Srđan Šolkotović

Basketball Coach

Basketball Coaching Journey 1-6 from basketballcoaches.net

Hello, as a first post I chose to tell you how I ended up in the basketball world.

As of the day, this was written, I am 26 years of age and currently working in China for the USBA in Foshan. I started playing when I was around nine, but as it happens to be I was living in a small town in Serbia, so if my friends played basketball, I would to. So from nine to eleven, I bounced around different sports, handball, football, volleyball, anything really that my friends were also doing. But I came back at eleven and I started to develop a little bit better as a player. From the other sports, I got mostly athletic traits, and with being said I had to work hard to improve my skills in basketball. I played after that for a few more years before stopping my freshman year due to a doctor misdiagnosing the pain in my knees as something more severe than just regular growth pain. For a year I stayed without doing any team practice, I still played with friends and people from my neighborhood even tried to do rugby for a while before deciding to go back to basketball in my final year of high school. With a small strain of luck, and my coach Dragan Marinkovic (Mareta) , for whom I am very thankful for giving me the opportunity to play for him, I was on my way to getting back into the game. I was given 40 minutes per game, almost every game, and I gave it my all, even if it meant that I would be sore for 3 days after, I was happy to be part of a team again.

Luck followed me even further when I went to university in Romania, where I went to a tryout, and the manager of the team of SCM U Craiova Marius Toma took me in as a prospect. I didn’t see much playing time, and that was my first professional contract, but it was fun. I was doing something people dreamed of, I was getting paid to play basketball.

Without guidance and my personal interest to improve on the important things (I was trying to dunk more and do more flashy things than work on my fundamentals), I didn’t improve much, my IQ got a bit better and my defense, but my shot was terrible, my offensive IQ was questionable and I was just needing more to be able to play on the next level as a Point Guard. I got my chance in the U23 League of Romania, but after the 3rd game I tore my acl in the 3rd second of the game…. I know it sounds terrible, and it was. Depression got to me, I had to have surgery, lost my girlfriend at the time, and was in a bad place. Most people are. Imagine living the dream and someone just pierces a chainsaw through you. Yup, that’s how I felt.

It was hard, and I tried to get back in through my hometown team that was playing in the Serbian second division, but it was of no use. We had good people around us, but it was more of a recreational team than a professional, and my will was not strong enough to push through the mundane and go back to my level of play. I did good, the second year there, way better than expected, but that ended the third year when my energy levels were drained and my motivation was more on building a future for myself, having a secure job, and so on…stupid things that I now kinda regret doing.

Anyway, at that point I started coaching a bit already, I replaced my coaches in some practices like 6-year-olds kids and high school girls, and I started to enjoy coaching. It was making me feel good and I saw something in it.

Again a lucky wind blew my way and I found myself working with a person I hold very dear and respect a lot. I started working with Liviu Zaharia from C.S. Heart Drobeta Turnu Severin. He showed me the ropes and I learned a lot from the way he worked with young kids. The drills he created were up to date with new modern methods, yet it was some kind of old school flair to it, it was the best of both worlds, which made me into not only a better coach but a better man as well. Even tho our thinking and our emotions collided, even were opposite one to each other, we worked pretty well together. He is a dear friend of mine and I hope to make him proud with my work around the world.

At that point, I was still close to home, which meant that I was still playing, but due to neglecting my diet and working out, my body started failing.

I will be upfront with you when I say professional sport can be a very tough thing, mentally and physically. The chance is slim even if you do things the right way, luck is involved a lot, genetics as well which goes back to my previous point. Is it worth it?
Well, that’s up to you to decide, I stopped playing on a professional level and dedicated myself to coaching with the goal of shaping people into becoming what they want, be it to keep playing basketball or just amazing human beings with a kind soul. This blog will describe mostly my journey and I hope that I will be able to share some info that will help someone do something great. Thank you for reading, I hope you’ll subscribe to my blog and my social media as I will try to be as active as possible.

 

Basketball Coaching Journey #1

After two years spent in China in various cities and companies, being the first none-American coach to briefly work for USBA China, and going through the amazing journey of creating something from absolute zero(assistant coaches, marketing team, training everyone about what basketball is and how practices work), I am finally back in my second home, Romania.

