Success in coaching is often measured in wins and championships. Winning is important, but a coach’s belief that a good win-loss record equates to success will often lead to burnout and disappointment.
Coaching the game of basketball is the act of directing and strategizing the actions of a basketball team or individual. But coaching basketball is not just limited to physical player development such as a player’s offensive or defensive skills.
Coaching also includes a players mental development where a Coach helps improve communication and teamwork skills along with simply getting to know their players as people.
Some of the top Coaches in the game of basketball have figured out how to connect with their players on all levels. They have mastered the way to teach the game through X’s and O’s and working together as a team.
But they also know how to get the most out of their players by showing them respect and caring about their growth.
In this article, we’re going to breakdown the role of the Head Coach. By the time you’re done reading, you will know exactly what skills a Head Coach needs to find success with both their team and the individual players.
Table of Contents
What Makes a Good Coach?
Every basketball Coach strives to be the best Coach they can be, but every Coach reaches the pinnacle of their Coaching career. They may lack or fall short in a particular area of the game which holds them back from reaching the next level in their career or being able to connect with their team or certain individual players.
To aim at becoming a better Coach every time you step on the court, it’s important to know what skills and qualities you need in your coaching arsenal. A great Coach doesn’t just focus on physical development like making you a better rebounder or teaching you a defensive strategy.
They make the effort to encourage mental developments, too. Communication, teamwork, attention to detail, and your ability to adapt are all mental tools that are beneficial for teams and individuals to learn.
On top of physical and mental developments, a successful Coach figures out their team as individuals. Does Player A respond to yelling or do they require softer communication? Can Player B handle the pressure of late game situations? How does Player C respond to me when I throw this type of scenario at them? When a Coach knows how to coach as individuals and as a team then the sky's the limit of what you can accomplish.
And by focusing on all sides of these player developments, Coach is connecting to their team in multiple ways which is incredibly valuable as the season goes on.
What Physical Skills Does a Basketball Coach Need?
- Offensive Philosophy. Every Coach should have an offensive philosophy that they follow and implement with their team. It should be a philosophy that highlights the team’s strengths on the offensive end and puts them in the best position to create scoring opportunities.
- Defensive Philosophy. Just like an offensive philosophy, every Coach should have a philosophy for the other side of the ball. A defensive philosophy is just as important. This should again play to the team’s strengths on the defense and give them the best chance to create turnovers and stop their opponent.
- Ability to Teach. First and foremost, a Coach is a teacher. They are constantly teaching the game in terms of building skills, executing set plays, and learning game strategy for late-game situations. If a Coach doesn’t have teaching skills then they need to work on improving this about themselves.
- Work Ethic. The Coach sets the tone for the entire program when it comes to their work ethic. When players see their coach working hard for them then it makes them want to work that much harder to do their best job on and off the court.
- Energy. Another way Coach sets the tone day in and day out. Their energy level is crucial because the entire program feeds off of it. Coach in a bad mood? Expect the team to have a tough day because Coach’s energy is negative.
What Mental Skills Does a Basketball Coach Need?
- Basketball IQ. This is critical if you want to be a successful Coach. Being able to recognize game situations and make adjustments accordingly to put your team in the best position to succeed is the difference between Coaches who win and Coaches who don’t.
- Ability to Adapt. A game isn’t over until the very end and things are going to change the entire time. Your team may hit shots or they may hit a shooting slump. Or your team may play terrible in the first half of a game, but the second half they come out and play outstanding to win the game. Coach has to be able to adapt the entire time to keep their team competing and believing.
- Discipline. Without discipline, basketball programs can be a mess. Great Coaches understand that discipline is needed in order to be successful. They make sure to stay disciplined despite what’s happening during a game or practice.
- Attention to Detail. Successful Coaches are detail-oriented and pay attention to even the smallest of details to make sure their team has the best chance at success. If small details are overlooked then it could lead to a different outcome.
- Teamwork. It takes the entire team working together to be successful. From the Head Coach to Assistant Coaches to every player on the team along with managers and trainers. The Coach has to get everyone working together as a collective unit.
