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Tips & Strategies – November 2014

Fostering a Team Atmosphere

Team Atmosphere
Persistence a key to success
Insist on “Best Efforts” at all times
Real Competitors
Establishing Significant Player Roles

Basketball Team Atmosphere

“The whole (team) is greater than the sum of its parts (players).”

On every level of basketball, one of the most important aspects of coaching is creating and fostering a total team atmosphere and commitment. It is the difference between success and failure. Insure your players that they are going to play in a team atmosphere. Inform them that you are not going to tolerate anyone on the team that keeps others from learning, you from coaching or any other misbehavior. Get rid of the non-workers. Great teams are a result of the best players being the hardest workers. No one steps on the floor without full hustle attitude. Insist on a team effort at all times.


The One Most Important Word: “We”
The Least Important Word: “Me”

This team chemistry and love is an end product of great coaching and proper leadership. There is no “I” in the word “Team.” It is amazing how much can be accomplished when no one cares who gets the credit. The San Antonio Spurs, 2014 NBA Champions,  fully understood that the best potential of “me” is “we.” So much can learn about the importance of team play by watching the following this video. It vividly illustrate that “an individual can make a difference, but a team can make a miracle.” This team chemistry and love is an end product of great coaching and proper leadership.

San Antonio Spurs Tribute – The Beautiful Game (6:20)

 Persistence a Key Success

There is an old adage that is often times quoted: “Great teams play hard, play smart and play together.” However, there is one other very important ingredient that is missing from this cliché and that is “persistence.” Persistence is what enables players and teams to reach their full potential and goals. It is what separates the great ones from the mediocre ones. Most teams can play hard, play smart, and together for short periods of time. However, to be successful, they must be able to sustain this high level of effort over the course of the entire season which is no easy task.

Demand ”Best Efforts” at All Times

Habits do not change in a game. Never tolerate or ignore a player’s laid-back or apathetic attitude and efforts. All great players have one thing in common. They have great work ethics and will not be outworked by anyone. They pay attention to detail. Too much attention and recognition is paid to records and accomplishments, and not enough to the long, hard, hours, days, and years great players put into developing and refining the skills and techniques that make them so successful. In tolerating or ignoring a lack of effort and selfishness, coaches are not only cheating the team, but just as importantly, they are cheating the player and depriving them of any future opportunity to play on a higher level of the game.

Real Competitors are Vital to a Team Effort

Real competitors are those special players that come to play every time they step on the court. They are a team’s hardest workers constantly battling and competing. They are not the type that scream at their teammates or officials or kick trash cans after the game. relying on their brawn more than their brains. Real competitors dive for loose balls, take charges, fight for rebounds, etc. They just plain enjoy playing and never give up. Competitors are those players that players love to play with not against, spectators love to watch, and coaches love to coach. You cannot win without them.

Establish Significant Player Roles

Guarantee players that they will receive equal opportunities, but not equal playing time. Develop and establish significant roles and assignments for every player on the squad such as 6th Person, Defensive Stopper, Designated Inbounder, etc. Championships are never achieved without the unselfish play of the complementors on the team. Rather than scoring themselves, these role players make it possible for others to score. These supporting roles, which are vital to a total team effort, must be constantly acknowledge and reinforced by the entire coaching staff throughout the season.

6th Person Role

The importance of the sixth person(s) role in basketball cannot be over emphasized. It is one thing all excellent teams have in common. Establishing and utilizing the sixth person role, in many ways, is a much more important coach’s decision than determining the starters. To be successful, the sixth person(s) must possess better skills and leadership than some of the starters. In addition, the sixth person usually can play multiple positions. Without exception, when they enter the game, their role is to energize and make the team stronger. As a result, if the game is tied, it will provide the necessary boost to give the team the lead. If a team is already ahead, it will increase the lead, and if the team should be behind, it will afford them a chance to catch up. However, on the other hand, if the over all strength of the team is decreased with the first substitution, if the game is tied, the team will fall behind. If they are ahead at the time, it will allow the other team the opportunity to catch up, and if they are already behind at the time of substitution, they will fall further behind. In most cases the sixth person role is filled by a single player. However, it can be multiple players and on rare occasions even five players.

Determining and getting a player to accept the sixth person role can be a challenge since player’s and parents’ ego’s can be involved. However, by communicating the vital importance of this unselfish team role, they should be more than likely to understand and accept the role as a real honor rather than a demotion. The attitude and efforts of the sixth person(s) must be recognized, fostered and supported whole heartedly by the entire coaching staff throughout the season. The NBA has recognized the importance of the Sixth Man and presents an annual award for the leagues most valuable sixth person which is an excellent idea to do on any level or team.

Defensive Stopper

A vital but often overlook position is a defensive “Stopper.” Having an outstanding defensive player, one who not only can deny or disrupt a great offensive players from receiving the ball; but, in addition, are masters of one on one defense and push points is essential to any championship hopes. Like shooters, stoppers aren’t born and just don’t happen. They must be development and nourished. Successful defensive Stoppers are a result of having solid on and off ball defensive fundamentals along with a strong attitude and relentless determination. They are highly challenged and motivated when it comes to stopping and frustrating the opponent’s leading scorer. They thrive on the responsibility and opportunity of denying a good shooter a last second shot opportunity.

However, this attitude and self-confidence must be created, fostered and supported by the coaching staff throughout the season. Since a Defensive Stopper’s role is primarily that of a defensive specialist, any offensive output is a bonus. Their job is to stop not score. 

CAUTION: Do NOT go into a game without a defensive stopper!

Designated Inbounds Passer

“Good inbound passers are hard to find.”

It is not so easy to inbound ball. Most players and coaches take making an inbounds pass for granted, and rely on individual player effort to get the job done. However, in making an inbounds pass, the passer is facing a five against four defensive advantage and only has five (5) seconds in which to locate a receiver and make a successful inbounds pass. In addition, to this numerical disadvantage, by rule the inbounder cannot move, except after a made shot. This provides the defense with the opportunity to jam or smother the passer very effectively with an active defender on ball. Also, on baseline out of bound situations, the backboard comes into play and becomes a real obstacle in which that the inbounds passer has to contend.

Many of championships have been lost because teams were not able to inbound ball at end of game. Players on all levels, including the NBA and WNBA, need to know and practice the fundamental skills and concepts required in making a successful inbound pass. In additional to the physical skills involved, good inbound passers must posssess a strong commitment to team play since they are taken for granted and very rarely rewarded for the efforts. However, good inbounders are vital, and a team will not win a championship without one.

Team Leadership

Every team needs at least one leader. The coach on the floor. One that plays with intelligence and poise. They sacrifice and surrender “me” to “we.” This unselfish play makes their teammates better. Leaders play in the future constantly anticipating ahead of the current action. As a result, the game is actually played in slow motion to them. In thinking ahead, their heads are always in the game which allows them to play through adversity. They rarely get upset or loose their poise. On the other hand, players playing in the present, or worst yet, playing in the past, such as arguing about a bad call or upset about a teammates turnover, the game becomes more difficult and actually speeds up dramatically as they lag behind and attempt to catch up with the action.

Leaders also know their strengths and weakness and play within their limitations. Often times, a player’s lack of discipline and their ego’s get the best of them scoring at the expense of their teammates.. They will shoot three point shots when then effective range is inside the three point line. Relying on “hope” or luck rather than skill to make the shot. Selfish play is often times the result of outside pressures and influences such as parents, personal coaches and agents. However, no one likes to play with a “Ball Hog.”

Changing a “Me” to “We” attitude is a real challenge in coaching, and is the utmost importance to success.


Have Fun and Enjoy this great Game!


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