Tag Archive for 'Basket'

Play the game in the right way

“Obsessing about winning is a loser’s game.

The most we can hope for is to create the best possible conditions for success, then let go o/t outcome.

What matters most is playing the game the right way and having the courage to grow,as human beings as well as players.”

Phil Jackson

How the coaches have to build cohesion

In this early period of the team games season, I am often asked how to improve the cohesion of a team especially by the coaches who work in junior teams and and also not professional teams. I make this distinction because among these coaches there is a widespread idea that having little time available, everything that goes beyond the technical work done in the field is unnecessary work, which we do not have time to do, precisely because: “We are not a professional team, where the players are always available.”

This attitude is the motivation that drives many coaches to believe that the players must adapt to their working method and the hierarchies proposed. Physical and technical/tactical preparation are the masters and if someone doesn’t agree, it’s worse for him/her.

Leadership is essentially manifested in the administration of a training program that must be followed without discussion. They start from correct considerations (limited time, reduced economic resources, not optimal hours for training) to arrive at wrong conclusions. Those who do not accept this approach are usually labeled as lazy, unwilling to make sacrifices or presumptuous.

Unfortunately for them, the culture of work and team cohesion are essential factors in a team sport and are not built with this approach. Team performance instead draws its strength from the daily training of the concept of US: the winning performance comes from the integration of the behavior of various players, teaching more players to do different things well, together and at the same time.

Coach has to:

  1. Encourage participation by listening to the players’ suggestions
  2. Avoide favouritism
  3. Reward altruistic behaviour
  4. Reduce individualistic behaviour
  5. Assign challenging and achievable goals to each player
  6. Assign each player a specific role
  7. Encourage a learning and collaborative training climate
  8. Stimulate maximum commitment and constantly reinforce it
  9. Always support the team when it is in negative momentum
  10. Spend time with athletes to evaluate their commitment to training
  11. Analyse coldly with the team the results of the matches

The question for coaches is: how much time do you spend developing these performance factors?

Tom Izzo and his intimidating leadership

Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo had to be restrained by his players from going after freshman Aaron Henry.  The heated exchange came after a 10-0 run by the Spartans.

Izzo was furious with Henry for an unknown reason.  From the looks of it, this isn’t the first time he’s gone in on the young forward.

“Coach is filled with passion and emotion and love, you know, those are the main things that make him as great as he is,” Winston told reporters Friday. “When he’s getting after you or when he’s yelling it’s never out of harm. It’s never out of hate. It’s literally him wanting the best for you and him challenging you and pushing you the best you can be and it’s worked for years and years and years.

There should be no place for abusive, threatening & intimidating leadership–anywhere! If Michigan State coach Tom Izzo “leads” like this in public, what does he do when no cameras are present?

Tom Izzo Has to be Held Back from Going Full Bobby Knight on One of His Players

Jan Vesely Interview and team mindset

The interview to Jan Vesely[1] shows the main relevance to have a mindset growth oriented instead to have fixed mindset. He said:

“It’s just concentration. The first year was with Maccabi; it was tough, but it was 3-0. After that I was injured against Real Madrid, so the team changed the mentality to play without one of the important players and they put even more than the maximum in those playoffs and beat Real Madrid. Last year playing Panathinaikos on the road the first two games and having the pressure to win the EuroLeague and play the Final Four in Istanbul, there was big pressure, so we set our mindset to always be much more focused than in the other games and to give our maximum. I think the secret was in our concentration to do the little things until the end, until the referee stops the game or we get the rebound or something. I think all those things are much more important now than in the regular season. I think the mindset is the most important thing.”

These words demonstrate that Jan Vesely but also the team, have not thought: “We have the talent and the skills to win” but they worked to develop their potential through effort, and practice. They understand the difference between to have the potential and to play at the best to achieve the result you want to achieve. Commitment, deliberate practice and strong task orientation are the secrets of this result. Great talent does not transport the players in great performances. The team has to dive itself inside the match, living each moments as it was the most important. This is the meaning of the sentence: “It’s just concentration.” It seems easy because it’s their job but going in deep it means “Do the right thing in the right moment” and in a fast tactical play like it’s top basketball, to play with this approach it’s a very demanding task.

The players with a growth mindset assume on themselves the responsibility that also if we play at our best, the success is not guaranteed because there is the other team that can play better than us. In any case it’s this kind of mindset that lead them to fight each second of the match, they say to them “I don’t think to the final results or how many mistakes I will do but I know that my teammates and me will perform till the last shot with the maximum focus needed to do our best performance.” It could be a thinking little bit rhetoric, but it’s not true. It means, as Jan Vesely said:

“I think the secret was in our concentration to do the little things until the end, until the referee stops the game or we get the rebound or something. I think all those things are much more important now than in the regular season. I think the mindset is the most important thing.”

