Six Ways to Inspire Your Sports Team as a Coach
Being a basketball coach, I am familiar with how sport teams work, what makes them tick, and what they need to do in order to win. It would be an understatement to say that it's a complex undertaking.
You have a team of individuals, which need to be work as one toward a common goal. Sure, it takes talent and hard work, but those will only take you so far.
Arguably, the most important ingredient for success is motivation. It's easy to keep your team inspired when they are winning, but if they are losing, you need to help them handle the pressure and the expectations, so they are still able to remain confident and to make the most out of their abilities.
As a coach, I always do my homework and prepare my team for what is ahead of them. Here is how you can do the same:
Create an Inspiring Environment
In every sport, success begins before the game, with your team putting in endless hours of practice. But, as pointed out before, hard work will only take you so far, because they will not always give their best if you haven't created the right environment for them to thrive in.
The right environment can be anything from having a decent court and equipment, good communication between you and your players, to demonstrating a passion for the sport and hoping the players follow suit.
As result of creating a productive and inspiring environment, the team will grow closer together, with everyone on the same page in terms of what needs to be done and how.
Individual Performance Is Also Important
One of the problems of coaching a team is that everyone is so focused on teamwork, that they neglect the individual aspect.
After all, each team is made up of individuals, and even though they are a part of the same team, their individual actions can make a difference between a win and a loss. This is especially true in basketball, where just one point, one ball possession, and one second can change the outcome of the game.
Make sure your players realize that every time they hustle for the ball as an individual, it has a significant impact on the rest of the team.
Focus on Smaller Wins
Sometimes a huge goal, like making the playoffs or winning a league title, can serve as a source of motivation. But, it can also cause your players to cave under the pressure of such monumental expectations.
It's up to you as a coach to break down that massive goal into smaller ones which are easier to handle both on an individual and team level. Examples include, lifting more weight, running a few seconds faster, or increasing team shooting percentage.
Every major goal should consist of smaller success metrics, which help your team focus on what needs to be done here and now to reach the big goal. Once they start making significant progress, you can concentrate more on the big picture.
Approach Each Team Member Differently
Inside your team, each player will have different strengths and weaknesses, and furthermore handle criticism and encouragement differently. Each individual member is a separate piece of the team dynamic and needs to be nurtured differently.
Some players give their best when they pushed harder, or shown some “tough love”, while others tend to perform better when they are encouraged to take on more responsibility. While you shouldn't change your coaching style, you should make small tweaks when working with each player, so that you get the best out of them, which will ultimately benefit the whole team.
But, in order to get to know your players success triggers, you need to communicate with them first.
Make Each Practice Count
Practice is essential to your team's progress.
Not only will practice allow them to learn what will happen during a game, but in a controlled environment they will also be less prone to injury. In addition, practice provides a structured setting to improve conditioning. Players don't usually take it upon themselves to build their cardio, as a coach it is your job to ensure the team is in game condition. The best place to achieve this is practice.
Being in game shape helps individuals feel more confident in their skills. Fatigue causes sloppy performance.
After every practice session, your team should walk away as better players than they were when they woke up first thing in the morning. Those who practice hard will fight even harder during the game, because they'll know how much effort they have invested in it, and they will not let victory slip through their fingers as easily.
Encourage Your Team
After applying all of the tips above, the only thing left for you to do as a coach is maintain a belief in your team and the ability of every single player. Professionals are more confident, so they don't need as much empowerment, but if you are coaching younger players, it may be just the thing they need in order to make significant progress.
Plus, as they improve their skills, they will be even more motivated to practice, since the positive results will be visible.
Follow the tips laid out in this article to build a better relationship with your players. It will also help them grow individually as players, and become a more cohesive unit. Once everyone is on the same page, ready, and motivated, your job as a coach will become a lot easier, and your team will be excited to show up for each practice.
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