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Managing the Game: Recommendations for Coaches on the Basketball Sideline

Chad Seifried, Ph.D., RAA, Louisiana State University and Tim Casey, Upper Arlington High School (Columbus, OH)

PowerBasketball would like to thank Chad Siegfried and Tim Casey for providing our latest series helping coaches and providing insight into what it takes to really "Manage the Game". We will be posting the 5 part series on a weekly basis every Saturday. Thanks, guys!


We have great respect for coaches like Rick Pitino, Mike Krzyzewski, and Dean Smith because they guided their teams to the NCAA Final Four on several occasions and each won a national championship. We also understand they achieved this success with a great work ethic, solid knowledge of the game (e.g. X's and O's) and through the recruiting and development of very talented student-athletes. However, what we might not know is these individuals were able to lead their institutions to victory on a consistent basis because they understand how to manage their team properly during the game to elicit the best performance possible. Unfortunately, managing the game appears as an underappreciated and underdeveloped aspect of coaching at the high school level because it frequently fails to match the level of preparation and effort displayed by coaches and players before and during the game. In essence, poor game management prevents the victory you and your team deserve.

We consider managing the game as an important and practical method toward the building of a useful team approach in basketball. Thus, we intend to inform high school coaches on how to make their players and staff better within the game because winning basketball is not just about diagramming plays or playing/developing the best players. It is also about managing the diverse set of people and circumstances within the changing game environment to maximize performance. This article will break down the game into three areas (i.e. pre, post, and in-game) while concentrating on staff and player assignments. Overall, we will provide instruction, advice, and information to high school coaches on how to manage the game properly utilizing their staff and players based on our combined 30+ years in coaching. Furthermore, we aim to prompt the basketball community to initiate more opportunities for their team in practice settings to operate these recommendations for the benefit of their game performance and overall experience.

Staff Assignments during the Game

Clearly, it is a challenge to be aware of all events happening on the court. As the head coach, it is obvious that you should assign members of your coaching staff various responsibilities throughout the course of the game to maximize their contribution and your awareness. However, we offer you should also recognize other individuals can contribute to helping you manage the game properly. Those individuals include: a) trainers; b) managers; c) junior varsity and freshman players; d) former coaches and players close to the program; and e) competent family members. We will acknowledge current and former parents appear as viable contributors to your program but we recommend them with great hesitation because it is possible they possess hidden agendas which could undermine your program. Still, if you should feel confident in their competence, then these individuals could provide you great use.

We recommend you delegate certain assignments to your coaching staff during pre-season meetings and provide different responsibilities along with training opportunities to your other contributors. Many of the individuals listed above in addition to your staff can service your need to record important information, focused on your style of play and player performance, throughout the course of the game. Others (i.e. former coaches and players) can add particular value through their subjective opinion and/or expert analysis. For the purpose of establishing assignments, we identified several areas many coaches keep track of to best manage their team. These areas include: a) player fouls; b) timeouts; c) substitutions; d) injuries; e) shot chart; f) post touches; g) turnovers; h) set play or offensive efficiency; i) rebounds; j) player minutes; and k) opponent plays and signals.

The extended staff can learn about your record keeping preferences and procedures through practice opportunities. As an example, many high school programs keep shot charts, record hustle plays (e.g. charges, deflections, offensive rebounds), and chronicle individual and team offensive and defensive efficiency during intra-squad scrimmages or normal practice routines. Some programs record information live while others also utilize videotaped practices to train extended staff members ex-post facto. It will be important for you to develop a manageable chart or form for those individuals because it helps them efficiently record information in the manner that you desire. Also, the general layout will help you and/or them combine that information with previous data to create a longitudinal progression or performance chart. You could utilize this effort to help you with future decisions about the direction of your team's play or practice habits. Since we see many "highly involved" parents, you could also find this information useful to explain your decision for rewarding playing time.

Your top assistant coach should remain close to your side throughout the course of the game. Like you, they should keep a general working knowledge on the performance of all the areas listed above but we also recommend they receive the opportunity for certain duties required to help you manage the game properly. For example, your top assistant coach is likely most familiar with your personnel and program as someone who attends practices on a daily basis. They also are someone who best understands your preferences for player combinations according to time and score. Thus, one important function they can control is the substitution of the players on the floor. While many head coaches prefer to hold single control over substitutions, some allow their top assistant this power because it frees them to coach those players on the floor without worrying when they will need to replace players (due to total or consecutive minutes played) or remember how much time (i.e. minutes) they need to rest players on the bench. Your top assistant or another should also keep track of substitution changes by the opponent and provide you notice when those changes occur. We believe and recommend, at the very least, your top assistant should act as a consultant about substitutions but be careful inviting input from others on your staff. You can have too many generals.

Continue to Part II of Managing the Game





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