25 Commonly Misunderstood Rules in Middle/High School Basketball

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1. There is no 3-second count between the release of a shot and the control of a rebound, at which time a new count starts.

2. A player can go out of bounds, and return inbounds and be the first to touch the ball. (This isn’t the NFL.) You can be the first to touch a ball if you were out of bounds. However, you must establish yourself as inbounds. Something in, nothing out.

3. There actually is no such thing as “over the back.” There must be contact resulting in advantage/disadvantage. This does not put a tall player at a disadvantage merely for being tall (at least it should not do so).

4. “Reaching” is not actually a foul. There must be contact and the player with the ball must have been placed at a disadvantage.

5. A player can always recover his/her fumbled ball; a fumble is not a dribble, and any steps taken during recovery are not traveling, regardless of progress made and/or advantage gained. (Running while fumbling is also not traveling.) You can fumble a pass, recover it and legally begin a dribble. This is not a double-dribble. If the player bats the ball to the floor in a controlling fashion, picks the ball up, then begins to dribble, you would now have a violation.

6. It is not possible for a player to travel while dribbling.

7. A high dribble is always legal provided the dribbler’s hand stays on top of the ball, and the ball does not come to rest in the dribblers’ hand. The key to “palming” or “carrying” is whether or not the ball is at rest in the hand.

8. A “kicked” ball must be intentional, and contact must be any part of the leg.

9. It is perfectly legal for a player to rebound his/her own air ball, provided the official deemed the shot a legitimate shot.

10. It is impossible to travel, double-dribble, or carry while taking the ball out for a throw in. (I have seen officials tell athletes they can’t move on a throw-in. I’m not sure why, because this is not a rule.) You have limitations, but you can move. They must stay over the spot in a lateral manner. (The spot is 3 feet wide and has no restrictions on depth.)

11. A ball cannot travel over the top of the back board, however, it can travel behind the backboard. The ball can pass through the poles, wires, standards, suspension bars, etc, provided that it does not touch anything.

12. A defender does not have to “give the dribbler a step.” As long as legal guarding position has been established, it is up to the dribbler to avoid contact. The person with the ball should expect to be guarded. Legal guarding position is the key. Time and distance are not an issue when guarding someone with the ball.

13. The front, sides, top, and bottom of a rectangular backboard are IN BOUNDS.

14. Jumpers may tap the ball simultaneously; may tap the ball twice; and when a legally tapped ball touches the floor, a player other than a non-jumper or (believe it or not) a backboard, the jump ball has ended, and either jumper may recover it.

15. A 10-second count continues when the defense deflects or bats the ball. The count ceases only when possession changes.

16. A “moving screen” isn’t a violation unless there is contact and the screener moves too quickly out of position. If contact occurs while the screener is moving, it is a “block,” which is a foul.

17. Any contact foul during a live ball is a personal, not technical foul. The contact can be flagrant, but never technical.

18. Basketball is NOT a non-contact sport. Incidental contact does occur, and contact which does not create an advantage/disadvantage may be ignored. Contact on the shooter should be called though.

19. Any unsportsmanlike contact during a dead ball is a technical foul.

20. A defensive player does not have to be completely stationary to take a charge… he or she simply must have established a legal guarding position. The defense can move backward and sideways.

21. An intentional foul is always penalized with 2 free-throws, except on a missed 3-point shot, which is awarded 3 free-throws.

22. When an airborne shooter commits a player control foul, his/her successful try for goal cannot be allowed, regardless of whether the try was released before or after the foul.

23. Lifting the pivot foot does not constitute a travel unless the ball handler puts the pivot foot back on the floor prior to beginning passing, or shooting the ball. The pivot foot cannot be lifted before the dribble is started.

24. It is not goal-tending if, after contacting the backboard, the ball is touched by a defensive player, provided the ball has not reached it’s apex and it is not inside the cylinder. It is legal for a defender in the normal course of trying to block a shot, to contact the backboard with his hand. This is not basket interference. It is a technical foul only if, in the ref’s judgment, the contact with the backboard was intentional in nature with no real attempt to block the shot.

