Practice three – Game Sense

What were we doing? Four sessions in and that is the best we have got! The game (drill) was a 1v0 progressing to a 1v1 situation (close out and play defence). The focus was passing and cutting, appreciating space, moving into and out of space. I had highlighted passing in stance and receiving into stance (triple threat) and being shot, drive pass ready. However, what I saw before me was players out of stance, ‘soft’ and ‘lazy’ passing (as oppose to on-time and on-target passing, poor movement mechanics and patterns, and generally a very casual execution of the game. I paused practice and asked the head coach to say a few words about effort, intensity and learning. Although framed somewhat differently the key messages were the same, which was both pleasing and convenient as it served to reinforce my thinking and what we had agreed our season would look like (myself and the U16 squad).
We moved into our next game-based activity, passing the ball ahead and trying to score from a short jump shot. The intensity was markedly increased, however, the decision making and problem-solving were still missing, or was it that I was seeking for something more and that in actual fact the players were making-decisions? What would this look like? Would I even know? The players had to score ten shots as a team, the only condition placed on the game was the rotation of their movement (fast break – rebound, outlet, push ball middle, hit the wing for a shot), in other words players had to follow their pass. Throughout the game not one player opted to take an extra dribble, drive the basketball or catch the ball closer to the basket in order to be successful in their attempt. Nor did the rebounding position put the ball back (rebound) as a means of securing a score. Framing the game to allow these options to emerge was on me, or was it? Convinced that my questioning and setting up of the game did nothing to promote decision-making or problem-solving I conceeded to doing more within my planning.
The theme continued throughout the remainder of the session, players did not demonstrate a willingness or ability to apply game thinking to the practice setting. Instead, I found myself correcting movement, identifying missed opportunities to create space, move into space and to pass the ball. The work was there, the players were physically engaged and employing effort, however, there was a limited degree of cognition demonstrated by them in the execution of their movement, almost as thought it was somewhat detacthed from the game itself.
Having spent some time reflecting on the session it is clear that the information I provide to the players does not establish the parameters of the activity clearly enough that it would lead to any degree of cognitive processing (problem-solving, dialogue etc.). Having read a number of articles on spatial awareness, game-sense and game-based delivery I sought to emulate this approach, I was saying all of the right things – “hold each other to account, you make decisions based on what is infront of you” – however Iseemed to get little response. I can only conclude that my planning needs to improve and include clearer details of the questioning I need to employ to yield exploration from the players.

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