Thursday, December 22, 2016

#57 The System, Part III: The Power of Repetition

Any idea, plan, or purpose may be placed in the mind through repetition of thought. It's the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.  --Muhammad Ali

It's been a while since I've written about the System (See #13 and #39), but I thought it was time to address it again because I continue to get calls and emails about it every week.  

I've taken on an Assistant Varsity position at my local high school this season, and although the Head Coach is not running the System, he still very much wants the boys to get out and run and attack.  We focus a lot of our time and energy on competitive 5 on 5 scrimmaging.  Now this is far from my personal coaching/teaching philosophy, but it has been pleasant teaching in that environment because I get to work in the moment and help correct issues that I see on the fly.

With that said, it is impossible to have a great System team or program spending 75% of your practice scrimmaging.  Here is the big reason why:

Repetition Deficit:  Muhammad Ali articulated the power of this better than anything I have ever read (See quote above).  The System works when players know what to do, how to do it, believe in it, and completely sacrifice for it.  If you have ever coached a teenager, you know that all of those things are great challenges, but trying to accomplish them all can be near impossible without the right purpose and consistency of focus.  They must drill the fundamentals over and over and over until the belief in what you are teaching becomes a "deep conviction."  The more they get sick of it, the harder they will work to prove to you that they get it and can be great at it.  That means shorter drills that are more effective and solution-based.

In the system, there are 4 major things that need to be taught in theory, then on the court in slow motion, then in breakdown parts, then in full parts, and then in scrimmage every single day.

1.  Inbounds/Outlets:  You must practice everything from the blockout, footwork, how to take the ball out of the net, and how to get out of bounds efficiently every single day.  If the inbounder and the point guard know exactly where the ball is going and always expect it to be in the right place at the right time, you can very quickly change the course of a game with easy buckets before a defense can react.

Press?  Deny the PG?  Pressure the inbounder, you say?  Of course, so you must practice how to get the ball inbounds quickly against each of those situations daily.  Every coach will come up with some strategy to slow you down.  Get your kids prepared for it and ready to execute against it and the other team's coach will spend the rest of the game talking to themselves.

2.  Lane Running/Shooting off the Catch:  If you are going to put 5-10 minutes daily into getting the ball inbounds quickly, you have to make sure you are giving equal time to getting your players in shape and teaching them where to be to catch the second pass.  No, not to catch and get into the offense, but to catch and score.  I want my best shooter running the right side of the floor to wing/corner every possession make or miss, and I want my best athlete/attacker running the left side of the floor.  My best offensive rebounder runs the the opposite FT lane of the PG.  My second-best 3pt shooter/second best rebounder/best all-around player must take the ball out of bounds and trail the point guard about 4-5 steps behind and 15-20 feet to the opposite side.  Practice, practice, practice.  My guys can score 15 points in 5 possessions down and back in :26 seconds in the full-court 5 v 0 drill we run daily.

3.  Offensive Rebounding:  Yes, the key to winning games in the System is keeping the tempo high for 32/40 minutes.  However, if you don't teach how to crash the boards to create 20-30 additional possessions per game, the other team will end up dominating you.  

So, how do you teach offensive rebounding.  You must focus on teaching kids how to read the shot, the angle, the odds of where it will rebound to, how to seal a defensive player away from those odds, and how to finish or kick it to a shooter when they get it.

We do this through serious half-court, full-court and individual breakdown drills.  The key is making sure that your 3-4-5 understand it is their responsibility to create 80% of those second chances and get them to buy-in to how they can fill-up a box score with the right, "crazy" aggressive approach to going to get the ball.

4.  Trapping:  How else do you create more possessions?  You guessed it...STEALS!  Please stress to your players that it is not the steals on the ball that create extra possessions.  It is the steals OFF the ball that create them.  The more the trappers try and "steal" the ball, the more fouls you will create.  The more the trappers work to deflect the ball and create long, looping, lobbing passes, the more the guys behind them will be able to get the ball back.

