Youth Basketball Coaching Philosophy Tips
Why do you want to be a basketball coach?
To be a good youth basketball coach, you not only need to know the game, but you need to be a good teacher, listener, communicator, positive role model, and parent figure to the players you are coaching. There are also many distractions that a coach must deal with such as irate parents, other coaches, attitudes from players, bad calls from the refs, winning and losing – all of this comes with the job of coaching. When you win, the parents are your best friends – but when you lose, you are all alone. Coaches need a Basketball Coaching Philosophy. These Youth Basketball Coaching Philosophy Tips will assist you with your goals of succeeding as a youth basketball coach.
Why do I coach?
I coach because I love it! I get excited about planning my practices, teaching plays and drills, seeing how the team and each player is developing, and just generally love to be around the game. Over the years I have coached many teams, and it is very rewarding to watch middle school or high school games and see players I have coached – to see them doing well, and to know that I had a big role in their skill development; I helped them succeed in the sport of basketball. It’s a great feeling. Success as a basketball coach will be determined by your coaching “philosophy.” It takes a very long time to develop a coaching philosophy – it’s more than just saying “My philosophy is to press, and run the floor.” And it’s not just about the “Xs” and “O’s” either. A coach’s philosophy is an ongoing process that will (and should) continue to grow as you gain coaching experience.
What is meant by Basketball Coaching Philosophy?
A basketball coaching philosophy is determined by many things, and really no two coaches will have the exact same basketball coaching philosophy.
Some of the determining factors of a basketball coaching philosophy are:
1. The coaches overall beliefs, ideas, and team concept.
2. The coaches temperament – are you a screamer, quiet, or both? Will you make this a fun experience for the players, or make them wish they didn’t have to be there?
3. The coaches experiences as a player, a coach (head or assistant), or even as an observer. This includes any experiences developed from articles, books, clinics, talking to other coaches, watching videos / DVD’s, etc.
4. The types of offenses and defenses that a coach wants to use. Most of all do you understand that sometimes you may not have the players to run these plays, and may have to use alternate plays (with the deciding factor being the type, size, or speed of the players that make up your team).
5. The coaches ability to “teach” – whether it’s the fundamentals of the game, developing the players skills, and also allowing players to use those skills in the game.
6. The coach’s ability to instill discipline, and be fair to all players when there are consequences. Is discipline an every time thing, or a once in a while thing? Discipline applies to every player equally – not just when you get to the boiling point (it won’t have the same effect on the players).
7. Are you easy to work with? Do you compromise when needed, do you follow the rules and guidelines. Do you stand up for your ideas or fold under pressure, etc…
8. Are you organized? Do you plan out practices, put out schedules on time, make the most of your time with the players?
9. Are you a good communicator? Do your players understand what you are saying? Do you get your teaching points across to the players in such a way that it sticks in their minds?
10. Energy – Do you possess a positive energy – where everyone wants to be involved, gets fired up, wants to be there, and wants to work hard, etc.
A basketball coaching philosophy starts when you first accept the position of head coach, and is on-going until the day you stop coaching. It’s a good idea to learn from other successful coaches – some have had great coaching philosophy’s, and were very successful. But coaches must realize that they must incorporate their own qualities, experiences, attitude, style, trial and errors, and ideas into developing their own coaching philosophy, and most of all you must constantly try to improve, never stop learning. Coaches should understand that even if you possess a good basketball coaching philosophy – there will be no guarantee that you will succeed as a coach. On the other hand – without a good basketball coaching philosophy – you will never succeed…
The 12 Basic Fundamentals of good basketball coaching philosophy!
