Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Handling Blowouts

I found an article yesterday about the Houston Yates HS game against Houston Chavez HS. For those of you outside the state of Texas, Yates now holds the record for most consecutive games scoring 100+ points. I've posted about Yates before along with an article from Rick Reilly at ESPN. I know as a college coach, this is a risky move and I may not ever get a player from Yates, but I am also a believer in humility, basketball karma, and no one deserves to be absolutely humiliated by a score of 170-35 (actual Yates game final score from last season). One of my mentors that recently passed away this summer, Les Eathorne, was adamant about NOT scoring 100 points on an opponent unless it was absolutely necessary; if the other team had 99 and they had to score 100 to win was the only acceptable time. Coach Eathorne felt that triple figures on the scoreboard was too demeaning and unnecessary. I digress.

With the game already decisively over, Chavez HS alters their game plan. Their coach decides to give the team a new goal: they are going to keep Yates from scoring 100 points. So instead of attacking on offense, Chavez pulls the ball out and runs a delay game (my guess is a version of the old Dean Smith designed North Carolina 4-Corners). A brilliant move. There is nothing to be gained at that point by attacking. Why not work on something else? Why not give the team something to be successful at that night? Why not give them something to be proud of when the final buzzer sounds? Chavez could walk off the floor with their heads held high because they accomplished something successfully together as a team.

In their book Basketball Coach's Survival Guide, William Warren and Larry Chapman share this story in regards to handling a blowout:

Even in the worst of blowouts, all is not lost if you can keep your head and focus on positive steps that can improve individual and team play. A coach told us he believes that, because they're so much like nightmares, blowouts aren't real. And because they aren't real, such games should be treated as open scrimmages with fans watching.
"Look at the scoreboard," we overheard the coach telling his players during a timeout. The players did so, gloomily and with great reluctance. It wasn't a pretty sight. "Take a good look at it, because it's the last time you'll look at the clock tonight - if you want any more playing time this season, that is." (We suspected he was exaggerating a bit here - but if we had been playing for him, we would not have made that assumption.)
"Now we're going to forget the score," the coach went on. "The score no longer exists, because this game doesn't exist. Neither do the fans, the other team, or anyone else except you, me, and [the assistant coach]. We're going to practice the same things we work on every day."
Then the coach applied his carefully prearranged zinger, a gimmick he borrowed from Ohio State's fabled football coach Woody Hayes. He calmly took off his wristwatch, held it up for the players to see, and then dropped it on the floor and stepped on it.
"See?" he said, smiling as the players gaped in amazement at the shattered watch, "we don't need a clock. All we need to do is forget everything else and concentrate on running our patterns with precision, the way we do at practice."

In essence, Chavez did the same thing. Their focus was no longer on getting their butts whipped, it was now on perfecting their delay game. The focus was to work together on maintaining possession of the basketball.

The absolutely most disturbing part of the article (found HERE), are the comments at the bottom. Read them. Most are truly unbelievable (probably from soft armchair/Monday-morning quarterback geeks who don't have a stinking clue about athletics and enjoy the anonymity of the Internet). BUT coaches, these could be our future players and their parents making these crazy comments. Shoot, these could be some of your players or their parents already. Is sportsmanship dead? Has it really come to beating someone down to the point of humiliation?

I like to win! No question about that. I like to win convincingly. BUT, I also understand being on the other bench. I will use the bench. I will call the dogs off. I will work on other things once the game is out of reach and victory is assured.

On the other hand, we've been blown out a couple of times this year already. In those cases, I don't worry about what the other team is doing. I concentrate on what MY guys are doing. Like Chavez HS and the story above, it is important to refocus on a positive and be able to find even some small success.

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