I consider the playing season to be broken up into three segments: preseason/out-of-conference, conference, and postseason. Progressively there is a narrowing focus to incrementally grow as a team in preparation for the next. The early part of the season is the installation and integration phase. Depending on the level, each basketball calendar works differently; here is what Coach Clare Fitzpatrick had to say about #SeasonPartOne with College of the Holy Cross:

“You hope you are putting in the right things and that your system and plans for the team will work, but you honestly don’t know until you start playing other teams. That is when you really have to start adjusting to see what works within your system, what lineups work and what your team is made of. By the time things are starting to come together, you have to start worrying about your next opponent.”

As the team begins to take shape, #SeasonPartTwo rings in the new year with a sense of identity in order to succeed.

Preparing for League Play

If the first couple of months are considered the installation and integration phase, then preparing for league play is about establishing an identity. At this point in the season trial and error should provide enough information for the staff to understand competency and capacity based on the personnel.

Take the example of head coach John Brannen, who took over for Coach Mick Cronin (now with UCLA) after 13 seasons with the University of Cincinnati men’s basketball program. The start of his first season was a struggle, but the midseason turnaround for Brannen’s Bearcats has been a testament to the collaboration between student-athletes and staff to identify the following questions:

  • Where are our strengths – collectively & individually?
  • Is our daily development in alignment with our core competencies?
  • Who has demonstrated the capacity to execute the most often?
  • Has our scheme been conducive to the personnel?
    • And is it sustainable for the long-term vision of the program?
As For Our Season

The aforementioned questions are things we consider within our own program. This season for us has not gone exceedingly well from a record standpoint. However, during league play in the latter half of the season, our group of guys have really started to compete at a high level.

We have two wins on the season. And the first half of the season consisted of some rough losses with an average point differential of twenty, a few even stretching to over 30-points. Meanwhile, the second half while still only 1-7, has improved to a 9-point differential versus our opponents and the previous 5 games have come against the top teams in our region where we fell short in the final few possessions.

Look, losing is tough and I still struggle with handling it the right way consistently. Staying the course is tougher. We can’t preach the process, then solely relish from the accomplishments. The pride from any season should come from witnessing tangible growth from the beginning to the end. And our guys are demonstrating that through skill-development, conceptual comprehension, role identification, team chemistry, and overall competitive persistence. Would I have liked to have a few of those final possessions back? Ask me how I’ve slept these past couple weeks and there’s your answer.

#52WeekCoaching is about sharing our experiences in the hopes that another coach can avoid, replicate, or simply stimulate thoughts of their own when similar situations present themselves. So, let’s wrap up this soapbox with a couple lists of what we have learned – helped and hindered – during #SeasonPartTwo.

Hindrance
  • Inconsistency – Some issues are out of your control, others can be prevented. Either way, issues such as injuries, attrition, or eligibility can disrupt the trajectory of development for any team.
  • Overcompensating role(s) – While often well-intended, attempting to do too much tends to hurt the team. If you are a shooter attempting to be a playmaker without the ballhandling ability odds are you’re likely to get exposed.
  • Player-development maturation – youth often shows itself most during pressure situations and sometimes even a coach’s vision for a player’s potential doesn’t always end as expected.
Helpful
  • Individual meetings with each player – Increased number of discussions lead to more live-action during practice, better role identification, and clarity of expectations.
  • Attrition & Attention to detail Half-in & half-out stunts growth of the team. And our points of emphasis have been more consistent during the second half of the season.
  • Leadership – Upperclassmen have taken over the locker room spreading support, trust, and competitiveness that has improved the resiliency of the group during tough stretches of the game.
  • Synergy of our system – From increased reps, playing time, and self-efficacy our guys are starting to find themselves within our style of play. When we talk capability vs. capacity our guys are doing a better job of adjusting within the confines of our structure as opposed to simply being obedient to the scheme.

Coaches, I hope this has been of some help. Remember, March Madness never starts until February finishes. Good luck to everyone competing to complete #SeasonPartTwo, and I will be taking extensive notes during #SeasonPartThree.

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