To make the most of coaching your son’s or daughter’s basketball team this season, try to avoid these common errors.
1. Forcing your team to run killers. Running lines, killers, 30-second drills or whatever you want to call them is very old school. Getting your team in good cardio shape is a valid goal. However, with gym time being a precious commodity, make the most of it by having your kids work on ball skills instead of just running without the ball. If you want to run killers, have each player execute the drill while dribbling a ball. In addition to improving their conditioning, their ball-handling skills will also get better.
2. Spending too much time on intra-squad scrimmages. Many basketball skills are learned best by focused, repetitive practice. Breaking down complicated sequences into simpler parts makes it easier for young players to learn. Scrimmaging can an incredibly valuable tool for a team, buy it shouldn’t replace focused drills and activities to teach key elements of the game. Relying too much on scrimmaging is frequently the sign of an unprepared coach. Don’t be that type of coach.
3. Ending practices with conditioning drills. John Wooden was a believer in ending practices on a high note. Identify favorite drills, perhaps a shooting contest of some type, and end practices with that activity. Kids will end the practice wanting to come back for more.
4. Executing drills without enough instruction. A coaching role is primarily a teaching role. It’s not enough just to put players through a series of drills; you need to identify what players are doing well and what areas need additional instruction and help. Explain the drill, demonstrate the drill, have players execute it, observe their efforts, instruct, encourage and repeat as necessary.
5. Practicing too many set plays. Teach your players skills that they can take to future teams. Shooting form, cutting to the basket, pick-and-roll, how to rebound, and other fundamentals are the types of things coaches should focus on. Teaching young players how to execute too many, detailed set plays takes away a lot of time from the most important aspects of the game.
6. Losing sight of the big picture. Kids play basketball for lots of different reasons. Some want to develop their skills, some want to hang out with their friends, some want to stay in shape and some just want to have fun. “Winning” is way down the list for most kids. And yet, for many coaches, it seems to be the top priority. The focus for developmental basketball teams should be on player development, not on winning championships.
7. Placing too much emphasis on offense. When 2 competitive teams play, many times players will spend about equal time on the court playing offense and defense. Make sure defense is getting its proper due at your practices.
8. Practicing without a plan. By coming to each practice with a plan, you and your team will get so much more out of each practice. Plan each practice by breaking your court time out into 5 or 10 minute segments. A 90 minute practice might include: warm-up & dribbling drills, shooting exercises, defense skills, offensive sets, specialty situations (inbound plays, sidelines, etc.) and working on pressure (offensive and defense). If you’re looking for ideas on your youth basketball practice plans, check out 30 Youth Basketball Practice Plans.
9. Being too strict. Kids, and adults, make their best contributions when they’re feeling confident. In addition to providing suggestions on how to improve aspects of your players’ games, look for situations when they’re doing things right, and let them know. Don’t just be a disciplinarian, be a coach!
10. Acting like coaches you see on ESPN’s Sport Center. Remember you’re coaching kids, not college or pro athletes. During games, don’t get caught up in critiquing referees performance; focus on your own players’ activities. Certainly, learn from the successful approaches of good coaches. But, be yourself in your approach to bringing out the best in your players.