Coaching Basketball Effectively by Leading the “Right” Way

By Don Kelbick

Sports hold a unique place in the American culture. Few things have the same impact in so many areas of our lives. Good days and bad days are often defined by how our teams did. Not just for the players, but for the fans as well.

So few things can teach as much about life as sports can. Teamwork, handling success, dealing with disappointment, standing up to the pressure of constant scrutiny, punctuality, leadership, etc. are all aspects that are developed through playing organized sports. For that reason, few professions offer more diversity or uniqueness than coaching.

Coaches are more than people on the sideline calling plays for their teams. The responsibilities and techniques of coaching basketball require the coach to be a motivator, teacher, substitute parent, confidant, tutor, policeman among other things.  But above all…. a coach is a leader!!

If You Lead, They Will Follow

In a culture as totally encompassing as sports, teams take on the personality and values of their coach. This is true for younger players all the way up through the professional ranks. Coaches make demands, set rules and make decisions based upon his own value system. To be a truly effective leader, the coach has to live those values. Players look up to and want to emulate their coach, especially with younger players. When you accept a coaching job, even at a youth level though to a lesser extent, you decide to accept a lifestyle. Regardless of what else you do, to your players, you will always be “Coach.” Whether you see your players in practice, at the supermarket or in a restaurant, you will be “Coach” first, and whoever you really are second. Your actions must reflect that.

Your players will do what you do. Use questionable language in practice, so will they. If you dress inappropriately, so will they. Be late for appointments with them, so will they. Your players, especially at the younger levels, will emulate the way you carry yourself. For that reason, coaching has become a lifestyle.

Create a Persona You Can Live With

Being a leader of young lives is an awesome responsibility. You have a right to lead your life the way you want to but you have to understand the effect you have on others. You have to find a way in your personal life where you can enjoy and grow your life and yet be a person that players will want to look up to. You have to be a person parents will want to entrust their kids to. You have to make sacrifices.

I know great coaches, great teachers, great leaders who have lost their jobs because they were seen in a strip club. I know others who are out of coaching, not due to wins and losses, but due to DUIs. After all, would you entrust your child to someone who doesn’t exercise enough judgment not to drive when he has been drinking? Once you decide to coach, you affect not only your life but the lives of others as well. You must create a coaching persona that you would be comfortable living with but it also must be someone you would be comfortable having your child play for.

However, that coaching persona cannot be different than the person that you really are. Players can tell when you are faking, they can tell when you are not being genuine. In addition, if you are not real, you can’t keep it up all the time. Coaching adults is a little different; they can figure out that there is a coach in their coaching role and a coach in a personal role.

But, if you decide to coach younger players, high school, youth, etc., those kids have a more difficult time with that. You have to remember, at that level, you are always a role model. Standing in front of a player in the supermarket is the same as standing in front of a player in practice. Remember back to when you were in 5th, 6th, 7th grade. If you saw a teacher outside of school and that teacher acted differently than you expected, you looked at him differently when you went to school the next day. The same is true, even more so, as a coach.

I am not saying that you have to change who you are. Nor am I saying that you have to live your life according to your players’ expectations. I am saying that is part of your consideration when making your decision as to whether to become a coach or not, the role model factor has to figure in. If you wish to be a coach, you have to be willing to bear that responsibility.

6 Comments

  1. michael cope — June 17, 2008 @ 10:37 am

    do you have free poster or article tha tcan be used for motivation for girls basketball players, if so could you send themto me. thanks

  2. Joe Laperle — June 17, 2008 @ 10:44 am

    Don, your sentiments stand out so true,hope some of these younger coaches take heed, great job.

    Joe

  3. Ty — June 17, 2008 @ 11:13 am

    Hey Coach,
    I give every girl an envelope in the locker room before every game that contains a motivational quote. They love it.

  4. tzighe tesfai — June 17, 2008 @ 12:23 pm

    I have some juniors that they never played basketball, is there any easy way to make them understand the game, where can I start, can you give me some ideas please, step by step direction if you can send me, and to let you know I’m new voluntary coach.

  5. Abel — June 17, 2008 @ 1:42 pm

    I have got good coaching skill.Now i am a player but i told for my team mate what i read.Thank you for your support. If it is possible can you send me the book?

  6. Tom — June 2, 2011 @ 12:14 pm

    Love the article. As a teacher and a coach I see kids everyday who don’t want to go home. They are scared of what they might come home to; drugs, alcohol, abuse, an unsafe environment. As a coach, you may be the highlight of these kids LIVES!! Take that responsibility seriously and have pride in what you do. You are seriously a life changer!

    Can’t wait to meet you at the the camp you are holding in Ironwood this summer coach!

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