Breakthrough Basketball Newsletter:
You Shouldn’t Be Tough On Players?

November 28, 2020

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  • You Shouldn’t Be Tough On Players?

    • On the Breakthrough Twitter account , I recently posted this quote:

      Uncoachable kids become unemployable adults.

      Allow your coaches to be tough on them! If they're not tough on them, that's when you should be worried.

      And I got a response that said this:

      Reader Comment: One: what is tough?

      Two: what is the basis of your statement. Childhood is tough. It is tougher for some more than others. Children don’t need another tough. They do need to develop life skills of perseverance, resilience, cooperation, compassion, determination, joy…

      And this was my response:

      I see what you're saying. Tough is probably too vague and can be interpreted too many different ways. Holding players accountable for their actions. Making sure they understand the link between their actions and outcomes. That's more or less what I'm alluding to.

      Age Matters

      Since our subscribers vary greatly from working with 7 year olds to professional coaches working with 30 year olds, I would also add that your approach will definitely vary depending on the age group you’re working with.

      You’re not going to yell at a 11 year old that you’ve known for two weeks because they weren’t rotating quickly enough on defense.

      On the opposite spectrum, you’ve coached a 21 year old player for a few years. You’ve seen them every day. You know each other quite well. You’ve developed a strong relationship with them. An occasional yell could be used as a tool to get them focused and get them to play better.

      “Being Tough On Somebody” Taken Out of Context...

      Additionally, I know that Jay Bilas wrote a book on toughness, but after further contemplation, I think “being tough on somebody” can be misinterpreted and taken out of context too easily.

      ou shouldn’t be mean. You shouldn’t scream (This is different than being loud to be heard). You shouldn’t be demeaning. You shouldn’t be aggressive with your tone.

      It’s not that those old-school ways of discipline haven’t produced winning teams in the past.

      It’s that we now know there are better ways to be an effective coach and build a positive relationship, so you can have an influence in the lives of athletes beyond the sports arena.

      Inspire > Fear

      And in some cases, “being tough on somebody” can be taken out of context by another coach. And this coach with good intentions could be using outdated and less effective discipline techniques because they’re trying to do what they perceive as the right thing based on their belief systems. And in the worst case, maybe verbal or physical abuse is used.

      We need to be better as coaches and hold each other accountable! We need to step up and put a stop to this no matter how many wins the coach has.

      You Should Teach Actions/Choices and Outcomes.

      One advantage to taking parenting courses is I believe you become a better coach as well.

      The concept of teaching actions/choices and outcomes without using the words “right”, “wrong”, “good”, “bad”, “mistake”, “failure” was very helpful for me.

      There is a big difference between…

      Getting in a player’s face and yelling, “What is wrong with you? You’re never going to play if you can’t get your lazy butt to helpside defense.”


      Stopping play and teaching to the group, “Alright. When the pass is made, should you jog to your new position? Okay, why is it better to sprint to ballside? Why is it important to do it immediately? Why is it important to anticipate the pass?”

      “Yeah. If you get there immediately, it can deter dribble drives or passes near the basket. Since you’re already there and move to help, you’re in better control of your body which leads to fewer fouls. It’s easier to get vertical. This will lead to fewer points for the defense.”

      “Okay. Let’s sprint to areas on defense. This will be a big factor when it comes to playing time.”

      Then if you see a player who isn’t quite getting a concept or executing it properly, substitute them out or pull them to the side. You can have a quiet conversation with them on what your expectations are for them.

      Do you agree? Or am I way off on this? Reply back and let me know. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this as well!

      All the Best,

      Joe Haefner
      Breakthrough Basketball