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Characteristics of Winning Teams
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 position.

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 players, improve

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.

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