For me, the offseason is all about reflection and ideas. It's the time for coaches to do the deep thinking that we don't get to do during the season, with the necessary chaos of practices, games, and ya, of course teaching. I keep coming back to these set of notes from Mario De Sisti and he's listed a bunch of his top teaching points. I don't think all of them apply for me, but certainly the first 10 or so really resonate with me. I've always been someone who liked to keep teaching points to the minimum, because who's going to remember a list of 30 teaching points. Anyways, you can take a look here at all 30 or so and judge for yourself.

Top Teaching Points:

1. Teach “mentality”. Players need to learn to read the defense. Avoid drills on air. As much as possible use guided defense. This means a defender is directed in which way to play defense. It could also be a coach or manager. The offense learns to read the defense. When first learning give two options controlled by guided defense. For example go right or left. If you want players to learn the game you must teach it in every drill. By using guided defense the offense learns the reason for their actions. It gives them a target as to where they should be going. For example: Cut off the shoulder of the defender. It discourages actions that could not happen in the ‘real” game. For example chest passes to a post player. It also helps defense become smarter. The defender learns how his/her actions can influence offensive decisions.

2. If you have two options stay on offense three times in a row. Guided defense give you option one, option two, and a choice on the third. Add an option when the first two options have been consolidated.

3. Stay on offense or defense for multiple repetitions without changing positions. We so often rotate from offense to defense to a sub in many drills we do. This is easy for the coach, but it is not best for the athlete to learn. By staying on offense defense for multiple reps you get a chance to immediately learn form the rep before.

4. Add transition for conditioning and concentration.
a) Offense transitions vs. air i.e. 1on 0, 2 on 0, 3 on 0 etc. (add a coach for guided defense)
b) Transition giving the offense an advantage i.e. 2-1, 3 on 2, 4 on 3
c) Offense and defense transition 1 on 1, 3 on 3
d) Defense transitions vs. new offensive with an advantage 1on 1 on 1, 2 on 2 on 2, 3 on 3 on 3, 4 on 4 on 4

5. Teach offense the first 3 months, next 3 months 70% defense 30 % offense, last 2 months 40 % transition, 30 % offense, 30 % defense. Players need time to learn. By trying to teach everything at once it is very confusing for the athletes. The same idea can be used in training camps for teams that must come together for a short period of time. The first part of training camp should be offense with guided defense only. Play players are still playing defense and using transition during this time. It is just that the details are not being taught in drill situations.

6. “Flying corrections” – make corrections without stopping the drill. If one player is having problems pull this player out of the drill and correct. Have an assistant coach take the player and work on the problem and then insert the player back into the drill. The art of coaching is to know what mistakes need correction. A coach could stop the play on every single action. When do you stop the entire
group? When do you coach on the fly? And when do you ignore the mistake? What are the important ones?

7. The coach makes the players read by giving signals that force players to react i.e. a number to keep head up when dribbling, an arm up to indicate which way to dribble, two hands to call for a pass, signals to indicate the type of guided defense.

8. Continuity in practice. It is hard for players to follow the flow of a practice if you jump from drill to drill with no logical progression. Practice should read like a book. Start with the introduction and proceed to chapter 1 then 2, 3 etc. You don’t start at chapter 5, and then go to 1 then 7 etc. Ask your players at the end of practice how many drills they remember. They should be able to remember them all and the teaching points for each drill.

9. If you have a shot clock in the game must practice with one. Even if it is a 10 sec call by the coach. Players need to learn to adapt. What do you want to happen at the 10 seconds mark? You need to attack at about 7 seconds.

10. If you don’t have a centre; don’t play with a centre. Don’t force players to fit a system that does not promote development. Coaching at the development level should be about producing players who have the skills need to play at the next level; not the number of games won. In school we teach skills so students can be promoted to the next grade. This is not happening in basketball.

