10 Tips For Getting Your Basketball Team Focused, Motivated, And Playing Hard!

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"Coaches who can outline plays on a blackboard are a dime a dozen. The ones who win get inside their players and motivate." -- Vince Lombardi

One of the biggest challenges that basketball coaches of all levels face is the challenge of keeping your players focused, motivated to play, and playing as hard as they can. The following are 10 tried and true tips to keep your team motivated.

1. Set a precedent on the first day of practice. Establishing your expectations from the very beginning is the best way to not only establish your role within the team but to also let your players know what kind of coach you're going to be.

For example: As your first practice starts and players are milling about blow your whistle and call them to the center of the gym. If they don't sprint to you, they get to run right then and there. After they've run, blow the whistle again. This time all your players will enthusiastically sprint to you. And more importantly, you'll have their full attention for the rest of the year.

2. Show your players that they matter. Probably the most effective method for getting your players to work hard for you, and for themselves, is to let them know that you care about them.

Show interest in their lives outside of basketball. Get to know your players as individuals. Spend time talking to them one on one. It doesn't have to be for hours; a couple minutes will do the trick. The point is to let them know that they're important to you on and off the basketball court.

3. Model motivation in all of your actions. Have fun, remain positive, and let your players know what is expected of them immediately. Your players will pick up on everything that you say and do and they will respond accordingly. Verbalize your philosophy so your players know what to expect and to what to strive for.

For example: If you tell your players that the best rebounders will be starters, then players will all strive to be good rebounders. You've told them through your words and actions that rebounding is important to you.

It's all about what you emphasize! If you're constantly talking about rebounding, you're players will pick up on that and become good rebounders.

4. Offer verbal rewards. Rewards grab attention - players and people love compliments. Whether you're running beginner basketball drills or drills that require more skill, give praise for improvement and for working hard.

Occasionally, for significant effort, praise players in front of the team. Public praise is often well received and players will work hard to earn such praise. Remember that if negative feedback is required to sandwich it between positive feedback. For example: "You did a great job hustling down the court, next time wait for a better shot. Keep up the great hustle and the good shots will be there for you."

5. Offer occasional non-verbal rewards. Players can be motivated to achieve goals by occasionally offering tangible rewards like a Gatorade or by utilizing a tactic of the great Morgan Wooten. Wooten offered "Permissions" to his players.

Permissions were rewards granted to players based on outstanding efforts or reaching set goals. The permissions are earned throughout the practice and then totaled up at the end. Each permission resulted in one less lap, suicide, or other conditioning drill.

You can also add laps to players for not meeting expectations. For example you can set up a basketball rebounding drill and players that get 5 or more rebounds pick up a permission and those that get less than 4 pick up a lap.

6. Coach the success of the team. When it comes down to it, it is more fun to win together than it is to win alone and basketball is a team sport. Your players are more likely to give greater effort if they know the team is counting on them. By reminding players, through your actions and words that they are a team, they'll be motivated to work together to succeed.

Often this can be accomplished by verbally praising players that are working well together or by offering a non verbal reward for practices where they work together particularly well. Also, by knowing your players strengths and weaknesses you'll be able to keep an eye out for potential conflicts and enforce a team attitude.

7. Add competition to your drills. A great way to spice things up and keep players working hard is to add competition to your drills.

As an example, you could establish teams for a shooting drill and reward the team or individual player that makes the most shots successfully.

With a little imagination, you can come up with ways to make almost all your drills competitive. Just remember that comparisons between teammates can make some players feel badly about themselves and can spur rivalries between teammates. In short, it can squash a player's motivation. If you need to compare teammates, do so only to model a desired behavior or skill. For example, "Watch how Joe follows through with his free throw shot, try that next time you're at the line and see how it feels."

8. Teach visualization. Visualization is a valuable coaching tool and it is the one skill that all athletes can take away from their sport, no matter what level they perform at, and use the skill to attain success the rest of their lives.

Teach your players to visualize reaching their goals. Visualization teaches focus. It teaches planning, executing, and succeeding. Incorporate a few minutes of visualization in each practice by asking the team to visualize a play that they're having difficulty perfecting, a shot that they need to work on, or executing the drill of their choice.

Teach them to utilize all their senses in the visualization so that they can hear the ball bouncing, see the ball bouncing, and feel their gym shoes squeak on the floor.

9. Don't punish, discipline with the intent to teach. Punishment for poor or inappropriate behavior only serves to fragment the teams focus and hinder their motivation. Instead, discipline with the intent to teach your players how to conduct themselves appropriately.

Rather than yell or punish players that aren't living up to their potential, ask them, "Is that the best you can do? Are you trying your hardest?" Often simply by acknowledging to you or to themselves that they're not trying their hardest, players will try harder, particularly if they know that you notice.

Additionally, discipline with consistency. For example, if it is unacceptable to be late to practice then all who are late to practice receive the exact same consequences no matter what.

10. Set the right type of goals for your team and for your players. Players and teams need goals so that they know what to focus on and they know what to strive for. But the key is the "type" of goals you choose...

I'm a firm believer that you should NOT set goals for the prestigious statistics, like scoring the most points and even winning games. Players already want those things without setting goals. Not to mention, it gives them the wrong idea.

