When it comes to basketball coaching, most of the coaches know already what’s going to be thrown at them from all directions. We all know the parents that want more playing time for their kid, the parents that will try to scream over you during games, kids that are good but are mischievous, kids that are killers at practice but scared from official games, and so on, I will list all of them now and maybe if some of you have some additions please let me know in the comments below. To the list I will also add some specific points I got to experience as a international coach.
Stereotypical Challenges for Basketball Coaches:
- Not Enough Kids at practice
- Kids are not having fun
- Great at Practice bad at Games
Problems I personally encountered:
- Parents are Kings
- Disrespect due to being younger than the average coach age
1 – Not Enough Kids on Practice
This occurs in many small town teams and even big city teams, where kids do not attend practices that are not before the games, creating a huge hole in their basketball knowledge. Just remember how many times there was this kid that was important for your rotation or even the star player, that wouldn’t come to practice until the day before the game. What did you do?
Personally I took everyone to the games, friendlies, when it came although to the league, I would prefer to take players that were present, that knew what’s going on. Now there are many things that can go wrong with this and there are many things to learn from this kind of situations.
For one you will be forced to be creative, which is good, take it as an learning experience, as a way to make sure you put the work in the people who want to work hard. You planned 10 kids but only 3 show up? No problem, just keep going, make them work on things they lack, make them work on things they aren’t good or confident with and teach them. For you it might look like a stressful situation, but remember why you’ve become a coach, it is to teach the next generations and not only basketball but how to be a good person. Small thing for you but a huge thing for the kids!
In conclusion we can’t force kids to come, and we never should, what we can do although is bring out the best out of those who come. Just remember one of the great quotes of basketball “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard”.
2 – Kids are not having fun
It will happen, not every drill is fun, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make it fun. Why is fun important you may ask yourself, shouldn’t the kids have fun because it is basketball?
I will give you a point for that, but today’s kids are changing. Both old and young coaches struggle with technology advances that easily pull away kids from basketball. E-Sports is a thing now, and I am not even the slightest against it. I understand the addiction that slowly takes over, it’s easy, it’s comfortable. You can’t say that gaming isn’t easy because it is. Basketball is a hard sport, and that’s why we need to make it fun, we need to make it fun so kids want to come to practice, want to become better at it. If there is no goal, no reward, no fun, what is it left that makes basketball different from anything else?
What I am doing most of my practices I ask players if they had fun, and what was the most fun drill or part of practice. Research, adapt and overcome. If you want to raise above the rest you need to put in the work.
3 – Great at practice bad at games
This is a thing that constantly happens. It is that one great kid, and I mean great in all areas! But when it’s time to play he/she freezes. As a player I remember it as well, I was so scared no matter what. Sometimes it is easily resolved sometimes it takes more than just a few games. My idea to solving this is constant encouragement, and more and more games. Talking to the player always helps, and creating a culture in practice that let’s players make mistakes and makes them feel comfortable in a way that, even if they miss the shot or lose the ball they will be aware that they will have a chance to redeem themselves in defense, or next play.
In conclusion, do not let pressure destroy your players, let it shape them but always be there for them, as a Serbian coach said(currently can’t remember the name): “I am always though and honest with everyone of my players from the start to the bench, and they should know that during practice I’ll point all the mistakes they made no matter who it is. But they also need to know that as soon as they step out of the court I AM THERE FOR THEM, I WILL PROTECT THEM FROM EVERYTHING. Look at your players like your own kids, and threat them like that.” (It’s just how I remember it it’s a bit different said, but the idea is the same).
4 – Parents
There are many types of parents that can cause you troubles in different ways. I will not go into details for this one due to each parent being an individual and hence needs an unique way of fixing the problem between you(the coach) and the parent.
Usually as a parent you will see your kid as the best, it’s normal, but sometimes you have to understand it might not be that way. Coaches have some trouble with that as many youth coaches do not try to win, but more play everyone and develop every player as much as possible. Of course there always the best players that are clearly in front of everyone else, but in general there is no need to win at a young age (under 16) as the game in itself is just a means for the kids body and mind development(in my opinion). Yes there are kids that are looking good as future stars in basketball but we also need to remember that it is hard, very hard to make it to the pros, so why are you as a parent asking the coach to give your kid more play time?
Even if you are on every practice, you might not be the best person to decide who gets to play, the coach went to school for this and did his dues, so let him or her or it decide. You can always ask for explanation and help, a way better option than asking for play time. Just ask for some drills or how to improve your kids game.
In conclusion every parent is a story for themselves, so we as a coaches need to be as neutral as possible and have always a reason why we do things.
5 – Money
Money is a key tool for survival, we all know that, and I personally know how hard work and dedication, and a bit of luck can get you far, but I also know the dangerous of it. Many teams I worked with had a monthly subscription fee, while now I am in China working for a company where they have a fixed rate for a fixed amount of practices that can be used in a certain time period. This put things into a bad position for both the coach and the parents. In fact I have mixed feelings about this kind of thing. My father is the GM of my hometown team and has abolished the subscription for youth players, which did not help much. Instead of an increased number and kids/parents more willing to join, they had kids acting more indifferent towards the sport. It seems that money can add more seriousness to the practice. This is still a topic I am trying to research as I didn’t dive deep enough with it, but in my opinion it is based on the staff you have and the luck you have with kids. In some cities it might be a huge success, in others a major failure and in some nothing changes.
Making money with basketball isn’t the easiest thing, unless you have a full club that’s already known for producing young talent and so on. I will probably try to focus more on this topic in the near future as I plan to develop a few things and see how the sport business reacts to it.
Parents are Kings
This is more regarding my personal experience in China where parents sometimes dictate when the practice will be, what their kid will learn and what age group it will be in no matter what age it actually is. This creates many companies here that are very expensive and cater towards the rich who just want their kid to learn basketball and not actually play it. This is also one of the reasons that China with a huge population has only a few good international players. A very difficult thing to adjust to, but as I said in my previous article, if you want to do well in another country you have to adjust your style a bit, sometimes even your approach to the whole thing.
In turn this also makes money the most important thing here, which is also culturally based. Money can make anything happen from special treatment of kids to parents deciding when the practice is and what a coach should be like (this is also a bit racial where they would demand a white coach or something like that).
Disrespected for being younger
This is also more recent as I got into a few problems just because I was 24/25 and people that were in charge were not considering my ideas or suggestions even worth listening to. I have been also told that I can’t be a head coach because no one would listen to me as I am too young and that I shouldn’t ask for much money because I am not an American Coach. It is a weird sometimes working in this country but as I said you adapt and you use your resourcefulness to the best of your abilities so you can teach someone something more valuable than some hurt feelings that you had.
This article is more of a way for me to write in some problems that I had/have or challenges that encountered. I might added some solutions and hopefully I will hear from a few coaches about how they handled their things. Thanks for reading!