Coach Chris Passmore finds data and information to be invaluable in games and at practices for different reasons. He also went further into organizing information to include skills tracking and nutrition. And while giving the players this information is useful, charting it can make it much stickier.
Charting Information in Games
Steve Boudreau gave me three stats to evaluate performance in games earlier this year. Turnovers, free throw attempts, and ball reversals were the three that he cited on offense. Coach Passmore added an obvious one that I overlooked: outcome of specific sets.
As an example of this, he would keep a chart of when a BLOB was run and how the play developed. If it resulted in a score, obviously that play is worth revisiting. Perhaps not as obvious though is charting if a play gave the team a great look to score. Either the shot was missed or the inbounder missed the opportunity to pass. These were things that he would note. The counter of this is true as well. If a play was unsuccessful and did not provide a scoring opportunity he noted it so that the team could either make the adjustment to run it right or stray from it entirely.
Statistics and data has never been more prevalent in sports. That comes with a caveat though. At some point, we have to let the kids play and manage the game with gut feel. As Merrimack Coach Monique LeBlanc likes to say it becomes paralysis by analysis. The danger with evaluating an effective play versus an ineffective play is that it can take the accountability of the execution out of the equation. Perhaps that is a part of the charting that needs to be included. Nonetheless, overall I like the premise of what he is saying both offensively and defensively. For the high school game, it is rare that the same set play will beat you time after time. I think the best use for charting play success in games comes with out of bounds execution.
Charting Progress in Practice
If there is a drill that is run with regularity in practice, it is a great idea to graph it. Again, it appears obvious, but I am not doing it. We might keep a record of the best score ever at a drill, but we do not have any other number to strive for. Similar to a picture being worth a thousand words, a graph lends itself to a thousand explanations. A graph motivates. A graph reinforces the why to our best efforts.
If the drill is a team-based drill, it is a great way to let teams know when they are working hard and when they are not. If it is individual drill, it becomes a logical baseline expectation for the player to work on in the off-season. Too often coaches resort to arbitrary and vague ideas such as “shoot in your driveway” or “pick up a ball.” If a player has a chart of how well they do on an individual shooting drill, they are more inclined to practice with a sense of purpose when nobody is watching.
Coach Passmore took it a step further. He said that charting the data for individual players or team drills is analogous to life. Inevitably players will see growth, stagnation, and even take steps backward. After about a month though, it would be a surprise not to see positive growth from where you began on day one. Similar to basketball, progress is never going to be perfectly linear in anything we do.
As the start of the season creeps closer, my mind is starting to narrow in on what players should have down after the first week. My off-season has been busy trying to develop new ideas and tweak old ones. Meanwhile, the players might be scattered in many different directions. Determining what is a priority early and what is not can be a challenge. That is why Coach Passmore recommends charting what skills to teach and when they will need to be taught.
Most coaches will spend their fourth or fifth weeks of the season breaking down scouting reports or building offensive sets. Meanwhile skill building can get dismissed as being an off-season issue. Skill building is something that needs to happen in and out of season. Players that are shooters should be pushed to become drivers and vice-versa. Teams that are initially strong at rebounding should grow to become better at getting deflections. Where you prioritize in the beginning of the season does not have to be static all season if there are easy opportunities for growth away from your core principles.
Last year fifteen minutes before practice I saw the box of Cheez-Its. I love Cheez-Its as much as anyone, but the impact that this type of snack has on performance is detrimental. The Cheez-It box is a symbol for lack of discipline. And it was also a sign that players did not believe they would exercise much that day.
Coach Passmore shared with me a checklist he found that asked players fifteen questions. Among them were themes around when the players are eating, sleeping, and exercising. If they did at least twelve of the fifteen questions, it was considered healthy, but below nine they were unhealthy. As Charles Duhigg preaches in The Power of Habit, if players write down their nutrition habits, it will increase the likelihood of forcing permanent change.