EDITOR’S NOTE: The following article first appeared on www.sportsfeelgoodstories.com. Republished with permission. ****
“None of this is really about football….What I hope we’re doing is sending kids into life who know that every day means something,” noted High School Football Coach of the Year Roger Barta in Joe Drape’s book Our Boys – A Perfect Season On The Plains With The Smith Center Redmen.
Barta’s coaching philosophy has not only passed on a lot of wisdom to his players and helped build community spirit, but has also produced results on the field. His teams have won 8 Kansas State Championships. Barta understands that youth sports provide a valuable vehicle to teach life lessons.
If you’re coaching a youth basketball team, you have a wonderful opportunity to pass on some of your own wisdom to players. Look for opportunities throughout the season, during practices and games, to communicate important messages. Here’s a sampling for your consideration:
1. Hard work and purpose lead to success. When a player individually or the team as whole puts in extra work, and the results pay off on the court, what better time is there to communicate this message?
2. It’s important to take chances because that’s how we grow and get better. Players at all levels can quickly fall into a pattern of only using skills that they’re most comfortable with. Younger players might only dribble with their strong hand. Encourage your players to take chances and reward the effort even if the result is less than optimal.
3. “Inch-by-inch, life is a cinch; yard-by-yard, life is hard.” Challenges are easier when taken in bite-size chunks. By getting a little better every day, the process is more comfortable than if you try to make a drastic improvement in one practice. It’s a good message for players to understand to try their best at every practice.
4. Winning and losing with grace. In basketball as in life, players will not always come out on the winning side. Learning how to deal with one’s emotions immediately after losing a close game is an important experience for players, even if it doesn’t feel too good at the time. Players can also learn how adjustments made in practice after losses can have a positive impact on future games.
5. Don’t quit. Whenever your team comes from behind and secures a victory provides a great opportunity to reinforce an important message: never quit.
6. The power and magic of teamwork – everyone makes a difference! The best teams work together as a unit on offense and defense. It’s not all about scoring and rebounding — every player finds a way to contribute.
7. Getting along within a group. When working with a group, there’s usually going to be some people you get along with better than others. Maybe because of similar backgrounds or interests, some players will make immediate connections with some and not so much with others. Basketball teams provide players opportunities to work together, even with others they may not necessarily like (at least at first).
8. Making good decisions. I recently listened to a basketball expert who said that when a player has the basketball, they’re frequently making about 10 – 15 decisions in in their head every 20 seconds, e.g. Should I pass, dribble or shoot? If I pass, who to? What kind of pass? How hard? Should I fake first? What should I do if I pass? Etc., etc. The game of basketball forces players to make decisions. Some players learn from what the coaches say, and for other players, it takes the actual experience.
9. Preparing and meeting challenges. How do you get ready for a big opponents? Do you prepare a written plan, put in extra effort and make the most of your practice time? If a coach makes the connections, it’s easy for players to see that preparation for a tough, cross-town rival in basketball is not dissimilar to preparing for a tough math test. Both take a plan, extra effort and commitment.
10. Working within a system requires adjustments. Most coaches will have at least a general set of rules for how the team should conduct their play on the court. These general set of rules, along with the game of basketball’s rules, constitute a system for the players. Through the course of the season, players learn how to adjust their style of play to the system.
Lessons learned well at young ages stay with kids for life. Take advantage of your opportunity to have a positive influence on your players’ lives. Because, it’s not really about basketball.
If you’re interested in finding out more about incorporating life lessons into your basketball season check out 30 Youth Basketball Practice Plans.