Many coaches at the youth level are volunteers with little or no formal training. If you are going coach a youth basketball team, here are some tips to help you provide each of your players with a positive experience. Follow these simple tips and you will help your team develop a love for the game of basketball.
This is often a very overlooked part of coaching. Coaches are so focused on the x’s and o’s or creating the perfect drill that they forget the need to get to know their players and to allow their players to know them. Build a positive relationship with each player through simple conversations before, during, and after practice.
In today’s social media driven society sportsmanship often gets lost in the highlights. By teaching (and modeling) respectful behavior toward teammates, opponents, officials, and coaches you’ll have a long term impact on your player’s success in life.
Remember that these are kids playing a game. Despite the crazy expectations and undue pressures that unfortunately arise in youth sports don’t let that affect the way you approach coaching your team. Ultimately, the kids should be having fun. Make small sided games and competition a part of every practice.
Use basketball to help kids understand how to be part of a team. Teach them how to sacrifice individual desires for the good of the team. Be sure to recognize and reinforce when your players are being good teammates. Frequent conversations about what it means to be a team can help instill the qualities of a great teammate in all your players.
The younger the kids the more evenly playing time should be distributed. No one wants to be on a team where they don’t get to play. You may have to sacrifice some wins in order to make this happen, but the kids won’t remember their won-loss record 10 years from now. They’ll remember how their coach treated them and whether their experience was positive or not.
You don’t need 25 “plays” to be a great youth coach. In my experience, kids have trouble remembering 2 or 3 basic out of bounds plays and a simple entry into a motion offense. Stop talking so much and let the players figure things out on their own during practice. Keep everything you do simple. You’ll be surprised how quickly they learn through experience and in the long run you’ll be developing players that can think the game too!
The attitude that you bring to practices and games will rub off on your players. Help your players learn to overcome adversity, get over it, and still do what is required to succeed. In life and in basketball, you can look on the bright side or you can always be a victim. Players that look on the bright side, keep their head up, and keep working are usually those that play their best. Positive attitudes start with the coach.
I’ve been around basketball since I was very young. I am still learning more about the game all the time. As a youth coach you should read books, blogs, check out videos, and try to improve yourself as a coach. There are so many great resources out there (including Head Start Basketball). You want your players to improve themselves right? You should do the same as a coach whether you are a volunteer coach for a bunch of first graders or a high school varsity coach.
Help each individual player on your team develop their skills and your team will perform better on the court. Try to keep a ball in each players’ hands as much as possible during practice. Teach positionless basketball so that every player can develop the skills to play inside or out. Use drills that keep as many players actively engaged as possible. No one gets better watching others. Maximize the number of touches each player gets during practice to help your players improve their individual skill sets.
Go get ice cream after the game or grab a meal together between tournament games. The memories that are created during these off the court moments are often what players will remember years later as they look back fondly on being a member of your team.
As a youth coach, you have been given a tremendous opportunity to positively impact the players on your team. Start putting a few of these concepts in place and you’ll be well on your way to helping your players get the most out of their youth basketball experience.
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