Youth sports took a hit during the pandemic, something the USA Basketball Foundation hopes to help rectify this year.
“Coachabilty describes someone who wants to be coached. This manifests itself as someone who likes being challenged, loves learning, strives for more and more and then works tirelessly at what they’re taught.” – Coach Geno Auriemma
Being coachable and being teachable go hand in hand. Above all things, coaches are teachers, players are students, and basketball is the subject matter. Coaches want to feel that the players care about what they say. During training, practice and games, a coachable player will give the coach their undivided attention. Also, a player that is coachable will act on what the coach teaches.
There are four main traits that a player needs to possess to be considered coachable. When selecting a team, or deciding to coach a group of young people, you should look for these characteristics among each prospective player.
HUMILITY. A player that has humility accepts and admits that there are things they do not know, and cannot do, within the sport of basketball. Further, the player is willing to concede when they cannot accomplish a certain task alone, and are willing to allow the coach to help.
SENSE OF PURPOSE. A player who is willing to state their goals and demonstrate their motivation will typically be easier to reach through coaching.
SURRENDERING CONTROL. A player who can give up control to another, in this case a coach, is initially doing so without seeing results. For a player to make true change to improve their game, a journey into uncertainty will happen along the way. Once you have been verified as a credible and qualified teacher, a coachable player will be fully invested in the journey.
FAITH. Improvement or non-improvement as a player can only be determined after the player has been through the experience with you as the coach. A player that puts faith in you is forgoing the benefit of hindsight, understanding that sometimes things need to get worse before they get better. At the same time that you are seeking or imparting these characteristics to your players, you should also encourage players and their parents to seek the same in a prospective coach.
It has been proven that the vast majority of all communication is non-verbal. Your actions as a coach speak much louder than your words. Through posture, facial expressions, body language, gestures and tone, players and coaches send each other unspoken cues. It’s important that you coach your players to say what they mean and mean what they say. This is extremely valuable as your players communicate amongst themselves and others.
Interactive communication is needed to effectively send and receive messages. There are many obstacles in the way of clear communication, and pushing through those obstacles is a challenge that you must overcome as a coach. Obstacles such as non-listeners, misinformation, and interpretation are barriers to interacting with your players and having them interact with each other. A major barrier in modern day communication is sarcasm. It is your duty as a coach to remove sarcasm from all communication in order to keep messaging clear and effective.
Here are six communication principles to impart to your players:
CARE. Communicators must have a genuine concern for other people, their development, and their needs.
CREDIBLE. Great communicators remain consistent, fair and competent. Their actions dictate how they are perceived and valued.
CONSTRUCTIVE. Communicators are consistently positive, full of energy and only see challenges as temporary obstacles.
CONNECT. Use every opportunity to communicate at the appropriate level, with simple and direct language to keep and hold someone’s attention.
CONFIRM. Check back with the other person or group to ensure messaging is understood.
CONCENTRATE. Give opportunity for others to respond, listening intently to responses and feedback.
Confidence is the players’ belief in their ability to perform. Some players derive this confidence from possessing natural talent, and some acquire it from training and mastering skills. As a coach, it is imperative that you provide your players with enough confidence to drive their passion to advance in the sport.
Here are five ways to promote and instill confidence in the players you coach:
HELP PLAYERS COPE WITH FEAR OF FAILURE. Fear of failure is a natural trait that derives from a player’s desire to succeed. The fear is based on the player’s need for social acceptance and approval. Talk openly with players about their personal fears. Coach them to identify and openly discuss what scares them the most.
ASSIST IN SETTING EXPECTATIONS. It’s great to have expectations, but when players set their own expectations too high they will lose confidence and, perhaps, interest in basketball. Assist your players in identifying reasonable expectations so they don’t sabotage their experiences.
AID IN NAVIGATING DISTRACTIONS. The ability for a player to concentrate can become blocked by distractions. For that reason, help your players to focus on processes rather than outcomes. Emphasize the importance of living in each moment so as to minimize the distraction of outside forces. For example, teach your players to keep focus on a particular play instead of emphasizing how that play may win or lose the game.
SERVE AS YOUR PLAYERS’ BIGGEST FAN. As a coach, you should teach and support your players throughout the confidence-building process. Help players erase doubts and beliefs that undermine their confidence. Demonstrate loudly to your players that you are behind them using positive reinforcement during both favorable and unfavorable situations.
HELP PLAYERS DEAL WITH SETBACKS. Mistakes, errors and poor judgment on the part of young people is inevitable, especially in sports. Helping your players cope with those setbacks instills composure in them. Teach your players to learn from, and then let go of, the past. Keep your players moving forward at all times.
Hard work and discipline compliment each other in basketball. A hard working player will often demonstrate a sense of self-discipline. Likewise, a disciplined player will typically appreciate the value of hard work in achieving goals. As a coach, you must set this tone by putting in extra effort and training yourself to uphold the same expectations you have for your players.