25. Basket Interference occurs when: a player touches the ball or basket (net included) when the ball is ON or within the perimeter of the basket; touches the ball when it is touching the cylinder having the ring as its lower base; touches the ball outside the cylinder while reaching through the basket from below. Goal Tending occurs when: a player touches the ball during a try or tap while it is in its downward flight entirely above the basket ring level and has the possibility of entering the basket in flight; or an opponent of the free-thrower touches the ball outside the cylinder during a free-throw attempt. Touching the net is only a violation if the ball is in contact with the rim, or is within the basket. It is not a violation if the net is touched while the ball is in the cylinder.

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7 Traits of Great Team Members

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Whether in the office, at a school, on a sports team, in the warehouse, at a restaurant, on the sales floor, at home, or anywhere else you can think of, there are definite characteristics that most good team members personify.

This is certainly not an exhaustive list, or even each characteristic fully explained, but here are 7 traits that make a great team member:

1. Sense of humor.

It’s critical on any team that you be able to laugh… with each other… at life… at corny jokes… and sometimes even at yourself. We should have fun together and learn to never take work or sports too seriously. We should work hard and play hard, but never at the expense of losing sight of the bigger reasons behind such things. When we are having fun that makes any team we are on better.

2. Team spirit.

We should not have any lone rangers or solo acts on our team. It’s never a one man show. We should actually rebuke struggling and working alone! We are part of a team and no one should be carrying any burden on their own, without the help of their teammates.

Especially in the game of basketball, it is impossible to win a game by ourselves. There cannot be any W’s to add to a stat sheet without every player, every coach, or even every person involved in helping the game take place from refs to those running the clock and keeping the facility in shape, all the way to our parents. Similar to how there is no such thing as a “self-made millionaire” in that regardless of how it may appear, they had help and “luck” involved in whatever financial success they’ve achieved, as well as the millions of dollars actually coming from other people… there are no self-made athletes or solo winners in sports. This is all the more obvious in team sports; in basketball there are five players per team actively playing at any giving time, with other players to sub, and opponents. If we attempt to act as if we’ve created our own abilities, earned every achievement alone, and are solely responsible for any success, whether athletic, academic, business, financial, etc. we buy into (and then subsequently try to sell) a monumental lie. When you act as if you are your own creator in any way, it is cosmic plagiarism.

This doesn’t mean we neglect ourselves or don’t try to improve ourselves, but we shouldn’t be working to better ourselves to the detriment of those around us. We should also want to make those around us better. As corny as the old acronym sounds: T.E.A.M. means together everyone achieves more… it rings true. As many rings as Bill Russell, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, etc. have on their hands… not a single one of those rings were earned or won by their hands alone… not to the slightest degree.

3. Work ethic.

We shouldn’t be worried about constantly micro-managing everyone and everything. It is not possible to dictate how hard or how often our teammates will work. We need to simply rely on people having the sense of responsibility and inner drive needed to put in strong effort and work hard. We can only control our own efforts, and we should be pushing ourselves to always give whatever task is at hand our best. The best competition we have is against ourselves to become better.

Each of us must make the effort to contribute to the best of our ability according to our individual talents. And then we put all the individual talents together for the highest good of the group… Understanding that the good of the group comes first is fundamental to being a highly productive member of a team. We want to encourage everyone to work their hardest and passionately give every practice, every game their best, but we cannot control anyone else’s actions.

As a coach for the Dallas Thunder organization, I like leaders who are passionate about Christ and people, and are also willing to do what it takes to accomplish our vision and goals. I want to see all of us resting in the already finished work of Jesus Christ; and from that rest, work in glad assurance that our efforts are never in vain. (The Book of Hebrews; Philippians 2:16; Ephesians 2:10; 1st Corinthians 15:58)

Also, good teammates know who they are and what their role is every time they step onto the court, into the office, on the field, in the store, etc. They assume that wins and losses rest entirely on their shoulders. That’s not true, but the best teammates always think that way.

4. Healthy personal life.

We deal with a lot of messiness in other people’s lives, do we not? No team is immune to the tragic effects of the Fall on the entirety of humanity. Balance is one of the most important components in basketball and it is a very important part of life. We must always keep things in perspective so that we can maintain emotional control. It would make it very difficult to maintain the level of competitiveness required of us if we were not personally living healthy lives spiritually, emotionally, and as much as it depends on us and we can help it, physically healthy.

