These are some of the notes presented by Mike Neighbors at a PGC/Glazier Basketball coaching Clinic in Chicago.
Mike is the Head Women’s Coach at Arkansas. He gave this talk when he was coaching at Washington.
The topic of his presentation was how coaches can “Get Better at Getting Better”
You have to take the time to consciously think about and consciously plan how every important aspect of your program is going to get better.
Getting Better does not happen on its own without a coaching staff being intentional about it.
To achieve your potential, you must have a 5:1 ratio of practices to games.
For every minute you spend in practice/meetings, it takes 2 minutes to prepare and plan.
Practice makes permanent, not perfect, so as coaches, we must set up systems so that our players are practicing the right way.
- What do you care about?
- Can your players verbalize what you care about?
- At Washington, we play with 2 goals in mind. Get a quality open shot every possession on offense. On defense, don’t give up a quality open shot.
- If you ask our players about how we play, they should be able to tell you those two things.
- You either coach it or you tolerate it.
- Be good at the things that you do a lot in your system.
- We play packline defense, so we have to execute 350 to 400 closeouts per game. That is something we need to be very good at. What are those areas for your program?
- For those important precision skills, we employ a coaching technique called “Front of the line, back of the line.
- Using closeouts as an example, we require that a player closes out exactly as we teach it in a closeout drill, with zero error every time.
- If the closeout is executed perfectly, the player goes to the back of the line in the drill and the drill continues.
- If they did not do it perfectly, the next player in line goes and the player who just went goes to the front of the line for some instruction from the coach who is running the drill.
- After the first week of practice, the players decide if the performance is front of the line or back of the line. You will find that the players are harder on each other than you are on them.
- You can see a more detailed description of Coach Neighbors front of the line/back of the line concept at this link: Front of the line/Back of the Line
- In our peer passing drills, the passer won’t feed the post if the post player doesn’t shape up properly.
- Ghost defensive drill. 5 defenders no offensive players. Give the players a scenario or an offensive play that your upcoming opponent runs. They must talk each other through the whole play/action. Great drill for players to learn what you need to defend and a great drill to force players to communicate on defense.
- Keep in mind at the start of each season, you have not taught until your players have learned it. You know your offenses, defenses, drills, and entire system. It will be new to new players on your team and your veterans will not know it as well as you. Take the time to re-teach until they learn!
- Properly prepare so you don’t have to repair.
- Players cannot access the creative side of their brain unless they are comfortable with what is going on.
- It takes your best players 5 seconds to reconnect their concentration to the action when you yell their names during a live ball. It takes average players 10 to 15 seconds to reconnect.
- Washington coaches only talk during dead balls.
- Exercise in helping players to develop the next play mentality. When Kelsey Plum was a freshman (Kelsey became the all time leading scorer in Women’s Division I history in February, 2017), and made a mistake in practice, Coach Neighbors could tell that her mind would be on that mistake for the next several possessions. To help her learn, he started a stopwatch as soon as she made a mistake and stopped it once she had refocused. It showed 2 minutes and 36 seconds. He took her out of the scrimmage, called her over and showed her the time on the stopwatch. She asked him what the represented. He said it was the amount of time that it took you to get you concentration back after you made a mistake. He told her that he would need to take her out of the game every time that she made a mistake for 2 minutes and 36 seconds so that she could regain her focus unless she was able to improve that on her own. The improvement in her next play mentality over the next few days of practice was remarkable.
- Find ways to help narrow your players’ focus in practice.
- Examples of ways to narrow your player’s focus: If you are practicing half court defense. Put a score on the clock and set the time at 3:00 to go in the game and play that defensive segment with the last 3 minutes of a game intensity. Count free throws in practice only if they swish. A miss is minus one for the shooting team. You can be creative and come up with ways that narrow the focus of your players
- Send the players home with 3 bright spots and 1 deficiency to work on.
- Feedback is huge for today’s players. Make it immediate, honest, and actionable.
- During practice, he has an assistant coach taking iphone videos and then emailing them to players when there are specific teaching points so that the players have them right after practice and can see themselves doing or not doing the teaching point.
Many of these concepts came from a book called “Practice Perfect” You can find out a little more about the book (and read a part of it and/or listen to a segment by clicking on the image to the left:
Here are a few more concepts from the book:
- Never mistake activity for achievement–John Wooden
- Measure success by the results and your players’ improvement, not how much energy is expended in your activities
- A high rate of activity isn’t enough–coaches must be intentional about what their athletes do.
- Practice isn’t only worth re-engineering when it is bad, it is also worth re-engineering when it is merely good.
- To be significantly better, you need to be significantly more productive for every minute you practice.
- “Even relatively small, but significant changes, can increase the rate at which people develop by a striking degree”