Short preseason makes it difficult for new basketball coaches to select their teams

Most varsity, junior varsity and freshman teams have been chosen now that high school basketball is into the second week of preseason
For coaches, the toughest week of the season is the first week of tryouts as they have to select their teams usually in three days.
There are many disappointed high school players going into Thanksgiving Day weekend..
The Maine Principals’ Association used to allow high school basketball to start during the first Monday in November and coaches had five weeks to get their teams ready for their first game.
Now with the current MPA Sports Season Policy, coaches have only three weeks to get ready.
They actually have 15 days until they open on the third Friday of the third week.
This is tough enough for any coach, but any coach hired as a new coach to a program after July is faced with a more difficult task.
If they are not part of the school system and were hired after July then they haven’t had a chance to even see their team candidates play in the fall. This is because of the new MPA rule this fall that coaches cannot even pay to watch players from their school play for other organizations.
If these coaches had been hired no later than June 1, then they would have been able to run a summer program where they could get acquainted with the personnel returning.
They would have had six weeks to evaluate the physical talent, attitudes, coachability, the better defenders, and the best decision-makers.
Instead, these coaches do all of this in just three days. Rushing to do this can lead to mistakes that they cannot correct in player placement or selection.
I coached in both the five-week preseason and the three-week preseason. I also coached at three schools where I did not get to see my candidates until the very first day of tryouts.
I know how hard it was to evaluate the talent in a short time and only seeing the candidates that first Monday of tryouts.
I gave a basketball skills test which was based on times. There were four parts to the test: 1. alternating layups, 2. wall pass, 3. dribble test, 4. dribble and shoot. Each player had two chances at this test and they could take the best of each test for their final total time.
This test did identify some basketball skills, but the main reason I used it was to see how players reacted if they did not do well on any parts of the test. Did they quit as soon as things went poorly or did they persevere and finish the test regardless of how much time it took?
I also used the 3-on-1 and 3-on-2 drill that I explained in an earlier column. This drill covered offensive and defensive fundamentals, coachability, character and attitude.
Our players were always told that there were never any final team selections. Underclassmen could be moved down to JV and JV players could be moved up to the varsity if I made hasty mistakes in evaluating where the players should be placed.
Players who did not make a team were allowed to meet as group after each day’s selections and they were told why they were not selected. This was done in front of all the other candidates who were not selected.
I told the top three players from each class who were not selected that if I needed to add players to the varsity, JV or freshman teams, then they would come from their group.
I encouraged them to continue to play wherever they could, especially the freshmen and sophomores, and encouraged them to try out again next season.
Even after 40-plus years in physical education and coaching I could not project how much players were going to grow and how hard they were going to work to improve. Most of my better players were late bloomers. Sometimes these late bloomers weren’t selected for a freshman team, a JV team or the varsity during their initial tryout.
Notice that I did not use the term “cut.” I never liked that word.
School systems that have coaching openings in basketball should make every effort to hire the coach so they can coach the players in the summer program.
Not doing so makes it very difficult for the new coach and the program can suffer as it tries to catch up.
Good luck to all the teams and coaches, especially to those coaches facing the problem of being hired in July.

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