As a coach you have probably dealt with your fair share of players that do not fit the stereotypical model of a competitive athlete. You have also probably dealt with players that were lacking in confidence when they came to you, or have watched their confidence slip during the season. Keep in mind that what you teach in sports should become life skills for your players. They should take away life lessons they can apply to other parts of their life. Like it or not, they will, so make those lessons constructive.
This blog is as much for players as coaches. Players have a responsibility to come to the table with a competitive edge. Effort and desire are qualities a player can offer to a coach, that do not require the coach’s expertise.
It is also the responsibility of coaches to teach to their own curriculum and create an environment that nurtures competitiveness. It is important for coaches to recognize the value of diversity. Drawing on the variety of talent and personalities in a team, means being willing in some cases to adapt the environment to the individuals rather than the other way around.
Here are a few things for your consideration when trying to get your players to play outside of their personalities.
According to some experts there are up to 16 personality types. Others like to categorize into Introverts and Extroverts or A type or B type personalities. It’s foolish to think that only certain personality types can be successful in sports. Do some personalities lend themselves better to individual or team sports? Can you find ways to help these different personality types be successful?
Stereotypes are not quite what one would think of as a personality, but surely it’s become part of the psyche of both players and coaches that there is baggage that comes with stereotypes. It takes strength to play outside of these stereotypes.
Racial: You’ve heard it, I’ve heard it and certainly Tiger Woods and Justin Armour have heard and dealt with it.
Gender: Often when women step outside traditional gender roles through sports, labels are soon to follow.
What can you do to help play outside of your personality?
1. Be Transparent: Have philosophies, rules and expectations for your players. Don’t let your mood dictate consequences and rules or how your practice is conducted. Talk to your players as a team and as individuals about what is expected in terms of effort, learning and conduct. Except when you are wrong, say you are sorry, and correct the situation. Recently I saw a player taking some heat form his coach about missing a defensive assignment in a drill. The player didn’t actually miss his assignment but took the blame for a team-mate. When it was pointed out to the coach, the coach took the opportunity to let that player know, he was in the wrong for not communicating that it was not his check. He pointed out to the team, that you are not helping the team by taking the blame for someone else. We can’t correct the problem if you are not being open and communicating what is really going on. This was all done in the spirit of team, and was not demeaning to any of the players.
2. Make drills competitive: by making drills competitive, you raise the competitive level of the team, and consequently you raise the competitiveness of the individuals. You will nurture a competitive environment. Score your drills and have consequences to winning and loosing. Highest scores in the drill do 1 dribble suicide and lowest scores in the drill do 3 dribble suicides. I like making consequences skilled if possible. That way they are working on their skill while they are getting conditioned. If you do dribble suicides make sure your players are working on both hands. Down the court with one hand and back with the other hand. You can change up the dribbles between lines, cross-overs, through the legs, and push-dribbles for the long trips.
3. Add toughness drills in the mix. You hear coaches screaming about getting on the floor, or taking a charge. Don’t just scream it, teach it. Teach your players how to get on the floor safely and own the possession at the same time. Teach your players how to take a charge and drill it. Let them know how much it is worth to the team. Make sure it is in your team’s personality to have the whole team reward those efforts with praise and cheering. You would be surprised by the effect that offering the reward of a sports drink and protein bar makes on players’ efforts to take a charge. It’s not the drink or snack; it’s the competitive nature of getting a reward and recognition for doing it. With the possession arrow replacing jump-balls, does it make sense for your players to get on the floor every time? Maybe you want to be aware of that possession arrow, so that you can get over that player on the floor and get a closely guarded call.
4. Finding the right match: Find situations and techniques that will make players successful, don’t put them in a situation where they will fail. I coached a player with good size, good skill development, good footwork, but she was not naturally assertive or aggressive on the low post. On defense she could not bang with big players down low, but she could front her defender and play defense like they she was on offense in the post. Sitting in the chair, hands locating her assignment and preventing the ball from getting kicked in. On offense, she could play well in the mid to high post, and had a sweet mid range shot. So the aim is to make her a multi-dimensional player by encouraging a new more physical aspect to her game, while honing her Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitzki. Why shove a square peg into a round hole? If you find places where individuals can be successful, then the team is successful.
5. Help players build confidence: I’m not going to minimize the effects a coach can have both positively and negatively on a player, but in the end just like any skill, confidence is something the player needs to hone and refine. Being able to chart your drills, will aid in boosting your players confidence. Helping them set goals will increase their confidence as they get closer and closer to their goals. I have my players take a mental snap-shot of where they are now. Down the road we do it again and see how far they have come. Use these lessons of hard deliberate, goal oriented work to achieve goals as an example to be applied to other aspects of their life. Let them know, that the effort they put into basketball can be used to become a better son or daughter, to be a better sibling, to be a better student, to strengthen their Faith. If you work on fitness, plyometrics, core strength, then chart their progress; it’s amazing how something tangible like gaining some height on their vertical can spill over into confidence in their game. Above the obvious benefits hard work plus measurable gains equals confidence. Try to guide your teams through sports meditations. Help them learn how to visualize on their own or be able to control anxiety, or do focus drills.
6. Measure your success by your effort. This is a philosophy I buy into. I tell my players that there are fewer feelings worse then regret. When you give your best effort, sometimes great things happen, sometimes mediocre things happen and sometimes disappointing things happen. If you gave it your best, there is nothing more anyone can ask of you. If you are giving it your all, then in my eyes you are already successful.