Accepting a basketball coaching position for the first time can be intimidating and overwhelming at times. It is especially difficult for beginning coaches that accepted the job because no one else would do it. There are a lot of those coaches out there and some of them admittedly don’t know very much about basketball. Regardless of how you became a first time coach, the responsibilities and expectations are the same. Here are some tips for new coaches that will help you as you progress through your season.
Be humble & eager to learn
The reality of coaching is that the players get credit for the wins and you get blamed for the losses. Once you accept a coaching job, you have agreed to accept that reality as well as take on a lot of challenges. The first challenge is realizing that you will need help and have the willingness to accept advice from other coaches. Effective coaches seek out the advice of other coaches and try to learn as much as possible from them.
Ask questions about how they run practice, what is their defensive/offensive philosophy, how they get their best player open, etc. Be eager to learn what to do and what not to do in every aspect of your job. Watch DVDs of successful coaches and see how they do things. Read books, go to coaching clinics, watch games, or search the internet for information. Nowadays there is an endless amount of information available. Be proactive, search for as much information as possible and apply it to your coaching philosophy.
The one trait of all great coaches is confidence. Confidence comes from being prepared and organized. Being organized will help you in your relationship with parents as well as your players. You have to get your players to buy in to what you are doing and they have to feel like you know what you are talking about. An unorganized coach looks like an incompetent coach and they have a hard time getting the respect of their players. Effective coaches have organized practices that limit dead time and prepare their teams for game-like situations. Organization can help teams make up for a lot of limitations that both players and coaches have as well as assisting with team discipline.
Focus on getting better
Too many middle school level and AAU coaches put too much emphasis on winning. Winning is important for player motivation and can be a way to show the progress of a team, but it should not be the main focus of a coach. What you emphasize as a coach is what the players will focus on. Players at the early stages of their basketball career need to focus on the fundamentals of the game and have a daily goal of getting better. Just because you win a championship doesn’t always mean your team has improved.
The benchmark of a good coach is one that can get the most out of the players they have. In order to do get the most out of players, the coach must focus and put emphasis on getting better at something every day. As a coach you may not see the direct results of them getting better but down the road they will be better players because of what you emphasized.
A lot of first year coaches feel like there is pressure to win and as a result start to put that pressure on the players. It often leads to coaches pointing out all the negatives rather than stressing the positives. Continuing to harp on the negatives will result in a decrease in player motivation and can be a detriment to team chemistry. A coach must be an encourager of the positives and an informer of the negatives. They should point out the areas that a player and team need to improve, but they also need to reinforce the players when they do something right.
There will be a lot of times during your season and coaching career where it is going to be difficult to find something positive to say. Find something positive, as little as it may be, and point it out to the players. It will help your players as well as helping you. Also, when you meet with your team or with individual players the rule of thumb is to start with a positive comment to get their attention, then get into the negatives, and finally end with a positive comment so they leave on a good note. It will go a long way in building a positive relationship with your players and will help on and off the floor.