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.
Games Are Won in Practice
The perception that practicing the basics has to be monotonous is simply not true.
“Under pressure you don’t rise to the occasion; you sink to the level of your training. That’s why we train so hard” - anonymous (Navy Seal). In an age of instant gratification and one in which seeking out any and all personal exposure opportunities it has become hard to convince young players of the importance of patience and deliberate practice. Throughout our extensive work with players as young as 5 years old it is clear that the overwhelming majority of players would rather “just play” than patiently acquire (or for more advanced players, perfect) the necessary fundamentals. The AAU basketball culture that emphasizes maximizing game play and elevating the individual pursuits of players has further infringed on a coaches ability to get players to buy into a practice-first mentality.
The Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) Model recommends a 4:1 practice to game ratio for athletes in the “Learn to Train” stage (8-12 years old). It is safe to say that players younger than 8 years old should almost exclusively be practicing. However, in our experience these ratios are simply not followed (oftentimes not necessarily due to the coaches negligence but other factors such as gym time, scheduling etc). We too often curtail to the cries of “more fun, more gameplay!”. The problem arises when players have not adequately learned the prerequisite skills and fundamentals which inevitably leads to bad habits, rule breaking and frustration. Relying too heavily on gameplay in the development stages may offer that instant gratification of players seemingly enjoying themselves, however, it will do them a grave disservice in the long run.
It may be helpful to give an actual example to illustrate the importance of sufficient and intentional practice. We have had the privilege of working with many teams from several different associations in Ottawa and beyond, and one thing is consistent - if a team is struggling in games then there is a high probability that their practices are ineffective. More specifically, they are not adequately teaching the fundamentals required for the players to improve and grow (this will vary by age and level of play). We have witnessed practices where 11-12 year old players cannot consistently stop their body without travelling or almost falling over. If this basic fundamental movement skill is not acquired, then having success in a game situation with MANY more variables and situations will simply not be possible. These players must improve body control before progressing to more complex skills. From a team culture perspective there is also a standard that must be set in practice. If your team spends more time chatting, standing in long lines and taking water breaks than they do actively working on their game, seeing tangible improvement in games will be very difficult. Disciplines such as: arriving to practice on time, running to the huddle when the coach blows the whistle, making eye contact when a coach or teammate is talking and simply trying your hardest all the time will go a long way in helping your team build habits that will directly translate to on-court success. These should never be overlooked!
Our suggestion for coaches and parents is to show your players/children the original Karate Kid movie. Essentially the main character, Daniel, wants to jump right into fighting before he’s learned the basics of Martial Arts. His trainer must teach him the nuances of Martial Arts among other things (patience, discipline etc.) before he is allowed to fight. The underlying theme of the movie parallels our approach to training young athletes - patience and practice! This idea of practicing and working on the fundamentals before progressing to a competition should be cultivated by more coaches and parents. Skill acquisition occurs at the earliest stages of development so it is crucially important that young players spend ample time working on the basics of the game BEFORE introducing more gameplay. There are many ways to engage young players and make learning the fundamentals “fun” without just allowing them to play 5on5 games. The movie even uses seemingly useless exercises (like the “wax on”,“wax off” of cars and painting fences to build discipline). It is the responsibility of the trainer in the movie or coach in a basketball context to be creative when teaching kids to keep them engaged and learning. The often elusive holy grail for a coach of young players is to have them learning and executing skills and fundamentals when they don’t even know they are doing it. This can be achieved through small-sided games, competitions, games with props, races etc. The perception that practicing the basics has to be monotonous is simply not true. Coaches just need to carefully plan their practices in order to maximize reps and fun at the same time - see our previous blog post for some insight on that topic.
If you have questions about proper training for your team or child then please do not hesitate to contact us. We would be happy to point you in the right direction.
YouTube Won't Make You a Coach
When learning drills or plays from a brief YouTube video there is so much that is missing.
