Even though my official title is "strength and conditioning coach," I am very much involved in a variety of capacities with boy's basketball program at Montrose Christian in Rockville, Md., which has produced two NBA players in the last six years.
I work with the team year round, attend many practices, and sit on the bench at every game. I am a part of team meetings and events and make sure I always know the pulse of our coaching staff and players.
Montrose is an internationally renowned program so I know first-hand what it takes for a program to be successful. While I certainly can't argue how helpful it is to have very talented players, I have learned it is actually the little things that make a big difference in making your program successful. It is the little things that make an average team a good team, a good team a great team, and great team a championship team!
I have the utmost respect and appreciation for basketball coaches and have been fortunate enough to have worked with some of the best in the world, at every level, from high school to the NBA. Here is a summation of many of the little things I have picked up from them along the way. If you are a coach, you need to ask yourself these 20 questions. But keep in mind, I am sure you know the answer to these questions, but do your assistant coaches and players? Are you sure you have effectively communicated these messages?
- In addition to winning a championship, does you team have other goals? What are they?
- Does each assistant and player on your team know their exact role?
- Does each assistant and player know your opinion of their strengths and weaknesses?
- Do your players know what a good shot is? Have you defined this? Does it depend on time and score?
- Does your staff prepare for practice with the same mentality that they prepare for games? Do your players? Do you prepare the same way if you are playing the worst team on your schedule as you do for the best?
- Do you truly believe that on any given night any team can beat you? Along those same lines do you truly believe that you can beat anyone?
- Are your players on top of their school work? Don't let academics be a distraction during the season.
- Are your players getting eight hours of sleep every night? They will never be able to perform up to their potential if they aren't well-rested. Do you know studies show that getting a great night's sleep two days before a big game is just as important as the night before? Do your players know this?
- Are your players eating breakfast every day? There is no way they can give 100 percent for an entire practice or game if they are running on fumes. Pancakes, waffles, bagels, cereal, oatmeal, and fruit are some fantastic high energy foods.
- Do your players eat an appropriate pre-game meal? Some studies have shown that eating a light meal (with adequate carbs and protein) 3-4 hours before a game is ideal. Do your players know this?
- Are your players drinking enough water? Their performance can decrease severely with the slightest bit of dehydration. Make sure water is readily available at all practices and games.
- Are your players tending to any nagging injuries or soreness? In most cases, ice and Advil (only taken with parental consent) can cure most minor issues. If pain persists, make sure they go see a doctor or physical therapist for a professional diagnosis.
- Do you require your players to wear ankle braces or get taped for every practice or game? It is definitely something to consider as a way of reducing devastating ankle injuries.
- Do your players get to practice 10-15 minutes early to get in some individual shooting and ball handling work? Do they stay after practice to get in additional shots and/or free throws?
- During practice, are you an energy giver? Is your enthusiasm contagious to your staff and players? It all starts with you!
- Do you recognize and reward the players who do the little things? Do your players know that taking charges, diving for loose balls, and thanking a teammate for a great pass are just as important as scoring?
- Does your team warm-up and stretch properly before all practices and games? Your team should go through a standardized warm-up before every workout, practice and game. It will make sure they are mentally and physically ready to play.
- Does your team continue to strength train during the season? Strength is an attribute that is quickly diminished. In as little as three weeks your players will begin to lose strength if they don't continue to lift weights!
- Do you know how to really motivate your team to play hard and play well? Are you sure?
- Do you treat every player the same? While there is certainly validity to another approach, you should "treat every player fairly, but not equally." Every player on your team is different and need to be handled differently!
If you can't answer "YES" to all of these questions, they you aren't doing everything you can to have your team reach their potential. You need to do the little things every day to make a big difference!
"Success always looks easy to those who weren't around when it was being earned."