February 25, 2020 • From the BenchWinning Hoops

9 effective teaching methods for coaches

by Chris Wellman, contributing writer

Productive coaches spend 75% of their time teaching the sport to their players and the other 25% of the time coaching. With younger athletes, this gap increases with teaching becoming more important.

Baylor basketball coach teaching
Photo: U.S. Army

The problem is that many coaches don’t understand how to teach athletics effectively. Plus, some coaches don’t take the time to grasp how athletes learn. Follow these 10 points to become a better teacher and coach.

1. Understanding your passion for basketball first. Before jumping into coaching, coaches first must understand their passion for the game. Having a high level of passion for basketball tremendously influences your energy, creativity and ability to motivate players. Passion is contagious. If one player, one assistant coach, or you come to practice excited and fired up, that emotion and passion easily is passed onto every other member of the team.

2. Setting the stage for teaching. Prior to the first practice, meet with your athletes and explain your role as a coach and teacher of basketball. Let them know your purpose is to help improve their athletic skills. Impress upon them that you care about them as people and that you are concerned about their lives even beyond athletics. Feeling cared about makes a player more coachable — effort and concentration increases. If you care enough about them, they’ll walk through walls for you.

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Part of you caring is to work through players’ mistakes. Tell them mistakes are part of the learning process and the only true mistakes are ones of lack of effort or concentration — both of which easily are corrected.

3. The importance of “why.” Don’t assume players know why you’re asking them to practice a certain technique or to perform a skill drill. Explain how everything has a positive effect on their ability to play. Be as detailed as possible.

4. Fundamentals first, then complex. Know the fundamentals of the sport you teach. This enables you to design practices for your players’ appropriate skill levels. It also becomes easier to assist an athlete who cannot perform a certain skill. After grasping the fundamentals, players move on to practice drills focusing on more than one skill at a time. Don’t expect to teach complex basketball skills to players who have not mastered the basics.

5. Use the whole-part method. Often it’s necessary to teach skills in parts or steps. Once again, in-depth knowledge of fundamentals gives you an advantage. Teaching a skill in part keeps the player motivated because he or she is forming a mental checklist for performing the skill correctly.

Moving from one step to the next puts the focus on progress, which allows you to praise the player for grasping a skill and working with the player in areas that need more practice. A good barometer to know if a player is mastering a certain skill is to see if that player is teaching the skill to another teammate.

6. Effective motivation. Find something positive to say to every athlete at every practice. This satisfies the athlete’s need for attention, recognition and appreciation. Be specific with your praise — specific praise is used to reinforce the “why” of practice. Always attempt to find more positives than negatives, while constantly praising effort.

7. The hoopla of success. When an athlete or team finally masters a skill or concept, don’t hesitate to stop practice momentarily to recognize the achievement. Praise their effort and remind your players why mastery of the skill is so critical.

8. Model what you preach. Most coaches talk to players about certain values and characteristics they hope to see in them. Coaches really are the best positive role models for these values. When stressing good sportsmanship, coach with honor, respect for the game, officials, etc. When stressing tenacity, never give up on yourself with your athletes. And, when stressing organization, conduct practices that are structured.

Players look to you for guidance, so don’t say one thing and do the opposite.

9. Encourage crossover athletes. Coaches who are overzealous sometimes encourage their athletes to play only basketball on a year-round basis. This can lead to overuse injuries and burnout. Participating in other sports improves the way your athletes play basketball. The movements and skills required for many sports are similar. Consider the footwork necessary for soccer and basketball are almost identical.

Productive coaching is highly dependent on the coach’s ability to teach basketball. Teaching isn’t just blowing a whistle, barking out orders and heading home after a couple of hours. Being a good teacher takes time, effort, practice, patience and a passion to make a difference in the lives of your players.