Coaches Roundtable

Updated: Sep 28, 2019

High School Coaches from across the nation elaborate of what they are passionate about, what they want to take "deep dives into", and what they have pulled out of their own professional development.


When brainstorming Blog Topic Concepts for this offseason I stumbled upon the idea of a Coaches Roundtable. I wanted to pick the brains of a few High School Coaches on their thoughts on a number of topics. I was lucky enough to get four other coaches to join me in discussing what part of the game they're passionate about teaching, what 'deep dives' they are making this offseason, and what aspects of their coaching they have adjusted over the years.


Our collection of coaches cover five different states, both the girls and boys games, and have coaching experience at all levels:


Jamie Smith (@ffshooters) - Girls Varsity Coach at Solon High School, Iowa

Ryan Smith (@r_b_j_c) - Boys Varsity Coach at Choudrant High School, Louisiana

Jon Watters (@CHSLadyHuskies) - Girls Varsity Coach at Chapin High School, Texas

Jonathan Toczynski (@J_Toczynski) - Boys Freshman Coach at Bergen Catholic, NJ




#1. What is the Basketball Topic you are most Passionate about? How did that come to be?


Jamie Smith @FFShooters

"Shooting"

Without a doubt it is shooting. I believe this is the most important fundamental in basketball. I also think it's the most neglected fundamental in the game of basketball. It does not matter what offense you run if you can’t shoot the ball you won’t score. For me this became relevant to me 15 years ago when I always found myself saying “We can’t shoot it”.



Jon Watters @CHS Lady Huskies

"Offense"

I love all things Offense. I know that sounds broad at first, but ever since I started coaching it’s been my obsession. I’ve evolved significantly in my beliefs on offense, but I haven’t lost my drive to get our program to perform at a high level. Earlier as a head coach I was so consumed with Offense that even though I had delegated defensive responsibilities my attitudes were rubbing off on our players, so I’ve had to do better with that. But I am obsessed with making sure our offense can compete with anyone.


Ryan Smith @R_B_J_C

"Practice Planning" The topic I’m most passionate about is Practice Planning. Specifically, questions like how should we organize our practices and what activities lead to the greatest transfer? This developed after learning about the topics of Essentialism, the 80/20 Principle, and aspects of Motor Learning/Skill Acquisition.


*Note: Check Out @R_B_J_C's Tweets, as he will often post his Practice Plans.


Jonathan Toczynski @J_Toczynski

"Spacing"

For me, it would be spacing. Arriving into the offensive phase exceptionally spaced gives the possession a chance to be successful. Without the initial spacing, I believe any action that follows is fighting against itself. Having the correct spacing is an advantage in itself.


Michael Lynch @LeicBasketball

"Finishing"

Shots at the rim are the most valuable shots in the game. However, players rarely get uncontested shots in a game. So we must be able to not only finish at the rim, but do it in contested situations as well. Having access to programs like Hudl has now allowed me to more accurately assess where we are going wrong when shots are missed (As well as use made shots as exemplars).


I also would say that I do not enjoy teaching kids an endless stream of finishes, but more so showing them when to apply the appropriate styles. Being able to see this in a practice setting, and then get examples of those exact finishes in games is a rewarding experience.


Here's what other Coaches in the Twitter World had to say on the subject:


What is the Basketball Concept you are going big on? What has attracted you to this?


Jamie Smith @FFShooters

"Advantages"

Along with shooting - which is something we always go big on - we have gone big on getting an advantage on every possession. Putting the defense in a disadvantage leads to more uncontested shots. Coach Sherman of Radius Athletics has been a big influence on me and our team in understanding this.


Jon Watters @CHS Lady Huskies

"Skills"

I have really started to become relentless with individual player skill sets. Now that I am content to focus on our offense and defense become elite as opposed to drastic changes, this has freed up time to be spent on the skills needed for my players to execute. I never used to worry much about footwork, finishing, etc. because I was too consumed with “Floppy X Hammer”, but now I find that player development has really unlocked a segment of our on court play.