1. Teaching / Style of Teaching
When teaching the fundamentals a coach must be consistent and stress “execution” in everything about the game – drills, plays, running, shooting, passing, catching, defense, and everything else you teach must be done at game speed (and to perfection). A coach’s style of teaching is simply the methods used to teach the players, and is the most critical aspect of the team succeeding (or not succeeding). If the players respond well to a coaches teaching style, the team will be successful, if they don’t, it will be a long season…
2. Understanding Player Ability – How to Best Use Ability
Many coaches make the mistake of placing the 5 “best” players on the court, when in reality they should be placing the 5 “right” players on the court. Many times the best players will not “gel” or work as a team – which is very important to the success of the team. Finding the “right” 5 that will play unselfishly, work together, and execute is a challenge – but can be the difference between winning or losing. Team “balance” is very critical to a team’s philosophy. Since basketball is a total team effort – the players must understand their roles and perform at their best in these roles. The point guard should run the offense and handle the ball when needed, the shooters should shoot, the post players should box out and rebound, and the best passer should pass the ball in during inbounds plays. It is the coach’s responsibility to make sure that players are put in a position where they will best help the team – the team’s welfare is the highest priority. Allow players to use their skills in such a way where it helps the overall success of the team.
3. Getting the Most out of your Players
Is it important for the players to like you? Sometimes this is good, and sometimes not so good (it all depends). Coaches should try to be more of a “mentor” than the players “friend” (and sometimes it works out to be both). The bottom line is that the players must respond to your teaching style, absorb your plays and drills, and rise to the occasion and want to play for you! But again, this doesn’t mean that they have to like you? If you can get the players to believe in what the team’s goals are – you have won half the battle! Getting the most of your players does not mean that you need to pamper them, let them get away with things, allow them to slack off in practice, joke with them, etc. This would be detrimental to your team’s goals, and success will not come so easy. There is a time to “bond” with your players, but it needs to be in the form of hard work, respect, and discipline. If you are passionate about the game, and enthusiastic about teaching basketball – the players will react to this in a positive manner, and you will get the most out of your players.
4. Coach – Player Relationships / Communication
The key to having a good relationship with your players is communication. As long as you are fair, open, and honest to every player on the team (whether it’s your star player or the last player on the roster) – you can build relationships with the players. There should be no secrets as to why a player is not playing as much, why they don’t start, why they play a certain position, why they are last to go in on the drills, weaknesses they have, their role, any progress they are making, etc… Poor communications between coaches and players can destroy a team quickly. Remember, you are there to help develop the players – not only with their basketball skills, but with life lessons (respect, discipline, friendship, trust, sportsmanship, etc). Keep your players up to speed on their progress, why they aren’t playing as much, and any other part of the game that they need to work on and understand. Players also need positive feedback, they are looking for guidance, so don’t think of communication as just telling a player what they need to work on – communicate what they are doing correctly also. If you provide your players with consistent, fair communication, your players will respect you, and also have the feedback they need to improve their game. Communication is not an option when it comes to good coaching.
5. Coaching Temperament
Are you soft spoken? A screamer? A little of both? It doesn’t matter, as long as you are being who you are – and are consistent about it. You can be soft spoken and still command discipline, or you can scream and command discipline – it can work either way. As long as you motivate your players, be respectful, consistent, and most of all – be fair (treat all the players the same, no matter what). A coach should maintain a consistent temperament throughout the season. It’s ok to have fun with the players, but they must know that you will not put up with any problems or poor attitudes. At the same time, you can’t send a message of confusion – which means, you are screaming at them one day, and playing around with them the next. The players must know where you draw the line, and never dare to cross it.
6. Organizational Skills
One very important aspect of coaching is being organized – there is no way around being organized – it can make or break the entire basketball program. A disorganized coach exemplifies an unprofessional attitude and poor approach to teaching, and pretty much will not be taken seriously. Being disorganized shows that you just don’t care (not only to the players, but to the parents, other coaches, your school or organization, club, etc).
The coach must be organized in the following areas:
* Practice planning, start practices on time.
* Schedules – update as needed, print out copies for players / parents.
* Be early for practices, meetings, etc.
* Signing up for tournaments, scrimmages.