What Personal Skills Does a Basketball Coach Need?
- Caring. A great Coach cares deeply about each individual involved in their program and they make sure each individual knows it. Despite winning or losing, Coach cares about you.
- Involvement. One big way to take your coaching to another level is being involved with your team. Make sure your players know that you want to be involved in their life outside of the game - ask about their school work, home lives, and more. This makes a big difference because it greats a connection deeper than the outcome of a game.
- Respect. Just as respect should be expected from their players, a Coach must also give respect to their players. This makes them feel heard and that their voice matters which makes them feel more ownership of how the team performs.
- Motivation. The best Coaches know exactly what to say to motivate their teams to play to the best of their ability regardless of if it’s a game or practice. They always have words ready to go for whatever their team needs to hear - and it pushes the right buttons to get the most out of them.
Traits of a Successful Coach
The basic fundamentals involved in coaching are the same - whether you're coaching a youth team or a college team. Different levels will have their own set of problems to arise and rewards to receive, but certain skills exist among successful coaches.
At least three general skills are necessary to be a superior coach:
- Knowledge of basketball and teaching skills
- People skills (which included communication and motivation skills)
- Organization and Management skills
If you want to be a successful coach, make these your first 3 goals to achieve and you'll be well on your way.
Now if you want to know what more characteristics of a successful coach then check out our list...
- Knowledgeable about the game of basketball
- Desire to help every player improve
- Organized, prepared, and disciplined
- Highlights learning fundamentals
- Shows basic teaching skills
- Pays attention to details (big and small)
- Communicates with players (and parents)
- Understand how to adjust style of play to team's strength
- Enjoys improving as a coach
- Offers constructive criticism without being destructive
- Encourages teamwork and unselfishness
University of Oklahoma women’s head coach Sherri Coale has won nearly 500 games, 10 Big 12 championships, and took her 2009 and ’10 teams to the Final Four. In this video, Coach Coale talks about what’s going on in her program and how she has changed her approach to coaching to allow her players and the team become more successful.
Lets review some of these points to better understand how and why they are essential to effective coaching.
Knowledgeable about the game of basketball. Being a good coach doesn't mean you had to be a stand-out basketball player, but it does mean you need to have a deep understanding of the game and are looking for ways to learn more. This type of knowledge is important so you can teach your players both the individual fundamentals of the game and the team fundamentals of working together on both ends of the court.
Organized, prepared, and disciplined. As the coach, you have to set the tone for your players to follow. If you show up to practices and games, prepared and organized with a plan ready to go then it will allow them to follow your example. You want to be as productive as possible when it comes to practice so your team is prepared for games and the only way to have the maximum productivity is to have your plan organized, ready to go, and the discipline to follow it.
Shows basic teaching skills. The basic ways of teaching hold true for coaching. Start with the basics and set a good foundation for your players then build upon it while you develop their confidence.
Communication. We are going to spend a whole section on communication, but essentially, coaches can have all the other skills necessary to be successful, but if they lack the ability to communicate effectively then issues will occur. Without effective communication, reaching the top with your team will have its roadblocks.
Offers constructive criticism without being destructive. Another point about communication! The way a coach chooses to deliver criticism is essential - it's just as important as what is being said. Find ways to spin your criticism to lead with a positive before you go into your negative. Your positive communication needs to outweigh your negative. If you learn this early on as a coach then you're already a step ahead of thousands of other coaches.
Communication is KEY
A coach’s ability to communicate should be one of their greatest assets. Unfortunately, many coaches do not possess good communication skills.
Over the years, too many coaches have communicated effectively only when a crisis has arisen, but communication involves much more than that.
The coach should lead the players and the parents through their basketball experience. The coach must understand that they are expected to lead and help both the players and their parents understand what to expect, all-the-while maintaining an open line of communication. Such communication can involve numerous channels and forms, including team meetings, parent meetings, daily practice comments and instructions, and individual player meetings.
