So, how are you doing? Are you ready to pull your hair out? Frustrated with parents yelling, officials missing calls, players underperforming? It’s that time of year folks – basketball season is in full swing. Tournaments every weekend, games every second night, practices every other night – don’t you love it? Here are some of my survival tips on how to make it through your season...

1 – For those of you coaching teams that are not ranked in the top ten, you might be finding it tough to motivate your team. What do you do in games where you might lose by 30, 40, 80 points?
In my personal experience with Red River College, you have to start at the bottom and work your way up, setting small yet reasonable goals along the way and motivating your team by encouraging personal growth. It’s frustrating to watch coaches yell and scream at their players, expecting them to play at the level of their opponent when there really is no way they can compete individually.

What do you talk about in your pre-game chats? If the only positive outcome or measure of success to you as a coach is winning the game, then I feel sorry for your athletes because they will probably miss out on a great team experience. If you are playing that team that beat you earlier in the season by 80 points, why not focus on decreasing that amount by 10 or 20 points? Why not set goals for rebounds? If the other team has a “phenom” who scored 75 out of 80 points, why not focus on how to decrease their scoring, forcing other people to score by double-teaming, being ready in help side and playing denial defense? In terms of your athletes, why not focus on the little things that they can improve on? Being able to finish that left-handed lay-up, good shot selection and taking care of the ball? Athletes need something positive to take out of every game – are you providing that as a coach?


2 – For those of you coaching teams that are ranked and expected to win more games than lose, what are you focused on – the refs?
It’s frustrating to watch top athletes underachieving even though their teams might be winning. Again, if winning is the only outcome or measure of success for your athletes then they too will miss out on a great opportunity to grow as individuals and as a team. What kind of goals do you set when you’re playing a team that you’ve already beaten by 80 points? Are you playing a disciplined game or is your team playing to the level of their opponent? Does your team take every possession as seriously as though playing the number 1 ranked team in the province? A few things that your team can talk about before the game is setting goals for how few turnovers you commit, you can talk about shot selection and rate your shooting percentage, you could talk about not giving up anything easy…what about consistency? Is your team playing smart basketball every quarter or just the first? Can you play 4 quarters the same by reducing errors and making good decisions? Can every player on your team score?  How about trying to go an entire game without committing any fouls? Athletes need goals in every game whether the spread is tremendous or not. Use every opportunity to work on the skills and intensity that they will need for the tough games.


3 – How you deal with referees is crucial in how your team and how your parental fan club deals with officials.
I have seen a lot of young refs trying their best and making inexperienced errors and I have unfortunately seen experienced officials making errors because they’re not paying attention or the score is so far out that it’s not worth calling anything. Again, what I tell my teams is that if we expect the officials to bail us out at the end of the game, then we are not taking ownership over how we played the first 39 minutes.

How can you decrease the conflict with you and the officials? Here are a few tips:

One – remember that minor officials are often high school students that have never played the game and don’t understand the language that we all take for granted. Resetting shot clocks and possession arrows and stopping the clock on made hoops in the last 2 minutes and remembering when teams get substitutions and time-outs can be very stressful for 3 young scorekeepers especially when 50 parents are all yelling at them that the score is wrong. You can help this situation by having an assistant coach or manager keep track of your team fouls, writing down who should have the next jump ball after each change of possession and knowing that at 5 team fouls you shoot the bonus.

Two – as an official I have to admit that the more a coach yells, the less I listen. Make sure that your communication is meaningful and ask questions instead of give commentary. Phrasing a question “Could you watch for three in the key on number so and so?” as an official runs past instead of yelling across the court “She’s been in there forever” will probably get the official to consider your thoughts instead of shut you out.

Three – remember that just as your athletes miss shots, turn over the ball and take unadvised fouls; just as you miss substitutions, make the wrong call for which offense to run or forget the limitations of your athletes, so too do officials make mistakes. It’s all part of the game – sometimes I wish that as refs we could sit on a perch like tennis officials and see the game from the stands where apparently the parents always have the best view… but the better you can prepare your athletes to move on from missed calls or wrong calls, the better prepared they will be to get the next one.


4 - Ask yourself after every practice and every game - Did I have fun coaching today?
Was I able to laugh with my athletes when I jumbled my words during the team chat? Was I able to laugh with my athletes when one of them lost their shoe during the game? Was I able to celebrate when an athlete who has never made a shot sinks their first free throw or makes a great pass? If your answer to most of those questions is no, my question to you would be, why are you coaching? There is so much in life that brings us stress, why do we bring that into sport and into coaching? Sit down with your assistant coaches or your team captains and ask the question – what can we do to make this season more enjoyable? Some teams have a designated person to bring treats after every game…some teams hang around and cheer on their guys or girls team, or the JV or varsity team…some teams have pre-game meals together during tournament weekends. Remember that life is precious and the time you have to positively influence the athletes that play for you is very short.


5 – The last point. What are you doing to improve as a coach?
It’s amazing how our athletes are expected to go from junior varsity athletes, where the game isn’t as fast or as physical, and are instantly expected to success at the varsity level. Do we hold the same expectations for us as coaches? Do I talk to other coaches about how to develop individual athletes? Do I bring in guest coaches to work on specific skills that might be able to help my team? Do I have an assistant coach that complements my skill set? Do I ask athletes how they think things are progressing and which areas of their game they would like to improve?


I know - a lot to think about. But just remember, at the end of the season you will look back and ask yourself, “Was that all worth it?” Hopefully some of these tips will help you say “I can’t wait until next season starts” instead of contemplating retirement!!!

Good luck in your seasons!

Cheryl Jean-Paul is Manitoba's Female High Perfomacne Coach.  Agree?  Disagree?  Login or register at the top of the page to post your comments!

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