4 Things Coaches Can Learn From Teachers
When I started coaching I still had a player’s mindset. I knew how to play and could demonstrate skills, but I soon realized my players needed more from me. If my team was going to reach their potential, I was going to have to expand my perspective so I could explain the game in a way they would understand. And this is where I think I have lucked out: beyond the coaching education I have completed, I am currently enrolled in the Teacher Education program at the University of Ottawa. I would say it is common knowledge that being a teacher and a coach is a natural combination, but I do not think everyone realizes how transferable many of the skills are between the two positions. I feel confident saying that my coaching experience has made me a better teacher, but I would like to share how being trained as an educator has helped with my development as a coach.
Coaches, here are a few current educational concepts you can try to elevate your “basketball classroom” to the next level:
1. (Teacher) Consider Your Learner’s Developmental Stage = (Coach) Familiarize Yourself with the LTAD Model
Who are you coaching? How you interact with a bunch of 14 year olds going through growth spurts and mood swings will be quite different than a team full of energetic 9 year olds who do not know how to control their own bodies. Not only do teachers need to know the curriculum for their grade, they have to be aware of the social, emotional and physical stage their students are in to best engage their class. Now, I am not suggesting that all coaches take a course in Child Development, but the Long-Term Athlete Development Model is a fantastic resource that every coach should absolutely read. From windows of optimal training for speed and strength to which sport specific skills should be introduced at each age level, Canada Basketball’s Athlete Development Model will help you understand, and therefore serve your athletes better.
2. (Teacher) Flip The Classroom = (Coach) Develop A Player-Led Team
The current message for teachers-in-training is that they should limit their “front-of-class” talking time because students become more engaged in lessons when they have a larger role in the learning. While teachers might do this by including more hands-on activities, coaches can similarly cut down on their speaking time in practice. I know it can be tough to give up reigns sometimes, but try allowing for some controlled chaos in your practices. Seeing how your players organize a new drill without explaining all the details will provide some fantastic teachable moments. If you want to take it a step further, next time a practice is not going according to plan ask your players what they think they need to work on, why they think a drill is going poorly or how they think they could improve their next rep. I have been amazed at the improvements made by students and players when they start thinking for themselves.
3. (Teacher) Differentiate Lesson Plans = (Coach) Scale/Load Drills
Another similarity between teaching and coaching is that one size does not fit all students or athletes. If you want to be a great coach, you can not treat every player the same. The goal is equity (giving everyone what they need to be successful), not equality (giving everyone the same thing). One of the biggest challenges, whether leading a classroom or a team, is dealing with the fact that you have individuals at various skill levels. You may have a drill in mind for practice, but the question is how will you alter it to suit your players’ needs. And let me tell you: it is completely fine to have some of your team going through a scaled version, while some others work on a loaded version. Ideally you will hit that sweet spot where every athlete is feeling confident and challenged at the same time. These separated skill development times can be balanced by other drills where players of different abilities are working together to improve the team as a whole. In the “mixed-ability groups” you can even challenge your stronger players to be leaders by helping their teammates get to the next level through reminders and encouragement.
4. (Teacher) Build Relationships = (Coach) Build Relationships
If you are only able to implement one suggestion, let it be this one. Get to know your athletes - what motivates them, how do they learn best, what is going on in their lives outside of the gym. It is amazing what students/athletes can accomplish when they feel seen and respected. Find common ground to connect with them on, be a role model and show some vulnerability so they know it is okay to do the same. Everyone’s basketball career will end at some point, so you may want to ask yourself a question. What are you leaving your players with that will stick with them for life? Many have said it before and I will say it again: people may forget what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel!
This post was written by Right Way coach, Clare Murphy, who is currently completing her Bachelor of Education degree at the University of Ottawa while also serving as an assistant coach the Women's Varsity Basketball Team.
How to Stay Injury-Free This Season
1. Stretch the front of your hips
We spend so much time sitting in chairs everyday that the front of our hips get super tight and pull our pelvis out of its ideal alignment. Sitting can cause our glutes to get lazy and shut off which isn’t favourable for either athleticism or injury prevention. Holding a basic lunge position for a couple minutes after long periods of sitting, practices and games is a good place to start.
2. Ditch the basketball shoes outside the gym
Wearing bulky basketball shoes all day inside and outside the gym can give our ankles so much support they no longer feel the need to be strong on their own. Spending more time in less restrictive footwear, or even barefoot, can give your feet and ankles a chance to get strong again.
Taking 5-10 minutes to do some dynamic stretches, get our heart rate up and prepare your joints for the wide variety of positions basketball requires is a great way to reduce injuries. Try to avoid holding static stretches before practices and games as this may relax the muscles too much and increase the odds of injury.
