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Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Winning Versus Development in Youth Basketball: Cognitive Dissonance

"Winning isn't everything; it's the only thing." - Vince Lombardi

“A champion needs a motivation above and beyond winning.” - Pat Riley

Everyone likes to win. But as a youth coach, should I choose winning over development, justice, and context? Winning at any cost contradicts accountable youth coaching. It defines cognitive dissonance. 

Rule 1. Relationships matter. Teammates matter. Everyone can't be a great player. Everyone can be a great teammate. But relationships extend among coaches and between coaches and players. Opportunity injustice harms these relationships. Does the 'first' player on your team see you the same as the 'last'? 

Rule 2. The game is for the players. We need an overarching philosophy. I facilitate the play. Draw the lines on the paper and players write the story. Do you want to watch robots play? Go to a game and watch a middle school coach call out fifty different plays. You've seen it. 

Rule 3. Kids need to learn how to playCoach Mike Krzyzewski notes, "the game is about making plays not running plays." Once that happened far from adults at the asphalt jungle. We have "car athletes" who play when an adult drives them somewhere. It's not universally safe for children to go to the park. We live that sad reality. 

Rule 4"Never be a child's last coach." Make it fun. I love practice. If the players don't enjoy practice, they should find other ways to invest their time. 

Rule 5. Ego is the enemy. Are we building a statue or a program? You will win more with a shorter roster, unequal playing time, multiple defenses including zones, and getting more opportunities (shots) for your best players.  French football manager Arsene Wenger remarked, At a young age winning is not the most important thing… the important thing is to develop creative and skilled players with good confidence.”

Rule 6. How you play is how you live. Good players want coaching. Coaching includes constructive criticism (be demanding, not demeaning), motivation, and balanced feedback. "Catch people doing the right things." As a player, what is your purpose? An exemplary player gives outstanding effort at home, at school, and on the court. Don't let praise or criticism inform your self worth. 

Rule 7. Basketball is eighty percent mental. Concentrate. Study. Learn as much as you can. Use the resources available from coaches, teachers, mentors, fellow players, and the Internet to see the game

Rule 8. The parents are the parents. Coaches share our experience, teaching basketball and life lessons. But we recognize boundaries that parents own. 

Rule 9. Success and winning aren't equivalent. Sometimes you play well and lose on the scoreboard. Sometimes you play poorly and win. Playing well with your best effort and best decisions is the goal. Never let a score define you. 

Rule 10. Love your losses. "Experience is the best teacher, but sometimes the tuition is high." Failure and disappointment come to all of us. Adversity is our companion on life's journey. Learn from struggles, but don't struggle to learn. 


We need to finish better and play tougher with the ball. 

BBallBreakdown shares ideas about finishing tough off two feet. I'm reluctant to create adult-initiated contact that could result in injury with our players.  

Note how often the players finish with shoulders parallel to the backboard (not squared to the rim) to protect the ball with the body. If you want to score inside, then you need to train to specific skills. 

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