(Hopefully) good sports essays and observations for good sports by a guy who tries (and can sometimes fail) to be a good sport.


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Saturday, February 16, 2008

The "Karate Kid" Approach to Coaching

I attended my daughter's last regular-season 5th/6th grade basketball game today. This was the first year that she played, and, naturally, she was nervous about how well she'd play because some of the girls have been playing for more than three years. She had shot around a bit in a neighbor's driveway (and showed some aptitude) in the past, but she went into this league with almost no experience.

And, no, she didn't emerge as a star. She has a decent athletic frame but is young for her grade (and, as a fifth grader, is probably one of the youngest kids in the league). After having some good coaching, she emerged as a valuable role player who can defend reasonably well and hit a shot in the lane every now and then.

Not too bad for a rookie, especially according to another dad, whose daughter is in my daughter's grade and said that my daughter was much more advanced than his daughter, who is also playing for the first time. The other dad inquired as to what, if anything, we had worked on with her either before the season or during it.

Well, I did a few things, although nothing particularly major. First, I had occasion to be with her at the local Y for about 2 hours right as the season began, and there was an empty part of the gym where we worked for two hours on very repetitive stuff, such as:

running to a spot, catching a pass and shooting it (without putting the ball on the floor);
figuring out what a pivot foot is;
dribbling with both hands;
working a give-and-go with me; and passing off the dribble.

Remember Mr. Miyagi in "Karate Kid" -- "sand the floor," "wax the car", "paint the house" -- well, that's what the two-hour session was all about.

For those who like free-lance pick-up play, it was boring. But for those who like drills, we repetitively drilled on the basics, over and over again. I wanted to give her as much muscle memory as possible so that she could have some sense of what to do out there.

In addition, we drew her offensive set (a 1-4 stack) and diagrammed where the coaches wanted her to be, I told her the lingo of the court (the elbow, the low post, the high post, the wing, etc., although being a fan to a degree, she knew some of this stuff), we watched some games together to talk about the importance of spacing and following shots, and I worked with her on her defensive stance (and told her that if she saw her opponent was virtually one-handed, to block the path of that hand to force turnovers). It wasn't as though we drilled nightly, but when we discussed matters, we discussed them for a while until she got comfortable with them.

The result wasn't that I created the next Sue Bird, but I did create for this purpose a kid who was determined to succeed, who wanted to learn, who wanted to contribute and who wanted to improve. All the catalyst my daughter needed was a foundation of the basics to get started.

The fundamentals, hard work and a determination to improve -- that's the ticket.


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