Sunday, October 11, 2009

Another McCormick Blog

Brian McCormick goes on the discuss the differences between Memorization vs Creative Learning:

"I watched a group and saw them run pick-and-roll after pick-and-roll, so I stopped them and asked what they were trying to create out of a pick-and-roll situation. The group was well-schooled, as they quickly responded with common teaching points like “go shoulder to shoulder on the screen” and “roll to the basket” and “lay-ups.” So, they knew the goal (to score with an easy shot), and they knew some of the specific points to execute the skill, but they had no idea what they were trying to create or how they were trying to score.

The next day, I read a blog titled “How to Learn Without Memorizing.” It occurred to me that coaches have moved more and more to a memorization-style of coaching as opposed to creative learning. As the blog says:

A few years ago, I noticed that smart people seemed to learn differently than most other people…I think part of this difference in success comes down to strategy. While most people were trying to memorize, smart people were coming up with creative connections between ideas. These connections made the ideas easier to remember, so less memorizing was required. Additionally, the new connections made the ideas easier to understand, so learning itself was faster.

What is route memorization in basketball? Most teams stress a press break rather than teaching basic spacing concepts to defeat a trap anywhere on the floor. Change the press and the team changes its press break. Many teams employ set plays or continuity offenses, and coaches tell players to run the play exactly. Coaches teach moves and expect players to make the move exactly as they teach it.

In today’s game, players receive more coaching than ever, yet every coach appears to focus on specifics and memorization and not general skills or a general approach. I am helping with a team and I am basically running open gym right now, and the players run last season’s offense: it is all they know how to do. They pass and screen the opposite wing every time. They don’t know anything else. They memorized a certain way to play last season, but they did not learn offensive basketball or develop general skills.

With the pick-and-roll, a general response might be “to confuse the defense” or “to draw two defenders to one offensive player to create an open player” or “to create a mismatch on a switch.” The goal is to disorganize the defense. Once the pick-and-roll disorganizes the defense, the offense keeps the ball moving to find the open shot before the defense recovers.

As an example, the Spurs run a pick-and-pop with Tony Parker and Matt Bonner. Tim Duncan mans the left block, and the Spurs put shooters in each corner: Roger Mason Jr. and Manu Ginobili. Bonner sets the screen and pops to the three-point line. If Bonner’s man stays with Parker, and Parker’s defender tries to recover to Parker, Bonner is open. The pick-and-roll action resulted in two defenders going to the ball and Parker simply passes to Bonner for the open shot.

However, some teams rotate quickly. Ginobili’s man in the corner sprints at Bonner. If so, Bonner feeds Ginobili in the corner. The pick-and-roll drew two defenders and forced the defense to rotate and scramble. On the pass to Ginobili, Duncan’s man could run out to the three-point line to contest, leaving Duncan open on the block. Mason’s man could run to Duncan. Now, the pick-and-roll created a mismatch in the post for Duncan or Duncan can skip the ball to the opposite corner to Mason for a wide open three-pointer. Even though the ball touches all five players, the pick-and-pop disorganized the defense, and the offense kept the ball moving until it created a wide open, high percentage shot.

The players had the right idea; ideally, in any situation, you want to shoot a wide open lay-up. However, if the ball handler focuses only on the player rolling to the basket, she may not see the help defender rotating to the roller or notice her mismatch against a big, slow post player at the three-point line. Too many times, if the pass is made to the roller and the defense rotates, the offensive player does not get the immediate lay-up and she backs out or she holds the ball. Why? Because the play was supposed to get a lay-up and it failed. However, if the team plays with a more general understanding, she knows that the rotation means the defense is scrambling and she simply has to find the most open player. It is not a matter of running a play to get one end result, but to create an advantage and take advantage of it in any number of ways.

Before moving to specific instruction and memorization, I believe that we should explain the general objectives or processes and allow the players to explore and discover on their own. Rather than teaching one specific offense or one specific move, give players a couple tools to use and more freedom to make plays on their own. Through exploring and discovering on their own, their awareness will increase – when players are told to do things in a certain way, they ignore the other possibilities, which limit their learning. For instance, the players who pass and screen away on every possession ignore the possibility of cutting to the basket, shallow cutting to the corner, following their pass for a hand-off or other possibilities, while the passer is trained to look for the cutter coming from the opposite wing rather than passing into the post, driving to the basket or passing to the corner.

If our goal is to develop players with greater game awareness and basketball I.Q., we need to start by opening up the game to the players and allowing them to be proactive in their play and decision-making. As they gain experience and comfort with this process (which, for high school players who have never played in this way can take over a year), the coach can add more specifics or situational learning to create advantages for his team based on their strengths."