We should be more concerned with our character than with our reputation. Your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are. We shouldn’t feel like we cannot expose the pain and sorrow we are facing in life at any given time. We should be comfortable enough with our teammates to confess sin, admit weakness, and acknowledge our short-comings; as well as announce good news, proclaim victory over a struggle, and give praise for anything that has turned out well.

5. Open spirit.

We share burdens with one another. Our teammates don’t live on an island all by themselves. Nobody should be trying to live completely alone, ever. The more we learn to trust each other the greater this process of being a good team becomes. We are open to challenge the “system,” the sport, and each other in an attempt to make ourselves and our team better.

We never want to be such a skeptical pessimist that we spurn any new advice on technique, process, or point of perspective. We should be most interested in finding the best way, not in having our own way.

6. Loyalty.

It is imperative in our organizational structure that a team member be dedicated to the vision, organization, and senior leadership of the team.

For any relationship to be healthy, to survive, and to flourish to any degree, there must be trust, respect, and loyalty among all those within the relationship. Once an individual is a part of a partnership or group, they must consider the affect their actions will have not only on themselves, but everyone involved. The characteristic of being loyal and committed to not bailing out of things even when the going gets beyond tough, gives everyone an ironically liberating sense of comfort.

True freedom is not being unshackled to create your own truth, but is liberating submission to the Truth. Freedom is not the complete absence of any restrictions, but rather the presence of the right restrictions put in place. For example: a fish out of water. The fish is not more free when released outside of the confines of the water, but instead his ability to enjoy life is drastically hindered and he is sure to die.

“We can become great in the eyes of others, but we’ll never become successful when we compromise our character and show disloyalty toward friends or teammates. The reverse is also true: No individual or team will become great without loyalty.” – John Wooden

7. Servant’s heart.

If one cannot approach their position from a humble point of serving others and Christ then he or she will not be able to work well on our team. It’s the model of our entire ministry and must be represented first by our coaches.

Discipline and self-control are much easier for us when our hearts and affections are stirred for something greater than ourselves. How you treat creation shows how you feel about the Creator. Strong people don’t put others down… they lift them up. In the end, much more can be accomplished by teamwork when no one is concerned about who gets credit.

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.” – C.S. Lewis

Why “Player Handouts” Every Week?

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Each week we only get to hold organized team practice for a combined four hours. There is only so much that can be said, only so much that can be covered in this allotted time. So, in addition to the physical training that takes place during the scheduled practice time, I try to pass out a couple handouts to my players. These handouts consist of a short article I found or wrote for the team, along with another page I refer to as “the player of the week.” The player of the week handout portion contains a page with a brief biographical summary of one of the legendary basketball greats like Pete Maravich, John Stockton, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Ervin “Magic” Johnson, David Robinson, etc. I want the kids to know more about the game and be more familiar with some of the incredible players who have impacted history by stepping on a basketball court. However, my hopes aren’t simply for the guys to have more knowledge of the game’s rich history.

My hope is that we all walk away from this season with more of Jesus. It would be a monumental failure on my part as a coach if my players walk away at the end of a season with just an increased ability to put an orange ball through a hoop ten feet in the air. It is a great loss for us all if we end the season with more W’s than any other team, but Christ is not reflected in our lives. I care far more about our relationship with our Heavenly Father than our efficiency to outscore opponents in a basketball game.

Now do I want us to win in our games? Yes, absolutely… always. But I do not want us to be so short-sided that we are willing to trade depth in life, depth in our relationship with God, for a couple extra W’s and a few more points on our stat sheet. We need to remember that basketball is just a game; but at the same time it is so much more than a game. It can be a microcosm of life. Through playing basketball we can learn more about ourselves, we can develop discipline, drive, courage, determination, and leadership. We can learn how to better deal with both success and disappointment, with rapid change and unmet expectations, and how to better interact with others like us and those who are different in many ways.

So this game really can be an incredible part of our life. Basketball is so much more than tossing a ball through a basket. The benefits of the game go well beyond physical exercise and conditioning. It is a great sport (in my opinion the greatest organized sport of all), but it should never be ultimate in our lives.

