5 Things I Learned at the Super Clinic

The Canada Basketball NCCP Super Clinic was like none other! What a time to learn, grow, and connect with coaches from all over the country. Now that I have had some time to gather my thoughts, here are the top 5 things I learned over the May long weekend!

As a young coach, any time I have the opportunity to surround myself with some of the best basketball minds in the country, I’ll take it! I try to take the opportunity and soak up all of the information possible and still find myself scrambling to write everything down.

Over the May long weekend I took part in a couple NCCP courses and had the opportunity to speak to a number of coaches on various topics. While I learned a lot during the weekend, there are 5 things that really stood out to me that I wanted to share.

Enjoy!

1. Coaching Should be Fun

This wasn’t something that I learned so much as it was a reminder to why we do, what we do. So many times we think about ensuring that our athletes are having fun, and making sure that they are enjoy their experience playing basketball. But what about us?

The large majority of coaches in Canada (more than 99%) are unpaid, and thus volunteer their time for one reason or another to coach a group of developing youth athletes. Often times it’s hard work, but we need to make sure that when we are doing things like this they remain fun, and that we still enjoy the trials and tribulations of coaching.

If you aren’t having fun coaching, take a step back and ask yourself why? What changed? Why did you start coaching in the beginning? Because chances are, if you aren’t having fun, neither are your players.

2. Don’t waste time on Tactics when FUNdamentals will do

Sometimes as coaches, we get into the mindset of “over coaching” where we get into a routine of glossing over the basic fundamental skills and jump straight to strategies and tactics (see teaching progressions pyramid below for more).

Figure 1: Basketball Teaching Progressions

teaching progressions

Teams who are struggling with a certain aspect of the game often resort to using strategies or adjusting their tactics in order to over compensate for their deficit. For instance, a team who is struggling with scoring the ball because their players can’t dribble through pressure might try implementing the pick and roll to help free up the player who is handling the basketball.

Not only is the pick and roll difficult to learn how to do properly, it stunts the growth and development of the athletes. Instead, why not spend that time working on your athletes balance and ball handling abilities so that they can not only score more effectively but so that they can pass, bring the ball up the floor with confidence, and create for others.

Always strengthen the foundation of your athletes before trying to build up the rest of the house. To put it another way, implementing tactics to cover up holes in the fundamentals is like using gum to fix a hole in a damn, it might work for a bit, but it won’t hold in the long run.

3. The Power of the Analogy

Speaking of analogies… We know that young athletes learn in many different ways. However, many of us only teach verbally, while it is the easiest to do, most kids often don’t get the complete picture through this method of teaching.

Being able to relate ideas and concepts to them in the form of descriptive images that they can visualize, will help your athletes understand better, but also play to the strengths of the visual learners on your team. Not only that, but it will get them practicing their visualization skills, an important mental skill in the game of basketball.

During the first keynote of the weekend, Bev Smith, former senior women’s national team coach, was demonstrating a mirror drill, where one player would have to mimic the other player’s actions. The only rule she gave the players was that they had to stay on their “railroad track”.

What a terrific but simple way of getting her athletes to move in a straight line. Instead of just saying “move up and down the floor”, you’re giving your athletes a very clear description of your expectation for the drill. Athletes will know right away that trains can’t move laterally, so they can’t either.

Here is an analogy for ball handling that FUNdamental athletes might enjoy:

When first teaching players how to dribble the basketball, ask them to imagine themselves riding a bicycle. Then tell them to get on the bike and sit down (knees bent, butt down, hands out – this is ready position). Then tell them to imagine that the bike has no wheels, and that dribbling is like the wheels to a bike. If you don’t have wheels on your bike, you can’t ride anywhere, and if you don’t dribble in basketball, you can’t move around on the court.

4. Canada Basketball’s Coaching Education Ranking

In case you were unaware, Canada has one of the top basketball coach education programs in the world! In fact, we are ranked in the top 5 globally.

That’s pretty incredible if you ask me and what it means is that if you want to be a great basketball coach, you need to start thinking about attending some NCCP clinics and workshops. I guarantee you will learn at least 3 things that are new to you as a coach and something you might even be able to take away from the course and apply in your everyday life!

There are lots of great coaches and coaching resources in this country, and everyone wants to help one another grow the game of basketball. Keep an eye out on Basketball.ca and GamePlan for more cool learning opportunities. Jump on board, it’s only getting better!

5. Great Coaches Never Stop Learning

This might have been one of the best things that I learned and it’s that great coaches, don’t stop learning. I looked around at everyone involved all weekend and there were coaches of all ages coaching all levels of basketball. None of them had the misconception that they knew everything there was to learn. I’ll give you a couple examples:

  • During the clinics, I was talking to a group of Learning Facilitators who were saying how much they were enjoying their weekend because of what they were able to learn from the coaches they were training (Learning Facilitators are experts in the field of coaching basketball who have been hand-selected based on their experience and knowledge to deliver a course, and they are still learning new things, that’s pretty cool).
  • During Chalk Talk after the first keynote sessions on Friday night, I was amazed at all of the brand new basketball concepts which were being shared by basketball leaders from around the globe. 100 coaches, talking, sharing ideas, all getting better because they all understand that learning doesn’t stop.

The key to this whole thing is this: If you are open to learning and understand that what you know now, can always be improved, then you’ll be an excellent coach.

Now That It’s Over…

The NCCP Super Clinic was an absolute success. There is no other place where you can come and learn from so many great coaches. The challenge now is going through all of the information that we learned with a fine tooth comb and seeing which information you can use now, and which to put aside in your toolbox for later.

The future of coaching in Canada has never been brighter, and it is all due to coaches taking the opportunity to better themselves and never stop learning. In the end, this will only ever make our athletes better, its a win-win!

If you attended the Super Clinic, send us your thoughts on what you learned in the comments below!

Brandon CB HeadshotBrandon Brock is currently pursuing a degree in Honours Recreation & Sports Business (Co-op) at the University of Waterloo. A current assistatnt at Canada Basketball, Brandon’s basketball passion lies in coaching – he is also an Assistant Coach with the University of Waterloo Men’s Basketball Team.

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