Raising Basketball IQ – Breaking Habits Part 2

Raising Basketball IQ – Breaking Habits Part 2

Breaking Habits: when you have a player who will continually do the same thing under similar circumstances you have a player who has a habit. It does not really matter if what they are doing is wrong or mostly right or successful some of the time. If they are “just doing an action” then it is a habit. Most habits can be small things like traveling or having extra movement in their shooting form that interferes with the ball actually going in the basket.

What I am going to say next, and you will have to decide whether you agree with it or disagree with it as it is a big statement and a large part of my coaching philosophy. It affects every decision I make when I’m training athletes and developing players.

And that is that the player when acting purposefully will always out perform any automatic reaction they have had “built into them”. Training a player to play “automatically” or by “habit” drowns out their natural ability and dilutes their skills.

Even a good habit, if only eventually, will inhibit the player from performing at their highest level.

As a coach I consider it my job to bring out the ability of the player to their highest performance. Not drive in habits like a trained circus bear.

Once a player has formed a habit it can be quite maddening for a coach. Because despite all the assurances the player gives you that they will change it they go right on doing the same thing, especially in stressful game situations when you want them to be on the top of THEIR game the most. This is where habits really show up.

So how do you break a habit? I found the answer to this question from the American Philosopher L. Ron Hubbard.

“There are three rules on the resolution of automaticity (habit). You just make the “player” do it all by (them) self, and if you just make him do it instead of having it done for him – and he’ll recover from that automaticity (habit).

“Now that’s the basic law: You make him do it (the habit) and he owns it. Now, if you can’t make him do it right away, you can make him change it or you can make him alter it, some slight fashion.” 

So what you do is you drill the player to purposefully do the habit that they keep repeating until they can confidently do it. Pretty simple right?

The player will most likely have some hesitation or resistance to mimicking the action they have been berated for performing. But let’s say the habit is picking up their pivot foot prior to dribbling. So you will ask them to do it the same way that is their habit. Have them purposefully travel by picking up their pivot foot prior to dribbling.

Drill them over and over again until they are certain they can do it easily and freely. Since you are the coach you should be able to see that they can do it easily and freely and that they do it purposefully. Then make it more difficult and put them in a game like situation and have them travel in the exact same manner that they travel in a real game until they are sure they are doing it. It will be pretty clumsy at first and then as the player starts to take control over the habit it will smooth out. When the player can control the action it is no longer a habit.

Of course after they break their habit you now need to drill them on the proper way to do an action or move. But the habit will no longer interfere with your drilling them correctly and they will be able to learn the move quickly.

This may need to be repeated a few times if the habit reappears but this has been very successful for me. One precaution is this is not a punishment, it is a drill like any other drill. Do not treat or let the player treat it like a penalty.

Read more about player habits if you missed Part 1 of my series on Raising the Basketball IQ of a Player.


Coaching Nuggets with Coach Kelly Wells

Coaching nuggets. We are all trying to find the newest answers to our coaching problems; Coach Wells shares the right answers for us. Coach Kelly Wells of the University of Pikeville shares some of his championship basketball coaching philosophies and nuggets of wisdom. Follow Coach Wells @coachkellywells on Twitter.

coaching nuggets with coach kelly wells

Championship Coaching Nuggets


StrengthFinder 2.0, by Tom Rath

UBUNTU, by Stephen Lundin (Tribal tradition of TEAMWORK AND COLLABORATION. Philosophy of: I am because we all are! The success of the group MUST outweigh the success of the individual.)

The Little Red Book of Wisdom, by Mark DeMoss

Success is a Choice, by Rick Pitino


  • Hire GREAT coaches (only as good as the people around you)
  • Put your family ahead of basketball
  • Lifelong Learner (Coaches have to be Coachable)
  • Work Ethic, (Required Work vs. Unrequired Work) (Greatest Asset)
  • Power in Belief (In yourself, your players, your situation)
  • Dream bigger than MOST think is possible / Guarantee Little, Deliver Much
  • Relationships Matter: Care about your coaches/players and their lives
  • Shared Commitment: Players love when you sweat with them, more about what you bring than what you know.
  • Self Evaluation: Would you want to play for yourself (why/why not)
  • Take players where they won’t take themselves, best version of each player
  • Have a Philosophy and Beliefs that fit your situation (Be Flexible)
  • Organized
  • Handle Media, Parents and Community Relations (Own PR Department – staff, players, parents, fans, admin, etc.)
  • Communication (truth, upfront, often)


  • Must Defend
  • Eliminate Transition Baskets
  • Take away offensive rebounding
  • Play through runs (Resolve)
  • Eliminate turnovers and Vomit Offense