The most important thing you can teach your kids about trapping is that trapping is a two-part experience:  one guy must guard the player with the ball with the same attitude they have in the half court ("he will not get passed me"); the second guy is the trapper forcing the ball-handler into only one direction to attack allowing the "defender" to better defend that direction.  Of course, being big, long and physical are important without reaching, but to get them to buy-into the one-guy defends and one-guy traps mentality will change whatever press you run for the better forever!

Happy Running and Merry Christmas!  Give me a call if you want help walking through drills of this nature.

Coach Matt Rogers
Twitter:  @madcoachdiary
Phone:  (312) 610-6045

Matt Rogers is a 20-year high school and college coach veteran.  He has led two teams to the NCAA National Tournament and one team to High School State Championship.  His teams hold numerous school and one NCAA record. He has mentored and coached players at every level while serving as an athletics administrator at the high school and NCAA levels. He has helped numerous players continue their careers at the professional level. He currently is the Head National Scout/Recruiting Specialist for NCSA - Next College Student Athlete where he has helped thousands of young men and women from around the world achieve their dreams of playing at the college level.  Coach presently lives in the Denver, CO area with his wife of 19 years and his two children. 

To request Coach Rogers to speak at your school or event, you can reach him through any of his contact information above.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

#56 Developing a More Efficient Passer

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place. --George Bernard Shaw

This George Bernard Shaw quote is one of my favorites, and it has been constantly popping up in my head in recent weeks during and after every one of our practices.  We have a group of young men who literally have no idea how to talk to each other.  We have had to take about 10 steps backwards with this group because they still need to learn how to roll over before we can begin to crawl...or let alone walk as it pertains to their potential as communicators.

I do not have any recollection of my teammates and I being such poor communicators when I was their age, but again, that may have been the singular issue with my all too short playing career.  When I look back on my playing career, it gets more and more obvious with age that I, too, had the illusion that communication had taken place with my coaches or my teammates.  I still observe the same flaws in my day-to-day life where I have long, elaborate conversations in my head with my wife, my kids, families, my bosses...but I never really have them with the person that needs to hear them...and when I say "needs" I mean that I very much want to say them but don't say it to them enough.

I think that is the biggest issue with our group right now and a lot of teams I watch play.  They have things to say.  They want to be a part of the solution, but they can't quite get the words to come out aloud.

This led me to sitting down today to write some ways we can all work on communication with our players.  Very specifically, I want to focus on developing a more efficient passer.

What does the illusion of communication have to do with being a more efficient pass, you ask?  Well, it is quite simple.  Passing is a two-man game.  No matter how good the pass is, if the man receiving the pass isn't in the right place or expressing where he wants to go, that pass will result in a turnover.  Therefore, communication is the key to efficient passing.  How do we teach this?

1.  Practice Passing:  I have a series of drills that I have developed or borrowed (Bobby Knight and John Wooden passing drills are still the best!) over the years that allow me to teach the fundamentals of passing while helping my players communicate.  Whether that is Star Passing where there are five lines in a star-shape (about 20 ft apart) and the players have to pass to the player two-lines to the right or left and follow that pass to the end of that line or 2 v 1 passing with a defender that runs to each pass and defends the player with the ball, all drills help players help them develop good habits.  Think about the problems you are having moving the ball.  Build drills that replicate that problem and teach the kids how to overcome it effectively.  Whatever the drill, make communication a part of the drill.  In the Star Passing Drill, I make my guys shout out the name of the player they are passing to and then have to sprint the proper cut to get into the next line.  If they go the wrong way, they run right into where their teammate is about to pass the ball.  So, communication and understanding the offense is imperative to the success of the drill.

2.  Communicating With Hands:  So much inefficiency in passing is because we think we know where a teammate is going off any particular screen.  Well, depending on the defense, that offensive player may back-cut, curl, flare, or flash to the passer.  We teach our kids to use their arms, hands and fingers to communicate the direction they want to go to the passer.  For instance, if they want to flare, they throw both hands up in the air, so the passer knows they are going backwards and need to throw the ball higher and harder.  If the offensive player is going to curl, we teach the offensive player to point their fingers toward the direction they want to go, so the passer knows where to lead them.

