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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.

 

Basketball IQ

Moving on from some of the off-the-court issues I have discussed, we now delve into some on-the-court topics. Basketball IQ is a great trait that you hope your athletes have before they get to you. It is especially helpful to have a point guard who has a high basketball IQ. Unlike some coaches, I believe that you can build basketball IQ in your players over time through training.

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It is first important to note that basketball IQ has nothing to do with overall intelligence or how smart your athletes are. Basketball IQ is based on the understanding of the game and ability to see things on the court before they develop. I have had some athletes with a 4.8 GPA who did not have a great GPA and at other schools have seen athletes with a low GPA who have very high basketball IQ.

Some coaches think that a player either has a high basketball IQ or they don’t. They base this upon the amount of basketball a player grew up playing and watching. Additionally, some coaches think that youth coaching plays a role in the basketball IQ of an athlete. I agree with the assessment of the coaches who see IQ as a result of upbringing; however, I believe you can still grow basketball IQ in a high school athlete.

I have seen a software being marketed that claims to be able to improve the basketball IQ of athletes through the use of a computer game. At my school, we use twice a week to participate in a basketball classroom setting where we teach concepts and ideas about the game. Also, by providing scouting reports to athletes, they are given something to use as a study aide and tool for learning. In my first two years I saw a mild amount of growth when it came to IQ but this year the growth is off the charts. As with anything you remain persistent about (see my post from yesterday), you can see improvement if you commit to a plan and adapt that plan over time.

The effect of higher basketball IQ will be an ability to improve on the court. Your players will be able to execute game plans and also do things on the court that they could not do prior to having a high basketball IQ. As an overall result, you will see your teams win more ball games over time.

Team Building Activities

Over the past week I have posted a great deal about chemistry and teamwork. The importance of your team dynamics cannot be understated. If you can’t function as a cohesive unit on the court, it likely is due to some off-the-court problems. In my post earlier this weak I talked about team building and now today I point to the fact that you can make an effort to improve team chemistry.

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Here are some team building activities that I have utilized during the pre-season:

  1. Team dinner
  2. Team attending school football (or other sport) game together
  3. Team bowling night
  4. Team scavenger hunt
  5. Team trivia game
  6. Getting to know each other over time
  7. Team blindfolded obstacle course
  8. Team trip

If you have any suggestions or questions about some of these activities, do not hesitate to contact me.