A Way to Positively Promote Turnover Reduction

Yes a turnover is a lost possession. And yes, some turnovers are more costly than others. But, what if we viewed turnovers (regardless of time and score) as different based on “type” of TO.  Suppose there were three categories: bad decision, wrong kind of pass, and timing error.  And suppose these categories were placed on a hierarchy of turnovers.  A bad decision turnover is at the bottom of the hierarchy, a wrong kind of pass is at the middle, and a timing error sits at the top of the hierarchy.

At the beginning of the season, the majority of turnovers can be attributed to bad decisions. This is a result of many factors such as poor conditioning level or lack of game experience. Allow your team to watch bad decision turnovers on film, and discuss alternative choices/options.

As the season progresses, decisions should improve.  Yet, there still may be turnovers where your players simply make the wrong kind of pass. So instead of being disappointed with the turnover, applaud the decision and provide the appropriate feedback. Perhaps a bounce pass would have successfully executed the play.

And finally, your goal late into the season is to only have timing error turnovers. Your team makes a great execution read, and the pass is just inches away from a back door assisted lay-up. Praise the decision AND the pass, then encourage them to get the next one. This provides a systematic way to positively promote turnover reduction.

Emily Dinger splits the double team for an advantage fast break
Emily Dinger splits the double team for an advantage fast break

Pre-season Off-The-Court Suggestions

With limited court time in the pre-season, we as a staff focus on three areas: weight lifting, basketball I.Q., and mental skills training. Our team is in the weight room four days a week for an eight-week building cycle to enhance performance and reduce the risk of injury.

To build our player’s basketball I.Q., I will watch game film with positional groupings during our common lunch periods. Specifically, we watch last year’s game film to identify player strengths and areas of growth for open gym.

To strengthen our player’s mental preparedness we assign various chapters to read from the book The Champion’s Mind: How Great Athletes Think Train & Thrive by Jim Afremow. Mental skills training is something a player can do year round to boost confidence and develop strategies for self-correction.

mental skills


The Importance of Communication

Communication is a critical component to building and sustaining a positive team culture.  The way you communicate is equally important as to what is being said.  To strengthen the rapport between players and coaches, or amongst the team members, communication must be done in a timely and consistent manner.  The communication should also be done with great care and candor.  There are ways to get your point across without making enemies in the process.  Praise, acknowledgment, feedback, and accountability are all different forms of communication, all of which when communicated properly will foster positive team chemistry.

On the court, communication is also essential amongst team members for effective execution on both ends of the floor.  From calling out the double team, to warning a teammate about a blind-side screen, communication develops trust and lends itself to a better brand of basketball.  Demand and reward communication in practice, by insisting that talking is done loudly and with purpose. During a competitive drill in practice, award five extra points to the team that communicated the loudest and with greater consistency.  As I often remind my team, silence might be golden in the library, but it will get our team beat on defense every time.

arike communication
Open lines of communication on the sideline during the 2013 U16 FIBA Americas. Photo courtesy of USAB.


huddle copy
Timeout communication clear & concise during the 2014 FIBA U16 World Championships. Say it & show it! Photo courtesy of USAB.


Ways To Develop Mental Toughness

We believe that mental toughness is the ability to focus through fatigue or adversity.  At every practice, we incorporate activities and/or challenges that foster mental toughness.  Conditioning benchmarks, drills with standards of excellence, and comfort with chaos are some of the ways in which we build mentally tough players.

A timed mile is a conditioning benchmark that forces each player to “gut check” before he/she crosses the finish line.  We set individual goal times based on position, ability, and stature.  Yes a timed mile is a different energy system generally required for basketball players, but we believe in the positive tradeoff of developing mental toughness.

Drills with standards of excellence will also cultivate mental toughness.  Take any one of your favorite team full-court shooting drills, and do it for time and efficiency (certain amount of makes).  To further elevate the mental toughness meter do the drills for a carrot or consequence.  A carrot might be that the next rebounding drill is your team’s choice, and the consequence might be a 30 second plank for the entire team.

