Building A Small School Program – Part 1

As far as on the court success, I believe the greatest measuring stick for any program is to maximize its talent.  All programs are not created equally, so don’t waste time comparing your program to another program that may have a totally different set of circumstances.  What I was most proud of on the court at White Oak was our level of consistency.  I believe it was on rare occasions that we lost to teams less talented than us and we consistently competed with teams more physically talented than we were.  When I evaluated our success on the court, I tried to objectively use the following parameters.  1) When our talent level was below average for our school, we expected to compete for a playoff spot and possibly a district championship.  Optimistically, we could possibly squeeze out a win or two in the playoffs. 2) When our talent level was on par for us, we expected to compete for the district championship, advance at least 2 rounds in the playoffs, and make a run at the regional tournament.  3) In years that we had a talent level above our average, we expected to win the district championship, and compete with the best teams in the state for the state championship. 

To get our program to this point it took a major investment on the part of a lot of people, particularly our players.  As the Head Coach, it was my job to set the standard for our program and create the culture necessary to win at White Oak.  I was very blessed to have some very loyal assistants over the years to help me, an administration (particularly High School principal Dan Noll) that supported basketball, a community and parents who trusted our program, and 111 kids on our Wall of Honor who bought into the process.  In this series of entries entitled “Building A Small School Program”, I would like to share with you the White Oak Way.

First of all, take a look at the big picture and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the type of players you will have most often and the circumstances that you deal with at your school.  Pick a style of play that fits the type of players that you have most often then tweak it from year to year to fit the specific group that you have each season.  At White Oak, I believe our main strength was that our kids would play with a maximum amount of effort…they would work hard and get after your butt!  We would play as hard as any team and harder than most. Consequently, our concept of pressure offense and pressure defense was based on this criteria.  We would always make effort a factor! Secondly, we believed that skill was the equalizer to superior athleticism, particularly shooting.  “Playin’ D & Killin’ The 3” put it in a nutshell for the most part for us, so this would be the 2 major staples of our style of play.

Next, make on honest determination of how much court time you get with your players.  At White Oak, on average, about half of our team would be made of players that also played football.  So, I believed it was very difficult to make major changes in style of play from year to year.  I believed there had to be carryover from year to year so we prescribed to the “simplicity and execution” formula.  Our program was set up for the Junior High to send us kids who could primarily do 3 things…dribble, pass, and shoot.  These fundamentals were also enhanced by our Little Dribblers program which I’ll expound upon in a later entry.  We would also introduce our transition offense as well as base offenses in Junior High.  Our 9th grade coach had the responsibility for teaching our defensive system, transition offense, and base offenses.  For this reason, I normally put my strongest assistant with our 9th grade since they were usually in a gym by themselves. Fortunately, I often had 2 qualified assistants, and I am well aware that not everyone at a small school is this fortunate.  Our JV should simulate the varsity as much as possible and they normally practiced with the varsity.  For us, this model was successful because each step of the process had a specific area of accountability and could be evaluated.  When everyone involved knows their role is valuable and they value their role in the grand scheme of things, success will start to follow.

So, to summarize Part 1 of “Building A Small School Program”: (1) Identify the strengths and weaknesses of your situation and use this to determine your basic style of play. (2) Determine the overall makeup of your program from the perspective of shared athletes. (3) Establish clear and precise objectives for each level of your program.

Thanks for reading and Coach With A Purpose!



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