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Why I Wrote This Book (The Basketball Coach's Bible)

My uncle Inky's (Inky Lautman) photograph appears a half dozen times in the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts. In the beginnings of professional basketball in the thirties, he was a high scorer for the Philadelphia SPHAA's. Even though his talent was not transmitted genetically, his interest in the game was. As a kid my only ambition was to play basketball for Overbrook High School in Philadelphia, where Wilt Chamberlain and Walt Hazzard, among other notables, once played. In 9th grade I inscribed Overbrook High School in big black letters on the back of several T-shirts. On others I wrote Hazzard or Jones (for Wally Jones) with a number below. In 10th grade, family problems led me to quit the cadet basketball team. In 11th grade, a chronic foot problem, still a mystery, prevented even a tryout. During my senior year, a sprained ankle just before tryouts doomed my chances. At less than 50% mobility, I played with great pain, only to be cut. I was dazed. My childhood dreams came to an abrupt end. Years of practice, often 3-5 hours a day, culminated without earning a big O or even a fair shake at a tryout. The next day I decided to tell the coach, Paul Ward, about my injured ankle. I asked if I could try out in a week when the ankle was better; I regularly played with the guys on the team, and I felt I was as good as any of them. He gave me the chance. Thirty years later I still have my orange and black warm-up jersey that came with big black letters already printed on it-OVERbrOOK HS VARSITY BASKETBALL.

In college my thoughts of basketball lessened. Theoretical engineering, my course of study, required over 20 hours of class each week. I always needed a part time job as well. I played on some independent teams and made the all-star team at the Ogontz campus of Penn State. After college I played on many independent teams, often head to head against current college players or professionals-to-be.

Several years after I graduated with a degree in Biophysics, a colleague at Columbia School, a private school in Philadelphia, asked for help with the men's basketball team. After a few practices and games, he saw that I knew what I was doing and let me run the team. After a few more games we won the championship. My next coaching experience was at a public high school with the girls' junior varsity team. The lack of skill and dedication of these girls astonished me. Guys would break their necks to play, whereas a girl would quit rather than trim her nails. Even though these attitudes only mirrored societal gender expectations, I was not prepared to deal with the problem; I had a team to coach. That was problem enough. They practiced shots from midcourt even though they couldn't hit the rim from the foul line. (Over the years, I found that many other players of both genders practiced, if you can call it that, similarly.) At the beginning of the season on what turned out to be one of my best teams, the players could not consistently hit the rim (let alone make the shot) from the foul line. To run several lessons involving foul shots, I moved the players to half the distance. In one of my first scrimmage games we had 8 players on the court because several failed to report out. I yelled a lot to correct matters. The layup, the dribble, and every other skill seemed advanced ones that most players completely lacked. Even the cardinal rule of basketball that requires players to dribble the ball, rather than just run down court with it, was foreign to some.

I didn't have a clue. I wondered, "Where do I start teaching? What and how do I teach?" I thought that you couldn't teach layups and dribbling as well as many other skills. Other coaches only reinforced this idea: kids need to possess some natural talent. My game demeanor was as clueless as my practices. I thought if I yelled loudly enough that players would get the idea. The yelling during my first season helped; it helped the other team. We lost 7 of 7 close games. My other mistakes are too numerous and embarrassing to mention.

Coaching skilled players is kid's stuff compared to teaching unskilled novices. My learning started abruptly that first day at practice. During the next 7 years of coaching, I read everything I could get my hands on about basketball. Most books started where I wanted to end up. They assumed players knew the basics or they thought an explanation of the basics, without any methods to accomplish them, was all that was needed. As a gag, a revered men's coach gave me a 20-year-old book about women's basketball. The women on the cover were wearing old-fashioned uniforms with skirts and shoulder straps (tunics I am told). This coach and the other gym teachers watching this presentation didn't expect me to read it, but I did. Even though not detailed nor explanatory, it did give me an idea where the beginning was. I remember best the 6 or 7 types of passes described, most of which we never bother to teach.

I attended many basketball (as well as volleyball and one ice hockey) clinics. Often the top basketball coaches that were invited offered more general information than definite detailed advice. One women's volleyball coach, who at the time seemed old, short, and unathletic, did impress me at one clinic. She had known nothing about volleyball when she started but quickly learned how to teach the basics. Year after year she beat all the teams in the area. She thought her teams won because her teaching methods were better. The other coaches disliked her, especially the men. She offered free clinics so the other teams could do as well. Few, if any, took her up on it. Her attitude was so refreshing. Once I even attended an ice hockey clinic hoping to pick up some related tips. The Czech national team practiced three-person fast breaks off ice with a basketball, believe it or not.

