Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Great Blog by McCormick

Here is another great one by Brian McCormick. The first paragraph is taken from another great blogger, Vern Gambetta.

Acquiring, learning and perfecting skill is more than motor learning, it requires recognition that the body is a complex system that is continually learning and adapting to ever changing environments. It is not a computer to be programmed, rather it is a self organizing problem solving organism, always learning and growing. The body learns through exploration….In reality as coaches what we need to do to insure continual adaptation is to change constraints so that we keep challenging the athlete to solve increasingly complex motor problems. The solutions are as varied as there are athletes performing skill. Be especially aware that you are not creating robots.

I think basketball coaches are guilty of developing robots. Many coaches try to make the game black and white through running plays, the type of drills that they use to teach skills and the amount of feedback that they offer during games and practice. I often see youth coaches who stand and direct the entire game: “Pass here! Dribble! Shoot! Get back!” They treat players like puppets that they can control from the bench.

As I read through a skill acquisition book last week, a water polo coach said that he can pick out which players played another sport as a child (usually rugby) as opposed to those who transitioned from competitive swimming to water polo. The players who had experience in another invasion game (rugby, basketball, soccer, lacrosse, field hockey) had a better sense of spacing and timing – they knew when to deliver a pass and when not to pass and lead a teammate into trouble.

When I watch youth basketball players, I see the same thing in youth soccer players who transition to basketball – they seem to understand spacing, especially in transition and against presses and zone defenses. Many players who strictly play basketball fail to develop these skills because their coaches treat them like puppets.

Attacking zones is a weakness of many players and coaches. Rather than teach players how to find space and play in space, using some basic cues, coaches typically teach a structured zone offense/press break.

Playing against a zone is the evolution of a complex skill – teaching players how to play against man defense and developing a high basketball I.Q. leads to playing against a zone and developing a high basketball I.Q. against a zone.

With young players, rather than start with a structured zone offense, I prefer to use advantage games: 5v4, 4v3. When the offense has the advantage, someone is always open. The offensive players simply move and pass the ball to find the open player in a dangerous decision. The coach presents the challenge (finding a good shot), and players explore their environment to find solutions to the defense.

In an offense-advantage game, players have space to explore and see where and how to exploit the open spots. The space also affords offensive players more time to execute developing technical skills, like ball handling, passing and shooting.

Soccer teams use these drills all the time. They play 3v3 with two neutral players who play offense, creating a continual 5v3 game focused on players learning to control the ball and make quick passes as the defense closes out. Basketball players face the same situations and must develop many of the same skills, yet basketball coaches rarely use these types of games.

This idea translates to any number of skills – for instance, rather than specific instructions for quickness and agility, play tag to develop these skills. To develop more game-like ball handling skills, play tag with a basketball. To develop passing skills, play passing games in tight spaces rather than three-man weaves or stationary passing drills.