Saturday, July 31, 2021

Picking Teams: Why Letting Your Players Do It Works

 It's that time of the year when players are returning from club games, your alumni are returning to college and you've got a some time to fill before Fall practices begin. We have had a lot of discussions as a staff and with other Coaches from around the country about what is the best thing for your Players during this time. The one thing that always comes up is this: "You've got to let them play." 

Most of us will agree on playing but will also agree that the weight room and skill work are important but if you ask any player why they play and if they don't try to answer to make you happy, the answer is they love to play. 

Playing the game is what got all of us involved. No one is going to say "I fell in love with basketball because of the Mikan Drill." We know the importance of drills and training but playing is why we do what we do; whether that is on the court or in the coaching box. 

With playing being the fun and focal point of this post, finding the benefit of "just playing" isn't as hard as we make it. Some Coaches want to limit time, limit score and even limit actions. Those are all great at certain times of the year, but what about before you play? What about the lessons you can teach without being the teacher? Here are the 3 reasons letting your players pick the teams helps your team.

You Find Out Who Values Friends Over Wins

"With pick number one, I pick _____." We've all seen it. You select captains and with pick one Captain A takes a friend over the best available player. This gives the Coaches an insight into what this player values most. It also shows the Coaches that winning isn't that big of a deal. Remember this. Document it. You will find that you see other instances where this player doesn't put winning about their own feelings. 

You Find Out Who Values Wins Over Friends

One of the best teams I've coached was our 2018-2019 team. They are still a close group, I'm even on a text group with some of them now, but make no mistake about it: They wanted to win. The captains selected during this tenure wanted to win. They picked their team to win, not to be friends. These guys weren't selfish, they just wanted to win. AND winning is fun. Going back to the main point: 

Playing is fun. Winning is more fun.

Guys that want to win understand that when it's game time, it's game time. They will foul their best friend to stop game point...and their best friend would be mad if they didn't foul. A captain that understands the purpose of picking teams makes managing a roster easier. 

Players find out what their Teammates Think of Them

The last pick. The reason kids are brought in from recess to talk about making everyone feel involved. Let's face it: Being picked last sucks. For everyone. At a previous stop, I had to teach/change how they played pickup. I was observing a game and a player subbed in. I asked why. I asked the score. They didn't know the score! We fixed that right then. 

When you have an odd number, someone sits out. They've got next. This seems so unfamiliar to today's players for a few reasons. The main reason is this: Most don't play unless it is scripted by an adult. Most have never went to a park by themselves or with a buddy to play pickup on a Sunday night. They've never played with someone they just met and not in the same jersey. They've never been left out. 

Being the player that goes "undrafted" is a learning experience. Ask yourself "Why did they pick him instead of me? Is it skill or attitude related?" Players go unpicked for 2 reasons: Can't help us win or I don't want them on my team. 

The benefit of this is you get to scout both teams that passed on you and pick off that team. And then you get a chance to prove yourself. 

Letting your players pick the teams is a learning experience for everyone involved. If you are allowed to watch the games, watch them. Take notes. Keep track of individual wins and player combination wins. 

Some ideas for Captains are:
2 Best Players 
2 Worst Players
2 Youngest Players
Best Friends (2 guys you know that love to play together)
2 Guys competing for the same spot

Hope this makes you think and get excited for those open gyms and pickup games. 

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Coaching Your Child: The conclusion

 In March of 2018, I had my first experience of coaching one of my sons for the final time. I reflected on what I had learned in a prior post titled "What I learned from Coaching my son". In that post, I promised to complete the story when my youngest son completed his playing career for me. 

You can read part one here.

My oldest son Hayden, who was featured in my first post, is now a junior in college and working towards a degree in education. He aspires to be a college basketball Coach and has the privilege of working for Coach Jimmy Elgas at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. 

My youngest son Evan, just completed his High School playing career on Thursday, March 11, 2021. As you all know and experienced, the preparation for the 2020-2021 season was filled so much uncertainty and fear that when we were given the go ahead to begin practice, we still never thought we would play. We ended up playing 30 games and finished with an 18-12 record.

In the previous post, The 3 things I talked about were: He isn't perfect, He has to live with the last name, He knows I love him away from the game.

I'll begin by saying this. Evan's journey was a lot different that Hayden's. I was so hard on Hayden that I never gave him a real chance because I was worried about what people would say. After finishing this season I've learned one thing for sure: If they are going to talk, they are going to talk. I was easier on Evan because of how I treated Hayden. I still coached him hard but I know I messed that up with him and if I could go back I would. 

My friend Coach Scott Bowlin use to tell me "You need to play Hayden more. It means more to him because he lives with you and knows the pressure." I wish I would have listened. Every time I tried a rebuttal Scott would say "You don't think those parents wouldn't be playing their son? You ever had a parent meeting where they came in wanting you to play someone else's kid more?" He was and is right. 

Here are the  new things I've learned in the past 4 years about coaching your child

1. You don't have to be hard on them. Other will do that . 

Your child is going to deal with stress that other players don't have to. If they are really good, it's because you favor them. If they are in the middle of the team and you play them, it's because you favor them. If they aren't any good and you keep them on the's because you favor them. A Coach's kid is expected to be the best. I don't really understand that ideology. I don't expect an English teacher's child to read at a collegiate level in the 8th grade. Your child is going to face unfair scrutiny because of your position. 

If your child starts, they are going to hear it from opposing fans. We even had a couple parents involved in that. One of the things that has made it easier is social media and hiding behind an account and keyboard. 

2. Coach's kid Perks

There are certain perks that come with being a Coach's kid. Perks like getting yelled at to come out of their bedroom to watch a clip of them making a turnover, or living with the fact their parent is always Coach in the community. 

At the current time, Evan doesn't want to coach. He has seem more of the bad side of the business than his brother did. Hayden's class was really special. I had ZERO parent meetings from that class. It was also the most successful team in our school's history.

I read this about this generation this summer and it holds true for adults too. "We are more connected now than ever and have the smallest sense of community." We have access to a lot of information without ever speaking to the source. 

Your child is going to have access to all the complaints made about you as a Coach. They are going to see how their teammates parents feels about you. A lot of that. Let's be honest, ALL of that is based on playing time. If you child plays a lot, they may feel the guilt of causing you so much headache. We had 6 seniors this season. Evan came to me about starting the other 5 on our senior night. He tried all the time to make my job easier. If he felt he was playing bad, he would ask for a sub. He didn't want to shoot despite being a career 37% shooter from 3. He felt the pressure. No other player has to worry about their parent's job with every shot they take. That's the privilege of being be Coach's kid.  

3. Your Child will learn how to separate

If you do it the right way, your child will learn to separate feelings and business. They will learn to ignore the noise and focus on what matters: the team. They will learn how to handle stress better than any other student-athlete, if you do it right. Your child never gets the benefit of their parent emailing the coach about playing time but not wanting their child to know they are doing it.

Coaching my two sons is second only to being their Dad. I know that learned about servant leadership, how to be a part of something and how to block out the negativity. We have shared laughs, tears, uncertainty, moments that we all wondered is this worth it and moments we will never forget. 

Coaching your child is going to be hard. You will be scrutinized, judged, complained about and so will your child. But it is worth it.