At the time of writing this article, I am on my 6th month in the Slam Basketball Academy and things have been going up and down. After all, you win some you lose some. Currently, I am the coach/assistant coach of 5 groups, two are kids from the age of 6 to 10, one group is kids aged from 10 to 14, and the last two are groups of under 18 years old kids.

Now at this point, we have different levels from all of those, and I am trying to rejuvenate with my fellow colleagues a U18 team. They are a great bunch of guys that kinda lost their goal and with it the motivation. I must admit they aren’t the tallest or the fastest, but willing to learn and willing to adapt and create something.

We all know that winning is not normal, and to win you gotta go beyond practicing 3 times per week. So we are trying to see if we can manage to change their mindset and habits. The guys are mostly born from 2003 to 2005, so that leaves us one more year with the seniors and with the rest of the talented individuals to grow something.

With 9 games remaining in the regional tournament we are in the bottom half of the board, so we will need to work our behinds off to pull off a good season next year. Most of the guys on the team are point guard height with a few exceptions, and honestly, we will go the modern way, rather than being under the basket we will take the behind arc approach. The problem is we need to learn how to score, not just shoot.

  Thus starts a new journey, with a few goals in my mind:

  • Learn How To Play Selfless, As a Team
  • Play Harder Defense
  • Learn How to Handle Aggressive Defenses
  • Shoot Better
  • Move without the ball Better
  • Pass the ball better

 

This season is over win-wise, we won’t be able to reach the top even if we win all 9 games that are left, but that won’t stop us from preparing for next season. To break down what we will try to do is:

Offense:

  • Spacing and Movement Fluidity
  • Calmness in Offense
  • Better Passing and Understandmant of Team Movement
  • Plays that encourage ball movement.
  • Breaking the Full Court Press

Defense:

  • Help Side Defense
  • More Active Communication
  • Not Allowing Any Easy Baskets

Condition:

  • Increasing Quickness
  • Building Up Stamina
  • Increasing Strength

Mental:

  • Creating a Positive Environment
  • Winning Attitude At Practice and In-Games

 

With this, I start another journey and will try to keep things updated as I move on and as the team grows. I will also keep posting drills and things I do with the younger teams.

Basketball Coaching Journey #2

A difficult week, personally, but my team did have part in a lot of good decisions. Coming out from 2 lost games against two stronger teams, I saw something positive from the bombardment of points that we got.

Remember as a coach you always, ALWAYS, have to figure out a way to turn anything into a benefit for you. Learn from a loss, create an unconventional player, be patient, all those things are lessons you will need to learn throughout your career.

So let’s get to the point, the first game was lost by a huge margin of 156 to 36, while the other similar was 100 to 39. So you are thinking right now, damn why are you even playing the competition?

Well for one I just took over the team halfway, and honestly, they are the third tier group, which isn’t always good, but that is even better for me to learn and develop myself as a better coach. They are third tiers because the older ones were in the national league, and in another team.
But now with the age requirement changing, they still have 2 more years to play(including this half-season, which means 1.5 seasons), which means we got time to improve and rise above our limits.

From the big scoring difference there were a few things I took away as a positive:

  • Change in team chemistry
  • The attitude of the star players changing
  • Winning Defense
  • What we need to work on
  • Communication improvement
  • Fast learners

Team Chemistry

The biggest is the first one, while we were losing I didn’t hear any negative comments as in previous games, I just heard the good things, the “Don’t worry about it” /”Good Hustle!” / “Nice Shoot”. And even some loud cheers!

All players played, all 12 of them, and most of them contributed to the score, which means there is a lot of room to grow.
As a coach I am looking for this the most, I need a system of comradery where if I fall you pick me up and the other way around.
In the end, we are undersized, and we need any boost that we can get, including the moral one as well. So the cornerstones are set, the real deal-breaker will start soon when we start to prevent people from leaving for another 12 months. But if their morale is staying high through the bad games, we will be able to create some magic.

