I have been a sports coach since 2008 and worked with children extensively at Summer Camps in the US coaching every sport you could imagine.
I returned to my roots this year and decided to throw my hat into the ring to coach a basketball team at the club that gave me so much as a child.
I was given an under 11’s team (now under 12’s) and while it came with its challenges with some kids at different ability levels it was so much fun and it felt good to be back coaching again.
However it was blatantly clear to me that every child based their performance on how many goals they had scored during the game.
It reminded me of my coaches when I was young and how blessed I was to have coaches that looked beyond on that. Many games from under 5’s to under 11’s I was the top scorer until I moved clubs to play with my high school friends and where I learned nearly everything I know about basketball today.
I learned very quickly how much team emphasis was placed on the game at Eastern Eagles (my new club) and I was receiving trophies for my defensive efforts rather than being the highest scoring player on the team because by this stage I was playing with some elite scorers who are playing at very high levels still so I had to adapt.
My coaching has a direct relationship to what I valued in the game when I was playing. I value defensive intensity and solid passing.
Today my under 12’s team had a pretty ordinary first half, they were all trying to take on the game themselves, they were rotating players so frequently it was opening up holes all over the court and their defence was reasonably solid in the first half but they step that up again in the second half.
The boys were getting frustrated at each other because no-one was passing the ball. It made my half time address to them very simple they needed to pass the ball but they needed to move for the ball, we had 5 players sitting on the 3 point arc waiting for the ball to be passed with no movement what so ever.
I reminded them what we practiced at training and I said to them, how many players did we have sitting on the 3 point arc at training? 3! Why are all 5 of you standing out there? Get the ball to the top of the key, pass it left or right and cut through and open up the court for each other!
The moved the ball so much better in the second half, they were playing as a team and looking up on the fast breaks and finding each other.
I make a very conscious effort to always applaud the player who set up the goal whether it be through great defence of great passing. Who scores the goals is irrelevant to me and the quicker I can convey that to my players that I don’t care who scores the goals rather how it is scored the quicker they start working together as a team to win the game rather than to add to their own point tally.
It’s a hard message to get across to young children. I mean there isn’t one kid that doesn’t want to be the one scoring all the goals for their team and my boys are exactly the same.
But the second half of basketball was a lot more fun for all of them and for me as a coach to watch because the frustrations they had with each other in the first half of no-one passing the ball was gone. They were working together.
You can apply this team mentality to every sport. You are only as strong as your weakest player. If one player is the whole team then that is a sure quick way to lose morale in the team and other players begin to resent that particular player.
No-one wants to go to a game of basketball and watch one kid take every single shot. I know for a fact any team that I ever coach that will never be the case. The only way you improve, is to improve as a team and working on the individual aspects of your game that will help the team.
After being down in the first half my under 12’s team came back and won by 1 point in a game where they were heavily undersized but looking at the other team we only had to shut down 1 player because he never passed the ball and made their whole game extremely predictable and the boys knew it. They started playing better team defence and they reaped the rewards of turnovers and great passes on the fast break.
As a coach that’s all I ever want to see; the boys involving each other in the game, working hard, and never giving up.
So that brings me to the fundamentals of basketball and to summarize it quite quickly this is what the game of basketball means to me
1. Working As A Team
2. Doing Basic Things Right
3. Defence Is The Best Offence
4. Selfish Play Is A Morale Killer
5. Encouraging Your Team Mates
What Basketball isn’t.
1. An Individuals Sport
2. A Work Hard On Offence And Slack On Defence Game
As a rule of thumb, in my younger teams if you have received the ball from the inbound pass after the other team as scored and dribble it all the way to the other and taken the shot, you haven’t looked hard enough for a pass. I don’t care if you score or not that’s not how I want any player who I coach to play the game and the children are starting to realise that now and they are willing to play as a team.