If you have ever tried to explain a game or activity to a novice, you understand how difficult it can be. Sometimes just giving directions to a visitor to your town is a challenge. There is a valuable lesson for coaches hidden in this activity. Could you explain the game of basketball neatly and concisely to a foreigner?
One of my many collegiate coaching experiences came from the classroom at Miami of Ohio. The philosophy of coaching basketball class was given to myself and another coach on our staff. As I eagerly jumped into teaching the art of coaching to students, I found soon that I was progressing very quickly through the material. Students were faced with understanding the game and it intricacies as well as I did. The students were left in the dust.
As I reviewed the material I realized that I took too much for granted in my teaching style. Upon returning to class I explained my mistake to the class and promised to move at a slower, clear pace. I gave an assignment that day that raised many eyebrows. I asked each student to write down their game plan for explaining basketball to a foreigner. The results of this assignment were amazing.
A few students read their assignment out loud to the class. The more papers that were read, the more discussion it created. Student were frustrated, saying, "No foreigner could ever understand the game listening to you." More questions than answers were raised. What created itself was an outstanding platform for teaching.
Starting at the ground and working our way up, as a class we developed our explanation of basketball. What was startingling was the simplicity of the words and concepts. As you explain a sport, we learned you must also define the words you are using. The words basketball, hoop, court, backboard, defender, and scoring must all be clearly presented. The class was impressive in their approach to this project. I saw that each of them gained a clarity around the game. Each felt provided to explain basketball to a foreigner.
Why do I bring this experience up? I feel that communication and clarity are two of the prime components in coaching sports. What good are drills, plays, schemes, and head knowledge if they can not be clearly presented to young athletes. Here are my observations:
1. As coaches we absorb athletes know more about the game of basketball than they do.
2. Coaches see the whole / part / whole concept of teaching, but players do not.
3. The terminology we use can be confusing and vague. If players do not know what your terminology means, how can they do what you are asking them to do?
4. A coach is a leader. A good leader is an excellent communicator and teachers in a manner that allows all players and coaches to speak the same language.
5. We give players too much information before the fundamental learning is mastered. Players can not run before they can walk.
6. A player that thinks too much is a player that can not execute consistently in practice or games.
7. Basketball is said to be the most under taught and over trained sports in existence. There could be a lot of truth to that.
I hope this article makes you reflect upon your own coaching and how you teach, explain, and coach your team. Every coach need to make communication a key part of the coaching process and dedicate himself to painting the clearest picture possible for his players. Take an honest look at your own coaching style and work to improve yourself each day. Your players deserve your best.