[1] http://www.euroleague.net/features/interviews/euroleague-2017-18/i/8obkylpgs38hn48s/jan-vesely-fenerbahce-the-mindset-is-the-most-important-thing

The free throw impact

In basketball the free throw is a technical fundamental showing the leading role of the players’ mind.

At first glance, the free throw seems easy to do: its execution is always at the same distance from the basket, the players are not moving and have the time to prepare the shot following their personal rhythm without any direct physical contact from the opponents. At the contrary, the statistics published by EuroLeague Basketball show a different scenario.

In the current season, in all games only 8.5% of the players made the 90% of free throws, 35% made the 80%, 32% the 70% and 24% have scores below the 70%.

Furthermore, the statistics of the last three games show the 54% of the players made at least the 80% of free throws, while the 40% scored from 69% to 36%.

The points scored are higher than those of all matches for the reason that in this second comparison there are only 22 and not 105 players as in the first: increasing the number of the players, increase also the mistake percentages.

These data clearly tell us that this easy shot, from the technical side, can become very difficult. The reason is in the players’ problems to manage their competitive stress. In other words, the free throw could represent one key index to know how much the players are able to be efficiently focused on a specific task when they are under pressure.

In the last years, the sport psychologists have proposed the free throw could be coached using a more effective routine pre-shot. This approach is useful to learn the management of the extra-time they have before the shot. This time, indeed, can be an advantage or a disadvantage. This free throw momentum will be positive only if it has been build a personal routine to forget the distractions (momentum of the match, score, pressure of the opponents, individual worries and fear, personal confidence in that situation, fans’ screams). Otherwise the risk is that the emotions become too strong and difficult to get out from the mind and the players will increase the probability to choke under this psychological overload.

The EuroLeague Basketball statistics confirm the free throws very often represent a problem to cope with also for the best teams, like are who compete in this European tournament, they are the top teams in their countries but less than 44% of the players made the 80% of the shots and 24% made less than 70%. This is not only a European problem. In NBA, the Los Angeles Lakers have had a very bad statistic with the 68% of shots scored and the club sent the players to follow a psychological program to improve the free throws.

The training to improve the free throws can be centered in two different phases. The first regards how to reduce the tension and be focused on a task for few seconds. In this phase, the players practice deep abdominal breathings in a correct way.

This is a fundamental exercise because usually the players are not able to breath deeply and consequently cannot help themselves before the execution of the free shot. After that moment they should notice their breath, don’t change the breath but stay focused on the sensation of air in and out for two minutes, repeating 4/5 times this last exercise.

The final goal of this work is to have an efficient body control – loosing up the muscle tension – and center the attention on the present.

The second phase, is to practice a specific routine when shooting a free throw, following five steps:

  • Reduce immediately the body tension (through one deep breathing)
  • Put the body on the line in a comfortable position (feel the body centered in the ground)
  • Visualize two free shots (mentally rehearsal the shots as you are doing in that moment)
  • Look on the ring (the gaze must be always oriented in the same point)
  • Do the shot

The players have to train several times this routine in order to reach an optimal confidence level in this preparation. To reach this kind of proficiency, once the players have planned and established their personal routine, they have to simulate game pressure in practice.

Magic Johnson and team cohesion: An old story always true

In basketball the cohesion is a need to achieve the team primary goal: cope with the opponents with confidence and grit. The internal rivalries, if not limited to few episodes are wasted energies and keep the players engaged in activities with a disruptive impact on training and match. The team must always think in terms of US and the coach should encourage the participation of players, listen them, treat everyone with the same criteria and avoid favoritism, support altruistic behaviors and reduce the individualistic behaviors.

Magic Earvin Johnson’s story is an example of how even a champion have to move from too individualistic behaviors to greater cooperation with the mates. In fact, when Magic played in the Los Angeles Lakers also stood out for his dedication to teamwork: passed and defended rather than thinking about scoring points. It was Magic to explain to his coach Pat Riley as he had established this great attitude.

When he was a little boy, playing Youth League basketball in East Lansing, Michigan, his coach told him he was the best player of the team and he should have to shoot the ball all the time. He did it, scoring  most of the points of the team, which won all the time. Despite these victories the other teammates looked miserable, were depressed and nobody thanked or appeared pleased about what he was doing. Magic also was not lucky and he did not want to be this kind of player. He decided to change, becoming more altruistic, defending and passing the ball to the mates. The team mood changed completely and the mates became much more motivated, increased their skills and continued to have success.

