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Ask the Expert: Reducing Turnovers

Date: Jul 18, 2014

When it comes to youth basketball coaches, it would be pretty tough to find one who deserves the title “expert” more than Don Showalter. A five-time gold-medal winner with USA Basketball and head coach of the USA Developmental National Team program since 2009, Showalter is back in 2014 as head coach of the USA Basketball Men’s U17 World Championship Team.

Here are this week’s questions:

We were a high turnover team last year. Any advice to help improve our issue? -- @jscoffman

This is an area that needs to be emphasized in practice every day. You have to have some accountability for turnovers. In many of our drills and scrimmages, we take points away for the team that makes a turnover with consequences at the end of the drill. This makes the entire team accountable and adds some peer pressure.

What are your deal-breakers with kids, things you will NOT tolerate, regardless of location, circumstances, culture, etc? -- @coachreinhold

Deal-breakers may vary each year depending on your team.  Obviously, breaking any code of conduct, being disruptive in the classroom, negative statements on social media and bad grades are deal-breakers off the court.  Not being on time, not attending all team functions, not looking the coach in the eye when being talked to, rudeness to another adult and bullying are examples of deal-breakers as well. This does not necessarily mean removal from the team but means this action must be dealt with in a fair and firm manner, no matter how good your player is.  I believe a player earns fairness, meaning that a player who is never late but is late for a good reason once in a great while is not the same as a player who continually pushes the late button.

What do you do if you don't have spot up shooters or stretch bigs? Lol! -- @CoachMattThomas

That is a problem!!  Look at running more of a cutting offense that keeps the players moving to get shots off the move or dribble.

What is your best offense against the 1-3-1? -- @EttingerAaron

The best offense is a 2-1-2 set with your best player in the middle of the court at the free-throw line area, but with the flexibility to move up and down the lane to get open. Screening is good as well versus a 1-3-1 - especially to screen the defensive wing opposite the ball so the skip pass can be made. A good point to remember is that all zones -- 1-2-2, 1-3-1, 2-1-2, 3-2, 2-3, 1-1-3 -- will look the same when the ball is on the baseline.

“Parents – Time to talk about the elephant in the room – playing time!”
By:  Steve Rodriguez, Director, North Metro Elite Travel Program

Date: November 15, 2015

Large or small rosters still have the same basic issue for youth boys basketball players and their parents:  playing time!  This article is written towards the youth player, but given youth age levels, is equally important for parents to read, consider and impart this information to their young basketball playing child.

Unlike a youth football squad with 22 full time positions, or baseball with 9 on the field, basketball has 5 kids playing at any one time.  In all sports, skill matters.  But in football, there is an outlet for the under-skilled….you can go hit someone!  Baseball requires a great deal of skill, but in a sport where one score can win a game, and you make the hall of fame by failing 70% of the time, there is room for youth players to find a way to contribute.

In basketball, that is not always the case.

You can contribute by being a great rebounder, or a great defender, but at some point your play must be skillful, and in concert with your teammates, or your playing time will be diminished.

This is difficult on young people when they leave the rec league – usually with shorter rosters and guaranteed playing time – and enter the world of competitive basketball.  They are young and many times not emotionally or mentally prepared for the change from lots of playing time to very little.  Many parents are heartbroken watching their child sit more than they are used to, or get angry at the coaches decision.  The first reaction is normal, the second reaction is not helpful. 

The reaction to this issue is one of the great opportunities to help teach young people in dealing with adversity, and how to manage their way through interpersonal relationships with authority.  Sports teams create socialization and chemistry challenges you don’t find on a math test.  It also challenges the parent – will you provide your child an example of good sportsmanship and a word we rarely use anymore – dignity - in respecting the process and your son’s non-family authority figure?

So, you now face this test - what can be done to help earn more playing time? Everything in coaching is usually borrowed from someone else, so I know this is probably stolen from somewhere, but all of the points are relevant for every team player in basketball:

1) Appreciate the time you get, don’t complain about it. You’re not making the most of your experience if you are too busy wallowing in self-pity or complaining about it. Make the most of your time on the court – in practice or in the game – and support your teammates from the bench when you are not on the court. Give your all in both situations, and everyone will feel good, and better, on the ride home. It will be FUN! 

2) Be a great teammate. As stated above, cheer for your teammates, support them on and off the court, encourage them, help them when you can.

