You and your players are giving it their all and adjusting your strategy to combat challenges. Unfortunately, it’s still a rough season. Failure is a natural part of basketball and basketball coaching. There is a profound frustration in falling short, and none of you want to grapple with the possibility that a playoff or tournament run is out of reach. Still, there are opportunities for your team to rally and make the most out of the situation.
By encouraging your players to focus on each game individually, use mistakes as learning experiences, stop fixating on failures, and look forward to future success, you can help your team remain optimistic during tough times.
Remind Your Players That Each Game Matters
In a game measured by overall wins and losses, it is sometimes difficult to focus on each game properly. For instance, say your team started off 5-7: not only does your team have to deal with having more losses than wins, they have to do some serious catching up to compete with the 10-2 division leader.
A change in perspective can offer your team fresh energy to compete. Encourage your players to think about the difficulty of their opponents, improvement over time, and how to win the next game instead of lumping the season together into one below-average performance.
The prospect of always playing catch-up or failing to make a post-season appearance is daunting and puts pressure on players. Instead, encourage your team to take it game by game. Focus on how to win the next game and how to handle the specific opponent, and then take it from there.
Learn From Past Mistakes
There are many reasons a season could fall short of expectations. Perhaps some games could have been won with a higher free throw percentage, or the offense could have been more effective in setting the pace if the team didn’t give up so many offensive rebounds.
Recognizing what’s going wrong is the start to turning around the season. Help your team remain positive by identifying but also offering specific solutions to the problems they encounter.
For instance, explain to your team that free throws have been a problem late in the game, but you and the other coaches will devote extra time to free throw shooting during practice. Offering your players a plan for success and an explanation for how the difficulties they encounter can contribute to future improvement creates an optimistic mood. Your team isn’t always struggling because they lack potential, they’re simply working out problems.
Avoid Fixating on Failure
Failure is a given in basketball, but one that should be viewed as a means to overcoming barriers. As basketball legend Michael Jordan said, “I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.” When players focus on the lack of their team’s post-season prospects and team losses more than the games left to be played, this is an indicator that they are losing optimism.
As a coach, part of your job is to talk to players whose attitude has become negative, and remind them that even difficult seasons have value. Training your players to refocus their energies on the game and tuck aside disappointment in order to give it all their all on the court and during practice also stops a lack of morale from spreading to other players.
Even if it becomes impossible for the team to make a playoff or tournament appearance and you realize your games are limited to the regular season, give your players the attention and energy they deserve every last game, and encourage them to give their team the same consideration.
Create a Vision of Success
Your team has had to contend with a disappointing amount of defeat. It won’t always be like this though. The standings, team performance, and individual performance are in constant flux. There will always be future chances for success.
Remind your players that failure is only temporary, and that the thrill of their success and self-improvement will be even greater considering all the barriers they overcame to get there. Your players should also understand that success is not a timeline. It does not take a set amount of seasons, games, or practices to recover. It is a gradual process that starts with the efforts of each teammate and each coach. While the effects may not be immediate, every practice and game is an opportunity to help the team get back on track.
Even very motivated teams encounter tough seasons, but that does not mean they are without potential. Rather, it is how those teams encounter those rough periods and stay optimistic that determines their ongoing prospects. With basketball coaching, giving each game consideration, adjusting to mistakes, avoiding a fixation on failure, and envisioning success are all powerful tools to recover from a rough season.
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