Comfort with chaos is yet another way to build mentally tough players.  For example, having your team play with an under-inflated ball or shoot pressure free throws with obnoxious distractions will further build both focus and mental resolve.  Another chaos avenue is to create unfavorable circumstances during your 5on5 situations, like dimming the lights or inconsistently officiating your team’s play.  We often tell our players: “you need to win by 10 to win by one on the road.”  Exposing your team to adverse circumstances during scrimmage situations is one of the best ways to be successful on the road.

If developing mentally tough players is your objective, then simply praise and reward your team for acts of mental toughness.  Coaches: you are what you emphasize.

Kristine Anigwe mentally tough…relentless on the offensive glass. Photo courtesy USAB.
kelli hayes thru contact
Kelli Hayes mentally tough…finishing trough contact. Photo courtesy San Jose Mercury News.

Top 5 Reasons to Play and Develop your Reserves

1) By utilizing your team’s depth, it fosters confidence and team chemistry. Spreading out the minutes and sharing the basketball is always good for a player’s confidence and team morale.

2) By playing multiple roster combinations, it creates diversity in schemes making your team less predictable, and more difficult to prepare/scout.

3) By regularly playing 10-12 players deep, it reduces the effects of a major setback in your team’s efficiency or effectiveness as a result of foul trouble, disciplinary action, or injury.

4) Over the course of a season, making a habit of utilizing your team’s depth will reduce the risk of overuse injury or the ill effects of “dead leg.”

5) In regularly playing 10-12 players, it will make for more competitive practices and ultimately raise the consistency and level of your team’s play.

last pic
A team is only as strong as the sum of its parts.

Considerations for Practice & Player Development

Keys: Efficient Practice & Maximizing Potential

1) Collaborative Emphasis of the Day – Goal Setting

2) Provide Balance of Skill Variety Within the Context of the Daily Training Window

3) Respect the Hands of Time

4) Structure with Random Sequencing

5) Variability in Single Skill Development

6) Contextual Interference

7) “Familiar with Chaos”

8) Feedback – Positive & Prescriptive

9) Develop Parameters for Feedback

10) Pause to Correct

Collaborative Emphasis of the day

a) Goal setting with team (performance based with process goals) Ex: Performance goal – each person is to make more free throws then yesterday. Process goal is to utilize personal “cue” mantra (i.e. “Freeze your finish.”).

b) Opportunity to improve confidence & increase motivation levels.

Provide Balance of Skill Variety Within the Context of the Daily Training Window

a) Develop a well rounded player with a varied tool box.

b) Potential for skill transference, great potential for learning & likelihood of greater chance of success on game day.  Ex: At basketball practice, drill all aspects of the game in practice (ball handling, shooting, passing, rebounding, defense, team schematics, etc.).

Respect the Hands of Time

a) Plan and stay within allocated time segments for balance & variety.

b) Adhere to the predetermined practice time slot.

c) Student-athletes will appreciate it and respond accordingly.

Structure with Random Sequencing

a) Organize a practice that has random sequencing of skill execution as opposed to “blocked practices” (repeatedly rehearsing the same skill).

b) Improves player interest & sparks motivation and arousal levels.

c) Greater retention of skill set.  Ex: At basketball practice, incorporate ft’s throughout practice within the structure of certain drills. Versus having the entire team shoot ft’s as a one-and-the bonus or 10 in arrow bunches for a given period time.

Variability in Single Skill Development

a) Vary the distance of the target goal and its basic movement.

b) Develops competence in a changing setting similar to competition.  Ex: Shooting from beyond the arc. Vary the distance and movement required for the shot. Have the shooter vary the distance and ways to get shot (off bounce, pass, or screen read).

Contextual Interference

a) Several skills/tasks are learned and practiced together.  Ex: At basketball practice, two players will play one-on-one live as means to incorporate several skills at once in a game like setting.

b) Improved retention and greater transfer of motor learning.