Attitude Change

What I am glad to see is the change in attitude of a kid that has great potential to be a sharpshooter. He had a bit of an “I am retiring” attitude where he would just randomly shoot 3point shoots, but that changed. And I am happy about it, as I do not want anyone who loves the game to get out before they tried everything.

Winning Defense

I love our defense, not because it’s good, but because we are willing to play it. That’s what many people don’t get, defense is mostly a mix of willpower and conditioning, there are technical things, of course, you can break it down in detail, but it’s all useless without willpower and the body to follow that willpower.

Our Shortcomings

These few games showed me a lot about our shortcomings when it comes to playing at our max. A few bad decisions here and there rushed offense, unable to pass when needed. A lot of work is ahead of those young men, but I am confident they will be able to do something.

Communication

Improved a lot, and this is good. Communication is a must for teams, you can’t just play, you need to talk!

Fast Learners

They soaked in some plays from the board right in the middle of the game, which is a good sign that they can receive commands and execute them.

All in all a great week, too bad we didn’t end it with a win, but there is still time. There is always time.

 

Basketball Coaches Journey #3

And finally, it is here, a victory. One that was a great way to start the weekend. I am glad my team got to experience the amazing feeling of victory, and I could see they were way more excited for the next practice than they ever were.

Lack of motivation is not a problem for our team, the biggest challenge we as coaches face now is how to make their thinking work for the team. Most of the guys have strong points that can be used in-game but are lost at some point do to stage fright, due to not being confident enough to do it, or just the lack of communication.

There are many things that we could do but we are starting from the mother of all sports, athleticism. We will boost their conditioning so that mistakes can be fixed with running back in defense. Slowly we started digging into the knowledge of the help-side defense and working more on the 1-2-2 full-court press. The press practice is more for our players to learn how to attack it rather than playing it as a defense for now.

There is no clear point guard, which we will hopefully manage to create in a couple of months and be ready for next season. This season will be sacrificed for the good of the team next year.

As always I wonder if there is something I can do more, and as always there is something. So far I will try to make them some videos, with highlights of the bad and the good. We will watch the film together and study the game.

The goal is to get them ready, next season will come faster than anyone thinks, so until then we will use all the games to learn about ourselves. To improve in basketball is hard and takes time, but lucky for us time is on our side.

Good Things That We Did:

  • Played Strong Defense
  • Ran in Fast Break
  • Didn’t Give up on Rebounds

Bad Things:

  • Communication was subpar
  • Slow reactions to the coach’s instructions
  • Wrong Starting Mindset
  • Passing
  • Man-to-Man Defense was terrible for a few players
  • Let too many 3 point shots

Basketball Goals for 2019/20 Season:

  1. Create a Point Guard
  2. Communicate Better
  3. Listen Better
  4. Get Physically and Mentally Ready
  5. Motivate Team
  6. Create a good environment in the lockerroom
  7. Win A Game
  8. Prepare for Next Season

The list might expand as time goes on, but all of us will work in the same direction.

Thank you, everyone, for reading, and if you have any questions or suggestions comment below on this post, or on Facebook. Youtube channel and Instagram coming soon.

Basketball Coaching Journey #4

Another two weeks passed, we had a week off, at least game-wise, but that didn’t mean we slept on our goals. Working hard is as good as much as you use your brain into it, and slowly I think most of the players are starting to understand the bigger picture, or at least we are starting to look and act more like a team rather than a bunch of individuals.

Another loss, but many positives going on, we were starting to support each other, and I didn’t hear more than two negative comments which were all about the refs. You gotta teach the players not to talk to the refs, even if the refs are wrong, we win with skill not with crying about some contact. If you got fouled but didn’t score, and it wasn’t called that means the contact was too soft. Soft enough for you to score it, so if you didn’t score what’s the point of your complaints? Score first and then we will see. Besides coaches are there to talk to the refs, let them do their job.

I saw some movement out of one of our physically more gifted players that gives me hope that sooner or later he will come out of his shell and actually crush people in the way he is capable of. Mental barriers are some of the toughest things to break, but there is no challenge hard enough that I won’t take on, and besides, I have 2 more coaches doing their best to bring those kids to another level.

