I played basketball for 8 years competitively and coached the game for 13 years after that. Something I can say from being on both sides of the coin is that kids look at coaches much like our school teachers; authoritative heads that are from another planet. We don’t think of our teachers and coaches as people. Well, realize that your coach just wants to be in a good working environment where things run smoothly just like you. As a basketball player the process of trying to read your coach is key to building a relationship with them.
Yes, a relationship. I feel that was my biggest obstacle as a player; feeling as though I didn’t know what my coach wanted from me. This lack of communication also made it hard to understand concepts. I felt that my progress was impeded due to this. An example of this is that for the first two years of my basketball life, I didn’t know what a screen was because my coach and I never built a relationship where I felt I could go to her to ask. Part of it was because I didn’t see her a person. Now that I am a coach, I cannot stress the importance enough of buildI got a relationship with your coach. Don’t be afraid to ask questions for YOUR development. It’s good to establish communication with the coach to know your role and what they want from you. If your tone is calm and respectful the coach will not look at you as a difficult player when you come to them with concerns or opinions. However, if your coach becomes negative towards your growth because you are asking questions, it may be time to re-think if you will grow on that team or not. If not, remember that there will always be a team for you that plays at a high level; It’s just a matter of looking and doing some research.
As a coach, I have really made the effort to understand the psychology of an athlete and I know it’s getting better among our younger coaches.
Another way to get your coach’s attention is attendance. Being a gym rat is a great way to be noticed. Coming to practice earlier and starting your warm up routine is a good tip. Another good tip is when the coach calls the team in, YOU are the first one in the huddle. No more trying to take that one extra shot, or walking back. Sprint to that huddle and be the first one there.
When in practice, try to do the little things that the coach doesn’t ask you to do. Now when I say this, I don’t mean take that bad shot or dance with the ball. What I mean are things like showing leadership skills and motivating others. Get the fire back in one of your teammates if they are struggling in practice. If their head is down or if they are the last man to finish on a drill, yell out “let’s go man," clap your hands to get them energized. Coaches respond to team-first kind of players. If you are the "star" player on your team, you NEED to understand that you can’t win without your teammates. A true star is selfless and not understanding that will turn your coach right off. Another one of those” little” things is doing the drills in practice the best where no one will outshine you. Showing YOU are a competitor and you are hungry is good as it tells the coach you will give the games your all. When you do this, you will improve and the team will too because as you strive to be the best, others will rise to match and/or challenge you.
As coaches, we love guys who go after the rebounds, hustle until the play is dead and just be relentless! A guy who won't give up and plays the same winning or losing. As coaches, we can develop skill, but players with a high level of willpower just make us fans of your game.
The last main things that I want to shed light on are a player’s accountability, attitude and mindset. As a player, coaches want to know you will hold yourself accountable. If you make a mistake on the court or off it, you need to accept responsibility and from there you can mature and correct the mistake. Accountability is also about taking the responsibility to learn what the coach teaches and beyond. For example, if the coach teaches you how to set a screen, you have to know the technique but also know what to do after the pic is made. Coaches also need to know you can be coached not just for your development but for the team. Coaches get turned off of guys who argue, talk back, treat their teammates bad, place blame on others for the team's struggles or even their own mistakes, and lastly having a meltdown when things don’t go their way.
Coaches, including myself, truly believe basketball is 90% mental and 10% physical. A dedicated mindset is important for the team’s success. Championship caliber teams have guys that will pass up their good shots for the best shot, go for the boards, get those deflections, etc. As a player, it's important to put the team before you. You want to be aggressive and conservative when the situation calls for it.
Teams come with challenges from day one, whether it be players getting to know each other to players learning the system. The Coach wants a team of winners who dedicate themselves to the game both on and off the court (meaning school work, proper eating and sleeping well). So if you do your best to stand out, be a leader, and show your motivation you'll be sure to get more playing time.
Play smart, and I’ll see you on the court!!
Owner/Head Basketball Trainer