Submitted by Coach John Kimble
Retired high school and college coach
Follow him on Twitter @CoachJohnKimble
This article was originally written for Winning Hoops
Game Days are the MOST important days of the entire basketball season both for players as well as coaches. For the players, all of the preseason conditioning, the off-season weight-lifting, the summer league games, the team camps and their games, the practices are all utilized to prepare themselves for THE GAMES. All of the orchestrating and organizing of these events in addition to the numerous activities that must be planned and performed by the coaches again serve to prepare everyone involved for THE GAMES.
During the all-important “game-night,” there are primarily three instances where teams must be present in the locker room. These three occurrences can and should be utilized for maximum efficiency, before, during, and after each and every game.
These incidents take place immediately before the game (during the preliminary game); at half-time of THE game, and immediately after THE game. All three instances allow themselves to be invaluable assets for the team, the coaches, the program; if they are organized, and utilized properly.
For many years, we have used the following procedure for our pre-game routine. As soon as the team using our locker room for their game leaves the locker room for their 2nd half (whether it is our JV team, or another team if we are in a tournament), our Varsity players immediately leave the gym to go to the locker room. The majority of our opponents and other teams that I have witnessed typically go to their locker room to prepare and dress for their game after the 3rd Quarter of the prelim game. Dressing for a game seems to take the majority of an 8 minute quarter of a high school basketball game. By coming in to dress immediately after half-time, we give the players the 3rd quarter for their individual time to prepare– to dress and be taped, and to do whatever else they (as individual players) need to do to mentally and emotionally get ready to compete. This time is their time. The 4th quarter is devoted for the overall team to prepare to play. This is team time-not their own to do as they wish.
Scouting reports on our immediate opponent are again reviewed, our game plan is again discussed and diagramed. Special plays, statistics, specific techniques are discussed, reviewed, taught, or re-taught. This can be done in a rather relaxed manner, because we have allowed the extra time to attempt to gain an extra edge on the opponent. We preach that to our players that we have and continue to out-prepare and out-work our opponent up to that moment. We tell our players that we have an advantageous position over our opponents, that will benefit us in the future. The diagram boards have already been drawn as soon as the locker room is available. For instance, if it is in our gym, the plays, stats, scouting reports have been drawn out even before the prelim game. If it is an away game, we attempt to have our Varsity players put on their game shoes and informally shoot around in the gym as our JV players are getting dressed in the locker room. This gives them even more time to check out and evaluate the rims (are they tight?– which will produce more misses and long rebounds; or are the rims loose?–which will allow for short rebounds) Are there dead spots anywhere on the court? Will the ball bounce more lively or less lively? We want our players to have the answers and be informally experimenting before the game versus finding out the answers to those questions at the expense of the team during the game. We want our players to start each game, believing they have a psychological edge on each and every opponent.
After the first half of our game, our team hustles to the locker room. We attempt to have the locker room prepared with the Gatorade and/or water, the towels available, the diagram boards ready to be utilized by the coaching staff. We want to be as time-efficient as we possibly can. Our routine is to have the players use the first few minutes to towel down, cool off, get their breath, use the restroom, etc. Again, we tell them that these first available minutes are their time. While the players are using their time, the coaching staff uses this small amount of time to privately confer and quickly analyze our performances, our strategies, as well as the opponents= game plan. We decide what adjustments or improvements we need to implement for the second half. This is done partially by summarizing a few of the first half statistics so that we may evaluate our most productive offenses and defenses, our better performing players; as well as what the opponents are attempting to do and how well they are doing it.
The number of points we scored (or allowed) while using a specific offense (or defense) is divided by the number of possessions that offense (or defense) was used. This figure then establishes a measuring instrument that describes the offensive (or defensive) efficiency. This is called the APoints per Possession Offensive (or Defensive) Efficiency Rating. This statistic is a quick and precise indicator to the staff as well as the players as to the effectiveness of any play, any offense, or any defense which we have utilized in the first half. This helps us determine how much or how little we should employ the designated offenses and defenses in the second half.
We attempt to not be overly critical or negative about our first half performance and execution, but we firmly believe in being honest. Thus any poor play must be acknowledged in order for it to improve. We verbally express positive comments, followed by any deficiencies. We try not to implement a significant number of adjustments in our second half preparations, so as to not mentally overload the players.
We believe that it is extremely detrimental for us to take so much of our half-time in the locker room, that our players do not have any time to warm up on the court before the second half. We insure ourselves of this by using a wind up timer that the staff sets as we enter the locker room for the half-time. We set it at a designated time so that we will always have a specific amount of time left over for a physical warm-up. An assistant coach periodically informs the head coach in a subtle manner of how much time he has left before he concludes his routine talk. We attempt to end each half-time with a positive comment and a brief summary of our adjustments, before hustling back onto the court.
After the game, we give our players a few minutes to physically and emotionally readjust. During that brief time, the coaching staff quickly convenes to plan a positive and brief speech to the team. This could and should include a plan of how and what to say to the media.
This can be used as a short yet invaluable opportunity to utilize the players= heightened concentration period to teach or reinforce an appropriate facet of the game when it is immediate in their minds.
Negative aspects and criticisms should be very briefly addressed and concentration should be placed on the positives as the head coach gives his final address to the team is made.
We have attempted to always have the locker room available for team members to have a place to wind down and congregate by having sandwiches, pizza, and drinks available; while the coaching staff meets to discuss the game, make future plans and evaluate the game tape.
These three opportunities of meeting in the locker room can be invaluable instruments to prepare, to correct, to reinforce, to teach, to motivate, to praise, and to coach your players at a time when your players are at a heightened level of concentration and reception. These times should be valued and utilized to their fullest potential.
About the Author
Coach Kimble was the Head Basketball Coaching position at Deland-Weldon (IL) High School for five years (91-43) that included 2 Regional Championships, 2 Regional Runner-Ups and 1 Sectional Tournament Runner-up. He then moved to Dunlap (IL) High School (90-45) with 2 Regional Runners-up, 1 Regional, 1 Sectional and 1 Super-Sectional Championship and a final 2nd Place Finish in the Illinois Class A State Tournament. He was an Assistant Basketball Coach at Central Florida Community College in Ocala, FL for 1 year before becoming Offensive Coordinator and then Associate Head Coach for 3 additional years He then was the Head Basketball Coach at Crestview (FL) High School for 10 years, averaging over 16 wins per season.
He has had articles published in the following publications such as: The Basketball Bulletin of the National Association of Basketball Coaches, the Scholastic Coach and Athletic Journal, Winning Hoops, Basketball Sense, and American Basketball Quarterly. He has also written and has had five books published along with over 25 different DVDs by Coaches Choice and Fever River Sports Production.