off the court

Dealing With Referees

I feel like many coaches have a very negative viewpoint of referees. Since I started coaching in 2004, the relationship between coaches and referees has deteriorated quite a bit. If you look at the shortage of referees that we currently have, a lot of it can be traced back to the treatment of referees by coaches.

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By no means am I trying to come across as a referee apologist; however, I think that we have a problem that exists in basketball that needs to be addressed. I’ve had games where I felt that referees did a poor job; however, I can look book at some games that I have coached where I didn’t do a very good job either. The point is, we all have off-days and it doesn’t help to have the mistakes magnified and to be publicly embarrassed.

As coaches, we are going to have to work with referees during games and it is much more effective to make this an amicable relationship. Think about human nature when you are talking with a referee. If you scream and berate a referee and you later in the game have a close call, who do you think they will make the call for.

Additionally, I encourage you to have referees help your team out in the pre-season. Invite a referee to come and talk with your team as a way to help players understand what referees are looking for and how to tailor the game in a way to avoid foul calls and violations.

Look To Give Back

As a coach, it is important to ensure that you are doing the job for the right reasons. I will post at a later date about some of the different reasons that people get into coaching. If you are truly in it for the right reasons and want to lead by example (refer back to my post on this), then I encourage you to give back to the community.

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Over the past few seasons, I have made an effort to volunteer at events in the community. Finding different charitable groups who do great work locally is one excellent way to become a valuable member of your school community and the local community outside of the school. We have had some great programs in our area as well as fundraising drives to help out local organizations as well.

An even better way to support your community is to host free basketball clinics for young children in your community. This obviously depends on the facilities at your school and how flexible your district is about allowing you to do this. My district requires charging children to attend and I do not think that is right due to the camp not being available then to all students. Therefore, I have offered my coaching abilities at other facilities and do not do it through my school. In order to give back, I think it is crucial to do so to everyone in the community.

Honesty Is The Best Policy

I am a true believer in being honest with the athletes on your team. Other coaches at my school think that I take this a bit far and find my commitment to honesty controversial. The reason that they do not like my stance is because I am very realistic going into games. We have had games where we are playing against teams that are far superior to us in every facet of the game. In these types of games some coaches might be tempted to tell their athletes that they can win if they play well and work hard. I have no problem telling my players that their is a very strong chance that we will lose that game.

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Many might say that I am being pessimistic and showing no trust in my team by telling them that their is a strong likelihood that we will lose. I believe that the opposite is true and players will respect my candor and honesty. By being honest with them and their chances going into a game it gets them to buy in to everything I tell them. When I tell them that harder work in defense in practice will give us a shot to beat a top three team in our league, they know that I am not lying to motivate them.

This is not to say that I don’t set goals for games that seem insurmountable. In these difficult games I lay out goals that I believe are attainable and would show an excellent effort from us. These goals can include the following examples:

  1. Holding opponent to a certain number of points.
  2. Limiting turnovers to a certain number.
  3. Meeting a rebounding goal.
  4. Executing an offensive set successfully a certain number of times.

It may be difficult to tell your teams the truth but in the end it will instill a trust in what you are doing. If you want the trust of your athletes and them to believe what you are teaching, you need to be 100% honest with them.

Lead By Example

If you are going to ask your athletes to do something it truly helps to lead by example. I have learned through experience that if your athletes see you as the hardest working member of the team, it makes it hard for them to question what you are doing or complain. This has been a great area of growth for me over the past couple of years, especially when it comes to strength and conditioning. I first want to preface that although it helps if you have been around the game of basketball, it is not crucial that every coach have played the game of basketball growing up.

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My first couple of seasons at Ontario, I was horribly out of shape and it was difficult to get my athletes to completely commit to our strength and conditioning program. A couple of years ago I committed to fitness for myself and lost over 150 pounds and am now in the greatest shape of my life (shockingly, diet and exercise actually works). Now when we have conditioning before or during practice, I will get out there and do the workouts with my athletes and I no longer get any complaints and notice a guilty look from students who sit out a conditioning workout that I am doing with the team. This is just one example of a way that I have been able to lead by example.

Another great way to lead by example is make sure that you are at the gym before any of your athletes and you are the last one to leave. I make an effort to be in the gym reviewing game film when my athletes arrive and stay in the gym after practice to meet with my assistant coaches. Athletes notice these things and will respect you more if they see that you are committed to working hard and devoting time to the program. Being knowledgeable about your offense and defense will help them respect your knowledge of the game as well. Whenever a question gets brought up about something we are doing on offense or defense, I make an effort to give a solution or answer that has depth and shows that I am in complete understanding of what we are doing, how we need to do it, and what the expected outcome is.

Overall, it’s a great idea to lead by example because you are a role model to these athletes and it will help you be more successful as a coach. I am always open to suggestions so if you have any ideas, suggestions, or questions, please feel free to comment on this post or send me an e-mail.