* Game preparation – What strategy will you use against certain teams, who are your starters, etc. Who is doing the scorebook? Who is bringing the between game snacks for the players? Who will find the team a place to eat after the games? Who is keeping player stats during the games?
* Meetings – schedule as needed, be prepared.
Of course a coach doesn’t have time to do it all, and shouldn’t do it all. But a coach is responsible for the organization of their team, and if they can’t do it all, they must surround themselves with people who can help them be successful. Delegate to your assistant coaches, get a team manager, etc. Find a way to get the job done…
7. Keep Learning…
Even if you feel there is nothing else that you can learn as a coach – I can tell you, you would be wrong to assume this. There is so much about the game of basketball to learn, it would be impossible to learn everything in a lifetime. So the solution would be to learn as much as you can, from as many sources as you can (other coaches, video tapes, DVD’s, articles), and always keep an open mind to learning. Even if you are not interested in a certain defense or offense – it would be nice to know how they worked so you can come up with a game plan against them. Don’t just learn what “works” but rather what “doesn’t work” also. What works for one coach may not work for another coach, but at least you will know how to defend it or which offense will work against it, etc. You’ve probably heard the saying “The more you know.” Well it means just that – the more you know about the game, the better you will be at teaching it to others, which is why the coach exists in the first place. Always be eager to learn…
8. Communication is the Key
A good coach is a good communicator. A very important first step with the communication process is to have an open door policy. Players, parents (see note below), administration need to know that they can communicate with you when they need to. Coaches must ensure that all the players understand the team goals, individual goals, work ethic in practices, attitude, rules, guidelines, team expectations, and most of all individual expectations. A good coach will meet with the players one on one, and consistently provide feedback. If a player has to come to a coach and ask “what do I need to do to get more playing time” then there is not a whole lot of communicating going on.
Parents – There is a fine line when it comes to communication with parents. You must have a written policy when it comes to any communication with parents. You really don’t want parents to walk up to you anytime they want and start talking about their child’s playing time, or why they were taken out of the game, etc. This would be a very big distraction to the team. Just make sure that the parents know up front, how and when they can communicate with you. At our high school there is a policy that the coaches are not allowed to engage in communication with the parents after games – if the parent has something on their minds, they must request a formal meeting with the coach in writing. Then the coach sets up the meeting and they discuss any issues, etc. A coach can avoid a lot of conflict from the parents if they are providing consistent feedback to the players. As long as the coach is working with the players to improve, there is really not any viable conflict. If a coach is not communicating with a player, and not providing feedback to help the player improve, then they should not be surprised when conflict comes their way.
Some coaches even ask players for input during games, after games, etc. This type of communication allows the players to feel like their opinion counts, that they are needed, you value their opinion or you wouldn’t be asking. Just don’t let this get out of hand. A simple question like “what did you see out there” during halftime is enough. Get a few responses from the players, say thanks, and move on.
Verbal communication is also something to consider. Most of the time, a coach will raise their voice and yell in an attempt to get their players motivated. As long as you are consistent and fair, this is acceptable. But, don’t yell at a player in such a way as to embarrass them. This is not a very effective form of communication. I found that I can tell the players to get on the line and run suicides in a medium tone of voice and be effective, just as well as another coach can scream and make players run. It’s the same in the game. A coach can scream at a player, embarrass them, and most likely not have any effect on them, other than now they are mad at the coach, and not focused on the game. Playing time is the key. Players do not want to sit on the bench (unless they are tired), so use this as the consequence for not hustling or executing, etc. Don’t just yell at them, and send them back in the game. Think about it, once the players lose focus – whether it’s a bad call from the ref, or there is trash talking, or the coach just yelled at them – they will not be very helpful to the team until they regain focus and are ready to play.
