Assessing your Coaching

Last week, I videotaped a lecture that I gave to my Intermediate Weightlifting class to use for an assignment for an Education class on college teaching. I had to watch my teaching, use a self-evaluation form and write about the experience.

Simply looking at the self-evaluation form reminded me of several things that I like about other coaches that I often forget to do myself:

I follow an agenda (posted on blackboard, handouts, projector).

U.C. Irvine Men’s Volleyball Head Coach John Speraw uses this idea brilliantly. He writes the practice plan on a white board and starts practice by reviewing the plan with the team. He has teams chosen, groups assigned, drills organized, etc. Players know what to expect. They mentally prepare for practice.

I am a poor planner. This is both a weakness and a strength. My strength is my ability to think on my feet and remain flexible to use situations as teaching points. I prefer to see players perform and then move to new activities based on the performance and/or the needs. However, I really like the idea of writing the plan on a whiteboard for the team to see.

Clearly state day’s objectives to students.

I do this occasionally, but I am not consistent enough. I like the idea of gathering the players before practice to go over the day’s objective. Often, especially with new or younger players, there are so many things involved in each drill or scrimmage. My stating the objectives, the players can concentrate more specifically on those goals. Your objective might be effort, but the players are taking their time trying to get every repetition correct. The players and the coach have different objectives, and often these differing objectives cause conflict. However, without stating the objective, how does a player know that in this drill, you are concentrating on effort and not execution?

Regularly define new terms, concepts and principles.

Often, coaches assume too much. We assume players understand the traveling rule, even though college coaches and officials constantly illustrate a misunderstanding of the nuances of the rule. Therefore, to show a move and gloss over the traveling rule does a disservice to the players. When introducing new material, we need to explain terms to players. Part of developing as a basketball player is learning the terminology. This may not be important with 8-year-olds, but as players progress, they need to understand the definitions of terms and the correct terminology. If I demonstrate a flare screen for a drill, I need to explain a flare screen. What makes it a flare screen? Is it something that I do? Is it the direction of the cut? Is it the location of the screen? How is the flare screen different than a down screen or a cross screen? If we define terms, players and coaches will have an easier time understanding each other.

Use many concrete examples to explain concepts.

Some players learn verbally, while some learn visually or kinesthetically. As a coach, we cannot assume that all players understand the instructions just because we said them aloud. We need to use specific examples, and these examples need to be accurate to the task. If you are demonstrating a shooting drill, and you want a 1-2-step, do not demonstrate a jump stop when doing the drill. While our performance of the skill may be irrelevant to the execution of the drill, some may focus more on your execution than the drill. They may think your demonstration was to show the correct skill execution, not the correct drill execution. Always be specific with your demonstrations.

These are just a few of the statements on the self-evaluation form, and some things to think about when planning practice. Also, the idea of videotaping an watching your practices is a good practice, as you learn about things that you do or do not do that can inform your coaching and help you improve.

By Brian McCormick
Author, Cross Over: The New Model of Youth Basketball Development
Director of Coaching, Playmakers Basketball Development League

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