The 4 Pillars of Player Development

I believe in the adage “the best way to make the teams better is to make the players better.” Now certainly our job as coaches is to be able to provide an environment that enhances our players’ strengths will minimizing their weaknesses. But player development has been a critical component to the growth of our program, in season and out. We take a holistic approach when evaluating and developing our players, and we use what we call the 4 pillars to do that.

Pillar 1: Technical Skill. As mentioned in my earlier post, I define this as the mechanics, or ability perform the action. Shooting and passing with proper form. Defending in the appropriate stance. Learning a new move. Note that the technical skill does not necessarily refer exclusively to elementary level skills. NBA players are constantly adding new finishes, new evasion moves, etc. It has more to do with the process of learning. It is scripted. It is slow. It’s performing the technique with accuracy and precision. It is the “what to do” and the “how to do it.”

Pillar 2: Tactical Application. This is the “when” and the “why” to perform the move, take the shot, make the pass, etc. This is the game application. This is where decision making comes into play. Understanding the game. We believe this pillar is of paramount importance in developing players as well as creating high level teams. In fact, it’s essentially the namesake of the site.

Pillar 3: Physiological Ability. This is a player’s ability to perform on the court. Strength. Athleticism. Conditioning. Injury prevention. Injury rehabilitation. Rest. Nutrition. Hydration. Some of this is certainly out of my area of expertise, but we tap into all the resources we have available, and we place things like strength training, yoga, agility, etc. as high priority. We make it important to us as coaches to be involved in all areas to assure our players that it should also be important to them.

Pillar 4: Psychological Aptitude. This has to do with a player’s mental and emotional well being. We are learning more now than ever before the importance of this and how it can affect a player, and thus a team. This pillar is a little more like Pillar 2, in that it is difficult to quantify. Confidence. Motivation. Work ethic. Dispositional hope. Adaptive perfectionism. And many, many other big words that I’m not sure how to measure on the court. But I do know the players’ collective desire to improve, their desire to be coached, and their desire to win and belong to something bigger than themselves set the ceiling for our teams.

These quick summaries are just the tip of the iceberg for all they entail and their impact on player development. Good players are encouraged by the opportunity to become great, and we want to do all we can to help them get there.

Advantage Basketball through P-P-P

Creating opportunities to score is about attacking advantages. Those advantages can be created from a variety of ways: transition, ball screens, off-ball screens, the simplest isolations or the most complex offensive systems. It all comes down to forcing the defense into rotations.

One teaching point we use is the idea of Penetrate-Pass-Pass. The penetrate means penetrate the defense. It can literally be from dribble penetration, but also from a cut or post up. That forces the defense to collapse, and potentially rotate.

The person who created the advantage has the responsibility to recognize who is open from the rotation and have the willingness and ability to put the pass on time/on target to the open player. Most defenses will be in scramble, and often it is not that person who has the best shot, but the “extra pass” will be there. Hence, Penetrate-Pass-Pass.

There might be no better example of an efficient, unselfish offense in college basketball from this season than the Dayton Flyers. They led the country in field goal percentage, were 3rd in assists per game and 8th in A:TO.

Here are just a few clips of P-P-P from the Flyers.

What Drives Us?

Along the journey, obstacles are going to get in our way.  We will fail at times, but it is how we respond to these defeats that defines who we really are.  This passion and perseverance to overcome these challenges is called GRIT.  

Regardless of our age, gender or coaching level, we can all ask ourselves these questions:

1) Why do we do what we do?     

2) Who do we do it for?     

3) How does it drive our daily actions?  

Every business has a mission statement that explains their identity and what they are all about.  

As coaches, we should have a firm understanding of our mission as well.  By doing so, we are provided with a sense of direction, and it keeps us moving forward when things do not go our way.  It helps us see the positives in every situation.  

Not everyone will share our same vision.  The circumstances around us and the opinions of others do not define us.  It’s all about putting our head down and finding a way. That’s grit.

A mentor of mine once said, “Sometimes you will do good things and it still may not go your way. When that happens, keep doing good things”.  Life is 10% of what happens to us and 90% of how we react to it.  

Our grit is a particular attitude, a mindset.  When we get knocked down, we get back up. That’s grit.  When critics say we can’t do it, we prove them wrong. That’s grit.  When we fall in love with the process and refuse to get outworked every single day.  That’s grit.  

What drives us to be the best version of ourselves that we can be?  We intend to use this website to help coaches find the answer to this question. Let our grit be our guide, and let’s go find out!

What is a ‘Feel for the Game’?

We hear about its importance, yet it’s hard to define. We highly value it, yet it’s hard to quantify. Elite players have a tremendous feel for the game, but what about coaches?

Feel in basketball is sometimes hard to identify. Hard to quantify. It is more than just looking at assists and turnovers to determine if the player can understand who is open and who is not. A feel is the ability to slow the game down, to understand not only what is happening, but also what is going to happen next.

So much time is spent on the technical components of the game. The shooting mechanics. Learning a new move. Learning a new play. But the ability to transfer technical skills and drills to competitive game play is ultimately (and quite literally) “the game.” Tactical application is recognizing and developing that feel for the game.

A coach’s feel for the game is as important as the players’. We can go to clinics and hear about what successful coaches are doing that works for them. We can get on Twitter and see millions of plays that look pristine in their edits. We can read books about leadership, and biographies about coaches, and acquire as much technical knowledge about X’s and O’s, program building, and leadership as we can.

But our success is dependent on our ability to apply what we know to our system, and to our players. An artistic blend of being genuine to who we are and what we stand for while still learning and growing; to enabling and empowering our players to own the success of “their team,” while ensuring they’re doing so in a productive manner; negotiating elements of individuality while promoting sacrifice and cohesion.

X’s and O’s are the easy part. Developing that feel, that’s the tough part. It requires depth of knowledge with our concepts, the ability to communicate and to lead, self-awareness and the ability to be vulnerable to our team. But it’s also the most rewarding, and is essential for sustained success.

That’s the motivation for this site. An opportunity for coaches to contribute, to think, to learn, to be the best versions of ourselves. So we can give our best to our teams.