That his was originally posted to the Nuff Said 6 blog June 22, 2010
When it comes to coaching, I am very particular on what I want done, and how I want it to get done. This past weekend I left all of this in the hands of my kids.
I coach the 18s team, and a large part of that coaching is getting them ready to be on their own when they go away to college in a year or two. This involves coaching, responsibility and accountability, decision making and communication skills, and leadership among other things.
The first day of play on Friday they played pretty roughly, with quite a few communication breakdowns and frustrations, and ended up losing all three matches. After this I was for the large part encouraging towards them. We had a skeleton crew of only 6 players, with 3 players playing out of position. I had them do a human knot drill, to work on their teamwork and communication skills. For this drill they stood in a circle, extended their right hands, and grabbed the hand of the player directly across from them. Then, with their other hand, they grabbed the hand of another player in the group. Then, they had to work together to untangle themselves to form one big circle. Once the accomplished this, the next challenge was to do this without speaking. This helped them to develop, read and interpret body language and alternate forms of communication.
The next day we lost one player and gained 2 players who arrived late due to graduation. Everyone was back to pretty close to their normal position. We won both our games, but had an extremely lackluster performance. Balls were dropping with players standing their looking at them, they were again playing as individuals, not communicating, had a high rate of unforced errors, and were not playing anywhere near their capabilities. Near the end of the day, when they’d look to me to answer questions about positioning or areas of responsibility, or other things that they already knew the answer to I, partly out of my own frustration stopped giving them input and would tell them to figure it out on their own. This was only partly out of frustration because it’s a technique that I’ve used in the past, usually when I’m at my wit’s end, to get them to come together as a team.
The last day of competition, I chose to continue the hands off coaching from the end of the day before. They would be in charge of everything from warm ups, calling timeouts, what to say in the timeouts, service areas, and subs. The only thing that I would contribute would be to decide and turn in the lineup. Even though they were playing as individuals on the court, they were spending all of their off time together, hanging out as a team. They seemed to have great chemistry off the court as a team, it was just a matter of figuring out how to get this to translate to on the court. This is why I figured this tactic would work. I know that they have heard everything that I and the other coach have said to them all season, they just don’t always internalize it right away. If I keep telling them over and over, then they don’t have to internalize it. They’ll just keep looking to me for the answer when they’re more than capable of figuring it out for themselves. This was their chance to step up and feel empowered by what they were capable of both as individuals and as a team.
This was a trial by fire, sink or swim moment for them. They rose to the challenge and performed admirably. They arrived to the gym a half hour before play was scheduled to start. They initially asked me what they should do to warm up. I told them to do whatever it was that they need to get warm. They chose to do a rock, scissors, paper war. This is a drill that involves splitting up into two teams, sprinting around the 3 point line of the basketball court to meet another player, and then having a rock, paper scissors contest to determine who would advance until they’d meet up with another player. They then did a more traditional approach, block transition warm-up, and then played a game of hand soccer, where they could only roll the ball across the floor by hitting it with a hand. Then, finally went into partner passing, setting and pepper.
While I was itching for them to get into more ball control drills right off the bat, I eventually was able to sit back and see the benefit of the drills they chose. These were all drills I had used with them in practice. The rock, paper, scissors war gets them sprinting, develops and reinforces, communication skills, reaction speed, rapid decision making and competitiveness. The hand soccer drill emphasizes a good low ready position, footwork, communication and teamwork. In addition to all this, they were having fun, which is something I was emphasizing for them to do since day 1 of the tournament. When they have fun they play well and when they play well they have fun.
As play began they started off strong. They set the pace of the game, communicated well, and played as a team throughout the whole match, beating the other team pretty decisively. This put them in the Bronze division semi finals. They played a tougher team in this match, but still fought hard and found a way to win in 2 games. In the finals they faced a much tougher team that had a few hard hitters. They played hard the first game but lost. They kept their spirits up and rallied back the second game to win it, and force a third game. I actually got goosebumps while watching a few of the rallies. The third game didn’t end up going their way, but overall they earned the silver medal in the Bronze Division and walked away with so much more. Two of my players emerged as strong leaders. Everyone stayed positive, worked together as a team, fought hard throughout the whole day. As a coach, I can’t really ask for anything more than that.