It's NCAA Tournament time and the men's Final Four is set. To no one's surprise, Villanova and Kansas have cashed their tickets while Michigan who has played well of late is booking rooms in San Antonio, the site of this year's coronation. The shocker is Loyola of Chicago who last made it this far in 1963 when they defeated Cincinnati for the title. I don't follow much during the regular season but I like this time of year! Even though I coach girls, I only watch the men's tournament. It isn't as pure a game as the one the women play but it's faster, more athletic, and higher scoring which keeps my interest. Some of you know Ralph Turner. Ralph is a legend in some coaching circles, including mine. I was blessed to teach and coach with him in Georgia and then to work with him for more than a decade at Lipscomb University camps. Several days ago, Ralph posted in Facebook how during this time of year, some former and current coaches are quick to criticize other coaches whose teams are still playing on the various social media. Although I don't see it to the extent Ralph does as his basketball galaxy is on the collegiate level, I know he's right. Nobody knows what is going on with a team at any moment except the team you stack it up with as Don Meyer used to tell us. A coach knows his/her team like a parent knows his/her child. Ralph wears his mind on his sleeve and the sleeve fits. He's not saying don't be observant, just be kind.... I think. And if you know him, you know that Ralph is the best interpreter of Ralph!
That brings me to the pictures at the top of this page. One thing I've dealt with in my coaching career is boredom. Not boredom in working with the kids or in the teaching of fundamentals and concepts. The boredom comes from the repetitive nature of drills. I call it the Leticia Cuellar Factor. Leticia played for me in middle school and then for Reed Sutton for four years on our WCS high school squad. Then, Leticia played for Reed for four more years at Faulkner University. Eight years with the same coach! I know she knew Reed's drills by heart. I know Reed and he had to constantly change things up to keep practice from being too predictable. I've really tried to address this the past several years. I've been at WCS for two decades, coaching the middle school girls with a one year filling in for our varsity. With our junior high, we run the same zone offense and man offense, the same three inbounds plays, and the same press break we did in 1998-1999. Identical. But the way we teach it is completely different. The fundamentals are the same but the way we break them down into small parts evolves almost by the week. I've become more creative, constantly reading coaching articles and tinkering with our practice approach. And guess what? There is terrific stuff on you-tube as relates to basketball. Coaches are born borrowers. You can't use everything but one good idea can lead to another. Not long ago, I saw a clip discussing how Kyrie Irving used grocery bags to improve his ball handling, a trick he learned from NBA legend Baron Davis. Talk about cheap equipment! It's not a substitute but a supplement for the skills we teach. We pass, dribble, and shoot layups with ball in bag. The basketballs are hard to grip and the knot makes for crazy bounces but I can already tell a positive difference with my youngsters. Like other team trends, it will probably grow old so we won't overuse it. But I guarantee one thing; we will never run out of bags!
This isn't any deep theological treatise tonight, just a peek into the world of coaching at almost the beginning level. But let me assure you, if I get complacent and bored, so will the kids I'm trying to coach. Adding a cone or switching baskets or keeping score and making a drill a contest can change my interest quotient and that of the girls. If the time comes when I'm sleepwalking through practice, pull me off the court for my own good. There is a carryover. Jesus talked about new and old wine and new and old wine skins. Pray and meditate at different times. Read the Word from a new translation. Write a devotional- I'll print it! Keep your mind active spiritually as well as in the rest of your daily life. The alternative is, as I can attest, boredom. The Godfather Of Soul, James Brown, put it like this- Papa's Got A Brand New Bag! Well, so do I .... and I mean literally!
Applicable quote of the day:
I have coaching friends, and when we get together, we often talk more about what we're doing to get players' attention than we do about the fascinating X's and O's of our sport.
Tony La Russa
E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org