Ryan Smith @R_B_J_C'

"Player Development" This offseason we’re going big on individual player development. We want our players to be able to use both hands and feet comfortably. For a few years now, I feel like I didn't do a good enough job developing players' “weak” hands. There were times last season that not being able to make a play when going to our off hand really hurt us. I’m hoping that the time we spend on this now will help us in the long run with our game based practices.


Jonathan Toczynski @J_Toczynski

"Offensive Rebounding / Transition Defense"

I’ve always felt that transition defense was the hardest phase of the game to teach: it is a random and unpredictable flow of the game. Learning Aaron Ferne’s 'tagging up' offensive rebounding system has made the phase more black and white to me. It aligns with our program’s attacking mentality, as we are a pressure man-to-man program that also presses. It matches seamlessly from offense to transition defense, as the system will allow us to be matched up, have the offense in neutral, and apply pressure from the time the opponent obtains possession.


Michael Lynch @LeicBasketball

"Offensive Rebounding"

Nothing has been more of an eye opener for me this offseason than offensive rebounding. There have been a number of podcasts that have piqued my interest, and after conducting a study of my own I believe we are undervaluing the offensive glass. That will change moving forward.


If you could rewind time to your first year as a coach, what would be the biggest thing you would change?


Jamie Smith @FFShooters

"Limit the Control"

This is easy. I would not have been so controlling on the offensive end. I would have let kids figure things out on their own more often. I would also have eliminated having 50 set plays, where at the time I just I felt it was the right way to coach. Today I don't believe that's what teaching/coaching really is. Getting players to be able to make decisions on their own should be what we strive for in the long run.


Ryan Smith @R_B_J_C

"Rigid Offensive Beliefs" If I could go back, I would work on having an offense that is capable of adapting. As a new Coach, I would run offenses exactly how they were taught on a dvd. Instead of running multiple offenses in a robotic way, we would have an offense that can adapt based on what we were seeing from the defense. I started my career running DDM as Walberg taught on his dvds. We ended up relying too heavily on the PG breaking down their defender. Looking back, I feel bad for not having the ability to help our players when they needed it.


Jon Watters @CHS Lady Huskies

"Ignoring the Process"

I had a “win now” mentality my first year as a head coach. The program I took over was a really solid program in our area where I was replacing the “coach after the legend”, so people were anxious to get back to those types of results. As a consequence I became too results based and while we did have initial success, I did not structure my program the way I wanted it originally. That would come back to haunt me year three into my tenure where cracks in our foundation began to show. I should have been obsessed with the process from day one and ignored the outside noise.


Jonathan Toczynski @J_Toczynski

"Simplicity"

Applying a games approach to coaching. Understanding the importance of applying context and the research that supports games approach vs. traditional was a game-changer for me. For good or for bad, you generally coach how you were coached. I wish I came across all of the work done regarding a game approach my first year.


Another thing I would change is keeping the game simple. I laugh at what I was trying to accomplish my first year of coaching. I feel my players then would appreciate how simple I try to keep everything now. I have learned, however, that executing simple concepts with attention to detail is hard, but is certainly worth the reward and is what I will always strive for.


Michael Lynch @LeicBasketball

"Wins > Pillars"

I believe I put too much emphasis on winning basketball games as opposed to playing the style of basketball that I wanted to coach. I felt as though there was a tremendous amount of pressure on me to win games, and because of that I strayed from my preferred style of basketball in the name of chasing wins.


In the end I believe that the philosophy of "we'll win when we're ready" would have served me better.


Brad Stevens talked about taking “Deep Dives” in the wake of his season, what are you taking a “Deep Dive” into this offseason?


Jamie Smith @FFShooters

"Positionless Skills"

We have been working hard on making all players relevant. Meaning you are not a pg, forward or a center. You are a basketball player. Every player does the same drills not matter age, size or so-called position. We are trying to make basketball players, period!


Jon Watters @CHS Lady Huskies

"Sticking to the Pillars"

This is the first offseason I can really remember where I feel I have made an emphasis on becoming elite at what we do as a program, as opposed to drastic changes or starting anew. This past season we really did a good job sticking with our pillars, knowing that we had some many players returning in the program and younger players ready to come in and contribute at all levels. Staying true to these beliefs has allowed our staff to really focus on fine tuning and tweaking, knowing that our kids are confident that we as a program have a steady compass.


