In one week time from now, schools are closing for the summer holidays here in Germany. This will be same time when the gyms are closing and the practices will stop for the next couple of weeks. It’s this time of the year where coaches and players alike take a short break and find time to rest their bodies and minds.

As coach I always feel relieved when this time of season comes. It gives me time to think about the past 7 or 8 months. What went well, what needs improvement? How can I organise myself better and how can I improve things within my organisation?

I’d like to take you on a journey with me. Be my guest and let us walk through an entire basketball season together. I will write down all necessary topics I come across when organising and improving things in the teams I supervise. Hopefully this will help me improve myself (by writing it down) and keep you from doing similar mistakes (by reading this blog). Let me know, if you’ve been through similar situations and how you and your team coped with it. You can find all related posts in the category “My Diary”.

I will take a very personal approach in the upcoming blog posts as I will write only about first hand information. Everything will be authentic!

The Retrospect

I have to tell you the story which forms the framework of my endeavor. When I first came to the club I am now in, I was in charge for the senior mens team. For four years I have also been coaching the senior womens team and I still do. The womens basketball team is still my primary job as I have dropped the mens team for a couple of reasons I might tell you about later.

One of the major problems of our club was, that there has never been a big pool of trainees for in particular the womens team. It was kind of funny because in the 70ies this club had a 1st division womens basketball team, so this had a great tradition. Anyways, to make it short, there is a lack of young players to move into the senior team.

Two years ago a new coach joined our coaching staff and recruited a couple of young girls from the schools in our city. Soon there where a couple of twelve and thirteen year olds who started to practice playing basketball on a regular basis. In the beginning the team started with around 8 girls, and after a couple of weeks there were about 15, then 20, and soon there were two youth teams participating in league games. This was really nice because, as I mentioned, we only had a senior womens team, without any youth players being the backup.

But, there was one drawback: Most of these girls had never played basketball in their lives before. Shooting, Passing, Dribbling … you name it, their coach had to start from scratch and all involved knew it wouldn’t be easy to form a team from these newbies. Still their coach continued and things started to work out positively.

In league games you could see, that the girls started playing basketball late. Compared to others of their age they were struggling, especially with dribbling and shooting, but playing a good defense and hustling kept them in the game for most of the time. Needless to say that they only won one  or two games in their first season.

In the meanwhile I had continued to improve the game of the womens team, implementing a motion offense and establishing a solid defensive concept. I must say that we didn’t have much talent at first, so we had to work things out through hustling most of the time and within two years the team moved from 8th place to ranking in the top 3 spot for two consecutive seasons.

Soon came a time when some of our key players had to leave the team. Be it because of studying in a university located in a different city or country or due to an internship far away from home. Our team had lost a couple of good players and the remaining team would not be able to compensate. At the same time the teams in our league improved and the level of performance was very dense. In the last season the womens team won two games with less than two points and lost another two with only one point.

Speaking with the team we decided to not enter the league games the following season, and focus on improving the players of the 19 under team, so they can join up the womens basketball team in the season 2011/2012. If you go by the headcount, we probably were enough players to go into competition, but what our youth teams lacked were the required skills.

So, this is the status quo and where I’ll start the total improvement from.

Defining the Improvements

You can imagine that a decision of a team not playing in the next season causes a more or less big debate with the club committee and players alike. Some players were even thinking of leaving the team, but the majority agreed and we made the decision together.

As I am also a member of the club committee and could reasonably explain why we made this radical decision and soon all members of the committee brought their ideas into the discussion on what to do to improve this situation and to make sure that we wouldn’t easily find us in this situation in the future again.

In the club committee meeting the following things had been decided, which will have influence on all teams in the club:

  • The 19U team and the senior womens team have to be merged. This isn’t as easy as putting players from Team A into Team B, because in the past both teams were doing their own thing (on and off court) with not caring to much about the other. This situation must be changed and has a high priority to secure maximum success for all involved. To emphasize the importance we’ve already changed the head coach of the 15U and the 17U team. For the last couple of weeks a female player from my team is the new head coach. This was a good decision because she is a certified coach and she knows which skills need improvement and what tactical skills will be required. The former head coach now supervises the senior mens team.
  • A guideline must be established which helps youth and senior coaches alike to teach all necessary fundamental skills for the particular ages. This guideline will include drills, handouts, relevant teaching information and motivational articles.
  • A simple motion offense will be established. This will help in consolidating the overall tactical alignment offensively throughout the club. We are looking to have a common tactical base to start from, which will enable our coaches to create variations of offensive systems based on the personnel available.
  • Coaches, especially our youth coaches, will receive a lot more support in the future, than they have now. For example we will have quarterly “Coach the Coach” (CTC) sessions. In these 2-hour-sessions a specific topic will be dealt with, which will benefit all teams equally. Our first topic for the CTC session will be the “Principles of Man-to-Man Defense”, as this type of defense is mandatory in all ages up to 18U. We’ll establish a regular internal mailing with interesting articles, guides and How-To’s found throughout the web. There is so much great stuff outthere to help coaches of all ages and sharing great information will benefit our coaches greatly.

I will go into further detail in future posts so you can see, what is involved in these action items.

Let me hear your story. Have you gone through a similar situation? How did you succeed?

[info_box]Picture credit: dynetCreative Commons Attribution[/info_box]