Do You Coach Them Down?

Sep 24, 2022

Dear Coach, 

Your tools may be rusty and out of date. In fact, chances are your coaching is backwards.

Are you willing to sharpen your axe?

If you lack the courage to examine yourself, you're cheating yourself.

Lock in & let's go.


You’ll never develop GREAT players by starting with the WHAT. Great teachers develop GREAT players by starting with the WHY. 


Most coaches protect their downside, meaning they try not to look stupid. The quickest way to protect your downside is to hammer technique and create robots that can do a few things exactly the same over and over again. 


I call this coaching them down. It may raise your floor, but it also lowers your ceiling. 


If you distance yourself from danger and embarrassment then greatness will always be beyond you. 


The WHAT is simply the technique. Starting with the technique creates linear thinking and doesn’t develop the creative problem solving that makes great players great.


Start with the technique and you'll create linear thinking.


Start with the why and you'll develop creative problem solvers.


Beginner coaches shoehorn all players into the form they used. Expert coaches evaluate function and help players optimize their strengths. The best coaches understand that form follows function. The best understand that starting with the why is harder, takes longer, and looks messier. But, the best are willing to pay the price for the upside and long term potential that comes from coaching them up. 


Are you willing to evaluate your teaching?


If so, simplify your message with this three step teaching framework.

  1. Establish Principles 

Establish principles by sharing the objective, then let them play and experiment.


Observe and ask yourself: What is our objective and how can we best achieve it?


Basketball is a game of opposites. Our objective is to take away what our opponent wants to do most. When on defense, think – what does the offense want to do the most, then force them to do the opposite.


For example, most players want to drive with their strong hand. So, force them to their weak hand. Force them to do the opposite. 


It’s simple and Simplicity Wins


The less skilled your opponent is, the easier this will be. The more skilled they are, the more options they’ll have. For example, it’s easier to force a bad shooter to dribble. 


When you teach through principles, it leads to better decision making and more creativity by your players. When you teach through principles they’re given autonomy in how they choose to accomplish it. When you teach through principles, you allow players to experiment through their spacing, body position, cleverness, and angles. 


Teaching through principles helps your players develop into creative problem-solvers.




Experiment with this. 


In any practice, tell your players their objective is to make the offensive player dribble, not shoot. Get to the body of the offensive player with as much speed as possible. Keep them from shooting. 


Let them try it. See what happens.


Afterwards, ask them three questions to develop awareness and context. 


  1. What is our objective?
  2. Who is your opponent?
  3. What is your advantage?


Let them try again. Now, see what happens.


  1. Teach Reads 

Most coaches only teach technique. They hope that technique will be effective in every scenario. But in reality, teaching technique without reads is just basing your game on hope. It doesn’t make sense. 


When you teach reads, (not just technique) you introduce decision making. When a player makes decisions enough times the decisions become reads. And they become ready. Reads are just decisions at made speed. A decision becomes a read once it’s automatic. 


You want reading machines, you don’t want guessing robots. Robots lack awareness. 


Once they become aware, then they can decide:

  • What do they want to do most?
  • How can I take that away? 
  • How should I play? 


Once they make these decisions enough times they become reading machines:

  • At speed
  • In real games
  • Under pressure


Most players are guessing robots. They do the same thing over and over and hope it works, but they’re just guessing. 


The best players don’t guess. They’re reading machines. They adjust to new data.


Developing reading machines takes time but it’s what great coaches do.

Developing reading machines takes time. But, they'll beat guessing robots everyday.


  1. Add Technique 

Teach this last!

Remember, most coaches start with technique by teaching high hands and choppy feet. Technique only matters when it fits the objective and is done at the right time. 

Imagine a rower, who rows with perfect form, but is pulling the wrong direction. 

That's a poor principle. 

Imagine a rower who rows with perfect form, but starts before the race begins.

That’s a poor read. 

Their perfect technique doesn't serve them... Because they're rowing the wrong way. 

Form follows function, that’s why you should end with technique, not start there. 


After you establish principles and develop reads only then should you address technique and share ONE technical correction to help them reach their goal. 


I’m Tyler and this is SAVI. Wisdom Applied.

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