“You never graduate from a skill” – Notes from Coach Don Showalter Sydney Clinic

Posted on Feb 21 2019

Coach Don Showalter is one of the most respected youth development coaches in the international game, forging an imposing 62-0 record at the helm of the USA Under 17 Men and presenting clinics globally.

Currently in Australia for a series of clinics in Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane and Melbourne, Coach Showalter is sharing his vast knowledge of player development with more than 300 coaches during his visit. Here are some notes from his recent clinic at Newington College, Sydney.

Introduction –

  • First question for all coaches – “Why do you coach?”– important to have clarity on why you started coaching and why you continue to do so
  • In teaching the game, it is not what you teach, it is HOW you teach
  • Practice preparation crucial – the key difference between a “work-out” and “training” is the preparation and planning
  • A coach must bring two key things to each practice – Passion and Enthusiasm
  • As the leader, your team responds to you – players will want to set the pace of practice, it is the role of the coach to dictate the pace of practice
  • “Players don’t have bad practices, coaches have bad practices”
  • In each practice, there are eight fundamental areas that are a must –
    • Footwork
    • Ball handling
    • Passing & catching
    • Shooting
    • Rebounding
    • Screening
    • Whole offence
    • Whole defence
  • This is underpinned by ensuring three things are taught every day –
    • Footwork
    • Passing and catching
    • Shooting
  • At the youth level, teaching in the 3 v 3 setting important in developing young players – “If you don’t play 3 on 3 in each practice, you are cheating your players”
  • “You never graduate from a skill”
  • The 5 things an effective coach must possess/do –
    • Teach skill
    • Good communication skills
    • Be organised
    • Possess motivational skills
    • Ability to respond under pressure
  • “A quiet gym is a losing gym”– importance of communication
  • You have to show players how to be a good team-mate – high fives, verbal encourage, acknowledging the pass
  • Players don’t have bad practices, coaches have bad practices – be organised, plan and bring enthusiasm
  • Important for coaches to evolve continually – attend clinics, watch practices, read, study

Teaching skill –

  • “Footwork is the basis of all skill”
  • “If your feet improve, your skill will improve”
  • Important to say instructions one time – by repeating you are conditioning players to rely on things being explained multiple times
  • Use names as often as possible in practice – players like to hear their name, assists with engagement and learning
  • The 4 key aspects of player development –
    • It is long term – coaches need to understand this
    • Teach in progression – allows for success
    • Repetition – explain, repetition, correct, repeat
    • Make it fun

 Skill development drills –

  • Important to teach and work on the four pivots at all levels – right & left foot reverse, right and left foot forward
  • USA Under 17 National team warms-up with footwork and pivoting drills every practice to reinforce how important this area is

Dribble pivot pass –

  • 3 lines, ball in each line
  • Dribble out, execute a jump stop
  • Pivot and pass return to line
  • Build to “step out” to pass (pivot)
  • Add “step out, step through” to pass
  • Introduce second ball – bounce and chest or push passes
  • With 2ndball, same side pass and catch as a variation
  • Use whistle for “command” option – change pass on the whistle
  • Be creative, add variations

3 v 0 4-cone cutting series –

  • Cones at top of 3-point line and on each wing, one in charge halo
  • 3 players – pass, cut and fill action
  • Be an “active receiver” on the catch
  • Catch and square up on every catch, cut on every pass
  • Continuous drill, fill 3 of the 4 cones
  • Build to 3 v 3

4 v 0 cutting series –

  • As above, add a fourth player and have four cones on the perimeter
  • Same rules apply – square up on every catch, cut on every pass
  • Use the words “figure it out” often – players need to explore ways to balance and space the floor
  • Build to 4 v 4

4 v 4 “Cut throat” –

  • Great drill to build competition and focus on skill in a game-like setting
  • Continuous 4 v 4 in the half court
  • 3 key rules of the drill –
    • Square-up on every catch
    • Every time you pass you must cut or screen
    • On a score, point to and verbally acknowledge the passer
  • Emphasis on constant ball and player movement
  • Team coming into drill always comes in on defence
  • On a score, offence out, defence becomes offence, new team comes in on offence
  • Start with basic motion movement
  • Can be built to include team’s offensive concept
  • Has defensive positioning value as well
  • Add dribble limits or other restrictions

Acknowledgements –

Basketball Australia would like to thank and acknowledge the following individuals and organisations for their support of this clinic.

  • Coach Don Showalter
  • Basketball New South Wales
  • Brett Coxsedge
  • Shaun Roger
  • Newington College
  • Coach Rex Nottage

Extensive notes and video will be made available to accredited coaches in all states and territories in the coming weeks.





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