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bekays Fri Feb 17, 2006 03:12pm

Being a High school coach I love reading this forum. I have gain much technical knowledge about the rules that have allowed me to improve my focus on issues that need to be addressed to my players. In my years of coaching I have noticed that the value of fundamentals have greatly decreased at all levels. Many, not all, but many coaches spend very little time on footwork and things of that nature.

So this brought me to a conversation that I had with a long time CIF referee. I asked him which was more prevalent a coach complaining about a call that was made or a call that was missed, because I wanted to know what he saw. He told me it was about calls that weren't made. I asked well then do you thin kcoaches are asking you to call more fouls? He said maybe, but that would slow the game down greatly.

Now I would say 60 percent of those calls that Referee's supposidly miss aren't really calls at all, this person agreed with me. But he brought up a good point, that sometimes you let teams play a little more because making lots of calls slows the game down. And I understood that comment, but is it a good thing or a bad thing? I bounce back and forth on that issue.

Has fewer calls shifted focus from the value of fundamentals giving coaches less reason to work on them if they can get away with it? Do you think if more fouls were called in a game that coaches would have to adjust how they teach the game to focus on teaching the players the game the right way?

I went to an AAU practice the other day, 8th graders, these kids had terrible dribbling skills and footwork, and an 1.5 hour practice consisted of two trick out of bounds plays, and alley oop play, and back door plays, and a trapping defense, 3 on 2, 2 on 1 drills, then a scrimmage. It was dissappointing to say the least.

Don't think I'm trying to pass the buck onto referee's saying that the downward spiral of fundamentals of the game that our youth currently experience is their fault. I do ultimately think that it is the coaches responsibility to transmit the values of the game to the players in a way that honors it. But currently at areas like the AAU the emphasis is on the showcase of players, being flashy, and not necessarily teaching the game. Now with these AAU coaches moving into high school coaching positions they have continued to transmit this philosophy to their players and ignore fundamentals and seemingly can get away with it. The prodcut of glam and entertainment, not education of the game.

Do you think a coach would change his philosophy and what he taught in practice if his team turned the ball over say 22 times because of traveling calls on his players? I know I would re-evaluate things if that happened to my team. But do you think there are too many external pressure to allow for officials to make more calls?

Coaches are the most hypocritical around, because they would complain of lack of calls but if you called to many they'd blame officials for slowing down the game. Officials and coaches need a better avenue of communication, these two groups should spend more time working together and transmitting the important values of the game.

Such are the reasons why I enjoy reading this site, I get insight into making my team better within the rules, educate them in the game, and honor both the letter and intent of those rules.

Any thoughts?

deecee Fri Feb 17, 2006 03:32pm

bekays --

this last year i coached boys freshman -- wont ever do it again simply because i felt i put way more in than the players and the parents just need to understand that their kids need to fight some battles --

our fundamental skill were horrible -- most practices i had to work on drills like wings getting the ball and pivoting inside foot or reverse pivot and then taking one hard dribble and big step baseling or middle -- we worked a lot on footwork and a lot on boxing-out (not rebounding but boxing-out).

we spent a lot of time on defensive technique and aggressiveness -- albeit tho that that was my biggest gripe is that I wanted competitors and didnt care for the skill, instead i got kids who I felt for the most part were there just to be there and lacked real commitment.

One thing I have found that helps the most is having a player who is a leader on your team (i coached an 8th grade team 2 years ago and had 1 kid that was vocal and would get into players) -- this i would say helps a lot but the nature of many parents these days just seems to not be breeding many leaders.

Forksref Fri Feb 17, 2006 04:19pm


Good post. I agree. I started coaching in the 70's at the JH level and moved to the HS and even college level well into the 80's. Even with my HS varsity team, I'd spend 40-50% of practices on fundamental drills. It pays off. Now I see coaches pressing and running and throwing up 3-pointers and never working on real basketball. Funny that coaches will say, "We don't have a lot of talent so we are going to run." I just laugh because nothing shows a lack of fundamental passing, dribbling, etc. than a running game. I see kids out of position and reaching on presses because they have lousy footwork. I'd tell my players to play defense with your feet, not your hands. I see held balls called because kids haven't been taught to pivot (a lost art) to protect the ball. The game has deteriorated to 3-pt shots, dunks and presses. Kids can't drive to the hoop as well as they used to and if they do, they can't pull up for the J. I see lousy boxing out technique. I see kids running under the basket even on FT's instead of holding their position. Coaches don't even teach the inside player to step across the defender on FT's. They don't really teach basketball, they just roll the ball out and let 'em play. It's sad to see so many kids not being taught fundamentals.

I won't even talk about today's parents because that would require too much space here.

