I took a “sabbatical” from coaching three years ago so I could spend more time with my young family. While nothing is as valuable as the actual experience of coaching, that extra time has freed me to study the coaching field more in-depth and learn how I – and others – could become a better coach.

Dean Smith

The opportunity to watch more basketball at various levels and my work as a broadcaster for Xavier University Women’s Basketball has allowed me to gain some observations about the game. Most of these observations can be applied to other sports, as well.

1. Motivating your athletes is the most important task for a coach. – As a young coach I spent way more time on the X’s & O’s, scouting, etc., and not as much on figuring out what made each individual athlete tick. Spend time getting to know them and, in turn, challenge them based on what you know about them. Reflection is key when determining how to motivate.

2. Today’s athletes thrive on positive motivation. – I was a little on the crazy side as a young coach. I took myself too seriously. I’ve observed that today’s kids don’t always translate a crazy coach into productive performance. Demand, but don’t demean.

3. Statistics tell lots of stories. – The evolution of Moneyball, Michael Lewis’s 2003 book about how the Oakland Athletics have used stats to develop their organization’s philosophy, enhanced the importance of numbers in sports. More college athletic programs are hiring statistical analysts as part of their support staffs. When possible have as many people document statistics for your team. They really do help you learn more about your team.

4. Be flexible. – Flexibility means occasionally changing things that are comfortable for you. It involves “thinking outside the box,” whether it’s X’s & O’s, lineups, practice structure, or something else. It’s important to have your system philosophies but the best coaches have the ability to adjust. Be flexible especially if you have the team with the most talent. The more ways you can be prepared to defeat your opponent the better. Dean Smith comes to mind as a coach who was successful because he was flexible.

5. The team that controls the middle of the floor tends to be the most successful. – I have noticed that basketball teams that can get the ball in the free throw lane, especially the high and low post areas, usually control the outcome of the game. Their offensive options increase when the ball reaches those areas. This could be said for many team sports, such as linemen in football.

6. Find your players’ “sweet spots.” – Know where each of your players does his best work, especially where your shooters prefer shooting the ball. Then design your offense so those players get scoring opportunities in those areas.

7. Confidence, not arrogance, wins championships. – How many times have we seen the most talented teams not win a championship? A team must first have a collective confidence if they want to achieve their goals. However, telling everyone that you are the best doesn’t win games. More than anything, it becomes a distraction from winning.

Resources Mentioned in This Blog
Book: Moneyball

Question: What important lessons have you learned about coaching by studying your game?



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