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Friday, December 7, 2018

Basketball: Coaches and Parents

"There's only you and me and we just disagree." - Dave Mason

I do NOT have all the answers...not by a long shot. During my life, parents have become far more involved in many aspects of children's development, particularly sports. As a youth basketball coach, I can't make everyone happy. Add the balancing act between development and winning and problems are certain. But I'm fortunate to have worked with terrific families over a long time, developing enduring relationships. 

It's not all sunshine and roses. In 1991, the Texas Cheerleader Mom hired a hit man to assassinate her daughter's rival's mother. The plot was revealed. She was ultimately convicted (in a second trial) and sentenced to ten years but was released in six months

I presume the Prime Directive. Every parent wants what is best for their child. Don Meyer said, "a parent wants their child to be All-State rather than their team to win a state championship." Can we fault parents for wanting what's best for their child? 

This imposes a natural conflict between coach (what is best for the team?) and parents (what is best for our child?). 

Years ago, Steve Harrington, a multi-state championship winning basketball coach at Watertown High (MA), confided that he received a cellphone call FIVE minutes into the season from a parent asking why his son wasn't playing. He doesn't keep the phone on during games anymore. 

Elite coaches like Braintree's Kristen McDonnell are not immune from parent criticism. “Some of them just aren’t happy unless their daughter is playing a central role on the court. There was discontent with the girls playing time, attention one would get as the star of the team, and awards that were given.” Ego is the enemy

Each coach sets guidelines, borrows good ideas, and builds policy. I offer these:

1. Be transparent. Explain your philosophy (goals, playing time, role of development versus winning), desired culture and identity. I coach girls and invite parents to watch practice (almost nobody does) and attend pre- and post-game reviews. If Susie says she learns nothing, Susie's folks are welcome to watch practice and judge for themselves. 

2. "It's YOUR team." Be accountable to your teammates. Everyone won't become a great player, but everyone can be a great teammate. If a program doesn't win, but has a great culture that kids enjoy, what's wrong with that? 

3. Clarify priorities. Family, school, basketball. This isn't professional basketball. 

4. Teach. If our child isn't a great basketball player or violinist, we haven't failed parenting. I want young girls to hear stories of successful women and men - Frances Perkins (first woman cabinet secretary), Ida B. Wells-Barnett (anti-lynching journalist), Malala (girls' education advocate), Arlene Blum (mountaineer adventurer), Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain (Bowdoin professor turned Civil War hero), Richard Feynman (physicist, teacher, Nobel prize winner). 

Young players need to learn how to play, not just to run plays. 

5. Set clear boundaries. Encourage players to ask how they can help the team succeed. But have a Chinese Wall about discussing teammates' status or playing time.  

6. Respect the game. Respect the officials, coaches, opponents, and teammates. We won't agree on everything, but disagree without being disagreeable

7. Sportsmanship matters. Be humble in victory and gracious in defeat. We can play poorly and win or play well and lose. We cannot always control the outcome, but we control the 'response window' in how we react. 

8. Communicate. I email (and occasionally text) with parents. Only rarely do I get an email from a player, "I'll be late for practice because of chorus." My reply is, "No worries." Listening attentively won't fix every issue, but it won't hurt. 

Dan Brown Teaches Thriller Writing,

9. "Invest time don't spend it." Respect the time and energy of others. Be punctual, prepared, and operate at an efficient, purposeful tempo. Leave out drills that don't teach or simulate the game. Condition within drills. Advance your story. "Make the big time where you are." When we model a thorough process, players will create their own. 

10.Never be a child's last coach. Be demanding without being demeaning. There's no reason to have a crabs in a bucket mentality. If the top players like us and the reserves can't stand us, there's a problem. 

Respect the players, bring energy, and be consistent. 

Lagniappe 1. (see The Ringer) "And in a versatile league that leans on pace-and-space, there’s no better way to accomplish rim penetration and find open 3-point shooters than to run the pick-and-roll." 

Lou Williams:
- big drops, look for shot
- blitz, looks to split
- shooting big, take laterally and reverse

Lagniappe 2. Horns Revisited, Celtics' Triple

High post entry with ball screen into a lob. 

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