“Basketball is not the ultimate. It is of small importance in comparison to the total life we live. There is only one kind of life that truly wins, and that is the one that places faith in the hands of the Savior. Until that is done, we are on an aimless course that runs in circles and goes nowhere.” – John Wooden

5 Traits of Great Basketball Leaders

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Basketball leaders are made, not simply born, with qualities developed through their experiences both on and off the court. Great leaders, coaches like Larry Brown and Phil Jackson, and players like Michael Jordan and Larry Bird, learn from their failures and use them to improve their ability to motivate, inspire, and ultimately to win. Like anything else, if you want to improve your leadership skills, you must devote effort and attention. However, you also need to understand the special qualities of basketball leadership. Review the five traits discussed below, and use them to help mold yourself into a more respected player on your team and in your league.

1. Character

Character is what defines you as a person. It is the sum of your values, beliefs, and behavior. One quality that is particularly valuable for basketball leadership is integrity. Coaches and players with integrity have positive values, principles, and actions. They are consistent in their beliefs, and they strive to be a positive inspiration for their team and others.

“Good character is more to be praised than outstanding talent. Most talents are, to some extent, a gift. Good character, by contrast, is not given to us. We have to build it piece by piece – by thought, choice, courage, and determination.” – John Luther

“A winner is someone who recognizes their God-given talents, works his tail off to develop them into skills, and uses these skills to accomplish his goals.” – Larry Bird

Example: Before you try to motivate your fellow teammates to play hard, evaluate your own effort and communication. Are you modeling the values that you yourself want to promote?

How to Improve: Personally commit yourself to developing more consistency. If you want your team to work harder, make sure you are consistently playing to the best of your ability. If you want your team to focus, first improve your own focus.

2. Commitment

As a leader, you must be committed to achieving daily, weekly, and ultimate goals. If you want to be a better player, completely commit yourself to the team. Don’t give up when it gets difficult. Stay focused on what you want to achieve.

Example: If you realize that you’re not giving 100 percent effort all the time, commit to doing so.

How to Improve: Recognize the steps you need to take to improve. If you want to play at the next level, you’ll have to commit time between games (and even between organized practices) to develop your skills, practice techniques, routines, and plays.

3. Communication

How good are you at communicating with your coach and fellow players? Basketball leaders improve their teams by refocusing teammates on what matters and voicing ideas in ways that motivate, not offend, others and do not disrupt the chemistry of the team.

Example: Your fellow teammate made a costly turnover. What can you say to keep your team’s confidence high?

How to Improve: Speak clearly and project your voice, watching for reactions from team members. Make sure you are motivating and inspiring others for better performance. Be sensitive to how and when you should communicate your message.

4. Self-Discipline

Players with self-discipline take the right action regardless of their emotional state. At some point, you will be tired, angry, agitated, stressed, or annoyed; however, your attitude and ability to persevere should not change.

Example: You’ve had a terrible day, and you’re tired and agitated. You are participating in an important practice for your team’s upcoming big game. How will you react if things begin to break down in practice? Will you stay motivated and cheerfully give 100 percent?

How to Improve: All emotional states are temporary. Refocus on the upcoming task instead of what you are feeling at the moment. Give your all, regardless of the situation.

5. Learning from Mistakes

No one is perfect. When you make mistakes, take the time to analyze and learn from them. Doing this will continually improve your leadership skills. You have to realize when you said the wrong thing at the wrong time. Great leaders realize when they are wrong and admit it.

“I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life, and that is why I succeed.” – Michael Jordan

Example: A teammate yells at another teammate, and you missed the opportunity to help settle a heated situation.

How to Improve: Realize that you made a mistake by missing the opportunity. If the chance presents itself again, take action. If you don’t have an occasion to correct your mistake, think about how you will handle a similar situation in the future.

As a player or coach, you can improve your basketball leadership traits by evaluating your character, commitment, communication style, self-discipline, and ability to learn from mistakes. It will take time, effort, and commitment to improve. However, the results should encourage and inspire you to help your team in the long run.

Basketball: Without the Basketball

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There are some things about the game of basketball that we all know and fully comprehend, but sometimes we don’t seem to notice all the implications of that basic, simple, and common knowledge. For example, we all know that there is only one basketball used to play with in a game. During an organized league game there are ten players on the court, with five players on each team actively playing. Only one player can control or have possession of the basketball at any given moment. Only one player at a time can dribble or shoot the ball. In whatever the league, however long the quarter or half is played, there will always be nine players who are playing the game without the ball currently in their hands. This obvious knowledge can actually tell us a lot more about this great game.

