My Players Don’t Practice Enough

“My players don’t practice enough.”

I hear this all the time from youth coaches. The nice thing about the NBA is that everyone’s job is to get better, so players will mostly take the time and apply the work ethic. Youth coaches have it tougher, but can’t shrink from the challenge.

As a young coach myself, too often I would wash my hands of things that I didn’t think I had control of. “He doesn’t want to get in the gym,” or “she isn’t thinking with the focus she needs to when she is in gym.”

The reality is that this is the opposite of coaching. Coaching is teaching, showing the way, and holding accountable, but also finding a way to inspire your players. I’m still working on this and we should all be working to improve all the time.

The biggest battle that I’m fighting now is remembering that coaching is one part sales. You need to have a plan for the player, but then you need to inspire them enough to want to follow the plan. My weakness is that I’m more than happy to repeat the same thing over and over again. I enjoy that. Most players don’t, so I need to keep things fresh and have players engaged.


This can happen many different ways. You could have a new drill, a new phrase, or new scoring system. Some days maybe there is music.

Then your message needs to be clear. The player needs to know exactly what you want them to get better at, how to do it, how much to do it, and how success will be measured. In the beginning, avoid measuring success by how often the ball goes through the hoop. Find other things to measure.

“Take 100 shots where you land on two feet.”

“Your goal for next time we get together is for me not to have to remind you to get your non-shooting hand off the ball.”

“Here is a 100 shot challenge. Let’s see who can do this the most number of times over the break.”

Work to keep things fun and positive. The basketball season is such a long grind that you need to find an honest silver lining in everything. Players will never want to workout if every workout has a negative tone to it. Instead, take the attitude that “Hey, we are here doing something we love and we have a chance to get better, what is better than that?!?!?”

As coaches, our job is to improve the players. Get creative and try anything to help them. Take video, play music, offer rewards, create challenges. I’ll text players, ask questions, give them a task and an expectation. The point is, it is on us to figure it out. We are the coaches.

Let’s come back to the “my players don’t practice enough” line. We haven’t done a huge part of our jobs if our players don’t have the desire to improve or don’t want to get in the gym to work. We need to find ways to reach each player. Each player regardless of age, level, or experience can be motivated to work, it is just on us to figure out what those motivations are and use them to inspire each individual.

I started working with more players recently and have less time with each player. This was a huge adjustment for me, so I had to figure out a way to be there, even when I wasn’t there. I developed some ideas and am testing them now. I ask for my players input on ways I can help them more. But I have taken control of the hand that I’ve been dealt and will do everything in my power to make these players better.

That is coaching.


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