Sheriff Andy Taylor enforced the laws in Mayberry in the popular TV series “The Andy Griffith Show” for many years. While I never saw him pick up a basketball, I think youth basketball coaches could learn a thing or two about managing a team by watching him in action.
Some of the lessons they might learn include:
1.) Place a higher value on earning respect from others than in having them fear you.
Andy Taylor was known as the “Sheriff without a Gun.” Andy’s logic, “When a man carries a gun all the time, the respect he thinks he’s getting might really be fear. So I don’t carry a gun because I don’t want the people of Mayberry to fear a gun. I’d rather they respect me.”
As a youth coach, it’s easy to generate players’ fear. To maintain order at practice or as a means to encourage best performances at games, we’ve all seen coaches who threaten running drills, e.g. killers, or some type of punishment. Many coaches make this apart of their approach because that’s how their high school coaches did it. Because it was done before doesn’t make it the best approach. It’s better to earn respect than to instill fear.
How much does a coach really need to use a whistle? The “Coach without a Whistle” approach is practiced by the all-time, winningest coach in college football, St. John’s John Gagliardi. I find myself using a whistle less and less at basketball practices, usually, just when I’m refereeing 5-on-5 scrimmages. Also, as many coaches have learned, it’s sometimes more effective to get your message across by talking softly. Players have to quiet down to hear you.
2.) Have a finger on the pulse of your community.
Andy Taylor was an effective Sheriff because he had his finger on the pulse of the Mayberry Community. When Barney was too aggressive in his ticket writing, Andy knew that it would upset citizens. Andy counseled Barney on an approach that would work more effectively for the community. Recognizing potential trouble spots early helps you, as Barney would say, “nip it in the bud.”
Likewise, a good coach, must have a sense as to his team’s mindset. If a coach knows that players are worn out from school, basketball and other activities; it’s time to ease off the accelerator at practice. Get to know your players and your team will be better for it.
3.) The importance of having a deputy
Just as Andy Taylor had Barney Fife for back-up and assistance; a good coach can always use a good assistant. In fact, just as additional deputies were brought on in Mayberry when needed; a coach might find it better to have a couple of assistants. Additional coaches reduce the teacher/student ratio, provide a different perspective and it just helps to have someone to review team progress with on a regular basis.
4.) Teach life lessons when opportunities present themselves
From the importance of honesty to standing up to bullies; Andy taught Opie (and viewers) a few life lessons along the way. Don’t pass up the chance to teach your players some important lessons that they can carry with them beyond basketball. Basketball, and sports in general, can teach lessons like: the importance of hard work, the magic of teamwork, and the value of good sportsmanship. There will be situations throughout the season when a coach can really make these types of lessons come alive.
5.) Reverse psychology can work
When Andy caught wind of Opie’s plan to run away from home in one episode, he used a little reverse psychology. Instead of meeting with Opie and forbidding it, Andy talked about the logistics of running away, e.g. how much food Opie would need, the lost relationships, and the missed activities at home. After hearing his dad, Opie thought better of his plan.
Reverse psychology isn’t always the best strategy with a basketball team but it can work on occasion. When one of my 11-year-old teams fell in love with the 3-pointer, I talked about switching to a 3-pointer focused offense. As part of that, I had each player shoot three 3-pointers in a little shooting exercise at practice. With 10 players and a total of 30 shots, the number of 3-pointers made with no defense was 0. No one made one shot! After that exercise, discussions about launching 3 pointers in games were no longer heard.
6.) Country smarts and preparation can win games
Many a Andy Griffith episode seemed to feature an escaped convict who was on the loose in Mayberry. Sophisticated detectives were brought in from big cities and put in charge of the manhunts. While usually assigned a non-important role; Andy, through his knowledge of the local area and country smarts would end up apprehending the criminal, thus outwitting the city slicker detectives.
For a coach, the best time to put your country smarts to work is at practice time. Some coaches hold the incorrect believe that most of coaching happens during game time. Not true. Get your team ready to play. Understand your teams strengths and weaknesses at practice. Just as Andy’s inside knowledge of the area was learned prior to the escape; coaches’ key learnings about their teams happen at practice.
7.) Show pride in your team
It’s clear that Andy Taylor has a good share of pride in his home town and their way of life. Likewise, great coaches show pride in their teams. The first step in earning a player’s respect is showing that you care. After good games, tell your players that you’re proud of them.
8.) Be level-headed in your dealings with others
Andy demonstrated frequently in the show that his level-headed approach to solving problems worked. When towns people quarreled, Andy was the calming influence. Bringing a lot of emotion into a disagreement doesn’t help your cause too often. So, as a youth sports coach, take a level-headed approach to dealing with referees, opposing coaches and parents. It works.
9.) Recognize when others need a boost
When Barney’s overzealous ways of enforcing the law made him an object of ridicule with some towns people, Andy positioned Barney as a hero when a criminal was captured (even though Andy had done the work). It was just what Barney needed.
Sometimes, your team as a whole or individual players, need a boost. Maybe, it’s just a boost of confidence. Don’t be shy with your compliments. Catch players doing the right thing and recognize it verbally. As Don Meyer said, “Shout praise and whisper criticism.”
10.) Leave some time for fishin’
Encouraging players to work on their game is a good thing, but remember, there are other sports and activities to fill up a child’s life beyond basketball. Be careful about overscheduling and keep things in perspective. Basketball is a great game, but it’s not the only game.