A coach can eliminate so much doubt and confusion among the players by:
- Defining their expectations and rules for the team
- Defining each player’s role on the team as well as expectations for the player
- Discussing the player’s strengths and weaknesses and areas in which the player needs to work
- Keeping each player updated periodically on their progress
Some coaches have trouble communicating, and they put the responsibility of initiating communication on the player or the parent. As a result, they are increasing the likelihood of conflict; neither the player nor the parent is likely to approach the coach unless emotions are about to explode.
A leader should create an environment in which people feel comfortable and are relatively at ease. If players are accustomed to communicating with the coach on a periodic basis over everyday matters, it will be much easier for a player to approach the coach with their concerns or problems.
In this picture, you see Duke's Coach Krzyzewski communicating with Team USA which included Kevin Durant, Kevin Love, and Anthony Davis.
Remember these 4 things when you're talking to your players individually and as a group:
It’s not what you say - it’s how you say it
It’s not what you say - it’s what you do.
It’s your body language.
Communication isn’t just what you say or do, it’s what the other person hears or perceives!
Non-Verbal vs Verbal Communication
A coach's actions, tone of voice, and attentiveness are all forms of non-verbal communication. Whether they are intentional or not, these are ways you send messages to your players.
Here are some better examples:
- Time spent with each player in practice. Do you spend the same amount of time with each player or do some players get most of your time?
- Feedback and encouragement during practice and games. Do you give the same amount of feedback and encouragement to all players? Or do you focus more on the players who start the game or play significant roles on your team?
- Substitution patters. Do you substitute a player every time they make a mistake? Do you treat all players the same when they make a mistake and sub them out of the game?
Non-verbal communication is a power thing. Be aware that everything you say and do is a message to your players.
Verbal communication is much more straightforward. It's the words coaches use to communicate with their players.
The downside of verbal communication is the coach's ability to effectively verbalize what they are meaning - in other words - their ability to find the right words to make their point so the player understands.
A coach should be able to positively use verbal communication at all times - in practice or games - with one player or the whole team - and with parents. These are the most common times they are going to be communicating with the players.
Another part to verbal communication is knowing your audience, time, place, and topic of discussion. Some discussions may be better suited in a one on one private meeting while others need to be addressed to the entire team. For example, Player A is making mistakes in practice. Instead of criticizing them in front of the team you take them to the side and speak words of encouragement.
Topics Coaches Should Communicate About With Players and Parents
- Your Coaching Philosophy and how it relates to the current team. Your philosophy on offense, defense, practice, games, and all areas related to basketball.
- Your Expectations for the team. Some expectations may be: giving full effort and playing hard, being a team player, following the rules.
- What Players and Parents can Expect from You. Your team can expect you to be prepared, to treat players as equals, and to criticize/encourage as needed.
- Team Rules. A few common team rules are: be a good teammate, be on time, and do well in your academic studies.
- What will get a Player in Trouble with You. A few ways to get in trouble are not giving full effort, arguing with coach and teammates, and violating rules.
- Your approach to Disciplining a Player and the Team. Depending on the issue: extra conditioning, not dressing out for a game, or suspension from the team.
- Your Expectations of the Parents. Here's a few big ones - let you be the Coach, be supportive of all players, and be a positive fan in the stands.
- What Parents Can Expect from You. Parents can expect you to give full effort to helping their kid, you will be demanding but in a caring and positive way, and you will help make them a better human off the court.
How to Deal with Internal Problems
Internal problems can destroy a team and a coach may not have a clue that there is a problem until it is too late. To stay in front of problems, the coach must work to prevent problems before they happen. You can’t prevent every problem, but if you pay attention to the little things on and off the court then those little things may give you an idea if there is something wrong with your team.
Some examples of internal problems are…
- Losing confidence
- Uncertain of role on the team
- Players aren’t friends and may not get along off the court
- Relationship issues
- Family issues
- Academic issues
- Substance issues
- Help the team bond together - The players on the team don’t have to be best friends, but they should be able to work together for their common goal of being successful. As a coach, you can set the tone of teamwork and encourage group activities off the court.
