This is a personal opinion and many of you might have additions or would remove somethings, so if you want to do add or remove something just comment below and we can debate it.
- Make it fun but competitive
- Force players to think
- Good atmosphere
- Do it correctly, correct everything you can
- Act as a role model
- Be Creative
- Motivate, motivate, motivate
- Trust and be trusted
- Your job is not over when practice is over
- Constantly Improve
I think most coaches will agree with me that when it comes to practice, especially with the younger ones, you have to be able to make it fun. Fun is the key to kids staying in your program/academy/team, and it will make it for sure easier to get them to learn more if they have fun.
When I think basketball I think about life because basketball can teach you a lot of lessons about it. Starting from the one and most important one, it is hard, both life and playing basketball. You can’t just be good from the start, you have to work hard for it, which is why you should keep basketball competitive! If you make it only fun(this is not bad once in a while) it will not develop the kids potential to their max, they will not get a competitive spirit, they will lose interest at some point due to it being just a “fun game” with no real prizes. Make it fun but make it competitive!
In the end, basketball teaches us a lot about life, about how we need to stick up for ourselves, but also for the team because without the team we can be the greatest but we can still lose if we don’t have the support behind us.
Hand in hand with that, you gotta make the team think, you have to make the players think. Basketball is a game of creativity, where we should never forget that it is a game and a game is meant to be played, so play around let your players play around and experiment with different options to the same problem. It is exactly like that, you have a question in front of you with one wrong answer, and that’s not trying to solve the question/giving up.
For that to work you have to create a good atmosphere where everyone can feel secure enough to try some new dribbling or some new shoot or whatever comes to their head. Now, of course, don’t let them repeat their mistakes guide them in a way that they will be able to see where they made a mistake and that they will correct it in their mind as well, not just you showing and correcting them on the court. If you do something with them try to make sure they do it correctly, of course, certain things will be molded by the players, not everyone has a perfect wingspan or the perfect body, so if it’s not textbook but it works, then it is good(by works I mean working against opponents of all levels, not just youth, if you think it might create some problems later, make sure to change it).
You have also to be a role model and lead by example and I am sure 99% of you don’t need to hear that, but it is good repeating it. For one your players will represent you, and with it they will show what kid of person you are, teach them great values beyond basketball with basketball, and you will do more good than just making a player good in basketball.
Creativity in practice is mandatory, we all played basketball at some point and if you just constantly run every day in the same pattern it will get boring, it will get annoying. That’s why you have to be creative make every practice at least a little different. Every drill you have can be broken down into simpler or upgraded to more advanced drills, so use that, mix it up for everyone and you will see the improvement in their skills and in their curiosity for basketball and exploring more of your drills.
Motivate your players, make sure they are highly motivated, as motivation runs out in all of us. We have to be motivating the team to play hard and to work hard, without it you will lose that 30-50 % of effort the players will give while motivated. Also, you have to make sure that the players trust you, and that they know that you trust them with the big shots, with coming up with ideas. It is one of the reasons why I admire Greg Popovic so much, he has that type of family connection with his players. And I did say family because it is more than
just friendship and they know their role, all the players know where they stand. Win your players trust and you will gain a lot as a coach and as a person.
When the practice is done, I usually sit around and talk to my players about things not related to basketball. It is a fun way to get to know them better and to create a stronger bond. I also talk to the parents as they are the biggest contributor to those kids life when it comes to shaping how they think and how they work. The practice is over, but basketball never stops.
In conclusion you have to constantly improve yourself, work on your skills as a coach, work on your skills as a teacher, mentor, as a friend, as a person, because if you grow, your team grows, and that will benefit a lot more lifes than we can ever imagine.