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How do you coach when you know your team is overmatched

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chucknduck
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Posted by: @seth54

Do you coach differently when you are going into a game and you know your team is overmatched? I’ve had it happen, but not in a few seasons, and tried to run a little extra clock and keep the offense conservative. Most of all, i’ve tried to pick out whatever positives we have and keep the messaging upbeat. 

This topic came to mind because my son is playing travel basketball this year for the first time and the talent levels in the league are really variable. My son’s team is middle of the pack, but some of the top teams are really in another class. While I don’t feel the need to protect them physically quite the same way I do in football, obviously I’m not worried about my point guard taking a big hit if I call a dumb play, I do try to keep the messaging up beat and find any small positive takeaways I can, and believe me they can be scarce. 

The header doesn’t seem to get that approach. I’m not sure if he’s trying to sell them that they’re better than they are, or he lacks awareness to honestly evaluate our talent level, but he’s often telling them that we should be beating team we have no chance against. To me this seems to exacerbate the kids frustrations, because they hear they should be scoring or stopping a player, when that’s not realistic. Please let me know if you have any ideas for how to handle these situations. 

Coach, I've been in this situation many times in the basketball league I coach in.  The league tries to make a league of evenly matched teams.  The coaches help with evaluations/tryouts/rankings but they all piss and moan when they get their rosters.  So I always offer to swap players off of my roster. if they piss and moan about height, I'll offer my tallest kid.  If they want speed, I'll swap my fastest kid.  If they have a kid that I know that has a great attitude, I will give them a higher ranked kid for him. 

Consequently, my teams usually have a losing record.  I couldn't care less.  With no superstars I can get my teams to pass and cut like crazy, no one is good enough to hog the ball.  We're usually too slow to full court press and too small to sit in a zone but I can get them to play good half court man to man with great help defense.  We still lose more than we win.

I did win one championship in that league though.  Coaching my nephew's 4th grade team they had an 8 team league.  We won one game (in overtime) during the regular season.  But they put all 8 teams in the playoffs that year.  We knocked off the #1 seed in the first round and then blew out the next two teams to win the title.  All three teams beat us by 20 or more points in the regular season.

In football, I stretch my talent pretty thin by platooning.  We load up the defense so we are usually short on talent offensively.  Again, I don't care.  I'm there to teach the game no matter who I have.  Will this approach ever take us to Florida?  Absolutely not.  Do the assistant coaches like it?  In the preseason they do.  In the heat of the battle or if we lose they will piss and moan about it.  I don't give in, I play everyone a lot.  I'm not coaching for the assistants.

If they have four grown men on their defensive line against my undersized 12 year olds, we simply won't run the ball.  If we can't stop them from running the ball, we will be in cover 0 pretty quickly.  But as far as player rotations or our schemes, no we don't change those.  We just correct them and keep pushing to get better every practice.

There is absolutely no difference in our practices after a blowout loss or a blowout win.  

 

 

 

 

 


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Seth54
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@chucknduck

 

”There is absolutely no difference in our practices after a blowout loss or a blowout win.”

I think this is an excellent point. A bad loss shouldn’t linger. The kids know what happened. It’s fine to address the teaching points, but no need to wallow. 


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Bob Goodman
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Posted by: @coachdp

And I've NEVER, EVER won a game when I'd thought we would lose, which should tell you something about how important your mindset is going into a season, or a game.

Huh.  I'd've thought it meant you were outstanding at handicapping football.


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32wedge
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Posted by: @seth54

Do you coach differently when you are going into a game and you know your team is overmatched?

Finally, a question on this board that I am extremely experienced at and qualified to answer!

 

We have been overmatched 100% of the time in every game over the last 4 years.  We have never played a team that fielded fewer players than we have.  We have never played a team that had fewer 8th graders than we have (7th/8th middle school level).  We have never played a team that was slower than us.  We don't have a youth league feeder program, everyone else does..... Yada, dada,da.  On and on.

 

I go into the first day of practice each year knowing that we are never going to out talent anyone.  I am honest with my players that we are going to be the slowest team every week and we are going to have to play both ways all game because we don't have the depth to take a breather. 

 

I am also honest with my players that we still intend to win every game.  I explain to them what we have to do to win games.  I preach that if we drive down and score at least 3 TDs and stop the other guys from scoring at least 3 times and do not turn over the football, that we will have a chance to win every game.  We have to block and tackle with maximum effort.  We have to use up a lot of clock when we have the ball because that is likely the only rest my guys are going to get during the game.  We have to consistently move the ball and make first downs or we don't have any chance of winning.  We have to get turnovers on the kickoffs.  We know we don't have much room for error.  That's how I present our situation to my kids.  That's what we practice for and expect every game. 

