Coaching Tips From a Basketball Team That Knows A Bit About Overcoming Adversity

The Smoky River Junior Basketball League, including teams from Donnelly, High Prairie, Slave Lake, Kinuso and Gift Lake saw some tough competition in the 2016-2017 season.  As Knights do, the Kinuso junior boys basketball team honourably and courageously stepped on the court, with odds stacked against them, players new to basketball on the roster, a brand new coach, and little chemistry among the players.  Still they faced this adversity, driven by a love for the game.

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Picture (Left to Right) Back Row: Mr. Gardner (coach), Damien McLaughlin, Blaze Sawan, Isaiah New, Brydon Bulldog, Front Row: Austin McLaughlin, Ethan Wedmid, Aspen Burger, Parker Nadon, Shaiden Chalifoux

As a new coach I looked to my experience as a former player who competed in organized basketball for about fifteen years.  I know a thing or two about the importance of  running a lot of cardio drills in practice and letting the players know if they were not willing to run and work hard in practice, this would drastically affect their floor time during a game.

A PEEK AT MY BASKETBALL PRACTICE ITINERARY:

-STRETCHING – To save practice time, players were expected to have completed their stretches independently before stepping on the floor.

-GETTING WARMED UP – Players would begin with laps dribbling the basketball, and then move into suicides.  Each practice a player would be singled out and put on the spot to complete 5-8 suicides as quick as possible and hit the foul line.  The rest of the team would have to continue doing suicides until this player hit 3 foul shots in a row.  This would test and strengthen the players agility, while simulating some of the pressure and team expectations that would be felt at the foul line during the game.

-DEFENSIVE STANCE/SLIDES/STUTTER STEPS – I remember the dreaded stutter steps from my days playing organized basketball, and I also remember how effective they are in strengthening your legs and athletic ability on the court.  After leading the team for a few weeks in going as hard as they can when doing stutter steps and ensuring proper defensive stance is being used, players would be singled out to lead the team in this drill of switching back and forth from defensive slides to stutter steps.  The captains would often lead the drill, placing more responsibility and accountability on them, but sometimes if I noticed someone slacking off, I may choose that person to lead next time so that they know the spotlight is now on them and they need to perform properly.  I also don’t mind rewarding anyone I feel is slacking with extra suicides before they can return to the court for the ‘fun’ drills.

-‘3, 2, 1’ – I’m not sure if there is an official name for this drill, but I call it ‘3,2,1.’  School athletes love competition, so by fusing opportunities to compete against teammates in practice with your drills, students engage in cardio and technical drills fully and willingly, while reinforcing their love for the game.  For this drill, the team is split in half, with the halves lined up at opposite ends and sides of the court. When the drill begins, the first player in each line dribbles down to the opposite end of the court as fast as they can.  They can take one shot and score three points at the 3-point line, two points outside the key, or one point inside the key.  They then grab their own rebound and return to their own side of the court as fast as they can for one more attempt to put some points on the board. Once again they grab their own rebound and pass it to the next player in their line, and head to the back.  It is a race to twenty-one points, and has students getting a good workout, while strengthening their dribbling, shooting and creating strategies for success on the court and scoring under pressure.  Students seem to really enjoy this one as well.

-SCRIMMAGE – I switch up my scrimmages sometimes from a straight game simulation, by creating obstacles to overcome or new rules that enhance learning and target techniques you want to improve.  For example, one scrimmage I might use would have students only earning points by getting a defensive turnover (steal, defensive rebound, forcing the offense to throw the ball out of bounds, drawing an offensive foul etc.).  If a defensive turnover occurs, that is worth 1 point to the defense and the offense gets the ball back for another attempt to score a basket.  The only way the offense can get a point would be by scoring a basket and earning the right to play defense, as possession switches and puts them in a position to earn points now.  It is a race to eleven points (or turnovers).

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Though they went 0-9 in the regular 2016-2017 season, the Kinuso Knights began closing the scoring gap as time went on and a couple of those losses really came down to the wire and were tough to swallow.  Something clicked in the tenth and final game of the regular season, as the Knights came together as a team to defeat G.P. Vanier and head into the championship tournament.  I believe it was a testament to the importance of forging positive relationships among teammates and the effectiveness of some of the drills we practiced between games.

At the tournament, Kinuso was also able to defeat two other teams they had lost to twice each in the regular season, beating out the St. Francis Falcons and giving the Prairie River Raiders a loss.  They went in as underdogs and became competitors because of teamwork and dedication and it was a great time.  The rest of the league most likely only expected to see the Knights play two games in this tournament, and they played four, with two of the six teams going out before them.  Congrats to G.P. Vanier on getting their revenge and the Saints on an amazing season.

#MonsterJam #HeatingUp #FromDowntown #HesOnFire

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