Basketball, like all sports, is a game of execution. Regardless of talent and experience, the team that best executes usually wins. A coach’s number one challenge is to teach the game in a way that players learn what and how to execute.
The definition of execution, according to the Collins English Dictionary is, "the style or manner in which something is accomplished or performed; technique."
In working with hundreds of coaches across the world I have noticed a trend to "talk about" many areas of the game. Coaches tell their team what to do and what not to do. For example, "we have to play hard," "be the tougher team", and "play to win." On the other side they preach, "don’t turn the ball over," "stop fouling so much," "that’s not a good shot for you," and "block out and rebound the ball!"
Execution on the floor is mediocre at best when we "talk about" rebounding, taking care of the ball, and shot selection. So what is the answer? What’s the X factor?
The X factor is learning to demand things from individuals and teams as a whole. What skills are non-negotiable in your program? Do you have the game and your style of play reduced to three items? If so, it’s your job to make a total, 100% commitment to teaching and demanding each of those skills every day, in all film and practice sessions. It has to become ingrained in your team’s game. When players can explain to their coach what they are accountable for, the magic happens.
One universal truth in basketball is "what is done during the week, good or bad, shows up in the game." This is so true and never fails to play out. If this is true, do your practices reflect the way you want the game executed come game time?
My challenge to all coaches is to ask, "what are your top three?" What three things do you most stand for as a coach and why? Once you have done this, it’s your job to properly teach those skills and demand they are perfected on a daily basis.
It’s bothersome for me to hear a coach rant about his players not blocking out in games, knowing they do not demand it in practice. Upon reviewing a coach’s practice plans I can tell if they value rebounding as a non-negotiable or not. If not, how much can you really expect from your players. You are actually putting undue pressure on them for failing to execute something that you have not taught or demanded. I doubt whether any adult would appreciate a boss operating like this. Why then do we feel we can coach in this manner?
As you read this, be honest and evaluate yourself in terms of how you are presenting the game to your team. Do you have a top three? If not, you are making your players accountable for all parts of the game, literally hundreds of things. We both know that is not a sound coaching practice and is a recipe for mediocre, losing basketball.
Let this be my challenge to you in the off-season. Look at your coaching in an honest manner and put yourself in the shoes of your players. Have assistant coaches and players evaluate you. Seeing the game through their eyes will give you a clear vision of what they see.
Seek clarity in your coaching by deciding what you stand for. Then you can make your players highly accountable for their execution. Remember, if you’ve done a good job of this during the week, the result on game night will make you and your players smile!