MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – While each head coach puts his or her own spin on how their team operates on game day and in practice, there are some commonalities that almost all teams follow.
When it comes to film breakdown, the rule of thumb for basketball coaches has been to watch film, break it down, and then go practice.
But for first-year Mountaineer head coach Dawn Plitzuweit and her team, they are operating outside the norm. Coach P has brought the film onto the court during practice this preseason.
“Typically as a coach at this time of the year, before practice starts, we go and sit down in the film room and we watch, whatever, 15-20 minutes of film and then expect them an hour and a half later to remember what they watched,” Plitzuweit said. “We’re not doing that. We’re watching film within the scope of our practice so that they can see it and then go do it, which certainly helps with the learning curve.”
Plitzuweit admitted this is a new experience for her. She related the scripted stoppages in practice to a media timeout that occurs during a game.
Coach P and her assistant coaches are doing this now in an attempt to make learning new schemes, concepts, and responsibilities on the court easier for the players. But it has also brought a new challenge to the ones doing the teaching.
“I think it’s hard for the coaches because it puts you in a stop-start scenario,” said the head coach. “I think the players actually enjoy it. I told them it’s an experiment right now, and we’re three days into the experiment, and it seems like it’s going pretty well.”
Most players on the roster are used to the start-and-stop rhythm that Division I college basketball has with its media timeouts and other stoppages. Adopting that same rhythm in practice allows Plitzuweit and company to control the pace and flow of practice, even more than in a standard practice session that does not include the film component.
While that control isn’t realistic during the game, it’s crucial in the preseason for the new head coach.
“We also have to understand what it’s supposed to look like before we can actually do it that way,” Plitzuweit added.
One challenge of this method has been limiting the number of plays or scenarios shown during a film session.
Plitzuweit said in the past she has given her players several views of the same play, set or scheme with only very small differences setting one apart from another. As of now, she has to pick the best examples of what she’s taking at the time.
“By four clips, it’s time to get back to practice at that point in time,” said Plitzuweit. “So I can only show them four of this and two of that, and then we got to move on to the next thing. It’s good for them. It’s probably, actually, a lot better as a coach, too, in teaching them because we’re not overdoing it.”
This way of film study likely won’t be a season-long style of practice, given the time constraints that come with the everyday grind of the regular season.
One change that is coming to college basketball this season is the ability for teams to use live and pre-uploaded video on the bench during games. West Virginia, however, won’t be able to take advantage of that, due to the Big 12 Conference not being one of the leagues that has submitted the appropriate documentation to the NCAA.
But with more than a month still separating Plitzuweit from coaching a regular season game in the Coliseum for the first time, she and her staff can continue to be unconventional.