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Philosophy of the Basketball Coach

I can think of no better example of what kind of a person makes a good basketball coach than John Wooden. That is why his books should be required reading for every PE major in the free world.

 During a game, basketball coaches are highly visible and close to the spectators packed behind in the stands. Quite often, away from home, loud-mouthed fans continuously hurl abusive words his way. The coach must leave such barbs fall on deaf ears; but things like this add to the sometime-pressure of the trade "to win at all costs", already heaped upon his shoulders. Despite such distractions, I can think of nothing else I would rather be doing. Just to know you helped a youngster fulfill an athletic dream is reward enough.

Do you still want to be a basketball coach? Good! Not only do you have to be a teacher, you must be a parent figure, confessor, psychologist, counselor, public relations expert, and a role model for the community.

The Stuff That Makes a Good Coach

The basketball coach does not need be a star player; however, he should be a student of the game. I know many great coaches who were mediocre players. On the other hand, I know many great players have made poor coaches. To become successful as a basketball coach you must develop a road map called 'philosophy". 

A coaching philosophy takes years to develop; but, like mine, yours began the first day you picked up a basketball. Your experiences as a player and observer will allow yours to develop just as Wooden developed his own. It becomes your own personal roadmap to success. Your philosophy continues to grow as you learn more about the game and dealing with players.

In the beginning, your philosophy can be meager at best. To compensate for this and to make certain yours will be positive, study the philosophy of proven coaches. Read their books and attend coaching clinics to broaden your knowledge.

The Coach's Philosophy

What is philosophy, anyway? When you add up all your experiences as a player, observer, lessons learned from reading, ideas picked up at clinics, gab sessions with other coaches and your own personality, you have the beginnings of a coaching philosophy. Warning: Do not be misled! All this is no guarantee of success. The way you implement this philosophy is equally important. It will continue to evolve through the years.

The coach should select the offense and defense he wishes to use during the season. Next, he should must break the offense and defense down into fundamental drills and procedures. Then, you must convince your players your chosen offense and defenses will help them win games.

Most of all, as the coach, you must make practices fun. When practice sessions become monotonous, players lose interest and focus. In a game, be yourself. Don't try to be a John Wooden or Bobby Knight. What is your priority? Is it to develop your athletes as people, or simply basketball players? It's OK to adopt ideas from others, but if you try to be someone you're not, your players will catch on right away and you will not be the successful as could be. 'If you try to be someone else, the best you can do is be second best."

Occasionally rules change the game somewhat. The 3-point shot is a good example; however, one is always the core of a sound coaching philosophy and that is the fundamentals of the game. They haven't changed since I was lad going on-on-one against Sam Rosebraugh in his daddy's barn-lot. 

When teaching the fundamentals, the coach must stress perfection. These should be repeated so often they become instinctive in game situations.

Balance is a prime requisite in a team offensive philosophy. Basketball is a team effort. The best shooters should take the most shots and the best rebounders should be in position when those shots are taken. The coach must put players in their proper position. The best ball handler, of course, should handle the ball most of the time. Being the team quarterback, his duties involve getting the ball to the shooter when he is in position to shoot. "If that shooter is the type who insists on taking the shot whenever he gets the ball, the quarterback must see that the good shooter does not get the ball in a poor shooting position."

Players should be allowed to take advantage of their individual skills; however, you must make certain it conforms to the overall team effort. Welfare of the team comes first. The coach must maintain a good team spirit, getting players up for each game. He must get the best from each player. Also, he must be aware of the players who need the most attention and understanding.

Coaches must use caution in his disciplinary measures; however, he must deal with such problems, should one occur during the season. He should stay on top of any situation that might cause team friction. At the first sign of conflict between players, they should be called in to talk it over. All such problems can usually be settled if they are not allowed to fester.

Be constructive with criticism. Any suggestion made to one player applies to all. Praise a player who makes an outstanding play. A player should understand that a coach wouldn't waste his breath if he did not like you. The coach usually criticizes players he plays the most.

The coach's relationship with his players is most important. One-on-one conferences with each player before, during, and after the season are worthwhile. Use these conferences to discuss his approach to the game, basketball progress, weaknesses, shortcomings, health, studies, outside problems, the player's contributions to the team, and selection of a college.

At the high school level the selection of a college is one of the most important subjects. The coach should evaluate the boy's ability and give an honest opinion of his capability. Advise him what level of competition he should seek. The player should be told that he will have to work harder, than in high school, to make a college team. 

I can think of no better example of what kind of a person makes a good basketball coach than John Wooden. That is why his books should be required reading for every PE major in the free world. 

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