I got hired this summer at Hastings High School in New York as the head varsity girls coach. As soon as I agreed to the job I sat down and really thought about the culture I wanted to create in my program. Along with the different aspects I considered about what to build my program around I considered a variety of strategies and approaches to “making things happen” for us. Here are some of the things I have come up with, and thus far have absolutely proven to be a success for us so far.
1. Consistent Wardrobe: each player on my varsity squad gets two pairs of shorts, and one practice jersey. They are required to come to practice every day with these shorts on and the jersey at least in the gym with them. Not only do they have to take responsibility for always having the right clothing with them, but they also look and feel more like a team because of it.
2. A “Rewards” System: I decided that our program would be focused around the quote “every day for each other”. I want my players to carry out those words every time they stepped on the court together, or anywhere they go for that matter. In order to help promote this idea I came up with an “incentive/reward” system. Each player has the opportunity to earn what we call “golden laces” (it happens to be convenient that our school colors are green and gold). These laces represent acknowledgement for when one of our players has really gone above and beyond applying the “every day for each other” attitude to their endeavors. Once they earn both shoe laces, there next goal becomes helping someone else earn theirs. After the entire team has earned golden laces, the girls can earn “every day for each other” buttons (pins) to show off their continued commitment to the team. It works in a similar way to the stickers football teams have on their helmets. Just an easy way to acknowledge their commitment to the foundation our program.
3. Putting the Responsibility/Accountability in Their Hands: I ask a lot of my players in terms of communication and commitment. I expect that they always act with the team in mind and represent us the right way. A successful approach I have been using to get this idea across is through relying on them to get specific tasks done. Even simple tasks, the “no-brainers”. I have someone get the balls out for us, someone else gets the clock, someone talks to the JV girls if we have a message to relay, there is one girl who will text everyone the important information, etc. This has nothing to do with captains necessarily. I try to choose every girl on my team to do things I know they are capable of, but also something that will help them stretch into a greater role. Some of the tasks are simple, but might be inconvenient or time consuming. This is also a good way to test their character, and help them learn what they really are capable of.
4. Making Appearances: One of the most important things for me as a new coach was getting my players to “buy in”. I made this process easier for all of us by investing time and effort into being a presence in the community. I attended all of our fundraising events, loading up on quality time with my players. We never canceled a pre-season session, regardless of if we had 10 girls or only 3. I ran with them, I lifted with them, I met their teachers with them. These simple things go a long way in not only establishing rapport with your players but also with letting them know you care. On top of all those things I even attended some of their non-basketball functions (swim meets, field hockey games, soccer games, etc).
5. Make It Obvious: Like I mentioned before, the staple of our program is “every day for each other”. Following that foundation we are built around hard work and being positive. To make this message clear to my girls (and their parents) I live and breathe the things I emphasis. I got great advice from once that what I emphasize was so important. I let them know I am working hard every day for them, that I am always going to be positive, and that I am setting them up for success. By echoing these sentiments they clearly see what I am about, what I tolerate, and what I expect of them.
These are just some of the things we have started building our program around. If there are any more ideas or strategies you want to share I’d be happy to discuss them.
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also check out my blog, where you’ll find more of my insight, plays, and tips: sweetspotbasketball.blogspot.com