Sometimes a player can be too smart for their own good. We all love smart players, guys who can think the game and understand it. Smart kids will never hurt your team. But sometimes they can make things too complicated on themselves. They think too much. They are processing information while on the court, and not playing by instinct. It takes away from their natural ability.
One way I’ve learned that this shows up is when players ask a lot of questions. Normally asking questions is a good thing – at the right time. A player wants to know exactly what is being asked, or why things should be done a certain way. I like that. They are engaged in what we are doing. But sometimes the “too smart” player can take it too far. They ask too many questions, and they are using it as a crutch to justify or explain their mistakes.
I’ve had a few players who we’ve had to make a rule for – no questions. And for some of them, it’s not talking at all. I’ve seen guys get themselves so tangled up mentally by asking questions and trying to then explain what it is they were thinking. It’s a crutch. They’ll stop you during an individual workout each time you say something.
“No negative footwork on that shot fake.”
“Okay. Wait, by negative you mean I was stepping backwards?”
“Yes. No negative footwork. Everything should be forward.”
“Oh, Okay, so do you want me to do this? Because what’s probably happening is I’m trying to get a bit of a head start, and I’m moving too quick, and so I split my feet and step back…”
Before you know it, you can’t get through a workout.
I don’t think it’s a decision these players are making, more just a personality trait that they don’t necessarily realize. They use questions as excuses, or as ways to explain why they made a mistake. They have high standards, they are used to doing it the right way, and when they don’t they want everyone to know why. There’s always a bit of “I screwed that up, but this is what I was thinking” to it. They aren’t bad kids or intentionally malicious, but they are getting in their own way.
Explaining themselves or asking questions is impeding their progress. It’s their comfort zone, it’s how they make themselves feel better internally after a mistake.
When you notice it, the easiest thing to do is not to let them talk. Don’t let them ask questions during the run of play. If they really don’t understand something and they want to come up to you on the side or after practice, that is fine. You don’t want to stop teaching them. But if they are constantly asking a question after a specific play, they are probably using it as a crutch. Don’t let them talk. Force them out of their comfort zone. Get them used to dealing with failure, processing it quickly and moving on to the next play.