11. The game continues to evolve. To be current coaches must constantly up date how the game is taught. We run many “old” offenses and teach “old” offensive concepts. Many pre-dated the shot clock, 3 point line and the new physical defense. We need to create problems for recovery by the defense. Spacing and movement are key. Making use of the contact by defense. We need to make use of penetration, movement off penetration, continuous picks or screens into picks. The chest pass is an “old” pass yet is the first pass many still teach. It is most used in drills where no defense is prevalent. Almost impossible to use in today’s game.

12. Make use of your assistants. Give them specific things to do. Debrief with assistants before practice as to what will be done that day. Have assistants take notes in practice. What corrections they had to make. You want assistants to ask to do things rather then you tell them to do things. Make assistants think about the why. When they have a suggested should tell you why he things this is a good thing to do. Let players know which assistant will be working with them that day in
practice. Who is in charge in each drill? Debrief with your assistants at the end of practice.

13. A coaches’ positioning is crucial to the being able to “dominate” the practice. When drilling for offense the coach should stand under the basket. This way you can see all the players. For defense you need to stand at the top. If you position yourself under the basket the sagging defenders will block your sight lines. For full court drills stand at full court. The head coach is responsible to position the assistant coaches.

14. The coach must inspire the creativity of the players. Teach players to have imagination. Many players cannot picture what is going to happen in a game. In drills the coach must help the player see what will happen. Use guided defense, increase the intensity. It is very difficult to have imagination when you play 1 on 0, 2 on 0 etc.

15. Teach the fundamentals not the tactics. Coaches of young players should be more concerned with the number of player he/ she develops than the number of championships won. Championships can be won by taking advantage of the physical and mental limitations of young players. Using a zone defense that packs the key against mini basketball kids is an example. The children do not have the physical ability to shoot from long distances or the cognitive ability to read the number of defenders. When we teach tactics there is very often no carry over to the next level. Tactics that are affective at one stage of development often do not work at the next.

16. Evaluate the attitude and behaviors of the players not the outcomes. With young players we cannot get overly concerned with outcomes. Do the players have the right attitudes and behaviors should be your main concern. Over time with proper coaching the desired outcomes will occur.

17. Scouting. Who passes to the centre? What happens when the ball is in the post? What type of screens does the team run? What zone do they play? Who are the shooters?

18. A player is denied when the elbow of the defender is in the passing lane. A hand is not denying. Pass high outside and the offense will move to get the ball. Also a player can step through the hand to get the ball. Cannot step through an elbow.

19. Teach to teach. Be fussy. Make corrections. If you don’t make correction when the players are young you will never be able to make them when older.

20. Keep the same drill and add to it. Instead of changing drill formation all the time. This allows players to concentrate on learning the concept not the drill.

21. Never pass back without penetration first. Must force the defense to help first. Dangerous pass without penetration.

22. Practices at tournaments – shooting, no running. 1 day before soft, 2 days before hard.

23. No easy 3 point shots. No help for a 3 point shot. It has changed the game. The more players who can shoot it the more dangerous your team.

24. The first dribble is the responsibility of the ball defender. The second dribble is helps responsibility.

25. Scouting reports – pro’s watch video, juniors – scout players, Go through the types of screens you will see. Who passes to the centre? Be aggressive on that passer. Work mostly 2 on 2, 3 on 3 not 5 on 5. Too confusing.

26. National teams – invite assistant coaches from different regions. The national team coaches dictate what skills are to be emphasized.

27. You cannot cure details if you skip around in practice. One offense one defensive drill. Stay consistent. Finish the offensive book before you start your defensive book.

28. Don’t teach dirty tactics

29. Reward good defensive players. Start them. Have good offensive players come off the bench.

30. Give quality reps to one or two players while others are working on reads and timing. North American we think about keeping everyone ‘busy” or active. Mario uses players just as passers or as guided defense. Their job is to help the others learn.

31. Start in odd formations and flow into a drill. Forces the players to move into positions, which is more game like.

More food for thought for the offseason, check out Chris Mooney's All-Access Practice DVD to see how the University of Richmond runs practices. I love watching other teams practice, because you can see how drills and scenarios are run in context, and not just in isolation at a clinic.