The Australian Chemist Warehouse Opals recently completed a training camp at the Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence in Canberra which included 3 international friendlies against China and a series of training sessions.
The camp was part of preparations for the 2019 FIBA Asia Cup to be held in India later this month, with the team departing from the camp direct to Bangalore for final preparations and the tournament.
As part of the camp, Opals head coach Sandy Brondello kindly allowed some BACT network coaches to attend a session and opened most sessions for coaches to observe and learn a little about what has made the Opals one of the elite teams in the international game over four decade.
Here are some observations from the camp –
Practice structure –
With such limited time in the national team setting, efficient use of time is crucial to ensure all boxes are ticked prior to major events. The practice planning is detailed and all coaches have input into the structure, drills, breakdowns and there is some clarity about the roles of the coaches in each session.
Each session starts with a trainer-led warm-up, quickly followed by “team shooting”, with a series of shooting drills linked to the offensive system of the Opals. All these drills have game-like movement, involve two or three basketballs and there is string involvement from the coaches as passers or rebounders.
The big takeaway from the team shooting packages is how quickly the coaches move through each “action”. In a 10-minute training block, the coaches will cover shots out of four to five actions, with shots for cutter and the screener.
Some key observations around practice and practice structure –
- all coaches are very active – passing in drills, “corralling” the court, providing individual feedback while players are in line or waiting to enter the drill
- training blocks are predominantly 8-10 minutes, any longer blocks consist of three or four different concepts
- scrimmage teams or small groups for drills are defined prior to practice and on the practice plan for coaches, on the whiteboard for athletes
- everything is linked to the whole – shooting drills, breakdowns, defensive drills
- there is an expectation of “international learning” by the players – teaching is succinct, athletes ask questions, coach each other and communicate throughout
Observations from the three-game series against China –
The Opals played three international friendlies against China, two being in a more “closed scrimmage” environment, the final game being played in front of more than 3000 fans at The AIS Arena at the conclusion of camp.
The games provided valuable international competition prior to the FIBA Asia Cup and allowed Coach Brondello to work on both the structure and system, as well as the combinations and chemistry.
Some observations from the games –
- the international game is physical and elite players need to possess the ability to play through physicality
- defensive systems, structure and strategy is key and elite players understand scout defence and rules
- switching is a key strategy in the international women’s game, in particular with screens away from the ball
- the ability to close out and contain is heightened at this level given the shot making ability of the players
- focus is on containment to stay out of rotations defensively as long as possible – Opals elite at not helping off ball-side shooters on the perimeter
- on-ball screening remains a key action for teams at the offensive ends – more seam and middle pick and roll than side ball screens
- re-screening in the “middle third” of the floor prevalent
- use of “gets” (high post/perimeter stationary hand-offs) to create action
- post play still a significant factor
- elite guards have a pull-up/mid-range game
- increase prevalence of the flare screen, particularly as an option at the end of the possession
Thanks to Australian Opals coaches, players and staff for allowing access to the camp and for sharing some key insights into the international game.