We are into our season with a tournament last Saturday (surprisingly well played), a game Tuesday (a meh kind of game), and last night (a “have you played before” kind of game). The above is said with a great deal of sarcasm because I love coaching like I love teaching. I get a little gruff and grumbly about things, but I cannot imagine a life without it. However, as I watch other teams, and listen to my sixth graders talk, I’ve got some questions for youth coaches:

Why coach youth basketball if:

  • you only want to win?
    • I love to win and hate to lose. However, with youth basketball, this should not be the end goal. The end goal should be the overall improvement of your team. You cannot relive your high school years with your youth team, no matter what happens. My job is teaching, and that means if we got 12 – 0 or 0 – 12, my job is the same: preparing them for jv or even varsity basketball. It’s not winning an NBA/WNBA championship, NCAA championship, or gold medal. If making your team isn’t your goal, why are you coaching?
  • you don’t make connections with your players?
    • Three different times this week, I’ve heard from students they’d be out but “the coach was mean last year and I didn’t like it. Are you kidding me? What’s your job other than to make connections with your players and make sure they are having a ball?? NOTHING! If they aren’t have fun and they don’t know you care about them, they will not enjoy their time with you!! I’m an average teacher, thus I’m an average coach, but I treat my players  like I would my daughters. If they need a butt chewing, it happens outside of the view of everyone else. They are noticed often for the good things they do. I teach, I model, I expect them to fail. If they don’t, I’m not push them to step outside their comfort zone.
  • play zone defense?
    • This I could get push back on, but as a youth coach, I USED to play zone defense exclusively. Why not? It kept us in the games, so why wouldn’t I? Then, I started reading and talking with other coaches. I started asking myself, why am I doing this? Is this for me or for the kids? When I realized I’d make a bigger impact on future programs by allowing my own to take a couple of lumps, I switched to man defense as a youth coach and never looked back. Yes, we’ve gotten run out of the gym every once and a while (cough, last night), but all in all, we are a better team defensively because of the switch. And, my own teams get tired of hearing me say this: A good man to man defense looks like a zone defense! 🙂
  • you don’t want to teach.
    • Nope, coaching is not for everyone. Playing the sport and coaching the sport are two entirely different things. On the floor, it’s a different feel than on the bench. I was never a good basketball player, but I like to think I do a few more things right as a coach. Part of it is I’ve grown up (damnit all), but part of it is I know where my girls are right now, and where I need to try to get them. We talk a lot about being able to do the little things well, which means we can beat teams with our passing, our blocking out, our ball handling, our shooting. If I can help them become better there, I’ve done my job. It’s not about “the plays”, it’s about teaching them the right way, giving them feed back, and letting them continue to learn.

Sorry, as a coach, a teacher, and a dad, I wanted my daughters to have a great basketball experience, and I think my wife and I did a pretty good job. And 95% of the youth coaches I watch are in it for the absolute right reasons: they care, they want their teams to grow, they want their teams to have fun (heck, the coaches want to have fun too!).

In the end, it’s not about us as coaches, it’s about the kids. It’s always about the kids, and it should be about the kids.

I love to hear your thoughts on this, both coaches and parents. Am I wrong here? Am I being too harsh? What do you think?