JRutledge Fri Feb 17, 2006 04:27pm

Coaches need to learn the rules period. Coaches think anytime there is some movement with the feet it is a travel when it clearly is not. When a coach talks about how many steps they never keep into account which foot is the pivot foot or what they can or cannot do. I agree that traveling is not consistently called across the board. But it is also the most misunderstood by coaches and players. Also you do not want to nit pick this rule when many times it is unclear if a travel took place. As officials our job is to call what is obvious, not to call what looks bad and the violation never took place.

It is not the officialÂ’s fault that players do not know the rules. Officials are often the only people in the gym that even know what the rules are. Forget get traveling rules. What about backcourt violations, verticality or legal guarding position?


PGCougar Fri Feb 17, 2006 04:43pm

Every year, we have two practices that I've asked officials who are good friends of mine reffing at the college level to attend. While the primary purpose is to have these officials explain the rules to the players AND parents (mandatory parent attendance at these two practices) in a Q&A format, the best part is when they let us run through and critique some of our drills.

This is a non-threatening environment where you can actually have an honest discussion on what the players are doing to cause the violation. Doing it in a drill and getting feedback is excellent! These open exchanges help greatly and I think the players have a greater respect for the officials as a result. Everyone, especially the parents, learn a lot.

In my case, since the two are husband and wife and they never officiate my AAU games, I'm able to get away with a $75 gift certificate at their favorite restaurant as payment for their time. They'd probably do it for free, but like I said, they're my friends and it's definitely money well spent.

TimTaylor Fri Feb 17, 2006 04:51pm


You make some good points. Just like you can't build a sturdy house without a solid foundation, you can't build a successful basketball program without good fundamental skills. In our era of "instant gratification" few kids (and their parents too) have the patience to put in the time and effort it takes to develop the skills it takes to become a good player.

Aside from the common misunderstandings of the rules, one fundamental concept of the game that officials rely on, and which is rarely understood except by officials is that of advantage/disadvantage. What many non-officials think are missed calls are, in reality, minor actions that created neither an advantage nor disadvantage for the players involved. This concept is key to keeping the flow of a game going within the guidelines of the rules, while preventing either team from gaining an advantage by violating them. It's also one of the most difficult things an official has to learn how to do consistently and effectively.

bebanovich Fri Feb 17, 2006 05:49pm

As long as we are attributing blame, I want to throw in the NBA (I won't bother with And-One because that's like pro wrestling). IMO the NBA has set a horrible precedent in regard to calls on illegal dribble, travel and, shall we say, differential fouls based on reputation and popularity. It seems that recently offensive fouls have been all-the-rage (is this because there is too much to look at/think about with the circle rule?).

I took an 8-year break from coaching high school and came back with the idea that I would go back to teaching fundamentals with a heavy emphasis on the science of man-to-man defense as it was taught to me by my mentor who played for Bud Pressley. But teaching and coaching are, at best, 1/2 science and the rest art and I got a rude awakening year one.

When you start with bad fundamentals and try to teach basic skills you tend to get your butt kicked early and often. My kids didn't trust me, were losing games and my prospects for building a program were lousy. That's when I decided to start serving dessert first and vegetables later.

We do press and run but that doesn't give me any fewer fundamentals of the game to teach than pre-shot-clock when we ran minutes off the clock, set teeth-rattling screens, and shot only lay-ups and wide open jumpers - just a different emphasis on fundamentals. Pressing does, in some cases, give me a buffer to allow me to gain the kids respect and interest before I start cranking up the intensity and demanding more careful learning and playing but it is not a replacement for fundamental basketball (to my mind) just a different way to play it.

kiwiref Fri Feb 17, 2006 08:25pm

Re: Bad fundamentals...
What transpires in the whole situation is a drive to make basketball more popular, more interesting, more entertaining.
If you asked your parents or people from that generation about who is a good singer today, most would say that there are very few around. That's because singing evolved, and become more than just what you can do with your voice box.
Basketball is going down the same track, with less attention being paid to "pure" skills, and more emphasis on what "looks" attractive.
As referees, our drive towards a faster game is all about making the game more exciting to those watching.
I am affraid that the whole issue is not about who is at fault, but how do we cope with the demands of the new game? How do we find balance between skilled play and showmanship?

rainmaker Sun Feb 19, 2006 12:10am


Originally posted by bekays

I went to an AAU practice the other day, 8th graders, these kids had terrible dribbling skills and footwork, and an 1.5 hour practice consisted of two trick out of bounds plays, and alley oop play, and back door plays, and a trapping defense, 3 on 2, 2 on 1 drills, then a scrimmage. It was dissappointing to say the least.

The answer to your post is in the paragraph quoted above. That's 8th grade. The question is, where will these kids be in six years? Playing D1 ball? Not if they don't have the fundamentals. This coach isn't doing them any favors if he's spending the whole practice working on the tricks, and skipping the footwork, the passing and catching, and dribbling. Refs that skip calling the fundamentals in order to "let 'em play" do a disservice to the game, and to those players who are so busy hot-dogging that they have no clue why they get called for basic travels, fouls, and illegal screens.

