To be a leader, you must stand for something, or you will fall for anything. /Anthony Pagano

First season as a youth basketball Coach is behind, off-season is here and second season is peeking just around the corner. I was asked for a feedback and I thought – let’s share the experience. Let’s share some of the important lessons I learned in my first season as a youth basketball coach.

One of the first and most important things I learned by becoming a Coach is to be as organized as possible. (Special thanks to Kostas for pointing it out for me) Be organized and be simple. Nothing is as crucial in team effort as organization. It is the key. Even if the team is not as able physically and don’t yet possess required skills – organization will keep them floating while you can keep working on physique and skill sets. Organization should be put before everything else while managing a team, not just basketball – any type of team. This helped me throughout the whole season to minimize the losses and maximize the wins. As for simplicity – give orders in simple, understandable manner. (here special thanks goes to Kenan for teaching me this) Keep sentences short and precise. Deliver the message to players, so they can follow it and don’t get bored while receiving it. Especially applies to youth players as their attention tends to wear out fast.

It is UP TO YOU. Take responsibility. This should even be another article. As the Coach you are the leader. As a leader – it is your job (I would say duty even) to be responsible for everything that happens to the team. Good or bad, right or wrong – you are the leader, you are the Coach – you take the responsibility for everything. You have to come up with solutions, with plans and with strategies/explanations/examples to players. If something fails – you need to learn even more and find new ways to work with the team to make it better. If someone doesn’t understand or do something – you have to take on that task and find the way (or make one /Hannibal).

Gather experience from others. This is pretty straight forward – when someone else is speaking, shut up and listen. There is much to learn from everybody that are around. Especially when they have many years of experience behind them. Ask questions! Try to understand and learn good working methods. Sometimes I have problems with this myself. Nevertheless I fight with the urge of my ego to speak up. Main reasons are – I know listening goes a long way and I am also teaching this to my kids. Which leads us to the next point.

Lead by example. There is nothing more powerful than example of the master. I am not saying I am the master, long way from it, but I have many other coaches around me, with way more experience and one common factor I’ve found is this – leading by example. Players (no matter of what age, but especially kids) will adapt part of coaches philosophy, lessons and BEHAVIOUR! I can’t stress enough to work with myself everyday and set best example for my kids in team. They learn fast and adapt many things to themselves what they experience within practices and games. One question I like to ask myself to keep me on road is – would I follow me?

Regarding the first quote above from Anthony Pagano – set your priorities straight and don’t forget the bigger picture. For me it was clear from the day one:

  1. Teach the kids for life through game of basketball
  2. Follow the vision of the BC Hellenen

My understanding to teach for life is to give lessons of discipline, teamwork, communication, mutual respect, psychology, body development to the youth players. Teaching them lessons I received growing up  (and playing youth basketball myself) and think that are important to a human being. Also teaching the lessons I didn’t receive growing up and would like that someone was there to teach me those things, lessons. The truth is that only a handsome of youth players get to professional levels, meanwhile others can learn valuable lessons by playing in the youth team. For some – basketball will stick with them the whole life. Some will become coaches or somehow related to sports in other ways. Others will take the lessons taught and apply them in completely different fields. After all – some will stay friends for life, teammates for life. You can’t put a price on that.

Following the vision. As a coach you one must always remember what is the goal that Club/community is trying to achieve. What is the vision of the organization you are working in? What are you trying to achieve as a community? Those are the very important things. If you feel lost about the vision of organization – ask, speak with people in it. Understand why we are here. Humans are social animals, together we achieve more. It is crucial not only to take responsibility for your team, but also work with this team to achieve bigger goals of the community you are in. Communicate and work together with other teams in order to fulfil the vision. Make this World better for everybody.

Uniting Cultures – is the moto of BC Hellenen, I already wrote an article what it means to me here.

That’s about it. Those are the biggest lessons of the first season as a youth coach. Everything else is just a question of execution and learning curve.