In a world where we seemingly have everything at our fingertips, it can be all too easy to rely on the internet to solve all of our problems. “Just Google it” or “I saw that on YouTube” are regularly uttered in our day-to-day lives. Unfortunately, the internet and its overwhelming abundance of resources/information cannot substitute real life experiences and interactions. Most of us can identify with this - many basketball players are kinesthetic learners and absorb information best from hands-on activities with specific instructions and feedback. As former players, many coaches are the same way. By simply watching a video with minimal instruction built around the focus of the drill, how effective can coaches really be introducing the drill, providing feedback or making adjustments? Furthermore, what do our players gain from merely imitating a drill described to them second hand?
Where are we going with this? While they may provide you with ideas or inspiration, watching YouTube coaching videos won’t make you a coach. There is nothing wrong with accessing many of the great online resources out there for basketball coaches, but there is so much lost when watching YouTube videos to inform yourself as a coach.
Here are some things to consider when you go searching online for that next coaching gem:
More than just learning the drill.
That drill you've finally found online after hours of searching, may look great when demonstrated by a university team and you may even learn it well enough to get your young team to run it at your next practice ... but what are you looking for when they run it? What fundamentals need to be emphasized for it to be run correctly? How can you “load” or “unload” the drill to make it more effective or appropriate for your team? What should be taught BEFORE you actually run the drill? Are the players developing their decision making ability in this drill or is it simply to get repetitions and build base fundamental skills? There is so much more to simply “running” a drill you've seen on the internet.
There is conflicting information on just about everything you find online.
Many new coaches may not be able to decipher between how to teach certain skills or drills when their online search comes up with conflicting information. Sometimes the conflicting information is just minor and does not really impact what is being taught, however, there are other instances when it really does matter. As a coach you must understand the implications of teaching certain fundamentals especially to younger athletes. Players will form habits and as a coach you want to make sure they are forming the best possible habits to give them them the greatest opportunity for success down the road.
The scope and role of a coach is much larger than drills, skills and plays.
How do you engage the 'disinterested' player on your team? How do you manage parent expectations? How do you foster a team-first culture? How do you create accountability within your team? How do you help your players grow into becoming better people off the court through the lessons learned on the court? These are just a few of the many questions that are not easily answered in a well-edited YouTube video clip. We would argue that these types of questions are the most important ones when it comes to developing your own coaching philosophy. If you jump right to YouTube to inform your practice planning before you’ve established your “coaching voice” and philosophy as a coach then you are missing out on the greater role of the coach.
Now that we've identified some potential problems with relying too heavily on YouTube as your source for all things basketball, we will offer some alternative solutions or tips when engaging with online resources. Here is what we would suggest for coaches looking to grow in their knowledge and understanding of the game:
Identify your need.
You must identify the need or goal BEFORE perusing the millions of video clips available. What is the specific area of need or skill development you would like to address? This approach will help you weed out many of the drills or instructional videos that don’t directly apply to meeting the goal you’ve set out for that specific area of instruction. Do not simply go looking for drills to fill an opening in your practice. Being more intentional with your search will help prevent you from getting caught in the abyss of suggested or “up next” videos on the right hand side of the screen, or worse selecting a drill because it looks “cool” yet does not address the specific area you originally set out for.
Not all YouTube channels are created equal.
Similar to doing academic research, one must attempt to distinguish between credible and not-so credible resources. This does not mean the person conducting the video must have won 5 NBA Championships or played 15 years of professional basketball to be credible (oftentimes it's actually quite the opposite). Look beyond the fancy editing and shiny gym to see if they are explaining why a drill is performed and what fundamentals or skills should be emphasized throughout the progression of the drill. YouTube channels that specialize in youth development are a good place to start. Properly executing a drill with 12/13 year olds on your house league team may prove to be quite the challenge if you are extracting your resources from an NCAA Division 1 coach that is assuming many of the basic skills and fundamentals have already been acquired because s/he is dealing with elite level players. A good instructional video (especially for youth basketball) will provide the goals for a given drill/play, put it in a game context, and also explain what the coach should be looking for when it is run.
Do your homework, and maybe seek out a mentor.
Lastly, our advice would be to seek out a coaching mentor, attend an in-person coaching clinic or at least start to write down some of your coaching questions (technical, philosophical or otherwise). The best answers as a coach come from well-thought out questions that will direct your coaching practice. Having a more experienced coach come out and work with you in a practice setting is an invaluable experience that will help you understand how a practice should flow, when specific drills should be woven into a given practice structure, when a drill should be stopped for correction and when it should be allowed to continue despite mistakes, how to properly “load” or “unload” a drill to meet the needs of your specific team, etc.