Anyway, the game was fun as we played against our own, or at least my own. As we are a big club, this was bound to happen, and out it all hopefully we managed to create some bond between the players and we will see, maybe by next year some of them will play together, or at least support each other.

As always I come back to the principles of my system, creating players, but in the first place human beings who can function in a team, under pressure, and most importantly who are kind to others. This is the goal and should be the goal of any respectable coach, to bring the full potential out of a kid not just as a player but as a human.

When it comes to the game, we, as stated in previous journeys, are vastly undersized, and the other team had a center with a great feel for the game, athletic ability beyond any of our players, and players that would give him the ball and get out of the way. Something like the Heat did in the NBA, just give the ball to Wade and get the hell out the way.

The best thing and the thing I am most happy about is that I saw some of my team boxes out. A thing that is somehow left out of the Romanian Basketball youth for absolutely wrong reasons. It is hard to make them understand that boxing out is the key to rebounding. No matter how big a guy is if you get him out of the paint and box out hard, he can only catch the ball by sheer luck.

Anyway, it was a great day, even if we lost, our team morale is high, and for it, we all went to a team lunch at a fast food place (yes I know I am a bad coach, sue me).

In the end, is what mark you leave behind on those future players/grown-ups, what you can teach them about basketball and life, and not the number of victories or losses, nobody cares if you won or lost with a team in 2016, but if you have players reach out to you in 2020 that you coached in 2013, telling you how much they loved their time playing basketball, I mean that’s the best feeling ever.

Basketball Coaching Journey #5

Well, we came to that time of the year, when everything was put to a stop. Personally, I was hoping that this would not get out of hand, but as mentioned by people who were more informed about our system “We were not prepared”.

Not only the medical system but everything almost.

When we look at the sports and educational sector 90% is put to hold. Countries that relied on online classes for tutoring and private lessons are having an easier time adjusting, but unforcedly, most of the countries have very outdated-school systems where it is more important to memorize a textbook than to learn to think for yourself.

The sports industry ain’t any different, the adjusting to online classes isn’t the easiest one due to many kids living in different conditions.

Some are in apartments, some are in houses, some have the possibility to go out some don’t, some have a basketball at home and weights others don’t.

I am in a mixed state of really disliking this situation, but I am doing my best to get myself into shape and to read more about basketball and other topics that will help me along the way. With that being said, motivating oneself is hard, but manageable, motivating others through a screen, especially the younger ones is another task.

Anyway, with that being said, I am announcing that soon I will start posting more videos on our youtube channel and show some of the basics, trying to make everything for homework out with and without the ball.

Until then, stay safe dear coaches, players, and parents.

 

Basketball Coaches Journey #6

Welcome back dear readers, I know I’ve neglected you for a bit, but let’s be honest who didn’t go a bit lazy in the last few months?

As you know, or I assume you know, the pandemic has caused quite a stir in the world, and with it hurt a lot of branches, including basketball. With it said, I’ve been not working with a team and partially worked with two talented individuals that you will hear about pretty soon I think. I’ve been at home in Serbia, and due to that, I decided to further my education and finally get a basketball coaching degree!

That aside, I start a new chapter in my colorful book of coaching, I am going to be starting from the 1st of October(a few days ago) as the General Manager of the female basketball team Djerdap and the coach in it. I will also coach the male counterparts of the same-named team in my hometown.

There is a lot of work, and since it will be my first time as a GM I will have a lot to learn, but I am ready to take the challenge for my own growth and benefit. We are in a condition of having only a few players, and only one team in the league with another coach, while the male team has 2 teams playing and a decent amount of kids and coaches.

It is really sad that I will have to leave Bucharest and the Slam Basketball Academy since I grew fond of those kids and just adjusted to the amazing capital city. But it is time to say goodbye to all the amazing kids and my amazing colleagues who taught me a lot. Big thanks to all the staff there for helping me adjust and teaching me new things about basketball!

All in all, it was an amazing experience to coach again in Romania, and I hope I will be back one day. For now, my new start will be in Serbia, and you will be kept updated with everything that goes on, hopefully, every two weeks or so.

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