Guest Post From: Ray Lokar
Last time we discussed some of the realities of mismatched games in youth and high school basketball. Today we'll present some strategies to use during mismatched contests, and the objective for employing those tactics. Remember, the key point is to explain this to the players so that they realize that they are not letting up but actually working on strategies that will make them better.
1) Play everyone early and mix up your lineup. Insert a few subs with a couple of starters. The starters work hard and still deserve to get some time. This mixes up the lineups and you may find some interesting combinations.
OBJECTIVE: You never know when an injury or foul trouble (maybe both) may force those players into an increased role. Prepare them to play with the regulars.
2) Don't use a full court press. I don't care if you are a pressing team and you "need to work on it." What kind of work are you really getting against that type of inferior competition anyway?
OBJECTIVE: Playing a pressing defense against bad competition causes players to take gambles that may not work against better teams, and those are the teams that you are supposed to be preparing to beat. Continuing to press may develop bad habits that hurt you down the road. Avoid those bad habits by calling off the press or changing to a different type of pressure. There may be some games or times during a game when you actually want to slow the pace anyway.
3) Don't get steals and shoot uncontested layups. Do that in layup lines. Pull it out and work on some sort of offensive set or continuity.
OBJECTIVE: This will help you run out the last possession of a game when you have a one-point lead. Or better yet when it's tied with 35 seconds to go and you want to take the last shot. And then demand only inside shots. THAT will help you get better.
4) Play a tight zone or a pack m2m defense.
OBJECTIVE: Play as if you need to stop some big post player or a team that can't shoot outside, on at least a crucial possession.
5) Don't deny passes and get steals in the half court. Force THEM to take time off of the clock.
OBJECTIVE: Play as if you were playing a team much quicker than you that might be able to beat you on some backdoor plays. Against those teams the deeper you get in the shot clock, the bigger advantage the defense has.
6) Block out and rebound - then WALK IT UP!
OBJECTIVE: Play as if you were protecting an 8-point lead in the final minute. At that point in a game you don't want to play a fast pace and create more possessions and opportunities for the opponent to come back.
If a team did that for an entire half using 35 seconds and even assuming that the losing team didn't 'play along' and shot in their first 10 seconds, the team would have to shoot 100% just to score 40 points in the 2nd half. A more normal 50% and they score 20 points. Maybe the other team scores a few and you still win by a substantial margin.
In an attempt to handle those blowout situations, a youth basketball league based in southern California has implemented the following rules. This league, with good intentions, plays 5 periods and players must play in 2 of the first 4 periods, with the 5th period being free substitution. They also have this interesting addition in an attempt to keep scores closer.
12.1 REMOVAL OF TOP PLAYERS - If the mercy rule is in effect at the start of, or any time during the 5th period, it is mandatory for the opposing coach to select a maximum of three (3) players to sit out the balance of the game or until the in the score of the game is 15 points or less. Eligible substitutes must be available and the removal of players cannot force a team to play with less than five (5) players.
I asked for some opinions of this rule and my friend Matt Grahn (who writes a GREAT blog "Matt Grahn's Basketball Coaching Workshop") sent me a note asking, "Has sportsmanship slipped to the point where it has to be mandated by rule?" My thoughts are the same. We shouldn't have to devise rules to "make" sportsmanship happen, we should educate coaches on doing the right thing because it's the right thing to do.
Positive Coaching Alliance trains Double-Goal Coaches® nationwide about the responsibility of striving to win while teaching life-lessons in order to develop Triple-Impact Competitors through establishing a positive culture, creating dynamic practices, and making the games meaningful for all who are involved. That should be a part of a youth coach's basic philosophy - not a mandated rule.
It's my feeling that it is the winning coach's responsibility to Honor the Game, by respecting their Opponents and find methods to manage the situation in ways that are mutually beneficial for participants. I don't think it's a great situation when a rule says an opposing coach can tell a youngster, who he/she may not know, that they are not going to allow them compete in the last period of a game. This, however, is a great opportunity for that player's own coach to teach the players and handle the situation him/herself.
When an opposing coach removes the "Top Players" as outlined in this rule, they may take it personal and feel the other coach does not like them, creating a wedge between that player and coach that may never be able to be removed. In a youth league, quite often the opposing coach will be that player's coach the next year, so this could lead to conflict down the line. Possibly worse than that, those players may think, "I'm so good the other coach won't let me play." This goes to developing a detrimental "Fixed Mindset," as described in Carol Dweks's book Mindset. What we want to develop are "Growth Mindsets," where players feel they're good because of the work they have put in - not necessarily because they're talented. Another detrimental message is being sent to the players who are allowed to play. It tells them that they are not as good as the other players - and may further widen that perceived gap. None of this can be good for the mental and social growth of either group of players.
Sports can be a magical place to be when everyone handles themselves appropriately and keeps the best interest of all competitors - on both teams - and the game itself in mind. Competition is a non-stop learning environment with constant challenges for both teams. It's a laboratory for life in a game situation - and kids think they're just playing. Every day when I drop my 3rd grade son off at school I tell him to "Be good, learn lots, and have fun!" We should make sure we all do the same in sports.
"Ray Lokar, Lead Trainer for Positive Coaching Alliance, provides today's article. "Coach Lok" will be a frequent contributor to "The Athlete's Sports Experience". You can follow Ray at: http://twitter.com/coachlok