches who are running different offenses now than they were 10 years ago with great success.

5.  Never fight with an ugly person. They’ve got nothing to lose. (Mrs. Doubtfire)

Even though it might be tempting at times, arguing with a parent never turns out well or accomplishes anything. Don’t do it!

6.  I yam what I yam! (Popeye)

You are not Coach K. You are not John Calipari. You are not Geno Auriemma. You are not Phil Jackson, Bobby Knight, or John Wooden. However, they are not you either! Each of the coaches listed above has a distinct personality and coaching style that works for them. Instead of being a cheap imitation of someone else, concentrate on becoming the best you possible both on and off the court.

7.  I always thought the idea of education was to learn to think for yourself. (Dead Poet’s Society)

Too many coaches attempt to control every movement during every possession and while that might produce good short term results it often limits the growth and development of their players.

I’ve always thought that coaching is a lot like raising kids: the ultimate goal is to get them to the point where they don’t need you anymore. That can’t happen if you constantly control their every movement and never let them make a decision on their own.

Rest in peace Robin Williams – and thanks for giving a lot to think about in my quest to become a better coach!

Defensive Minded Coaches

Defense MindedHave you ever noticed that most coaches seem to be defensive oriented? Why do you think that is?

I think there can be several answers but the first one that comes to my mind is because it is easier.

Being a good to great offensive player requires certain skill sets such as shooting, passing, ball handling, etc. that need to be learned and then executed under pressure.

On the other hand, if a player has a fair amount of athleticism, a good work ethic, the proper attitude and a strong mind set he can be a great defensive player even if he is lacking specific defensive skills.

In other words, developing a great offensive player requires more time, knowledge, and effort than it does to develop a great defensive player.

There is nothing wrong with being defensive oriented if that is something you truly believe.

However, if that is your approach only because you think it’s easier or because you are lacking the knowledge and expertise to develop offensive skills as well then you are not serving your players well.

Position Requirements for Point Guards

Point GuardsAt the Nike Basketball Skills Academy players are taught that In order to effectively play the point guard position they should be able to do the following:

  • Bring the ball up the floor against full court pressure
  • Change speed and direction to create separation
  • Use a ball screen and shoot a floater or a pull up jumper
  • Play a two man game off of the post
  • Be an effective 3 point shooter
  • Have twp separation moves off the dribble and out of triple threat
  • Shoot the floater as well as a second finishing move
  • Defensively pressure a ball handler the length of the court
  • Pass with either hand
  • Effectively hit players in transition when they are open
  • Make shots off a pin down (down screen)
  • Make open shots – shoot 70% in practice so you can shoot 45-50% in games
  • Have an assist to turnover ratio of 2:1
  • Recognize the hot hand and get him the ball where he can score

Who Should be on the Team?

basketball tryouts listIt’s that time of year when basketball tryouts are being held all over the country and coaches are trying to decide who should make the team and who should be left off the list.

Here are some very useful suggestions for players and coaches alike:

  • Players that care more about statistics and personal awards than they do about the team shouldn’t be on the team.
  • Players that complain about playing time but refuse to put in extra work to earn more minutes shouldn’t be on the team.
  • Players that care about individual rankings more than they care about improvement shouldn’t be on the team.
  • Players that don’t cheer for their teammates and don’t celebrate their teammates successes shouldn’t be on the team.
  • Players that care more about the box score than they care about the final score shouldn’t be on the team.
  • Players that stare at the clock during practice anxiously waiting for it to end shouldn’t be on the team.

(The above list came from several tweets on the Pure Sweat twitter feed)

Position Requirements for Post Players

Post Play RequirementsAt the Nike Basketball Skills Academy players are taught that In order to effectively play in the post they should be able to do the following:

  1. Sprint the floor
  2. Shoot a trail jumper consistently
  3. Have a low, mid, and high post game with separation moves and counters
  4. Own the mid line by consistently posting deep
  5. Pick and roll; pick and pop
  6. Be able to contest all post ups and face ups on defense
  7. Be mentally tough
  8. Be in great shape to play end line to end line
  9. Must be a great rebounder
  10. Be able to run rim to rim in four seconds
  11. Be able to defend the low, mid, and high post areas

Positon Requirements for Wing Players

Wing PlayersAt the Nike Skills Academy players are taught that In order to effectively play the wing they should be able to do the following:

  1. Create their own shot in two dribbles
  2. Get separation off the catch with right and left foot in triple threat
  3. Master the pin down (down screen)
  4. Shoot the 3 effectively – shoot 60-70% in practice so you can shoot 35-45% in games
  5. Play the pick and roll game consistently
  6. Cut and split off the post
  7. Sprint the floor and shoot in transistion
  8. Contain dribble penetration
  9. Be mentally tough. Commit to what you are supposed to do
  10. Be in great shape
  11. Have to have a floater – a layup over taller defenders in the lane
  12. Make open shots. Shoot 70% in practice from 15-19 feet so you can shoot 45-50% in a game