Tuesday, January 7, 2014

#039 The System, Part II: Are You All In?

The difference between involvement and commitment is like ham and eggs.  The chicken is involved; the pig is committed.  
                                                                                                                                                                                                 --Martina Navratilova

I guess, as it pertains to the System, I am definitely the pig in this context.  No, I'm not afraid to say it.  I love the system.  I breathe it, and I'm not afraid to bleed it.  It definitely is not the right philosophy for every situation, but it tends to make poor situations a lot better on the basketball court.  I wasn't always the pig...I was the eggs for a lot of years, but now I understand that the System means I have to be All-in or I should try something else.

I have received many, many phone calls and emails over the past 8 months from high school coaches and college coaches looking for ways to improve their own version of the System.  I can definitely relate because I was and continue to be just like those coaches:  always looking for an edge to make my team better.

I had one of those calls this morning when a bright, young, dynamic high school coach out of New York reached out to me after reading one of my past blogs about the System.  He has gone so far as to begin teaching it to his middle school coaches and making sure they are running and learning it now with 11-13 year olds.  I loved the sound of this!  What a great way to learn the game and develop skills necessary toward being a very good high school player and improving the potential for making a college roster!

As I talked with this coach this morning, it became pretty obvious to me that he was going through what just about all of us go through in the beginning of attempting to run the System.  Doubt.  Hesitation.  Unwilling to fully commit.  Struggling to let players make mistakes and fail.  Not allowing or enabling players to be fast, fearless, and a little reckless.

As I have heard Coach Westhead say many times, "if you run the System, you are either going to win a championship or get fired."  When you are just getting started with this "crazy" philosophy, you very much feel what Coach is referring to.  It is so greatly different than what most people have seen on a basketball floor that it is tough to believe that anyone will ever truly embrace what you are trying to accomplish.

There are 4 keys to the System that enable you, the coach, to truly buy-in to what you hoped to accomplish in the first place:

1.  Pressure Defense=The System.  There is no System without full-court defensive pressure and trapping.  The main focus to running the System is to wear down an opponent who isn't used to being trapped for 32-40 minutes nor are they used to playing deep into their bench.  Every possession that you are not pressing them is an opportunity for their best players to rest.  The second most important focus of the System is creating more possessions than your opponent.  Creating turnovers is the best way to do this; followed by committing to offensive rebounding.  Grinnell College probably gives up 20-25 lay-ups per game because they are so committed to creating turnovers that they are willing to give up the easy 2 to get a chance to get a quick 3 coming back.

2.  Offensive Sets=Slow Down.  The coaches who are not truly bought into the System ended up working hard early in the process to hedge their bets.  They put in 5-10 offensive half court sets for their team to learn just in case the running and the gunning doesn't go so well.  The problem is that now your kids know there are other options.  When there is a tough stretch of a game or a tough couple of games in a row, they will start slowing down to run one of those sets whether you ask them to or not.  To truly be a System team, you have to be committed to attacking what your opponent gives you each possession.  That means you play one way all the time.  Creating secondary movement and screens in the flow of what the defense gives you is great!  (See Grinnell).  Practicing sets that make you slow down...not so great.

3.  Let your PG Loose:  Teach your PG how to become the Tazmanian Devil.  The great System teams have a PG or two or three who are absolutely fearless and only know one speed:  Hair-on-fire-fast!  Your PG must want to get the ball and get to the paint every possession.  He or she must have your complete confidence that it is okay to turn the ball over and make mistakes.  He or she must know that speed will overcome all other obstacles. 

4.  Never Go Backwards:  Other coaches hate playing against the System.  Those coaches have worked so very hard to instill discipline and teach their well-thought-out and highly technical offensive sets that they think it is a joke that you are going to press and run and gun for the entire game taking the beauty of their art away from them.  HOGWASH!  Those are the coaches you want to destroy.  Basketball was born to be played fast.  Every time a team tries to slow you down, and you put in strategy to move the ball backwards instead of always moving the ball up the floor towards the basket, you are allowing your opponent to make you play their way.  You want to press us?  Great!  You want to zone us?  Even better!  You want to deny and double-team the PG?  THANK YOU! Give us more space to attack and move the ball up the court to our shooters, and you will only make us that much better!

Coaches, unfortunately, the System is something you CANNOT just dip your toe into.  You have to fully commit, or you will almost always get a result you do NOT desire.  As much as your kids will think this is fun and awesome, they will be the ones that will need the most convincing.  As much as players tell you they want to run, they don't really understand how much running they are about to do.  If YOU are not fully committed, you will never get the kids to fully commit.

In the end, like I said in an earlier blog, the System allows everybody on the team to have a role and make an impact.  The System allows you to play 10-17 kids per game.  The System allows every mom and dad in the stands to be happy about the opportunity their kid is getting.  If you were running the Flex, only about 5-8 of the kids on your roster would ever see the floor.  The System isn't easy.  It is tough to learn.  Tough to teach.  Tough to get outsiders to buy into.  When everything is taught properly and players are allowed to go, it won't take long for the stands to start filling up and records to start breaking!

Buy in for your kids.  Run for your teammates.  Make sure the opponent fears what is about to happen to them! :)

Coach Matt Rogers
Twitter:  @madcoachdiary
Email:  coachrogers12@gmail.com