There is a difference between practicing something and teaching it. You can have something on the practice plan and go through the drill as a team without really getting much out of it. You do it, and you say we’ve been “working on rebounding” or “we’ve spent a lot of time on transition defense,” but that doesn’t necessarily mean you are getting better. It’s a trap you have to be aware of as a coach. Just because you did it doesn’t mean you are now better at it.

It’s one thing to get your guys out there in rebounding drills or transition defensive drills, but it’s another thing to actually get better at it. If you are bad at transition defense, simply doing the drills isn’t enough to assure you are getting better. You have to teach it to see progress.

The difference between practicing and teaching really comes down to your preparation as a head coach. If you are bad at transition defense and you want to work on it, you have to think about how you want to teach it. What is it that you are bad at – are you not running back hard enough, or do you not match-up the right way? A bad defensive transition team that goes out and runs transition defense drills without much teaching is just reinforcing bad habits.

One area where you see this a lot is with time and score. You can work on time and score situations everyday (and you should), but you have to be prepared as a coach with your philosophy to actually teach it to your players. If you go through an end-of-game situation at the end of each practice, you have to be prepared to tell them what you want out of each situation. Which means you have to be decisive before practice. What are you doing if you are up 3 with under 10 seconds left? When are you going to start fouling if you are losing late in a game? Don’t just let them play out a situation and think they’ve gotten better because of it. Teach them what is important to you late in games and drill them on it. But to do that, you have to define your philosophy on it ahead of time.

No matter what you are trying to emphasize, you have to prepare to teach it rather than just teach the drill. I see it at a lot of practices I go to, and I’ve been there before as a coach. You do a five minute rebounding drill with sloppy technique and without correcting mistakes and you aren’t really getting better. But as a coach you can say “we worked on rebounding.”

So what are the fundamentals you are trying to teach? How do you want them to block out? What are the key teaching points for you in transition defense? What should they be doing with their feet when you are teaching them post moves? Define your philosophy in your preparation so you can teach.

On top of just practicing it, be prepared to teach your team what you want. If you aren’t prepared to do that your team is really just going through the motions. Teach them, rather than just putting them through practice.

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