Anticipate First Meeting with the Parents
It's a great idea to get all of the team parents together so that you can walk through your coaching philosophy, your plans for the year, administrative issues/opportunities, and other plans. Prepare an agenda and consider doing an icebreaker where everyone can meet one another.
Provide parents a one-page sheet that talks about team rules, player expectation and parent expectations. Included in the expectations should be a list of how to demonstrate good sportsmanship at games by applauding good play from both teams, being respectful of the referees, and not shouting out directions to your child.
The players' parents meeting is also a time to talk about transportation to and from practice, how many tournaments the team expects to compete in and how to make this season a memorable one for all the players. Remember, you may have some first-time team parents who have never been a part of a team before.
Finally, obtain emergency contact information from all parents for their children.
Be Ready for First Meeting With Your Players
In the same way that you've developed a list of parent expectations, also prepare a list of player expectations. In addition to your philosophy, be sure to include things like being on time for practice, giving it your best, working hard to improve every practice and make sure you respect your teammates, coaches, referees and the game.
Make Sure Your Staff is in Place
Even the best of head coaches need help from time to time and there's nothing like having capable assistant coaches to help you and the team. Having assistant coaches maximizes your practice time and they can also fill in for you in your absence. Make sure these are reliable people who share the same goals, love of kids, and respect for the game that you do. Assistant coaches should be an extension of you, so seek out the proper candidates and have them in place before you meet with your parents or players.
Know Who Your Team Manager Will Be
In addition to your assistant coaches, it helps to have an organized team parent to handle some of the administrative tasks associated with managing a team. This parent might help with collecting money for certain expenses, communicating with the other parents in regards to team travel to tournaments, team functions, and other tasks that may arise during a season. Make sure the lines of communications are clear with this person and be sure this team manager understands his or her role.
iHoops has a great resource to build a team webpage that allows for easy team management. Encourage your team manager to review our free iHoops basketball team website functionality on the iHoops.com homepage.
Put Together a Practice and Tournament Schedule
Depending on the youth basketball organization your team is a part of, your practice and tournament schedule might be completed already. If not, you'll have some work in identifying the tournaments you want to play in, the possible times and places for your weekly practices. With the players in place, develop a small trading card size piece that includes a list of the players names, their uniform number, parents names, and phone numbers. The flip side can have the practice schedule and tournaments you guys will be competing in with the dates.
Prepare Your Practice Schedule and Plans
Be prepared for your team before the season starts. Know what you want to teach your players and how to teach it. The fundamentals of the game should be at the top of your list regardless of what kind of talent you will have on your team. Some things will fit certain age groups and skill levels. Be smart in not trying to teach something you know your kids cannot grasp. Teaching kids how to play with effort and how to play defense are two things your team should always aspire to accomplish.
If your team plays hard, gives maximum effort, and plays hardnosed defense, you will be competitive each season. In your first few practices, those two themes should be your focus. After that you will begin to identify your teams' strengths, weaknesses and limitations offensively. Teaching team defense first, often helps with your team's offense later. Make those offensive practices fun and competitive, almost subliminally infusing a defensive principle in your team. Using competitive but aerobic work in the drills you use will not only keep your team interested, it will help get them in shape with each practice too.
Make Sure You Have Fun This Season
Basketball is a great game and team sport. One of the best experiences kids have is being a part of a team. That's not just relegated to on-the-court activities. Make sure you include some fun, team-building activities away from the court to enhance that team experience, creating memories that will never be forgotten. Examples of this could include taking a fun but educational field trip together, having a friendly competition of parents versus the players game, or a mid-season pool party and cookout. You could also simply attend a movie together or even have a themed practice a couple of times of the year where kids have to emulate their favorite pro player or everyone dresses like the 80's with the long white socks! Try a practice where the only communication on the court can be done with signals and no talking is allowed. This will be challenging but fun, and it will also have everyone concentrating and focusing more.
Remember, No Team is an Island
There are some things you want to accomplish as a team, and the satisfaction of doing it as a group is gratifying. Then there are times when you need to see the growth of your team and see how they have been responding to your coaching. What better way to do that than to scrimmage against another squad? Sometimes it pays to be accommodating to fellow coaches and their teams because there will be times when you can pool your resources together to learn from one another and also help one another out by having someone to scrimmage to see how your team will react. Sort of like a dress rehearsal. The infusion of energy will be apparent when your team gets a chance to play against another team. And don't be afraid to scrimmage against a team that may be older than your team. You will be surprised at what your players learn and what you have to work on as a coach, along with your staff.
You Need Help, Talk to Those Who Can Help
There are a lot of resources available for youth basketball coaches. Take advantage of them. You can talk to high school or college coaches in your area or attend a clinic they may have. This is the self-help age, so surf the web checking out sites devoted to youth basketball. Go to YouTube and watch a video to see how others coach certain fundamental skills or teach certain offenses or defenses. You can read any number of good books out there on basketball coaching and you can never go wrong reading anything written by one of basketball's most recognizable coaches, the legendary John Wooden. And, of course, check out iHoops.com for our own arsenal of resources for youth basketball coaches.
How Will You Communicate With Players and Parents?
Emailing parents seems to work well when you have to get some team communication out to everyone. Make sure you collect email addresses and phone numbers at your first parents meeting. When you send your first email, ask everyone to reply back to confirm correct email addresses and give them an opportunity to add any other contact information (i.e., a spouse's email or work email). Always take advantage of your time with your players, holding conversations with them before or after practices. This is also a good time to meet with parents if you give some advance notice. The iHoops Basketball Team Websites also have useful communication vehicles.