As a player, it is very important to have good ball-handling skills, to make moves with the basketball in order to avoid having it stolen, to make clean passes, and to be able to shoot well. However, 9 out of 10 players on the court will be playing without the ball in their hands at every given moment of the game. So the chances are pretty high for any particular player to not have the ball for the vast majority of the game. This leads us to realize that there is going to be a great necessity for understanding and playing the game without having a basketball in your hands.

So again, during the game, all but one of the players will be moving without the basketball. This means that your skill level to dribble and shoot the ball are only part of the game. While those parts are very essential and require a lot of time and effort to develop and refine, the majority of the time during a game actually consists of how well you play without the ball in your hands. It won’t be that great of a value to a team if you can shoot lights out, but you are slow, don’t play defense well, can’t even get open on offense, and just seem to get in the way by being out of position when the ball isn’t in your hands.

Remember… movement is life. If you’re not moving, you’re not living. (And don’t be silly or pedantic; even when you are sleeping or just standing still, your heart is beating and body parts are operating internally to keep you alive.) In the game of basketball, we are required to have constant ball movement, but also constant movement without the ball. All this movement without the ball must still have an actual purpose. All five players on the court should constantly be working together as one unit, with one common goal: score more points than the other team. Whether the ball is in your hands or not, there are aspects of the game that go well beyond your ability to manipulate a round, orange object. Here are some absolutes for the game when there isn’t a ball in your hands:

1. Each player should always know where the ball is at on the court and who has the ball.

2. Each player should be anticipating what others players are about to do and where the ball might possibly go next.

3. Each player should be comfortable setting screens and coming off screens.

4. Each player on offense should be looking to get open for a pass, or set someone else up to get open. We should be spread out or bunched up tactfully in order to create the right spacing needed for the best possible quality shot.

5. Every player needs good court vision. We must survey the court and quickly process where everyone is, where they are headed, and how to exploit any holes or weaknesses in the opposing team.

6. Each player should be moving on offense, not just the point guard bringing the ball down. Whether you are setting a screen, setting your defender up for a screen, flashing through the lane, posting up on the block, darting up to the top of the key, rotating to the backside, drawing the defense away from another player to set up an opening, or sliding up to the elbow to create better spacing during a set play, you should always be moving.

7. Whenever the ball is shot, the ball becomes fair game on a miss, and you should want that rebound. We should all be crashing the boards; this is not merely the job or role of a post player. Anyone and everyone is allowed to rebound the basketball, not just the 4 or 5 position.

8. Every player should be hustling up and down the court on both offense and defense. No team can function properly if all five guys are cherry-picking or snowbirding on every single possession; somebody has to rebound the ball after all. We have to fill the lanes and run on offense, but we must also do the same on defense. On the way back downcourt, everyone should be locating where their man is, where the ball is, if anyone is out of position, and if help is needed on the ball or an opponent who is currently a wide open threat.

9. On defense we should always know where our man is at when we are in man-to-man, and always know who is in our area when we are in a zone defense. You’re going to have to move to cover your man or area; zone defense does not mean we all stand flat-footed in a 2-3 or 1-3-1 formation; you are guarding a general area and working together as a unit in a zone formation to prevent penetration into the paint.

10. You’re on defense, and you want the ball back… so you should be trying to get the ball back.

Players on defense obviously won’t have the ball and will need to do their best to get the ball back; and hopefully do so without the other team scoring any points first. We should be using our heads more than our hands to get the ball back from an opponent. We can get quicker by running suicides and defensive slides all practice, but I’m sure most of us would rather become “quicker” by using our heads.

We want to work and play smarter, not just harder. Our defensive positioning, hands up and moving around at all times, getting low and wide on ball coverage, slapping up on the ball while being dribbled by our opponent instead of down, disrupting passes with our backhand instead of compromising our position, constant communication with our teammates, putting pressure on the ball, contesting shots, anticipating where the ball will bounce on a missed shot, blocking out on rebounds, and going for the ball with reckless abandon when it is loose are all key components to playing the game well… and none of that has to do with how well you can dribble, pass, or shoot the basketball. We need to learn to play well without the basketball.

7 Keys to Effective Player Development

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Have you guys ever heard any version of this quote, “Individuals may get better in the off-season, but teams get better during the season.”

