My home state of Massachusetts has pushed back the start of basketball by tryouts by two weeks. Other states are taking similar action. There are sure to be restrictions on the use of physical classrooms, locker rooms, and other tight spaces. What does it all mean for teaching players the playbook and showing film? Like so many other things in 2020, we are going to have to adapt. If you are not familiar with Google Classroom, it might be one of the first places to turn for your team. Here are some ways that I am planning to utilize it this year.
Assign Independent Workouts
Two weeks ago the players got the day off from school for election day. Almost none of them can vote, but all of them can shoot. I created an assignment for them to go out and make 70 three-pointers. Most players have the Google Classroom app on their phone, so they received an alert about it. A few players submitted the assignment to me which is the equivalent of them texting me that they did the workout. And that of course means there is a 50 percent chance they completed the workout. Those odds are still better than not reaching out at all.
In our district the Google Classroom page for basketball gets mixed with academic classes. With that in mind, I have refrained from assigning too much. Looking ahead knowing that fall sports are done and winter sports are not officially beginning, I will be utilizing it more frequently. It is a great tool to take advantage of if the weather is nice over Thanksgiving. Many players are conditioned to be playing basketball during the first weeks of December. This year is going to be different, so I am posting assignments after school. That way players are used to practicing, but I’m not in the way of their academics either.
Using Google Meet for Workouts
When COVID cancelled the spring season, I went back into the Google Classroom and began to do conditioning workouts with players. I own the P90x DVDs, so I mimicked the plyometric and ab workouts in these videos. They are both excellent for building up core muscle strength in players so that they can hit the ground running when the season starts.
In order to get players to see me I used Google Meets instead of Zoom because our district discourages Zoom. Players are used to using Google Meets at this point because it is what we do for classes as well this year. There is a link at the top of the Google Classroom page so it is less work for everyone to find the meeting.
My experience in the classroom has been that students are shy about showing their face on virtual meetings. Some students claim it gives them anxiety or it is distracting to see their own face while trying to learn or do something athletic in this situation. Some districts have gone as far as not allowing students to show their faces. I encourage players to show their face, but ultimately it is up to them.
Not showing the face on camera incentivizes players that are worried about being judged for being out of shape. If we were doing voluntary workouts in person they might sit out, but with video conferencing they have the ability to take breaks and not be judged.
During Winter Break
During the Christmas and New Year’s holidays many programs are withholding players from practicing to curtail the spread of the virus. With that in mind, I am anticipating making a few mandatory team workouts in late December.
As coaches, it is easy to assume a player’s best intentions when we say, “Make sure to put some work in on your own.” Players will nod their head with good intentions, but priorities tend to get shifted. Some players need you to construct a schedule for them. Human nature is to try harder and make time a priority when the coach declares a team workout out on December 27th at 9:00 A.M.
Players might complain privately amongst one another about enforcing online meetings, but I think in the long run they will appreciate working out when the season resumes in January. I have found that when players get as many as three days off, the physical and mental rest is excessive. They get winded much easier and also forget key on-court principles and plays.
For Team Meetings
The other use of these Google Meets is that they can be utilized as a way to meet with the team to review game plans, assess the day after a game, or plan more broad team related actions. Any team that is used to spending a high amount of time in the locker room, film room, or a classroom will find this necessary as a substitute.
Breakdown Film Using EdPuzzle
Perhaps my favorite discovery in the off-season tech world is EdPuzzle. Think of YouTube, but with questions built in to ensure that players are grasping what is being shown to them. Here is a basic idea of EdPuzzle.
In the preseason, coaches can ask players to watch another team (a rival school, a college team, a professional team, etc.). They can then hold players accountable by directly embedding questions in the video to see what players are watching.
During the season, coaches can take their own team’s film and customize film to offer players feedback on an individual level or a positional level. You are not going to be able to show film in a traditional sense, but in many ways this system offers more efficient advantages anyway.
Quizzes with Google Forms
I anticipate using Google Forms for three purposes. First, we will get players to consider the primary principles of our offense, defense, and special teams. I will not give players more than three questions per form. Here is an example of something that players might need to answer.
The second area of team building that we will implement Google Forms in is with scouting reports. This year, I plan on simplifying scouting reports much more than I have in previous seasons. One page is the absolute most that I will write about an opponent.
There is a little uncertainty as to how much film will be available. I am not even certain we will be allowed a JV player or team manager to film the action. Many leagues are outlawing the players’ families from attending, so I doubt that coaches will be able to go and scout. Our team is not taking busses to road games. Players are going to be dropped off by family members. One way that I hope to help players get ready for a game is offering a quick quiz of the scouting report through Google Forms and reviewing it with players when they get to the visiting gym.
The third use of Google Forms is in trying to emphasize culture. Our team is going to have the juniors that have been on the team for two years enrolled in a Captain’s Academy. The primary purpose is to understand the expectations associated with being captain. Every day I am going to send players a Google Form with a vignette. Here is one example. Virtually every player wishes to be a captain, but they only think of the benefits of the position. I want players to know that there is more to it than a note on a college resumé. I anticipate keeping the Captain’s Academy when everything is back to normal in a Google Classroom.
At the end of the season, it is often difficult for me to meet face to face with players. Coordinating schedules as players get into spring sports or work part-time is not easy. This season COVID forced me to use surveys. I got valuable information and it was much easier logistically.
Surveys can also be used in the preseason or during the season. One popular idea that coaches love to demonstrate the value of sacrifice in the preseason is to ask each player how many minutes or points she wants per game. The answers typically result in the team needing six quarters or two games to get everyone what they want. Surveys can quickly gather this information for you.
A Word of Caution with Screen Time
As I noted, players only need a couple questions in a Google Form. If they are on a Google Meet, the focus needs to be engaged directly on them. Social distancing forces student-athletes in remote learning to be in front of a screen for at least four hours per day. That does not include social media, YouTube, shopping and other activities they use a screen for. Be cognizant of the greater mission of giving young people an outlet to have fun. Players may be turned off by the sport if coaches invest too heavily away from the gym. Additionally, they may place more emphasis on what’s in the Basketball Google Classroom versus their regular academic loads.
When possible, find alternatives for getting players to use a screen. For example, with the Captain’s Academy, I plan on asking players in person at the beginning and end of practices to hear their thoughts rather than always receive a written response.
What You Need to Set Up a Google Classroom
For coaches that do not teach at the school, you are going to have crawl through some hoops in order to set up Google Classroom.
First, contact your athletic director and see if the students are using Google or a different platform to learn. The district might use Schoology or another online platform. In that case, Google Classroom is not worth the investment.
Second, if the school does use Google Classroom, you will need an email with the school domain. That might not be easy to come by if you do not already have one. Again ask the athletic director or principal. The district’s tech department is probably in charge of this, but it will serve the district for you to have an email in their account on many fronts so they would be wise to supply you with an email.
Third, once you have a Google account check out this video. The video is for traditional teachers, but the tech options apply to basketball too.
Who to Invite in Your Google Classroom
I coach in a district that is relatively small. Last year, I used Google Classroom with the team for the first time. The players that I invited were our JV and Varsity teams. Since last season ended, I have added the incoming freshmen that played on the travel team. Encourage the current team to notify anyone else interested in joining.