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 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
Phone: (312) 610-6045
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.