Basketball on the Edge – Accountability, Expectations, & Demands

Don’t join an ‘easy’ crowd. You won’t grow. Go where the expectations & the demands to perform are HIGH. – Coach Sharman White, 6-time state champion at Miller Grove High School in Georgia.

I love this quote! I have never heard the concept of accountability described with more clarity than Sharman White expressed it here. Many players, coaches, and people want to play or work in environments that are “easy”. Places where they can “get away with” things and no one will say anything.

As a player, or the parent of a player, what kind of coach, team, school, or organization do you want to play for? You should want to play at a place where you are given high expectations and then expected to meet (or at least be working towards) those expectations. When I was an assistant varsity coach at a public high school at the beginning of my career we used to tell our middle school parents that were considering whether or not to send their kids elsewhere to play that if they came up through our program their young player was “going to be coached.” What were we trying to tell that parent? We would make sure that their child was taught the skills required to be a successful high school basketball player. We didn’t just let something go. If we noticed mistakes they were corrected and practiced. We praised kids when they did things right. It is often said that players should be thankful when a coach gets on them about something (admittedly hard to do in the moment at times). That means the coach cares enough to ask more of the player than the player asks of him or herself. It is only when the coach stops correcting a player that they should be worried, because then the coach has just lost interest.

Truly great players at every level of basketball want to be coached. They want to learn more about the game they love. They want to master the fundamentals and then build their skill set to help them reach new heights in the game. If you care about getting better, why would you not want help from someone who has more knowledge than you, a different perspective than you, or maybe just a new way teaching a skill that can improve your ability to compete at a high level?  If you have a growth mindset as a player you need to go to a place where expectations and demands are high. Otherwise, everyone around you will always be satisfied with “good enough.”

Coaches, we should make sure they we are clearly communicating our expectations to our players. Once players understand what is expected of them, it is then our responsibility to hold them accountable for those expectations. Too often (and I have made this mistake plenty of times) we lay something out as an expectation one day in practice, but then we get distracted by something else and we no longer hold players accountable for that original expectation. Let’s say we expect our players to call “ball” every time they are guarding the ball. Do we make that a priority even when a drill may be focused on another skill? Often we don’t. I have found this year with my fourth grade boys team that by putting my emphasis on two key skills, I can hold my players accountable for those two skills throughout practice and in games. We box out and we sprint the floor in transition. As expectations in those two areas have risen, so has the performance. That’s what accountability does.

When we let players get away with things we are reinforcing and building habits in our players that we don’t want. Set expectations high and then push your players to reach those expectations.

Parents, understand that when a coach has high expectations for your child, meeting those expectations may be a challenge. Don’t allow your young player to make excuses or place blame on others. Allow a coach that shows love and respect for your child to hold them accountable for their actions in practice and in games. That may be uncomfortable for both you and your child at times, but without high expectations and accountability very little will be accomplished by your child and the team as a whole.

A culture with high expectations that demands accountability will allow everyone who buys in to flourish. Don’t shy away from the hard work required to be successful. Look for people and places that will push you to grow and get better!

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