So next time you feel the urge to run to YouTube to build your coaching repertoire perhaps think about some of the questions we’ve raised in this post. YouTube and other online coaching resources can be of great value if used in moderation and with a discerning approach. Blindly executing drills you learned on the internet will not provide your players with the necessary understanding for the greater purpose of the drill and will result in you running back to the well of endless YouTube drills in order to keep things fresh and fill those gaps in your practices. Understanding and being able to teach the fundamentals in everything you do as a team will help you maximize the return on your investment in terms of learning new things on the internet. Lastly, the technical side of coaching is often over-emphasized and romanticized especially by coaches that love talking about x’s and o’s (please see this short clip for more insight on this). In the end, Theodore Roosevelt said it best, “Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.” Establish your overarching coaching philosophy then get down to the technical side of the game.
If you have questions about anything we’ve covered in this post or would like more guidance as to how to best inform your coaching practice, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Thanks for reading!
Preparation: A Coaches' Take
The adage that teams are made during the season and players are made during the off-season holds true.
For this blog post we interviewed Right Way Senior Advisor, Coach Ian Mackinnon, to get his take on cultivating success, preparation before and during a season and ultimately how to best lead as a coach. He provides some unique insight on how he frames his season and how to prepare your team for success starting in the off-season. Since we are currently in the off-season this is timely advice for coaches of all ages and we’re confident you will benefit from Coach Mackinnon’s experience and wisdom. Ian is the coach of the Ashbury College Senior Boys Varsity Basketball Team, an assistant coach with Ottawa Gee Gees Varsity Women’s Basketball Team and has coached in various capacities in the Ottawa area over the last 30 years. More background on Coach Mackinnon can be found here. Please comment or contact us if you would like anything from this blog clarified or elobrated upon.
Thank you Coach Mackinnon for taking the time to answer these important questions for our coaches.
How does it feel to have achieved your goal of winning an OFSAA (Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations) gold medal?
There was obviously a sense of accomplishment, immediately followed by a void, sprinkled with the unknown and “a what next” sensation. Chasing a championship involves a combination of, good fortune, maximum preparation, perseverance and a team with talent and chemistry. This championship could be attributed to more than just the players that participated this year. It was really 4 years in the making, climbing the proverbial mountain; OFSSAA ‘A’ bronze in 2015, ‘AA’ silver in 2016 and ‘AA’ gold in 2017. Many of the players that helped the team achieve in previous years were no longer around but their legacy went a long way towards the competitive culture. The fact that the team had arguably 3 of the top positional players in the province made it tough to accept anything less than gold this year as well. I felt that the players were aware of this but did not let it add any additional pressure. Winning felt great, but it was short lived and was quickly replaced with new goal setting and preparation for the program.
Preparation obviously played a major part in the success of your team this past season. As a coach, what do you do in the off-season and in the weeks leading up to the season to prepare?
The adage that teams are made during the season and players are made during the off-season holds true. The culture at a school like Ashbury College is for student / athletes to be well-rounded in all areas. To get players to buy into a year-round approach to basketball is difficult. I was fortunate to find a group that for the most part wanted to play year-round. It started with our high-level players who were competing internationally and at the highest levels in Canada. Skills sessions throughout the summer and fall for the rest were beneficial along with playing in a local community summer league helped as well.
Does your preparation change based on the expectations you have for the season?
For me preparation does not change based on expectations. The expectations may be different but over-achieving is always a focus. I feel that it is important to focus on the process and not get too caught up in the results. The goal should always be to play your best but find ways to compete when you are not at your best. It is hard not to measure success based on wins and losses but growing as a team and over-achieving can be fulfilling even when the losses out-number the wins. My goals are always to make sure the opposition does not have an advantage based on preparation, if they are better than my team based on talent then so be it.
How do you chunk or frame your season in terms of practice planning and focus? In other words, what things do you focus on in August/September/October versus January/February/March?
