Basketball Coaching: 4 Ways to Motivate Your Players

By Doug Campbell, Dr. Dish Basketball
From the Coach’s Clipboard Basketball Playbook
This article was submitted by Doug Campbell of Dr. Dish Basketball, makers of the Dr. Dish Shooting Machine.

Standing in front of your team, you make a promise to your players. You swear to offer something that videogames and a river of texts from their friends can't give them – athletic skills and a showcase for their talents and a team-based work ethic. You make this promise despite knowing most young people will succumb to the adrenaline rush of online gaming and the comfort of their couches.

Easy, right?

You can successfully compete for attention spans of your players, but motivation is key. Without it, you lose before you begin. Part of your motivation strategy is to tear them away from other pursuits and inspire them to a consistent energy and enthusiasm in practices and games. Without that, you don't have a team, you have a grouping.

Luckily, you have the advantage of seeing their collective potential. Here are four easy ways to motivate your players into becoming a team.

Coach Wooden and Kareem Abdul Jabbar
Kareem Abdul Jabbar with Coach John Wooden

1. Teach First

Researchers studied UCLA's John Wooden, one of the greatest basketball coaches in history, during his 1974 championship season and discovered that, in more than 2,300 player interactions, he used teaching techniques about 75% of the time. He rarely complimented or criticized. His three-part teaching method was to model the right way to do something, show the incorrect way and, again, show the right way. Being a teacher can be fast and in-the-moment -- Wooden averaged about three seconds per lesson taught -- and it gives young athletes a reality check about their abilities without passing value judgments.

2. Explain and Demonstrate 'Why'

Expecting your players to blindly accept the way you coach is dangerous. They simply want to know the big question: 'Why?' Good teachers explain their lessons. Remember the Wooden 3-part teaching method? Players will lose motivation if they don't understand why. For example, getting low into a crouch improves their defense - explain why! Help them understand the science behind your teachings and they'll use that knowledge to improve in other areas.

3. Show and Reward Growth

The best natural motivator is success. Young people crave personal progress. So, make sure your practices evolve as the season progresses. Plan to ensure each player is able to gauge the progression of their abilities. Remind them their shooting percentages have improved and that they are more assured ball-handlers. Give them the confidence of facts. Let them see their growth and they will be motivated to 'level up' their skills. And most importantly, reward them for demonstrating improvement and reaching goals. This can be as simple as positive reinforcement.

4. Run For The Right Reasons

Your "character building", end-of-practice sprints might be instilling the wrong lessons. Today's kids recognize patterns: if they know you demand sprints at the end of practice, they're going to figure a way to conserve the energy to complete them. Instead, motivate your players to practice hard by incorporating conditioning throughout the entire session. Push them hard and then end it. There's less likelihood they'll single out uninterrupted sprints to complain about and fixate on. You'll be seen as a taskmaster, but one who pushes them to improve their basketball skills, not their 100-meter dash times. Plus there are hundreds of basketball drills that can improve your players' endurance and stamina as well.

Use these four methods to motivate your players in your basketball practice plan and remember to always instill a sense of fun and camaraderie. Do these things and you'll keep your promise to your players. They will learn life lessons in the real world that they'd never learn in front of a videogame console.

To get lots of shooting reps, get the Dr. Dish Shooting Machine.

Dr. Dish Shooting Machine

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