My sophomore basketball coach was the best coach I have ever had. In my grade we had seven kids out for basketball. Two of those kids were very good so they were up on the varsity. The rest of us were not very good basketball players, but that did not change my coach’s expectations of winning games. What makes this coach the best I ever had was what he did with very little basketball talent. He did not sign up to coach to lose.
The practices that he ran were the most efficient and effective that I have been part of. Since we were a group that was not going to dunk on anyone or make crazy drives to the basket he decided to focus on different parts of the game. The parts of the game that we focused on were parts that could be done effectively on hard work alone.
Every practice we spent half the time going over defense. We would spend a quarter of the time doing rebounding drills. We would spend the rest of the time either shooting threes or going over an aspect of the game that was more cerebral, i.e. spacing on the zone or where everyone should be on the fastbreak.
As a result we played defense and rebounded better than anyone else. We also shot the three very well. Even though our shots looked pretty bad we had practiced it so much that more often than not the ball went in. By the end of the season we were playing very smart and effective basketball.
There a lot of takeaways from this coach, but the most exciting one is that hard work and hustle still pay huge dividends. Our coach instilled in us an attitude that always made our practices intense. We would go after loose balls harder in our practices than most teams do in games. Our coach would always emphasize playing hard and smart. So we would spend about two hours a day at a breakneck pace trying to outhustle each other. Once we got to the game, that switch would not turn off.
The point of this is that as a coach, great talent is never guaranteed. However, through hard work and hustle, games can still be won. My 19-2 sophomore high school basketball team is a testament to how it is possible to win a lot of games through outworking the other team.
Social Foundations of Coaching Course
Notre Dame 2011