Number One Mistake Coaches Make...

I often talk to coaches and they say that they plan on installing a new offense or defense in the fall. They say they want to go to a dribble-drive motion, or a Princeton offense, or they want to use a new zone offense they picked up from watching another team run it last season. Fast-forward to the end of the season, and when I ask coaches how the new system worked, I get a lot of responses that the system never worked the way it was supposed to, players were either too robotic, moving from place to place without really reading the defense, or players just ignored the play and freelanced.

I would say that the number 1 problem I've seen from coaches trying to install an offense or a defense is that they don't teach it in a progression. They start on air 5v0, then after a few reps they go 5v5. The players run the system but they don't really know what they're doing because they haven't spent the time on the intricacies. They have the big picture idea of how it is supposed to work, how it is supposed to look like, but they don't know why they are doing it. Coaches are on the sideline yelling and screaming at players to pass when they shot the ball, or shoot the ball when they were supposed to pass.

Sometimes, as coaches, we forget that at the end of the day, it's the players that have to play. As a coach, you can draw up any offensive play to beat a given defense, and vice versa, but that's all clinic talk, that only exists on the chalkboard. What really counts is whether or not your players can execute it. The best system in the world isn't going to do a darn thing if you can't teach it to your players. To me, that is really the essence of coaching, being able to communicate and teach it to the players.

So how do you teach in a progression? You want to start with a foundation and build on prior knowledge, you want to teach it step by step. Always start in a 1v1, then "progress" to 2v2, then 3v3, then 4v4, before going to 5v5. You don't go to 3v3 until the players have mastered 2v2. Basically, if you can't break your system down from 1v1, 2v2, 3v3, then you don't understand the system enough to be teaching it in the first place.

Teaching in a progression also helps you organize your practices better as well. It forces you to break your system into chunks which fit nicely into your practice blocks, such that you are maximizing the amount of reps the players get and minimizing the amount of standing around.

Another benefit of teaching in a progression is that when you want to make adjustments, or when you are having problems with your system mid-season, you can easily go back to 2v2 or 3v3 and find out where the breakdown is.

Finally, when you teach in a progression, you come up with your own drills on how best to teach your system. The best drill is the one that puts your players in the most game-like situation within your given system.