A few years back Petteri Kuusela conducted a coach education session in Kouvola. It turned out to be a turning point for me.
Kuusela – a youth coach for Tapiolan Honka – demonstrated fakes and techniques concerning dribbling and driving. The stuff was good yet the real point was in the way he approached the subject. He had picked up the moves he taught from current top international games and systematized those moves.
This may sound obvious, but it’s everything but. Often the individual skills that coaches teach and the individual skills that players actually use in games are two separate sets of skills. This is how it comes about:
1) Head coaches concentrate their efforts on the team tactics because it’s the quickest way to ensure victories.
2) Individual skills are not given too much attention, especially if the organization does not hire specialist coaches to teach them.
3) An economical way for a busy head coach to select which individual skills to teach is to draw them from his own experience as a player or an assistant coach.
4) Those skills may look legitimate yet they may be outdated and have little relevance to today’s game.
5) Players adapt by disregarding the skills the coach teaches and by picking up new skills from other sources, often from other players.
The problem with this “method” is that the development of individual skills is random and probably slower than it needs to be.
Petteri Kuusela presented an antidote. Base everything you teach on current games. Systematize those skills – if you teach a move, also teach counter moves because the opponent will adjust to what you’re doing. Be ready to change your systematization when something new comes up.
Since Kuusela’s presentation I’ve consciously tried to see basketball the way it is instead of the way it was or the way I think it should be. It’s a difficult process because we have a natural tendency to look for evidence that backs up what we believe in. (This tendency is known as confirmation bias.)
It’s also laborious because there is no one neat book or video clip compilation with all new ideas collected. One must watch a lot of current basketball and really pay attention to individual skills and moves being used.