The Real Suicides

How many times have you either as a coach made your players run suicides or as a player had to run suicides? Probably too many times to count. Suicides are an effective way of getting in getting in shape and in this video I have taken suicides to the next level. Take a look a see how intense this set of suicides is.

Finishing: 2 New Videos

Here are two new videos for you on finishing drills, one on the court and one in the gym.  Finishing is such an important part of life because it gives you the confirmation that you accomplished what you set out to do.  It is also an extremely important part of the game of basketball where finishing around the rim determines whether or not you score and finishing the game can ultimately play a role in whether you win or lose.  

Finishing around the rim is a skill that needs to be developed and practiced because at higher levels of play, finishing gets more and more difficult.  The two basketball drills performed in the first video will help you improve your finishing skills around the rim.  These are just examples and can be expanded on by adding different finishing variations or moves.  It is important to try to finish in as many different ways that you can think of (high, finger roll, floaters, etc.) because the perfect situation very rarely exists in a game and you must be prepared to make different types of shots if you have to.

The second video is another great example of a finishing circuit that you can use at the end of your workout.  Finishing circuits are a great way to add some conditioning to your workout while combining strength and power.  By adding these types of circuits to your workouts on a frequent basis, you will see your level of physical preparedness skyrocket.  This will allow you to outlast your opponents and finish the game strong.

Olympic Weightlifting for Basketball

As a USAW certified Sports Performance Coach, my background is in Olympic weightlifting as it pertains to sports.  For most people, Olympic weightlifting is seen every four years while watching muscle-bound Olympic athletes wearing something that resembles a wrestling singlet moving huge amounts of weight over their head while grunting and screaming to the applause from the crowd.  As a basketball coach or player, you might not think that this applies to you, but hear me out.  While studying to get my certification in the Olympic lifts, my instructor showed me a picture of an Olympic lifter jumping over a bar that was 50 inches or more off the ground.  That is a pretty impressive feat for any athlete, let alone a guy that was less than 6 feet tall and built like a brick house.  Coaching basketball for over nine years and playing the sport for even longer, I can attest to the fact that the one thing any and all basketball players really want to do is jump high enough to dunk a basketball.  Think about it, how many basketball players spend their free time during practice trying to jump up and grab the rim?  Pretty much all of them, but how many can really jump high enough to consistently throw the ball down?  Not too many.  Obviously, basketball is more than just dunking the ball, but being able to jump high and run fast will give any basketball player an extreme advantage.  Olympic style weightlifting can not only get them the explosive power that is necessary for basketball, but it will also provide them with the strength and conditioning that is unrivaled by traditional bodybuilding methods. 

There are many advantages to having your athletes perform the Olympic lifts like the snatch and the clean and jerk.  Traditional body building lifts like the bicep curl are great for the beach muscles, but they do not have the added benefits that Olympic weightlifting does.  It is important for an athlete to try to use as many muscles as possible when they train.  Bicep curls are specific to one body part.  The Olympic lifts call for an athlete to recruit numerous amounts of muscle fibers in their entire body to move the weight from the floor to an overhead position.  The nature of this movement is highly intense and a must for any athlete.  Furthermore to accomplish this, it is imperative that the athlete lift the weight as quickly as possible throughout the entire movement. 

The speed at which the Olympic lifts are performed has its own benefits.  First, it increases the player’s metabolic drive which will aid in building a leaner, more efficient athlete, a necessity for a basketball player.  The type of speed that the Olympic lifts demand will also make the athlete more explosive while reproducing the jumping motion that all basketball players need on the court.  Olympic lifts, when done correctly, require an athlete to attain triple extension, the ankle, knee, and hip all extending at the same time.  Triple extension also takes place while jumping.  If an athlete is trying to jump high, then he must be at his top speed as his ankles, knees, and hips simultaneously extend.  Olympic lifts directly mirror this action because of the speed that is necessary to pull a weighted bar through the triple extension portion of the lift.   

Other than the explosive nature of the Olympic lifts, there are many other advantages.  The proper technique that is needed to perform these lifts forces the athlete to use his muscles in the correct sequence, from his core to his extremities.  Everyone is talking these days about how important it is to train the core.  For the most part, this translates into, “Do more crunches or balance yourself on a big rubber ball”.  Forget the crunches, and use the rubber ball to play kick ball because the Olympic lifts help to stabilize your core muscles better than any crunch or balancing act can ever do.  Another benefit to the Olympic lifts for athletes is the fact that they decrease the risk of injury by increasing the body’s agility and ability to accept the force of the external object, in this case, the weighted bar.  As a result, the Olympic lifts increase flexibility in the hips, ankles, and wrists and promote shoulder stability.    Finally, whereas traditional weight lifting programs focus of specific body parts, your whole body gets a workout when performing these lifts.  This increases an athlete’s conditioning and decreases their time in the gym.  Training economically is vitally important to today’s athlete who usually plays more than one sport and has very little time to strength train.  The Olympic lifts provide the best results in the least amount of time.  Not to mention the increased strength and size that the athlete will develop while moving the weights through the full range of motion that the clean and jerks and snatches demand. 