3.  Shooting Drills With Passers:  We also work very hard to develop shooting drills that can be used on every spot of the floor no matter what type of shot we want to create, so the passer and the shooter learn how to help each other.  For example, if the ball-handler is dribbling up the right side of the floor and he/she wants to pass up the sideline to his/her shooter, we teach the passer to throw to the near-shoulder.  If you lead that pass and throw to the front of the hands, that player's momentum will lead them inside the arc and force them to attack.  If you throw to the back shoulder or near-shoulder, the shooter catches the ball upright ready to shoot, attack or pass and momentum has not taken them away from their jumper.

4.  Teaching Spin:  At a very young age, my dad showed me how to throw passes with front-spin and back spin and side-spin.  I was blessed to learn those lessons at such an early age because it increased my basketball IQ in multipliers of 100.  I all of a sudden had to think about the situation and the defense and what and where my teammate was going.  If I had a teammate sprinting to the rim, I learned to thrown a bounce pass 20 feet ahead of him with back spin, so he never had to slow down, but when he got to the ball, it would come into him allowing him/her to go up and score with balance.

If you are one of the coaches that get mad at kids for turnovers or bad decisions, take a moment and look in the mirror and ask yourself, "Have I taught these kids how to communicate?  Have I taught them how to read each other?  Have I taught them how to efficiently pass the ball in every situation to negate the possibility of a turnover or at least greatly decrease the odds?"  If the answer is "No" to any of these questions, you cannot get too mad at your kids.  You haven't put them in situations in practice to do it right and build routine and muscle memory.   The younger the player, the more they need these breakdowns and much less scrimmaging.

Happy Passing and Merry Christmas!  Give me a call if you want help walking through drills of this nature.

Coach Matt Rogers
Twitter:  @madcoachdiary
Phone:  (312) 610-6045

Matt Rogers is a 20-year high school and college coach veteran.  He has led two teams to the NCAA National Tournament and one team to High School State Championship.  His teams hold numerous school and one NCAA record. He has mentored and coached players at every level while serving as an athletics administrator at the high school and NCAA levels. He has helped numerous players continue their careers at the professional level. He currently is the Head National Scout/Recruiting Specialist for NCSA - Next College Student Athlete where he has helped thousands of young men and women from around the world achieve their dreams of playing at the college level.  Coach presently lives in the Denver, CO area with his wife of 19 years and his two children. 
To request Coach Rogers to speak at your school or event, you can reach him through any of his contact information above.

Monday, December 19, 2016

#55 The Biggest Mistake Families Make

The ego is only an illusion, but a very influential one. Letting the ego-illusion become your identity can prevent you from knowing your true self. Ego, the false idea of believing that you are what you have or what you do, is a backwards way of assessing and living life. --Wayne Dyer

A little over three years ago, I walked away from college coaching to give my kids and wife the father and husband I knew they deserved.  It is never an easy decision when you give up one passion to better fulfill the promise of another, but it was and still is a simple choice.  Family will always come before career in my mind and my heart; even though, I still greatly miss the joys of overseeing a college basketball program and still very much hope to be in that situation again down the road.

As I look back at the last three years, I recently became aware that I have evaluated over 2000 student-athletes and their families during that time.  "Wow!"  That was my response to that number.  I couldn't believe that I have had that many conversations and have advised that may student-athletes on their future.  As of next month, over 1500 of those young people will have put their faith in me and my colleagues to help them create exposure, find the right schools and get coaches from around the country excited about them.  Most of that 1500 has either already committed to play in college at the school of their choice or are presently choosing between a multitude of opportunities to do so.

I am extremely blessed to have had those opportunities, and I am very thankful that so much good has come from them.

With that said, I still find my career as a scout and consultant terribly frustrating.  If you have seen the movies Sully, Tom Hanks' character was not content with anything he had just done until he knew every passenger and staff member was alive and well after the landing.  If one person would have perished in that landing, I'm not sure he would have been able to live with himself.

