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The Baffled Parent's Guide to Coaching Youth Basketball
By David Faucher
The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.Copyright © 2000Nomad Communications
All rights reserved.
Creating an Atmosphere of Good Habits
You need to have discipline as a coach for the same reason you need to have discipline as a parent: things don't get done unless there is a leader who knows when and how to take charge and be in control. A big part of coaching is learning how to organize and control group behavior and to create an atmosphere of good habits through positive energy and reinforcement. The key to teaching kids to respond to your signals and direction is to do it through fun, not dictatorial, activities. You'll be dealing with different personalities and skill levels—some who are eager to please, others who don't listen as well, possibly one or two who are sullen or stubborn, still others who aren't as physically adept—but you can treat everybody the same in encouraging the positive and reinforcing good team behavior. In this way you'll create an atmosphere that's fun and supportive, an atmosphere where the kids feel special by doing what is expected of them.
Good habits are just that: actions that need to be consistently reinforced and practiced. It's important to establish a routine of behavior for every practice, not only because kids need and crave routine, but also because it reinforces your role as the person in charge. Every day, whether your kids are age 7 or 12, start practice the same way: you blow the whistle, and the kids come to you. That's how practice should start every day of the season, with no variations. When they are gathered around you, explain what will take place during practice: outline the drills they will perform, the skills they will learn, and what you expect to get out of the practice. Then send them off to do the drills or skills or whatever with a team cheer.
At the end of every practice, whistle the team in again. Quickly summarize what you accomplished in practice and reinforce the positive things that took place. If someone did something well, acknowledge it. If the players didn't do something well, mention what you want to work on the next time. Keep it positive, and keep them motivated. End every practice with a reminder of when and where the next practice or game is, and disband the players with another team cheer. Never vary from holding the meeting at both the beginning and end of practice, no matter how tired you are or how late you are running. The kids need the feedback and reinforcement that they are doing a good job.
Establish Your Identity as Coach
Your players need to know what to call you—you're going to have your own children, your friends' children, and kids you don't know on your team. Whatever you decide you want to be called— "Coach," another nickname, or your first or last name—make sure to keep it consistent. For however long practice lasts, everyone—your kids, your neighbors' kids, and kids who don't know your name—calls you the same thing, everyone plays by the same rules, and everyone is treated with the same respect and encouragement.
Drills That Promote Teamwork, Concentration, and Good Habits
The following drills should be a consistent part of your practices. Not only do they reinforce your role as the authority figure and team leader, but they also inspire great teamwork.
Drill 1: Listening
How: Instruct your team to do an activity on your signal. For example, tell them to clap their hands whenever you cross yours. Give them a number to call out every time you hold up your hand. Work on their listening skills, using plenty of enthusiasm and encouragement, until every player gets it right.
Why: The point of these drills is to have your players focused on you and what you are saying, as well as instilling in them a sense of team accomplishment from the outset.
Drill 2: Teamwork
How: Gather your players together. Tell them they have 30 seconds from the time you say, "Go!" to line up on the center line from shortest to tallest. Blow your whistle at the end of 30 seconds and have the players freeze. If they don't accomplish the task, give them positive encouragement, make them do five push- ups, and then give them the drill again. They'll get it eventually, and they'll learn to work together as a team to do it.
Why: The point here is to get your players to work together right away. This drill also acknowledges and positively reinforces the differences between players so that all are valuable to the team.
Drill 3: Foot Fire
How: Spread your team members out so they have room to move. Have them bend at the knees and flex at the waist. On the whistle, have them move from foot to foot as rapidly as they can. When you blow the whistle, they make a half turn with a quick jump. Do this several times, changing direction, making a full turn, crossing feet, etc. If their interest or energy is flagging, move on to something else.
Why: This drill combines following directions from the coach with improving agility in a fun way. It is exceptionally flexible and can be used for virtually any sport.
Drill 4: Peer Pressure Shooting
How: First a note on this drill. As I said in the introduction, I think the minicompetitions encourage the competitive aspect of the game. If you have trouble with doling out "consequences," that's fine. It's a matter of style. For this drill, pick one player to come to the foul line. Tell your team that if their peer makes the shot, they'll all get a reward (a piece of candy, no sprints that day—choose something that you know they'll really like and that you are prepared to supply). If the player doesn't make the shot, the whole team has to run up and down the court. Let the player take the foul shot. If the shot is made, have every team member congratulate the shooter. If the shot isn't made, judge the reaction of the players. If you see frowns or comments, bring the kids together. Explain the situation that has just taken place: here's a kid out on the foul line with the burden of the whole team on his or her shoulders. Ask them, "Who misses on purpose?" And then ask them to think about how the shooter is feeling, rather than how they are feeling. Instruct them that before they pay the forfeit and line up again, they should give the shooter a high five and some positive encouragement that reflects how that player—not the others—must be feeling.
Why: This drill helps players understand what it feels like to be the person on the line, under pressure, and helps them develop an unselfish attitude about success and failure. As you encourage positive reactions to good and bad situations, players learn to be graceful and accepting of others.
Drill 5: Team Huddle and Listening
How: When you're in the huddle explaining what will happen during practice that day, interject the phrase, "We are ...," to which your team should respond, "Together!" Do this at unexpected times during the huddle.
Why: This activity keeps kids paying attention to what you are saying, and it also promotes the positive aspect of togetherness that you are trying to instill in your players. The drill helps neutralize ability levels and reinforces that everyone is as important as everyone else. If your players hear and use the term "together" enough, they believe it.
Questions and Answers
Q. It's really clear that one player on my team is only here because his parents want him to participate. He often talks when I'm explaining drills, and then he doesn't know what to do out on the court. How do I get him to become more a part o
Excerpted from The Baffled Parent's Guide to Coaching Youth Basketball by David Faucher. Copyright © 2000 by Nomad Communications. Excerpted by permission of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc..
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