However, if you set goals for other critical aspects of the game you will see huge success!

You can set goals for a low number of turnovers, team shooting percentage, your opponents shooting percentage, team rebounds (not individual), defensive stats, and possessions per game. You always want more possessions that the other team and that comes from rebounding and taking care of the basketball.

You could even have conditioning goals like 100 push-ups or run a mile in less than 5 minutes. Just be careful about the message you send your players when setting goals. When used properly, goals are a powerful motivator.

Don't forget to reward players for achieving their goals.

If you'd like a ready built system to motivate your players with goals and statistics, try out the Value Point System. It's one of the most effective ways to motivate players and keep them working hard all year round.

Know that what motivates some players will not motivate others. It is important to get to know your players as individuals and to know how they will respond individually and as a team to motivational tactics. In the end, if you're involved, excited, and willing to take the time to keep practices interesting, then your team will respond.

For more motivation tips, check out the Ultimate Guide to Player Motivation.

What do you think? Let us know by leaving your comments, suggestions, and questions...


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Ken Sartini says:
9/3/2013 at 5:22:56 PM

I got this from another page of Breakthrough..

Important Tips:

When working with young kids and running basketball drills, there are three very important concepts you need to consider:

1 - Kids need to be highly active!

Just by using fast paced drills and keeping things moving, your players will have more fun and get in better condition. Your kids should be breathing hard and their hearts should be pumping. It's good for them!

Avoid standing in lines as much as possible and keep the ball in their hands as much as possible.

2 - Kids want to feel successful!

Picture by Shane Pope

With very youngs kids, competition doesn't always serve as a motivator. You should always provide activities that help them build their skills and confidence. Strive to focus on the learning process instead of measuring up to those around you.

You'll want to avoid adding pressure and competition until the players have developed their skills, confidence, and become proficient with the basics.

Put them in situations where they can succeed.

3 - Kids want to have lots of fun!

This is an important stage for young players and your actions could determine whether they enjoy sports or not.

It's important to make things fun so they can improve and become confident.

Youth basketball drills don't have to be boring. Almost any drill can be modified to provide high activity, high success, and high enjoyment.

Read more: http://www.breakthroughbasketball.com/coaching/youthbasketball.html#ixzz2drog2LMe


ogunbayo iyabode says:
9/3/2013 at 5:16:39 PM

Just getting to know more about this website, its an eye opener for me, i enjoyed the coaching tips and team motivation. I am a new coach and handle girls ages 10/ 14. My girls are not physically fit, what fitness drills can i introduce to them. thanks.Coach Iyabode Ogunbayo


Abby says:
11/18/2012 at 8:16:33 PM

I love these tips not just on to become a motivating coach but all of it. The drills the plays everything. I'm a 13year old girl and asked to volenteer to assistant coach a boys school team and these tips have really helped everything,


Peter says:
11/6/2012 at 7:35:26 AM

Competitive and fund drills - quite often I will finish my practices with "puzzle games". I split my team into smaller teams of 2 or 3 players per team. We then shoot 3's, 2's (outside the ley) and layups for puzzle pieces. 3's are worth 3, 2's worth 2 and layups are worth 1 puzzle piece. First team to put their puzzle together wins!

I use $2 puzzles - generally Disney ones that I pick up in the toy section of the local department store. The kids absolutely love these games and they compete hard to make sure they have the chance to win.

And these are high school girls!!! I cannot emphasize just how much these kids enjoy these games, amazes me almost every day!


gabriel-uv says:
9/6/2012 at 9:55:18 PM


i''''m so glad to read this article and fun,its add up my wide knowledge in basketball coz to motivate player is one of the most hard time to learn.By these tips and guide i can now excel my winning goal not brain washing my player,the best thing i''''ve learn is to praise the player by achieving the set goals or by extending reward.

tyvm & God bless!



Adam Link says:
2/1/2011 at 4:15:07 PM

These tips are great... I'm trying out coaching a small team in the Air Force and these tips work for adults too. Thanks for helping me to see that I am on the right path with the way I do things during practice.


Coach Brumley says:
1/21/2011 at 1:31:31 PM

These are all the basic that we all need to be reminded of from time to time no matter waht levels we r coaching. This is a great piece!


Coach S. says:
6/15/2010 at 9:45:36 AM

After 22 years of coaching, I can tell you that all kids are different. How you address one player may not work the same on another. Be consistent with you discipline but, know your players and what they respond to best. It make take being "nose to nose" with some but sometimes it just takes you letting them know that you have confidence in the to get them to perform better.


Levi says:
4/24/2010 at 5:10:13 PM

As always well put letter and informational tips Thanks again


Nathalie says:
2/23/2010 at 9:30:00 AM

Thanks for the great info guys. My daughter plays for a competitive league at Bantam level and as a parent, and hopefully future coach, I love your approach to the psychological and mental aspects of coaching. THEY ARE SOOOOOO IMPORTANT!!!!
Thanks for continuously pointing it out. People often don''t remember this stuff until players are in a slump.
Keep up the great work of informing us all with such good feedback.


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