One of the many challenges as I have faced as a coach who has coached at lower levels is keying on the skills younger players need to develop over the summer. The “Dog Days of Summer” bring family vacations, traveling baseball and players expanding their game through AAU teams and individual workouts with personal trainers. In today’s coaching world, it’s important to encourage our players to participate in these activities. But developing the mental skills for our younger players preparing for the varsity level is crucial. This article will focus on 3 basketball intangibles you want to key in on as a coach to help your players prepare for their next season at the lower level, and prepare for the grind of the season.

Basketball Intangibles

1. Being Coachable

This is the most overused phrase in coach’s vocabulary but it is one of the most important traits for my players to have when the season rolls around in November. As coaches, we have all been at the summer league game where two fouls are called all game or the ref leisurely gets across half-court because they have worked several games in a row. The importance of these games goes beyond a few bad calls or getting into the gold bracket.

Don’t get me wrong, success in these games is important, but summer brings a unique opportunity for us as coaches to teach our players what it means to be coachable. The most important key as coaches in a summer league atmosphere is to teach our players through mistakes. In addition, to help them understand how to be responsive to constructive criticism.

It is imperative to talk, respond, and give our players positive feedback to enhance their skills physically. Also, to build rapport and install the understanding that being coachable is a win for our team, themselves, and for their teammates. Rewarding coachability in the summertime builds better relationships, will get you the most out of your players, and build a culture that creates accountability and understanding.

2. Accountability

Building accountability within your players is a necessary skill for the most successful teams. As I alluded to previously, guys have a lot going on in the summer. One of the more frustrating challenges as a coach is having different guys every weekend or having 6 guys for a whole weekend. We understand as adults, that life happens, families travel and kids need to be kids.

As a player and young coach, I have found that players become very frustrated when their teammates are no shows without communication. I tell my guys that your how successful you are in the season is how hard you work when no one is in the gym. This principle applies to showing up and being accountable as a player. I tell my guys I am a reasonable person and my family traveled a lot when I was a kid too. But the idea of not showing up without notice or communication is a slap to the face to your teammates who come to work every day.

Hey, I know if I didn’t show up teach my class without calling in or communication I would be in hot water. So this is a quality to teach your players for success on the court and success off the court later down the road. But, holding players accountable cannot just be on you, it is our job as coaches to teach and develop our players into leaders. Inspire your players to hold each other accountable to show up and work.

3. Communication

Teaching communication comes from multiple angles in the summertime. The most important key of teaching communication is teaching communication on the court. The most successful programs teach communication. Summer league can be frustrating because of the factors discussed above. But it is important as the leader to facilitate and stress the importance of on-court communication despite the unusual circumstances of summer basketball. Good teams communicate, and that is essential to tell your guys. Demand that they talk through on screens on defense, pick each other up on the bench, and communicate with you during the game.

The second angle of communication that is necessary to focus on is player-to coach communication. Educators and coaches know the importance of positive relationships in motivating players to get the job done. Relationships cannot just be a 6-month season but rather a 365-day commitment by us as leaders.

Don’t be the coach that needs to be the “LaVar Ball” of the gym. Be tough on your players, but understand the situation. Summertime is supposed to be a time for players to refine their skills, build rapport and develop confidence.

Focus on Developing Basketball Intangibles in Young Players

Not every player is going to be able to develop an opposite-hand or a floater. They might not add 25 pounds to their frame in the off-season. Something I learned as a coach is to have systems in place for the summer to develop these physical skills. However, we also need to focus on developing young players’ intangibles. The mental development is just as important as the physical skills developed in the off-season. The teams that work on and develop communication skills, accountability, and coachability in the summer find ways to win on the last shot, dive on loose balls, take charges and are willing to go the extra mile to win basketball games when it matters.

Brett Pickarts <> / @Coach_Pickarts


Related: Youth Basketball: Reducing Turnovers with Gold


If you found this useful, don’t forget to check out additional blog posts at Also, check out TeachHoops on FacebookTwitterInstagram and YouTube.