Characteristics of Winning
by Sidney Goldstein
Copyright © 2003
After about 30 radio interviews concerning
the characteristics of winning teams I decided to put this information
in a short article.
The first characteristic is that winning teams are physically
superior. This means that the coach recruited players that are
taller, stronger, more agile, quicker than players on other teams
and properly conditioned the team. As a coach and player you
must always remember that the game is physical. That physicality
always trumps finesse. And your biggest job as a coach or player
that wants to improve is in this area. For high schoolers and
older players this means running, maybe 3 miles per day, and
lifting weights for a minimum 15-30 minutes.
Coaches can incorporate conditioning drills into practice, so
that each player runs 15-40 minutes continuously while handling
the basketball. I call these continuous motion drills which are the most important part of practice. Video 3 in our
series shows many of these drills which are also worthwhile as
skill teaching exercises.
A second characteristic of winning teams is that they go inside
looking for 3 foot shots before 3 point shots. A good inside
percentage is over 90% where as a good 3 point percentage is
only 50%. Percentage-wise or point-wise the difference always
favors the 3 foot shot, just like the percentage always favors
the house at casinos. With the percentage in their favor, Casinos
don't lose and if your team is good enough then you won't lose
scoring opportunities either if you go inside.
Talking is easier than doing, so here is a brief road map on
how to teach players to go inside. There are about 10 skills
involved that can not be taught using plays. Plays are not the
answer, they are the problem. Looking, timing, cutting, catching,
faking, communication, and passing are skills that need to taught
directly, not jumbled up in some unique astonishing incredible
play that will save the day, the practice and your job as a coach.
There is no way to build a house unless you start with the foundation.
So it is with basketball skills. Team play is the endpoint of
practice, not the place to start. My books and videos are filled
with exercises to teach the offensive skills needed to work the
ball inside. Most of a team's practice should be concentrated
on these drills.
A third characteristic is that winning teams box-out on the defensive
boards preventing easy second shots. Again talking is easier
than doing. There are 3 basic skills and about 6 or so drills
involving boxing out. The first skill is blocking, the second
is keeping the offense on the back and the third is the transition
between the two. Before players can even attempt these drills
work on defensive foot movement and rebounding.
The fourth characteristic of winning teams is that they go for
offensive rebounds. Believe it or not many teams do not send
players for offensive rebounds. Talking is again much easier
than doing. To rebound offensively there must be communication
between he shooter and the rest of the team. You just can't say
to your players, "Go for offensive rebounds." To begin
with players must be looking and anticipating the shot so they
can get position. The art of rebounding must also be taught.
Two great rebounders, Bill Russell and Dennis Rodman, planned
very specifically for each rebound based on who was shooting
from where on the court so they could reach an optimum rebounding
The fifth characteristic is that the players help out on defense. Helping
out usually means that off-ball defenders move a step or two
towards the ball. When you boil defense down to basics there
is no zone or person-to-person. All defenses meld into each player
being in the most advantageous position at each instant. Again
talking is easier than doing. 90% of defense involves moving
properly: jump steps and running. No walking or sliding. One
wrong or slow or confused step, one run instead of a jump, jump
instead of a run, gives the offense the advantage. This is the
start and key to learning defense. Coordinating the team to help
out is the easy part.
Working on fundamentals yields incredible results almost immediately
if you are a pro or college coach with players that have great
physical talent. For coaches with younger less physically talented
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.