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Managing the game positively

By Keith Miniscalco, Greg Kot

Five pre-game communication tips for every youth basketball coach

Game day is full of anticipation and anxiety for many new youth coaches. According to Keith Miniscalco and Greg Kot, authors of Survival Guide for Coaching Youth Basketball, it’s best for coaches to think about what they’re going to say to players before they get to the gym. "Plot out the things you want to convey and how, so that you can keep things simple and to the point," Miniscalco says. "Weed out everything that isn’t absolutely necessary to convey."

Miniscalco recommends addressing five essentials before the game:

  • The starting lineup. You’ll want to prepare the lineup ahead of time so you aren’t fumbling for names seconds before tip-off. Coaches will be tempted to start their best players and sub in the weaker players all the time. But in youth basketball, it’s much more important to give every player a chance to experience being a starter, so rotate the lineup every game.
  • Defensive set and court direction. If you’re playing man-to-man, make sure each player knows which opponent he’s going to cover. If you’re playing zone, make sure players know the zone set and what area they are to cover. Remember to use your dry-erase board. In addition, be sure your players know which way they are going on offense and which basket they will be defending. It’s not as easy as it looks.
  • Out-of-bounds plays. Review the out-of-bounds plays with the team on your board. Remind them that the player inbounding the basketball is responsible for calling the play, but that you will help them out during the game with timely reminders.
  • Pep talk. It’s always a good idea to remind the players what’s coming up. It’s a game. The object is to have fun. There’s no reason to be nervous or scared. But there is one requirement: play hard. Mistakes will be made, but every player, no matter what her ability, needs to play with energy and passion. That means hustling back on defense, diving on the floor for loose balls (while wearing kneepads, of course), scrapping for rebounds, and loudly encouraging teammates.
  • Question-and-answer time. Give the players a chance to ask questions. Inevitably, one of the kids will ask, What’s the postgame snack? Reveal this top-secret information if you feel it will give your team more incentive to play well, then encourage questions related to the actual game itself. If your players are new to the game, chances are they won’t even know what to ask. All you can do at this point is to offer the most timeless advice available: All right, then, go out there, play hard, and have fun! Players will be nervous and excited as well, so the less coaches talk the better.

"Remember, the players will also be nervous and excited, so the more you talk, the less they will actually hear," Miniscalco says. "Give the players the minimum information they need to do a good job. Keep it simple. Keep it brief."

Survival Guide for Coaching Youth Basketball provides inexperienced coaches with the most relevant tools for teaching, coaching, and developing young basketball players at any talent level.

This is adapted from Survival Guide for Coaching Youth Basketball.


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