Basketball is a thrilling game that demands intense focus and effort. While players learn to give their all and develop their motivation as they train and receive basketball coaching, sometimes devoting all their energy to the game is harder than it seems. Players aren’t just battling the other team: they are battling to prove themselves. This is difficult when there are personal barriers that conflict with their ability to play. As a coach, one of the most important and personal tasks you have is to show understanding and support to your players in helping them overcome problems that distract from the game.
Some of these special considerations include: injury and recovery, confidence, and academics.
Injury and Recovery
Injury is a double-edged sword, because it takes not only a physical toll, but a mental toll as well. For a player, watching their team play without them is an intensely frustrating experience. They are ready to lend their abilities to the team, but aren’t physically there. As a coach, it’s important to establish that players do not lose their value following an injury. They are still a part of the team, and their recovery process brings them closer to returning every day. They can still show up with the team and offer advice and encouragement.
Once a player returns from an injury, particularly a serious one, it is normal for them to question their abilities. Will they ever be as good as they were before? Might they re-aggravate the injury? While it’s important not to push your players past their limits, basketball is a sport that allows for incredible resilience. Determined players can and have come back from injuries and returned to their original abilities and better. While certain injuries make playing infeasible, it is important that players do not fall short of their potential for fear of injury. Understand the uncertainty that comes with recovery, but emphasize to your players that an indomitable attitude and bravery in pursuit of the game can help restore players to their full mental and physical potential.
Sadly, sometimes injuries can be career ending. In the situation that you encounter such an injury, show your player your full gratitude and compassion. They have given themselves to a sport they can no longer play. It’s important to remember though, a passion such as basketball will always be a part of them, and they can always find passion and strength in themselves.
Confidence is key to the game. A case of the nerves can undermine everything the team has worked for. Basketball is a game of pressure, and stress is a normal factor, but players also learn to let go of the stress and the importance of the moment and make well thought-out, smart decisions.
First, coaches play an important role in identifying when a player struggles with confidence. Players are often reluctant to admit when they are shaken in a game, as they don’t want to appear weak in front of their coaches and fellow players. Fortunately, confidence can be grown. Encourage players with a case of the nerves to relax and focus, and give them the encouragement they need to believe in themselves. Correct their mistakes without making them feel inferior.
Confidence also comes from the team dynamic. One of the best ways you as a coach can build confidence in your players is by creating unity among teammates and making sure everyone is looking out for each other.
For high school and college basketball players, school isn’t just an opportunity to join the team and play with fellow students, it’s also an academic commitment. Juggling schoolwork and basketball can be difficult, and there are athletic consequences for players who fail classes.
As much as players want to focus on the game, stress that they cannot do this if they are failing classes. During their time in practice and in games, when the focus is basketball, encourage them to give their all to the game. But let your players know that there will always be time off the court, and that there is a separate place in their lives as students to pursue their studies. The two commitments don’t have to conflict: students can engage in both basketball and school separately and with full effort. Tutors and after-school meetings with teachers can also go a long way. Many schools offer an incredible opportunity through the chance to join a basketball team, benefit from basketball coaching, and the school’s facilities and resources. This also includes academic resources available to students.
Basketball is a tremendous sport that involves great focus. However, it’s hard for players to fully develop their game when issues regarding injuries, academics, and confidence persist. These barriers to success are often intensely personal and require tremendous compassion and understanding from coaches. Once these issues are taken care of, a player’s basketball potential is maximized.
Want to become a better coach? Remember these 4 words every day: