2 Coaching Mistakes You May Be Making

"A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment." -- Legendary coach John Wooden

4th Quarter Training was created because of the lack of basketball skill development I witnessed at the high school level over the last eight years. On numerous occasions, I'd watch a talented freshman (girls and boys) mature into a senior all-conference selection with very little basketball skill development. For the casual observer, they'd see the mirage that they considered improvement.

However, under the microscope and with a careful eye, you'd see nine times out of 10, their improvement was primarily due to physical maturity. Instead of becoming a better basketball player from a skill standpoint, the player became bigger, stronger, and faster. Thus, they appeared to improve on the basketball court.

If you really watched them over the years, you'd actually see their skills (dribbling, shooting, and passing) actually didn't improve at all. In fact, many times, their skills would get worse. The increase in physical maturity hid that important fact.

Although not the coach's fault (they have 12 players to worry about, limited practice time, and plays/defenses to work on), there are two errors I commonly see coaches and parents make when they're trying to improve a player's basketball skills.

Mistaking Yelling for Teaching

Coach Wooden just may be the greatest teacher of all time. He also just so happens to be the greatest coach of all time too. Rarely would he criticize his players during practice. It was also rare that he would praise his players during practice. He spent 99 percent of his time teaching his players.

His instructions were short and sweet. In fact, he even had a teaching method named after him—a "Woodenism." Coach Wooden was notorious for showing a player the correct way to do something, then showing the player how he was doing it, and then showing him the correct way again.

Too often coaches spend most of their time yelling at players. They forget the "constructive" part of criticism. Thus, player development stalls, and the only thing that comes out of it is resentment for the coach. Teach. Don't preach. Don't yell. Teach.

I constantly find myself struggling with this. I'll often catch myself saying something like "That's horrible form." or "Ugly. Ugly. Ugly." How does that help a player other than ruin his confidence? Instead I should have pointed out the mistake and helped him find a solution.

Side note: For my younger players, I give them the answer. For the older players, I help lead them to the answer, which is critical to the learning process. Eventually, they're going to have to coach themselves at some point. I can't be with them every time they practice shooting. It's the "teach a man to fish" philosophy.

Establishing If-Then Scenarios

And this is my biggest complaint with summer basketball, and really halts player development. Time and time again, behavioral studies have shown that "if-then" scenarios are detrimental to creativity and long-term development. Give a student a creative task and offer them payment for completing it, and the only thing you'll get is lack of creativity. Give a manager a big bonus for quarterly goals, and they'll focus on short-term success instead of long-term health.

If a coach, during summer league gives the team the impression that "IF they make a turnover, THEN they will be benched," creativity and development will be suppressed. Fear of sitting will overshadow the opportunity for growth.

Watch Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade, or Kobe Bryant. Watch their moves. It's honestly poetry in motion. Why would you want younger players to not try those moves? You don't think those players failed at those moves hundreds if not thousands of times on the playground? If they were always being constrained by their coach, do you think they would have taken the chance to develop those moves? Probably not.

I'm a firm believer in meeting with the players at the end of the season, discussing their strengths and weaknesses, and giving them a list of things to work on over the spring. And then when summer basketball starts, I'd meet with them again and remind them of the areas they need to focus on, and roll the ball out there and let them play. No constraint. No if-thens. Play. Create. Develop.

Are you making those same mistakes with your basketball players?

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