Coaching Tips to Motivate Your Basketball Players

April 28, 2014

As a basketball coach, your job consists of a lot more than just coming up with the X’s and O’s. You can have the best game plan and system in the world, but if your players lack motivation, your team will never reach its full potential.

But motivating athletes can be incredibly tough. Some coaches spend tons of time and money trying to master the art of motivation by reading books on the subject or even attending seminars and workshops. Often they get nothing in return, because motivation is a tricky thing. The truth is that motivation isn’t something you can teach. Your job as a coach is to provide an environment that nurtures the natural motivation your athletes already possess.

Motivation isn’t about yelling and screaming

We’ve all seen the sports movies where the team is losing the game and it seems impossible that they’ll come back. The coach then pulls them aside and fires off a passionate, emotional speech that kicks the team into gear and motivates them to win the game.

Yeah, that’s usually not how it works.

Motivation isn’t about yelling and screaming. It’s not about getting your team psyched up. It’s often about letting athletes discover what that motivates them by providing the right environment.

How to nurture your players’ motivation

So, if your job as a coach isn’t to actually drill motivation into your athletes, what can you do to create an environment and opportunity for them to be motivated? Here are a few tips:

  • Spend one-on-one time with every member of your team: You must know your athletes. Make it a goal to spend quality time with every member of your team throughout the season. Get to know them on a personal level. What are their interests? What do they like and dislike? What are their goals? The better you understand your athletes, the better you can set them up for success.
  • Give them free time in practice to work on the part of their game they choose: The key to motivation is to find out what your athletes love to do. One of the easiest ways to do this is to give them free time in practice to work on whatever aspect of their game that they love. They’ll naturally do the things they enjoy, which are the things that motivate them. Pay attention to this so you can help them develop those areas.
  • Don’t be a taskmaster: The legendary John Wooden (former UCLA head coach who guided the team to 10 NCAA championships) once said, “A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment.” That’s a powerful statement. You have to know how to teach your players without causing them to hate you or tune you out. Master this and you’ll create a better environment for nurturing motivation.

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