To me, this is the first step in developing your program because it gives direction and purpose for everyone involved. My belief is that individual player development (both mental toughness and basketball skills) and what you are able to accomplish in practice are the keys to the success of your team. I have listed philosophy and organization as the #1 role for a coach because you need to have goals, a direction, high expectations, and a system for their evaluation for those areas before you can make any progress. Here are some ideas regarding establishing and instilling your philosophy that you can implement immediately.
1. Establish a lifelong relationship with each participant that cannot be broken. This is a Thad Matta idea. We put that in writing as the number one goal for our coaching staff and it guides and directs everything that we do in our program. I am not saying that it should be everyone’s number one goal, but I believe that each program should have a most important goal in writing and that all of your coaches know by heart what the purpose of your program is. Even if this is not your number one goal, I feel that it should be very high on your priority list.
2. Have a goal for your participants (players and managers): Ours is: “Each of you has your most rewarding season of your basketball career.” That goal is prominently displayed in the locker room and it means to me that everyone on this year’s team, regardless of past success, has a new role and must contribute more this year than ever before. Even a player who started every game on a state champion team last year has new challenges to face this year in order to make this year’s season their most rewarding.
3. Have a purpose every time you take the floor… We have a sign over the door leading from our locker room to the floor that is the last thing the players see as they go out for practice or for a game that says:
EVERY TIME WE TAKE THE FLOOR, WE PRACTICE AND PLAY WITH THE TECHNIQUE, INTENSITY, TOUGHNESS, AND TOGETHERNESS OF A STATE CHAMPION.
There is no way to measure those goals, but we all know what doesn’t meet those criteria. I believe that it helps us to be able to ask during practice—is this a state champion’s effort? It leaves little doubt as to the type of standards we have for our practices.
4. Be reliable, but not predictable. As coaches, we all need to find ways to stay away from predictability with our teams, day to day during the season, and year to year over the course of a player’s career. Hold meetings in different places, do different drills at different spots on the floor, have the first team wear a different color scrimmage jersey than normal, make variations in your drills, change the order of the segments in practice – work on offense first, if you normally do defense first, change the locker room’s postings or setup, etc…
Those small variations help keep things fresh for your players. Doing something differently will increase their attention with the new stimulus. We can still be reliable in what we emphasize, expect, and stand for, but we need to find new ways to engage our players’ concentration and awareness.
“I don’t think coaching is about making a million dollars a year. I don’t think coaching is about winning championships. I don’t think coaching is about going to a great school. I think coaching is about helping young people have a chance to succeed. There is no more awesome responsibility than that. I think one of the greatest honors a person can have is to be called ‘Coach.’ ”
– Lou Holtz
5. Emphasize execution, not baskets. It is important to have a standard for offensive and defensive execution and effort, not just baskets on offense or stops on defense. If you are scrimmaging against your second unit or JV, you can score or stop them without the execution that you will need on game night against another team’s first unit. The standard in practice must be, and your players need to be sold on why that is important, what it takes to win on game night, not what it takes to defeat your second team.
6. Conduct a parent meeting and open practice. The coach/parent relationship is extremely important, and as we all know, is one of the most difficult parts of coaching. I believe that holding a pre-season parent meeting will help to communicate with the parents in mass in a non-confrontational way. After our meeting, we open the practice to parents to watch.