Early in my coaching career, I often wondered why some coaches always excelled at their game. This was true, even when they didn’t have a lot of talent. At a basketball clinic that I attended in 1976, I was honored to listen to legendary coach John Wooden speak from UCLA. Needless to say I learned a lot from his “Pyramid of Success.”
I also happen to see a young coach reading a book called “A Book of Five Rings.” I asked what was so interesting in the book that he would read while Coach Wooden spoke. He simply said, “I can’t put it down.” I went to the bookstore and they didn’t have it. Today, you can purchase it through Amazon.com.
This book was written in the late 1500’s by Miyamoto Musashi. I won’t get into Musashi’s life. That is an amazing story by itself. Instead, I want to relate what I learned and how I applied it o the simple game of basketball.
The five rings refer to five books. Those books being on earth, fire, water, wind and void. You might recognize them as the Five Elements. They all deal with the art of war.
The part that I want to relate is that of Fire. To interpret the reading correctly, I will refer to the enemy as my opponent. The book refers to them as the enemy.
There are three methods to forestall the opponent in a game or contest. These three methods are what makes the difference in a winning or losing coach.
1. The first is to attack without warning. Be calm and quick and overly aggressive. Be overly quick with foot and body movement. I like to do this with defense, but it can work with offense as well. Try to have your team be over whelming and unsettling as best as you can. Dictate the game tempo..
2. Forestall the opposition as they attack. Relax your defenses and let the opposition feel that they have the upper hand. Then as suddenly as in method one, attack without warning. Both of these first two methods will cause a sense of disorder.
3. Attack together. Mimic every move your opponent makes. If they play zone defense, you play zone defense. If they ball press, you ball press. Look for a weakness of your opposition and strike at it. If your opposition is very good at one particular defense, they will learn to fear it, as much as your team does. This is because, they know what the results can lead to.
Study your opposition. Practice your method of choice. Know it inside out. Finally convince your team, that this will work.
If you can learn to master these methods and teach them to your team, your chances of success will rise. Notice that I did not specifically mention offensive or defensive sets. I was talking in general terms.
The most important part, as a coach, is getting your players to recognize and respond to these methods.
If your opposition attacks first, try to lead him into your way of thinking. You are setting them up for a counterattack.
You can’t beat great talent, when you have it. However, you can neutralize it with the three methods above.