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Monday, June 20, 2011

Canada vs Brazil

We knew going into this game that Brazil was going to be a tough test. They have a very athletic group with one of the best players in the tournament to help run the show. Their style of play is relatively simple - playing almost all player to player defense and offensively mostly just pass and cut with X cuts in the post. But, they play tremendously well as a group and with an incredible amount of passion. One thing that differentiates the North American teams from the South American teams in this tournament is the way they cheer and play with an extra level of external emotion. For example, every time Brazil walks into the gym it is in a line as a team and they are clapping and chanting together. This energy transfers on to the court where they are constantly applauding each other and fist pumping on every good play.

With our team we have been talking a lot about unity and giving energy, but with such a short preparation time together it is hard to create a level of togetherness that Brazil exhibited. This is not to say it is not in us, but our culture isn't always as naturally passionate either (except when we are hosting the Olympics) and the Brazil team for example spent a longer time training together and getting comfortable with each other prior to the tournament. I can't emphasize how important it is for players at this level to be energy givers to allow for our team to form and gel in the limited time we typically have together.

In our game vs Brazil they came out likely a bit over-aroused for the game while we were under-aroused. We managed to keep things together at the beginning and were actually leading 4-2 early on as Brazil's over-arousal left them throwing some passes out of bounds and shots over the rim. However, their ball pressure on defense began to wear us down quite quickly and we struggled to get the ball to the areas we like to attack from. As great as we were defensively (holding a dynamic, fast-paced Brazil team to 56 points for the game), we did not click offensively. If there are any skills that are clear we need to work on as a nation after facing this pressure they are: staying and playing under stance when pressured on and off the ball, how to read, cut, attack, and use our physical strength to manage the pressure, and most importantly how to pass against aggressive defense. We continue to be world class defensively as a nation, but need to encourage our top players and athletes to improve skills constantly as their athleticism does not create the same advantages at the international level.

These things were evident to us as coaches, but also came from the girls in our debrief which is great news as we know they experienced a tremendous amount of learning throughout this game.

Most were very disappointed following the game as the loss meant we would not have a chance to play the US for gold and we would have to wait another day to officially qualify for the World Championships, but we regrouped and had a great final effort vs Puerto Rico for Bronze the next day. Post on the Bronze Medal game to come soon!

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