Illustrating the difference between Peak by Friday and player development philosophies

Last weekend, I was the assistant referee for an u16 state cup semifinal game in which the #1 seed lost. This was the third time that I had refereed the losing team, and they had won 9-1 and 18-0 in the previous games. In the 18-0 game in February, their striker played all but the last five minutes as a striker and scored 11 goals. Their goalie never left the penalty box and touched the ball twice in the entire game. Players never switched positions or tried something new. They scored and scored and scored again.  Read more

Coaching a European Club – Week 1

I arrived in Europe on Tuesday, and we practiced on Wednesday. I have three teams, essentially, but we practice as two teams. I am coaching a men’s team in the first division and a second men’s team that plays in a local division (rather than a national, domestic league). The third team is an u20 team, but all of the u18 and u20 players play for one of the other two teams, so they get enough practice through those practices. I also coach, along with the women’s coach, the basketball college, which is an option for high-school players who wish to train, since there is no high-school team. Most of the u18 and u20 players train with the basketball college too. Read more

Recruiting and the Development of Tall Players

I spent this week watching the girls’ basketball state play-offs with an eye on evaluating players for the junior college where I work as a strength coach in the event that the basketball coaches ask for a second opinion. In debating the merits of various post players for a junior-college program, I returned to a persistent question that is relevant to coaches of all ages: Is the goal to win now or to develop players for long-term success? Here is how the question plays out: Read more

The Peak by Friday Mentality in High School Basketball

Prior to my game this week, I spoke with the opposing coach. He made a comment about another team in our league. He said something about their players being talented, but undisciplined, and how they just needed the coach to work with them. I joked that I imagine outsiders say the same thing about me and my team. Especially here, where most teams like to slow down the game and run set plays or Flex every time down, since there is no shot clock, we look wildly out of control in comparison. You never hear me calling out a play or telling them to slow down. Definitely different, and oftentimes we make mistakes or look disorganized because we have versatile players who play multiple positions and I encourage every player to push the ball rather than slowing down to give the ball to the point guard. In fact, I have gotten on bigger players for not bringing up the ball, but haven’t gotten on any for a turnover created when they did attack. From the outside, however, I imagine that we oftentimes look like we have a clueless coach. Read more

Motor learning theory, basketball skill trainers, and skill development

Originally published in Hard2Guard Player Development Newsletters, Volume 5, available as a paperback or Kindle. To subscribe to the newsletter, go here

Whenever I write about trainers, trainers respond. Trainers tend to be defensive because the industry is not established fully. Many do not understand the reason or need for basketball trainers. As a basketball trainer, I see both sides of the issue. Read more

Is the Goal of Coaching to Educate or to Train?

I am preparing to teach a class on constraints-based coaching, and spent the weekend looking at different online videos in order to “flip” the classroom. I have returned to the video below several times because of one of its early points about education and training. Read more

ACL Injury Epidemic – The Solution Starts with Coach Education & a Change away from Peak by Friday Mindset

ACL injuries have become a politicized issue, as evidenced by Wendy Parker’s latest column. While pundits and activists battle, the larger issue is muddied: the rhetoric has no effect on changing the epidemic of injuries. Rather than writing about rehabilitation or prevention programs, the injury issue creates a gender war.

The epidemic boils down to two issues: (1) Lack of education and dissemination of information to coaches and (2) the Peak by Friday mentality. Read more

Education, Contextual Interference and Competition to Promote Talent Development

In an interview, Xavi, the star of the Spanish National Team and F.C. Barcelona, introduces three concepts pivotal to talent development: (1) Education (development) over winning; (2) contextual interference; and (3) competition – dealing with failure. Read more

The Fallacy of Wins and Losses in Youth Sports

Note: Originally published in the January/February 2011 issue of Los Angeles Sports & Fitness.

In a recent youth football championship game, one team trailed 6-0 when the coach ordered a trick play that is now a youtube sensation. After a penalty, he called out loudly that the defense had been off-side, and the official forgot to walk off the five yards. He yelled at his center to move the ball forward. The center stood up and handed the ball over his shoulder to the quarterback, which is a legal maneuver. The quarterback started to walk off the five yards and then sprinted past the unassuming defenders for the game-tying touchdown. Read more

Coach’s Role in Skill Development

We measure a coach through immediate outcomes (wins), but his main function may be in terms of his long-term influence over a player’s skill development. In “Inside the brain of an elite athlete: the neural processes that support high achievement in sports” by Kielan Yarrow, Peter Brown and John W. Kraukauer (2009) published in Nature Reviews Neuroscience, the researchers write that a coach “can prevent an athlete from falling into local maxima for immediate rewards by evaluating a local action with respect to the future goal of winning, and thereby allow the athlete to attain the global maxima with maximal rewards (value).”

Essentially, if a player picks up a basketball, he seeks the immediate reward of making a basket. However, making a basket in the short-term may not develop a skill that is useful in the long term, and that is where the coach enters the picture. The coach understands what is necessary for the player’s long-term success, and he prevents the player from falling into the short-term bad habit. As the researchers write:

“A recent study supports the usefulness of coaching by showing that subjects do not necessarily choose the optimal long-term learning strategy when allowed to choose on their own (Yarrow et al., 2009).”

Therefore, the coach’s role is to promote long-term learning or the skills that lead to long-term development, not the short-term approach. When evaluating coaches, we must remember that the coach’s role is not short-term success, but long-term development, especially with coaches of youth players. If coaches fall into the trap of a short-term approach, and players tend to choose the immediate success over long-term learning, who will enhance the player’s learning or outline the strategy for long-term success? Who will set forth the optimal approach if the coach has a Peak by Friday mentality? What coach will maintain a LTAD philosophy when parents and random Internet posters evaluate coaches on a short-term outcome?

By Brian McCormick
Author, Cross Over: The New Model of Youth Basketball Development
Director of Coaching, Playmakers Basketball Development League

Next Page »

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