The Key to Winning Big Games Late in the Season
With post season play approaching on the horizon this is a crucial time of year for all teams. Whether you have a senior dominated team who is playing great ball heading down the stretch or a young team that you are trying to have peak heading into post season play; now more than any other time in the season player development should be a key component of your practice plan. This would seem like the last thing that should be focused on at the end of the season; however, I will get into a few reasons why it is vital to your success in post season play and a few ways to instill it into your practice curriculum.
As your team gets into post-season play the level of competition is going to be amped up with the â€œwin-or-go-homeâ€ mentality. With this being the case, you are going to see more and more close games with the outcome being decided by one or two baskets. Your margin for error to advance into the next round of districts, sub-state, or state is incredible slim. Player development will help you win these do-or-die games because your squad will:
- Eliminate 1-2 turnovers from mishandled passes or ball-handling errors
- Your players will finish better around the rim leading to 1-2 made lay-ups
- Post players go to their â€œgo-to-moveâ€ more efficiently and with a higher FG%
- Guards shoot a higher percentage from the perimeter
When you examine those four areas you can see that focusing on them can lead to 10-14 points shifting in one direction; that is the difference-maker when you are look at games decided by 1 or 2 baskets.
Paying attention to these details when developing practice curriculum can take a back seat at this time of year but I highly encourage you to find time for them. Employ the KISS method when it comes to practicing these skills each day. What I mean by the KISS method is to take 2-3 things (ball handling, passing, finishing, post moves, 3-pt shooting) you want to improve on the last weeks of the season and work on them every day. At my college, since we returned from Christmas break we have done a variety of ball-handling drills, a simple swing-passing drill and what I call â€œlay-up progressionâ€ drill, which has directly correlated over to us becoming more skilled individually and ultimately a better team.
The benefits of player development to your overall team success are countless, but it means nothing if you do not utilize your practice time to work on enhancing each kids skill set. Iâ€™m sure some of you are thinking, â€œBut Coach Schmit how do I have time to focus on each individual kid when I have our team offense, team defense, scout team and other areas to focus on?â€ I completely agree with you coach that finding time is difficult to do just as anything in life or athletics is, however if you feel it is a priority you will make time for the process.
The following are a few player development ideas to instill into your practice design. Some coaches may already be doing these things in practice, which if you are Iâ€™m sure you are seeing the results. If you are doing one or none of these things in practice I highly encourage you to try them out.
- Ball Handling (8-10 minutes)-Two ball dribbling is the ticket here! Tennis ball drills, cone dribbling, and other drills focused on improving ball skills can also be utilized.
- Passing (8-10 minutes)-You can never do enough running and passing drills, especially if you are a transition team. If you are a motion team, work on swinging or turning the basketball side-to-side with strong chest passes; this should be a staple of every practice.
- Guard/Post Breakdown (10-15 minutes)-Separate into position-specific groups focusing on a particular skill you would like to see improvement in.
When I asked Coach Jack Nelson, top Assistant Coach at Bellevue University, a 19-4 nationally-ranked team, how his program utilized player development he remarked,
â€œOver the past 3 years, working for Midwest Elite Basketball has reinforced my value of player development. The drills that we do throughout the summer are the same stuff I use to advance my playerâ€™s fundamentals. We use an array of drills that focus on the strengths and weaknesses of each individual player which with hard work and focused effort, encourages improvement by all of our athletes.â€
Once an athlete starts to see that improvement in their game they gain a ton of confidence in themselves which elevates their level of play. Confidence is a major key to the success of all athletes. Player development and continued repetition builds the necessary confidence for an athlete to be successful.
As the regular season quickly comes to a close and post season play starts, coaches need to remember who their most valuable assets are…their players! Developing these young men and women both on the court, in the classroom and as leaders in society is our most important duty as coaches. The more effort you put into developing each individual athlete as a player and person will directly correlate to your success as a team.
If you would like position-specific player development drills for point guards, wings, or post players feel free to contact me any time using the MEB email, [email protected] I wish you the best of luck heading into your respective post season tournaments.
Midwest Elite Basketball