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The A, B, C's of Working with Players

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When I first started coaching I was a "mad scientist" and would spend hours and hours by myself tinkering with established offenses and defenses and trying to make up new ones. 

I read every book and watched every tape on X's and O's that I could get my hands on and was convinced that every megabyte of basketball knowledge I could accumulate would eventually translate into a slew of wins.

Now I still read, listen, and watch everything available in hopes of continually getting better at my craft but have somewhat changed my overall approach.

I didn't realize it then, but I certainly do now, that coaching is as much (or more) a people business than it is an X's and O's business. As a result, HOW we teach and work with our players is often more important than WHAT we teach and if we can effectively combine the "how" and the "what" we will usually have a chance to be really, really good.

Effectively working with our players is as easy as A-B-C-D...

Accept

I don't care how young or old you are, kids today are different than when you were a kid. Their upbringing is different; their communication skills are different; their music is different; their level of responsibility and accountability is different; their sense of entitlement is different, etc. Everything is different. However, you were neither hired nor did you volunteer to coach kids of the 80's, 90's or 00's. You were hired to coach today's kids! Accept the fact that they are different from previous generations and embrace it instead of fighting it.

Bend

Have you ever listened closely to a Duke, Louisville, or Michigan State player being interviewed after a game? They sound almost exactly like their coaches! The same thing that impressed their coaches impressed them. The same things that frustrated their coaches frustrated them.

Even though you accept your players for who they are, you still need to bend them a little to fit your personality and philosophy. The stronger your team's "collective personality" the more successful they will be both on and off the court.

Challenge

Today's players have grown up playing video games and are used to constantly working their way through a difficult series of levels and challenges to beat the game. Take advantage of this fact by constantly challenging your players to accomplish something that is perceived to be just out of their grasp.

Many coaches complain about the focus and work ethic of their players when in reality their players are just bored. Turn every drill into a game or competition and once your players have mastered a certain skill or even a particular part of a skill then challenge them with something a little more difficult.

Develop

When I was a young coach just getting started I used to think that my primary responsibility was to out-coach the guy on the other bench. Now I know better and realize that my primary responsibility is to help develop players. If I can help average players become good and good players become great and then get everyone to play together then I have done my job.

I know some very successful coaches who choose to use their players like chess pieces and control their every move on the court. You can win games that way if that is your only goal but in the long run better players will take you farther than better plays.

If you make it a priority to develop your players and improve their skill level they will have a better chance of moving up and playing at a higher level. You will become known as a "player's first" coach and more players will want to be coached by you. If you don't believe me just ask John Calipari.

If you make a strong commitment to accept, bend, challenge, and develop your players you will soon have a happy, loyal, and more productive team. As a coach, you will also have more fun and you'll win more games in the process. 

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