This basketball coaching article was written by Tim Kaine, who is currently an assistant men’s basketball coach at Florida Atlantic University. He was also previously a part of the coaching staff at Winthrop University in 2007-2008, where the team capped off its 4th year in a row of winning the conference championship. Coach Kaine’s other coaching experiences are; Austin Peay State University, Newberry College, Guilford College, and Northwestern High School.
It seems that every year that the transfer list for Division 1 basketball schools grows exponentially. There are many reasons for players leaving. Whether they want more playing time, influenced by coaching changes, or many other reasons, they pack up their lockers for a fresh start at a new school.
Some basketball players transfer because they lose their confidence in their abilities and do not have the self-confidence to play at their current school. Obviously, they can be good players, or the coaching staff would not have recruited and signed them. Our job as basketball coaches is to help build their confidence through physical development, build mental toughness, and achieve top athletic performance.
Many basketball coaches in America are now coaching at least one transfer on their team. While at Florida Atlantic University, we have signed a transfer almost every year. I have coached many transfers, and a few have had confidence issues. They were very talented players, but they no longer believed in themselves. The first thing we did was let them know that we believed in their abilities.
We also told them that we would hold them to high expectations, and we expect them to exceed those expectations. After explaining what is expected of them, we outline a personal basketball skill development plan for the year. We develop a plan to help them improve every day of the year they have to sit-out but do not use the term “sitting out” because this conveys that the player won’t be working.
Instead, we tell them it is a year for “development” both mentally and physically. The year of development will be the hardest year of their lives, both physically and mentally.
Basketball Player Physical Development
With each transfer, we sit down with our coaching staff, including our strength and conditioning coach. We watch film from their previous school and, if possible, film from their HS or Prep school. We do it to develop a plan for the player and how he will fit into our team and style of play. First, our strength coach sits down and develops an individual plan for the player.
This is done in the summer after the strength coach has worked out the student-athlete for a few weeks. That way, he can determine what weaknesses and strengths the athlete needs to work on in the weight room. Carson Randall, our strength coach, works with the player throughout the entire year and assigns extra time for the player to be in the weight room.
This is imperative for our athletes when we are on the road for games that we keep high expectations even if they aren’t on the road with us. The strength coach has workouts in the weight room and also on the court. The members of our program that are also huge for transfers and current players is our managers. Our managers do a great job of getting our guys in the gym when traveling to help our players work out.
Now that we can work out players in the summer, we will do the same for skill development. For example, we had a young man who struggled to hold onto passes in the post. We knew this when he arrived on campus. So we developed a basketball training program that was designed to help the player with his hands.
We spent every day after practice and before home games working on his hands. We do a lot of tennis ball drills and racquetball drills. One of the tougher basketball drills that we do with our players is “Wall Ball.” This drill has the player facing a wall in our gym about 5-6 feet from the wall.
The coach is behind the player with tennis balls/racquetballs and throws them at the wall. The player is sliding from side to side while the coach is throwing the balls. The player isn’t sure where the ball is going or when it’s thrown until it hits the wall.
At first, the player will struggle, but they start to catch the balls sooner than later. By the end of this player’s career, he was catching tough passes. On his senior night, he actually caught a bad pass and dunked on a 6’11 kid. Had you seen him when he arrived on campus, you would have never thought he would catch the pass, much less dunk the ball.
The Mental Side for Basketball Players
This past basketball season we had a young man who transferred from a bigger school, and he had lost his confidence. He went to a great program that style-wise just didn’t fit his game. He is one of the most talented basketball post players our staff has ever coached, but when he arrived on campus, he didn’t believe in himself.
The first couple of weeks were a struggle because of his lack of self-confidence. He struggled to finish around the basket and was worried about taking any type of shot. He would always hang his head when he would miss a shot. Also, if anyone tried to talk to him, he became very defensive towards his teammates. Most of his mistakes had nothing to do with his physical ability; it had to do with his mental approach.
After a few weeks, the player and the staff sat down to discuss his mental approach. Although he did not want to meet with a sports psychologist when we brought it up, he reluctantly went and met with Dr. Smith regularly. Not only has the player improved greatly on the court, but it also has helped with his GPA. Many athletes and coaches do not like to think that they need help with the mental side of the game/job, but it is another tool we can use to get the most out of our players.
Most players can have consistent athletic confidence with discipline and practice, even during those inevitable plateaus or slumps. His improvement on the court has been possible because he bought in both with the physical and mental side of becoming a better player during his year of “development.”
It will be a process with all of our basketball players and helping them develop both mentally and physically. But we believe our players, including transfers, have and will greatly improve with our staff working together and communicating with our players daily.