Basketball Coaches Learning from Artists

What ultimately is the role of the coach? Is it to teach plays? Is it to win games? Is it to teach children to follow directions to pay attention to an authority figure? Is it to keep children in shape?

When we imagine an athlete, what do we imagine? What do we want young athletes to be?

In an article titled “Why Business Leaders Should Act More like Artists,” John Maeda argues that artists have three key attributes which business leaders should follow:

  1. Artists constantly collaborate.
  2. Artists are talented communicators.
  3. Artists learn how to learn together.

Athletes and coaches can learn from artists in these respects as well, as collaboration, communication and learning are important to the team environment and individual improvement.

Maeda writes:

When interviewed recently about the differences in her education at Brown and at RISD [Rhode Island School of Design], one student who is getting a dual degree from both institutions said, “At RISD there’s a lot of learning from your peers. Brown (in the classes I’ve taken so far anyway) is about listening and note-taking in class.”

A typical team is more like Brown with the coach talking and players listening. Great coaches, however, create environments that are more like RISD. Rather than talking, they listen to their players. They engage players in a conversation. They empower players to make decisions and take some control over their environment. They learn from their players.

Through this empowerment approach, they increase the collaboration between players and between the coach and players, improve the communication between coach and player and create more varied learning experiences.

To use this approach, one tool is to ask players for their thoughts before you offer your insight, especially in a post-practice or post-game situation. Also, a coach may ask the players what play they want to run or what defense they feel most comfortable playing rather than always making the decisions for the players.

By Brian McCormick
Director of Coaching,
Playmakers Basketball Development League

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