I think that while we can appreciate the mindset behind this, that team development must be the #1 priority during the season, this statement seems to imply that individual player development isn’t as important from October to March.

If that is the case, we should highly disagree. Individuals need to get better during the season as well. In fact, the most effective way for us to improve our team is to improve ourselves!

Individual player development (which includes both athleticism and movement training, as well as basketball skills and fundamentals; and even better understanding of and insight into the game on a bigger scale) should be addressed and given priority at every practice. To what extent we should focus on these elements depends on the age, skill level, previous experience of the players, the length of practice, and the time during season (early pre-season vs. playoff time).

I know we can’t win if nobody rebounds the basketball. I’d be willing to bet that some of you realize that for the overwhelming majority, “defense wins championships.” However, the name of the game is to put the ball in the basket. So working on offensive moves and getting up quality reps of game shots from game spots at game speed is paramount to our team’s success.

Before he coached his first practice as the head coach of Butler, a colleague recommended that Brad Stevens have a manager chart how many shots his best player took during a 2+ hour practice. Coach Stevens ran what he thought was an excellent practice (in-depth teaching, sound team concepts, etc). After practice he found out his best player took less than 25 shots the entire practice, which Coach Stevens immediately recognized was unacceptable. From that day forward he began to implement quality shooting drills in every single practice.

Former NFL coach Jon Gruden laughs when he hears other coaches say, “We need to get back to working on the fundamentals” after a tough loss. Get back to them? Why did you ever abandon or neglect them in the first place? That may even be why you lost!

“I discovered early on that the player who learned the fundamentals of basketball is going to have a much better chance of succeeding and rising through the levels of competition than the player who was content to do things his own way. A player should be interested in learning why things are done a certain way. The reasons behind the teaching often go a long way to helping develop the skill.” – John Wooden

While the amount of time we spend on everything will vary (and we have a limited practice schedule of only 2 hours – twice a week), I firmly believe every single one of our practices should have at least some aspect and component of individual player development.

Here are 7 keys to effective player development:

1. Build our game brick by brick. Every rep of every set of every practice is important. How you do anything is how you do everything. You learned to walk one step at a time. You build a house one brick at time. You build your game one drill at a time.

2. We have to leave our comfort zones. All of us have to buy into this together. Once a player has the movement, skill or footwork down, they need to push harder than game speed. The harder you practice, the easier things become during games.

3. Know the ‘why.’ Every drill must have some perceived relevance. That means the players can clearly understand how this particular skill or drill will improve their game performance. Will being able to dribble 3 basketballs reduce turnovers when the lights come on and the crowds start cheering on game nights? Doubtful. Therefore it has minimal perceived relevance, but any drill that incorporates something that can be used in a game is highly important and worth the time.

4. Use visualization. Great players like Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant don’t just do a drill; they compete in that drill with the same focus and effort as if they were in the waning seconds of Game 7 of the NBA Finals. They imagine they are being guarded by an elite defender; not just lazily ‘going around a cone.’

5. Avoid fatigue and boredom. These are two of the biggest killers of player development. We must get in better shape, increase our endurance and stamina. We can combat this issue by being in better basketball shape and by trying to use some more innovative, purposeful drills. But in the end, we must all work as a team to be able to run harder, run longer, and run together. When your body gets tired, your mind quickly follows. Nobody improves their ability to learn when their exhausted and worn out; we are less likely to get better at a skill when our minds and bodies are exhausted… so we must work on conditioning, always.

6. Do everything with precision. Details matter! Perfect form and footwork are imperative. If you want to build a beautiful brick house, you have to lay every single brick with care and precision. Every stone must be in the right place, or it will throw the others off. Once you start sloppily laying bricks… the house suffers (both in appearance and structural integrity).

7. We must learn from our past mistakes. Remember that nobody is perfect. When you make mistakes, be sure to take the time to analyze and learn from them. Don’t dwell on it with regret and lose sight of what you can learn from the mistake, but rather focus on what you can learn from it in order to prevent it from happening again. Great players realize when they did something wrong, admit it, and learn from it.

Also we all need to understand and remember that skill improvement takes time, and is often a process of 2’s:

​• It takes 2 minutes to learn a new move or new skill.

​• It takes 2 weeks to work on it daily until you develop confidence in it.

