Basketball on the Edge – Don’t Have the Perfect Coach?

As a youth basketball parent it is very important for you to choose the right program or coach for your young player. There will be no greater factor in your child’s development as a basketball player. What should you be looking for in a coach or their program? Read more about choosing the right program here and what a youth basketball practice should look like here. These two articles should give you a great starting point for making a decision about who should be coaching your young player.

Once you have selected the coach, you (and your young player) may come to realize that your coach is not perfect. How do you help your young player make the most of their opportunities despite the perceived “faults” of the coach?

The first thing to remember is that the “perfect” coach does not exist. Every player that has ever played the game has at one time or another disagreed with their coach. Michael Jordan resisted Phil Jackson’s Triangle Offense at first. Of course, Jackson was unproven at the time, but he turned out to be a pretty good coach. He has won 11 NBA Championships! There are players that play for Mike Krzyzewski at Duke or John Calipari at Kentucky that don’t think their coaches know everything or make all the right decisions. These are coaches that win consistently without fail. There is a good chance they know what they’re doing and yet their own players still feel like these coaches make mistakes in strategy, skill development, or playing time.

As a youth basketball parent you may question some of the coach’s decisions. Unless your concern relates to the safety of the players you should keep it to yourself. The coach is in a much better (and unbiased) position to make decisions regarding the team than you are.

What advice should you give your young player when they disagree with a decision made by their coach?

First of all, make sure they know they are not alone. You can cite the examples above to help them understand that even the players who play for the best coaches in the world sometimes disagree with their coach. When I was in college, I disagreed with a personnel decision my coaches made during my junior season. I felt the decision cost my team the opportunity to win more games. I talked about it with teammates, questioned it in my head, but I never let a poor attitude or poor body language sabotage me, my coach, or my team. Disagreements are a natural part of the coach-player relationship. If your child has a high basketball IQ and knows the game well it is very likely that they may disagree with the coach from time to time. It is critical to handle those disagreements either in a private conversation with the coach or for your young player to keep their thoughts to themselves. Poor body language, eye rolling or not doing what you are asked to do are great ways to anger a coach and put yourself in the doghouse.

Second, great coaches often do things differently. That is what makes them great. They may run a unique offensive system or create unusual drills. The coach may establish their winning culture in ways that can seem strange at first glance. Help your young player learn to deal with and appreciate those differences rather than complain about them.

Third, smart players don’t spend time worrying about things they cannot control. Remember, every player has dealt with this issue. Teach your young player to control their attitude, effort, hustle, and preparation. Time wasted on complaining is time that could be spent getting better or making a positive contribution to the team. So they disagree with their coach? He or she doesn’t do everything exactly the way your young player would? Help them shake it off and reemphasize the things they can control. Teammates often get caught up in the cycle of questioning the coach. Every player and team does a certain amount of talking (complaining?) about their coach. It is the nature of the game. On the best teams that kind of talk is quickly put aside and the focus is shifted back to what we as players can do to help our team be successful.

Fourth, as a parent, if you are always saying “If only the coach would do this…or not do that” it rubs off on your young player and they may start making excuses rather than looking for solutions. Help your young player look for ways to improve their game rather than placing the blame on the coach. You can’t “improve” your coach other than by getting better and helping your team to win more games.

Rather than bemoaning the fact that your coach isn’t perfect, look for ways you can improve as a player. Be about solutions not excuses!

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