Friday, March 27, 2009

High School Coaching

I've spend the past few months being an assistant coach to the Paideia High School men's team (Gruel) and the women's team (Groove). It has been an interesting and rewarding experience for many reasons, not the least of which is that I am assisting my former head coach Michael Baccarini.

Much of my time has been spent holding a clipboard, finding times to talk strategy and technique with players on the side. The set-up at Paideia is very different than I had at Emory. Much more responsibility falls on the shoulders of the players, including subbing and strategy. The pros and cons of that system are pretty obvious, we have less control of what is going on, but the players develop their knowledge of the game which is valuable down the road.

It is also strange attending tournaments where we know we are at a huge disadvantage. We have attended 1 high school tournament (Deep Freeze) which was the week after try-outs. Ever since then we have been going to college tournaments (Southern and a B-team tournaments) where we know we are at a huge size/speed disadvantage. Fortunately we typically have as many years of playing experience (if not more) than our opponents, but it is tough telling a 5'4" freshman to go guard a 5'11" college junior and protect the open side.

It seems like the athletic discrepancy would force us to improve our strategy, which it does on some level, but the main mode of thought is "go our there and play better." Being a strategy junkie I find myself craving more time to go over the minutia of our offense or slight alterations we can make to our trap zone to capitalize on a players weakness. That leads me to my question for the panel:

What type of coach are you? Are you the micro-managing coach who calls every line and then tells everyone who to guard? Are you the coach that teaches at practice then sees if your babies can swim at tournaments? Lastly, is there a better/worse method of coaching depending on the level you are coaching at? I guess I'll go answer first.


Martin said...

I know that I tend to me a micro-managing coach. Not so much that I would tell everyone who to guard, but I would certainly tell our top player to guard their top player.

I think the reason that I am that style of coach is that I like to make adjustments and in order to make those adjustments you need to have more control.

One of my goals coaching at Paideia is to become less of a micro-managing coach. We have a good culture here, and I think many of my teaching points can be made to the students that I see on a regular basis. Hopefully teaching them one (and melding my own) mindset they will be able to tell me the changes and adjustments I want to make at which point they are the ones leading the team, just like they will when they get to college.

Kyle Weisbrod said...

I'm definitely a micro-manager - I enjoy scripting strategy, tactics, and plays. But at the same time, I try to explain the reasons behind why I sub the way I do or choose the D or O strategy that I do so that the players can learn how to think through those strategic decisions.

One of the biggest problems I have with letting go at the high school level is that I think that subbing is a very difficult responsibility for HS players to take on - there are so many complicated things that go along with it. And so much of game strategy revolves around the personnel that once you as a coach take on subbing you've made yourself responsible in large part for what your O and D looks like and you are also responsible for telling players what they need to do to get better and increase playing time. So you have to to give feedback on adjustments.

Mr. Zoppi said...

I coach Western Wayne High School Ultimate. I too face the situation where we are going up against college players. For me it's because high school ultimate doesn't exist near me except for at my school.

Anyway to answer your point. I coach from a micromanaging point to a degree. I have 2 team co-captains. I let them make the call with me as an over-ride if their call doesn't work out. I teach the plays, then let them decide who belongs where. Most of the time they are right on, but I sometimes tweak what they decide.

MorganB said...

Each year, I coach more loosely. The most specific I’ll be now in a game will be something like, “let’s change up the D; run anything but man” or “let’s run a huck play”. I do, though, call 90% of the subs, even if most of the players know the patterns. I also try to give players expectations about when I’m going to call them in, such as, “I want you to play all the upwind points”, or “sit this one out, but you’re coming right back in”.
Each year, I value more the importance of building the program and thinking longer term about what is going to serve my players this year AND next year. One of my highest priorities is allowing room for the team leaders to lead. I give them some rope, and if they take it responsibly, I give some more. I’ve had the pleasure to work with some pretty amazing and talented kids who’ve won medals at juniors worlds or juniors nationals and who are able to learn and share and lead. With consistent encouragement, I’ve found they can do a pretty damn good job of implementing game strategy and pushing their team.
I guess ultimately, I believe my role is preparing them for the next stage in their journey, in addition to helping them enjoy the current year. We coaches have many different goals for our work, but one thing I want is for all my kids to be able to show up at any college program in the country and be able to immediately understand what’s going on. I believe that many of them will even arrive with something to contribute.