Coach Justin Saunders: Why Coaches Need to SLOW Down
I have seen coaches in the past who know so much more than me about the game of basketball. But they come in and say, ‘Hey! Today, we are going to do these 4 or 5 different things,’ instead of taking one step at a time and explaining why. Before you are going to yell and raise your voice, you have to earn their trust and show them that you know what you are doing.
Although Coach Saunders did not play basketball beyond high school, he has always had a passion for the sport. For him, it was the competitive nature of basketball and being able to see the kids grow and develop that brought him into coaching.
He first started coaching when he was in college. At the time, he was going to school as a business major when one of his friends asked him to help coach a travel basketball team. From that point on, Coach Saunders knew that coaching basketball was something that he wanted to be a part of his profession.
After the season was over, Coach Saunders changed his major from business to physical education so that he would be able to coach full-time one day. Throughout the remainder of his time in college, he continued to coach travel basketball and loved every second of it. After graduating, he was able to get a job as a physical education teacher at a middle school.
While he was the teacher, he also coached the middle school boys’ basketball team for 2 years. From there, he moved up to coaching the JV team and assisted on the varsity team. After that, he was the head coach on the Varsity team. While this was all happening, Coach Saunders was still able to complete his master’s degree online at Ohio University in 2018.
Today’s All In Takeaways are around teaching one concept at a time and getting the players to buy in without having cuts.
All In Takeaway #1: SLOW DOWN and Coach One Concept at a Time
When Coach Saunders first started coaching, he had many different concepts that he wanted to teach his players all at once. He quickly learned that, when you overwhelm your players with too many concepts at once, they will retain very little.
As a result, Coach Saunders would focus on 1 or 2 new concepts each practice and wait until the players were able to master those, before moving onto something entirely new. Additionally, he would always place an emphasis behind the WHY for each one of the drills or concepts that he was teaching.
Even as Coach Saunders moved up in coaching high schoolers, he learned once again that he should follow the same model that worked on the middle school level. This was to take things slow, teach one item at a time, and allow for repetition to aid in the learning process. Coaches, understand that some of the information you are teaching your athletes are completely new to them. Please consider listening to what Coach Saunders has learned in helping his athletes retain as much as possible.
All In Takeaway #2: Getting the Player’s to be ALL IN without having Cuts
We are not going to make cuts. We want anyone who wants to come and be a part of the team. However, once you have chosen to be a part of this team, you are all in. You have to do everything that is asked of you. You have to be fully committed for every other person on the team. And if you are not living up to those guidelines on your end, that is what could have you removed from the team. Not a skill level thing, or not necessarily even an attitude thing, but it is an effort and trying your best thing. If they are doing that, we are going to find ways to make it work and have them be apart of the team.
For the coaches who are a part of a program with a no-cut policy, this is a great rule of thumb to follow. Coaches in these situations, HAVE to be intentional about the necessary buy-in that they will have to get from the players if they wish to play. Make the expectations clear, so you do not compromise the future culture of your program.
In July of 2021, Coach Saunders became the athletic director at The Winston School, located in Dallas, Texas. He is also the Men’s Varsity Basketball Coach for the school. When he was first brought on as the head coach, the school’s main goal for him was to help change the culture of the entire athletic program. Coach Saunders has been intentional about implementing the lessons he learned, outlined in the All In Takeaway’s above, in doing this.
During the past season, he was able to help the team do exactly that, where the team was a part of many games that came down to the very end. In fact, they just missed the playoffs by one game. As Coach Saunders looks to help the team get into the playoffs for the first time in a while, it will be exciting to see how the Winston School’s Men’s Varsity team performs in the 2022-2023 season. Go Winston!
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