With a new team or camp or any other development program, there is inevitably a period where everyone in the gym gets comfortable with each other. Kids warm up to teammates. Coaches warm up to assistants. Kids warm up to coaches, and coaches warm up to kids.
But as players get more comfortable on the court, coaches want to think about how to push kids out of their comfort zone. We understand the difficulties of youth coaching, because we believe there is more to coaching than teaching skills and running drills.
As SNYB, we promote the personal growth of all our players both on and off the court. Because with the support of coaches and parents like you, basketball can truly be a character building experience for youth.
ENJOY THE COMPETITION
For many young players, basketball may be their first experience with competition. They may not be old and wise enough to understand how hard-work translates into improvement as athletes, but they certainly feel “the rush of competition”. You can see it in their faces when they make their first layup. Or you might have noticed some kids counting how many shots they make every day.
Realizing that every kid develops differently, we want to emphasize competition against the self, rather than just competition against others. This individualized competition can be supported through games and drills that help a player develop this self-awareness.
Drills that have time limits, track scores, or build on each other from week to week are a great way to promote self-competition. This way kids can compare their performance to the previous practice or the last time they did a particular drill.
And as coaches, you’ll want to point out the areas where kids have improved. Encourage players to be better than they were yesterday, and help them understand how and why they can get better. As kids become aware of their own progression, they will enjoy the competition (both against themselves and against others) more and more.
Eventually, that joy of competition will blossom into love for basketball.
MORE THAN JUST A GAME
We all share a love for basketball. And for someone who loves the game, basketball becomes so much more than just putting a ball into a basket. It becomes a passion. The court can even turn into something of a safe haven, an opportunity to escape from daily stresses.
That’s why we want to articulate the importance of enjoying competition: coaches should want kids to look forward to the next practice or game. And usually, it’s the first and last activities that kids most associate with a session.
Try making the first activity a game that kids look forward to, and helps motivate them for the rest of the day. Aim for something high energy, that involves the entire group, that prepares them physically AND mentally for competition.
And at the end of the day, try finishing with 3X3 scrimmages or a large group game applies players’ newfound skills. Just as importantly, coaches want to finish with an activity that promotes a competitive spirit and leaves kids wanting more!
COACHES ARE TEACHERS
Coaches hold an amazing amount of influence over young players. And so it’s their responsibility to communicate what being a true athlete means: being an exemplary individual in society, and a role model for others. As part of that, an athlete must understand that a strong mind is just as important as a strong body.
We want athletes to value mental development just as much as they value athletic development (if not more). When a coach talks about more than just basketball at practices, kids realize that in their coach’s eyes they are more than just basketball players. Through coaches, players can learn about basketball – but also about life skills off the court.
Because just as athletes are role models in society, coaches are role models for athletes. From the way they stand to the way they talk with the players, youth coaches should aim to reflect positive core values like responsibility, work ethic, and communication.
As the legendary teacher John Wooden says:
Profound responsibilities come with teaching and coaching. You can do so much good – or harm. I believe that next to parenting, teaching and coaching are the two most important professions in the world.
John Wooden, 10x NCAA National Champion
Make sure you are on the “good” side of the spectrum. After all, what good is teaching a kid how to dribble if we can’t help them to be respectful, hardworking, and self-confident too?
Together, coaches can truly develop a new generation of stellar young athletes, and stellar young people.
Murat Erginay is currently pursuing a degree in Honours Science & Business (Co-op) at the University of Waterloo. A former intern with SNYB at Canada Basketball, Murat has an international basketball background as a player and trainer, from Turkey to the U.S.
Every coach approaches their role as a teacher a little differently. Share how you approach your role as a coach below!