Now, the quote about ego above is just as much a self-critique as it is to the families I work with every day.  I am not saving lives.  I am not doing anything close to landing a plane that has lost it's power.  I get that.  However, I still feel a huge obligation to help young people and their parents get out of their own way, so they don't have years of regrets and thousands of dollars of debt that they never should have been in a position to accrue.  It is ultimately my job to keep families from making mistakes that in no way should they ever be in a position to make.

So, what is the biggest mistake families make?  

They get done with my consult with them and say to themselves, "We can do this on our own!"  Houses across the country are filled with kitchens and bathrooms that look like a blind man did the install.  You know that guy. [I've been that guy!]  Why pay a contractor $2000 to tile, paint, and install my toilet, sink and tub when I can do it for $500 on my own?  What's the answer?  The contractor actually has the tools, experience, and time to do it right, so you don't end up spending $4000 to correct your $500 mistake.

I have families who are spending $3000-$10,000 every year on clubs, AAU, travel ball, showcases, and camps for the sole purpose of creating college exposure and opportunities for their child to play in college.  When I ask them what they have to show for it, they say "not much."  Yet, this family will not invest anything for the opportunity to communicate with every coach in the country, have their film edited properly, be matched with the top fit schools and coaches that fit their child better than anyone else, and then be coached on how to maximize those opportunities to be in a position of leverage to maximize scholarship.  The greatest gift we can give our kids is the power to control their destiny.

Unfortunately, ego gets in our way of happiness.  Money gets in the way of reason.  

What have I learned from 17 years of coaching and teaching and 3 years of scouting and consulting? We all have to make decisions that are best for us.  We are constantly put into value propositions.  It is the way our economy works.  If you don't risk your resources, you never have a chance to increase your resources.  With a 3-2 count and the bases loaded, you can let the bat stay on your shoulder and let someone else determine your future OR you can swing the bat knowing you gave yourself the opportunity to determine that fate.

So, to the parents who will be meeting with me in the near future or for those who are simply dealing with their own value proposition as it pertains to their child's future, I leave you with this free advice:

"Your child only has ONE opportunity to get recruited in their life and find the right school that will ultimately impact their next 40 years.  Is there ever a better time to ask for help and let an expert do their job?

Whatever you choose, I wish you and your children the very best in their journeys, and I am ALWAYS available as a resource no matter that choice.

Coach Matt Rogers
Twitter:  @madcoachdiary
Phone:  (312) 610-6045

Matt Rogers is a 20-year high school and college coach veteran.  He has led two teams to the NCAA National Tournament and one team to High School State Championship.  His teams hold numerous school and one NCAA record. He has mentored and coached players at every level while serving as an athletics administrator at the high school and NCAA levels. He has helped numerous players continue their careers at the professional level. He currently is the Head National Scout/Recruiting Specialist for NCSA - Next College Student Athlete where he has helped thousands of young men and women from around the world achieve their dreams of playing at the college level.  Coach presently lives in the Denver, CO area with his wife of 19 years and his two children. 
To request Coach Rogers to speak at your school or event, you can reach him through any of his contact information above.

Monday, December 12, 2016

#54 3 Tips to Developing Leaders

"I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion. "                                                                                                                            --Alexander the Great

As I jump back into high school-level coaching this season, I have thrown myself into the deep end of a pool of millennials.  You know you are getting old when you start talking about how the generations that have followed yours are undisciplined, irresponsible, unfocused and lacking the ability to lead (and follow).

These last 6 months have been great for me because these young "millennials" I am coaching do have some focus issues, but they are a pleasure to coach and leave me wanting more every day.  [It helps that they are starting to buy-in to our teachings and starting to see the fruits of our conversations!]

I wanted to write a blog about leadership because so many of you are neck-deep into your basketball seasons, and a lot like our coaching staff is doing, we are trying to figure out who is going to take ownership of our team.  Ownership is such a huge part of any championship team because a coach cannot be a tyrant who rules the land.  A coach has to create a democracy of voices and individuals who want to come together to be something bigger than themselves.  These voices have to speak with conviction and not only challenge each other but have each other's back every day.  This is the part of coaching that keeps me coming back for more and more and more!