Large emphasis on skill development and fundamentals in the fall. Team play and specific team prep becomes an emphasis in season. With high school team’s there are additional variables including Christmas break, exams, 4 day weekends prior to play-offs, ebbs and flows of academics. Pre-season is about getting players in basketball shape as many of the players spend the fall playing football or soccer. I feel that we are often behind with regards to skill development and team concepts relative to schools that have players playing year-round. In order to counter that, the bar is set high for our players to learn in a condensed fashion. I am fortunate to have intelligent players who are expected to pick up on concepts with limited repetitions.
If you could give 3 pieces of advice to a coach heading into the season what would they be?
1. Establish relationships, players need to know that you care.
2. Get your players to believe; in themselves, in each other, in what you are teaching and the goals that you have set.
3. If you think you are doing enough, do more.
Lastly, when you are picking your team what are some things you are looking for to fill out your roster?
Within the Ashbury College context there is not a huge amount of decision-making that goes into this process. I don’t think I have actually had to cut a player in the 17 years I have been here. If I have more than 12 players trying-out once the expectations are spelled out and the time commitment is established, personnel get sorted out. I am then left with the type of players I need. Calibre wise, this can vary from year to year but I know I have players that I can work with and push. In other high school context’s this would vary. How the student is within the school community plays a part in the process. Your role players need to be able to thrive off of something other than playing time. Balance between graduates and underclassmen is important. Ideally you have competition at all positions and players that can push each other. Rosters are often limited and finding 10 – 12 high-calibre players in a high school setting is difficult.
The role of a 'role' player
...though their playing time may be limited, their contributions go far beyond these parameters.
In a previous Right Way blog post the topic of body language as it relates to playing time and trust was discussed. This relationship has further reaching implications when it comes to team chemistry and overall success. I can remember early in my high school basketball career my coach at the time emphasizing to our team that we would only be as strong as our weakest link. Throughout my playing and coaching career, I have gained a greater understanding of how critical each member of a team is to its success, regardless of specific abilities. I would like to examine the role of role players and make an important distinction between role players and depth players.
The term role player refers to an individual player’s ability to fill a specific need on a team. Role players range from starters to those that play a supporting role off the bench. A player that shoots the three effectively might earn a role as a starter in order to stretch defenses even if other areas of their game may be lacking. Additional roles can include players that are great on the ball defenders, rebounders, ball screeners, etc. Often their specialized skills are used for situational play and when match ups dictate it. Playing time may be limited but their skill set is invaluable.
I think it is important to give special consideration to what coaches often refer to as depth players and how they are critical to the cohesion of a team, the glue guys. These are the players that have the potential to make practices more competitive and push those ahead of them on the depth chart each and every day. Within any team dynamic there is undoubtedly a pecking order that exists both from the coaches’ and players’ perspectives.
In the majority of team try-outs there are typically a handful of players whose ability or athleticism vaults them to the top of a team’s list. After this, coaches need to fill their roster with players that have potential and or character that aligns with the coach’s philosophy. It is difficult to measure a player’s willingness to sacrifice individual gain for the betterment of a team. However, over the course of a try-out, character traits often become apparent and factor heavily into a player’s selection.
As a team progresses over the course of a season, or a number of seasons, players’ roles become more defined and the depth chart is established. It is critical for a coach to communicate these roles to the players on the team. Getting individuals to understand and accept their roles is essential but challenging. Red Auerbach once said that “it's not what you tell your players that counts, it's what they hear." I have found that individual meetings early in the process and with relative frequency can lead to players embracing their roles. Players clarifying roles for each other is another key to team unity. Finally, it is important for coaches to acknowledge players’ contributions publicly and behind closed doors with the team.
As mentioned above the depth players not only recognize their role on the court but understand how the support of their teammates from the bench can have a huge effect on team chemistry. These players recognize that even though their playing time may be limited, their contributions go far beyond these parameters. Acting as a scout team, making team drills more competitive, stepping on the floor for a player in foul trouble or filling a void for an injured player are all part of this player’s domain.
