This article was written by Arkansas women’s head coach Mike Neighbors
Good coaches that I have observed over the years have always done this with their teams. The GREAT coaches that I have observed over the years do this in their practices on a daily basis in all things that they do. So, as I was preparing for my first 5 practices as a college head coach.
I made sure that in every single drill and skill I put on the preparation plan reflective that thinking. If we can eliminate beating ourselves first, then the outcome of our games is completely in our control.
POOR PREPARATION: I have never seen a team who had a poor week (or day) of preparation win a big contest. Whether it is a poor scouting report, a shoot around that lacks focus, a pre-game warm-up full of distractions, a star player showing up late for bus, not sleeping the night before, eating an uncharacteristic pregame meal that upsets a stomach, etc.
POOR SHOT SELECTION: All teams will have nights when the ball won’t go in the hole. Not much you can do to control that. But you can control the quality of the shots your team gets. If you allow players/teams to take poor shots in preparation, they will do the same in games. WE GET WHAT WE TOLERATE. You have to be very clear with your team what YOU consider a good shot. Make sure your players/team understand it clearly, then defend that in every skill/drill that you do.
FOULING: This could be fouling too much. It can be too many fouls on an individual player, especially an impact player. It can be fouling at inopportune times. Either way, it can get you beat. You must “officiate” your skills/drills and scrimmages as your games would be called. We have goals to never put a team in the bonus in a first half. We have goals of only doing it in second half of games that we are trailing in. If we can keep teams from the FT line, we won’t beat ourselves.
UNCHARACTERISTIC TURNOVERS: You are going to turn the ball over. Some games more than others depending on the number of possessions you/your opponent pace the game. When your teams/players make turnovers they normally don’t or shouldn’t then you put yourself in a position to lose. In preparations we have a ball rack that has 8 basketballs on it. When we turn the ball over in one of the above situations, we remove a ball from the rack. This is a visual to our players what we consider UNCHARACTERISTIC. When the rack is empty, we stop our drill and “remind” the team (running, stairs, pushups, situps, etc), fill the rack back up and start again.
If we can eliminate losing before we deal with our opponents play, then you can coach. The next time you feel like saying after a game that “we beat ourselves” take inventory on why you feel that way. Then go about eliminating those issues in your practices. Sometimes you are just going to lose. It happens to every coach and every team. But, try to eliminate beating yourself.