My last post, My Coach Sucks, talked about some of the issues that affect players’ game time and a couple of tips on how players can deal with these issues. Most of these issues can be solved by the player approaching the coach and initiating communication to understand the vision of the team, the direction the team is going and understanding their roles in achieving that vision.
It’s well and good getting players to take initiative and take ownership of their personal and professional development, but what role does the coach play in this? After all, the coach is the primary leader of the team; the person who sets the vision and then orchestrates the movements around him to achieve that vision.
Through clear communication with the players in the pre-season, or even during the recruiting phase, the coach can lay out his expectations of the season ahead and also explain what his plans are for his players. This can solve a lot of problems that may occur further on in the season. Unfortunately, not all coaches do this.
Let’s review some of the issues from the last post and look at them from a different angle.
“My players suck and they don’t do anything I tell them to do”
- “I’ve told him that he needs to improve his confidence before he can play, but he’s not doing anything about it”
There are times that coaches don’t play guys in games because they lack confidence and playing them hurts the team. Either the player will freeze up and get caught like a deer in headlights or will over analyse situations and end up making a tonne of mistakes that the team won’t be able to recover from.
If clear expectations are laid out at the start of the season, then the player can prepare himself mentally, knowing that he won’t be expected to play much; instead he can focus on his development in practice sessions. If there wasn’t any communication, then the player will over think and analyse things in practice and begin to do things that he thinks will get him noticed. Unfortunately, these may be outside of the scope that the coach had in mind.
Coaches should employ different methods to help a player develop and enhance his confidence. There isn’t a right way and a wrong way, but it’s important that coaches are authentic and buy into what they’re trying to do.
San Antonio Spurs’ head coach, Greg Popovic, believes in playing all of his players throughout the season. He’ll vary their minutes here and there, but they will all get a chance to play during the season. This way, he helps them develop the confidence they have in him. It builds trust and when late in the season, a teammate gets injured or is out on suspension, the players believe that their coach trusts them and also, they believe that they can step up to the mark as they have been doing already, albeit in smaller spells.
Coach Mike Krzyzewski, from Duke University does it differently. Within his system, he primarily plays an eight-man rotation, only going further down his bench when his team is in foul trouble. However, through clear communication with his players at the start of the season about the team, the vision, and the expectations of the season ahead, he is able to get the buy-in required from his players to help build a cohesive team. The players who don’t get much game time go through daily skills workout and gain confidence by seeing themselves improve in that regard. They know that their time is coming and trust the coach as he was honest with them from the start.
Whichever style you decide to go with, you need to understand that your players want your help. They want to get better and they want to help the team, but more importantly, they want to know that you care about them, their development and that you have their best interests at heart. This isn’t a one-time thing. Acquiring and maintaining confidence is a dynamic, ever-changing process and you as a coach will need to be able to consistently show your players that you care about them.
[Keep your eye out for my post on confidence in December]