3) Be coachable. This means listening, and be willing to adjust what you are used to doing with what the coach wants to be done. The coach is not always right, but the coach is the one with the final decision. Even bad designs from a coach can work if everyone is on the same page doing it together.  Listen and execute what you have been taught. If you execute something and it does not work, the coach will adjust. But if executed incorrectly, NEITHER party knows if the system will work or not.

4) Excel at your role. Know what your role is – lock down defender, rebounder, scorer, cheerleader from the bench – and excel at it. Be the best at what you can do.

5) Practice harder than everyone else. You may not have your skill developed, yet, because you are in youth basketball. BUT, effort is always rewarded.  Practice harder than everyone else, at every practice, and eventually that effort will be noticed and rewarded.

6) If you’re not highly skilled, yet, or as skilled as others, yet, then get in some extra work after practice. Ask your dad or an assistant coach to help you with agility, drills to work on, even just rebound for you while you get in 50-100 more shots a day.

7) Make the extra pass, be a lock-down defender, and rebound. “I am just as good as Johnny, but he always gets to shoot….”  My dad as a youth coach, repeated by virtually every coach I ever had, had an answer for this: “Go get a rebound.”  My high school coach would break it down by statistics, usually saying there were 20-or-30 misses in a game by each team on offense, so that results in an offensive possession where there is a loose ball, which is to say a rebound, under the basket….you want to score? Go get one of those loose balls and put them back in. The extra pass builds credibility with your teammate who will respond to you in kind and shows you have a high basketball IQ. The lock down defender earns the respect of the coach. 

8) Bring energy when you check in. The coach, the crowd, your teammates – and your opponent most of all – they should know that there has not been a downturn in the team’s performance when you come on the court. Things should stay equal or improve the team’s fortunes while you are on the floor. If that happens, the coach will notice. High energy and excitement is infectious!

9) Do the little things. Know the plays. Know the plays for each position. Talk on defense. Hustle off the floor (which is required anyways), encourage a discouraged teammate. Do the little things that matter to your coach, it just makes you a better player, teammate, and possibly even a better leader.

10) Play great when you’re on the floor. And here is the final kicker – you may never get much of a  chance, but when you do, you must seize it. Life’s regrets are usually found not in the opportunities not presented, but in the opportunities not taken. What is great about being a youth player? You have LOTS of opportunities ahead of you for several years. When one is presented, the youth player must play great. You want more playing time but in 5 minutes have 5 turnovers? That won’t work. 2 minutes and 2 rebounds? That works.

This article discussed ways a kid can earn more playing time on his competitive team. These ideas are not new, just restated for your benefit. Coaches and parents can use these notes to be a positive reinforcement on the development of a young athlete as they grow in the game.
"Coach K - Agility & Conditioning Drills for Defense"
Run Time - 1:01

The drills on this DVD will instill the discipline and mental toughness needed to make that critical defensive stop when you need it the most! Coach K takes the court at Cameron Indoor Stadium and teaches over 20 innovative drills and strategies designed to optimize your defensive tactics.

Posted: September 23, 2016
"Duke Shooting Drills - Collins Dribble-Drive"
Run Time - 4:13

Go inside the Duke program and witness several perimeter shooting drills that build accuracy, awareness, footwork, shooting endurance and range. Famed Duke Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski and former Duke assistants Johnny Dawkins and Chris Collins show you how to develop players who can score from anywhere on the floor.

Posted: June 10, 2016
"Learn Lockdown Transition Defense from John Calipari"
Run Time - 3:26

In this defensive drill, University of Kentucky head coach John Calipari teaches his players how to effectively defend in transition when at a numbers disadvantage. The key in this drill is to take away the ball, elbow and block on the side of the court that the offense chooses to attack so the defense can regroup. The tactics used in this drill have helped the Wildcats become one of the top defensive teams in the country so far in the 2014-15 season.

Posted: July 23, 2016
"Legendary HOF Coach Bob Hurley: Full-Court Chasing Drills"
Run Time - 5:39

St. Anthony's Hall of Fame Coach Bob Hurley provides easy-to-use practice drills for all level of basketball - grade school to travel ball.

Posted: March 28, 2018
"Frank Martin's Gun Shooting Machine"
Run Time - 2:30

This video features Frank Martin's intro and great shooting footwork drill using the Gun shooting machine.

Posted: March 31, 2017