Your team and its players should learn to adapt to different situations and to manipulate them in your favour. To achieve this, make practice tasks variable. And yet, keep the adaptations relevant.
Design the practice tasks so that adaptations to emerging situations will likely enhance the effectiveness of the team. This balancing of variability and relevancy is one of the difficult questions any coach will eventually face. [Moreno and Ordeno 2015]
Yes, this is a complementary pair: Variable ~ Relevant.
Due to the positivistic coaching paradigm (Chapter 3.1), basketball coaches have traditionally fallen on the too-little-variability side of the fence. Yet the too-much-variability side also exists. [Moreno and Ordeno 2015]
The easiest missteps to spot are the task constraints that require adaptations that are not within basketball rules. This principle may sound obvious but it is often violated.
For example, there may be a 1v1 rebounding drill where coach shoots the ball and whoever gets it, tries to score at the same basket. Here it is essential to
adapt quickly from not knowing if you’re playing defense or offense in that end of the floor to playing offense or defense.
Yet while rebounding in a game, players always know who’s on defense and who’s on offense at a certain end of the floor. So, to the primary adaptation required by the practice task is not within the basketball rules.
These are some other typical practice tasks of the same kind:
- A group or a player starts at mid-court and gets to choose which way they attack (to make the defense react quickly to the actions of the offense).
- In the scrimmage excessive fouling is allowed (supposedly to make them play aggressively).
- Players skip and hop with the ball in their hands before they take a shot (to work on plyometrics and to add variability to shooting practice).
So, always design practice task constraints so that the consequent adaptations are within the basketball rules. This way the adaptations the players make are directly applicable to game situations.
The practice task constraints may also be non-optimal in another, less obvious way. They lead to adaptations that are within the basketball rules, but that might yet be negative regarding the effectiveness of the team.
It’s hard to tell in advance which one will be the case. Sometimes it’s hard even in hindsight because we are dealing with complex systems. So, pay attention to what’s happening. Try different task constraints. Adjust them and vary them.
For example, you may shorten the shot clock to 12 seconds to put an emphasis on transition offense and defense. This may be a good choice for some teams.
With some more-skilled teams you may want to go down to 8 seconds to really make them quicken the pace. With some less-skilled teams, 8-second shot clock may be a wrong choice, leading to nothing but turnovers and three-point heaves.
For those less-skilled teams shortening the clock to 14 seconds may do the trick you hoped for. But with some some more-skilled teams, a 14-second clock does not cause any significant adaptations.
This is Chapter 6.8 Keep the Adaptations Relevant from my e-book Complex Basketball Coaching.