​• It takes 2 months of constant work to be competent enough to use it in a game.

“You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start in order to be great.” – John C. Maxwell

Little Things in Life & Basketball

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When I was younger, I remember reading an article about how legendary basketball coach John Wooden used to explain to his players how to put their shoes on correctly, and wear at least two pairs of socks so that they wouldn’t get blisters on their feet. (To this day I actually always wear double socks, with the first pair inside out, no matter what the activity because I became so used to it while playing ball.) The reason he did this was to emphasize just how important the little things are in the game of basketball. Although this might be a little bit much, it just shows you the importance of details. Details and little things can be the difference maker in basketball, in your faith, and in life. Paul Tripp put this well when he said, “Life is really lived in the little moments.”

As a player, a constant volunteer for camps, an avid fan of the game, and someone currently pursuing an opportunity to coach full-time, I have been able to catch a decent glimpse of both sides of the player-coach dynamic. As a player I have been apart of some good teams, as well as some pretty bad teams. The difference between the losing-teams and winning-teams for the most part wasn’t a major talent gap or a significant game-plan strategy issue, it was the little details. It had a lot more to do with all the little things than a single big shot or turnover on a crucial possession.

My life has had some big moments: particular birthdays (like the Space Jam themed party in Independence, KS… or the couple birthdays where Texas Rangers baseball was still being played into October and we gathered around a TV with some good friends, good food, and good drinks, to cheer for a Rangers’ win), certain holidays (like our annual Easter, 4th of July, Neewollah, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve celebrations), trips and vacations (like Disney World, Red Lodge, Montana, and many trips back to Kansas), my proposal to Kat down by the lake after a nice picnic dinner, our wedding day (that whole day is a blur, with some beautiful highlights and moments I’ll never forget), our honeymoon in Montana (that was a blast), anniversaries, great meals at nice restaurants (like the first time we went to a Brazilian steakhouse… oh my goodness), big games and concerts we’ve been blessed to attend (like the Eagles, The Who, Anberlin, Phil Wickham, U2 & Muse, and Jimmy Eat World & Foo Fighters concerts… or the 2007 NBA Finals, or the final KU vs. Mizzou game at Allen Fieldhouse… that was an amazing and unforgettable game), and on and on I could go with big moments in my life that I’ve been truly blessed to experience… but that is the vast minority when compared to the little moments of life. All the daily breakfasts, lunches, dinners, all the time cooking and waiting for something to heat up, grocery shopping, stopping by the gas station to fill up, all those moments right after walking in the door from being somewhere and getting settled in, all that time spent at work (perhaps sitting in a cubicle starring at a computer screen, just mundanely working one account after another), time spent in the gym, time spent loading and unloading the car, those moments spent watching movies or television, time spent doing laundry, time spent playing video games, board games, card games, etc., all those text messages sent each day, time spent cleaning and organizing, time getting ready to go places, time spent reading or studying, time spent in school taking classes, driving to and from work, time spent putting something together, countless hours messing around on Facebook or other social media, time spent getting ready for bed, time spent day dreaming, the moments of laying in bed trying to fall asleep, the third of your life spent sleeping, and heck, even all that time spent in the bathroom…

Similar to life, the little things make up the vast majority of the game of basketball. That’s why there are highlights for games that last only 10 seconds, for a minimum 48-minute game in the pros (still 40-minutes in college). There is a lot more to basketball than just shooting a ball through a hoop. And even more involved in the preparation for playing the sport than simply practicing one’s shot. Being a minute late to practice, shorting a line in sprints, not going over the mechanics of shooting over and over, ball-handling drills ad nauseam, or missing a class assignment may seem minor, but these things are such a big deal if not dealt with the right way. If a player is willing to short a line in a sprint, then who is to say that he won’t be one step out of position on defense at the end of a game, and instead of a charge he gets called for a block. There are just so many little things in basketball that can add up if you don’t focus on them everyday.

For example: closing out with high hands, talking on defense, putting a body on someone during a rebound opportunity, squaring up for a jumpshot, setting a good screen, making an intentionally crisp pass, setting your man up before coming off a screen, etc. are little things or minor details and the list could go on and on. Each thing individually might not be that big of a deal, but put all, or even just some of them together and it can be the difference between a great season with some hardware to take home… or end with some players losing significant time on the floor being cut/traded, or even the Athletic Director looking for a new head basketball coach for the next season.

