In your job as a basketball coach you have to deal with a lot of different people. Other coaches, players, officials, parents, … all these people require your attention from time to time. I like it, because being a coach there are different kind of interesting individuals you can meet day in and day out. Knowing how to deal with them is very important for your job. Coaching is all about managing and motivating people.

Today I would like to share some thoughts with you on how to manage the players in your team effectively. Success and failure go hand-in-hand and often are tight-knit together, and what seperates a good from a great team are sacrifices made by the individual members for the sake of the team.

Great teams work hard together to achieve their defined goals, and just like John Wooden once said, it needs five fingers to form a strong fist. Bringing individuals together can be a hard task and I’ve learned from experience, that managing people is more an art than something you can read in books. This art is heavily influenced by your personal style when dealing with others and your commitment towards the “whole” or “the big picture.”

When starting your coaching career you then, more or less, become a manager of people, respectively, your players. It take some time, but you will find your role and fit in it well, if you like working with others. Just start doing it! My most fundamental advice is try to be a leader, not necessarily a coach, and always keep inspiring and motivating those you supervise. You will then be on the right track!

Below are some thoughts with you to help manage your players.

Clear Communication
When managing people, you should know how to clearly communicate. Not always will your players know what you are expecting from them, so sharing your thoughts and ideas at the right time will help your team to reach their full potential. Use simple, plain and unambigious language and whenever possible put your goals in writing. This will make it measurable and binding for you and your players.

Present your thoughts and opinions persuasively and where it is reasonable, involve your team into the decision making. Consider and point out valuable arguments brought up by your players and evaluate them throughly.

Know what your players expect from you as well and address issues immediately and clearly. When things go wrong, quite often miscommunication is one of the main causes. Keep it simple stupid and don’t let it happen to you.

Knowing individual strength
If you would like to be a good coach, you should know the strength of those you are working with. It is your responsibility to find ways to utilise and benefit from the talent in your team. As an idea, have a look at your players and experiment with them when conducting scrimmages. Put your players in different positions and watch them closely.


  • Who can shoot well and in which situation/position?
  • Who is quick and has a great drive to the basket?
  • Who is a remarkable defender, rebounder, etc.?


You get the point: Watch your players, put them into certain situations and you’ll notice their strengths.
From time to time I hear about coaches complaining about losing because of lack of talent in their teams. I am sure that talent can help you in winning games, but I think, that you need much more than that. It takes determination and hard work, too.

I know, that trying your best may not win you any games, but I would rather work with players that have less talent, but the heart and will to work their butts off, instead of players relying on their talent only.

Getting along with your players
Recognizing the individual player is important, but recognizing the whole team is very important! When a player excels in a game and really does a good job, give him credit, but don’t forget to mention the importance of the team in whole. There will always be players which will have a “great day” and those who aren’t reaching their full potential. Good teams compensate for bad individual performance, so it is the team effort, that largely decides whether you win or you lose.

Let your players know, that they are appreciated and congratulate them for a great game they’ve had. This will help raising the morale among the team members.

Treat your players and staff friendly and professional at all times. I usually take my team out for a little snack or drinks once or twice per season. From time to time I also invite all of them to my place for watching DVDs and having a pizza. This helps in strenghtening the bond between the team members.

From my own experience I know, that it is hard to treat all players equally. There will always be players which you like more than others. Let’s face it … this humane. Still, you must not have favourites in your team! This will be a big problem in the long run as you will lose your credibility as a coach. Don’t let your personal feelings hinder you from evaluating player performance. Try your best to treat everyone equally and fair at all times.

If you have a problem wsith one of your players, you should address it right away. Let your player know, what he did wrong by using the sandwich method: Put the negative between two positive things and discuss on how to correct the situation. It is always important to end the conversation with something positive!

Set a positive environment
Players will make mistakes, even the most talented in your team. As coach it is important that you are a role model at all times, so when mistakes happen, don’t lose your temper. Try to correct the mistakes patiently but firmly.

Let your players understand what went wrong and make it a great learning experience for both you and the team. Try to focus on the solutions and don’t emphasize the problems. Players will disappoint you, but remember that you are not perfect either.

You should always expect the best effort from your players, and if things don’t go well in your team, don’t bring everyone down with a negative attitude or by making disparaging comments. Try to use constructive criticism and make sure to look at the positive things going on or that have been accomplished so far. Let them know, that doing mistakes is part of the game. Be creative and try to find ways to encourage your players.

Being a coach you have a lot of influence to make a positive difference in many areas of your players lifes. Be a role model on and off the court, but don’t take yourself too seriously and use a good portion of humor. This will help you build and keep a healthy relationship to your players even past your coaching relationship, and let them have fun at the same time.

[info_box]Picture credit: Orange County ArchivesCreative Commons Attribution[/info_box]