“To run fast and shoot fast doesn’t matter anything. Mind over everything.”

/Pēteris Višņēvics (Basketball Coach)

Another game down, another loss, another lesson learned. We went down with 60 to 34. Opponents had a strong roster and advantage of the home court. One big guy my size (for that age – quite impressive!) and a really good diver with some crazy arc shot from mid-distance.

Goals for this game were:

  • Keep the big guy in check to our best efforts as we had no one to match him in size.  He had been playing also last year in this age group and had skill advantage. The secondary goal was to get him fouled out of the game.
  • Keep the Diver in the check with full-court press the whole game. He’s top-scorer for opponents and his best one was 37 points per game, in another going 26. Tough job for the guys.
  • Get better in offense. I can say that defensively this team has been doing okay, but offense was struggling. Goal was to take more shots in mid-range and free, non-contested shots from three-point line.
  • Break the mental block in team to make them work more together and play harder, better basketball.

First Quarter

Team went in knowing that very tough job awaits. I had been telling them that two of opponents are very hard to deal with and if we take care of them – we have a chance for a good game. Full-court press on the Diver and practice not letting the big guy to post-up in the Zone. Also, if he manages to get the ball – we double him. Now, the quarter was struggle as always, at start guys slept in defense, offense not quite running, missing baskets on fast breaks. Team did a little bit worse than okayish and we ended up with 19 to 8, 11 points down. Nothing big, I awaited to get kicked in the knee at first quarter because of their experienced big guy and the Diver. Still, bench presence was good, motivation okay and guys fought well.

Second Quarter

Now this quarter went to shit. 13 to 4 loss for us in this quarter. (Luckily for us – opponents also missed shots and some Freethrows) Offense was struggling a lot, shots didn’t go in – which wouldn’t be a problem if guys wouldn’t get mental block again. They made bad decisions, bad passes – no one wanted to take responsibility and initiative. DUe to that – those who did, didn’t get any help from others. Bench went silent, defense started to make mistakes, attention went down. Guys started to think there’s nothing to do. First-half ended with 32 to 12. The score won’t be so disappointing if there was a fight and we Team would just miss buckets, but the fight wasn’t there. Mental block.

Half-Time Break

There was only one thing to do – take the team to lockers and give them reality check. Ask some questions and make them answer for themselves. What are we doing here? Do we drive all this distance just to mess up again? Do we want to play like kids or like young men? Fight like individuals who can’t take responsibility for their actions or take it, make it matter and work together as a team? Trust each other and help each other in defense – because that is what men do. That is how men play basketball.

Now, this turned some gears in their heads. We went out, warmed up for second-half and went in the game.

Third quarter

The team I wanted to see. Young men, not kids anymore. It took the realization that it’s up to them to choose – fight or not. Guys started to fight as a Team. Took individual responsibility, made better decisions, fought in defense alone and together. Helping, talking! Communicating! Now this is was some good basketball. Because of the good defense also offense did better – more penetration to basket, more fakes which lead to more fouls from opponents and some Freethrows. Sadly enough distance shots were still missing and without them we couldn’t pull over – lost third quarter with 11 to 8. Minus 3, not 11, not 9. Three. Mental block had been lifted.

Fourth quarter

Now, one thing is to fight knowing that you can win, but I think most of the guys realized that this game for us was as good as dead – we woke up too late. But this was the new team, the team who had realized that fighting now is more important than the score at the end. So they learned and applied this new knowledge. They fought. Worked on given goals. Top-scorer was in check, made some points, but was far from scoring over 30 or even 25 this game. He checked out with 17 points. Now, some of them were over defense and pretty lucky. I consider that  guys did pretty neat job keeping him in check. Talking about the big guy – he checked out with 20 points what doesn’t surprise me as he had big advantage over our physical abilities. Sorry, we checked him out! After 39 minutes we got him fouled out. Too late, yes, I know, but goal accomplished! 2 fouls happened in 3rd quarter and 2 in 4th. If we had the mentality of second half – I am sure he would be out till half-time and we would take the game. This time we ended up with 17 to 14 loss on fourth. Also just minus 3!

End game 60 to 34 due to bad show on first half.

Now, despite the loss – team learned a lot, did improve and at the end accomplished all goals I had set and ordered:

  • Guys did hard job the whole game to keep the big guy on check! No issues there, very good job. And he got fouled out also! Doesn’t matter that it was 39th minute. Goal accomplished.
  • Second tough job – done. Had to change guys frequently and this job checked their stamina. Whole time when he was on field – full-court press and deny. There were some holes now and then, but barely noticeable and most of them due to the reason that defender had to help a teammate on stopping another opponent player form diving. Goal accomplished.
  • All right, first-half wasn’t better, but second was! More jump shots taken, more three-point shots taken which resulted in more offensive rebounds and more points. Comparing to previous games – great achievement in second half. More confidence individually and as a team. More passes, more teamwork. Goal accomplished.
  • We go the mental block after first half and lifted it in second. Didn’t happen in previous games. Will to fight was there, higher focus and in second half there was no recrements left from this mental illness. Goal accomplished.

Now it is important to keep this attitude in the Team. This was first (very) important step in life education of these young men. Make a decision, take the responsibility, work as a team, help the team, help your brothers of basketball. Do your work as individual to get team going and get the work done as a team. Transformation. Mind over everything.

My job now is to strengthen these principles in practices and make them work with the first second of the next game. I have a good feeling about this.

Coach Valts