It should be noted that I am in no way advocating an Olympic lifting program for basketball players or any other athlete.  What I am suggesting is that basketball players and other athletes incorporate the Olympic lifts into their current weight training regimen, preferably as the fundamental exercise on each given training day.  It should also be noted that the Olympic lifts do require a large degree of technique in order to avoid injury and perform them successfully.  However, this should in no way deter any coach or athlete from doing them.  There are plenty of videos, clinics, and coaches out there that can instruct on how to perform the Olympic lifts properly.  So, if you are looking to take your strength training to the next level and you want to have the athletic advantage of jumping higher and running faster, start to incorporate the Olympic lifts into your strength training program.  Not only will you see the benefits mentioned above, but they are actually more fun than looking at yourself in the mirror while doing 100 biceps curls every time you hit the gym. 

Not Just Your Average Cardio

Going to the gym to do cardio is like going on a date with the girl that your mom set you up with.  You know you probably should go, but you will do anything to skip it.  Lets face it, machines like the treadmill, the stair master, and the ellyptical machine are monotonous, boring, and have turned society into a bunch of gerbils running around on their wheels.  However, cardio has to be done, right?  How else will you keep your heart healthy and stay in shape for your sport?  The answer is simple, complex training.

Complex training is a series of two or more exercises that are performed in succession to a specific number of repetitions with limited rest between sets.  You would complete one exercise for a certain amount of reps and then move right to the next exercise until you hve completed all of your designated exercises.  You can then take a brief rest period and repeat the same circuit for the same amount of repetitions or change the repetitions to suit your needs.  Complexes can be done with any implement (barbells, dumbells, sandbags, kettlebells, bodyweight, etc.), for any body part, or for the entire body at once.   Try to use one implement while completing the complex and do not put the weight down  at any point until the entire set has been completed.  This will be very taxing on your grip, and grip strength is vital for many sports.   

Complex training is also economical as far as time goes.  By continuously moving through the exercises, your time at the gym will be cut significantly.  But will the results suffer due to the reduced gym time?  NO WAY, this is not just your average cardio.  The results are better because the strength training element of the complex when combined with the conditioning aspect doubles your output.  So stop avoiding the gym on those cardio days and get creative with complex training.   

This video shows a kettlebell complex that includes kettlebell cleans and presses, kettlebell pushups, and kettlebell rows. The repetitions are done in a ladder format from 1-3 (the video will stop after 2). The kettlebell cleans are great for explosive power while the pushups and rows add an element of strength.

For more information on complex training or kettlebell training, contact me through my “Training” page.

Man To Man Defense: Even if you Play Zone

Man To Man Defense

Man To Man Defense – A Must

When I coached high school basketball in Metuchen we spent a ton of time reaching out to the youth basketball community in the area in order to help the players develop the fundamental skills they needed to grow into solid basketball players.  This not only helped the players improve but also fostered a sense of belonging for the young basketball players, a feeling that they were part of a bigger picture that included the community and its basketball program.  One of the fundamental concepts that I strove to incorporate at all levels of basketball from the youth up was man to man defense.   No matter what type of defense you play, having the ability to play man to man and actually understand its concepts will make your defense much better as a whole.  With that in mind, I remember vividly two conversations that I had during the time that really baffled me.  

Man To Man Defense Conversation #1

The first was with the head of a local youth basketball league that I approached about the possibility of me doing Coaches’ Clinic for the recreational coaches in the league.  My goal was to teach the coaches something new about basketball but also to get them to teach their players many of the same fundamental offensive and defensive principles that I use at the high school.  This way, when the younger players reached the high school level, they would have a solid base to build upon.  When I told him this, he prompted me to be more specific.  As I mentioned earlier, I really wanted to focus on man defensive principles since that seems to be one of the most glaring weaknesses in all of the players when they start high school basketball.  So I told him that, and his response was both shocking and frustrating.  He told me that would not be a good idea because they do not allow any team to play man defense in their league, only zone.  I asked him how it was possible to play zone defense if his players did not know how to play man defense. He did not seem to understand my question, so  I explained to him that any zone defense (if you want it to be an effective zone) needed to apply man defensive principles because you had to guard the man in your area whether he had the ball or not.  Furthermore, the off the ball principles for a zone required the help and recovery principles that a good man to man defense employed.  Even as I explained these concepts to him, it still did not register, so I ended the conversation before my frustration elevated.

