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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!

Part Two

Other assistants in addition to your top aid may specialize in a specific position (i.e. perimeter and post). Thus, you may want to consider assigning them the responsibility to coach players on the floor and speak with players on the bench about the requirements of their position and their obligations to the team or game plan. We recommend you make certain the position coach serves as an extension of your philosophy and not provide players with conflicting ideas or rhetoric. Essentially, the position coach should follow the game plan you developed and encourage, instruct, or guide players to your teachings and not their own ideas. If the trust level or necessary experience is absent, they should not receive this important responsibility.

Another job an assistant may serve involves the supervision of the bench and the scouting report. In reality, many high school head coaches serve as the lead scout on most occasions with the assistants helping in evaluating personnel or general tendencies of opponents. In this scenario, assistant coaches should be required to learn the sets and calls/signals for plays which you discovered and detailed in your scouting report. In turn, they should be expected to relay this information to those players on the floor when they identify sets and calls along with encouraging the bench (i.e. other players and staff) to also communicate that information to the active players. Their activity should educe more focus from your players on the bench because they are encouraged and required to participate more in the game and not just act as a spectator. Generally, your top assistant or lead scout (should you be fortunate enough to have a suitable evaluator besides yourself) will provide great value in late game or out-of-bounds situations to help you think through and anticipate the next move of your opponent, another critical element of managing the game correctly.

We recognize timeouts can occur for: a) fatigue and/or substitution; b) stop momentum; c) reemphasize points about the game plan or scouting report; d) motivate/encourage; and e) late game/special situations, among others. Managing timeouts effectively and efficiently are thus an important aspect of coaching basketball successfully. We recommend you and your team take time during practice in the preseason to introduce your timeout procedures. We believe players need to understand the importance of timeouts and their limited nature. For example, high school basketball, unlike the professional ranks and college, rarely enjoys television timeouts. Most states provide only 30 seconds or 1 minute to coaches to communicate their message(s). Thus, players should know not to waste time going from the court to the bench area. They should be encouraged to hustle over to huddle. Incoming players, waiting at the scoring table, need to communicate as quickly as possible to those they are substituting for that they are out of the game. We suggest other bench players, trainers, and managers shoulder the burden of providing water and towels to those coming off the court. The trainer should also check for injuries at this time. All players and staff should also learn to keep their ears on high alert for instructions from the head coach.

Prior to the meeting with the players, you may want to take a brief moment to speak with your staff. They will follow substitution changes by your opponent and if they were the head scout, provide you with valuable information about the personnel on the floor and possible strategies or tactics they will likely employ. Still, be aware you do not enjoy much time to discuss. All conversation should center on the reason for timeout and the identification of solutions or adjustments based on your game plan, personnel on the floor, and environment (i.e. time and score). Talk in the huddle should similarly address the reason for timeout with the student-athletes and unveil your solution(s). We recommend only the head coach and occasionally the top assistant speak during the timeout and that you never attempt to draw-up anything new for the team during the course of the game. Your talk and instruction should center on the game plan you designed. Changing who you are and what you do during the course of a game sends signals to the players that you lost confidence. Furthermore, it can lead to confusion amongst previously well-defined responsibilities and/or roles. Stick with alternatives or adjustments which are familiar to the players or those that you believe will work best with them. Reemphasize teaching points/techniques toward execution while simultaneously drawing-up/identifying responsibilities to the kids in the huddle when possible using your dry erase board. Timeouts also provide you with a real opportunity to motivate your team might. Specifically, we suggest you utilize positive oriented speech versus overly critical talk. Essentially, your team should leave the huddle with great confidence and understanding about their abilities and responsibilities. Finally, the staff member in charge of player personnel changes by your opponent should relay potential match-ups to your players either in the huddle or on their way back to the court.

Continue to Part III of Managing the Game

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