Coaching Tips To Motivate Your Basketball Team

November 15, 2016

Jay Whitehead

There are many different ways to motivate your basketball team. While some methods may work better than others, finding the best way to motivate your unique team may take some time. Every team is different, there are some tried-and-true methods that seem to be effective for almost every team. Here are a few of our favorite motivational methods which can be used as a starting point, but feel free to adjust and adapt them to your unique team and vision.

Peaks and Valleys

Every basketball team goes through peaks and valleys—it's a part of the game, but those moments of high and low can also cause a rift in team motivation. During a peak, a team will likely fuel their own motivation by feeding off of success plays and crowd enthusiasm, but during a valley, a team lacks the energy needed to fuel their own motivation.

While it can be challenging and frustrating for both you and your team, it’s important to encourage your players to continue giving their all, even during a valley, as it will serve as good practice and experience for your next game.

Rewarding Your Basketball team

One way to motivate your team during these rough patches can be to use some kind of reward system. For example, you could set benchmark tasks to be completed throughout the peaks and valleys of the game, and if those benchmarks are met, then players are rewarded with an early shower, a water break or even a shortened practice. If the marks aren’t met, the team has to clean up after practice, get to practice early or do extra reps or drills.

During valleys, benchmark tasks can be anything from making a certain number or percentage of free throws, three-point shots and drives for layups, or during peaks, suggest more difficult tasks such as half-court shots, one-on-two offensive shots or precision passing techniques. Feel free to encourage your players to work together to set goals for the team to promote ownership and challenge each team member to play their best every game. While these drills should be a fun challenge for your team, keep in mind that you need to follow-through with the reward system.

Productive Discipline

According to the Positive Coaching Alliance, the best way for basketball coaches to enforce good discipline is to remain calm, create consequences and be consistent. This doesn’t include negative feedback or becoming visibly angry with your players; rather, productive discipline focuses attention on establishing a strong coaching philosophy and culture with your team members and parents at the beginning of the season. By doing so, you are setting your expectations and the tone for the rest of the season.

Motivating The Team To Behave

While this may be enough for some players, there are times you may still have to address undesirable behavior. The Positive Coaching Alliance suggests a three-pronged approach: reinforcing good behavior, ignoring the behavior you don’t want and, when you’re left with no choice, intervening with a ‘least attention’ manner. The first two steps are fairly straightforward. Acknowledge and reinforce the behavior you want to see from your athletes based on the guidelines and culture you established at the beginning of the season. For players who are misbehaving, sometimes the most effective strategy is to disregard the player and their actions completely. Oftentimes, after taking away their attention completely, children will typically want to regain the attention of their coach and will start to comply with the previously established rules.

In some cases, ignoring misbehavior is not an option, especially if the athlete is putting herself or other teammates at risk. When you have to intervene, it’s best to do so with the ‘least-attention’ possible. We suggest calmly calling the player to the side and asking him or her to sit out until they are ready to obey the rules. You may have to repeat this step if the player continues to disregard team rules. When it comes time to check in with the player, encourage him or her to verbally acknowledge why they were asked to sit out and to commit to following the rules from now on.

Although following this approach can prove to be challenging—especially when you’re trying to remain calm in the midst of a big game—you’re setting a positive example for your players and their parents, teaching them to learn from their mistakes and keep moving forward.

Praise Drives Team Motivation

Positive reinforcement, more commonly known as praise, is generally welcomed by all players. Praise your players, both in times of success and defeat. Offering simple words of encouragement and praise can give your players the boost they need to finish the game strong.

Praise doesn’t have to just come from coaches. Encourage parents and even team members to praise each other for good work on and off the court. Coming together as a team to create a positive environment for each and every one of your players is the best way to motivate your team to play their best.  

Motivation the SquadLocker Way

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