 

They always buy into it.  Kids who have never won in football want a plan that allows them to compete.  I don't sugar coat it.  I let them know it is not easy.  I don't do a lot "motivational" hoopla but I do challenge my kids to go out there and fight.  I tell them if I could go out there at the 50 yard line and fight a hand to hand duel with that other coach, then we would never lose because I refuse to quit.  I challenge them to summon up from deep in their guts just half as much fight as coach has.  If they can somehow find half as much grit, we are going to be unstoppable.

 

My kids play hard, play tough and nobody likes to play us.  We are 14-17 over the last four years after a tough 3-7 season in 2019 when we only had 14 players (finishing a 10 game season with 14 players is a victory even though we lost the 10th game in double overtime).  Those numbers are not impressive but this middle school team only won one game ever, before I arrived, making me the all-time winningest coach and I expect that to stand for a long long time.


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bdjackson
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Posted by: @32wedge

I am honest with my players that we are going to be the slowest team every week

I am all for being honest with my kids, but I would imagine that focusing on what they need to do to win the games alone would be enough without the honesty of the lack of talent. Kids are fairly perceptive. How has this worked out for you over the years?

Posted by: @32wedge

I am also honest with my players that we still intend to win every game.  I explain to them what we have to do to win games.

As all coaches should be. If it's not about winning or losing, then why play the game.

Posted by: @32wedge

That's what we practice for and expect every game.

Again, as all coaches should be doing. Unfortunately too many get caught up in running practice, drills, schemes geared towards someone else's expectations and not what applies to their team. Take what you need and leave what you don't. 

Posted by: @32wedge

I let them know it is not easy.

It cant be if you expect them to fight and excel on the field.

Posted by: @32wedge

I challenge them to summon up from deep in their guts just half as much fight as coach has.  If they can somehow find half as much grit, we are going to be unstoppable.

From earlier statements, I am guessing that practices should be hard enough that they should not need to "find" grit, it should be at the forefront of their mind going into that game. 

 

--Brian

Being Capable, first begins with being Confident.


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Coyote
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Greeting Coaches,

Coming a little late to the conversation, but... per the OP

“If I have the ball, you can’t score.”

I love loooonnnnnggggg scoring drives.  My HC doesn’t.  He believes the more plays we run, the more chances for our 3rd & 4th graders to make a mistake and kill a drive.   I believe in coachin' ‘em up to where they can do it. 

4 times in my career (once HS JV, once Jr. H, twice in youth) we have held the opposition to 3 and 4 plays for an entire half. 

One thing that was true of all those games, is panic and insanity ensuing on the opposing sideline.   When the opponents' coaches start going at each other, you’re odds are pretty good.  The Jr. High game, the other HC went berserk at half time – by the time his bus got home, he’d been fired.

Our most recent loss was against a team we had no business being on the field with, our drives were taking ~6 to 8 & 9 minutes off the clock [15 min Q’s, running clock, only a time out stopped the clock).  We hung with them into the 4th Q, when they hit a deep bomb, and we gave a pick 6 late.  Loss 18 – 32.   We ran our Buckshort to strength and Belly to weak to the point of monotony and scored in the red zone on counters.

We believe in ball control, we break the huddle at 17 seconds,on the play clock and snap it at 3 seconds.  

Nothing original here, just doing what we do with even more purpose...

 

This post was modified 1 year ago by Coyote

Umm.... why does that 6 ft tall 9 yr old have a goatee...?


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32wedge
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Posted by: @bdjackson

I am all for being honest with my kids, but I would imagine that focusing on what they need to do to win the games alone would be enough without the honesty of the lack of talent. Kids are fairly perceptive. How has this worked out for you over the years?

What I have seen is that kids will often allow the "lack of talent" to become an excuse for not competing and losing.  I think it is important to openly address it and frame it so that my kids know that we can overcome a lack of speed by being disciplined and playing together as a team and we can overcome a lack of depth by controlling the clock when we have the ball.  I don't leave the issue to my perceptive players because they will always talk amongst themselves about how great the other teams are and convince themselves they can't win.  I don't allow that to happen.  I get ahead of that kind self destructive narrative by telling them that the other side is good and here is how we are going to beat them.

Posted by: @bdjackson

From earlier statements, I am guessing that practices should be hard enough that they should not need to "find" grit, it should be at the forefront of their mind going into that game. 

 

--Brian

Exactly, but it doesn't hurt to keep reminding them.  There is no such thing as too much grit.

 


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bdjackson
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@32wedge

Fair points. I definitely see how getting ahead of the talent gap could be beneficial if done correctly as it seems you approach it. 

And you are absolutely right, there is never too much grit. 

--Brian

Being Capable, first begins with being Confident.


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