Discipline is most likely the hardest part of coaching. Discipline has several parts to it such as commanding players attention, setting and maintaining rules, execution of plays, the actions of the players during warm-up, etc. Discipline is not just simply a coach yelling at players and demanding the players listen or face the consequences – it’s a total team atmosphere. If a coach does not establish and maintain discipline right from the start – there will really be no hope of achieving success with the team. The players must want to be there, they must want to play for you, they must want to help the team succeed.
Here are a couple tips:
a. Right from the start, the players must know your expectations (how hard you expect them to work, how they need to treat each other, etc).
b. The players should know that you will not tolerate any negative attitudes or disrespect shown to players, coaches, teachers, etc.
c. The players should know that you expect them to perform well in the classroom.
d. The players should know that they will be treated fairly – the star player will be treated the same as the player who never sees any action.
e. The players should know and understand the written team rules and guidelines – and that all players will endure the stated consequences.
f. The players should understand that they will execute the plays and drills without question, the right way, at game speed, and to perfection.
g. Make every effort to develop a positive, spirited, atmosphere within the team. Team chemistry is extremely important to success.
h. Get to the bottom of any and all team related problems. Ex: If you sense (or hear about) some of the players having a conflict – take care of it ASAP! Don’t wait to see how it will all turn out, it could get worse (un-repairable). Take care of business quickly.
i. It is the coaches responsibility to get the most out of each and every player on the team – no exceptions!
j. Teach your players to leave all outside distractions, issues, and problems outside the gym doors when they come to practice – they need to focus on working hard and improving their skills.
Important Note: There are two sides to every story – get both sides before coming to any sort of conclusions. Some coaches make the mistake of listening to one side of the story, then coming to a “biased” conclusion. Even if one side is wrong, give them the chance to speak and explain themselves. All players are not alike. Some players may need more of your attention than others, but try to make it appear that you are not favoring any of the players (even if you are a little). Any player that performs well and/or makes a great play – praise them, get the team to praise them. Give players that make mistakes the feedback they need to improve. Be fair, be consistent, be positive, and provide a winning atmosphere…
10. Team Preparation
Preparing your team starts with preparing for practices. It is the players that will ultimately decide whether the team succeeds or not – the coach will not be stepping on the court. I can tell you this, if your team practices at half speed, don’t expect them to perform well in the game. Practice how you play the game! Practice at game speed! Don’t allow players to slack off in practice just because you don’t want them to get hurt, etc. Practice drills that will help you be successful against your next opponent. Practice drills that are needed to improve game skills. If the players aren’t used to playing at full speed – it will feel “different” when they are in the game. The harder your players work and compete against each other in practice, the more improvements you will see. If players play soft against each other in practice, it will be very difficult for the team to improve. Each team needs leaders, these are the players that should set the tone in practice, lead the way. Players respond well to other players that are leading them to success (more so than responding to coaches efforts).
Scouting your opponent – A good coach (and coaching staff) prepares for the game by scouting the other teams. Keep notes from previous encounters, talk to other coaches, etc. Know your opponents strengths and weaknesses, then come up with a game plan to succeed. Let your players know who their opponents are, what to expect, what to look out for, etc. This type of preparation can be the difference in whether or not the team wins or loses. Be prepared!
Game Strategy – Make sure that you go into every game with some sort of strategy, then have a back up plan if things don’t go your way. Are you going to start off with a full court press? Man to Man defense? Or use a “junk” defense against their best player?
11. Offense / Defense / Plays / Team Philosophy (concepts)
Every coach will have their favorite plays, favorite defenses / offenses, style of play, system, etc. But the most important thing a coach should realize is this – do you have the talent on your team to play the style of basketball that your philosophy dictates? You can’t just ram the plays down the players throats and expect them to execute perfectly if they aren’t skilled enough, big enough, fast enough or strong enough. Make sure that you understand what you have, and design plays (style of play) to the talent level you have – not that you wish you had. Be realistic about the strengths and weaknesses of your players. It is not out of the question to modify your favorite plays to fit the skill level of your players. You may find that if you start with an easier play – you can work your way up to the more advanced plays? It all depends on how fast the players progress. Communicate to your players up front the style of play, and system that you want to see the team be successful at. What it takes to run certain plays, how you might have to modify certain plays to fit the talent level, and how each player will have a certain role in the system, etc. It is very important that the players “buy” into your system of plays. It is important for you to be able to teach the players your offenses and defenses flawlessly – use diagrams and / or videos if needed. If you want the plays to work at game time – you will have to practice and review the plays over and over until the players run them perfectly in practice.