Connor McSweeney a four year varsity high school basketball player and consummate team contributor reflects on his experience, “Over the years, I have been a part of teams where I would be lucky to see the floor for two minutes. No matter the situation, playing basketball has allowed me to develop attributes such as communication, leadership, and teamwork which really are not only essential on the court, but are also transferrable to the classroom and a work environment. One of the other major lessons basketball has taught me is that teamwork is not limited to the five players on the court; it also extends to the last man on the bench. Every game, those on the court rely on the bench for cheering and support while the game is being played.”
As players compete at successively higher levels, their ability to contribute to a team often depends on their understanding of what a depth player needs to bring to a team. The high school star that plays at the next level and is no longer the “go-to” option on a team, sees his playing time diminish and needs to carve out a new niche for himself. Can he now become the player that makes those around him better and puts his team needs ahead of his own? It can be argued that ultimately a team's success depends on a coach’s ability to get his players to understand and accept their roles.
Selflessness and a common purpose are what make teams great but are elusive for many. Upon reflecting on South Carolina’s Cinderella run at this year’s NCAA men’s tournament, Frank Martin intimated, “There’s only one ball, and only one player can shoot at a time. So naturally, this is a sport where egos can overtake teamwork if you’re not careful. But in that moment in particular, I could see there was none of that on this team. There was only love.” The importance of player “buy-in” and acceptance of one’s role is the key to team unity and ultimately reaching your full potential.
The role of a role player is not always easy to define or communicate. As a coach looking to create a winning culture, it is essential to recognize and utilize depth players for team success.
Fueling your body the right way
Nutrition should be treated just as seriously as any other part of your training
Head coach of the perennial powerhouse UConn Huskies women’s basketball program, Geno Auriemma must have read the most recent Right Way Basketball blog post and decided to add a few words of his own about body language and how to be a supportive teammate. This powerful clip can be found here. Now that we have discussed the psychological side of the game we will now examine one of the most important (yet often overlooked) biological factors to maximizing your training and being successful on the court - Nutrition.
Basketball is a physically demanding sport full of constant sprinting, stopping, accelerating and jumping, with only short periods of rest, truly requiring both strength and endurance. To keep up with the daily grind and rigours of practice, school, workouts and games, a balanced nutritional plan is the foundation to maximizing performance. This post is intended to provide a basic nutritional guide to help fuel your game and take it to the next level.
You wouldn’t hop in the car for a long road trip without a full tank of gas, so why lace ‘em up and hit the court without a full tank? While physical training and practice are critical to your development, it all starts with a foundation of nutrition to get the full payout from the physical work and sessions you put in on the court and in the gym. What you eat on a daily basis helps determine how much energy you have for intense, rigorous workouts, practices and games. Nutrition should be treated just as seriously as any other part of your training.
Daily Nutrition and Tips
If you want to run faster, jump higher and make good decisions, you need to feed your body healthy, nutrient rich foods. Weekly requirements for a basketball player include an assortment of carbohydrate heavy foods to provide energy and protein to build and repair muscles. Most carbs should come from healthy foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables and milk to maximize vitamin and mineral intake. Lean red meats, skinless chicken, nuts, eggs and beans will deliver high protein. Vegetarian? No problem. You can get the protein you need from quinoa, beans, tofu and nuts. In addition to all of the food we want to put into our bodies, try to greatly reduce your intake of refined sugars (candy, soft drinks, energy drinks, cookies, etc.) and saturated fat (butter, fried foods, poultry skin, fatty beef and pork, etc.).
General Nutrition Rules:
1. Never skip a meal. As an athlete, you need steady calories for energy, recovery, muscle building and performance. Remember when you wake up, your stores are 30-40% depleted. Skipping breakfast only further depletes your energy stores and may mean it’s too late to replenish what your body needs before your next practice or game
2. Plan your meals according to your training output. Easy training days should be lighter in calories. Higher physical output requires higher caloric intake
3. Eat food that helps reduce inflammation and speed up recovery. Some of these super foods include berries, nuts, seeds, spices, fruits, vegetables, tea, mushrooms, cherries, dark chocolate, ginger, oatmeal, greens (spinach, kale, arugula), Greek yogurt, flaxseed, fish, olive oil, avocado, sweet potatoes, pineapple, onions, garlic. Try to eat several of these daily!
