A big thanks to Ash McCormick for taking the time to give us his thoughts for this piece. Ash has been involved in basketball as either a coach or player for the majority of his life. He played for several years as a professional in Perth’s State Basketball League and also gained experience playing for Missouri Baptist and Southwest Baptist University in the United States. His playing career was cut short by a series of unfortunate knee injuries, but he has stayed involved with basketball by coaching numerous teams in Perth, AU – including youth and professional level teams – and investing in players through workouts and development. On a personal note, Ash has been a huge asset in my development as a player and student of the game. I have benefited greatly from his wisdom and insight.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Without getting too philosophical here, knowing, in a general sense, the strengths and weaknesses of the playing group gives a coach a big head start in knowing how to structure pre-season. Do you have guards who are dangerous off the pick and roll? Do you have a dominant big/s? Are you a long and athletic team? All of these things can determine what systems and philosophy are best suited for your team. So, try to gain an understanding of the weapons you have as your best starting point for systems.
Organisation and planning are paramount to having a successful preseason. As a coach you want to have a vision of where you would like your team to be come game 1 of the season. Then you want to develop your preseason plan in phases to build towards that vision. This should include your philosophy of how you want your team to play and the type of culture you want to create. You should also develop a reference to your groups identified strengths and weaknesses and how you will use their strengths in a specific way, as well as minimise/work on weaknesses. It’s important that the coach be able to articulate this vision to all the relevant personnel whether it be club reps, assistant coaches, strength and conditioning coaches and the players.
—> (authors note) Speaking practically to the issue of organisation and efficiency of managing your basketball team. Check out TeamSnap (which I have personally used) which can be hugely helpful in streamlining the organisation of your season. Check them out here.
Practice plans are the individual building blocks you will use to lay on your foundation for the rest of the season. Always address both defensive and offensive principles in each session. Phasing offense and Defense into completely seperate parts of the preseason creates an environment where growth is disjointed and that growth can be deceptive! If you spend the first month just working solely Defense it will appear your Defense is strong, but in reality having done no work against structured offense, your Defense is not preparing for what it will likely face in the season. Likewise in reverse, offense developed against unstructured Defense is a false economy. Work on both in each session and let them sharpen and develop each other evenly. Always commit a portion of your session to live play. This is where the players have the opportunity to implement the drills and breakdowns you have gone through into a live game-like setting. This will help the players transfer those skills into game situations.
The Pulse of Your Team
Practice plans are a guide, don’t get caught up in making sure every drill is done in each session. Tune yourself to your group. Sometimes your group will excel in a drill and staying in it too long is counterproductive, holding them back from advancing to other concepts. Always have some extra drills or scrimmage time available to counter balance this. Conversely there will be times your group may need extra time to grasp certain concepts and it’s important to your group that you don’t skip ahead before they have grounded those skills.