Role Playing – You won’t be able to have success at the inside game if you don’t have a dominant post player, or run the fast break if your players aren’t very fast. One of the most challenging aspects of coaching is finding the strengths and weaknesses of your players, and then knowing how to use these skills to help the team succeed. The players need to understand that they are part of the big picture, the team, and this is more important than their individual statistics, etc. This is very difficult for most players to comprehend – most players want to shoot the ball themselves instead of letting the teams “shooter” take the shot. The players must learn to play unselfishly, and think “team first” – if your players understand this, and follow this religiously, your team will be successful. Be flexible, and understand that your favorite plays may not work with this years team (or may work great?). It’s up to the coach to figure that out – and figure it out quickly.
12. Evaluation / Measuring Success
Even though success is commonly measured in wins and losses, and coaches are always remembered by their record – it is not always a realistic measurement of a successful season. What you do with what you have is the important factor when it comes to success. It really all depends on who shows up to tryouts. One season you may be stacked with talent, and the next season only have a handful of experienced players show up. So in reality, how do you measure success? The answer is easy – the only way to measure success is to come up with achievable team goals, and see how the team progresses during the season.
Even if your team didn’t win many games, there are other variables that can be measured:
a. Did the team improve overall from the 1st game to the last game?
b. Did each individual player improve from the 1st game to the last game?
c. Did the team win a couple games (or at least compete strongly) against stronger opponents that easily beat them earlier in the season?
d. Did participation at practices dwindle, or remain the same (did the players want to be there)?
e. Did the players work just as hard the last week of practice as they did the first week of practice?
I coached JV high school girls basketball for the last couple of years. Two years ago, I didn’t have a point guard, just a few post players and lots of guards – all inexperienced. We lost our first 10 games of the season – we just couldn’t get the ball past half court – it was awful. I never stopped coaching, and kept pushing the players to work hard. Our biggest setback was getting the ball past half court, every team pressed us and beat up on us. If we only had a ball handler, we could break the pressure and set up our half court offense (which I knew we would run extremely well). Then an ineligible player (that was a point guard) all of a sudden became eligible for JV only. Everything changed! We won 7 of our last 10 games. The players were able to run our plays and were 100 percent more confident on defense. It was just what we needed. The missing piece of the puzzle was a ball handler, and everything else came together. Our season was very successful in everyone’s eyes. The very next season, our team went 18-3, and the 3 games we lost were by less than 10 points combined. I was very proud of my players for not giving up that first season. They learned that there is no shame in losing – as long as they gave it everything they had, and worked as hard as they could each time they stepped on the court.
Success can be measured in many ways, but those that say it can only be measured by the number of wins and losses – are wrong! A true measurement of success is how much the players developed their skills, how hard they worked, how much fun they had, life lessons and discipline learned, and if they were taught (and believe) that team work and sportsmanship are important to success.
Last on Basketball Coaching Philosophy…
We hope these Youth Basketball Coaching Philosophy Tips have assisted you in some way. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced coach – coaching basketball is definitely a very challenging undertaking. It’s filled with all kinds of unknowns, but can be one of the most rewarding experiences you will ever be part of. Learn about the game as much as you can so you are better able to teach your players. Your basketball coaching philosophy will eventually surface, and you will be in a position to help develop and mold youth basketball players into successful individuals – on and off the basketball court…