Coaching youth basketball should be a fun experience for everyone involved. Unfortunately, too often coaches place winning ahead of everything. Strategies such as overplaying best players, focusing on teaching complex defensive schemes and getting angry with players as way of encouragement may lead to winning at the elementary school level, but only stunt a young player’s individual development and turn them off from playing basketball. Today, we team up with former NBA player and current youth basketball guru Bob Bigelow to provide you with three in-game adjustments that you can make to become a coach that inspires and teaches your kids how to become better basketball players. If you’re coaching elementary school, or even middle school basketball, teams of players as old as 10 or as young as 5 years old, this is a must read.
Lesson 1: Measure Success in Ways Other Than Points Scored
According to Bob Bigelow, “In any youth basketball team, you will have children able to score more than other children, that’s the way it goes. With that said, what can you do as a coach to help kids on your team who don’t score as many or points, or don’t score any points, feel like they’re part of the action?” Rebounds and assists are the 2 other most obvious stats to track, but because of the nature of basketball, it’s often the most developed (or least undeveloped) players that get the rebounds as well as the points, and meanwhile as there are .so many missed shots, assists are far and few between.
Instead, he notes of some less obvious stats that you should be recording and showing to your kids, such as:
Keeping track of screens set- Often, setting a screen frees up another player for an easy score but is otherwise unrewarded. Try giving players a point for each screen they set. “It’s amazing when you do this how often kids will set screens, simply because they get points” Bob Bigelow says.
Keep track of consecutive passes- Try recording consecutive passes a team makes in a possession. Reward teams with points for making 2 or more consecutive passes. The reason behind giving reward for such a seemingly mundane stat is that “You don’t want to just reward the kids for effort and trying, but you want to give them some tangible things that they can try to do- making better passes, setting picks, helping out team mates.”
Keep track of players that have a hand up when defenders take a shot- “Even if that shot goes in”, says Bob Bigelow, “and some of them will, reward that player for trying to make the other player shoot a little worse.”
The fact that even NBA teams will record stats like these shows that there are many more aspects to basketball than just points. One other benefit of keeping track of all these stats- as a coach you can assign these jobs to other parents, keeping them off your back and out of the referees faces!
Lesson 2: Try Taking A Seat in Your Next Game
“When you see Coaches on TV- major college and NBA games, don’t watch what those coaches are doing”, Bob Bigelow implores youth basketball coaches. Why should youth coaches sit down and stop standing up? Firstly, from his experience, coaches who stand talk “5 to 10x more than coaches that are sitting”, a natural result of standing. More importantly, coaches who stand get a better view of the court, see mistakes players make, and also see what their players aren’t seeing. They forget in situations like this that not only is their player not as tall as they are, but they are also being guarded by several players of the same height. In situations like this, if you’re interested in helping your players, Bob Bigelow suggests to ask them what they saw. “You may not like the answer”, he says, “because it’s not what you saw. But the reason you saw it was because you stood up and got a panorama of 10 players on the floor, which they will never see.”
Moreover, the pace of basketball dictates that within a second, the player with the ball will see the 9 other players in completely different positions. Even higher level players – college and professionals struggle to see everything and take all of this in. Whilst a coach can pause the practice to point out what they should have done, when young kids get into the game environment and feel the excitement of the game- they forget things. Instead of trying to correct things that your players won’t see, sit down, and let your players learn from their mistakes.
Lesson 3: Stick With Your Players Through Their Mistakes
Bob Bigelow suggests that you be “very laudatory with your kids, constantly pump them up- tell them that you’re doing great, doing things a little better than you did last time”. His reasoning behind seemingly over excessive praise is simple- young kids will naturally make mistakes early on, but 3 years down the line, if, and only if, they’re still interested in basketball, they can develop into good players. In fact, the biggest kids, the ones that will likely have the most success in basketball later on, are likely to be the most clumsy when the first start. Loving the game of basketball starts with a player’s first coach. Telling players that they’re doing great and encouraging them to work hard for the reward a few years down the line can go a long way towards getting your young players to love the game.
These are three things to keep in mind next time you’re coaching at a kids game. Why not try them out and see if it works for you or not? Above all, in the words of Bob Bigelow, remember to just let the kids play!