Saturday, April 22, 2017

How to Acquire Basketball IQ

      The Coach's Award, the son of coach, a high basketball IQ are accolades and monikers that are used to define some players. As a coach you love having these kind of players, but not too many because sometimes too many coaches spoil the soup and you have to have some guys that are just unconscious or just 'go' without any caution. However, as I watch young players matriculate the one thing that I read in their body language and eyes when they are told that a good player has to have a high basketball IQ is one of desperation and/or depression. Also, they get a little self conscious due to being scrutinized.
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     In my playing days I used to think to myself about ways to raise the level of this intangible item. The tangibles are obvious; like strength, fundamentals, and others that may be trainable, but what's the best way to coach the enigma that is Basketball IQ? I've listened to the old guard of coaching. Bobby Knight, Pete Caril, John Thompson (80s) and more talk about the mental aspect of the game. I learned a lot about practice techniques, but what I want to speak to is how do they get it when they are not with you as a coach. Here are 5 things I've found that works and one "never fail".

1. Have them become a student of the game by watching games and listening to experts calling the game. Even better have a parent that grew up with the game sit and talk them through game situations. In other words: The what, why, and how things happen at certain times of the game." 

The What: What just happened?
The Why: Why did the coach make that decision?
The How: How can they come back or keep the lead at each phase?
     What games should they watch or on what level? Well, I tend to lean towards the college/high school game as a good learning tool for young players. Do not ignore the NBA because nothing is as entertaining as watching professionals do their thing. I consider the NBA something they can learn from but it is more entertainment value and they go until June. March Madness ends the college and high school games.

2. The experts that call college games are varied in what you will hear. At 5 years old I was learning the game next to my dad on the couch when the experts where Al Mcquire, Dick Vitale, Tommy Heinsohn, and even Dick Stockton but I am mentioning mostly color commentators. Today you have some good ones for the college game: Dan Dakich, Jay Bilas, Clark Kellog, Bill Raftery (who also makes the list of guys I would like to be at an Irish Pub with) and Doris Burke to name a few. A recent favorite that I came across is former Final Four Illini member Stephen Bardo. (Dick Vitale is still around, baby!) These commentators really have a knack of including ways that kids can learn the game while watching the college game.
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4. Don't stick to the Duke vs. Kansas, Kentucky vs. North Carolina blue blood games. Throw in a LIU-Brooklyn vs. Stetson, a Fordham vs. St. Bonaventure, a Marquette vs. Dayton once in a while. When Dakich does a game he will even go out on to the floor during a time out, others do this too, and teach the game and provide examples of game situations. He played Division I and coached as well so he has a passion for teaching. Bilas does too (I've watched him in action at the Bilas Camps at Queens University).

5. What you will see in a kid that does this, even once a week, is developing a
passion but also will get used to coach speak and the flow and decisions to be made.

     Lastly, developing a basketball IQ at an early age really helps kids understand the flow of a game. They pick up rules and nuances. The biggest thing I picked up from my dad and experts is how important time and score is in a game. Also, during elementary through Junior Varsity, or close to Junior Varsity, coaches should not have a high emphasis on win loss records but winning should still be the goal and the emphasis should be on skill development. Participation awards are not what I prefer. As kids grow up basketball is not or shouldn't be the only sport they play. As they get older they may still be doing 3 sports so time for skill work will decrease in the offseason.

     The "No Fail": If your kids have guts and you trust the venue, have them walk out with a ball to a court. Pick out a spot where 2 to 3 40 to 50 year old basketball people are shooting around. If the kids can talk them into playing 2 on 2, 3 on 3 or other competition against them this helps every time. Make sure you mix the teams because the old timers will be teaching your kids the pick and roll, give and go, box outs, man to man defense, help defense, switching on picks and they will do it like grumpy old dudes so it's hilarious. Coaches will recognize these fundamentals early in tryouts. I did this a lot at an inner city outdoor park when I was a kid. I was lucky though, those old guys were really interested in teaching while playing. They knew they could win but they wanted us to succeed and gain confidence while playing. Whoever those old guys where with the cotton knee braces with the hole in the patella at MLK Park in Grand Rapids (the 616) I'd love the chance to thank them. Of course, as I mention in the article entitled "The Biggest Little Adjustment" my Dad was the primary which made me lucky. They didn't care what I looked like. They saw a kid that needed an applied version of the enigma that is the "Basketball IQ".