- Clearly Communicate - We’ve talked about this a lot, but lets talk about it just one more time. Clear communication can help prevent problems - clearly define the team rules, players’ role, and your expectations.
- Expect jealousy or unhappiness when: a younger player is better than an older player or a substitute player is promoted to a starting position and the starter is demoted.
- Look for signs of problems - When the problems do occur and they will; deal with them immediately and fairly.
One of the most important responsibilities of a Coach is to create a team environment where internal problems don’t exist or minimally exist. When the problems do arise then be ready to recognize and deal with them in a systematic, positive manner which means have a clearly defined, well-thought out plan for addressing the problem head on.
How to Facilitate Player Development
It’s the main responsibility of the player to get better, but the #1 person who is going to help them develop their skill set is the coach. For this reason, it is crucial for the coach to understand player development. Opportunity, encouragement, and experience play pivotal roles in the development of a player. If any of these three things are denied to the player looking to improve the they may never fully reach their potential.
Five Factors that Determine a Player’s Development
- Physical status of the Player. This is something the player has very little control over, but the players who are taller, quicker, can jump higher will always have an advantage over other players. BUT the beauty in sports is there is always a place for the player who works to improve their physical abilities and works extra hard to improve skills and knowledge.
- Desire to Improve. This desire is the force that motivates the player to work harder and longer than other players. The players who want to practice and work extra hard every day to improve their techniques, moves, or shots even if it means practicing alone will see an immediate difference in their development. As the coach, you should explain to your team that they will have to practice outside of practice if they want to get better and teach them how and what to practice.
- Skills and Knowledge of the Game. Every player should work to be a well-rounded player and not limit themselves to only their position. Players who can do everything such as a post player being able to dribble reasonably well or a smaller guard being able to rebound are looked at as well-rounded because they can do a little bit of everything.
- Opportunity. All of a player’s hard work is worthless unless they are given the opportunity to play. Every player needs quality practice and game time to get the opportunity to showcase their development.
- Self-Confidence. The most important element in any athletic endeavor is confidence! If a player doesn’t have self- confidence then they may never fully develop or reach their potential. Confidence is very hard to develop and very easy to lose. As players are working to develop their skills, their confidence is going to be challenged but the key is to put them in a position where they feel challenged to be better without putting them in a situation in which they will fail and lose their confidence.
Rules for Developing Confidence in Your Players
Here are 5 guidelines you can use to help build self-confidence in your players.
- Find something a player does well and build upon it. Confidence is developed when you find something a player can do well - no matter if it’s small or insignificant - and help them get better at it and praise them for doing a good job.
- Do not presume a player’s heart or potential. No one can accurately predict either of these things. It is essential to develop every player on your team because you never know who can and will help the team in the future.
- Compare a player only to themselves. If you’re goal is to build self-confidence then avoid comparing players to each other. Player A may not excel in dribbling like Player B, but Player A does a different skill better. Being aware if you are doing this because it could cause more harm than good for some players and take away their confidence. The only time you should compare players with each other is when you’re deciding who should start the game. Otherwise, work to make each player the best player they can be for themselves.
- Work hard to improve the potential of every player. As a coach, if you work just as hard to develop the player on the team with the least potential as you do the player with the most potential then you’re sending a strong message to your team. It says that you care and will work hard for each player. In return, expect your players to work hard for you.
- Encourage, encourage, encourage. Who doesn’t need encouragement? We all need it. And when you’re working on developing players you’re going to find yourself having to tell them what they did wrong most of the time so that they can do it differently and get better. It’s crucial when a player does finally do it correctly that you praise them! Don’t limit the praise to come only from you. Teach your team to praise each other when they’re working hard and giving all their effort for the team.
Perfect for athletes and coaches looking for that essential mental toughness edge. This informative and entertaining DVD outlines the keys to mental toughness and consistent big game confidence.
The Power of Praise
The power of praise is undervalued and underrated. The player’s knowledge that their COACH believes in THEM and the acknowledgement of improvement are ways to motivate a player. The power of praise is an important motivation tool.
