What do great youth coaches achieve? What kind of coach should I want my child to play for?
I'll be honest, picking the first topic for the first blog post was a daunting task. I want this first one to set the tone, and establish this blog as an engaging and insightful home of basketball discussion.
After going through dozens of topics, this one really stood out to me. This topic is not just relevant to parents, players, and coaches, but this topic gives a look into the core values of Dynamic and what we strive to provide our community. This post is basketball focused, but I believe the message applies to all youth sports. Let's dive into the 3 things every great youth coach achieves!
Every Player Wants To Play Again Next Season
Great coaches grow their players' love for the game. One of the key ways to do that is to make sure the season is fun. You can even see the importance of fun at the highest levels of basketball in the world.
Look at legendary Golden State Warriors Coach, Steve Kerr. Coach Kerr has led one of the greatest NBA dynasties of all time with 4 core values: JOY, mindfulness, compassion, and competition.
It's not by accident that joy comes first. He wants great players like Steph and Klay to enjoy their job and to stay with Golden State. He doesn't want his players to burnout during a long 82+ game season. If the gym is a joyful place, players are more likely to spend time in it getting better!
How can a coach make sure his players are playing with joy?
1) Set clear standards and expectations (verbally and in writing) that joy is a priority and a responsibility.
One of my core messages to all my youth teams is that they have just 2 jobs: 1) Get better and 2) Have fun.... Don't let one interfere with the other.
2) Plan fun practices!
Don't over teach or over talk. Players should hardly ever stand still in practices. Make as much as you can a competition and get players their reps!
3) Quiet gyms are losing gyms... and losing is not fun!
Make it an expectation to cheer, clap, high 5, and encourage your teammates. More importantly, lead by example! Correction is obviously a critical part of coaching, but how often do you show joy and excitement for a player doing something right? "Great pass!" "Great screen!" "Outstanding defense!"
Fun Fact: Steve Nash made it a game. He would try to lead the team in high 5's at every practice.
4) Find small additions to drills to make them more fun.
One of my favorite examples is in shooting drills. If a shooting competition requires a team to make 50 mid range shots, make the 51st shot a half court shot. Kids love shooting half court shots and it is always a highly competitive part of practice. If they stink at it, set a time limit of 1-2 minutes so it doesn't disrupt all of practice.
Every Player Leaves As A Better Player
Great coaches understand the balance between team improvement activities (learning new plays, etc) and improving the players who make up the team. At the end of the day, better players will always help you win games. That's why great coaches value player development. More importantly, coaches create a game plan to make sure player development is at the core of every practice.
Coaches can break player development into 3 categories:
Fundamentals (what everyone on the team needs to have)
Are my players in shape?
Can my players shoot the ball? Move their feet on defense? Pass and catch the ball effectively? Etc.
Skill Sets (moves and counter moves)
Can my point guards handle pressure? Can my bigs use creative footwork around the basket? Can my wings make moves to score? Etc.
Do my players understand key basketball concepts?
Spacing, back door cuts, etc.
Do my players understand our specific game plan?
If you run a lot of ball screens in your offense, do your players know how to slip a screen? Roll to the basket? Setup a ball screen? Etc.
Every Player Leaves As A Better Person
Statistically speaking, probably zero kids on your youth team will be college players, and even fewer are likely to make a career playing basketball. So why do we do it?
Youth sports can play a MASSIVE ROLE in the development of a child. There are so many lessons to be learned. To name a few:
So what can a great coach do to teach these valuable life lessons? I think there are some tactics:
Create team values to focus on (share them verbally and in writing)
Pro Tip: Have the players be part of deciding what your values are
Give out weekly awards to players who have exemplified your values
Praise behavior on the spot when it aligns with your values
More importantly though, a coach needs to lead by example. Ganon Baker, famous NBA skills trainer, shared this message with me:
"YOU CAN'T GIVE WHAT YOU DON'T HAVE"
You want your team to show up early? You better be early.
You want your team to play with joy? You better bring joy to the gym.
You want your team to have great practices? You better have a great practice plan.
There are tons of different coaching styles. There are many different levels of basketball. Regardless of style, level, or sport, all the great youth coaches achieve these 3 things:
Every players wants to play again next season
Every player leaves as a better player
Every player leaves a a better person
Leave a comment! Let me know what stood out to you from this article and let me know if you have any topics you'd like us to cover in the future!