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Homework? Hard Work!

by Ed Riley

The older I get the more I am constantly amazed by how smart my parents were. I'm sure we have all experienced our parents telling us, "Well, in my day we used to walk 10 miles to school in 3 foot of snow," and all the rest of the stuff that parents tell their kids. As a kid my response was always, "Yeah, right." I would go into that fantasy zone where you nod your head at the appropriate time but tune them out when they talked like this. I'm sure you coaches and players alike know exactly what I'm talking about.

Sheesh, I just remembered a perfect example of this. I heard about a coach who coached at a school for the deaf. Most of the players couldn't hear at all, but some could hear with the help of some major hearing aids. When these hearing aid players got bored with their coach's speech, they would turn down the volume on their hearing aids and pretend they were broken.

Anyway, my parents used to give me these speeches about working hard if you want to get any where in life. I always tuned them out for the most part. This same analogy applies to players and coaches.

You coaches may relate to this. You are giving your "You have to work harder if you want to get better" speech. As you are talking you can see the players eyeballs roll back up into the back of their head. When you see this, YOU HAVE JUST ENCOUNTERED THE ZONE! I'm sure you players know what I am talking about as well. I am sure that you encounter this zone every time you talk about work ethics.

Work ethics? Yes, basketball work ethics. Players learn moves, how to shoot, proper skills, and everything else by repetition, by doing it over and over again. We coaches talk a lot about it and then expect our players to listen and do it at home on their own. I guess that we adults have forgotten about the ZONE. I guess we have forgotten that calling our friends after school is a major part of our life. Now we have the Internet to make after school hours even busier.

Here's a S.W.A.G. for you. Have a talk with your players and ask them to practice some of these moves you have been teaching them. Watch their faces and body language, and you will be able to tell right then who is going to do it, and who won't. My SWAG is that you will find your better players are listening to you and the rest entered the Zone. The players that need help the most, will ZONE you in a heartbeat. There's just no justice, is there?

So how do you get around this? How do you make your point and get results? Hummm, bribery? No! Yelling? Don't think so. How about homework???? OK, after all, that is the title of this chapter.

Teachers get your kids to do things you never dreamed of, right? You ask them to empty the dish washer and 2 days later, it's still full, as well as the sink. Their teacher gives them homework and what happens? Yes, they wait till the last second, but they get it done. It's a bloomin miracle, it is!

Words change the way people look at things. I use the term Learning Session rather than practice. It let's people know what they are there for. I use the term "Homework." This announces to my players that it is required and they might be graded on it. How do you grade basketball homework? With more or less playing time. Playing time is a player's report card.

So the next time you want to preach about what they need to do outside of your Learning Sessions, don't! Just verbally hand out their homework. Keep it short and to the point. Here's an example:

"OK, gang, tonight's homework assignment to shoot 300 freethrows before our next L.S. That's your homework. I will be able to tell if you did it, and I will grade your results."

Did I yell, pull out my remaining 8 hairs, or spend a lot of time on it? No, no, and no! I didn't ask them to do something, I very nicely told them what I needed done and that they would be graded on it. The only other thing you need to do is to follow up with the grading in your next LS.

Wanna know what the results will be? Most of them will do it. You did not take too long talking and send them into the zone. You told them what their homework was and let them know they will be tested on it. You grade them on it next week, and life is good!

So the real point is, quit giving long sermons. That means DO NOT BE LIKE ME! Your players have a short attention so recognize this fact and then use it to your advantage. I would have homework to hand out after every LS. You only have an hour or so of gym time per week, so don't use it preaching, use it teaching.

Two things I want to add here. A sub-theme of Book 1 was SIMPLE IS GOOD! Sometimes in the hustle and bustle of coaching, and work, and teaching, and trying to have a real life outside of work and basketball, we adults see life in a much more complicated manner. We are dealing with younger and less worldly youths, and life sure is simple to them. Life isn't black, white, or even grey, it's just life. So the simpler we make things, the better the results will be when dealing with our players. But isn't that true about everything in life as well? SIMPLE IS GOOD!!!!

The other thing is that I am trying to take the advice of a lot of you readers, keep it short. Many of you can only spend 15 minutes at a time on the net, so shorter is better for a lot of you. So see, I am trying to be customer friendly. I hope this works for you.

Copyright 2001-2002, by Ed Riley, Steve Jordan, Darrell Garrison and Steve MacKinney. All rights reserved.

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Excellent video with thoughts and drills on organizing your practices. Learn from one of the greatest coaches of the game, Coach "K".
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