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The Goal Of Your Player Development Program

The development of players is a business that is never ending. There are a million characters teaching a million and one different things. I think that different ideas in building players is great as there should be different ideas out there when it comes to player development. When I speak to different player development coaches I always ask how do they judge if a player is getting better or not.

For years I would wonder, how do we judge the work that we’ve done with players in their development. How do we gauge the impact that our work has had on our players? We all have different drills that we do to make our players better and for me they are irrelevant. Our drills give our player’s repetitions on the shots that they take in games to improve. The drill itself is useless unless the coach administrating them can correct mistakes made by the player. Not only do they need to be able to correct mistakes, but also present the correction in a way where the player(s) understand and can make the changes needed.

With all of the different ideas in player development I think the one thing that should be the same is how we judge if a player is getting better or not. With all of the analytical data in basketball I think that there should be a way to quantify player development.  Taking statistics form the prior year and setting goals is a very good idea. Also taking stats in static drills that you do every workout with players is another great tool to chart the development of your players.

With that being said, our goal in working with players should all be the same. Our goal is simply to make our players more valuable to the teams that they play on to put them in positions to win. Head coaches all have the same goal and that is to win basketball games. I never met a coach that didn’t want to win, and when they decide on who plays what type of minutes has direct correlation to if that player has a skill that can help them win……period. Of course some coaches are forced to play young players to help them develop as they may not be able to help them in the present, but has a chance to develop into a difference maker for them.

Our goal is to make our players better, not to dazzle the eye with drills. There is nothing worse than watching a workout and seeing players travel or not follow instructions and the coach in charge lets it go. Our players are relying on us to make them better, and a big part in making them better is correcting their mistakes.

Here are some things that you can look at to gauge your player’s development.


Can They Shoot Better?(PERIMETER/POST)

If a player comes to you in the off season not being able to make shots consistently from 12-15 feet that should be your priority to work on their shot to be able to do that. If they cant make a shot to save their lives and in 3 months of working with you they now have 12 more dribble jab moves and can do 3 eurosteps as well as the Dirk fade away off of 1 foot , but still cant make an open shot you didn’t do your job. You should always examine your player’s shot to see if there are little or big ways that you can enhance it to make them better. Our game is all about shooting today at EVERY position. As a skill development coach shooting has to be one of your biggest priorities. Your players need to be able to make open shots……period. Put those circus moves on hold for a minute and start reading up on shooting mechanics



Can They Dribble With Both Hands?(PERIMETER/POST)

In our game today almost every position can handle the ball. I don’t care how many dribble moves a player has, but can they effectively handle the ball with both hands where they are comfortable dribbling against a defender. With guards obviously being able to dribble the ball up the floor and initiate the offense as well as going by their man or handling in pick and roll is big. Big men sometimes our asked to get a rebound and dribble it up if needed, or to catch on pick & roll early and handle the ball. Make sure your players can handle the ball with both hands.


Can They Finish With Both Hands(PERIMETER/POST)

I actually mentioned this in a previous blog post. I watch a lot of college and high school games online or on TV and am amazed with the amount of players that can’t make a lay up. Mostly it’s the same player that can make 8 moves against a defender, but when they get in the paint can’t make the lay up with their left hand, or their strong hand either. Lay Ups and having touch at any position is huge For a guard getting to the rim is huge as that is a big part of our game. For big men being able to catch inside and finish is a big part o what they do. Dedicate some time to every session to work on shooting lay-ups. It sounds simple, but a huge part of the game. Both hands on both sides, and be able to shoot a reverse lay up with both hands on both sides as well.


Can They Pass The Ball With Both Hands (PERIMETER/POST)

Passing is such a big part of our game today. You saw the Spurs do such a good job of it in the Playoffs at all 5 positions be able to make the extra pass to open teammates to get easy shots. All players regardless of height need to be able to pass the basketball. Work on stationary passing with a partner or against a wall. For a guard to be able to penetrate in the lane force multiple defenders to help and make passes with either hands to big men cutting or open shooters is critical today. For big men to make interior high- low passes, or to pass out of the post is huge. They need to learn how to pass the ball, so critical in the game.