Man To Man Conversation #2

Fast forward, to another conversation I had, this time with an eighth grade basketball player whom I was explaining that it takes the majority of the basketball players that come into the high school 2 1/2 to 3 seasons before they truly understand the man defensive concepts that we are trying to teach.  This player, believing that he was a great defensive player, took my statement as an insult and tried to tell me that there was no way that was possible.  The team he plays for plays a lot of zone and I told him that as a result he and his teammates knew very little about man defense.  His response was, “What’s so difficult about man defense? All you have to do is guard your man.”  At this point, I rested my case.  Man to Man defense is so much more than just guarding your man but this notion is lost on many players who grow up playing nothing but zone defense where they are taught to guard the man in their area.  Ultimately, this begs the question, is zone defense killing our youth’s ability to learn how to play man defense?  The answer…a resounding yes.

Youth Basketball Coaches and Man to Man Defense

It would appear to me that very few coaches are doing their part in teaching sound man defensive concepts.  Man defense is not simply guarding your man.  Man defense requires each one of the five players to guard the ball and their man.  This includes playing defense one, two, or three men off the ball.  These concepts are lost on much of today’s youth basketball players and the coaches that coach them.  Zone defense at the youth level is an easy way to get the players to play defense, but easy can also be translated into lazy. Players are encouraged to guard their “zone” or their “area on the court”.  Very little is said about getting up and guarding the ball when it is in your area or providing help when the ball is not in your area.  This can also be seen at the high school level where when teams play zone, guys no longer guard the ball nor sprint to spots off the ball, thereby allowing the zone to get carved up like a Thanksgiving turkey. 

Understanding Man / Help Defense Responsibilities

Good man to man defense, if done correctly should resemble a zone.  There should be plenty of pressure on the ball and if you are off the ball, it should be stressed that you “sprint to your spots.”  What exactly does that mean?  It means that good defensive players on and off the ball react on the pivot and not the pass and then sprint to where they need to be.  I always told my guys to imagine that they have a string tied to the man with the ball  and the man that they are guarding and that they must be in line with that string at all times.  They should also rotate over into a position on the court where they can provide early help on the ball if the defensive man guarding him gets beat off the dribble.  My guys are coached to meet the dribble penetration, not wait for it to come to them.  If done properly, this will allow your team to keep the ball out of the lane and also draw some charges if the ball handler does not stop his penetration.  Early help also allows for early recovery, meaning that if they meet penetration early enough the original ball defender can recover to his man quicker and the help defender can close out to his new spot earlier as well.  On the ball reversal, all players must, once again, sprint to their new spots on their string closing out with active hands and active feet.  This cohesiveness amongst all defending players will prevent dribble penetration, contest shots, and deflect possible passes potentially leading to steals.

Man To Man Defense Principles For Zone Applications

These  are sound man to man principles that should also be applied to zone defense.  Coaches playing zone defense, no matter which one it is, need to teach these man to man principles to their players prior to even considering playing zone.  Do so will create a far more effective and efficient zone defense that applies pressure to the man being guarded and early help early recovery principles off the ball.  Think about some of the great zone defenses that have been played over the years:  Temple’s zone under Chaney, Syracuse’s zone under Boeheim, and finally, the amoeba zone that Tarkanian used to run at UNLV.  All of those zones are active, aggressive, and based on good man to man principles. 

Man To Man Defense Long Term Impact

So why is it that players today have a hard time understanding man to man defense? Simply stated, they are not being taught correctly at the lower levels because they are constantly playing a zone without a true understanding of it.  As a result, today’s younger players actually believe that playing man to man defense means guarding your man.  In fact, it does not; it means guarding the ball and your man.  This idea alone is very zone oriented because it requires you to be more zone-like when your man does not have the ball, meaning that they must be in early help position.  Teaching this concept is almost impossible by simply playing zone defense at the youth level which is often taught as “guard the man in your area.”  Younger players must be taught to get into a position defensively guard the ball, provide early help, and recover quickly to their own ma.  With this in mind, guarding your man is not the difficult aspect of man to man defense to understand.  It is all of the “off the ball” aspects that most players have trouble with; the idea of where they should be when their  man does not have the ball.  This is the very nature of a proper zone defense and these “off the ball” concepts, along with defending the ball itself, desperately need to be taught better at the youth levels.  When that happens, everyone will see better defense as a whole, man to man or zone.

Embrace Man to Man Defense To Invest In Youth Basketball!