Great Basketball Coaches Are Great Leaders

What are the Skills Needed to be a Great Basketball Coach?
Learning How to Motivate Basketball Players
By Brad Winters

One of the best skills a basketball coach can develop in order to become more effective in influencing his players is leadership. A person may be able to lead yet not have the knowledge or know-how to coach basketball, but a person who coaches basketball successfully is also a person who has the ability to lead.

How else do you persuade young people on a basketball team to practice and play consistently with a high energy level? How do you get individual players to pull-together and play as one on the basketball court? How do you get players with different desires and interests to "buy into" the goals of the team? Quite simply - you lead them.

In this basketball-coaching article, I want to give you a checklist of basketball coaching tips to help you lead your team more effectively. As you go through these coaching tips, spend a little time on each, thinking about how you can apply each one to your basketball coaching philosophy and style.

[Related: Online Basketball Playbook]

It is not about you, it is about the team.

When you are going to lead others in a positive direction, always understand that you are not the star. It is not about you. It is about the good of the program and the players you are trying to lead.

"A person really doesn't become whole, until he becomes a part of something that's bigger than himself." -- Coach Jimmy Valvano 

Study the game and your basketball players.

Great basketball coaches are students of the game and their players. The more you study and prepare, the better you will coach and lead. It is true - knowledge is power! Good coaches know and understand the game, the strengths and limitations of their players, and the strengths and weaknesses of their team. This knowledge and understanding helps a coach see the "big picture," so that he can make the right decisions regarding his team and players.

Basketball players take risks when coaches create a safe environment.

It is very important for you to create an environment where there is a sense of security for your players to grow and develop as highly skilled basketball players. When the environment is safe, players play with more confidence, more energy, and with more passion. Coaches who yell, scream, threaten, and punish players for making an honest mistake (missed shot, bad pass, poor decision on the court, etc.) stifle the growth and development of their players.

"I can't stand a ballplayer who plays in fear. Any fellow who has a good shot has got to take it and keep taking it. So he misses - so what?" -- Coach Red Auerbach

Great coaches exude passion as well as purpose.

The difference between a good basketball coach and a great one is not basketball knowledge. It comes down to passion - passion for the game of basketball and passion for coaching. Signs of passion are love, enthusiasm, excitement, energy, going the "extra mile," etc... Get excited about the opportunity to coach and lead young people. Coaching basketball is a noble and honorable task.

"The key to coaching is not what you do, but the way you do it. The intangibles, the motivational parts of the game are the most important facets of it." -- Coach Rick Pitino

Keep your basketball playbook simple and clear.

The essence of basketball coaching - and learning - is communication; and the first issue of communication is whether or not your players understand and know what you are asking them to do on the court. Try to keep your basketball system simple and clear.

"Simplify the game as much as possible. When you add, you must subtract." -- Coach Don Meyer

Repetition is the key to learning.

If you want your players to learn the fundamentals of basketball, practice them daily, and use a variety of different basketball drills to teach a specific skill. Basketball players grow and develop in small steps over an extended period. At first, a player can barely dribble the ball up the court, and then before you know it, that same player is dribbling behind his back and doing reverse lay-ups. The "process" of growth and development for teaching and training players to play competitive basketball is "little-by-little," and "inch-by-inch."

"Know what you want to emphasize, then do it daily." -- Coach Larry Shyatt

Let your players teach (buddy coach) each other.

Great coaches understand that their players have the ability to communicate and teach each other. Players relate to teammates much better than players do to coaches. Encourage your players to "buddy coach" during practice. It is a wonderful feeling to watch your veteran players teach younger players coaching pointers that you originally taught to them.

Avoid using the same motivational method for each player.

Good coaches know that every player can be motivated, but every player is motivated differently. The key is learning how to best motivate each player on your team.

"You have to learn what makes this or that Sammy run. For one it's a pat on the back, for another it's eating him out, for still another it's a fatherly talk, or something else. You're a fool if you think as I did as a young coach, that you can treat them all alike." -- Coach Paul Bear Bryant

Basketball coaches must never stop coaching.

Effective coaching is about the quality of the relationship between the coach and the player, and it does not end when the practice is over. It is an ongoing process.

Basketball Coach Hank Iba "Treat each player as your own son/daughter if you can...the parents have invested in you." -- Coach Hank Iba

In conclusion, the goal of a great basketball coach is to influence his players and his team in a positive way. To accomplish this goal, basketball coaches must continually grow and develop as leaders.

"I don't try to get players emotionally up for a game; it creates too many peaks and valleys... I strive for even keel; they will get up for the big games." -- Coach Denny Crum
"Hearing improves with PRAISE!" -- Coach Mark Gottfried
"Praise your kids. Inspire and motivate your players with praise. Your ability to communicate to your young people will determine your success" -- Coach Jim Harrick
"Leadership, like coaching, is fighting for the hearts and souls of men and getting them to believe in you." -- Coach Eddie Robinson
"If a Coach is determined to stay in the coaching profession, he will develop from year to year. This much is true, no coach has a monopoly on the knowledge of basketball. There are no secrets in the game. The only secrets, if there are any, are good teaching of sound fundamentals, intelligent handling of men, a sound system of play, and the ability to instill in the boys a desire to win." -- Coach Adolph Rupp
"The more your players have to think on the basketball court, the slower their feet get." -- Coach Jerry Tarkanian
"Knowledge is not enough to get desired results. You must have the more elusive ability to teach and to motivate. This defines a leader; if you can't teach and you can't motivate, you can't lead." -- Coach John Wooden
Championship Basketball Playbook

Championship Basketball PlaybookComplete system needed to Excel as a basketball coach

Transition Offense
Motion Offense
Flex Offense
Zone Offense
Offensive Plays
Inbound Plays
Press Breaker Offense
Full-court Press Defenses
Zone Defenses
Junk Defenses
Man to Man Defense
Game Strategy
Basketball Coaching Manual

"All really successful coaches have a system." - Jim Valvano

Basketball Playbook

In Search of Excellence