Building a Feeder – High School Basketball Program
1. It begins with the establishment of culture.
It’s critical to make your mark on a program as soon as possible after inheriting it. What would you want to be remembered for? Toughness, honesty, selflessness, and hard work are some of the culture’s fundamentals, in my opinion. These are the four characteristics I’ve seen in all of the top instructors I’ve met. When you first take over a program, you may have to eliminate some excellent players who don’t believe in those values. If you don’t prioritize culture above skill, your program will be poisoned from the top down. Younger players will notice and buy in if you pick hardworking, blue-collar individuals who buy in above the superstar. Your team will also win more games as a result of their cohesiveness and hard effort.
2. The basis is the youth program.
Any excellent coach would tell you that a strong program starts with the kids’ program. Great programs have substantial youth programs that focus on the essentials: basic skill development, a team-first mentality, hard effort, tenacity, defense, and the same offensive as the varsity squad. It might be difficult to convince young coaches to follow the same method as the varsity, to care less about winning and more about growth, and to teach more than just the game, but if you do, you’ll be in wonderful condition. Everyone understands that winning takes skill, and although some programs do draw excellent talent, it doesn’t hurt to cultivate as much as possible in your own backyard.
3. A focus on basics, particularly defense, passing/ball control, and shooting.
Coach Norman Dale of the Hoosiers famously said, “There’s more to the game than shooting.” While I agree with the statement, the most crucial skill in the game is shooting. It’s quite difficult to win if you can’t shoot. Every team from elementary through high school, if it were up to me, would shoot 20 minutes a day at practice and significantly during summer sessions. Along with that, every player should grow up knowing how to assist, aid the helper, recover, pressure the ball, defend off the ball, and so on while playing all man to man (as long as that is your defense). You will win games if you can recruit guys with defensive expertise to join your varsity team. The ability to pass, receive, and secure the basketball is also undervalued.
4. It all begins and finishes with summer progress.
Summer training must be a focus for all athletes from the moment they arrive. Here’s where you improve and win games. Fundamentally sound teams seldom lose games as a result of Xs and Os. However, you must make it competitive and enjoyable. I also believe that teams gain from playing together in the summer since they enter the year more cohesive and prepared. If you don’t have much skill, you’d better be able to play well with others.
5. Establish a custom and stress it.
When you take over a program, you must establish your tradition and continue the existing ones. Players need to be reminded of their origins and be familiar with former great players at their institution. Tradition fosters pride, which in turn fosters hard effort. You must make your athletes feel as though representing your institution is a privilege. They are only carrying a large flame, not the program.
6. Get your logo in front of as many people as possible.
One head coach did a fantastic job by giving every custodian in their program a shirt. Give out as much as you can, particularly to your younger players, parents, and members of the community. The more people that wear your apparel, whether in a little town or a major metropolis, the more your name is out there, which is a good thing.
7. Create a system that works for you and implement it at all levels, from elementary to varsity.
This is something I can’t emphasize enough. Every level below you must run the same thing, whether you are a 2-3 zone and flex team or a motion and man squad. You can’t put a price on having guys who understand what you’re trying to do. When you accomplish that, you save time in the classroom and have more time to do other things. It is not negotiable to run your system at all levels.
8. You must have the greatest coaching staff and know-how to employ them properly.
At every level, having the “best staff” does not imply having outstanding X and O players or game coaches. I’ve talked with several assistant coaches who weren’t great at Xs and Os or game planning but were critical to the program’s success. What is the secret to having a great team? Here are five things to consider:
- There is a complete buy-in.
- No matter how “excellent” they are, they must go if they do not buy-in. They HAVE TO DO WHAT YOU WANT THEM TO DO, IN THE WAY YOU WANT THEM TO DO IT.
- This isn’t to say that they’re all yes guys. Behind closed doors, the greatest staff fight, but once they’re in front of the kids, everyone is on the same page.
- Complete devotion.
- It doesn’t matter whether they buy in if they tell others that you’re doing it incorrectly. As an assistant coach, you cannot say, “If I were the head coach…”, to parents or players. This isn’t helpful!
- A strong work ethic.
- Guys must put in a lot of effort and be ready to scout, stay late, work over the summer, and so on.
- Complete dedication to the players – If they are more concerned with themselves than with their players, they must go.
- It’s all about progress.
- At the lesser levels, you’ll need people who are prepared to forego victories to prepare kids for varsity competition.
You must also make proper use of your coaches. Put every coach in a position to succeed by putting them in a position to succeed. Put some coaches up with you who are good with Xs and Os. Some coaches are fantastic at developing players, but not with your 9th and JV teams. At your younger levels, pair coaches that are a little bit different. Coaches must be placed in the appropriate positions to be effective in either case.
9. Patience with common sense is required.
A basketball program, like Rome, isn’t established in a day or a year. You will turn the turnaround if you establish the groundwork with a strong kids program, everyone doing the same thing, and having the proper culture. You can’t leave too soon unless something is in place that prevents you from doing one of those three things successfully. If you have those three, any program may be completed in a reasonable amount of time.
To sum up, none of this is revolutionary, yet it is all true. Outside of hard effort and no compromises, there is no magic recipe. Any team may be turned around if you follow the pattern above.