Have you ever looked at a basketball program and said, "I can't wait to have that type of success"? I know I have done this once or twice. I don't do this because my program isn't successful, I do this because I know a good coach and a good program when I see one and I want to know how I can improve as a coach so my program and team can be looked at in the same manner.
Like spectators in the stands we sometimes view coaches and the teams from a distance and start believing things such as, "the only reason they win is because they have good players" or "everyone could win with talent like that." These comments are half truths. It is true that a team needs good players to win games, it's also true that poor coaching will dwarf the talent and leave them falling short of their potential. I once saw a team go 10-0 in the first half of their varsity season to go 0-10 in the second half of the season. Did the other teams get that much better? Did the players suddenly become horrible? Or, was the coach not very good? Talent will only take you so far.
As coaches we need to be viewing these talented teams and solid programs who win year after year and start asking ourselves, "how do they do that?" At this point we can start to mimic and recreate the systems and programs they have built so we can experience consistent success with our team and program in the future.
I'd like to share with you some of the out of season program building strategies I've put in place as a way to keep my team and program on top. I'll also share with you some of the ways I divide up responsibilities so you don't get burned out or cause extra stress on yourself and your family while you balance the whole work, family, coaching life.
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Out of Season Events
- Summer Team Camps
- Summer Leagues
- Summer Youth Camps
- Open Gyms
- Player Workouts
- Team / Program Building
- Meeting With Administration
- Coaches Meetings
- Coaching Clinics
Depending on what level you coach you may be able to cross a couple of these items off the list, but most likely there will be several that are still hang on no matter what level you coach.
Knowing that coaches put a lot of time into the season I try to make the off-season time commitment manageable for everyone while still moving my team and program forward. Here a few ways I do this.
Summer Team Camp
Team camp is a blast for the players and the coaches. It’s a great way to see what you have to work with in the upcoming season as well. Knowing how important this time is I like to have my freshman, jv and varsity teams all compete in the summer. I schedule my freshman team for at least one team camp, my j.v. team for two team camps, and my varsity for three team camps.
Another way I balance my time with team camps is I host my own Bulldog Shootout. This saves me from having to travel, stay the night, collect players money, etc. The j.v. and varsity kids are asked to help set-up, clean-up, and work the two day event. I also allow my assistant coach to coach at this event so I can make sure everything is run smooth and things are taken care of asap if something comes up.
As a way to not overload myself or my coaches I reached out to another area coach to host a freshman team camp. The coach was excited to put on the team camp and our freshman only travel 15-20 minutes to participate in the event.
Only the varsity team competes in a summer league. If I need an extra player one week due to baseball or football camps, I will ask a j.v. kid to help out, but I typically have enough players each week. I also work with my lower level coaches to cover the games. Since we all run the same system it is easy to have one of them step in if I am out of town on vacation or have other commitments with my family.
The life blood of any solid program is the youth program. Part of this program are the summer camps run once school is out. (Sometimes these are run over Christmas Break as well.)
In our youth camps I have my j.v. coach run the lower elementary kids portion and I run the upper elementary, middle school, and high school camps. Here is how we break down the camp ages:
1st/2nd (j.v. coach)
3rd/4th (j.v. coach)
5th-8th (varsity coach)
9th-12th (varsity coach)
I have my high school players work the kids camps. This helps me organize the camp the way I want it to be run, allows the older players to interact with the lower level kids and it reinforces all of the fundamental areas I want my players to be solid in performing.
I’ve also had former players come back to help run camp and had lower level coaches come in to help out as well. The camp is not an ego thing for me, I do have a format I want followed and skills I want to be taught, but it mainly comes down to me having the time available and interest in running the camps.
Open Gym / Player Workouts
Open gym and player workouts are important to helping your players get rid of bad habits and teaching them what they need to workout on their own. You heard me right, on their own. If a player only works out when they are in the gym with the coach they won’t improve as much as they could. I use my player workouts to get back to the basics and talk to the player about what they need to do before I see them at the next workout.
In terms of time commitment I don’t have time to work with every player in my program. For this reason I ask that my freshman and j.v. coaches pick one night a week and to hold three 40 minutes workout sessions. With each of us choosing one night we don’t have to be in the gym all the time. We allow players to sign-up online using a google sheet. The workout are first come first serve and once we have four players signed up the time slot is full.
Open gyms are done on a revolving schedule with the coaches. We all work together to cover the open gym but it doesn’t fall on any one person to be at every open gym. As the head of the program, I am at more of them then the other coaches, but we rotate and cover for each other so if I am gone the open gym isn’t cancelled and vice versa for the other coaches as well.
Minimizing the time commitment.
Balancing your time between coaching, family, work, and other things you enjoy doing is important. It's important for a coach to have time away from the gym and to reflect on what they've done and what they want to do with their team. A coach also has to realize that others, specifically, their families don't have the same passion for being in the gym or scheduling their lives around what basketball event is going on. The earlier you can recognize that your family needs you to detach from basketball the happier and more supportive they will be when coaching needs extra attention.
So how do you balance your commitments and your time? Here are three quick strategies to keep in mind.
1. Use your assistants and lower level coaches to hold open gyms and player workouts. I've gone as far as assigning that area to one person to oversee. If a coach is ready and willing to take on an extra assignment use this as a mentoring experience to grow them as a coach.
2. Schedule events in advance. If you know when your kids camps, team camps, and open gyms will be get them on a calendar and talk to your coaches about balancing everyones time. If you give them some advanced notice everyone can help out without feeling burdened. It's when you bring things up the week before that people tend to annoyed and have conflicts with their schedules.
3. Give yourself permission for downtime. There is not rule that says you have to hold a certain number of open gyms or put in a certain number of hours doing player workouts. You'll find you're ready to get back in the gym after a couple of weeks off and your family will be more supportive of you coaching as well.