Cheat Sheet

Coaching Basketball For Dummies

From Coaching Basketball For Dummies by The National Alliance For Youth Sports [with Greg Bach]

Being a basketball coach involves always being prepared for practice and running a practice that’s fun and productive. An effective coach keeps players motivated and builds both individual and team confidence. Know what to say and how to say it before, during, and after a basketball game to impact the performance and morale of your players.

Preparing for Basketball Practice

Showing up prepared for basketball practice is the most basic element of having a successful practice and one of your requirements as coach. You expect your players to come to practice prepared, so your kids deserve the same from you. The following list focuses on things you need to bring to practice:

  • A practice plan with drills broken down by time segments.

  • A list of reserve drills in case any of your scheduled drills are ineffective.

  • Extra basketballs and any pylons or markers you need for specific drills.

  • A whistle.

  • A properly stocked first-aid kit. Here’s a quick glimpse at some of the items:

    • Sterile gauze and athletic tape

    • Bandages

    • Bags of ice

    • Latex gloves

Tips for Making Basketball Practice Fun

One goal as coach is to keep your basketball practices fun while maximizing time with your players. You can accomplish this by running practices that continually challenge, entertain, and motivate your kids while developing skills. To enhance your players’ enjoyment of basketball and have fun at practice, try these tips:

  • Give each child plenty of repetitions.

  • Keep the kids active; don’t force them to stand in lines.

  • Involve the parents in drills to rev up the excitement.

  • Sprinkle your practices with new drills throughout the season to keep the kids’ interest.

  • If drills turn out to be boring or ineffective, discard them and switch to new ones.

  • Give the kids the chance to select their favorite drills to use during practice.

  • Solicit feedback and ideas from older kids on drills you should use.

  • Stop practice briefly to point out when players do things well — not when they make mistakes.

  • Applaud the slightest improvements to maintain your kids’ efforts.

  • Conclude practice with the most popular drill to end the session on a high note.

How to Motivate Your Basketball Players with Coaching

To motivate your basketball players to give their best efforts, not get discouraged, and strive to become the best they can be on the court, use these coaching tips:

  • Continually encourage players to do their best on both ends of the floor — regardless of the score.

  • Stay in control of your emotions, and refrain from yelling instructions all the time.

  • Allow kids the freedom to make mistakes, and coach effort over skills.

  • Always exude confidence in your players’ abilities.

  • When correcting errors, use words that inspire confidence and reinforce positive thoughts. For example, instead of saying, “Don’t turn the ball over,” say, “Control the ball just like you did so well in practice this week.”

  • Use timeouts to relay positive information to your players.

Building Confidence with Coaching

Your job as a basketball coach is to be supportive and enthusiastic, always praising and encouraging your team to build their confidence. Self-confidence is a gift that lasts for years and impacts how kids approach life away from the basketball court. Use these coaching tips for boosting players’ confidence:

  • When providing feedback, use the “sandwich” method: Place a critical remark between two encouraging comments.

  • Reinforce that making mistakes is part of the learning process. Even the pros make mistakes every game.

  • Give kids high-fives and pats on the back so they know that their efforts are appreciated.

  • Set realistic goals so the kids can gain a real sense of satisfaction upon reaching them.

  • Maintain positive body language. Never allow your tone or body language to reveal disappointment in a child’s performance or ability.

Coaching Basketball Pregame through Postgame

As a basketball coach, you need to inspire your players to give their best effort during every game of the season. Keep these tips in mind when talking to your team before, during, and after a basketball game to keep the team focused, having fun, and playing hard:

How to Deliver the Pre-Game Talk

  • Speak in a calm and relaxed manner with a smile on your face.

  • Be brief.

  • Conduct the talk away from any potential distractions.

  • Stress the importance of having fun and displaying good sportsmanship at all times during the game.

  • Avoid using pressure phrases, like “Let’s score 20 points today.” Kids can give you their best effort, but they can’t control the outcome of games.

  • Build the kids’ confidence by letting them know that you’re looking forward to watching them perform.

How to Speak to the Team at Halftime

  • Highlight the positives of the first half, regardless of the score, and stay upbeat. Don’t dwell on any mistakes, because they’re part of the learning process.

  • Zero in on a couple main points that you want to get across. Giving the kids too much information to digest isn’t productive.

  • Pile on the praise for their hard work in the first half.

  • At the more advanced levels, solicit feedback and suggestions on strategy from your players.

  • Tell them to drink water to rehydrate!

How to Give the Post-Game Chat

  • Keep the focus on the fun you had and the fun you will have.

  • Don’t let the scoreboard influence what you say to the kids — or how you say it.

  • Recognize the good sportsmanship your players displayed.

  • Accentuate the positive.

  • Conclude on a high note with a team cheer and send ’em home with a smile.

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