Familiar with Chaos” – Bob Bowman

a) Intentionally creating challenging conditions for the elite learner.  Ex: Basketball player finishing around the rim w/ intentional contact (“blocking dummy”).

b) Improved reactions to adverse performance conditions.  Ex: Michael Phelps trainer, Bob Bowman intentionally created a crack in Michael’s goggles prior to a competition. In the 2008 Bejing Olympics, Phelps’ goggles filled with water. His training of memorizing the number of strokes needed coupled with a familiar experience, helped propel him to gold.

Feedback should be Positive & Prescriptive

a) Provide the learner with encouragement coupled with an attentional cue to hone in on the corrective measure.  Ex: At basketball practice, when correcting a shooter’s arc an effective form of feedback would be “elbow to your ear.”

Pause to Correct

a) Pause and then be prescriptive. This affords the learner the time to internally process their movement and make their own judgment about the appropriate corrective measure.  Ex: At basketball practice, after a player misses a lay-up allow them to attempt again on their own without comment.  If the necessary adjustment has not been made, then it would be appropriate to comment, “high & soft off the glass.”

Develop Parameters for Feedback

a) Allow the athlete to experience setbacks within a pre-determined margin window.  Ex: At basketball practice, commenting after every turnover is not necessary. After the third consecutive turnover, provide the player with the appropriate feedback, “fake a pass to make a pass.

b) Decreases dependency levels & “strengthens their permanent memory of the action.” (Schmidt & Wrisberg 2008, p. 311).

Fade the Feedback

a) In the learning stages, provide consistent feedback. But as a player becomes more competent or advanced in skill, reduce the amount & frequency of feedback.  Ex: At the elite level of training, allow the athlete to perform the task or activity in a game like setting for a period of time like 5 minutes without feedback. After the drill, ask the performer: what went well? Why? What setbacks did he/she experienced and why? What do they think is the appropriate corrective measure?

b) Reduces the dependency level for feedback and provides the bridge to become more self-sufficient on performance levels in a competition setting.

player dialogue
Player-coach dialogue critical to developing rapport and maximizing potential.
Archbishop Mitty & San Jose Cagers alum Kelli Hayes (who currently plays for the UCLA Bruins) mastered the art of being comfortable with chaos (photo courtesy of sfgate.com).

Happy planning!


Chan, L. Three Lessons from Olympian Michael Phelps – Familiar with Chaos. Tofurious (2012). Retrieved from: http://www.tofurious.com/marketing-tips/3-lessons-from-olympian-michael-phelps-familiar-with-chaos/

Cronin, K. (1999). Coaching Well-Rounded Athletes with Multi-Lateral Skill Development. National Strength & Conditioning Association. Retrieved from: http://www.nsca.com/Education/Articles/Coaching-Well-Rounded-Athletes-with-Multi-Lateral-Skill-Development/

Schmidt, R. & Wrisberg, C. (2008). Motor Learning and Performance, 4th edition. Human Kinetics: Champaign, IL.

Sekiya, H., Magill, R., Sidaway, B., Anderson, D. The Contextual Interference Effect for Skill Variations from the Same and Different Motor Programs. Quarterly for Exercise & Sport 65.4 (Dec 1994): 330-8 Retrieved from: http://search.proquest.com.proxy.mitty.com/docview/218495711/14105FF4A941766FDB5/2?accountid=7183

Wilson & Pritchard (2005). Comparing Sources of Stress in College Student Athletes and Non-Athletes. Athletic Insight: The Online Journal of Sport Psychology. March 2005. Volume 7, Issue 1. Retrieved from: http://www.athleticinsight.com/Vol7Iss1/StressPDF.pdf







Defensive System for Success

In the videos, Sue Phillips’ Gold Medal Basketball System I have provided some key concepts to drill, reinforce, and build a championship system.  Described below are the critical components for defense that wins championships!

medal stand '17

The Three Keys for a Successful Defensive System

I. Capability to Adjust – Create a System with the capability to adjust by a Call or Substitution:

• Change schemes with same personnel

• Run same scheme with different personnel

II. Effective Variation – Building a System that incorporates varied looks and rotations:

• Player-to-player w/ varied looks (one pass away/on-ball def/switch screens/ show zone go player after “x” passes) ex: color schemes to designate changes – black = trap on balls deny one pass away; white = vertical hedge w/ over under & gap def one pass away; gold = switch everything; blue = ice the on-ball screen