I watched the basketball practices of many college, high school, and other teams as well as talked to many coaches. Each night I often spent hours planning practice. I began to realize that teaching the skills was a puzzle that I could unscramble. To find more effective ways required study, planning, and innovation. I realized that with limited practice time, a coach can only teach the most basic skills. Coaches need to identify and then teach the more dependent individual skills first. Lessons need to focus on one thing at a time, not impart many skills at once. This was both the key to teaching and the biggest impediment to learning. Some things took years to figure out. Others, like learning that yelling at players during games did no good, took only one season. (Players echo your nervous state, so be calm. I remember losing only one other close game, when the score was tied in the last minute, during the next six years.)

While I worked on my puzzles, the program developed at our high school, West Philadelphia HS. With the varsity coach, Bernie Ivens, we transformed a women's program that had no respect, no uniforms, and no facility (at first I used the school hallways for part of each practice) or equipment. In five years the result was a public league and city championship as well as a victory over the best of New York's five boroughs in a tournament.

Over many years of coaching, planning, and studying, I found ways to teach each and every skill even to the most unskilled player. This scheme of learning did not come from any book. I tried things in practice. I modified them till they worked. Even players who could not simultaneously chew bubble gum and walk learned the skills. I believe you too can benefit from my work.

Who Can Use This Information

The book for coaches is the perfect tool for anybody who wants to coach and teach basketball:

· A little league or recreation league coach

· A high school or junior high school coach

· A college coach, a professional coach

· A women's or a men's coach

· A parent who wants to teach his or her child

All words in this book are unisex; all lessons are as well. Sixth graders spend more time learning the fundamentals than professionals; however, both the kind and the number of fundamentals are the same for everybody. There are not 10 skills for beginners and 50 for the pros or visa-versa. (Some pros might be happy to possess the foul shooting or dribbling skills of a good 9th grader.)

In addition this is an ideal text to use at clinics for teaching either players or coaches as well as in courses at universities. Internationally, where basketball know-how and expertise lag far behind the USA, this book has even greater application because of its fundamental nature.

How This Book Will Help You

This book will help you in many ways. It supplies field-tested, successful lessons ready for use. It not only teaches the fundamentals to players, but also to you. It shows you how to both plan practice and run practice to give and get the most out of your players. It does more than just save you much time; it gives you methods and ideas that work.

A Word About Teaching

Teaching involves more than just eloquent explanations and eye-catching demonstrations to spellbound our audience. It is an attitude that says a player's or student's ability to learn is only limited by the teacher's ability to teach even though we know players, as well as we ourselves, do have limits. If we go into practice without this idea the chance for learning and teaching is greatly decreased because we can simply say the players are not good enough, talented enough, or smart enough to learn. So, we don't need to spend that extra time planning and thinking of new ways to teach.

Teaching encourages the opposite: the desire to understand both the needs of your players and the basics of basketball and then the commitment to spend the time needed for success. The result of these teaching efforts gives a player a method or a way to learn, something that yields significant improvement with practice.

The Coach's Manual­What It Is and How to Use It

Part 1 gives you an overview and discussion of the fundamentals, as I have defined them, of basketball. Carefully scrutinize both the flow chart and outline. The next part, Part 2, involves planning practice and teaching at practice. One chapter discusses planning a practice and provides a guide, called the Practice Planning Guide, to help plan daily practices. The other discusses the principles of practice teaching, which I incorporated into each lesson. Part 3, the largest part of the book, presents the lessons. One chapter describes the many features of each lesson. The other chapter, Chapter 9, presents over 170 lessons and extensions in a learnable order arranged by fundamental skill. Start with the first one in each skill section ­ there are 19 of these ­ and then progress in order as the players learn. Coordinate teaching the many skills using the Practice Planning Guide and the information supplied in each lesson.

The appendices, labeled A through G, include much useful information. The first gives pregame and game coaching tips and things to do at the beginning of the season. Another gives The Table of Lessons, which lists every lesson and extension by number along with seven other useful pieces of information. The Table of Individual Skills lists the lessons by skill in the order that you would teach one player. The after practice Warm Down presents a stretching routine for players. Another appendix explains how to keep game statistics and analyze them. Included also are blank forms to be copied for use in each game. Sample practices for three different age levels and three different season times are given. Included also are blank forms for daily and weekly planning of your practice. A form for keeping inside shot statistics is also supplied. The Index allows you to find information by topic.

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by Sidney Goldstein

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