4. Limit junk calories to less than 10% of daily total calories. This includes ice cream, candy, soft drinks, chips, fast food and deep fried food, etc.
When you're training hard through the daily grind of a long season, it is important to start each day with a healthy high carb breakfast that includes whole grains (bagels, bread, oatmeal), fruits (bananas, berries, oranges, grapefruit) and protein (eggs, cottage cheese, peanut butter). Each player develops their own pre-game routine to prepare mentally and physically. This routine, whether built out of superstition or from personal requirements should also include an individualized nutrition plan. The food eaten the night before and day of a game is always different from player to player but it is important that you eat something before you workout and play.
1. The meal eaten the night before the game is the most critical for maximizing energy stores but never skip meals, especially the day of a game!
2. Plan to eat a full meal 2-4 hours before tip off. This allows your body adequate time to digest. The closer it gets to game time, the smaller the meal so you aren’t playing on a full stomach
3. Drink sufficient amounts of water. Your urine should be a pale yellow colour before tip off. Avoid large quantities of caffeine and salty foods that will dehydrate your body
4. Pre-game meal should include good carbohydrate choices for energy but also has adequate protein to help ward off hunger
5. Restrain from eating fatty, spicy foods and refined sugars before you play. Instead, choose easy to digest foods that sit well with you personally
For all those tournament weekends spent in gyms playing multiple games, it can be difficult to regulate food intake. Preparation can be critical to maintaining energy levels from game to game. Pack sandwiches (Ex. Peanut butter and honey/jam or deli meat), nuts and trail mix, berries (Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries), oranges, bananas, grapes. Eat lightly between games and don’t forget, the closer to game time, the smaller the meal or snack. By following these maintenance tips you will gain a strength and stamina advantage over your opponent to push you right through to the final buzzer. Replenish fluids as well with plenty of water and a sports drinks to hydrate. It can be a good idea to add water to dilute your sports beverage making it easier to digest, adequately deliver those electrolytes where they are needed and minimize the amount of unnecessary sugars. Managing hydration will avoid cramping and help to evade potential injuries due to exhaustion.
Post-Game/Workout - Recovery
What you consume after workout sessions and games can be as important as what you eat before. To promote muscle healing and recovery, eat a snack that contains carbs and protein as soon as possible after stepping off the court. This can be as simple as chocolate milk, a recovery drink or a few handfuls of trail mix with almonds, cashews, or peanuts. A more substantial meal should be consumed within 1 hour that meets the same high carb and protein supply. The longer you wait to eat, the longer your body will take to recover and your gains will be diminished. Follow this plan to achieve the full benefits from the work you just put in and recover faster from difficult sessions so you are ready to perform again the next day.
1. Consume carbohydrate rich foods and beverages as soon as possible after you play to replenish your muscle’s energy stores
2. Consume a protein rich meal to repair and build muscle
3. Replace fluids that have been lost
4. Replace any potassium, sodium, electrolytes that have been lost during competition or training with fruits, vegetables and salty foods
Your body is made up of 50-65% water and requires proper hydration to perform. Water helps to regulate body temperature, lubricates joints and delivers oxygen to working muscles. Your physical and mental performance on the court can drastically decrease, especially late in a game, if you are not hydrated. To keep muscles working at optimal levels and avoid fatigue, it is extremely important to drink plenty of fluids before, during and after physical activity. By keeping hydration levels balanced you will increase your performance, reduce injuries, avoid muscle cramping and speed recovery. Your body loses water through sweat and the rate of loss increases in proportion to your physical output so drink up in relation to your sweat rate. To better understand how much sweat you lose, weigh yourself before and after a game or practice. Aim to keep losses below 2% of your body weight by consuming water throughout your game or practice and be sure to replace all of the fluids lost with water or sports drink of your choice.
