Monday, July 22, 2013

Adaptability Is One Key To Coaching (or Leadership)

When I first volunteered to coach youth basketball many years ago, I had no idea what I was doing.  I had minimal experience playing basketball let alone COACHING basketball.    I was just a screamer who didn't know what I was talking about.  I've never been one to remain static so I dug into various books about basketball including ones on coaching philosophy, skill development and tactical details. 

Fast forward to 2013 and things have changed quite a bit.  I coached youth basketball for about 15+ years and learned a lot about skill development, coaching philosophies and communication.  What has advanced my coaching is the fact that I have PLAYED in adult leagues for the past 20+ years.  Coaching without playing experience of any kind is a difficult thing.   So now I can talk about strategy and tactics much better than I could in the past.  

Despite having all this experience, I believe one of the keys in coaching is adaptability.   One reason I believe this is within the current structure where I spend most of my time coaching these days.  When I coached my youth basketball teams in the past, I had time for practices.   I could talk to my teams about my expectations and gear practices toward what I needed done.  Practices also gave me insight into all of my players and what they could do. 

Currently, I do not coach any youth basketball. I spend time playing in adult draft basketball leagues AND volunteering to be a captain (aka coach) of the team as well.   Unlike my youth teams, I don't have any practices.  Plus, these are draft leagues so you get new sets of players just about every season.   Many times, I learn about the team on the fly.  If you happen to have great players that mesh well, you're all set.   As we all know, it's not always going to happen. 

The challenge becomes to figure out your players, their styles, skills and put all of them into one consistent team while they are playing.  That requires a ton of adaptability.    Whatever strategies you used the season before may not work as you have different players. 

Beyond the strategy, adaptability in communication is key.  I learned early on that every kid responded differently to me.  I had to adjust to maximize the abilities of my kids.  With adults, I feel most listen to you if you stay generic.   However, there will always be some that are stubborn or take more time to connect to.  This requires a lot of experimentation.  Sometimes you get through and sometimes you don't.  

I mention this because of our softball game today.  We lost and a lot of us made mistakes.  I know I made plenty today and can self adjust.  Some players are newer and may have felt bad due to some of the mistakes.  Even though I'm not the captain of the softball team, I chatted with one of the players and quietly pointed out what happened and what the expected outcome was supposed to be. 

After all, knowing a mistake was made is good.  Knowing WHY is better.   Just taking some of the lessons I learned in years past to all the teams I participate in.  

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