A Winning Mindset or My Vision to Create Full-Time Warriors

I spent my last four months working for KK Bosco-Zagreb, the former legendary club KK Zagreb where coach Dimitri Itoudis started his career, or players like Mike James took off into their European Journey.

The actual team is playing in First Croatian League, which in fact is the second after Premier League. The main objective of the team is to step up at the end of the season in the Premier League. Our daily schedule included two practices a day, in the morning two hours sometimes with weights and individual skills players development, and sometimes only individual stuff. In the afternoon we also practiced two hours and most team development, and game preparations. A few days ago, our collaboration ended for reasons that I will not develop here, as I proposed to myself to take only what is positive in life.

I got to this club a little strange, as I came to help for the morning practices, and only for juniors who will sometimes be attended. The first day I worked with a kid who was still cadet, but with a very strong body and good technique for his age. The second time I can’t remember who it was, but what I remember is that during our workout I felt something which is hard to describe.

Did you ever feel that all eyes are on you, while all the balls in the gym stopped bouncing? It was my case on that day. When I turned around all the coaches stopped their workouts and they were staring at my drills. It was a great feeling, but what was about to come later was much better.

I left the gym at 11:00 and I went home. Around noon, I received a message from a Club manager that I will be on the bench for the next Seniors game as an assistant coach. Also, he told me that the next day I need to meet the head coach Srdan Helbich to talk with him. At the meeting, Srdan, who later on will become my brother forever, said he chose me to be his assistant because he considers I have all the knowledge and I am always positive. He asked me if I agree, and of course, my answer was a big YES. I thanked him for this opportunity, but he replied like this: “You don’t need to thank me, I thank you because you chose us!”.

It was the first time in my life when someone who understands high-level basketball appreciated me this way. What can I say, in those moments I was flying like a bird!

My duties inside the team were to train the guards in the morning, to scout the opponents’ games, to come with strategy proposals, and to be an active part of the evening practices to correct what I believe is necessary. In the end, even if it doesn’t look too much, there is a lot and intense work, as my brain was involved 24 hours in this process.

Every coach has his own identity, beliefs and playing systems. For me, as an assistant, the hardest thing was to find a way not to challenge the head coachwork, but instead, I proposed myself to accept his way and to try to add value and missing details to anything he was doing. Those three or four months were so intense for me that it looked to be working for a lifetime there. And also, we had such great times as a coaching team, and we were doing such a great job that a few players came to play for the club only because they heard about the way we practice.

Every season has its ups and downs, but in the end, it matters who will be on the top of the mountain at the last game of the playoffs, and we had a plan for it. Unfortunately, even we were in the second place we lost a game against the first-place team, and my brother was fired inexplicably, but this is part of a coach life. I tried to fit myself in the new coaching structure with a new head coach, but after 10 days I decided to step aside.

All the story until now is not related to the title, but I felt the need to share it because during this job I figured out how to do what is following.

In this whole time, I tried to develop a system and to gamify the practices in such a way that players’ brains will compete after the practice also. I finished it after I left, but I will use it anytime I will have the opportunity with other teams. Here is how it looks like:

  1. Individual scoring system during the practice and on any drill:
  • Shot made: +1 point (no matter if is a two, three or free throw)
  • Offensive rebound: +2 points
  • Defensive rebound: +1 point
  • Assist: +1 point
  • Steal: +1 point
  • Block: +1 point
  • Selfishness: first time warning, -3 points from the second attempt
  • Turnover: -1 point
  • Missed free throw: -1 point

2. Team scoring system:

  • Every week we will have two teams which are not changeable during the days
  • Each drill will have a scoring system

For example, when we play 5v5 the team who gets to five has the opportunity to win the game. Scoring is like: 1 point for a basket made and a consecutive stop, 1 point for an offensive rebound, 1 point for fast-break and ball stays in the offense. After a team reached 5 points they have to make two free throws in a row to win the game. It is a miss we play on until they score another basket and they can try again. This way I consider everybody to fight till the end.

  • Every drill score adds at the end of the practice and gives the team who won the practice.
  • Every member of the winning team receives an extra 15 points/day, which will be added at the individual weekly score.
  • At the end of the Friday practice, the first five players for the game will be chosen by:
  • The best score between Point Guards
  • The best score between Shooting Guards
  • 2 x score between Forwards
  • The best score between the Centers.
  • During the practices, every month in the winning team start the players who earned the most points last week. They can be more than five, as we will divide the roster in two. These players will wear a Gold Jersey the whole week, which will be passed to his replacement next week if it will be the case. All the scores reset at the beginning of the week.

Additional to all of these I developed an application for the players to have access to their stats all the time on their mobiles and to see where they are and what they have to improve.

I believe that a system like this one will make the most out of everyone’s competitiveness, and will create a winning mindset. Involving them all day long in this process they will become warriors for basketball and for life, who will give all that they have till the last moment.

Basketball, like every other game, will have a winner and a loser at the end of the day, but if we will not be the winner, let’s be sure that we lost after we squeezed the last drop of will out of us.

I will let you decide if losing in such a manner makes you also a winner or not.

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