4. Work on ankle dorsi flexion everyday
There is research out there that says the further we can get the knee over the toes, the less incidence of knee injuries. The movement of pushing your knee past our toe is called ankle dorsiflexion and we need a good degree of this to run and jump effectively. We can work on this movement with the knee to wall drill. When performing this drill you should make sure you don’t have a collapsed arch in our foot. Aim to track the knee over the second or third toe. This is a great exercise to include in your warm-up.
5. Cool down
Taking 5-10 minutes to do a cool down is great way to help our body begin to recover from a practice or game. As opposed to the warm-up, the cool down is a perfect time for holding static stretches and getting our heart rate down with some controlled breathing. Both of these goals can be achieved in the position below. Hanging out in this position for a couple minutes and doing some deep breathing is a good place to start a cool down.
6. Lift weights
Strong muscles help protect your joints from injury. When it comes to basketball, strong glute and thigh muscles are particularly important to take stress off the knees and ankles. Pick one lower body exercise you like such as a back squat, front squat or trap bar deadlift and try to get one good session in every week. If you have games on the weekend, it may be a good idea to take a day or two off after your games before your weight training session. This will allow your legs to recover from your games as well give your body some time to recover from the weights before your next game. For younger athletes you can do these exercises with just your body weight or light dumbbells.
7. Get some sleep
Sleep is the most important time when your body recovers from the physical stress of basketball and weight training. Ideally you get 7-9 hours of sleep every night. Naps are a great way to make up for a lack of sleep as well. Just be careful about napping after 3pm as this can make it more difficult to fall asleep again at night.
This post was written by Right Way coach, Sean Stoqua, who currently plays for the University of Ottawa Gee Gees Men's Varsity Basketball Team and is currently completing his Master's in Physiotherapy Degree.
3 Simple Tips for New Coaches
In youth sports, the coach often makes all the difference when it comes to how players and their families experience a sport, which ultimately has an impact on whether players return for another season. And believe it or not, a coach’s ability to influence players has little to do with what they know and more to do with where they place their priorities.
This past summer I enrolled one of my sons in a local youth sports league. He’s 8 and didn't have a lot of experience playing this particular sport, but I figured this was guaranteed to improve his fitness and give him some exposure to another team sport. I encouraged him to give it a try. The fee was reasonable and I had had experience with the league many years ago when one of my other sons played. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, sadly, my son’s experience as a player, and our family’s experience, left a great deal of room for improvement. From the stands, it seemed clear that it all stemmed from the coach.
I am the first to acknowledge how difficult it is to coach. I have often said that being a coach is similar to being a CEO of a small business; you are not only responsible for physically coaching the team, but you become the treasurer, the equipment manager, the scheduler, the volunteer manager … and the pay really stinks. I commend, and appreciate anyone that is willing to step forward and volunteer. But taking on that responsibility means you are making a commitment to do more than just show up.
My coaching career as a volunteer has spanned 10 years and I have the added blessing of getting to work with coaches and players in my day job with Right Way. Through our work with basketball associations, we are exposed to a variety of different philosophies, and have worked with parent volunteers with a great deal of sport knowledge and those with very little. At the end of the day, some of the best coaches we’ve seen, prioritize communication and the experience of being part of a team, over the x’s and o’s and wins and losses. They value the relationships they are developing.
Now to be completely fair, many volunteer coaches seldomly receive proper training or support. They are expected to jump right in with little time to prepare let alone get connected to someone with experience. Well, for those willing volunteers, we have three pieces of advice.
Get to know each player’s name
What is a greater demonstration of your interest in a player, or family for that matter, than getting to know their names. It’s an absolute necessary first step in building a relationship, and speaks volumes to the kids on the team.
Be a proactive communicator
Miscommunication, or a lack of clarity can quickly build into frustration, or worse. Take time to let parents know how you intend to approach the season and share as much detail as you can. You’ll find that so many conflicts with parents can be avoided when there is an open channel to not only allow you to communicate but also for parents to ask questions.
Understand what’s important to the association you are representing
You aren’t expected to reinvent the wheel when you put your hand up to volunteer. Draw from resources already available through your association. Ask the executive to share with you the types of things they would like expressed, taught or represented in your coaching style so you can be an effective bridge.
Coaches, in closing, ‘be interested!’ Take your responsibility seriously. You are ambassadors to the sport and you wield a great deal of influence in the lives of your athletes. Seek out the knowledge you require, but be sure to place emphasis in the right areas. And by all means, look for areas to make an impact on performance, but even more simply, begin by getting to know everyone’s name!
This post was written by Right Way Director, Stuart Miles, who spends a great deal of time coming alongside coaches as they work to develop their athletes and shape their team's culture.