Coaching Techniques on Turnovers

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Name of blog Coach Bob Walsh's Blog
Blog author Bob Walsh
Blog post date 2012/09/17
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Spent a couple of days in Newport late in August with a bunch of coaches from all different levels talking X's and O's, basketball philosophy and leadership. So many great ideas were shared, discussed and dissected. It's such a great way to learn and grow as a coach that I think we should all make time to do a lot more often.

One of the topics we discussed was turnovers. The question asked was "How do you coach turnovers?" Every coach would like to see their team take care of the ball better, but a delicate balance needs to be found. If you constantly emphasize taking care of the ball and penalize your team for turnovers you risk creating a very tentative team that is afraid to make a play.

One great idea that came up was something Bob McKillop apparently does at Davidson. To emphasize taking care of the basketball he paints one of his basketballs with gold paint. The entire ball is gold. First of all, the gold paint creates a different texture that makes it a little slicker and harder to handle. It takes greater concentration to hang on the basketball when it is slicker than you are used to. Secondly the symbolism of a gold basketball is a great mental trigger. The ball is gold, it is extremely valuable, we can't afford to lose it. When you put the gold basketball into play your team knows automatically that the emphasis is on not turning it over.

Another approach was credited to Mark Few at Gonzaga. When he wants to emphasize taking care of the basketball he'll put a rack out at mid-court on the sideline with a certain number of balls on it - say 10-12 balls. Every time there is a turnover, on the next whistle, that ball is taken out of play and thrown away, literally rolled off to the side of the gym. A new ball is taken off the rack and put into play. Every time a turnover is committed the ball is thrown out and another ball is taken off the rack. As play goes on, the guys notice they are gradually running out of basketballs. Once the rack is empty, the game is over. You can add some kind of conditioning drill after all of the basketballs are gone. Another great way to get the message across of how valuable the basketball is to your team.

One of the great approaches to turnovers that was brought up was from Fran Dunphy at Temple. He tells his team that "every turnover we commit will be examined." That doesn't mean he's going to yell and scream, just that every play resulting in a turnover will be analyzed to see what happened. The question he asks the player after committing a turnover is "what did you see?" He wants to know exactly what his player was thinking when he went to make the play that resulted in a turnover. There are plenty of turnovers that weren't bad decisions, but poor execution when trying to make the right play. Dunphy's approach emphasizes taking care of the ball while also providing level-headed analysis of what may have gone wrong and what can be corrected. The players know they have to really think the game, because when they make a play the head coach is going to want to know what they saw.

Coaching turnovers can be a fine line. These are some different approaches that came up at our Newport Roundtable that allow you to emphasize the value of the basketball without making your team tentative.