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How to Create Long-term Success on the Court

How to Create Long-term Success on the Court
February 09, 2022 | Andre Harakas | 9 min read

Building a basketball program may be a great strategy to secure long-term success. It takes time and dedication, but if done well, it will pay off in terms of how competitive your teams are year after year, how much fun you and your players have, and the long-term influence you may have on your players.

As you begin your adventure, I’d want to provide you with a few pointers to consider as you begin to construct a basketball program. These ideas have stood the test of time. You don’t have to apply them all right once, but don’t be hesitant to reassess, pivot, and even modify your teaching methods to improve as a basketball coach and eventually have greater success.

(They are not in any particular sequence.)

Train yourself to always consider the player’s best interests first.

Everyone has an ego that might be difficult to put away at times. This is never more evident than when it comes to competition: we want to win, we want to be recognized, and we want to point out when things go wrong and it wasn’t our fault. These notions, I feel, have been embedded in us throughout our lives and are now just part of our human nature. When you ask yourself what is best for the player, you reframe the issues and situations in such a manner that the player and their best interests become the focal point, rather than you.

Asking the question, “What can I do better?” is a terrific approach to put the players ahead of yourself. A coach may easily fall into the trap of criticizing the players for detecting a symptom but not the cause of the issue. You may read a piece I wrote titled What To Do When Your Team Is Playing Poorly to learn more about this notion and how to apply it to your coaching.

Spend time with your squad away from the court.

One of the most important ways I prepare my teams for success is to spend time with them off the court. When people ask me how I persuade my guys to play a specific style, I normally respond with a drill or a game. When I tell them we spend time together off the court, I know they’re dissatisfied. My conviction is that the more the players enjoy each other off the court and have experiences together, the more they will believe in and support each other on the court. To get you started, here are a few suggestions:

Tell a story, read an article together, watch an inspiring video, chat about life, perform team-building exercises, invite a speaker, etc. within the first twenty minutes of practice. The teamwork you put in before practice will pay off big time on the court.

Before home games, have team feasts. All you have to do is ask a parent who is ready to assist with dinner preparations.

Join your squad in sports events. Take them to a collegiate basketball game in your area. Most universities will let you visit as a guest and will not charge you anything.

Make a team tradition. Organize a Christmas party with white elephant presents, participate in a team community service initiative, or compete in a minute to win its competition across all programs.

Recognize that being a successful basketball coach is a process and that each coach’s journey is unique.

There will be coaches who win right away because they stepped into a coaching position that only a fool could mess up, and then there will be coaches who have to build a program from the ground up, which will take more time, just as there are people who become millionaires from a lottery ticket and those who become millionaires by saving a little from every check over time. Your method will not be the same as mine or that of any other coach, so don’t compare or worry about it.

Become one of the tens of thousands of coaches who get my weekly emails.

Receive weekly emails from a coach who understands what it’s like to be in the trenches of coaching. Drills, plays, movies, pdfs, and other special materials will be sent to you.

Find a mentor with whom you can have open and honest discussions.

Having a mentor, in my view, is crucial. You may chat to your mentor about basketball strategies, team concerns, personal challenges, or simply get some feedback on an idea. You’ll start to develop as a coach regardless of how you employ your mentor. Your mentor will observe things from a different perspective since they are not part of the team or program. Their guidance will force you to think things through so that you can build a plan and be ready for anything that comes your way. They will also be able to rejoice with you uniquely since they will understand what you are all about. Mentors may be someone you speak with on the phone, over Skype, or in person, as long as you have one.

Create a program rather than merely a squad.

Begin by teaching the fundamentals to your young players, then narrow down on what you want them to know as they go through middle school, ninth grade, and junior varsity. This way, you won’t have to start from scratch when teaching topics and methods at the varsity level. Take the time to meet with your young coaches, middle school coaches, and, of course, high school coaches to discuss the skill development and system implementation progression you’d want to see at each level.

Keep in touch with your boss early and regularly.

Don’t hold your breath for them to come to you. First and foremost, bring concerns and ideas to them. If you’re asked, give a solution, but if you’re not, don’t bulldoze your way into their area. Add your athletic director’s email address to every parent email, budget email, scheduling email, camp email, and so on. They may never respond or just say it’s up to you, but they are aware and this is where they want to be.

Bring in or bring along coaches that are dedicated to your program and want to be a part of it.

Some coaches prefer nurturing a coach, while others like having former players return as coaches since they are familiar with the system, and yet others prefer finding coaches with experience who can hit the ground running and have shown their ability to teach the game. There is no right or wrong strategy; it all relies on your preferences. The most important quality that each of these instructors must possess is loyalty. When they’re coaching, you have to believe that they’re putting you and your program first. If they don’t, players will refuse to buy in, show up, play hard, get confused, stop communicating, and so on. Because your coach is damaging what you’re attempting to establish, you’ll also face tougher criticism. This is frequently accomplished stealthily, eroding the very foundation you’ve worked so hard to establish.

Rejoice in your accomplishments.

It doesn’t matter if you’re 1-19; just enjoy the one victory. Celebrate a player’s effort and sacrifice for the team if they take a charge. Give a pop to a player who achieves a personal best in a given area. There are a plethora of celebration options available to you. One thing to remember is to avoid making everything about statistics. If a player does not participate, he or she will never be recognized. Ensure that part of your celebrations focus on effort, attitude, leadership, and teamwork. Whatever you choose to commemorate, know that your teammates will follow suit and begin to commemorate one another without you having to lead the way every time.

Involve your loved ones.

Your family makes sacrifices so that you may attend team meetings, gym sessions, and bus rides. Never lose sight of them because you’re preoccupied with yourself. Sure, people come and sit in the stands, and you think it’s terrific, but if their sacrifice isn’t appreciated, issues might arise. Take your spouse out to dinner, invite your children to practice, and let them know that practice will be brief because you have a date with your husband or your children have a play to attend. This is where you’ll teach them how to prioritize correctly, and your husband and children will root for you even harder in the stands instead of just sitting there because that’s what a good family does.

Build and expand your youth camps.

For a variety of reasons, every basketball program should participate in youth basketball camps. While I won’t go into detail about each of these topics, they are important to be aware of. If you’re thinking of renovating or creating a youth camp, read this.

a. You get the youth in your neighborhood active in basketball. (This one seems self-evident.)

b. Camp coaches might be recruited among your high school athletes. The more they teach the game, the more ideas students will grasp. As they show and instruct the younger players, they will be reinforcing the skills you have taught them.

c. Camps come with a built-in fundraising opportunity. Most programs will need to raise money each year, so the more camps you have, the more money you’ll be able to raise.

d. Varsity players are idolized by campers. Campers will feel like they are a member of the squad and one of the boys or gals after they form friendships with the varsity players.

g. Camps foster community relationships and cooperation. I can’t tell you how many parents have told me how much they like the camp quotations, the daily message, and their child’s contact with me and my players. These connections assist to strengthen neighborhood ties and increase the number of supporters in the stands when it’s game time.

You may be thinking that this is a lot for someone who just wants to coach the varsity basketball team. Yes, it is a lot, but if you want to be successful year after year, you must have a basketball program capable of competing year after year.

Wishing you the best of success with your program coach.

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