It is well-known and commonly used as motivation that it only takes a one degree change to turn water into ice and similarly water into steam. This same concept should be considered in coaching, especially this time of year. Whether your team is having a record season or under-performing, a coach must continue to look for meaningful adjustments to elevate the play of their team. Here are two examples:
Free-Throw shooting is one of the most talked about components during and after close games. If you haven’t coached or played in a game yet that was determined by free-throws, you will. If you recall, the 2008 Men’s National Championship game between Kansas and Memphis came down to free-throws; ultimately Kansas one. While most players think practicing free-throws is mundane, it is essential that you work on them daily in game-like situations with pressure on the line. I particularly like having my players make 7 out of 10 following an intense segment of practice, without missing 2 in a row (Missing 2 in a row=start over). This puts internal pressure on the player to focus on the importance of each shot.
With all of this being said, very few players have perfect shooting form. Watch your players shoot and look for one or two tiny tweaks that they can implement immediately; do not try to overhaul their form in the middle of the season. For example, if a player has poor lift on their free-throws, watch their wrist. Many players do not get their wrist cocked and locked early enough and thus result in rolling the ball back and minimizing their lift. I have found that correcting the wrist action is a much quicker and easier way to increase a players percentage.
If you (or the player) aren’t comfortable making a tiny tweak to the shot, change the routine. A lot of players walk up to the line and wait…and wait…and wait…until the referee hands them the ball; this adds pressure. Recommend the player stay behind the 3-point arc as comfortable as possible before approaching their shot. Improving every player’s percentage just by a few points will make a difference in your season.
Now is not the time tos crap everything you have taught for the entire season reinvent the wheel. Instead, look for tiny tweaks that your players can actually improve upon for big results. If you’re a Read & React team, focus on one layer in particular and perfect it. It could be something as small as your spacing and you need to get your players 10-12 more inches off the read-line. Whatever it is, you will see an immediate impact.
Similarly with your Special Teams (out-of-bounds plays). As the season goes on, typically young players stop executing as crisply because they ignore the details. Focus on setting perfect screens. This may only lead to as little as 4 extra points, but that could be the difference in the game.
Here are a few lifestyle tweaks you can also consider making:
- Go to bed 30 minutes earlier
- Remove sugar from your diet (especially drinks)
- Bring more energy on a daily basis
- Say 1 positive thing to every player/coach the first time you see them
Remember, as your team progress through the season and hopefully into the Playoffs, making Tiny Tweaks can go a long way towards winning a championship.