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What a Good Basketball Coach Says before the Game

As a basketball coach, what you say to your players before tip-off — and how you say it — can have a big impact on how they play the game. Here are some ideas about what to say to your team before a game to set the tone for a fun day of basketball.

One of the worst discussions you can have with kids before a game is talking about the opponent's win-loss record. Concentrating on records sends the unwanted signal that winning is the most important thing to you. Instead, steer conversations to other areas, such as those below.

Being nervous is a good thing

Let your players know that having sweaty palms or butterflies in their stomachs is perfectly normal and actually preferred. Nervousness is a good sign that they care about the game. Tell them that even pros get nervous before games! Remind the kids to take a few deep breaths to calm their nerves and relax and simply focus on performing the basic skills well.

Win or lose, I support you

No matter whether a child scores in double digits and your team wins or he fails to sink a basket and you lose, he should always receive the same treatment from you: support and positive reinforcement. And the child should know before the game that he'll get this.

Mistakes are okay

If you let your players know that even the best basketball players make mistakes and that you accept mistakes as part of the game, you'll enable them to take to the court more relaxed. Chances are they'll play more effectively because they won't fear failure or your reaction to it.

Be a good sport

Remind your players to hold their heads up and be respectful whether the team wins or loses, or whether they have a great day or a sub-par day. Also, let your youngsters know that you want them to show respect toward opponents and officials.

During one of my games, I . . .

By sharing some stories from your childhood basketball experiences, you help your kids remain calm, relaxed, and in the right frame of mind before the game begins. If you can laugh at yourself and joke about what happened during your playing days, a child can laugh with you and be less likely to get upset when she makes a turnover.

Talk about your pals on the other team

Ask your players if they know any of the kids on the other team. Doing so shifts the focus away from winning and losing and puts their minds on talking about their friends. If you're coaching an advanced-level team, you can also ask about the opponent's tendencies (if they tend to drive to the basket or prefer to loft jump shots, for example). If you played the team earlier in the season, discuss the positive aspects of your team's play that day to help put them in a positive frame of mind.

I'm excited to watch you in action

Kids want to play well to make their parents and coaches proud, so when you tell them that you have confidence in them and are eager to watch them perform, you give their self-esteem a big boost.

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