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Three Things Basketball Coaches Should Never Talk About

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Over the course of a normal season there are undoubtedly dozens of times when a coach finds himself talking individually with either one of his players or with a parent of one of his players.

These conversations take place before or after practice, on the team bus, in between classes, and even at team dinners and get-togethers.

Some coaches (me included) hold individual meeting with every player almost every week with the intent of keeping all lines of communication completely open.

While these conversations are usually enjoyable and almost always beneficial, they also hold the potential of being damaging to your program.

To keep any risk of damage down to a minimum it's very important that a coach never discusses these three things with players or parents: 1) other players 2) strategy and 3) playing time.

Let's briefly discuss each of them:

1. Other players

If you have been coaching at least a week, you already know by now that's there's no such thing as confidentiality among teenagers. Anything you say about another player is going to be repeated, posted, tweeted, and texted in the blink of an eye. Not only that, but it may very well be misinterpreted or exaggerated before being shared.

For example, let's say you tell Jeff that you appreciate his hard work and that if Chris would work just as hard then he too would be a much better player. Even though you meant well, moments later Chris is going to hear ((or read) that you said he was lazy and not a very good player.

It's a natural tendency to compare one player to another but the only way to can assure that it won't cause problems is not to do it.

A word of caution: The only thing worse than mentioning another player is talking to a parent and mentioning another parent!

2. Strategy

I am constantly talking strategy with my assistant coaches, coaching friends, and mentors but never with players or parents. Why? The first reason is because it is almost impossible to talk strategy without mentioning other players. Most strategic decisions are largely based on personnel and more specifically on the strengths, weaknesses, and court placement of the players.

The second reason is because any player or parent who asks a coach about strategy is doing so because he disagrees with the way things are being done. In other words, they are looking for an argument! Of course I realize that is not always the case but it happens often enough that it's a good strategy not to talk about strategy.

3. Playing time

It is a basketball fact of life that every player wants to play and every parent wants their son or daughter to play a lot!

I've found that most players are more realistic and accepting than their parents because they are in practice every day. Even though they want to play they usually know where they sit in the team's pecking order. On those rare occasions when parents forget that I won't discuss playing time I very calmly explain that there just aren't enough minutes to keep everyone happy. Then I tell the parents if they can convince the parents of one of the other players to voluntarily "give up" their son's minutes then we can work something out. So far that's never happened!

It would be great it coaches could talk about these things with players and parents without worrying about the potential consequences, but that's just not realistic. A problem avoided is much better than a problem solved!

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