Coach's Guide: The Coach's Troubleshooting Guide


It doesn’t make sense to have a long list of rules. The best coaches make a few rules stand out. For example, be on time for all games and practices. If a player can’t be there, they must call several days prior to the game or practice. Let the team know you expect them to behave in a sportsmanlike manner at all times. And let them know that if they don’t hustle, you will assume that they are tired and substitute for them.

If a youngster does misbehave during a practice or a game, simply let him or her watch the others play. Let players know they will not play again until they understand and adhere to your rules.

The Ballhog

Especially on younger teams, there is occasionally the one player who likes to control the ball and take all the shots. If you sense this happening, have a chat with the youngster. Explain to the player: “You know, John, you’re a terrific ballhandler on this team. And you have a real good shot. But as good as you are at dribbling and shooting, if you could master the art of finding — and passing — to an open teammate, we would be a better team. Do you think you could do that?” This approach recognizes and acknowledges the player’s talent, but it also suggests the fact that in basketball the team comes first.

Running Up the Score

Occasionally, your team may be having such a great day that the other team just can’t keep up. Well before the end of the game, it’s clear that your team is going to win — and win big. Do you allow your kids to keep running up the score? No, that’s not good sportsmanship. Imagine how you would feel if you were coaching the opposing team — or if your son or daughter were on that team.

Instead, call a time out, and tell your team to pass the ball at least 5 or 6 times before a shot is taken. You still want them to work hard, but you want them to work hard on their passing skills.


Ask parents for a list of days in which their son or daughter will not be able to make a game(s) because of family vacation plans. This will help immensely as you put together a schedule. Even better, you won't get caught short of players before a game because you didn’t know who was going to be gone.


You have the right to expect players to be on time for practices and games. If one of your players has a consistent problem with tardiness, ask why he or she is always late. If the player doesn’t have a good reason, then call the parents. Explain to the parent that unless they can get their son or daughter to practices and the games on time, then you’ll have no choice but diminish the their playing time. After all, it’s not fair to the other kids who show up on time. This may sound harsh, but it’s a basic lesson of team responsibility.

Pushy Parents

What do you do when a parent wants to give you a piece of his or her mind? First, let them have their say. Give them 10 minutes of uninterrupted time to speak. Don’t say anything – just let them get it out of their system.

But after 10 minutes, look them in the eye, thank them for their feedback, and tell them you will think about their suggestions and comments.

Here’s another thought: If you have a parent who thinks that he or she could coach better that you, that’s easy. Just ask them to become an assistant coach. The invitation will surprise them – and probably get them to back off. Who knows — maybe they will have something to offer as your assistant.

Losing Games

What do you do if your team isn’t winning games? A losing season is definitely more challenging for a coach. But it’s your job to be the team’s top cheerleader. You must remain upbeat and positive. Find something the team did well and praise them for the effort. Let them know they are collectively making progress, and that even though they may have lost today, they’re skills are improving.

One other note about losing: Always remember that while young players don’t like to lose, they do tend to bounce back a lot quicker from a defeat than parents.

Pre-Game Jitters

Young players can become so nervous and anxious before a big game that they seem to become frozen in place at the opening tip-off. Before you know it, the other team has raced out to a big lead and your players are just beginning to regain their poise.

Be careful not to become the source of pre-game anxiety. Sometimes it’s the coach who gets so nervous before games that he or she influences the behavior of the kids. Do yourself — and your team — a favor. Before the game, wear a smile. Look like you’re relaxed. Tell some jokes. And don’t worry about players not being pumped up for the game. If anything, they will be more than ready.

Schedule Conflicts

Some players might participate on different sports teams or take part in other activities during the basketball season creating occasional conflicts. You can remain patient and flexible with these conflicts — so long as the player’s parents tell you ahead of time there are going to be scheduling problems. Most of the friction from these conflicts happen when the coach doesn’t find out until the day of the practice or the game that there is a conflict. That’s not fair to anyone.

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