Taking on the role of a basketball coach at any age level is a big responsibility, and that first practice sets your foundation for the rest of the season.
That first year as a head coach can be an exciting time, but it also can be a stressful one if you aren’t prepared for it. There are a lot of strategies, defensive and offensive schemes and time and player management that a coach needs to take into account.
Here are some tips for first-year basketball coaches to keep in mind as you prepare for the start of the basketball season and your team’s first practice.
What do you need to bring: As the coach, you are the one who is running the practice from start to finish. So, you need to make sure you are prepared with everything you need to run that practice. Determine what you’ll need to bring to that first practice session. There are some of the more obvious ones like a basketball, clipboard or whistle, but you also need to include things like documents and forms your parents or participants need to sign.
Warm-up: The reason you warm up before any sport is to raise your body’s temperature and prepare yourself for upcoming activities. It also helps you prevent injuries, and improve flexibility and strength. Basketball warm-ups typically consist of light drills like dribbling, shooting layups and then things like stretching and a jog around the court. Create a warm-up plan that prepares each player for the coming practice.
Practice structure: This is the part of the practice where you begin your instruction as a coach. At the youth level, this instruction may focus more on the fundamentals of the game like dribbling, passing, shooting, rebounding and learning different defensive schemes. These things are used to teach players both the technique of how to play and about the rules and what is allowed.
Rules: Depending on the age group you are coaching, there might be different rules that apply. For instance, referees might be more relaxed on technical rules like traveling or double-dribbling for younger age groups that are still learning the game. Or, you might be coaching in a league that requires all players to get equal playing time so they can learn the ins and outs of the game. These kinds of things will fit into your strategy as a coach, so it’s important that you not only make yourself aware of the rules but that you set those expectations for your players early.
Instill confidence: As a coach, you must make sure to take time to offer valuable critiques to your players so they can learn the rules and do what they need to improve their skills. Your role as a coach is about more than just putting together a winning team. This starts at the first practice. You start working with players to help them improve their skills, call out things and help them make and offer critiques to help them build confidence, and learn their roles and responsibilities on the team. Taking these steps early is what ultimately improves their skills and allows them to progress throughout the season.
Coaching is a challenging role—you need to be an excellent communicator, manager, leader and motivator. But the payoff, regardless of whether your team wins or loses, is well worth the time and effort you put into coaching. Remember to have fun as you start this season and keep these tips in mind as you make that plan for the first practice.