Ryan Smith @R_B_J_C

"Offensive Balance" Looking ahead to next season, we are discussing ways to generate more ball and player movement. We are hoping to get back to an offensive philosophy that relies on all five players. Finding a balance between structure and freedom is a high priority for us. Also, we have been looking at different ways to link actions together without becoming too predictable.


Jonathan Toczynski @J_Toczynski

"Culture"

I will be taking a deep dive into my coaching manifesto and cultural manual, thanks to J.P. Nerbun, who I worked with this past season. Like Jon Watters, this will also be the first offseason where I am not uprooting my entire basketball system. While I will also be focusing on how to do what we already do better, I have never asked myself the hard questions regarding my own belief systems. Being a member of such a great program that has a strong culture, I am embedded and have witnessed the effects of what an exceptional environment produces. I want to take this offseason to do some personal discovery.


Michael Lynch @LeicBasketball

"Offense"

I have taken a number of deep dives this offseason including one into Offensive Rebounding, another into Finishing at the Rim, and a final one at our style of Transition Offense.


I believe these 'Deep Dives' are ones that are among the most important aspects of the game. Whether or not coaches take the time to research these subjects; I believe that Offensive Rebounding, Finishing, & Transition Offense consist of a larger piece of the scoring than anything else you will study.




Since we all met as part of a Coaching Community. What is your biggest takeaway from your time in @RadiusAthletics' #RAMP program?


Jamie Smith @FFShooters

"Philosophy"

I have been part of RAMP almost since the beginning and since that time my way have thinking has changed dramatically. I am not for sure I was coaching the way I really wanted to coach a decade ago but felt comfortable doing it that way. Today I am comfortable coaching the way I want to and this is because of RAMP. Coach Sherman has been a big influence on me and our program. And I have also been able to take a lot of things from other great coaches that are in RAMP.



Jon Watters @CHS Lady Huskies

"Developing my Own Thoughts"

The biggest takeaway I have learned from RAMP is no matter your beliefs system whether in basketball or even outside of it, you need to be able to stand up for what you believe in. This not only helps you as a coach with building your program but personally has enabled me to be more passionate about my thoughts. There are many different coaches in the group, representing a variety of styles and systems, it is not one big unified belief system. That being said the coaches I have noticed who have the longevity and success are the ones that stay fast in their systems when discussion becomes groupthink.


Ryan Smith @R_B_J_C

"Pillars" I have been fortunate to be apart of RAMP for many years now. Randy does a tremendous job of helping Coaches “fight the noise” and focus on their program pillars. In the age of information overload, this is a valuable skill. If you're struggling to find your way in our profession, I highly recommend committing to RAMP. The program offers you a mentor who will guide you and a group of supportive Coaches who are willing to help as well.


Jonathan Toczynski @J_Toczynski

"Go Big"

Coach what YOU want to coach. Whatever system it is that you enjoy watching or coaching, actually coach it. Don’t worry about the roster you currently have. Obviously, tweaks can be made, but I’ve learned to really go big on what it is you want. RAMP’s pillars activity is something that helped me define this and is what I recommend doing to everyone who has asked me about the program. Commit to what you want and aim higher than your roster’s current ability.


Michael Lynch @LeicBasketball

"Fight Your Own Biases"

When I first joined we talked a lot of about the fears coaches have about playing in transition, especially the bias of "I don't have the athletes". I'll always remember that being an eye opening conversation for me. Just realizing that a big part of being good in transition is just the coach being relentless about it, as opposed to being the "more athletic team".


Concluding Thoughts

This was a fun exercise with a few coaches that I have really gotten to know well. I believe all of us have taken the challenge of improving our teaching methods in the offseason and have seen the benefits of it. I would advise all coaches to take a look at @RadiusAthletics' #RAMP program as it has been great professional development to some degree for all of us.


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Contact Coach Lynch

Email: mflynch21@yahoo.com

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