It is important to recognize that the definition of hard work for one player may not be the same as it is for another. For example, players with high stamina may perform the same sprinting drill as their teammates but may find the drill unchallenging. Encourage players to discipline themselves to do more when they are able. Conversely, it is equally as valuable for players who struggle with a drill to acknowledge that struggle and work with you to learn how they can improve. Train your players to accept situations that require hard work, and also train them to demonstrate discipline while performing that work.
Leadership plays an important role in basketball, especially in team situations. A team can be made up of different levels of leaders both on and off the court. Ultimately, the coach will lead the group, however the coach will need to rely on others to lead at various points. Teaching your players and assistant coaches how to lead allows your coaching philosophy to spread consistently throughout the group.
There are multiple ways to select leaders, though as coaches you should recognize that leaders aren’t always your best players. Players learn to lead from the experience of both leading and following. There is value in your players learning by emulating the best player, but there is equal value in players learning from those who have had the experience as followers. As a coach, make it a point to identify, train and appoint both types of leaders within your team or group. This will help to build trust in you as a coach amongst your players, parents and administrators.
As a leader yourself, it’s important to gain the trust of those who follow you. Those who are unfamiliar with you as a person will be apprehensive to trust you as a leader, especially at first. Demonstrate to your players that, as their coach, you embrace initial skepticism and encourage them to do the same. Inform players from the start that you are under the microscope as their coach, and let them know that tomorrow it could be them under that same microscope. Finally, impart to your entire group that being under scrutiny doesn’t have to be viewed as bad. We should encourage constructive feedback to better ourselves as coaches, players and as people.
Coaching basketball provides a great opportunity to teach young players the value of responsibility. Responsibility involves making choices and then accepting the results of the choices that were made. Often, young people allow circumstances to dictate poor choices. Players will often minimize or ignore their power to choose so that they can satisfy short-term wants and needs.
For example, a player may miss a practice or training session when a perceived better opportunity presents itself in the moment, such as playing video games with friends. This doesn’t necessarily mean the player doesn’t want to improve, but in that moment the player casts aside their long-term goals in basketball to fulfill a short-term desire, which in this case was playing video games instead of practicing. As a coach, it is your duty to consider a player’s long-term growth and impart true responsibility in your players in order to produce longterm results.
To teach responsibility in your players, take these steps:
A responsible player has more of an ability to decide between right and wrong than an irresponsible player. Insist that all players you coach own their responsibilities so that they can make informed decisions when faced with choices.
Young players should treat teammates, coaches, opponents and officials the same way that they would like to be treated – fairly and with respect. Coping with winning and losing is a major part of sportsmanship in basketball. Ideally, young people first learn about how to deal with challenges that arise from a modeled behavior by their parents or guardians. However, as a coach, it’s up to you to reinforce the appropriate behavior for winning and losing, as well as during individual situations.
Rarely does a player enter a game or contest exhibiting poor sportsmanship. Typically, an unfavorable situation arises within an activity that prompts the player to act unruly. Prepare your players for these moments ahead of time by simulating challenging situations in training or practice sessions. For example, have an assistant coach purposely make a wrong out-of-bounds call while officiating a scrimmage. Then, explain to the complaining players that calls like that will happen frequently over the course of basketball. Emphasize to all that acting unruly and complaining about a call is a backward action, and that it takes important focus away from the next play.
Do not tolerate regressive thinking by your players, and do not exhibit regressive thinking in your coaching style. Players will mirror the behavior of their coach as their leader. Set the example for your team by controlling your own emotions toward officials, parents, your own players as well as your opponents. Don’t allow unfavorable situations to permit you, your assistant coaches or your players to cause discredit to your team.
“To me, teamwork is the beauty of our sport, where you have five acting as one. You become selfless.”
– Coach Mike Krzyzewski
Teamwork is the essential part of basketball success. Every player and coach has a specific role to play in accomplishing team goals. Although it may seem as if one player scored the basket, that basket was made possible by planning, coordinating, and cooperating to get that player the ball. As a coach you develop people to work well with others, but you also need to ensure that every player understands their particular role in that process. When everyone focuses on performing within their role then everyone achieves more.
Teaching the value of teamwork and becoming an effective member of a team is an important first step to developing leadership skills. For impressionable youth, the development of these skills is critical. Young people that lack a team experience have limited exposure to positive and proactive support systems in basketball. Affording young people experiences through which they learn to rely on themselves and on others is an important factor in the development of a productive mentality.
As a coach, encourage each of the following habits in all players:
Teach your players that “we over me” is what most often leads to “us over them,” in team sport competitions. Encourage your players to be selfless and supportive teammates in both losing and winning efforts.
Youth sports took a hit during the pandemic, something the USA Basketball Foundation hopes to help rectify this year.
USA Basketball will conduct youth clinics on July 19 in Las Vegas in partnership with Kaiser Permanente.