Loading... Please wait...

Tips For Beginner and Struggling Basketball Coaches

Posted by

New coaches tend to have a few things in common with coaches that have been around a long time but are struggling to find ways to win - stress and uncertainty.

New coaches usually get overwhelmed with all that lies ahead of them. Their mind races with everything that needs to be done like learning the x's and o's, organizing practices, dealing with parents and building a winning program. There's a lot to think about and although it's usually pretty exciting for new head coaches, it can be intimidating.

For struggling coaches, it's a different kind of stress but just as exhausting. Their mind races with questions about what is causing them to lose. They seem desperate to win and are always looking for that magic pill that will right the ship. They fail to see the light at the end of the tunnel and start to panic.

The HoopSkills team has had the opportunity to speak with and interview some phenomenal basketball coaches the past few months. Some of their names include former NBA Head Coach  Eric Musselman, current NBA Coach Barry Hecker, NBA Hall of Famer Adrian Dantley and the very well known High School Coach Herb Welling. In our conversations with these coaches we tried really hard to get them to talk about specific things they did to make them successful coaches and rack up wins for their teams.

To no surprise, there was no magic bullet or magic pill that they know of. The things they talked about were very simple, but yet proven and effective. In this article I've highlighted the main things we gathered. These are the core principles they focused on to make them successful, nothing more or nothing less. If you are a brand new coach I would advise you to print this list off and refer to it often, especially when you feel overwhelmed or distracted. Don't over-complicate things. If you are a veteran coach going through a rough spot in the road, analyze this list and see where you might be lacking.

1. Establish an identity for your team

Tom Izzo's Michigan State teams are known far and wide for their amazing ability to out-rebound their opponents. Jim Boeheim's teams at Syracuse have a reputation for playing one of the stingiest zone defenses around. You want your teams to have an identity. You have to decide what you want to be known for and it's up to you to communicate it throughout your program, get players to buy-in and then to make sure they execute. Another great example of this is the NBA's Utah Jazz. Every team in the league knows that they are going to run the pick and roll over and over again. They do it so effectively it's extremely hard to stop and they don't care that the defense knows that it's coming. They challenge the defense to try and stop it.

Decide what you want to be known for and go to work. Don't change your bread and butter philosophies every time you get home from a coaching clinic or hear about something some other team is doing. Building an identity for your team takes some time but can be done if you are patient and persistent.

2. Find a mentor

You can't do it alone. All great coaches bounce ideas off one another. The worst thing you can do is think that because you are now the head coach you should be all-knowing and never need to go to others for help. Look into your rolodex and find another coach that you have a good relationship with that has already been successful and bounce ideas off of them. If you don't have somebody in mind then it's a good idea to start networking and building relationships. Don't be afraid to reach out to people you don't know. One of the best compliments you can give a coach is to approach respectfully asking for advice. Most coaches are flattered that you would want to come to them to borrow their basketball knowledge and because of that they usually open right up.

If you truly want to dissect the lives and backgrounds of top-notch coaches out there like Bobby Knight, Coach K, Dean Smith, Rick Pitino, etc., you would quickly find that early on they had mentors that they turned to get ideas from and to support them when times are tough. Don't try to solve all your team's problems on your own. Other coaches have gone through every scenario you'll come across and you're a fool if you don't try to learn from their past experiences.

3. Get organized

To some people this comes very natural while others have to work very hard at it. Your practices need structure and your players need to rules and guidelines to follow. If you fly by the seat of your pants you might as well quit coaching and move on to something else. Unorganized coaches lose the respect of their players very quickly. Each practice needs to have purpose and meaning for everything you do and the players need to be aware of it.

4. Learn from former players

A lot can be learned by pulling in one of your former players into your office a year or two after he is out of your program. As long as they were one of your more mature players they will be able to give you honest feedback that will no doubt improve your program. You'll want to ask them questions like: How were you most effectively motivated? What personal regrets do you have? What was the most valuable thing you got from your playing experience? What could I have done more of or better to make you a better player?

When you get a player to open up about these things it's amazing what you will learn and how much positive impact it will have on you. You'll hear some things that will definitely make you want to reconsider your approach on certain things and you'll probably hear some things that make you laugh. The important thing here is to focus on communicating with the players you though were the most mature and respectful of others on the team.

5. Set Goals

Hopefully I don't need to spend a lot of time on this one. We all know what goals are and how important they are, the question is, are you making them a serious part of your program? Are you setting seasonal goals, goals per game, goals per quarter, goals per half, goals for each individual player? If you're not, you need to be. You can't fix what you don't keep track of and you can't get better if you don't know what you are currently accomplishing. Setting goals requires a lot of attention on your part and since you're the captain of the ship - it all rests on you. If you don't take it serious and stress them EVERYDAY nobody else will and the success of your program will go whatever way the wind is blowing. Take control!

6. Have a clear vision & philosophy of how your program will succeed

In business they sometimes call it an elevator pitch. If you only have a brief moment (such as the time you are talking with someone on an elevator ride) to explain why someone would want to buy your product this is what you'd say. It's the one or two minute explanation that summarizes everything the customer needs to hear in order to understand what your business is all about.

Successful basketball coaches always have a clear philosophy on how to win and so should you. I've bumped into coaches before where I ask them about their program and they just go on and on and on about pretty much nothing. They talk themselves into a circle and I walk away thinking "That coach is probably really struggling because he doesn't have a clue what he's trying to accomplish." and in most cases I'm right on with my assumption. The key is to carve out a simple vision and philosophy that you stick to. Make it your bread and butter and never waiver from it.

7. Focus on fundamentals

A team that has the most sophisticated offense in the world but yet can't shoot or dribble effectively will always struggle. On the other hand, it's very common for teams to dominate when their plays and schemes are extremely simple all because the players have the fundamentals mastered. This is a huge problem with beginner coaches right now. For some reason they think that the x's and o's are more important than footwork and boxing out. If you work with your players to help them master the basics the rest will take care of itself.

What are your thoughts?

comments powered by Disqus