With that said, here are my 3 tips for developing leaders and creating an environment of ownership:


Just like ball-handling, shooting, and passing, the more you practice leadership, the better you get at it.  I try and find a minimum of 2-3 situations every practice to enable the opportunity of leadership.  That all begins with helping my players utilize the voice I want them to use on their own.

For example, before practice starts, I like to start at center court (no one touching the lines of the center circle - always know where your feet are and where the lines are!). and I ask enabling questions like:

"Johnny, what were the two things that we did well as a team yesterday?"

"Do you have two goals for improvement for today?"

"What are you going to do personally to help us accomplish those goals today?"

As the season progresses, I will get more specific and maybe even ask players before practice to take the initiative toward leading our pre-practice meeting.  This is great because I will give them some time to think about what they want to say, but put them on the spot enough that they have to always be thinking about being in that situation whether I ask or not.

If you know me, I am not a quiet coach, and I don't beat around the bush.  With that said, I use my tougher tone to create opportunities for my leaders.  For example, let's say I just chewed out a freshmen (we'll call him Johnny) for not touching all the lines in the sprints we just ran.  While we are shooting free throws or working in small groups, I may go up to one of my seniors or juniors and say:

"Make sure you go grab young Johnny before we get into the next drill.  Make sure he knows that you got his back and that a little chewing from coach is not the end of the world."  I did that the other day to my two sophomore starting guards, and both said, "Coach, I already did and he thanked me for it."  That made me quite proud, as you can imagine!

A big part of leadership is knowing who to follow.  I like to create opportunities for my leaders to demonstrate the power of kindness and generosity...and helping them give life to the golden rule:  Treat others as you would want to be treated.  When we learn how to treat those we want to follow us, they now know how to treat the young ones when they become the leaders of the team down the road.


A very cool thing I stole from the military years ago is the Fox Hole Test.  At some point early in the season (after a few weeks of practice and games and a chance for them to get to know each other), I give my guys or gals a piece of paper with a big circle on it with 3 boxes in the circle.  I ask every player to write their name in the center box and then write the name of two teammates who they would want in the fox hole with them.

I make clear that these are not the teammates that you necessarily call best friends or who you would want to go out with on a Friday night.  These are the teammates who you know will be focused, ready to work and have your back at any point in the hardest part of our season.  These are the two teammates who you are confident will sacrifice for the good of the team when we need them the most.

Depending on the character, age and maturity of my group, I will use the data from those circles to do many things.  Some years, the two kids who were written in the circles the most were named our Captains.  Some years, I put the two or three kids with the most "votes" on the board and asked the team to give me the characteristics of these players that made them good teammates, and I would write out those characteristics and maybe create a poster with those values to put in the locker room.  It's a great opportunity to celebrate those players but also to open the eyes of those players not in those top two or three who are unaware of the negative perceptions their teammates might have of them.  We all need to look in the mirror.  Sometimes seeing and hearing about the qualities of others that you obviously do not share can be a significant turning point for that young person.


I have 3 "scheduled" individual meetings per year with my players:  pre-season, mid-season, post-season.  During those meetings, I talk with my players about the role they want to have on the team while also giving them specific roles that I would like them to play.

I want each kid to have goals, but more importantly understand how they can best help us win a championship.  For some kids, it might be as small of a role as guarding our best player every day and being as physical with that player every day, so that player feels like practices are much harder than the games.  For another, it might be guarding the in-bounder in our press and being the leader of intensity for us.  For an older player, I may give them the responsibility of choosing what our scrimmage focuses are going to be every day and allowing them to collaborate with me on the goals and focuses of certain practices each week.

I do the same thing with my assistants and managers, so they know that they have a purpose every day to helping us become better and more prepared for the road ahead.

When I do mid-season and post-season evaluations, I then can elaborate on and critique how they handled their role that we both agreed they wanted to play and ask them to self-evaluate the good they did in that role and how they can improve and develop that role.

Leadership - Ownership - Humility.  The three most important values all great teams must possess and must be taught.  I hope this gives you some good things to start adding to your practices.  I would love to hear about some of the things you are doing to help create and develop these values.

