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. Not only that, it can cause kids to quit the team.
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.
You'll find one of the toughest things as a coach (especially with young players) is keeping their attention and still keep things fun.
Most coaches really struggle with this and I'll tell you that most of them go about it all wrong.
Let me ask you a question.
Do you want your players to have fun and really enjoy themselves?
I would hope so. I certainly do.
Well, unbelievably, one of the best ways to get you players to enjoy themselves and get the most from this experience is by establishing the right kind of discipline.
That's right. Discipline, structure, accountability, and follow-through. Mean what you say!
Kids actually have more fun if they have some good discipline in place. They actually like the structure because it makes them feel more secure. They know what to expect and how to perform.
True, some will test you. Expect it! Be consistent and always mean what you say. If you tell your team that talking during a team meeting means a lap around the gym, then enforce it. Always and for everyone.
Have you ever watched the TV show Super Nanny?
It's funny because her teachings are really effective and reinforce many of the things I incorporate into basketball practices.
I recommend watching her TV show to help with your practices. But in the meantime, here are the things you need to do...
- Set rules
- Communicate those rules both verbally and in writing.
- Have a written schedule
- Have a written practice plan
- Follow through with your rules
Kids are smart. They know what they can get away with.
You must establish some very basic rules and expectations. You owe it to your players, their parents and especially to yourself. Do you really want to coach 20 kids without any discipline or structure in place?
When those rules are broken or expectations are not met, then there are consequences, every time. Not some of the time. Every time!
The behavior of your players will very quickly change if you are consistent with your discipline.
However, this is where most coaches screw up!
They let things slide here and there. They are not consistent in handing out discipline.
Most coaches (and parents for that matter) are continually giving our verbal threats to discipline. But there's rarely action behind their words.
Kids quickly pick up on this and will not listen to you. That's why there must be disciplinary action every time.
Don't be wishy-washy. And very soon, you won't even have to give out discipline because your players learned they can't get away with it.
To give you an idea, I like setting a precedent on the first day of practice. This works awesome!
When you're ready to start practice, you blow the whistle and tell the kids to bring it in.
It never fails. A few kids will hustle in and several others will mill around and slowly walk to you. And some might not even listen at all.
At this point, you immediately discipline them. I generally have them all get on the line and start running sprints. I run them pretty hard.
Then I blow the whistle and call them in again. Trust me, they sprint to me this time.
This is usually the last time I need to make them run for a long time. I might need to give them reminders on occasion. But they generally know I mean business and they learn what they can get away with.
I simply don't let them get away with things that are detrimental to themselves or our practice. And we still have tons of fun! Because that's what it's all about!
Now you might be worried about setting some discipline because you don't want to be the bad guy. And you want them to have fun.
I don't blame you.
Well, don't worry. They will actually like you even more after you get the discipline established.
Trust me. I've been there!
Here are some basic rules and disciplinary actions that have worked for me.
- No talking when a coach is talking.
- No lying. Period. There are very severe consequences for this.
- Always be on time.
- If you can't make practice always call.
- Unsportsmanlike behavior is never acceptable.
You can also structure your practices with some regularity so that your players will know what to expect.
For example, if they know practice will probably start with some hard defense drills and then after 30 minutes they get 15 minutes of fun games that they really love.
The point is that it's important for you to get things under control, preferably right away.
If you're in the middle of your season, you can still have a "transition day" where you start fresh and give your players a brief surprise. Then stay consistent with your discipline from there on out.
Without the discipline, you'll be cutting your players short and struggling to reach your goals.