• Scouting report colors based on personnel

• Special situations (e.g. Dianna Turausi or Maya Moore)

III. Player Investment – Running a System that players believe in and want to execute

• You are what you emphasize (opening drill in pract / reward benchmarks)

• Reward defense (charges, steals, deflections, d boards, 5 counts)

• Defense that creates offense (fun, fast & free)

A Definite Dozen for Defense:

  • The ball scores (vision on ball and player)
  • Contain the bounce (protection of the paint/hoop and contest)
  • No help on strong side penetration (weak side help / help the helper)
  • Help is at mid-line & comes from weak side (“pistols”)
  • 5 people on the D boards (first contact wins / make contact and push back)
  • Force baseline (foot positioning and foot race)
  • No ball reversal (w bounce or pass)
  • Disruptive ball pressure (dictate tempo and minimize options)
  • Communication (creates confidence & minimizes break downs)
  • Rotational awareness (help the helper / move on pass)
  • Know opposing personnel (cheat/anticipate the threat)
  • Know time, score & foul count (aggressively play fouls to give)


Characteristics of the Ideal Point-Guard

The ideal point guard is a court savvy “floor general”, who possesses both a high basketball I.Q., and a tool box with a full compliment of ball skills.  Our “floor general” must be a leader with exceptional communication skills, and the ability to direct traffic. To keep his/her teammates in system, and to encourage/inspire their teammates along the way. This ideal point guard must be an unselfish player that makes his/her teammates better, and always thinks TEAM first.  Our point guard is expected to control the tempo of the game by taking care of the basketball (especially while under duress), and making the appropriate reads based on time, score, and situation.

Our point guard’s tool box must also include the ability to keep the defense honest.  A true triple threat that can knock down the open jumper, score off the bounce, or draw to dish/pitch into easy looks for teammates.  Our point-guard’s “handles” must be include the ability deliver a pass on time, on target, and tailored to the personnel.  Court vision is one thing, but having ability to think and connect on two passes ahead is an art.

And never underestimate the impact and importance of a point-guard, with a relentless motor, and a championship mentality.  This is a player who is “hard wired” to be confident, resilient, and mentally tough.  And when this type of glue player is your point guard, it is contagious and quite frankly, priceless.  It is rare to find a point-guard that possesses all of the above characteristics, but as coaches we are charged with mentoring all of our perimeter players to that end.  And when you do have that “ideal” point guard, don’t make any travel plans until after the state tournament.

Listed below are some ideal points, who I have had the pleasure to coach.  These women are winners!

Not pictured – Melissa Glazebrook.  Archbishop Mitty High School State Champion and current AMHS WBB leader in career assists with 845.  Played college basketball at the University of San Diego where she was a four year stater and a WCC Champion.  In high school, Melissa was a basketball teammate of Kerri Walsh, three-time Olympic Gold Medal winner in beach volleyball.


Danielle Robinson – Archbishop Mitty High School State Champion and San Jose Cagers alum. Current career leader for AMHS with 459 steals, second all-time with 722 assists, and a member of AMHS WBB 1000pt club. Played her college ball at University of Oklahoma, and currently plays for the San Antonio Silver Stars where she was a WNBA All-Star.  (Photo courtesy of Tulsaworld.com).  Most recently, Danielle’s ZVVZ USK Prague team won the Euroleague Women’s Professional Championship.



Kristin Iwanaga – Archbishop Mitty High School State Champion, member of the AMHS WBB 1000pt club, top three in assists and steals. At AMHS, her career win-loss record was 107 wins and 6 losses.  In 1999, KI was the point-guard on California’s State Team of the Year that went 31-0.  KI played her college ball at Cal Berkeley where she was four year stater.  KI’s senior year, she led the NCAA in free throw percentage with 94% and three-point percentage with 52%. (Photo courtesy of sfgate.com).


