Tuesday, April 4, 2017

What I Learned this Basketball Season

From December until last weekend, I coached JD's 4th grade basketball team. As a team, we had a good season, finishing with a record above .500 and reaching the semi-finals of the playoffs.

Our real success was seeing players improve over the course of the season, getting more confident handling the ball, learning to create space on the offensive end, and learning how to play defense by identifying and staying with the player they were guarding.

I began the season with two goals - to play every player at every position equally and to help them improve their skills. While I believe I followed through with those two goals, I also failed at them.

First, by playing the players at every position, it reduced the incentive for players to feel the need to come to every practice and to be dedicated while at practice. Over the course of the season, their discipline declined. My response to that, starting with the last two games of the regular season, was to instill a policy where the kids who showed up to practice and worked hard would play in the game, regardless of their ability to execute.

I had every intention of following through with that. However, our semi-final game was against the best regular-season team who had not lost a game. I was determined to get our team to the final. Sure, every player would get in the game, but some would get very little playing time while a few others would get a lot. The idea was to get the opportunity to get another game and to give the players the experience of getting to a championship.

We ended up losing and, I lost some of my values in the process. A couple of very hard working players who were not the most developed sat on the bench for almost all of the game because of my goal to win. That's one of the things that I'll carry forward.

The second thing I learned was how to structure practices. One thing I've learned about child development in athletics is that 9-12 years old is the "golden age of skill development." It's the best time for kids to learn skills, but just before they become good at learning strategy. So, I focused on dribbling, shooting, and passing. While those are all very important, I did not also teach them basic basketball plays. 

As it turns out, being able to run a play is a skill. Before this season, I thought that teaching plays was the same thing as teaching strategy, but it is not. Teaching a play is showing players where to go when the ball is in play. Teaching strategy is telling them why. Not the same.

So, going forward, here are a few changes that I'm going to make:
  • Time during practice to learn a basic play. An inbound play in basketball, a throw-in in soccer, a zone entry in hockey, and so on and so forth. 
  • As part of my practice plan, I'll predetermine who will play various positions so the players gain experience doing so at practice, then rotate from week-to-week. 
  • In my game plan, I'll write down who the hardest workers were in practice so that I remember to get them good playing time if playing time isn't going to be equal for all players.
While I wish I had thought of some of these things during this basketball season, it's not something that I regret. By learning from each season, something about my style evolves. This basketball season was definitely the most challenging season of my coaching "career." It also taught me the most. Just like the players, I learned lessons over the course of the season that I'll carry forward to seasons ahead in every sport.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Reward the Parent

While having a discussion with Bunny, I realized that something I said was actually good advice. 

After school, I want the kids to clean out their backpacks and do their homework right away. They do not and want to play. Of course, there never comes a time when they look forward to doing their homework and it often slips away if I'm not all over them. (Of course, that is part of my job.)

Today, I found Bunny painting. Of course, that's fine, but I would have wanted her to do her homework before starting a project like that. However, I'm trying to be all zen today, so I said, "Just make sure that you leave time to do your homework before we have to go to swimming." That gave her about 45 minutes to paint and do a routine assignment. It also prompted push back.

"Can't I do it after swimming?"
"It'll be late after we get home."
"But maybe I'll want to do it then."
"Do you really think that there will come a time when you actually want to do your homework?"
"Bunny, you know that I wanted you to do it after school, and now you're painting. I'm trying to be flexible, but don't push it too far. Just like you like to be rewarded when you do something good, you should reward me when I'm fair and flexible with you by doing what you're told."

That actually struck me. I think kids should be told that, just like they like a treat when they go out shopping with us and behave decently or get extra screen time, we like to be rewarded for giving extra privileges with good behavior.

Not that it's going to change anything, but perhaps it puts something into their heads. Give it a try and let me know if you get any results.

Monday, June 13, 2016

I wish I hated messes more than I hate to clean them up.

Sunday, April 17, 2016


"I gotta work on my tan."

Yes, that is a direct quote.