Jay Wright with some good thoughts on preparing your guys not to think when they play.

Ultimately this is what we all say we want. We want our guys to play hard and play with freedom, without having to slow down to think. But I would submit we don’t always coach them that way. Getting them to trust their habits in a game is the goal, but to do that you have to be conscious about how you coach them.

What it comes down to for me is giving up control. When you first become a head coach you want to control everything. You have to change the culture, you have to get them used to your way of doing things, you have to set the tone. It’s natural when you become a head coach. The longer I’ve done it, the more I realized my team is so much better off when I give control to them.

The military uses a term that I’ve always used with my teams – “In command, without control.” That’s what I want. When my team takes the court I want to be in command – to me, meaning that our overall approach and philosophy is evident, based on our training – but without control. I don’t want to be controlling them in games, I want to to train them in practice to be able to make the right plays in games.

To do this, I have to do two things in practice – I have to give up control, and I have to ask a lot of questions. Giving up control is about letting them make mistakes. Allowing them to play through them. Not correcting them every time something is done wrong. Sure, it’s not an easy balance to find. But it’s crucial if you want your kids to play without thinking as Jay Wright talks about. So let your guys turn the ball over a few times without blowing the whistle and blasting them. Allow them to take a bad shot without stopping the play and telling everyone you don’t like it. Tell them to get it back on defense. Let them play, let them make mistakes, and let them keep playing. There’s plenty of time to coach them when the play stops or the drill is over.

The next thing to do is ask them questions. Don’t give them the answer, ask them what they saw. Get them talking about what happened. Get them to think about the play they made in practice, so they can process what they saw and why they made the play they made. Allow the entire team to hear how they saw the play, and create an environment where they aren’t afraid to speak up. Asking questions will help them process the information themselves, and understand the game better. This will allow them to play without thinking when the pressure of the game hits.

“In command, without control.” It’s a great place to get to with your team. But if you really want your guys not to think out there, you have to make a conscious effort to coach them that way.

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