In the latest edition of Coaches Corner, Championship Productions editor Adam Warner sits down with Southport (IN) high school boys basketball coach Wes Peek. The Cardinals’ head coach reveals his two favorite drills of all-time, details his affinity for social media, and explains exactly why Indiana basketball is so unique compared to any other state.
What do you find most rewarding about coaching high school basketball?
“We have the chance to have a real impact on kids. We may not have a ton of college-bound kids, so it’s about improving situations, getting a better education, and where they fit basketball-wise and academically. Meanwhile, there are a lot of habits you can change on and off the court. You see less of that in college. You get hand picked kids there but you take the good with the bad here. You do the best you can with the kids that you have. It’s a huge challenge every day to look at 15 to 18-year-old kids and get them to buy in and play together and put personal wishes aside. It’s a lot of fun to come to work.”
With all of the distractions today, what’s the key to motivating young players – especially over the course of a long season?
“Every day must be different, although you still have to have some routine to your drill work. We’re always looking for different ways to communicate. We live in a digital society now, so the team does a lot with Twitter. Plus, I think it helps with recruiting and communicating in general.
We also do a lot of things with competition. For instance, every drill has a winner and a loser at practice. While the winners get Powerade, the losers run and drink water. It’s the little things, but the kids get after each other for it. When you do this, you create an environment where they crave competition and get excited about coming to practice. The kids must know you care about them – and not just about them as an athlete. We attend football games, choir concerts, and more. We try to get to these different events all throughout the year. If you can motivate in other ways by showing that you care, then I think you’ll get the most out of them.”
What do you look for in the ultimate high school basketball player?
“We have set criteria. You must be competitive, unselfish, and have high character. While it’s important that you’re able to play, I’d rather have a high charcter guy that competes and is team minded over a guy that’s talented but just wants to do his own thing. If you can find guys that are all competitive and can share a common goal — regardless of talent — then you can certainly work with them.”
You’re a coach that’s well involved in social media. What got you into it in the first place and what role do you think social media plays in sport today – even at the high school level?
“For us, we use it to promote our kids. There aren’t many college coaches that don’t follow Twitter now. I have over 600 followers and it’s certainly a way to get kids’ names out there and inform others of what they are doing. It has increased the amount of traffic in our gym during evaluation periods and has allowed our kids to be more visible. Also, kids today communicate differently. They’d rather text or send a Facebook message than talk face-to-face. It’s certainly the quickest way to get information to them now. I got into it when I first came here to Southport when I had guys that were recruitable.”
Can you talk about some of your all-time favorite team drills?
The first one is called “5-on-5, Three Times and Out.” It simulates being down six, tied, or up six. You got to get three stops and three scores in a row to get out of the drill. It’s basically what the game of basketball is, a game of making runs. You start with a time limit and get three points for every score or stop. When the other team scores, you add a full point back on to their total. It’s all about getting a stop, and valuing a possession and score, and I think its something very valuable. When we get into a time out situation and maybe the game is tied and we need to pull away, we tell the players “5-on-5 Three Times and Out.” It’s a good drill, builds competitiveness, and forces your leaders to lead.
Also, there’s “Two Trip Flow.” It’s a 5-on-0 offensive drill where you start with the ball out of bounds. Players take it the other way and then come back with a half-court set. In a short amount of time, you can build your transition offense, half-court man offense, and zone stuff, too. Our kids have gravitated to this drill. It’s fast-paced, plus they must think, make quick decisions, and communicate with each other. And it’s been a good tool for teaching them what they need to do in order to win.”
What’s some of the best advice you can give to a new coach out there just getting started in the game?
“Don’t compromise what your values are. Don’t try to be something that you aren’t. Kids pick up on that quickly. From a consistency standpoint, you can’t be tough one day and then easy the next.
Second, your kids must know you care about them. You can’t be an in-season coach. Take interest in them year-round. Make them feel like you really have a love for your guys. For us, I think we’re father figures for a lot of them. We try to make it a family situation.
Also, whatever you’re going to do, you must know how to teach it. There is so much stuff out there today and different ways to do things. As a coach, you must have a comfort level with knowing what you are doing and talking about. Take an entire offseason before implementing something entirely new to you. If you’re going to teach something, know it in and out.”
What’s so different about Indiana basketball than anywhere else in the country?
“It really matters, especially in the smaller communities. On Friday and Saturday nights, you know where everyone in town is at. I can’t imagine another state being as rabid about basketball. From all of the TV, newspaper, and Internet coverage, it’s a big deal around here. The fans are passionate and it makes it so fun to be a part of.”
What’s one of your biggest pet peeves?
“A lack of toughness.”
What’s your career highlight to date?
“Watching kids graduate.”
What’s one thing that most people don’t know about you?
“My iPod is similar to what our players’ iPods look like. I’m not as old as I look or old as I seem.”
Wes Peek has teamed up with Championship Productions to produce a pair of new basketball DVDs highlighting the Pick & Roll Offense. Be sure to check out our newest basketball DVDs by visiting our hoops library. The latest videos feature the likes of Tom Izzo, Matt Painter, Seth Greenberg, and Billy Donovan.