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Coaches Corner

Coaches Corner: Best and Worst Coaching Advice

  • Date:
    Sep 17, 2020

Carla Berube (Princeton University)
What is the best coaching advice you have heard?
One of the best pieces of coaching advice I’ve received is to make sure you surround yourself with great people. Hire a staff you trust, can communicate with and want to be around. You are only as strong as the staff around you. They are an extension of you. And, to also recruit student athletes that are not only great players but, even more important, great people. Be around winners, those that like to win and know how to win. This advice has been instrumental in how I have crafted my programs.

What is the worst coaching advice you have heard?

The worst piece of coaching advice I have received is: That head coaches should keep their distance from their players. Let the assistant coaches have the more personal relationships off the court with the team. I heard this when I first started out as a head coach. I soon figured out this wasn’t the best way to reach my players and get them to trust me.  The relationships I’ve made off the court have been incredibly impactful and has brought so much value to my life and my teams success on the court. You have to show them that you care.

Matt King (Arizona Basketball Coaches Association & CCV Stars Youth Sports)
What is the best coaching advice you have heard?
‘Basketball is overcoached and undertaught.’ I think when we have the mentality that we are a teacher first, there is a better chance for our players to develop consistent habits that lead to proper execution within a game situation.

What is the worst coaching advice you have heard?
‘A good coach is measured by how many hours he or she spends in the gym.’ Our job takes time, and there is no getting around that, but I think a lot of coaches think efficiency and effectiveness are the same thing. Getting things done and getting the right things done are not necessarily the same thing, though. It is better to do one thing that moves the needle than 100 things that don’t. Too many coaches spend too much time on things that don’t impact growth and winning.

Kara Lawson (Boston Celtics)
What is the best coaching advice you have heard?
One of the best pieces of coaching advice I’ve received was that it doesn’t matter how much you know as a coach, what matters is if you can teach it to the players and if they can execute it on the court.

What is the worst coaching advice you have heard?

I can’t say I’ve received a bad piece of advice yet. Maybe it’s on the horizon. Everyone on the outside of your team doesn’t know the unique challenges you face on a daily basis. Sometimes advice I receive doesn’t match with what I know will work for our group at that moment. It’s not bad advice it’s just not a fit.

DeLisha Milton-Jones (Syracuse University)
What is the best coaching advice you have heard?
‘When your principles are clear, decision making is easy!’ This advice given to me as a young coach helped confirm that the fabric of who I am as a person is suitable for the job – meaning there’s a place for organic honesty in the coaching world. You don’t have to manipulate, lie or persuade players into doing what you think is best. You can achieve their best by being clear in expressing the vision you have laid out for the program and for them. Once I’m sure that they understand where I’m coming from and why I’m doing what I’m doing, I can lead with total confidence that everyone is on board. Making sure that I balance communicating with and listening to my players (to get their perspective) was majorly important as well. When you have clear clean communication, you leave very little room for misinterpretations, especially if you’ve taken the time to listen or have a dialogue with players. If issues ever arise, I can always revert back to how thorough I was in expressing and explaining my thoughts and the dialogue shared between that player/person and myself.

What is the worst coaching advice you have heard?
The worst advice was that you have to use every second available for practice….. TO PRACTICE.  I found that to be false, especially if you know how to be efficient and productive with your time. If you have three hours to use for practice but can get your work done in one-and-a-half hours efficiently, do it! No one wants to do anything longer than they have to, especially if its wasting everyone’s time. Efficiency is something all coaches should strive to master.

Brian Robinson (Bishop McGuinness High School, NC)
What is the best coaching advice you have heard?
‘Don't burn bridges.’ The basketball world is really small. The kids you coach will get older, and you want them to remember you as someone who tried to give them your best. The same goes for your coaching peers: don't run up the score, don't use media outlets to embarrass them and don't take or make things personal. Using that philosophy has allowed me to not only have peace of mind but has allowed me to stay in the coaching business longer than I ever thought I would.

What is the worst coaching advice you have heard?
‘Don't coach girls.’ I was a high school boys basketball coach my first eight years and enjoyed it.  When I was contemplating moving to coaching girls, I was told by many that it would be a mistake because the "world" didn't care about girls basketball and making that change would destroy my career. I didn't listen, and now coaching girls has been the best decision of my life.  Coaching is coaching, and I've found myself in a situation where I've been able to positively change a lot of lives, one of which is my own.

Heather Stewart (Christopher High School, CA)
What is the best coaching advice you have heard?
‘If you ever think you know it all, it’s time to quit.’ I believe whether you are a new coach or a veteran, there are times we get comfortable in our knowledge of the game. We can get into the mindset of, ‘This is how I do it and have always done it,’ and are somewhat rigid in changing philosophies or tactics. The more time I’ve spent in the game and with amazing coaches, both young and old, I’ve learned my knowledge is but a drop in the bucket, even after 21 years of coaching and a lifetime in the game. There are always new and different ways to coach, strategize, develop and grow the game for you and your players. We simply have to be open to change. We ask players to get outside their comfort zones, and I believe it’s important that we do also.

What is the worst coaching advice you have heard?
‘Players won’t respect you if you’re not tough on them. They have to fear you if you want to win.’ As a new coach, I didn’t truly understand the big picture. I was scoreboard focused and wanted to do whatever was needed to win. I thought yelling and punishments would make them play harder, because that’s what I had heard and seen from some older coaches who were winning. Experience and reflection have taught me this couldn’t be further from the truth. Yes, there has to be a level of respect, and we all compete to win, but I’ve learned that athletes play better when they are not in fear of their coaches, parents, teammates or mistakes. Learning to embrace and celebrate the victories of a new skill, growth in confidence, selfless play, great teammates, fundamentals, discipline and energy motivates players even further. In these victories you can embrace the life-lessons and then the ‘W’ on the scoreboard begins to take care of itself. I have learned not to yell and scream or punish kids, rather to coach them up, make corrections, celebrate when they get it right, allow them to play fearless and help them build and grow their confidence, as well as their relationships with teammates. In the big picture, when we make the players and their growth our priority over the scoreboard, every kid and their team wins

Ras Vanderloo (Sioux City East High School, IA)
What is the best coaching advice you have heard?
‘Be yourself. Don’t try to be someone you’re not, and don’t try to be someone you see on TV.’ You can take ideas and thoughts from many other coaches to blend into your own coaching style, but don’t ever try to imitate someone else, Use your own personality. Another piece of advice I can give is it every player on your team has a different level of button to push to get them going. You need to develop a great relationship with each player to decide where that button is that. Once that relationship is developed, it becomes a lot easier for you to know how to get each player going to their full potential. A large part of successful coaching comes from having great player relationships.

What is the worst coaching advice you have heard?
I think one of the biggest mistakes of young coaches and coaches who coach young players is that they will watch a major college game on TV or an NBA game and see a play that works, and then they try to put it in at their level of play. To try and implement the triangle offense or a series of set calls with counters off of it, is nearly impossible for younger players. I believe it develops a lot of confusion for the players and the coaches. The best advice I can give is to keep things simple. Teach fundamentals at any level you coach, constantly coach kids to play hard and there’s a very good chance you will have success.


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