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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!


Pre-game Responsibilities and Management

The pre-game routine for your athletes starts with a time to show up. Many varsity programs begin their pre-game immediately after school to review sets (e.g. out-of-bounds and offense) of their opponents and to engage in a shooting workout. We do not recommend stretching this out more than 45 minutes. Any more and you start to invade in their time to get some food and rest before the tipoff. The pre-game workout should follow the scouting report you covered the last couple days and emphasize the tendencies exhibited by their personnel along with the defensive strategies you intend to employ. We encourage you to organize the shooting portion of this workout with lots of game shots, positive energy, and some ball handling. Following the conclusion of these exercises, you should identify the start time of the junior varsity team and require the team to sit together. We advocate you encourage them to treat the junior varsity game seriously by watching, studying, and discussing the opponents' play (it could tip off what the varsity will do) and supporting and encouraging their junior teammates throughout their game. This should help the varsity kids focus on the task at hand while also rewarding the junior varsity players for their efforts as members of your program. You also might want to remind them to stay focus on the game and not acknowledge the presence of their opponent in the gym. From our perspective, we want our team's body language to suggest to the opponent we are not worried about them, we are prepared to play, and confident we can win. You and your staff should also meet during the 1st half of the JV game to review any concluding thoughts about your opponent, review staff assignments, and discuss the final direction of your pre-game speech based on recent practices or even your pre-game workout after school.

Next, we recommend the varsity team should leave the gym for the locker room after halftime and be dressed by the start of the 4th quarter. The length of the 3rd quarter should give them plenty of time to get dressed and attend to any injury or health issues they may have or wish to prevent with your trainer(s). During this time, many programs also assign a coach the responsibility of writing on the chalk/dry erase board a brief summary of the scouting report along with player match-ups so the kids can receive reminders about their opponents. At the conclusion of the JV game, the varsity kids should head out to the court for their pre-game warm-up.

The pre-game warm-up is an area where many high school programs fail to adequately prepare their players for the game. Typically, we noticed teams engaging in simple passing drills and lay-up lines before tip off, along with some free shooting in a period that could only be 15-20 minutes. In our opinion, this activity does little to help teams break a sweat and less for focusing players toward the immediate speed of the upcoming game. Instead, we promote you take some time with your team during a preseason practice to introduce a structured pre-game warm-up. You could assign an assistant coach or two to help guide this activity before the game or rely upon your team captain(s) to lead the workout. We typically exercise through a pass and catch series with the team together in a transition mode using either half-court or full court. At this time, we encourage our players to focus on finishing hard and toward the hoop for roughly 3-4 minutes. We split the group up to provide further opportunities for ball handing and partner shooting for an additional 3-4 minutes. Individual and team defensive drills are also embraced within our pre-game workout. For example, we work on defensive footwork (e.g. 1-on-1 closeouts) and help defense (e.g. shell drill) before the game. If possible, we would encourage you to assign an assistant coach the responsibility of at least watching your players and the opponents to gain a general feeling about their immediate mood, weaknesses, and strengths.

We generally bring the team in to meet with the head coach with about 7-8 minutes remaining. As the head coach, we think you should create some "points of emphasis" for the players during the proceeding warm-up. This will be your last chance to get their full attention before the start of the game in a controlled setting. You should not waste this opportunity by talking too long or about irrelevant information. As the head coach, we feel you will possess a good feeling for the "state of the union" and the environment in which you will play. Appropriately, your motivational speech should be short, direct, and tailored to the condition of the game and your team to evoke their best effort. Finally, reviewing match-ups or quizzing your players about their personnel and strategies is acceptable in this environment because you deserve to know who is ready and who might need a watchful eye. We also support quizzing because the peer pressure it imposed provided the necessary incentive for our players to stay sharp. Overall, we feel the kids want to demonstrate to their peers they are "ready to go."

Once your team takes the floor after your pre-game speech, you should quickly follow. The few minutes (i.e. 3-4) remaining will allow you the time you need to introduce yourself to the opposition and the officials. This time period is critical to help you understand how the referees will officiate the game. Typically, they will reintroduce their current points of emphasis as officials and described to you how they will call certain actions. We regularly ask them to tell us how they define a moving screen because our offense relies so heavily on screening to get open shots. You should similarly ask the officials to comment on items which concern you (e.g. palming, ball pressure contact, traveling, physical contact away from the ball, etc…).

Continue to Part V of Managing the Game





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