1. Monitor your urine color; it should be a pale yellow colour when you are properly hydrated. Darker urine colour means you are dehydrated
2. Drink water throughout the day before a workout, practice or game
3. Do not wait until you are thirsty to drink up. You want to be hydrated before starting physical activity
4. Water should be the number one fluid but sports drinks during and after activity are great to replenish glucose levels in your blood, plus minerals and electrolytes, (sodium, potassium, magnesium)
5. Keep sweat losses under 2% of your body weight and always replace lost fluids
Right Way Takeaways
We all want to be the best player we can be and a great nutrition, hydration and recovery plan are essential to achieving success. This helps propel our training and achieve optimal gains. When it’s late in the 4th quarter and the game is on the line, did you do enough to fuel your game?
Why is body language hurting your playing time?
93% of communication is nonverbal.
The single most important factor that influences a coach (in any sport) when determining playing time is trust. The coach awards the bulk of the minutes to the players they trust the most. Simple as that. As a player, the next logical question is, “how do I earn the coach’s trust so I can get more playing time?”. There is no one answer and preferences can vary by coach, but I will tell you that a major part of building trust between you and your coach is your body language. Body language communicates so much, intended or not. Coaches are masters at reading body language so how you react in both good and bad situations will help or hurt your chances to grow the trust your coach has in you.
As a current coach and former player I will say that negative body language will break (or diminish trust) more than good body language will build trust. It may not seem fair but it’s just the way humans are wired. We are more likely to remember the negative. So knowing that as a player, you want to avoid repeated episodes of poor body language. Any of the following qualify as bad body language:
* Keep in mind that the above list is not exhaustive, but merely a small sampling of things a coach notices.
Another very important point is that negative body language is not to be confused with disagreement. Coaches are not perfect and as a player you have every right to disagree with them BUT…and this is crucially important…it’s how you go about showing this disagreement that is the key. A positive response in front of the entire team followed by a private conversation with the coach or teammate AFTER the heat of the moment is generally the best approach (see 4:00 mark in this tribute speech by Gregg Popovich for Tim Duncan for an example).
One last thing to clarify is that indifference (or glazed over look) will negatively impact a team just as much if not more than an active negative response. This look tells a coach or teammate that you have completely ‘checked out’ and have no desire or passion to change your behaviour or actions on the court.
The rest of this post will be broken down into three sections:
1. Why do players project negative body language?
2. What does positive body language look like? And,
3. What does positive body language tell your coach and teammates, and why is this important?
For a player to begin the process of improving their body language they must first identify the reasons why they are reacting the way they are to a situation. This is going to require humility, an open mind and some honest self-reflection.
1. Why do players project negative body language?
Most of the following reasons stem from the root of the problem….selfishness. However, there is some value in mentioning the other potential reasons, even if it’s only to help players to self-identify. If you’ve thought any of these thoughts…chances are you’ve demonstrated some “less-than-stellar” body language to a coach or teammates.
2. What does positive body language look like?
Positive body language is simple and straightforward and because it’s non-verbal, you don’t need to worry about crafting some eloquent response! Here are some markers of someone that is engaged and listening to the feedback they are receiving from a coach or teammate:
Another good piece of advice that I found from this great article from the folks at PGC is, “listen, with intent to understand. Miscommunication happens when we listen with intent to reply”. Listen to what your coach is saying before immediately trying to respond…you’d be surprised how this will help improve your body language.
3. What does positive body language tell your coach and teammates, and why is this important?
A team’s culture hinges on the body language of its members. Watch any successful team and see how they react to their coaches and teammates under pressure and I guarantee you’ll mostly see players that give some semblance of positive body language. Some players are more subtle with how they respond, but you certainly will not see much of the negative body language responses outlined at the beginning of this post.
So next time you find yourself ready to slough off your coach or look away when you are being corrected…stop yourself and think about how that action impacts your team. It may seem subtle but bad body language spreads across a team, is very detrimental to success, and can stifle cohesion and growth. If you feel like your bad body language is legitimized because you are being picked on or your coach doesn’t like you then try to remember this statement uttered by one of my former coaches, “If I stop yelling at you or coaching you then you should worry…because I’ve decided I’m just not playing you in games”. Coaches challenge the players they feel have potential and can positively contribute to the team’s success. How will you respond the next time a coach or teammate challenges you? Will you affirm and respond positively or will you revert back to blaming or feeling sorry for yourself?
|Right Way Basketball|