Who You Surround Yourself With Matters

I used to have a business partner who was a good friend of mine for a number of years. In our business we were extremely successful and I always strived to be as attentive to all of my clients as possible. My partner was brilliant but unfortunately he had a knack for not returning client phone calls and e-mails. Even though I would go above and beyond when dealing with my clients, the lack of customer service that my partner showed toward clients tarnished my reputation as well.

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With coaching, you need to select athletes for your team that will best represent your school. Also, you need to have assistant coaches that share your philosophy of professionalism as well. Nothing can sink a program faster than having an assistant coach who creates a negative image of your program.

A couple of seasons ago I had an assistant coach with my program who had a pretty solid knowledge of the game and he had experience as a head varsity coach. He brought a lot to the table as an assistant coach and his knowledge of the game proved helpful during games. However, this same assistant coach created drama off-the-court by stirring up issues with athletes and he created a very negative image of the program with our administration based on his lack of professionalism. Even though I did my best to be a professional and positive role model, my assistant coach whom I chose to work with our program brought a slightly negative image to what we were doing. In spite of his great knowledge, we had to part ways a couple of years ago and even though I lost someone with a great knowledge of the game, we have a staff and athletes with great values and are looked upon in a positive light by our administration.

With anything in life, you need to surround yourself with people who are positive and work hard. That same business partner that I spoke of in the opening paragraph used to always speak down to me, be disrespectful of my time, and not treat me with the respect that I deserved. In spite of our past friendship and his great education, parting ways with him was the greatest business and life decision that I have ever made. I know have more self-confidence than ever before, am more relaxed, and have achieved more business success than I had ever had with our partnership.

Your athletes on the team will also reflect upon you as a coach. When picking teams, difficult decisions will need to be made sometimes when you have a student who is talented but may reflect poorly upon your school and program. Even if you are winning ball games having a negative image can potentially cost you a job. I am all about teaching and second chances but tread very carefully when working with students who have attitude issues and don’t mesh well with their teammates (I have lived through this mistake on more than one occasion).

This past season I had some of the nicest young ladies on my team. They worked hard in the classroom, had positive attitudes, and  were very supportive of each other on and off the court. My coaching staff was extremely loyal and did an excellent job of helping to build our program. Even though we were not as talented as years past and we finished slightly under .500, it was one of the most relaxing and fun seasons that I have coached in a long time.

 

Know Your Personnel

It is absolutely crucial for you as a coach to know your personnel. When you are game planning and looking at what to do with a specific matchup, you must know the strengths and weaknesses of all of your athletes. In order to make sure to put yourself in a position to succeed you must first know who can help you in certain situations and how they can help you.

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With each of my teams I have a set lineup for different scenarios, including set lineups for each of the following:

  1. Shooters to face against a zone.
  2. Quickness to press.
  3. Size to combat a smaller lineup.
  4. Lockdown defenders when I need a stop.
  5. Ball handlers when I am facing a press.

By knowing the strengths of my athletes, I know who will fit best into each of these lineups. It is important for every player on your team to also know their personnel. If they know what each player can do, they can put that player in position to succeed. By knowing if someone cannot shoot the ball well from the outside, they will not pass the ball to that player deep on the outside at the end of a shot clock. Many other similar scenarios exist.

It is not something that you will figure out in a day either. You need to closely watch your athletes and be aware of what they are doing well and struggling with during practices. It is important to focus on the strengths of each athlete as opposed to their weaknesses. By doing this, you know a way to utilize every plyer on your roster.

Knowing Roles

It is important for coaches and players to all have a role, know their role, embrace their role, and excel at their role. It is easy to sell an athlete on being the leading scorer and taking a majority of shots but you need to have balance on your team. Every time has to have scoring but in order to provide balance to your team, you must have players who can rebound, pass, defend, and bring the ball up the court. Defining roles is all about determining the expertise of each of your athletes and finding a way to cater to their strengths.

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Coaches are no different than athletes when it comes to roles. If every coach is yelling instructions all the time, it will lead to confusion and a lack of efficiency. It is very important to define roles for coaches and I have outlined three roles for me three assistant coaches as follows:

  1. One coach will focus on the defense and report to me on what adjustments need to be made both in terms of personnel and strategy.
  2. One coach will focus on the offense and report to me on what adjustments need to be made both in terms of personnel and strategy.
  3. The other coach will have the same rile but with respect to inbound plays.

By having coaches fill positions much like football coaches who each star in a specific job title, it allows each coach to become an expert in their field and to master one task.

Athletes need to all try and be as strong as they can at every aspect of the game. For example, everyone needs to be the best defender possible. However, only one player can bring the ball up the court, and only one or two players can crash the boards on offense, and finally, only one player can try and be a playmaker on offense.

By defining roles for each player, it allows you to have smooth transition and lots of flow on offense and defense. Roles will also help your team out with having your coaches all on the same page.