Being a youth basketball coach can be very rewarding. Basketball or any sport for that matter provides the opportunity to help young people learn and develop skills that will impact many aspects of their life. Not only physical skills, but mental abilities including social skills, strategic thinking and performing under stress. Working with them, contributing to them and watching them grow is really a great privilege. So how do you make the most of this opportunity?
Everyone has their own unique personality and strengths as a coach so you will always tailor any coaching methods to your style. With that in mind, here are some key points to build from to continue on your path to being a great coach:
A fundamental trait that builds character is respect for others. How you handle yourself as a coach provides the best example. Respect your players as humans and treat them with dignity. You are a role model and are constantly being watched. They see how you treat other adults, coaches, players and officials. Insist that everyone is respected, including opponents and fellow teammates — and lead the way — no matter the results of the game.
Practices and games are a prime opportunity to reinforce the fundamental principles of courtesy and respect for others. Remind players this is core to the sport and life. Shaking hands with officials, opposing coaches and players, being a good winner as well as being a good loser all teach good sportsmanship.
Sports brings winning and losing and another chance for key teaching moments is in adversity. Preaching a positive mental attitude (PMA) during challenging situations in practice, in-game or post-game will help your players to develop coping skills and emotional strength. With this developed they will be able to play better in difficult situations and have a better experience.
It can be challenging as a coach, as a teacher, to get caught up in exactly how things should be done, how a play or practice should be executed. Remember youth sports is about growing, development and FUN. Be careful not to over-instruct, give complex challenges or get frustrated with them. You run the risk of stifling their growth all together. Keeping a reasonable, encouraging mindset will also help you to stay calm and have a more rewarding experience.
Building the mindset from the beginning that the sum is greater than the parts will go a long way to help them understand how to work together. Players on winning teams complement each other’s skills and multiply the results by working together.
Practice and Games
There is a reason in sports it’s referred to as “playing” a “game”. Play. Fun. Joy. Keeping practice and games fun and enjoyable are not just philosophical ideas — they actually contribute to increased learning and development — they also lead to winning game play — which happens to be fun! This doesn’t mean lack of structure, instruction or attention to detail. Take a “compete to learn” approach while keeping practice enjoyable goes a long way to keeping youth players engaged and learning. Instructing with encouragement allows players to move through something they may not be good and gives them courage to keep their heads up and do the work. This is especially true during a game. Instead of their mental focus being on what’s wrong they will be able to put their mind and energy to developing a weakness in a positive state of mind and will be able to make corrections more quickly.
Congratulations, you’re doing this right now! There are many resources online to help learn new ways to be an effective coach and mentor. Each team you will have will be different, each player you have will be different. To maximize your effectiveness it will require learning your players and adjusting to their strengths and weaknesses. The great coaches are always learning. Continue to study the game, read, watch coaching videos, attend clinics, speak with other coaches, find a mentor for yourself. These will give you a great opportunity to be a skilled coach, produce a positive, winning culture and make a difference in their lives. Plus, the winning that goes along with what you will learn and teach, as well as the pride you will have in your teams will last a lifetime.
An Experience of a Lifetime
Coaching young people is an honor. It’s a great privilege to impact another human being’s development. You will affect their life skills. Communication, relating to others, how to develop themselves, their work ethic, how to reach goals — and the list goes on. You will have an impact on their lives. When they grow into adults they won’t remember the scores but they will remember the difference you made in their lives. Coach well!