Travel ball reflections

Travel ball reflections: 6 coaching tips

Last week, we finished our travel season, and I could not be happier with the effort and performance of the 12u Charlotte Warriors. Ten young men bought into this old guy’s belief in team basketball. They played hard, smart and together! I am certain my former coach, Dean Smith, would have enjoyed watching them play a scramble defense with a complete, selfless attitude on offense. The longer I do this, the more I am certain the values Coach Smith taught are principles for life!

The season is spread over several months, and we are exposed to many different teams, players, coaches and parents. However, the best exposure I had was watching a former player coach his team.

Jeff Coble was on the very first team I coached in the AAU/travel circuit. He was an athletic 12-year-old who could shoot. Jeff went on to become an All-State player in high school and then a Division I player at UNC Asheville. He now coaches his son as an eighth grader for PSB Select. Watching Jeff’s talented team play hard brought me a sense of pride. Coaching my own team provided me the best moments of the season. However, a close second was watching Jeff lead and instill the right way to play with his young men!

6 coaching tips based on this season’s reflections:

  1. Put more emphasis on shooting accuracy. I am beginning to think only Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are the only two guys who can shoot today. Shooting (putting the ball in the basket) has become a lost art. I hope the exposure the “splash brothers” receive is used to get kids to focus on the fundamentals of shooting, not how far out you throw it at the rim. They both have the fundamentals that everyone should strive to attain.
  2. There are three essentials to winning during travel ball season: (1) Take care of the ball, (2) make your free throws and (3) make your layups. Actually, this formula works at every level!
  3. Keep calm. I still don’t understand why coaches continue to scream at their players. Correcting a player is essential. Sometimes a coach needs to “get on a player”, but he/she should never embarrass that young person in front of his family and friends.
  4. Too much defense is played passively. As coaches, we need to get our players to be active. Creating havoc is not only good exercise, it can lead to easy baskets!
  5. Stop blaming the refs. Coaches need to help their players understand that the referee is not the problem. Of course, they are not perfect, neither are we as coaches or players.
  6. Encourage better behavior from players’ parents. Parents or fans who holler at the opposing players as they shoot free throws in a 12u game have some issues I am not qualified to deal with. Thankfully, this was not a common problem during the season!

The game of basketball has not really changed over the 50+ years I have been around it. The expectations have changed. Too much time is spent in games. Practice and the fundamentals seem to be something of a distant past. Luckily for me, I had young men who are being taught by their parents the right way to play and behave. They were a joy to coach and I can only hope someday I will be able to watch them coach their team with the same pride I had watching Jeff Coble coach his.