Asia Durr – Two time gold medal winner with USA Basketball at the U16 FIBA Americas and at the U17 World Championships in the Czech Republic. Asia led USAB U17 team in assists and second in scored.  Asia was named MVP at the FIBA Americas, and committed to play her college ball at the University of Louisville. Just recently Asia was named as a member of the U19 team for USA Basketball. (Photo courtesy of USAB).

Off-Season Advice

The message to our players for the off-season is one we like to call the “RE-season.” The RE-season is a time for RE-juvenation, RE-invention, and RE-investment. With a variety of factors escalating our student-athlete’s stress levels, it is important that we provide counsel on how to maintain a healthy balance during the RE-season. Rejuvenating their mind and body is important to reduce the risk of burnout and overuse injuries. The road to that end is unique to every player on our team. We conduct end-of-the-year meetings to assess and advise our players accordingly. All of our players are recommended to rest minimally for two weeks following our 5-month season (which culminated in a CIF state championship…hooray!). With such a long season and high stakes, the emotional and physical drain to excel when can take its toll on our players. In turn, we encourage our athletes to play a Spring sport to cross train and steer clear of any gym workouts for the immediate future.

RE-invention represents a player’s aspirations of transforming their mind, body, and skill set. To improve their basketball IQ by watching game film to dissect their decision making processes from this past season. We highly recommend to our players to partake in the program’s strength and conditioning program designed to make their bodies stronger, enhance performance, and reduce the risk of injury. This also includes a steady diet of proper nutrition and adequate sleep. Additionally, we encourage our players to get back in the gym 2-3 times a week and improve on their skill set. Specifically, strive to have greater consistency in their execution and to expand their toolbox.

last pic

Our notion of RE-investment requires a commitment mindset. To fully commit in terms of time and effort to both team related activities and individual work, even when it’s not personally convenient. Championships are built in the RE-season, NOT in March.

My Coaching Philosophy

I am passionate about playing and coaching sports. Like most endeavors, sports rewards hard work, discipline, and quality of character. I believe that to consistently excel in sports, it requires a dedication of lifestyle and a relentless commitment to conditioning one’s mind, body and sprit. I embrace that challenge and relish the opportunity to expand and grow daily.

I have found that the pursuit of mental toughness or a test of wills is what inspires me. For me the concept of mental toughness is not playing through injury. Rather mental toughness is the ability to focus through fatigue. It is the ability to push through self-perceived limits even when the tank is empty. It is through sports that mental toughness or the determination of the human spirit that drives a person to persevere and overcome seemingly insurmountable odds is revealed time and time again.


I also embrace the notion that it is through sports in which one can cultivate character and teach some of life’s most important lessons like teamwork and resiliency. As a coach, I strive to impart upon my students a keen understanding of the game and foster the development of character and a championship mentality.

Every athlete has unique talents, skills, and abilities.  Part of my role is to discern the critical areas in each athlete that may require development. It is my goal to expand their skill set, strengthen their leadership skills, and foster a camaraderie amongst the team members that becomes their extended family.


I am a spirited competitor to the core.  I want to win every game.  But no matter the outcome of the competition, I take the greatest joy and satisfaction in seeing my players revel in the competition and further develop as players and people.  Guide them as they push their limits and make individual sacrifices for the benefit of the entire team.  Assist them to overcome their own individual challenges and perform beyond their highest expectations. I share in their pride that they display by knowing that they have achieved as part of a greater whole; that they have contributed their strengths to the group’s success. Realize that they have earned the respect and reliance of their teammates; they have the comfort of knowing that they can rely on their teammates to be there for them. It can be as glorious as a tournament championship or as simple as bolstering each other’s spirits after a loss.  The team is a context for them to understand the social dynamics of being part of an elite group that aims high and aspires to the loftiest of goals.


To quote Vince Lombardi, “The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.”  It is my sincerest wish that each and every one of my players can take the success that they will experience as part of my program and apply that same determination for excellence towards all facets of their lives.


All The Best,

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