A coach must be a great motivator. To reach full potential, players must develop their skills and self-confidence, but they also need to be motivated to give the extra effort in takes to get there.
Here are ways to motivate your players:
- Self-motivation to be as good as they can be
- Coach caring enough to spend time helping them improve
- Acknowledgement of effort/success by Coach in front of team
- Rewarding player with more practice and game time
- Friendly competition in practice and games
Another way to send powerful messages:
- Review practice or game film with a player and point out a small detail they execute to make a positive impact. For example, the player set a screen to set up a teammate for a key basket in the game. The fact you gave time to show them how they made a difference will say that you care about their role in the game and they’re doing a good job!
- Recognize effort and improvement by the player in front of the team. This may be most critical for players who do not get much play time, players with low self-confidence, players with little family support, or players who had to work harder to master a skill.
- Teach your team to be supportive and encouraging of each other in practice and games. It’s up to the Coach to set the tone of encouragement, but if you teach your team how to encourage each other when a teammate is struggling, makes a big play for the team, or achieves a skill that they have been working on. Not only is this great for motivation but it is a way to unify your team!
Yelling at Players
If you think yelling at players is a good motivational tool then you are very wrong. Basketball is played with a lot of intensity which means Coaches are going to be intense too. A Coach can be upset with a players, but you can choose to express it in different way rather than yelling.
Raising your voice is an effective way to make a point, but it’s only effective if you do it infrequently, which means if you’re reputation is a “yeller” then most likely you’re not as motivating as you think. Whenever you are upset or trying to make a point, take a brief second to think to yourself, “Is raising my voice the best way to make my point?” or “Player A does not respond to yelling at all so I need to speak with them different”.
Challenging a Player
In the past, Coaches have challenged athletes by getting mad, yelling, and intimidating players. Sometimes “challenging players” means trying to embarrass them in front of their teammates by questioning their skills and effort. Some athletes respond to this type of challenge by getting mad and setting out to prove Coach wrong which is obviously what Coach wanted all along. But there are some players who don’t respond in that way. Instead, they take it personally and immediately shut down.
The point is every individual responds differently to similar situations. Does this mean a Coach can’t get upset? No, definitely not. Keep your criticism on the action and the effort, but never the player. Does this mean a Coach can never yell or challenge a player? No. But the Coach should be selective when they do and make sure to see how the player responds. If it negatively impacts the player’s ability to develop then you’ll realize it’s not the right way to motivate this particular player. If you see them rise to the challenge and prove you wrong then you know that every so often you can challenge them when it feels needed.
How to Notice the Little Things
It is very easy to praise a player when they make a great play. The challenge for a Coach is noticing the little things that might go unnoticed, but are crucial for the team to succeed.
A Coach noticing the little things and commenting to the player positively about their impact on the success is a powerful motivational tool. It sends a message to the player that the Coach notices what they’re doing, even if it’s not them scoring the points or getting the steal. They could be the player who set up the teammate for an open shot by setting a screen or the applied hard ball pressure and tipped the ball to a teammate.
If you want to be a great Coach, pay attention to the little things.
Not just over the course of the game, but also in practice. Pay attention to the small details while you’re teaching individual or team skills. A great coach teaches fundamentals well and emphasizes the little things that make these skills even more sufficient.
Praising the Little Things
When a Coach notices and acknowledges a player’s effort, attitude, or improvement, it gives a player reason for future improvement. Why? Because every player wants praise. For anyone working hard to develop new skills, the acknowledgement of your hard work paying off means everything. And it makes you want to keep going and working to get even better. Praise is essential to player development.
This is why Coaches must learn to look for the small improvements. What is only a small improvement to a Coach could be a big deal to a player. A Coach who acknowledges an improvement by a player, can send a number of signals, such as:
- That the Coach cares about them to notice the small improvement they have been working hard on
- That the Coach wants them to get better and be successful
- It gives the player reassurance that Coach is happy with their effort and hard work
The box score only reflect a small part of the overall game and play of your team. A great way to notice small things during games is to have one of your assistants or team managers keep track of “other stats” that play major roles in the success of your team.
