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Thursday, January 6, 2011

Trying To Increase Intensity Level

There are several different key components of the “System.” The obvious things are the 3 point shooting, subbing 5 for 5, subbing often, and pressing all over. But probably the most significant concept of the “System” is the quest to get players to play the game harder than they are used to playing. Quite simply the attempt is to change the mind set from that of a distance runner concerned about pace to the mind set of a sprinter who pins their ears back and just goes. 

The “System” is posing the following questions:
1-  Can players be made to play the game at a speed they and their opponents are not used to playing?
2-   What are ways players can be used in games to crank up the speed they play the game?
3-   Will just shortening playing time get the job done, or do players need to be trained to play at a more intense level?
4-    Do basketball players need to play at a higher intensity?

Answer #1- Anyone who has played or watched a game in which one team is behind late in the game and is desperate, is fully aware that players can play the game at a different pace. We have all seen players chase, trap, deny, and put force a super effort to come from behind. As fans, we are tempted to ask why they don’t do that the entire game. The answer is that they would never be able to do it for an extended time if they did not have subs. But clearly, we have all seen that players can play at a different level of speed and intensity- they have to pace themselves to get thru 32 minutes in high school or 40 minutes in college.

Answer #2- Obviously in the System, the idea of subbing so often is to use this sub pattern to encourage higher intensity. Using the track analogy, you can run all out for 100 meters but have to pace if going 1500 meters. So the attempt with the frequent subbing is to turn the game into more of a “sprint.”

In subbing every 35 seconds (actually 50-65 seconds of playing then), I think what gets lost is that the PLAYING time may not be as significant as the RECOVERY time. Years ago I coached track/cross country. The obvious when you condition in track if you tell guys they are going to run 12 x 200, the key question from the runners is, "How much rest between?" In track you can turn it into an aerobic workout by having them go with 30 seconds rest (they run slower times). Or you can make it a tough, high speed workout by giving them 2-3 minutes rest between.

The same is true in running the System. The length of the playing shift will impact intensity but just as importantly so will the recovery/rest phase.

In our coaching internet network, many high school System coaches say they are running the System with 10 players. The problem with us running the System on a high school level is it may be harder for us to get 15 varsity quality players to rotate in at the typical high school. But if you have only 10, you are cutting the rest time down, and thus eventually the players will need to adjust their pace. Some players by their position or their physical makeup need more or less rest than others. For example, our first year we found even though we only had two point guards, if we tried to have the point guards go every other shift, they were really slowed up by the middle of the second quarter. Point guards just have to be so active that they need to have some "double rests." The same may be true of players who are not built to be runners- they may need a little more rest.

System coach Gary Smith says, “The recovery time is key; same holds true for productive practices.  If you expect to learn efficiently and provide opportunity for success and create the "feeling" that occurs when they are capable of going "full speed" "all out" you have to provide them with enough recovery time.”

Question #3- All of us probably remember having the basketball coach who would make us run and run at the end of practice. Throughout practice we knew what was coming, so we “saved” ourselves for the torture that was coming at the end. Without realizing it, our coach was teaching us to play with “pace.”

Or we had the coach who would put 20 minutes on the clock and we would scrimmage non-stop for 20 minutes with no subs. We quickly realized it was not wise to try to press, and we seldom would fastbreak. Our coach in practice was teaching us basketball was more 5,000 meter run than 100 meter sprint.

Gary Smith has numerous times talked about using practice to teach players how to play hard. Quite simply if you want players to play at 100mph, then you have to design practice so that is how they practice. You must make that speed a habit. Many players have grown up feeling that pacing yourself is the natural way to play basketball. So in practice you have to break the one habit and develop a new habit.

Coach Gary Smith says, “Having 'em work longer bouts in practice "just to get 'em in shape" is counter productive to the system mentality.  Practice should replicate game conditions.  You only expect them to play :35 to :55 in games so you do not need to get them in shape to play 2:00.  Practice bout's of :20 or thereabouts are really best for creating that all out mentality and providing the rest between stoppages by having an alternate 2nd 5 (who are running the "system") step on and the other group step off.  With a small roster (10 or 12) this negates this possibility.  With a larger roster you can have a control group of 5 to 8 that stay on as the opponent.  Use your skeleton drills to create additional conditioning.  As one you emphasized defense with the system I'd prefer getting 'em in shape through offensive work rather than defensive.”

Question #4- The relevant question of traditional vs. system basketball, is a team better having the top five play at 75-80% of max speed, or have 12-15 play at 98% of max speed.
·      In high school, part of this answer may depend on the ability of players 8 thru 15.
·      On any level it may depend on whether the coach can train the players to play at 98% of max speed. If the are only playing at 90% of max speed then it may not be worth it.
·      But probably the most significant part of the equation may be how does playing at the increased pace impact the other team’s effectiveness. If the other team has been practicing and playing their games at 75% of max speed, what does it to them if they get into a game where they have to play at 90-95% of their max speed? Does it increase their turnovers? Does it decrease their shooting pct? Does it force them to play players #8-10 who are not used to playing?

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