Coaching Perspective: 2019 Summer Youth Basketball Season Review

emerald coast basketball
2019 Summer ECB. Mom and Owen (12)

Every year I learn and grow as a coach, this season was no different.  After many seasons of promising myself to write a review of the season, I finally have committed to doing it, and if you’re reading this, I did it.  I’m going to review what my goals were prior to the 2019 Summer Basketball season, what I learned this season, and a few special notes about the season.

After several years of coaching basketball for each of my son’s teams in various sports, this summer I had the pleasure of coaching my two oldest sons in basketball on the same team.  I’ve coached winter basketball at our local sports association for the last several years, and as the dad of 4 boys, we’re busy throughout spring, fall and winter sport seasons; we’ve always tried to take summer off to rest and recharge.  This spring 2019 my twelve-year-old had been playing travel-basketball for a local travel team, Emerald Coast Basketball, or ECB.  As spring passed and summer wore on, the end of travel basketball season was upon us, and I had heard there were signups available for summer basketball.

One age group would be 12-15, and it just so happened that my oldest was 15 and his brother was 12.  I knew right away I wanted to coach them; however, I had a business trip coming up, we had a family vacation planned right in the middle of the season, among other things – so I called my friend Larry to see if he would be willing to help and fill-in when I couldn’t be there.  Larry coached with me this past winter and has become a really close family friend.  As always, Larry stood right up and stood right in – off to summer basketball we would roll.

Over the years, I’ve learned there are things I like to teach and coach, many of them are about the specific sport, many of them are about life, and usually there is overlap.  I’ve coached some talented kids through the years, but my goal is to not only turn out great team players who can execute the fundamentals of the game, but also better kids on the other side of each sports season.  Here is a small list of things I like to teach the athletes on my team each season, in no particular order:

  • Always play hard.  Things are rarely as bad as they seem, and most things can be overcome
    summer basketball players
    Owen (12) and Jackson (15)

    with continued effort.

  • Be a great teammate.  Encourage those with less ability and practice than you’ve had – someday, you will be the less talented or the new-comer, and you’ll love when other’s encourage you.
  • Give your best effort all the time.  Consistency is an undervalued asset – be consistently good at what you do.
  • Listen to your coaches. Learning to follow instructions has great reward in life, and is an undervalued asset.
  • Really learn to love the game – if you can do that, you’ll always play and have fun.  Kids stop playing sports when it’s not fun anymore.
  • If you’re early, you’re on time.  Don’t be late to practice or games, your team depends on you.  If coach asks you to be there at 7, show up a 6:50.
  • Talent is God’s gift to you, hard-work is your gift to God.  Few are born with the talent of a professional athlete – talent has it’s own reward, it will earn you opportunity.  Hard work will never get your foot in the door, but it will make you stand out if you’re ever given the opportunity.  Every team in every sport has players who aren’t the greatest athletes or players in their sport – but they hustle, they make those around them better, they’re good teammates, they are great listeners, and they maximize their talent through hard work.

There’s more to this list probably, but this is a good start, and the ones that stick out to me most right now. This season I wanted two things to come from practice – our team would be conditioned and we would learn to play great defense.  Playing sports means putting in the work to gain the fitness to play, learning how to stay fit, and learning it’s your duty to be fit – it’s not a punishment, it’s the cost of doing business.  Good players don’t complain about running or workouts – they understand they’re making themselves better for the team – and the side effect is that they get better as individuals.  Learning to push through when your ready to quit, that’s a life skill these athletes learned this season.

Defensively, we installed a 2-2-1 full-court press, and we pressed much of the season, even too much.  A thing I learned this year is that we don’t have to put great pressure on full-court all the time.  After our sixth game, which happened to be a frustrating loss, I realized we could’ve won if I’d had played more half-court zone, and threw the full-court pressure on in waves.  The reminder of the season we did that well, and I’m glad to have finally learned this lesson.  Defensively, I preached about arms out, trapping, knowing where the ball, your man (in your zone) and the basket is all the time.  We coached them up on rebounding.  fundamentally, we were a solid team, and I think we could all be proud of that.

Here’s a list of things I will carry with me for the years to follow:

  • Fitness – we will be fit, and fitness can be fun, but it doesn’t have to be.  Part of playing athletics is putting in the work to make sure your body is ready.  I will make certain you get tired, that is my job.
  • Defense – the most important skill in basketball is learning to play defense as a team.  Spend lots of time on defense at practice, don’t worry about coaching offense, that will come.
  • Kids don’t have to like me.  I will win every argument and you will learn to listen and be respectful – not because I’m mean, but because each athlete needs to learn to be coachable, teachable, and they need to learn to have a boss, to follow before they lead.  It’s my duty as coach to teach each athlete to be coachable.  It’s been my experience that when I encounter an athlete who hasn’t yet learned this lesson well enough, it can take a couple seasons to really knock that door down and to change their mentality, but it changes, and it’s always the best outcome for their life.

Jackson is my oldest son, and he’s incredibly smart and funny and handsome – he’s a great kid.  Athletically, he has struggled at times – this season he gained so much confidence, and worked incredibly hard – and he had a game that was amazing as a dad to watch and be a part of.  I’m so incredibly proud of my son, after many battles, to see him win one.  This is a memory that will endure forever for me, it’s one of the best memories I have of my son, and I loved every single moment of it.  Later he confided in me that it was probably the most fun he’s had on a sports team.  That made me glow on the inside.

Thanks once again to AppRiver for sponsoring this seasons team, and to all the parents and grand-parents and others who got the boys to practice, who volunteered to keep score during the games, and who encouraged their athlete throughout the season.  I’m exceptionally proud of this summer’s team – all the athletes grew and developed, coaches learned, we had a lot of fun, and we managed to win some games.  A fun season, one that I will remember, like always, until my very last days.