The “other stats” aren’t going to show up in the box score, but the Coach wants to know them so they can be sure to praise those players. Other stats could be a post player rebounds and makes an excellent outlet pass to a guard, a defender applies serious ball pressure that leads to a turnover, or a player steps up and takes a charge.
All of these are small things that put your team in a position to win. They may go unnoticed by everyone but it will mean a lot to the player when Coach mentions the play they made and how much of a difference it made in the game whether you win or lose.
Practice makes Perfect
If you want your team to be successful then they have to be prepared. An inadequately prepared team minimizes your chance to win. The best way to prepare your team is with effective, well-planned practices. An effective practice allows the Coach to teach and improve on fundamentals, the basic offensive and defensive strategies, and work to develop your team’s self-confidence.
Looking for the formula for an effective practice? Follow these steps:
- Be Organized
- Work hard; have fun and laugh
- Define your expectations to the players. Expect their best effort.
- Pay attention to detail.
- Offer more positive than negative feedback.
- Praise the little things.
As the Coach, you must plan practice properly for the daily and long-term needs of your team. If you can properly plan then you are ensuring the team has developed the team and individual skills needed for success. There is so much to teach when it comes to the game of basketball and so little time to get it all done which is why a proper plan is very important over the course of an entire season.
Learn how the maxim "less is more" can be implemented to prevent overtraining your athletes so that they can be performing at their peak when it count.
The Season Plan
It’s a good idea to have a general plan for developing your team. It helps to break down the season into segments:
Non-League Play or Non-Conference Play
League Play or Conference Play
Playoffs or Conference Tournament
There is so much to learn that you don’t want to overwhelm your players if you try to teach and implement everything in preseason. With this in mind, you should teach your team in stages. Start preseason teaching the basics and laying the foundation of what you’ll be building on for the rest of the season. This is a good time to work on their skills and introducing them to the new things you want to teach and they’ll have time to develop them as preseason goes along. Even if it’s a few things; you’d rather you team do a few things well than a lot of things poorly.
As your team is developing the basics in the preseason, create your plan of goals and what you want to accomplish by the end of each segment of the season. Do this by writing your plan and goals down so you can constantly come back to it and make sure your team is right where they need to be. If there are problems or you need to delay a goal because of how the team is progressing then that’s okay because plans can always be adjusted. Make a note on your plan about the progress and problems and suggestions for the future if you run into the same things. This will give you a reference of knowing your team strengths and weaknesses and will be helpful as you develop future plans.
As practices begin, the Coach should have an idea of the strengths and weaknesses of their team. Because of this, Coach can plan what style of play best fits the team. On top of that, Coach should know what is the style of play of the opponents the team will face the upcoming season. When Coach puts all of this together, they should have an idea of what the team will need to accomplish to be ready to compete when games start.
Keep reading for an idea of what to accomplish in preseason. By the end of preseason your team should be comfortable and capable these team concepts:
- Man-to-Man Defense
- One Zone Defense
- Basic Man-to-Man Offense
- One Zone Offense and how to attack a zone
- Two Out-of-Bounds plays under offensive basket
- Two Sideline Out-of-Bounds plays
- A Press Breaker against full court and half court defenses
- Transition Offense and Defense
- 3 Set Plays for Must-Needed Scores
- 1 Play for a Three-Point Play
Non-League Play (or Non-Conference Play)
By the end of your Non-League Play, your team should be capable with basic team skills, preseason goals, and the following:
- Switch between different offenses and defenses
- Additional man-to-man and zone offenses
- Defensive adjustments depending on opponent
- Another zone defense
- Additional out of bounds plays and
- Late-game situation situations
League Play (or Conference Play)
By the end of league play, the team should be comfortable with all the basics needed to have a successful run in the playoffs. At this point, it’s all about fine-tuning your offense and defense, making adjustments depending on your opponent, and having confident players. Practices should be light, fun, and enthusiastic, but remain focused with attention to detail and intensity. Errors or sloppiness should not be allowed.