Good luck with your respective seasons!  Call or write any time if I can help in any way!

Coach Matt Rogers
(909) 267-8026

#53 8 Neglected Hacks to Increase SAT/ACT Scores

I do not normally have outside sources on the blog, but Scott Groza put together a great article on preparing for your standardized tests that I thought it would be a very useful share!  I hope it helps!


The SAT and ACT are critical standardized tests that tend to induce a great deal of anxiety among test-takers. This anxiety — which is present during the weeks and months before the exam as well as the actual day of the exam — can adversely influence a student’s performance in such a way that the score does not even remotely reflect the student’s aptitude.
Understanding how to manage test-day anxiety is just one component to ensuring test-day success, and there is a great deal that can be done to guarantee an outstanding performance during the lead-up to the exam as well as during the exam itself. If you will soon be taking the SAT or the ACT, the following nine exam “hacks” are absolutely essential and are also quite simple to incorporate into your test preparation strategy.
It should be noted that these hacks make-up only a portion of the preparation required for an SAT or ACT official test. The three key components of prep are Content Review, Strategies, and Practice, and those must be make up the heart of a prep program. Also, there is simply no substitute for a thorough and rigorous approach to studying and preparation that begins well in advance of the SAT or ACT exam. Each of these hacks simply ensures you will perform according to the absolute best of your abilities, but you should not expect any hack to yield the kind of performance benefits associated with a comprehensive, long-term, and consistent approach to standardized test preparation. These hacks have worked well for students in the past- try them out and see what works for you.
1. Sleep
In order to reap the rewards associated with sound sleep habits, you have to be committed to a consistent sleep schedule; going to bed early on the night before the exam will not negate your otherwise poor sleep habits on every other night of the week.Study after study has demonstrated that an adequate amount of sleep helps your brain focus and ensures you are able to perform at peak cognitive efficiency. Sound sleep habits improve cognitive function and have a positive impact on recall and retention, all of which is critical when it comes to your performance on the SAT or ACT.
Long before you are scheduled to take the SAT or ACT, do your best to find a sleep schedule that works for you and adhere to that schedule on a consistent basis. Not only will you improve your academic and standardized test performance, you will likely find that the benefits associated with proper sleep habits extend into just about everything else you do.
2. Breakfast
Since most SAT and ACT exams start around 9 a.m. and last several hours, you’ll surely want to take steps to promote a feeling of mental and physical endurance. Studies have shown that eating a sensible breakfast contributes to improved concentration and enhanced cognition, which will obviously contribute to an improved performance on the SAT or ACT.On the morning of the test, it is incredibly helpful to abide by your typical morning routine. We tend to find comfort and calm in that which is familiar, so following your usual before-school schedule and performing all of your daily rituals will reduce some of the natural test-day anxiety. This assumes, of course, that your typical morning routine involves eating a solid breakfast.
So, what exactly is a “sensible breakfast”? Ideally, it is a meal that contains plenty of protein since brain function is so closely tied to amino acids. Experiment with different protein sources during the weeks and months before you are scheduled to take the test to determine the best way to prepare your pre-test meal, paying attention to how you feel throughout the day and especially during the time from 9am to noon.
3. Body Language
The researchers defined “power poses” as “expansive, open poses,” and they demonstrated a causal link between the act of posing and subsequent increases in “explicit and implicit feelings of power and dominance, risk-taking behavior, action orientation, pain tolerance, and testosterone (the dominance hormone), while reducing stress, anxiety, and cortisol.”Your body language influences so much more than just how others perceive you, as adopting certain positions can contribute to improved feelings of confidence even when done in a conscious effort to improve self-confidence. A study performed by researchers from Harvard University and the University of California at Berkeley demonstrated that participants who engaged in “power posing” before a critical social evaluation performed markedly better during their subsequent evaluation.
On the day of the test, be mindful of the fact that you can consciously reduce any feelings of anxiety and create a substantial sense of self-confidence in your test-taking abilities by simply walking tall, sitting up straight, and maintaining the expansive, open poses discussed by the researchers from Harvard and Cal-Berkeley.
4. Inner Monologue