If you're an 8th grade coach, you have to accept that your kids are still working on the foundation, and that they aren't going to win a lot of games. But if they are learning how to dribble, to shoot, to screen, to use a screen, to block, and also how to learn, your kids will be the winners in the long run.

bebanovich Sun Feb 19, 2006 01:12am


Originally posted by rainmaker

If you're an 8th grade coach, you have to accept that your kids are still working on the foundation, and that they aren't going to win a lot of games. But if they are learning how to dribble, to shoot, to screen, to use a screen, to block, and also how to learn, your kids will be the winners in the long run.

I agree with your premise and think this might be the first layer of the problem. However, it's not so much just the coaches accepting it. Will the kids and parents be patient and supportive as well?

About 10 years ago I used a "my way or the highway approach" from day one (without being a huge jerk about it) and there was little or no attrition. Now, as a high school coach, I feel like I have to do a lot more sales work, amateur psychology and let the kids gain a little firsthand experience before I can really demand they become players, or they will just quit. Early in the season, it is enough that my players get to the right spot on offense and defense, and later I demand that it all get done right and with intensity. Once I get a program built, I hope I can essentially reverse this.

This is not coming from someone who doesn't believe in teaching fundamentals, doesn't know how, or thinks you can win consistently without them - I just know when I'm spending my time pounding sand down a rat hole. I think it's similar with 8th grade ball - if they are bored and losing they hit the road.

[Edited by bebanovich on Feb 19th, 2006 at 01:17 AM]

dave30 Sun Feb 19, 2006 02:26am

I for one do not want to see basketball played at a snail's pace. That is what would happen if you call every touch foul, every foul that has no affect on the play, every little travel even if it is a baby step 75 feet from the basket. Whistle, take the ball out of bounds, whistle, take the ball out of bounds...that's not basketball to me. Let them play, call what needs to be called to keep it fair and if possible injury-free.

26 Year Gap Sun Feb 19, 2006 09:01am

Wow. A great thread. Boxing out is a lost art. How many times do you see the inside players on a FT just step INTO the lane? [Any guesses without a 9 in front are DQd]. We had a drill when I was playing where a shot was called by the defender of the shooter and that was a signal for everyone to box out their man. The coach wanted the ball to hit the floor which meant the defenders boxed out properly. Now it seems that players look for the ball first and then their man. At that point, it is too late to box out.

The NBA and even major colleges have glorified the fancy moves. So kids will try to thread the needle going through the lane and be off balance and expect any contact that occurs to be a foul. Most of the regs here will tell you that bailing someone out in such circumstances is not likely to occur.

Other fundamental skills that are lacking are defense--if you watch the guy's stomach then you will know where he is going and are less likely to be faked out; the hook shot--which when properly executed is difficult to block and can result in a trip to the line when the defender does attempt to block it; the give-and-go and its modern day distant cousin drive-and-dish [see threeading the needle above for how NOT to execute it]; and even the pick-and-roll.

I think the obvious lack of some of these skills made watching Princeton in the NCAA tournament so much fun.

mplagrow Sun Feb 19, 2006 11:26am

Win, win, win
Kids are not learning the fundamentals at the grade school level because the focus has been shifted from LEARNING the game to WINNING the game. Coaches think they can best win by teaching their kids all the defenses, offenses, inbound plays, etc. Every grade school coach should be required to watch the movie HOOSIERS three times before their first practice. Drilling fundamentals will not win you a lot of games early on because it requires HARD WORK and PRACTICE, which are topics quickly becoming more foreign to the XBox generation. Kids are not at home playing pick-up games in driveways and alleys like they used to.

Example: I coached girls' volleyball two years ago. The first game we played, our opponent just hit the ball over the net on the first hit. I told my girls we were going to play for three hits every single time. I taped the game (which we lost). Then I had the girls watch the game and count how many times we had three hits and how many times their opponent did. It was something like 26-1. At the end of the season, we faced the same team in the tournament. We killed them, because they were still just passing the ball over the net. We were killing it.


Mark Padgett Sun Feb 19, 2006 12:43pm


Originally posted by bekays

Now I would say 60 percent of those calls that Referee's supposidly miss aren't really calls at all

Try 99.9%. You'd be more accurate.

BTW - I usually catch 100% of the spelling and punctuation errors that coaches supposedly miss.

bebanovich Sun Feb 19, 2006 02:44pm


Originally posted by 26 Year Gap
I think the obvious lack of some of these skills made watching Princeton in the NCAA tournament so much fun.
Unfortunately, watching Princeton in the tourney had some people saying, "we have to shorten the shot clock, these guys have no business beating UCLA or Georgetown."

Now here we all sit (me included, this is not a shot) bemoaning the evolution/devolution of the game.

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