I had the great joy of being a basketball coach for my old high school this season. Beginning last October, I became the head coach for 5th and 6th grade boys, the assistant for the 7th and 8th grade boys, the head JV coach, and the assistant for the varsity. It’s safe to say I was busy, but the year was so rewarding. I was especially proud of my 5th and 6th graders; after losing our first game 20-9, they went on a roll and won their final 16 games. They were awesome.
But I digress.
I’ve always wanted to be a coach since I quit basketball as a freshman due to my intense unhappiness with the way the team was being coached. That’s a long story for a different time, but that’s where my desire came from. I thought to myself, “There simply has to be a better way.”
Now, I don’t know if I’m there yet. In fact, I would bet I’m not. But I learned a lot this year, and I think I’m a better coach today than I was during that 20-9 loss in November. So, here’s a few things I learned from my time working with nearly every team at the school.
- For some (and maybe most) kids, simply hearing “you can do this” is HUGE.
- For the younger grades, having multiple kids who can dribble is a BIG advantage. Time spent on those fundamentals is NEVER wasted.
- Practice time, which seemed soooo long as a player, goes by way too quickly when you’re coaching. It’s important to have a plan in place for what you want to accomplish.
- Free throws are major. That needs to be an almost daily part of the practice routine.
- Setting a standard of expectation is important. Whatever the drill is, whatever the standard is, be clear about it. When the team hits the goal, celebrate…and then raise the standards the next day. I got a thrill out of seeing kids accomplish something and then coming back the next day, ready to beat what they’d already done.
- Refs are going to make bad calls. That happens. But, refs probably aren’t going to determine the outcome of the game. It’s important to keep the team focused on their own actions, not the actions of others. And yelling at the refs is almost never worth it (I didn’t yell much, I’ll be honest).
- Perspective matters. No matter what the situation, no matter how big it feels…basketball is still basketball. Don’t let it be bigger than it is.
- On that same note, let the players be the ones to get too hyped up. The coach should be the one helping relieve pressure. The kids are going to put pressure on themselves enough; don’t add to it. They’ll make mistakes. It happens. No team is perfect. I probably said “we’re okay” a million times this season, but I think the kids need to hear it.
- Good teams are the teams that can adapt and play a variety of ways. This may be a preference thing, but I’d rather have a team that’s pretty good in a lot of different sets than a team that’s great in just one. Variety of offensive looks and defensive formations helps keep opponents on their toes.
- The score is never the most important thing. When it is, you’re doing something wrong.