Before you start the test and again at the start of each new section, give yourself a brief inspirational speech through the use of your inner monologue. It is in this way that you can use competence priming to remind yourself about how well you have prepared to take the exam and how much time and energy you have devoted to ensuring your success. After reminding yourself about your extensive preparatory efforts, tell yourself how well you expect to perform precisely because you have dedicated so much effort to preparing for the exam.Priming is a potent psychological tool that can have a profound effect on the manner in which we perform just about any task, including both mental and physical tasks. You can use this tool to your advantage through the act of self-priming your brain to perform its absolute best during the course of a critical standardized test. Although you probably should avoid talking to yourself out loud during the test, you should should absolutely use your inner monologue to repeatedly prime your brain to succeed just before you take on a new section of the exam.
5. Breathe Deeply
Instead, focus on deep-breathing techniques in which each inspiration lasts three to five seconds and each expiration lasts between eight and 12 seconds. This will engage the parasympathetic nervous system, or PNS, which promotes a relaxed, stress-free state of being and results in improved organ function. These breathing practices will ensure that your brain is “firing on all cylinders,” thereby allowing you to perform to the best of your ability throughout the entirety of the exam.Your breathing patterns deeply influence your ability to handle stressful situations, and a high-stakes standardized test certainly qualifies as a uniquely stressful situation. Once you enter the room in which you will be taking the exam, try to be mindful of your breathing patterns and avoid taking the quick, shallow breaths that naturally occur when you enter a stressful environment.
6. Feed Your Brain
This is why it is helpful to think of the SAT or ACT as an endurance event on the scale of a marathon. After preparing for months and months, the last thing you want is to perform less than your best simply because of an energy crash during the later stages of the test. Since your brain runs on glucose and glucose is made available to the body on an almost immediate basis, eating a small snack high in glucose can help improve your performance on the exam.We have already discussed the importance of eating a sensible breakfast on the day of the exam, but you should also make sure you are able to “top off the fuel tank” during the scheduled breaks that occur throughout these lengthy exams. This practice is analogous to the marathon runner who consumes glucose-laden gels throughout a race to provide ample energy resources throughout the entirety of such a physically and mentally taxing endurance event.
Our bodies tend to react differently to different foods, so try to experiment with different sources of glucose long before test day to see how you respond. Some test-takers will find that an apple is the perfect snack, while others might feel that the fiber of the fruit makes them feel sluggish. Once you have identified the right source of glucose, make sure to bring it with you to your designated test location.
7. Gum
Surprisingly enough, several studies indicate that the act of chewing gum is a relatively mild stimulant that benefits test-takers due to improvements in reaction time, accuracy, alertness, and mood. The type of gum is mostly irrelevant, but you should be mindful of others in the room and avoid behaviors that might cause them distraction — especially blowing bubbles. Avoid gum that is spicy as it might lead you to drink more water. More water would lead to more bathroom breaks. Ultimately this could lead to less time sitting and actually working out answers.
8. Journaling
Through the act of writing, you will clear your mind and feel a sense of closure that will ensure any extraneous thoughts do not distract you from the task at hand. This is a critical step before an exam like the SAT or ACT, and a clear, distraction-free mindset has been shown to play a significant role in stimulating positive performance outcomes.Students often find it difficult to clear their mind on the day of the test, and some may struggle to such a degree that it becomes a distraction. In order to avoid this potentially adverse issue, write a brief journal entry in which you spontaneously write whatever irrelevant thought comes into your mind.
Once you have finished the entry, simply toss it into the appropriate bin or pack it away someplace safe where it can remain for the duration of the exam. After all, you are not likely to be allowed to bring anything that could be considered review material into the exam room, so make sure you plan accordingly if you intend on using this effective pre-test strategy.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

#52 Re-Thinking How You Teach Screening

A good team, like a good show, comes into being when the separate individuals working together create, in essence, another separate higher entity - the team - the show - which is better than any of those individuals can ever be on their own.

