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December 3, 2012

HUNTER: We’re talking about practice

SELLERSBURG — In not coaching this season, one thing I wanted to do was attend high school practices. I have attended college practices at Kentucky, Indiana, Xavier and other colleges, but I wanted to see what my competitors were doing in practice.

You can watch a college practice (I like them better than coaching clinics), but you still have to adjust to your players. You don’t coach in college with players who you recruited, so I wanted to see if what I have always done was way off, on spot, or just wrong.

I want to thank those coaches who have allowed me access so far and there have been quite a few, so many that if I mentioned them all, it would take up most of the column. But they have been open to me, a former coach, in coming in and watching what they do and I truly appreciate that.

Some things that I have noticed with these coaches and their importance has been reinforced by my attendance are as follows: Teams will do what you allow.

Meaning, if you allow them to take bad shots, talk back, have bad attitudes, they will. Coaches have to control what they will allow or let slide and every single one I have seen has done a great job with the discipline of their team.

Teams will take serious what the coach takes serious. I can remember my first year as boys’ basketball coach at Henryville. I asked my former coach, Dennis Holt, how I could get my team to be better on defense.

We did all the drills, but couldn’t get better. He asked how long we worked on defense per practice and then said that teams listen to you talking about defense.

But unless you work on it a lot, the players won’t really believe you.

I have watched recent practices and noticed that teams don’t do 50 things per practice, they do 5-10 and make sure their teams are doing what they want done correctly.

Fundamentals must be worked on until boredom, and then you can’t let them go through the motions. When it comes to footwork, hand positioning, defensive stance, shooting, hitting shots around the basket, ballhandling, passing, etc., the fundamentals have to be burned into their brains. The best way to do that is constantly correct and ask the players what they have done wrong or right.

The more intense the coach, the more disciplined the team.

So far in the eight or nine teams I have watched practice, I notice that the coaches’ energy level definitely has an influence on the energy level of the players.

One thing I have spoken about in clinics around the world is that as a coach, I could never have a day off. If I did, you could watch the intensity/energy level of the team go down proportionately. Plus I always felt that if you were passionate about basketball practice, it would carry over to the players in their passion and commitment.

Sometimes I allowed people to come in and watch our practices at Henryville, and often they would leave with a different perspective on our team than from just watching games.

So many people have no idea what actually goes on at practice because they are closed to the general public to accomplish anything in your limited time. I think it is important that when you are at a game and you want to criticize a coach, we need to understand that we aren’t at practice, we don’t know what is trying to be done many times, we don’t know who has missed practice, and we don’t often realize how much time a coach spends with your child at practice.

That time at practice is shaping and forming your child in a positive way, while their own children are at home waiting for them to come home.

Perry Hunter is a Henryville High School teacher and a former coach of the school’s boys’ basketball team. You can visit his blog at

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