“The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.” /Phil Jackson
This weekend I also got a chance to coach our U16-1 team while their Head Coach Sidney was absent. I have been following them from start of the season and was already familiar with some of the player from last season. Also co-Coach Sunny was there to help me as she has been with this roster from beginning of the season and knows the guys well. I never reject a good counsel.
The struggles of team were known to me (they were 0-5, almost all games lost in last seconds with minimal difference) and Head Coach gave me clear goals for the game. Develop the team spirit and encourage to play good, hard basketball. I knew what was going on and what had to be done – I had similar struggles in my team.
Before the game I prepared the Team for hard game by reminding them of good defense, a lot of running and hustling for every rebound and loose ball. Looked good. Off to game.
It is always hard to coach another team. Even if you’ve followed them and know some players it still is another coaches team. They have been put together in special way, they have developed a specific mentality and team spirit. Beginning was something that happens in a lot of teams – guys slept in. That’s something that happens with young guys – they can’t put themselves in focus from first second of the game. Offense was going okayish, I’d write it off due to being guests on another gym – always harder to score. Defense however had to be good, no excuses, but too many light baskets were let in due to bad focus and not properly closing out on distance shooters. Also rebounding was struggling as guys “forgot” to box-out opponents. First quarter ended 27 to 11, Hellenen behind.
After a short talk with the guys, they seemed to have woken up and starting to take control of the defensive situation. No more useless tries to steal the ball from dribble – defense switched to just controlling the man with the ball and directing it to sidelines and baseline. This approach confused opponents and let us keep our defense in check – getting some balls and making some points. Second quarter went to defensive end and Hellenen ended up with 14 to 8 win in this quarter. Great result driving down from 27 to 8! It allowed us to go into Half-time break with just -10, 35 to 25.
Half-time break allowed opponents to figure out the confusion and make their home atmosphere work for them. Still, ball control in defense was working very good and baskets were lost now only due to new pick and roll strategy from opposing team. Their best players exploited our confusion now and got some quick baskets doing just that. In the end of quarter guys managed to take it under control, but oh boy – offense started to struggle. This quarter also went down for us losing it with 18 to 15. Only -3 thanks to good job in defense. -13, 53 to 40 off to fourth quarter.
Quarter started good – defense was still controlling ball really good, guys were communicating and switching better, that made it hard for opponents to make easy baskets and they had to struggle for every point in the start of fourth quarter. We needed points. This fact turned something in young ones heads and players started to get out of control in offensive. Too individual, rushed shots, losing nerves. This brought doom over the offensive game and while defense was still going good – lack of intelligent and rushed offense opened borders for some easy baskets for opponents. They gladly took the opportunity to keep the lead. Fourth quarter also lost with -1, 16 to 15 and game went down -14 for Hellenen, 69 to 55.
Overall good team with good fighting spirit and strong, focused defense. Faults lie as for many others in ability to be focused from second one. It leaves team in disadvantage and it’s harder to find the pace afterwards. Once this problem is solved – wins will start happening instantly! Also it would also help fix mentality of some players that lost their cool in last quarter thinking that they can fix the game 1 versus 5. It doesn’t work that way. It takes individuals to make up the team and it takes the team to put the ball inside basket and defend your zone from opponents on the other end. Everyone must keep himself in check and sacrifice his ego for the team. In return team will grow stronger and will be able to accent everyone individually for their skills. Doesn’t matter if as scorer, play maker, rebounder, defense hustler or fast break runner. You give yourself for the team and team will give back. Keep the spirit strong. Keep hustling. Wins are just around the corner.