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.
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.