Have a Move To Go To & A Counter To Create Separation With Your Defender (PERIMETER/POST)

Here is what separates coaches that can develop talent and those who cant. People today are so move crazy that it’s mind boggling. For a guard who handles the ball a lot and runs a lot of pick and roll you may have a lot of different things that you have to encounter depending on how a defender guards you. For a wing player you may have to not only pop out to the wing and create space when that defender is guarding you, but also may be asked to score in the post as well. For a post player there is the low/mid/high post to deal with. Here is my thought, for a point guard make moves that changes direction (crossover, in&out, between the legs, behind the back) but make the move with as few dribbles as possible. Don’t make 4 moves on 1 play, you should be able to change speeds and make a move to impact the defense. Nothing worse than seing players working on these crazy dribble moves that they will never use in a game. For a wing player have a jab to create for a jab/jumper, and be able to jab fake and go right/left for a pull up/finish. For a post player Have a move that you can use going over your right and left shoulder with a counter to it. Perfect is a dribble hook middle and an up&under. Use a face up jumper, and maybe a spin move baseline that should cover it.


Can They Get In A Defensive Stance(PERIMETER/POST)

Ok so as a skill development coach you aren’t a miracle worker. You can turn every player into Brue Bowen as a defender. What you can do is work on your player’s ability to get in a stance and know how to resemble playing defense. You should talk to your player’s about giving effort in playing defense and being aware. If you have enough to play 3-3 4-4 half court put them in situations and go over the defense ball side and weakside to have an idea. Stop play if a player is out of position or not giving effort. Just like offense, defense takes repetitions and accountability.


Can They Make A Free Throw(PERIMETER/POST)

Free throw shooting is as every bit mental as it is physical. Players need to be able to get their routine and focus to make free throws. We see it so much at the NBA level where 1 player can be a liability for their team with their inability to make free throws and teams start fouling them to put them at the line. Free throw shooting like any other skill needs to be worked on and refined. If a player can’t make free throws and shoots under 50% they are a liability for their team. 70% is a realistic goal for any player that you work with if you have a lot of tie with them in the off season.

In closing we all have to hold ourselves accountable. Player development is about getting better, and to increase the value that our players have to their team’s/coaches. If a player is shooting 35% from the field the season before getting to you and they shoot 35.5% the next year that isn’t much improvement. You have to make impact on your player’s and to dissect their game to see what they need improving on and actually improve them.

Just because we have drills to put players through doesn’t mean our players our getting better. You have to hold yourself to standards and give your player’s goals for the upcoming season for improvement. I think it’s the only way to evaluate yourself and the work that you do with your player.

If we like it or not their coach determines their playing time. It doesn’t matter how much we like that coach or not. We need to make sure what we are working on with our players will make them more valuable in their coaches minds. Develop winning skills like dribbling,passing, shooting, defense. Those are the skills that are identified by their coaches as winning skills. I know you want to watch Kevin Durant play and copy everything he does and instill it into your players, but you have to ask is that is the best for the player or do I want to put those moves in for people to think that you are a great skill coach?

Player development should be something that you can quantify at the end of the day. If you do a 1 day clinic with a player of course then you can’t quantify it but if you spend the whole off season with a player you should find new was to judge their development. If more player development coaches hold themselves accountable on their work it will make our players better as well as our industry. I think we owe it to the players that we work with to push ourselves to be the best that we can be and refine our work. Just knowing a thousand drills isn’t good enough anymore. You need to be able to correct mistakes and have your players improve on their skills, not just get shots up and get tired.

Good luck with all of your players this upcoming season.

We are hosting A Player Development Webinar on Sunday October 5th at 8:00 PM CST. The webinar will be a presentation and discussion on player development. The cost is only $12.99 and the webinar lasts approximately 1.5-2 hours. To Register click here, http://bit.ly/YMnLix

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