“Complexity is the enemy of execution” –Brendon Suhr, LSU

“Young men need more models, not critics” -John Wooden, UCLA

“Transactional Coach or Transformational Coach” -Jon Gordon

[bctt tweet=”“We can’t have a championship program without championship actions” -Bob Starkey, Texas A&M WBB” via=”no”]

“A coach will have more impact on lives in a year than most in a lifetime” -Billy Graham

“The greatest sin a coach can commit is to allow kids to slide by. In classroom as well as the court” -Hubie Brown

“Interest VS. Commitment” Interest = Doing it when convenient / Commitment = All the time -Shaka Smart

“No one is bigger than the team. If you can’t do things our way, you’re not getting time here and we don’t care who you are” -Gregg Popovich

“Empower the people around you, from the janitor to the AD. You do that by being sincere, caring about others, and then putting it into practice” -Sue Gunter. LSU WBB

“What we do as basketball players/coaches is abnormal. If you want abnormal results them give abnormal actions. NORMAL=NORMAL” -Billy Donovan, OKC

“YOU determine your value (wage) with what you bring to the table. Our paycheck is OUR responsibility” -Kevin Eastman


Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle. When the sun comes up, you’d better BE RUNNING. –African Proverb

Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start. –Nido Qubein

There is no passion to be found playing small – In settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living. –Nelson Mandella

Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends. –Walt Disney

[bctt tweet=”Never let the pressures take away the pleasures. –Kelly Wells, UPIKE” username=”@coachkellywells”]

coaching nuggets by coach kelly wells

FIVE Components to be ALL IN:

1. Unselfishness –
o Remove “Me-ism”
o Sacrifice
o “Check your ego at the door; the only stat that matters is team success.
2. Compassionate –
o Nobody cares what you know until they know you care
o It not the VALUE you receive, but the VALUE you give to others.
3. Goal Oriented –
o A ship with no port of call is sure to get there—NOWHERE!
o Put your plans in writing! “Bucket List”
4. Togetherness –
o It amazing what can be accomplished when nobody cares who gets the credit
o Amway Philosophy: How many people can you help be successful? In return you will be successful.
5. Leadership –
o Action / Not Position
o Be an authentic leader: Show you care, lead by example, develop leaders

Team Defense: Defending the paint vs Defending the Perimeter

Team Defense: Defending the paint vs Defending the Perimeter

Team defense is a term used to describe the philosophy of a team’s defensive objectives. All teams try to make it difficult on an offense to score. There are different ways to accomplish that objective. Michael Asiffo shares his insights on team defense by separating teams that prioritize defending the 3 point line aggressively compared to a team defense that focuses more on defending the paint.

Many casual fans of basketball assume that team defense is just an effort thing. I cannot tell you how many times I hear “he’s got to want it more” when a player allows a dump off pass. While basketball is an effort thing, a lot of it has to do with system.

team defense defending the jumpshot

For any casual fans reading this, team defense is a system as well. Like in any system, there are better pieces than others, but the system that one operates in can make them a better defender. A coach can get into numerous defensive schemes. However, each system attempts to do one or the other. Either attempts to force the opposing offence middle or to force the offence to the edge or corners. In other words, a team will value perimeter protection or paint protection more. This has been highly contested among coaches and has only become more prevalent due to the emergence of the pick and roll.

If you need a professional basketball league example of this, look no further than the Raptors vs Pacers series that concluded recently. The Raptors team defense opts to defend the paint, almost at all costs (just take a look at their first game against the Cavs). This is a stark contrast to the Pacers’ team defense which played aggressively on the perimeter thus sacrificing paint protection.

Here are advantages and disadvantages to both:


Defending the paint:

  • Teams do not allow back breaking easy buckets in half court sets often: this often means that big men do not get easy layups
  • Teams are able to contain penetration: for players whose games are predicated on the ability to finish at the rim, paint protection teams are their worst nightmare.
  • Force tough shots: the three is a tougher shot than a layup, therefore a paint protection team are “playing the percentages”

Defending the perimeter:

  • Force teams into live ball turnovers: perimeter players are typically the passers of the team. Thus, cutting off their passing lane to other perimeter players and big men allows for more bad passes. This ends up creating turnovers in live play, which usually lead to easy buckets.
  • Ball dominant guards struggle against perimeter defenders: ball movement is key against this defensive philosophy, if a guard holds the ball too long then disaster strikes for the offense.
  • The open three point shot is limited: players are shooting and making three points at a rate that we have never seen. The perimeter protection philosophy holds the shooters in check or at the very least to shot contested threes.