From the very first day of practice, and every single day after that you must emphasize the little things. Just like someone in the Christian faith never moves on from the basic and fundamental message of the Gospel, a basketball player never moves on from the need to have the basic and fundamental aspects of the game down. A good ball player is constantly going over and refining their basic, fundamental skills of the game. No player, not even guys like Pete Maravich, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Kevin Durant, or Lebron James could ever practice too much, improve their ball-handling enough, tweak their footwork, work on their shot too much, go over too much film, or be in the gym too long, to have reached a level that moved on past the need to continue to work on those basic skills.

Every coach needs to sit down and explain to his players what is acceptable and what he is expecting of them. It may take a little while at first but once the players realize what is expected of them, and they buy into the system with the hopes of achieving an end goal, they will earnestly do what is expected of them. Since most players would have never been held accountable like this before, a little grace should always be shown at the beginning. They need to understand the value of doing the little things and and be committed to doing them. Whether a coach has to run his team or repeat a certain drill for days until they get it right, it is the coach’s job to ingrain in his players the details of this great game until it becomes second nature. Coaches also aren’t to show favoritism, whether it is their best player or the 12th man, they strive to make sure that everyone is doing their job correctly and putting forth their best effort.

Just as relationships with spouses, friends, family, parents, children, small groups, etc. serve to expose and uncover deep heart issues in our lives, certain situations in basketball will reveal areas of your game that are lacking. For the sake of maturation and development, coaches should put their team in circumstances that will test them, help them to come up against obstacles in the game that will reveal those who can’t or won’t do the little things. Conditioning is one of the greatest ways to do this. When players get tired or have to do something that is hard you begin to see their true nature. Just as someone who is going through a very hard time, and is extremely stressed out by their current circumstances at home, school, and/or work; how they react to the storms of life will be a greater testament of their character than how well they handle having money in the bank, good health, and they’re at a party having fun.

The players who don’t buckle under a little pressure, the guys who touch the line every time, don’t go down to their knees after every sprint, and who encourage their teammates throughout drills are the players you can trust. These are ones who are going to be able to execute a play the right way at the end of a close game. It is the coach’s job to encourage all his players to do this, to put their heart into it, to give it their all, and to really buy into the team.

During a game or even in practice a coach is not always going to be able to stop play every time a player closes out without high hands, isn’t in the right defensive position, didn’t put a body on someone as a shot went up, didn’t crash the boards, didn’t shoot with proper form, threw a lazy pass, etc. However it is still very important to focus on the details and a great way to do that is film. It is a lot easier for players to correct something if they can see themselves doing it the wrong way. I once heard a commentator say during a review in a big game, “the film doesn’t lie…” And that is exactly true. If a player is continually forgetting to close out with high hands in a game, going right every single time they get the ball, or is always out of position on defense, a coach can use film to sit them down and show them what they are doing wrong.

Similar to how a brother in Christ goes to a friend to help him see something in his life that is harming him in hopes of seeing him repent from that, and then strive together for further sanctification to get more of Christ, to know Him more deeply; a coach pursues the maturation of his players. A coach is to strive to make sure that his players understand their correction and discipline is out of a motivation of love and hope for improvement in their ability to play. A good coach earnestly works hard and puts forth a diligent effort to make sure his players understand this.

It is not easy to do all of the little things in life or in basketball. It takes a lot of effort from the coaching staff to communicate, mentor, and guide the players well in hopes to make sure that every day the players are doing things the right way. It also takes a lot of hard work, dedication, and buying into the team’s plan and strategy from the players. It always takes community and team effort.

Basketball really is like a microcosm to so much of life. The game of basketball can teach us so much about ourselves, as well as us being able to take our strengths in life and apply them towards the game. Something that will help make playing basketball easier is for a coach to sit down with his players and explain to them why the little things are so important. If they understand and really believe in what they are doing then they will work harder to accomplish it. It will always be very difficult at first for everyone, so we must try to remember that and not get frustrated quickly. Because over the years when the team has players return and can have some stability, the returning players will be able to help the new players, and it will be easier on the coach, and the team overall. Similar to life, the little details in basketball are what it takes to be great; it is worth the time and effort.