What about your team, the players put aside their ego and work to be cohesive independently of the match momentum?

Head coach and staff management: Basket

Head coach and staff management: challenges, responsibilities and perspectives in high-level sport events

Cristiana Conti e Cristina Montesano

Movimento, 2017, 33, 71-79

Movimento special issue: basket (English abstract)




Book review: Coach Wooden and Me

“Coach Wooden and Me” is a stirring tribute to the subtle but profound influence that Wooden had on Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as a player, and then as a person, as they began to share their cultural, religious, and family values while facing some of life’s biggest obstacles. From his first day of practice, when the players were taught the importance of putting on their athletic socks properly, to gradually absorbing the sublime wisdom of Coach Wooden’s now famous “Pyramid of Success”; to learning to cope with the ugly racism that confronted black athletes during the turbulent Civil Rights era as well as losing loved ones, Abdul-Jabbar fondly recalls how Coach Wooden’s fatherly guidance not only paved the way for his unmatched professional success but also made possible a lifetime of personal fulfillment.
Full of intimate, never-before-published details and delivered with the warmth and erudition of a grateful student who has learned his lessons well, it’s at once a celebration of the unique philosophical outlook of college basketball’s most storied coach and a moving testament to the all-conquering power of friendship.

Coach the mindset to have success in sports team

Da tempo le nazionali degli sport di squadra non vincono più e presidenti di federazione e club si accusano vicendevolmente di fare poco per affrontare seriamente questo problema. Al di là di questa lotta sterile che evidenzia paradossalmente la difficoltà a ‘fare squadra’ per un interesse superiore alle singole esigenze, ciò che manca è il sapere come si sviluppa a lungo termine l’atleta. Sappiamo per certo che ci vogliono anni d’investimento, probabilmente almeno 10.000 ore di allenamento dall’inizio della pratica dello sport scelto sino a diventare giocatori esperti e maturi per affrontare eventi di livello internazionale. Abbiamo tanti presunti campioncini che non diventeranno mai giocatori di prima fascia per un eccesso di valutazione positiva quando sono adolescenti mentre i genitori si gratificano pensando di avere scoperto in casa un Totti, solo perché il loro figlio è più bravo dei suoi compagni o nella pallavolo e basket solo perché a 13/14 anni è più alto degli altri e allora ha vita facile a fare i punti. I genitori si entusiasmano, i club li sfruttano e l’anno successivo un altro diventa più bravo di loro e così avanti, il risultato è che si rovina l’autostima dei ragazzi che non sanno a cosa credere: ‘sono bravo oppure no?’.

In Italia la ricerca psicologica in questo ambito non è sviluppata perché difficilmente le squadre mettono a disposizione i loro giocatori per indagare sullo sviluppo psicologico di questi giovani. Non è lo stesso in paesi come il Regno Unito dove molte Football Academy hanno adottato un sistema denominato 5C’s che è un modello per sviluppare le abilità psicologiche (concentrazione, impegno, comunicazione, controllo e fiducia) durante le sessioni di allenamento. Lo stesso vale ad esempio in US per la Little League di Baseball, dove da 40 anno si utilizza sul campo un sistema per monitorare il comportamento dell’allenatore, il Coaching Behavioral Assessment System, che ne permette l’esame e fornisce al tecnico informazioni utili per migliorare professionalmente, tratte direttamente dal suo modo di lavorare con i giovani. Esistono, inoltre, sistemi per il miglioramento della concentrazione nelle abilità di precisione, trasversali a tutti gli sport di squadra come sono i calci di rigore, la battuta nella pallavolo, il tiro libero nel basket e i calci nel rugby, che potrebbero insegnare ai giocatori come affrontare queste situazioni, che dipendono in larga parte solo dalla convinzione che hanno in quel momento di fare nel modo migliore la cosa giusta.  L’utilizzo di questi approcci integrati nell’allenamento determinerebbe un migliore sviluppo dei giovani negli sport, potenziando in loro le competenze psicologiche di base, che saranno certamente utili anche nella vita di tutti i giorni ma che sarebbero di grande sostegno alle loro prestazioni che non sono mai solo tecniche. Rappresentano invece l’espressione massima del giocatore nella sua globalità fisica, tecnico-tattica e psicologica. Senza questo tipo di sviluppo personale e di gruppo sarà sempre difficile, al di là di qualsiasi forma organizzativa venga adottata dagli organismi sportivi, allenare futuri giocatori di successo.