Defending the paint:

  • The three point shot is typically open: if the ball is able to go inside then out (i.e. drive and kick, post up pass to three) then the perimeter shot is available.
  • Players who shoot well gives this team problems: a player who can shoot well from the perimeter in a spot up or pull up situation will have good nights against a team that follows this philosophy.

Defending the perimeter:

  • Big men tend to do well against this philosophy: big men typically get one on one situations or dump off opportunities against a team with this defensive philosophy, making it really easy for a big man to have a good night.
  • Fatiguing: it is hard for players to consistently move with a player, making it tiring to sustain energy with this Philosophy.

Obviously, no smart coach completely goes to one side of the spectrum with these philosophies. A team values one over the other depending on its personnel. This is why two-way players are so highly valued, and so rare, because it allows for a system to go as planned by the coach.

Thankful to Be Called Coach

Thankful to Be Called Coach

This past summer, I started my blog. One of my first posts was called “My Name is Coach.” That post has been making its way around various coaching blogs and sites for the last few months, and I am very grateful to everyone for their kind words about it. In that post, I talked about how being called “Coach” has been one of the greatest joys as well as one of the greatest responsibilities of my life. Today, as part of my posts on things to be thankful for, I want to expand on the concept a bit and talk about why I am so thankful to have been a coach for over 30 years.

Coaching has provided me with some of my highest highs and lowest lows throughout my life. Certainly, championships and “big wins” are part of the highs, and lost championships and “big losses” are part of the lows. However, the greatest of my highs in coaching revolve around the people whose lives I have been fortunate enough to be a part of along this journey. Today I want to thank some of those people who have been part of this incredible experience.

First and foremost, I am grateful to all the student-athletes that I coached through the years. They are the reason why I chose the profession and, without a doubt, the reason why I stayed in it so long. While so many of them have expressed their appreciation to me for some kind of impact I had on them, I want them to understand that their impact on me has been far greater than any impact I may have had on them. I learned so much from my student-athletes. I learned a lot about dealing with people in team settings, individual settings, and emotional settings. I also learned a lot about myself through my time working with my student-athletes.

The single greatest joy I have had in my professional life has been the chance to develop positive relationships with so many young people through the years. While I have loved the challenge of motivating them to be the best they can be in all that they do, they have motivated me to be the best I could be at teaching and coaching them. It is the combination of my love of trying to bring out the best in them and their capacity to bring out the best in me that has been the source of so much of the fulfillment I have felt from teaching and coaching.

The next group of people that I am so thankful for in my professional life are other coaches. I have been fortunate to work with incredible people. They have been great coaches and even better people. I have learned so much from so many coaches through the years that it would be impossible to name them all. The coaches who I am the most grateful to are those who I worked alongside of as either a head coach or an assistant. They have helped shaped my philosophies on teaching and coaching more than any other group of people. Also, my fellow coaches at the schools where I worked who coached in other programs in our athletic department had a profound impact on me as well. Finally, the many coaches at other schools who I observed coaching and working with their teams helped me learn the profession, as have the college and professional coaches who I have studied through the years. The coaching fraternity is an amazing wellspring of knowledge, passion, and motivation, and I have drunk deeply from as much of it as I could. I am so thankful that I have had such a fantastic pool of people to learn from.

Next, I am thankful to the administrators with whom I have worked who have been so supportive of me and of our teams during my career. While I have worked with some administrators who just didn’t get it, the majority of the administrators in the schools where I have worked have been great proponents of activities and athletics and the importance of a strong relationship between the athletic side and the academic side of education. I thank those administrators who had it figured out and who realized that education happens in many more places in their schools than just the classroom.

I am also thankful for the parents of the athletes I have coached through the years. While the relationship between parents and coaches can be testy at times, even adversarial, most of the parents I have dealt with through the years have been wonderful supporters of what we tried to do. This experience called youth athletics has a three-pronged element to it comprised of student-athletes, coaches, and parents, with the student-athletes being the focus. When parents and coaches work together to help raise strong, confident kids, we all win. When parents and coaches don’t work together, ultimately the children are the ones who are stuck in the middle, and their experience can be compromised. Thankfully, the majority of parents I have dealt with through the years have been extremely supportive, positive people who have worked well with coaches to help create a great student-athlete experience for their kids.

Of course, my coaching career would not have been possible if I did not have an extremely understanding family who supported me in my endeavors. However, I am saving my feelings on my thankfulness to my family for the final post of these Thanksgiving posts.

Coaching has been one of my greatest passions for the last 30+ years for a variety of reasons. Without a doubt, though, it is the people who I have been fortunate enough to have in my life due to coaching that have made it such a joy. Thanks to all of you who have been such an integral part of my coaching journey.