Hoosiers Movie, A Basketball
by Sidney Goldstein
Copyright © 2002 by Golden Aura Publishing
Today I watched the film Hoosiers for maybe
the 5th time always in bits and pieces. I'm always touched when
the main character in a film is a big time underdog who overcomes
tremendous odds to succeed. If you haven't seen the film, Hoosiers
is loosely based on a true story about a Milan HS basketball
season. In the movie versions, big time coach, Norman Dale, who
becomes a small time coach in Indiana after he is suspended from
professional and college coaching for fighting with one of his
own players, etc.
He innocuously shows up as coach at Hickory HS in Indiana in
yesteryear, (1951) which has a total of 64 boys in the entire
school and about 7-8 players on the the team. Using his idiosyncratic
coaching methods he heads off career threatening problems with
players, the administration, and towns folks to win the Indiana
State championship. Along the way we get lots of Norman Dale's
(movie character) basketball philosophy and methods. I'll comment
about his philosophy.
First, let me say, that the movie is "right on" a lot,
that's why I'm discussing matters. Many situations in the movie
were probably dramatized and do not accurately represent Mr.
Dales (if there is a Norman Dale) or the coaches ideas, but that's
all I have to work with.
The right on stuff is incredible. Dale gets his players running,
working on footwork and agility, tap dancing in place, and refuses
to scrimmage at practice. He works on "popping" chest
passes quickly, defensive footwork, and conditioning, running
One problem is that a footwork drill shows players sliding their
feet. This is an no no. You never slide in basketball because
directions changes are quick. If a players feet are together
after a slide, then they must move the feet apart before changing
direction. This makes a player late. Proper defense involves
jump steps where the feet are always in position to run or change
Popping a pass is what I call flicking a pass. And players flick
passes using the wrists. The only problem is that nowadays the
chest pass is outdated because it can only be used when the defense
is far away. With tight defense, passes must be overhead or side
The kamikaze drill where players run back and forth from one
line to the next increasing, then decreasing distances can be
done more effectively. One, if you want to run this drill, then
make players dribble to make it even more difficult. To condition
players properly you need more than just aerobic drills, which
involve sprinting. Anaerobic drills condition by running 20-40
minutes while performing various ball skills. I call these continuous
motion drills, which are the key to any practice because increasing
conditioning, increases athleticism which by itself yields better
The movie shows many locker room talks, maybe just for dramatic
purposes. Regardless, I will comment. In one scene the coach
pleads with players and in another he rebukes them. Pleading
with players to play right. or rebuking players for not, is a
waste of time. Players do whatever a coach teaches in practice;
nothing more, nothing less, with one exception. That is when
a coach is not teaching at all. These coaches say that they never
know what their players are going to do next in a game, putting
on the onus on the players. These coaches need to get their practices
Another locker room talk myth involves a pep talk. My question
is what did you do to get kids depressed? Kids are always up,
so the solution to pep talks is to stop doing whatever it is
that is depressing the kids!
In one talk before the big game, Dale tells his players not to
worry about winning or losing, just play like they do in practice.
This is right on. However, as a coach I never would say anything
about winning, losing, or the the importance of the game. This
psych's kids out! It's like telling someone that a foul shot
is worth a million dollars, rather than how to focus on the shot.
One thing excites players yielding poor performance, the other
calms players down. And yes, players must be calm and focused
going into every game, not excited. No cheers in the locker room
or when you put your hands together before the tip off. Better
to say a prayer of thanks at these times.
Another calming idea: purposefully focus each player on a specific
task, two at the most, before the game. Example, you might tell
one player to concentrate on boxing out, while telling another
to look inside to pass. And, I left out the most important part
here, kids keep score as much or even more than you do! They
instinctively know the importance of each game. So, talking about
it only psych's players out, no other information is transferred.
All in all I love Hoosiers because it shows a coach teaching
players, not using them. At one point the coach tells his future
star player who has not yet joined the team, that he's not going
to recruit him. After this one act of recruitment, he keeps his
word, not sending envoys with gifts and messages. Luckily the
star joins on his own, deciding that the coach is dedicated and
smart, actually saving the coach's job. Your kids will join you
too for the learning experience involved in playing basketball,
if you dedicate yourself to them and teaching.
A last word about teaching. My best day as a coach was not a
day we won a championship or tough game (and there were many),
but a day I was actually absent from practice! That's right,
I was not there. I had a planned absence, and I didn't coach
that day. The previous day I went over the practice with the
captain, asking another coach to watch. (It was easier to explain
the practice to the player, than to another coach) The report
when I returned was that the kids practiced like I was there.
And my practices are tough! If the kids join you, then every
day at practice is a win. And they will join you, not just show
up, if you have something to offer.
Your comments are welcome.
Sidney Goldstein, author of
The Basketball Coach's Bible and The Basketball Player's Bible,
has successfully coached both men's and women's teams over a
period of 15 years