In addition to teaching the X’s and O’s of their sport, every basketball coach is tasked with finding a way to transform at least a few of their basketball players into leaders. Below, I share ten ways that you can do that, and I would argue that this job, if you are a coach or leader in any arena, is even more important than the teaching of techniques or strategy.
Without peer leadership, a team facing adversity will often lean on a crutch of excuses or finger-pointing. It will either lose focus or begin listening to negative voices on the periphery of your team.
Often, the most valuable voice a basketball team can have is that of an athlete committed to success and who helps to keep his or her teammates on the same page, working together with intensity toward the same goal.
A great basketball coach or leader in any field is first and foremost interested in developing the people around him. As Tom Peters has said, “Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders.”
But Leaders are not created in a classroom…
You must give them time and provide them with the tools and opportunities to grow into that role.
As a basketball coach or leader, before you start reading the ten ways for you to transform your basketball players into team leaders, I think it is first necessary to define what a good leader is or does in your organization.
The more specific you are in your definition, the easier it will be for your athletes to live up to those expectations. And be careful not just to list adjectives. A quality and thorough definition of good leadership should also include a list of behaviors that would be evidence of those traits.
Once you have your detailed definition ready, then you can share it with the individuals you want to develop into leaders and begin working through the following ten ways to transform your basketball players:
Have Your Basketball Players Keep a Journal
This can be a journal for recording their thoughts over a season or one that records specific measurables from past performances. Numbers never lie – and it helps to have a record to identify reasons for strong growth or a performance plateau. There is tremendous value in maintaining a diary of knowledge that has been collected through many experiences. If they do not have time for reflection, they do not have time for improvement!
Increase Your Basketball Player’s Opportunities for Skill Building
Basketball players need to work on individual skills – and you want leaders to lead with actions and words. There must be a consistent and required time for focusing on building the skills which will be essential to ensuring their success. This discipline will lead to better individual performance and act as an example to others of positive and successful behaviors.
Create a Plan for Your Basketball Player’s Future
Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Every athlete (or teammate) wants to know that the skills and experience they are gaining will be useful in the future and will benefit tremendously from considering where their path may lead and what their daily behaviors are doing to contribute to that future.
Encourage Your Basketball Players to Make (and Own) Their Mistakes
Leaders realize that making mistakes is how we learn (and wise leaders learn from others’ mistakes). As Coach Dean Smith of the UNC Tar Heels said, you should “admit it, learn from it, and then not repeat it.” Great leaders take responsibility for their actions and decisions – and it is their positive response to mistakes and adversity that makes great leaders such a powerful example to their teammates.
Assign a Younger Person for Your Basketball Players to Mentor
John Maxwell has famously said that “Leadership is influence.” Putting your athlete in a position where he or she has the opportunity to shape and impact the lives and perceptions and visions of others positively is a powerful tool… and once he/she discovers how much influence their efforts and advice can have on a younger person, they will likely recognize and take advantage of more chances to speak up and lead your basketball team.
Have Your Basketball Players Research Your Organization’s Past
There is nothing like the feeling of being a significant and contributing part of something bigger than yourself. Giving your athlete a perspective on who has come before and the foundation that their efforts have helped build can provide a valuable sense of belonging to something larger. All great basketball players or achievers recognize and respect the adversity and accomplishments of those who came before and learn from the lessons and examples they offer.
Request Your Basketball Player’s Advice and Ideas
One of the greatest compliments you can give another person is to sincerely ask for and act upon their advice. If you are grooming someone for a leadership position, then having them feel that their opinion and insights are valued and will impact your program are key ingredients to their increasing sense of ownership and influence.
Share Important Big-Picture Information With Your Basketball Players
The more information you share with your basketball players, the more involved and invested they will usually become. Some coaches still take the position that most things are on a “need to know” basis, and their player’s job is just to show up and play. This leads to an employee mentality among your athletes instead of encouraging them to take ownership and feel included in the process. The more they know about the big picture plans of strategy, the why behind your practice planning, the need for fundraising, or the importance of defining team roles and responsibilities, the more they will likely feel a necessary part of making sure those things happen.
Give Your Basketball Players a “Shield” of Confidence
For Romans to lose or throw away their shields was a crime punishable by death because of the value of those body-length shields. If you’ve ever seen Gladiator, you know how big those things were. In Ephesians 6.16, Paul references the “shield of faith…” Even in difficult times, a leader should remember to NEVER “throw away/lose” their confidence/faith. Poor leaders allow circumstances to affect their commitment… but great leaders are determined to have their commitment impact their circumstances!
Expose Your Basketball Players to Other Leaders
The ugly duckling only felt ugly because he was a swan surrounded by ducks. Often, one of the greatest gifts you can give an athlete with leadership potential is to send them into situations where they will “see other swans” and see that they are not alone in having greater abilities or aspirations than some of the people that may surround them in day to day situations. Whether it is a basketball camp, a conference, or simply a visit to observe successful athletes at the “next level” of competition, all leaders need examples to emulate and will benefit from feeling that they are not alone in their commitment to excel.
Ten Ways to Transform Your Basketball Players Into Team Leaders Conclusion
There are many basketball coaching books and articles on team leadership that can help provide the information and encouragement your athletes need – but nothing is more powerful than personal experiences.
Experiential learning and reflection are the keys to internalizing and applying any idea or insight. If your team needs better leadership or is struggling to work successfully together, and you would like to discuss how a team development event can improve their communication and leadership skills, I hope you will contact me and share a short summary of your situation.