30 Coaching Do's and Don'ts To Motivate Your Basketball Players.

Published: 04th January 2007
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The country is full of good coaches. What it takes to win is a bunch of interested players.

Don Coryell

Basketball coaches have one of the most rewarding jobs but it can also be one of the most challenging. The following are 30 Do's and Don'ts for keeping your team focused, motivated, and playing as hard as they can.

DON'T start off on the wrong foot.

The first day of practice is an important day. Your players are looking to you for direction and everything you do and say on the first day, in those first moments, sets the tone for the entire season.

DO set a standard on the first day of practice.

Establishing your expectations from the very beginning is the best way to not only establish your role within the team, but to also let your players know what kind of coach you're going to be.

DON'T forget your players off the court.

Your players need to know that they matter to you off the court as well as on the court. When coaches don't recognize that fact, their players feel under-appreciated and aren't motivated to play as hard as they can.

DO show your players that they matter.

Probably the most effective method for getting your players to work hard for you, and for themselves, is to let them know that you care about them. Spend time talking to them one on one. It doesn't have to be for hours; a couple minutes will tell them that they matter.

DON'T forget the simple drills.

Simple or beginner drills are often the best and most effective drills for focusing on building basic skills. You can use them to start practice off lightly, to end practice, and to reinforce a skill that your team is working on.

DO keep practices interesting.

Variety is the spice of life. Utilize a variety of drills each practice so that your players are able to focus on the drills and don't become bored.

DON'T let your bad days show at practice.

Bad days need to stay off of the court. You expect your players to focus and do their best, and you need to hold yourself to the same standards.

DO communicate motivation.

Have fun, remain positive, and let your players know what is expected of them immediately. Your players will pick up on everything that you say and do and they will respond accordingly. Verbalize your philosophy so your players know what to expect and to what to strive for.

DON'T compare teammates.

If you need to compare players, do so only to model a desired behavior or skill. For example, "Watch how Joe follows through with his free throw shot, try that next time you're at the line and see how it feels."

DO offer praise.

Verbal rewards grab attention because people enjoy compliments, especially from people that they respect. Whether you're running simple basketball drills or more complicated drills, give praise for improvement and for working hard.

DON'T criticize publicly.

If negative feedback is required, then sandwich it between positive feedback. For example: "You did a great job hustling down the court, next time wait for a better shot. Keep up the great hustle and the good shots will be there for you."

DO offer non-verbal rewards.

Players can be motivated to achieve goals by occasionally offering tangible rewards like a Gatorade or by utilizing a tactic of the great Morgan Wooten.

Wooten offered "Permissions" to his players. Permissions are rewards granted to players based on outstanding efforts or reaching set goals. Each permission results in one less lap, suicide, or other conditioning drill.

DON'T focus on the star players.

Basketball is a team sport. If you have star players, challenge them to work as hard as they can, and challenge them to work with the team to better the team as a whole. Focusing on those few star players will only deflate the motivation of the rest of the team.

DO coach the success of the team.

When it comes down to it, it is more fun to win together than it is to win alone and basketball is a team sport. Your players are more likely to give greater effort if they know they team is counting on them.

DO reward for teamwork.

Teamwork can be influenced when you as their coach, verbally praise players that are working well together. You can also offer a non-verbal reward for practices where they work together particularly well.

DO know your players strengths and weaknesses.

You'll be able to keep an eye out for potential conflicts and enforce a team attitude when you're aware of individual personalities and personality combinations.

DON'T forget to keep yourself focused.

If you're not focused, how can you expect your players to be? Whether you're running elementary basketball drills or high school basketball drills, make sure you have 'points of emphasis' for each drill, the things you want to watch to make sure your players are performing drills properly.

For example, on a rebounding drill you might say something like:

• Keep elbows out after grabbing the ball.

• Always grab the ball with two hands.

• Use your feet to get under the ball and then go get it.

• Block out.

• Anticipate the rebound and get good position.

DO add competition to your drills.

Adding a competitive flavor to a basketball drill can make it much more effective because kids will generally work harder and get more focused to master the drill.

You can easily add competition to any youth basketball drills. For example,

• If the drill requires shooting, you can keep track of made baskets and reward the winner.

• You can add special rules like: 2 points for charges, 1 point for ball deflections, and 2 points for steals.

• You can reward teams that don't drop a single pass during the entire drill.

DON'T introduce more than one or two new concepts per practice.

Your players will be able to focus on one or new plays, drills, or skills in a practice but if you ask more from them, you risk losing their attention. Additionally, new skills are better learned when not muddied with having to learn other new skills.

DO introduce difficult concepts at the beginning of practice.

Your players are fresh and you have more of their attention at the beginning of practice than you'll have near the end of practice. Players will grasp the new concepts easier in the beginning and be will be less likely to get frustrated by fatigue.

DON'T focus only on your team's weaknesses.

When athlete's only focus on their weaknesses, it can break down their motivation and their spirit. Additionally, when coaches forget to focus on the strengths of the team and its players, they lose their importance to the team.

DO reinforce your team's strengths.

If your team has a wonderful defense, then reinforce that strength. Incorporate your team's strengths into every practice, verbal and non-verbal reward system, and into your actions and communications. This will provide confidence in your team and reinforce positive thoughts and actions.

DON'T punish.

Punishment for bad behavior only breaks the teams focus and gets in the way their motivation.

DO discipline to instruct.

If players aren't playing up to their potential, ask them to rate their effort on a scale of 1 to 10. If they're giving less than a 10 then ask them why. Often simply by acknowledging to you or to themselves that they're not trying their hardest, players will try harder, particularly if they know that you notice.

DO discipline with consistency.

For example, if it is unacceptable to be late to practice then all who are late to practice receive the exact same consequences no matter what.

DON'T create personal statistics as goals.

I'm a firm believer that you should NOT set goals for the prestigious statistics, like scoring the most points and even winning games. Players already want those things without setting goals and it detracts from the team as a whole and more important goals.

DO set team goals.

Team goals are motivational and team building. You can set goals for a variety of things including; turnovers, team shooting percentage, team rebounds, defensive stats, and possessions per game.

DON'T let practices or games end negatively.

Negative thoughts and comments stack up and players will bring them to the next practice. There is always something learned and something good to focus on.

DO end practices and games in a positive tone.

Even the most difficult practice or lost game will be remembered positively if you provide the cue. Always sandwich any negative feedback between positive notes. You want your players to feel good about their performances and be motivated to improve.

DO remember that we're all motivated in our own way.

What kicks some players into action will not motivate other players. That is why it is important to get to know your players as individuals. Figure out how they respond, individually and as a team, to motivation techniques.

Author, Jeff Haefner, an experienced basketball coach, player, and owner of BreakthroughBasketball.com, knows the difficulty that coaches face when trying to keep their players motivated and engaged. He is the author of Winning Drills, a free e-book available for download at his website http:/www.WinningDrills.com. It offers 70 full color basketball drills with motivation tips, diagrams, and easy to use step-by-step instructions.


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