Make leadership development part of your coaching program and you will help athletes on and off the court. Coaches can impart lessons beyond basketball.

Model the Way

First of all, coaches must model every behaviour they expect to see from the student-athletes who play on the teams that they coach (that’s a cumbersome sentence but it’s necessary to give players the respect they deserve – they are not my players). Fitness, nutrition, communication, respect, and mental training are all part of the coaching job description.

That may seem to be a tall order but the benefits from the self-improvement coaches will experience make it worthwhile. The benefits multiply when coaches see players incorporate those positive actions into their lives.

Develop Coach Leadership

Coach Bourgase feels strongly that the team belongs to the players. No coach can snap their fingers and create a win; it’s the players who must do the work in the off-season, push each other in practice, and make shots in games when it counts. The coaches must seek constant feedback from the team to ensure that their leadership style is reaching the players.

This does not mean that the players control the team. The coach wins all conflicts. There is also a key difference between listening to someone and getting their feedback, compared to agreeing with that person and acting on the feedback. The central question that the coaches must always ask is: “How can I be a better leader for you?” Another key question that all coaches should ask themselves is: “Are we doing it this way because it’s the way we’ve always done it or because it’s the best way to do it?” Players, assistants, and colleagues can be key assets to help you find the best way.

The coaching staff should attend coaching courses, clinics, or other seminars to increase their skills. Resources should be made available (if possible) to assist the coaches with course fees or to purchase books and DVDs to build a resource library. Visit the Coaches Association of Ontario or eBay to learn more.

Enable Player Leadership

There are many ways to provide leadership opportunities for players. This begins in individual meetings or one-on-one exchanges outside of practice where coaches should encourage the players to take initiative and express confidence in their abilities. Here are some other ideas to promote player leadership.

During Practice

  • Players can call, create, or organize their own offenses and defenses during scrimmages
  • Players referees during competitions offers a change of pace
  • Leadership/teamwork exercises, such as co-operative games, can be used as mental sets
  • Players lead stretching or warm-up exercises
  • Players or groups of players can plan drills, parts of practice, or the entire practice
  • Skilled players help those who need improve by demonstrating correct technique

During Games

  • Give the players three minutes to themselves after the pre-game meeting, before taking the court for warm-ups
  • Allow players to speak up during the huddles or on the bench and provide constructive criticism
  • Use foul line huddles during pauses
  • Players control the warm-up activities
  • Speak with the players about officiating, so they can take active roles and interact with the referees during the game

Off the Court

  • Make players responsible for travel, fundraising, and other team activities
  • Permit players to assume leadership roles outside of practice
    • Players could miss a practice if they have another activity that is important to them
    • The players still owe the team that time, so they must make it up during an individual or group workout
    • The request should be made ahead of time and the player should explain the significance of the alternate activity to the coach or the rest of the team
  • Encourage players to coach younger teams and attend coaching or first aid courses