Regardless of what time of the season it is, a coach should take a few minutes of time to review the day’s practice. Any notes the coach, assistants, or managers made should be reviewed. This type of attention to detail allows the coach to customize the next practice to specific needs of the team and individuals.
- Plan and schedule every minute of practice
- Emphasize defense early and often
- Keep players busy if they finish a drill early
- Limit any long lectures or verbal demonstrations
- Teach players how to play every position
- Emphasize the importance of each drill
- Teach new concepts at the beginning of practice
- Vary the types of drills and scrimmages
- Use short drills
- Follow difficult drills with easier drills
- Stress fundamentals during the entire practice
- Develop game-situation drills
- Stress offense and defense on alternating days
- End each day on a positive note
Still need help creating a practice plan? Check out some of our videos!
How to Control Your Game Demeanor
The goal of all coaches is to have complete control of the game from start to finish. At all times, the coach has to be able to explain what to do so that their team can compete and have the best chance to win the game. Players are looking to their coach for guidance and confidence. If the Coach has everything under control then the players will also be more likely to control their emotions during the game. The players will also play better during times of stress which can be the difference between winning and losing.
Players and Their Personalities
Coaches should know their players and their personalities if they’re going to effectively manage and motivate them in stressful times and or situations. Some players are very responsive to coaching when they come out of the game. With these players, it’s very easy to remind them of what they need to do.
However, if the Coach tends to get upset with players or if players get upset with themselves easily then it might be best to consider giving a little time to get into a better mindset before talking to the player. A player who is hard on themselves may need a few minutes to cool off and calm down about whatever actions they made on the court. After they have time to calm down, the Coach can explain what adjustments to make and what they want the player to do next time. Over time, the player may be able to learn to not be so hard on themselves and respond more calmly.
Communicating With Players After They Make a Mistake
As the Coach, you are communicating to your players with your actions and expressions along with the words you say and how you say them. Actions without using any words such as turning your back on a player, glaring at the player, throwing your hands up at them, or other actions demonstrating disgust and disappointment are not helpful. A player who is being subbed out of the game after making a mistake already knows what they did and are usually upset with themselves. Getting on them as they are making their way to the bench will not help - it actually may make things worse for the player.
If a player is having a hard time or loses confidence easily, the coach should acknowledge the player, and show confidence and express encouragement to them. The coach should put the payer back in the game in a timely manner. As they’re going to check in, the coach should ask them what they need to do and make any corrections at this time before they go back in the game. Punishing a player by keeping them out of the game for an extended period of time may make a point once or twice, but making a habit out of using this as a coaching tactic may create negative feelings for the player and frankly isn’t the best way to help the player or team succeed.
A team reflects the attitude of their coach. In a close game, the team is more likely to play well with a coach who is calmed, prepared, and confident rather than one who is stressed, second-guessing, and emotional.
Handling a Shooter Who is Having an Off Night
Good shooters will have streaks during the season where their shots will not fall, and it will be very easy for them to get frustrated and down on themselves. How you handle the player as the coach may determine how the player shoots in the game and could make a big impact on how they shoot the rest of the season. The player is already discouraged and hard on themselves so it’s up to the coach to be encouraging and work towards getting the player out of their shooting funk.
How should you handle a shooter on a cold shooting night? Try these things:
- Know that when a player comes out of the game upset with themselves that the need encouragement FIRST then instructions before going back in the game
- Tell the player to relax and be encouraging
- Emphasize other ways the player can help and that may restore their confidence
- Tell the player to keep shooting and taking their open shots
Putting Pressure on the Players
Putting pressure on players will never make them play better. It’s unfair to take a player to the side and tell them they have to play a great game in order for the team to win. It might be true, but it’s not the right message to tell your player. You want your players to all function as part of the offensive and defensive game scheme rather than a player feeling pressure to do everything which may interrupt the game scheme in a negative way.
If a player is not playing up to their potential over the course of consecutive games then they will already be concerned and worried about what the coach is thinking. As the coach, you should show concern for the player and ask if there are any problems that may be affecting their game play. Do not mention that their game play will determine whether you win or lose the next game. Players already have pressure on them to deliver or lose playing time. Why put even more pressure on them?
There are ways to take some of the pressure off the player by clearing communicating your expectations. A player may not be a scoring threat but their defense is creating turnovers and their blocking out and getting rebounds. The player may think they aren’t playing well because they aren’t scoring points. As the Coach, you should tell the player not to worry about scoring points, but to keep playing great defense.
Tips for Game Demeanor
- Be calm and cool.
- Be instructive and constructive.
- Be disciplined and encouraging.
- Set simple goals.
- Realize offensive droughts and defensive breakdowns are going to happen.
How to Deal with Parents
One of the great fears that many coaches have involves dealing with parents.
Parents want the best for the kids. Parents trust their kids with the coach and have the belief that every kid on the team will be given quality practice and game time. The Coach is expected to effectively communicate with their players and parents.
At the first team meeting and parents meeting, the ground rules for a successful relationship should be laid out on the table. It’s crucial for both sides to know the expectations and goals. At the meeting, make sure the parents understand and agree to your philosophy and rules. If everyone is part of establishing the rules then they are more likely to be supportive when difficult times arise (and they will).
If Coach communicates poorly with the parents and players, the parent will become more protective and involved especially if their kid is struggling. If the parents feels like their kid is not getting fair treatment and equal opportunity then they might become unhappy. But if you laid the groundwork in the initial meeting and the parents sees that you’re following your philosophy and rules (they agreed to) then they will more than likely to be supportive of you because they can see you’re following your word.
Classification of Parents
- Concerned Parent - these parents know little to nothing about basketball. They are confident Coach will teach their child everything they need to know to become a better player. They will not be super involved unless it’s a crisis.
- Concerned and Involved Parents - some of these parents are knowledgeable about basketball and that can mean they’re more critical of how coach does things such as playing time. These parents can be the best supporters of your team, but they can also be a big pain.
- Disinterested Parents - these parents are no-shows; they aren’t interested enough to show up for meetings, practices, or games. As the coach, you have an important role to play with kids who have disinterested parents. You might have to pick them up, take them home, and many other things. But be sure to know the difference between disinterested parents and parents who have conflicts such as working unexpected shifts or many jobs to support their family.
- Interfering Parents - these parents may or may not know anything about basketball, but their main concern is their kid. They either want to win at all costs or want the coach to give special treatment to the kid. These are the parents that might try to influence the coach by complaining or causing a distraction in other ways such as telling their kid to not listen to some of the things you have told them to do, coaching their kid from the stands, or yelling at the referees.
As the coach, you’re going to have to have relationships with your players’ parents. But you can determine what type of relationship you want to have and make sure to establish it early on with your team. This relationship should be focused on the needs and best interests of your players, the team, and you. Make sure it reflects your coaching philosophy and communication style.
Top Basketball Coaches of All Time
Greatest NBA Coaches
11x NBA Champion as Head Coach
9x NBA Champion as Head Coach
3x NBA Champion as Head Coach
5x NBA Champion as Head Coach
Greatest College Coaches
10 NCAA Division I Champion as Head Coach
5x NCAA Division I Champion as Head Coach
11x NCAA Division I Champion as Head Coach
8x NCAA Division I Champion as Head Coach
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This program is all about to the two of the most successful and legendary coaches of the basketball world who will share their thoughts and ideas on the game and how it should be taught to the players and some of the amazing drills that have made their teams super successful.
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Mike Dunlap is renowned in basketball coaching circles for his D2 Championships, his NBA experience and his work in the Big East, Pac 12 and international leagues. Coach Dunlap offers thought-provoking ideas that will pique your curiosity, challenge your conventional thinking, and spark your intellect.
Included are ideas about the best ways to teach, the most effective learning processes for players, practice planning and organization, personal growth and networking... and more.
While Coach Dunlap shares not a single X and O, play, scheme, drill or action on this release, the information and ideas presented here will have a tremendous positive impact on your team, your season, and your coaching.
Recommended Training Equipment for Coaching
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