Monday, January 27, 2020
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Coaches can say the dumbest things, and I heard two of them this week…
Actually, it’s not just the “saying” that bothers me; it is the “believing” that what they say is right, that worries me. What’s even worse is knowing that there are many more coaches out there who think the same way.
So, what did I hear?
#1…Just a few days ago, I asked a 9th grader if he thought he had a good chance of making his high school freshman basketball team, knowing that try-outs were just a couple of weeks away.
He gave me that non-verbal but positive nod that 14 year olds are so good at.
Then I asked him why he thought that: Was it because he was playing well in the “open gym” free time with all the other players? Was it because he played well during summer basketball league and camp? Was it because he was shooting the ball well, and rebounding with confidence?
His answer to me: “No, none of that, I talked to the coach yesterday and he said he’s noticed I run a good mile, so if my time is good enough at tryouts, I have a really good chance of making the team”.
Come on coaches, STOP IT! Stop making the distance run a criteria for making the team.
If at basketball try-outs, the factors to be considered for making the team should be basketball related:
1. Evaluate the skill level.
2. Evaluate the game sense and instincts.
3. Evaluate the potential, the athleticism.
4. Evaluate the attitude and value to the team spirit and his desire to work hard and be coachable.
Why not just go to the cross-country practice then and recruit all the best runners after their season? You might have the best conditioned and the fastest team, but they will never be able to win the game from the free throw line, or dribble through a full court press.
If long distance running is a criterion, you might as well add field goal kicking and how well their curve ball breaks to the list. Needless to say, the timed 200 meter butterfly stroke is a given.
It is basketball try-outs, so basketball ability and potential would be the preferred attributes to consider.
First you get the basketball players, and then you get them in playing speed and condition.
Too many coaches that don’t have enough basketball experience and/or knowledge tend to fall back on the “are you in shape?” as a try-out consideration.
If the timed distance run is on your list of the main try-out criterion, then I highly suggest that you get an assistant coach with a good basketball background… and soon!
#2… I just watched a 9-year-old basketball game where one team was putting on a half court extended defense with trapping in the corners and along the sidelines as the emphasis. These kids were working so hard and trying so hard to get those short legs and little feet to get to the right spots in time to trap the ball dribbler.
Well, with as much effort and energy that they could muster, 3 things kept happening:
1. They didn’t get in place fast enough and the opposing team broke through the press and scored easy baskets.
2. They fouled.
3. They got confused in the ball movement and rotation and seemed to get lost and were out of position.
This was the coaches’ response as he yelled from the bench: “You better be ready to run at practice because of how horribly you are running this half court press”!
I am not sure the mile run is the best way to get the kids to run this half court trap better. They may get in better shape, but they won’t be any better at trapping.
How about this; instead of running laps for half of the practice to alleviate the coach’s frustration, how about spending that time practicing the press. How about lots of repetition on running the press and learning how to run it better. How about setting up different game like situations for the kids to practice so that they can actually feel the movement and understand the strategies of it.
Stop and think it through, try to match the consequence with the mistakes so that learning and improvement can happen.
What is it with all these coaches and “running” being the solution to everything? Running and push-ups are valuable to sports but not the cure-all.
So remember to keep the activity specific to the goal… now run with it!

To reach Tom Kuyper with comments or questions, email

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