Alright all of you old school basketball coaches:  It's time to blow your doors off a bit.  I was taught how to set a "proper" screen about 32  years ago at my first basketball camp.  I remember it being a lot of "arms straight", "feet set", "run shoulder to shoulder", etc.  I remember this because the message didn't change for the next 32 years.  Everywhere I went, it was the same verbiage...same cardboard, 1-dimensional thought process on getting a man open for a shot.

From a middle school coach perspective, I can see the value in that language because it is simple, to the point and will get most 11 year olds open.  However, as you move into high school and then college, coaches start teaching players where to be off the ball and how to get up the line on a screen without ever having that screen interfere with taking the pass away from the man you are guarding.  So, if all we tell kids is to run off your screen shoulder to shoulder to get open, those kids will begin finding out that they NEVER get the ball and they see their defender score a lot of lay-ups going the other way.

About 10 years ago, I was so frustrated with my team's inability to get open and best utilize their screens that I sat down after the season was over and really started watching film of not only my team, but of college and NBA teams who I thought did the best job of creating space for their shooters, and inevitably, the best job of teaching players how to move without the ball.

The more I watched, the more the camera angle moved higher and higher, and I was all of a sudden watching the game like I was floating above the court.  I started to see the space on the floor now from a 3-dimensional (3D) perspective.  And...everything changed.  I quickly realized how silly and completely archaic the lessons I learned in my youth were in regard to screening.

A lot of you coaches do a great job of teaching your kids how to play in pairs...working as a tandem to get each other open (see Golden State Warriors).  The screener has to be as big of a scoring threat as the shooter or a screen becomes a one-shot or nothing offensive set.  Any offensive mind-set that only plays for that one opportunity is a very illogical venture.  With this said, I began teaching my players how to view that tandem scoring as a 3D opportunity.  Here are the basics:

1.  The screener should always be set like we were all taught, but they should have their butt pointed toward where he/she wants the shooter to catch the ball.
2.  The shooter must sprint to the screener's body and grab his or her shoulders.  This allows that same shoulder to shoulder principle, but I want my shooter to be pausing to read what their defender is doing:  trailing, fighting through, or going underneath the screen.
3.  The shooter can now manipulate that screener based on that read creating 3 options (yes 3D!) to score off that screen:  curl and catch, back-cut and catch, flare and catch.
4.  The screener now can be pushed, nudged, guided away by the shooter opposite of where the shooter is going to create a slip, pop or flare opportunity for the screener.

What have we created?  We have now created 6 different scoring opportunities for 2 players on 1 screen.  Can you show me one offensive set that you have taught in the last year that creates that many opportunities for 2 players in a 2 second span?

Now, what happens if we have that type of offensive strategy happening on both sides of the court.  Well, you can put the ball in anyone's hands that has a cup of sense about them, and you are creating an assisting machine.  (See Draymond Green)...and for you young bucks, just watch a bit of Boston Celtics basketball from 1960 through 1973, and you will see the same actions and opportunities.  Steve Kerr, as brilliant as he is, did not invent this basketball.  He just helped a group of bright young men buy into this philosophy and it has made them darn-near unbeatable.

Call if you want to talk any of this through.  I'd love to help make your offense a little more deadly going into the fall.

Best wishes!  Good luck!

Coach Matt Rogers
Phone:  (312) 610-6045

Matt Rogers is an 18-year high school and college coach veteran.  He has led two teams to the NCAA National Tournament and one team to a High School State Championship. His teams hold numerous school and one NCAA record. He has mentored and coached players at every level while serving as an athletics administrator at the high school and NCAA levels for 9 years. He has helped numerous players continue their careers at the professional level. He currently is the Director of Regional Recruiting for NCSA Athletic Recruiting where he educates families and high school coaches around the world on the realities of college recruiting.  He has helped hundreds of young men and women from around the world achieve their dreams of playing at the college level.  Coach presently lives in the Denver, CO area with his wife of 18 years and his two children. 

To request Coach Rogers to speak at your school or event, you can reach him through any of his contact information above.