Developing a Positive Basketball Culture
A positive basketball culture is the first thing you will need to build in your program. You will need to fight for this every single day in every thing you do–from the weightroom to your open gym sessions. When you face adversity your culture will be able to overcome any negativity if you have a strong foundation.
Jon Gordon is a master teacher on culture and I strongly recommend you check out some of my favorite books of his–The Energy Bus, The Power of a Positive Team, The Carpenter, and You Win In the Locker Room First.
When you start to establish your culture and identity as a positive team, you will then need to establish some core values for your program. We stole ours from Alabama and Nate Oats: Max Effort, Continuous Learning, and Selfless Love. We even tied Bible verses into these so we can reach our players spiritually.
Our program spent some money and put some cool signage up to improve our facilities with these words all around it for our players to see daily. The important thing is, you must fight for these values daily as a coach and hold your players accountable to them!
We talk about these values daily and what it means to live them out on and off the court to develop the entire individual. A few things we do is ask a player at the end of practice or a weight room session to name a core value. Then we will ask them to tell us how one player on our team lived it out today and why. This gets our kids thinking about the values constantly!
Getting Player Buy-In
When you are building your culture, you have to have players buy into your culture. One way you can do this as a coach is to have your players have some input. We asked our players to create a vision statement and standards they would like to live out daily that correlate with our core values.
One tip I got from a few experts on culture was don’t limit yourself when setting goals. For example: we want to win districts, go undefeated at home, and go to the State Tournament.
While those are great things, oftentimes everyone has those same goals. And what happens when you lose that first game at home? What happens when you don’t win districts but you can still advance? Or an even better question: what if your players do get complacent when they accomplish winning districts and going undefeated at home?
You can get complacent and think you achieved enough and you fall short of going even further than what you were capable of doing. So we made a vision statement instead that has seemed to really motivate our players to the next level.
They came up with the following: The FCS basketball team is a united group of brothers here to glorify Jesus through the game of basketball while exceeding the expectations of others, with the expectation to win everytime we step on the floor.
A few standards our players came up with through guided discussion include: Accountability, Communication, Elevate, Grit, Selflessness, and Servanthood.
Kids have to have fun with the game of basketball and so do coaches! Basketball is a long season, and in a lot of ways it’s year round with post-season workouts, summer, pre-season, and in season. One way to avoid any burnout is to celebrate little things. Celebrate progress in the weight room. Celebrate winning two games in a row in season. And celebrate simple things like winning a situational segment in practice!
Another tip to have a positive basketball culture comes with making time for relationships with your players. Something I got from T.J. Rosene at Emmanuel College and PGC Basketball is to write out the names of three players on your practice plan and have a meaningful conversation with those players that day. Mix up the names each practice and you will be able to reach all of your players consistently.
Use Your Assistant Coaches
As coaches we have to trust our assistant coaches–we hired them for a reason! A tip I want to suggest is to delegate your work and let your assistant coaches lead in some areas of the program. For example, in the pre- and post-season, my assistant coaches lead all my weight room and skill development days. As the head coach I serve as the manager and see the big picture.
My assistants will run everything by me and make sure it is in alignment with what we are trying to accomplish. This allows your players to hear someone else’s voice and allows you to save yours more so for the season! You also are helping your assistant coaches who want to move on to become a head coach one day.
I would also encourage you to write out other areas of your program you can delegate to your assistants. I really like the defensive end of the floor, so I call one of my assistants the “offensive coordinator.” We run a read and react/dribble drive hybrid offense, so I give him free reign out of that to come up with ways to improve our offense, drills, small sided games, etc. This also limits my film, as he will watch everything on us offensively and I will watch everything defensively.
I hope you found some useful tips and strategies that have worked for our program. Best of luck this season!