Coaches: Develop a Coaching Philosophy

The high school basketball season may be two months away but for those close to the game, whether coaches, parents, or players, the season never really ends.  For coaches, the calm before the storm often means attending a clinic or two prior to the sounds of sneakers squeaking on the hardwood.  If you live in the greater Bangor area, there is a tremendous resource for anyone who wants to learn more about the game.

Retired Maine Maritime Academy Men’s Basketball Coach Chris Murphy is inviting everyone to Eastern Maine Community College in Bangor to discuss all things related to the game of basketball.  The clinics began last Tuesday and run every Tuesday night through the months of September and October (minus October 10th).  The classes run from 6:30-8:30 PM inside Johnston Gymnasium.  You can’t beat the price either, it’s FREE!!!

During last week’s class we discussed the development of a coaching philosophy.  While I have articulated bits and pieces of my belief system throughout the time that I had coached, I never had formulated my thoughts in print, until now.  The writing process allows those thoughts to take root.  Especially with the busyness of the season, it is very easy to get caught up in the day to day coaching tasks while losing sight of the big picture.

So where does one start in forming a fundamental philosophy of coaching?  The basis of establishing a philosophy should begin with the question why.  Why do we do what we do?  This is true of any endeavor or business operation.  Most businesses have a mission statement and all activities within that business flow from that mission statement.  As the service coordinator at Aging Excellence, which provides non-medical, in-home care for seniors, our mission statement is to keep seniors active, independent, and in their own homes and communities.  Coaches should have a mission statement as well in which all activities pertaining to their sport should fall under.

So what is your why?  What is my why?  You see, without a why we are like ships without rudders.  For me, I believe athletics are to be used as a vehicle to impart life lessons to aid our student-athletes throughout their life’s journeys.  These life lessons implemented can assist them in becoming successful adults who make a lasting contribution to society.

Now that I’ve answered the why, the next question is how.  How do we build our programs in such a way that life lessons are being taught?  First of all, we need to be mentors to our players.  Of course, no one is perfect but the players should be able to look at the lives we lead and want to emulate those qualities.  Secondly, we need to challenge our players both from a physical and mental standpoint.  Nothing worth accomplishing comes easily.  To assist in their transition into the adult world, we must aid them in conflict resolution.  This is one reason I kept conversations about playing time and other team matters between the players and myself.

What should the players expect from their coach?  Above all, a coach should be fair with all teammates.  That doesn’t necessarily mean treating all players the same.  Once you get to know your players you’ll understand which ones you need to push harder and which athletes you might treat differently.  It does mean in regards to team rules and standards that everyone abides by the same rules.

A coach should always be prepared.  That means scouting opponents, preparing for all practice sessions, and developing viable game plans.  When the opportunity arises, coaches should be involved in professional development such as attending coaches clinics.

The game should be fun.  The players started in the sport in the first place because it is fun.  Emphasis the joy obtained by putting in the hard work required to be successful.

As a coach, don’t ask the players to do anything in practice they will not do in a game.  Always have a reason why you are doing something and articulate that to the players.  “Because I’m the coach and I said so” is not a good reason why.  If we can’t answer the question why then we shouldn’t be doing it.  A coach should also be accountable to his players, their parents, and the school.  The coach also needs to command the same accountability in return.

My overall coaching philosophy would be consistent regardless of what sport I was coaching.  Being a former basketball coach, there are some basketball specific beliefs that I still hold to.  Defensively, we begin with a strong man-to-man defense.  With this strong base to build off, we can be effective in any defense that we play.

I believe I owe it to my players to keep learning about the game.  Talent changes from year to year so the prudent coach will adjust his or her system to the strengths of their players.  Regardless of the talent, we place a great deal of emphasis on shot selection.  We want to take shots that we should make, not merely those that we can make.  I believe in going inside out to generate good shots, especially if we have a decent post player.  It creates a lot of pressure on the defense when the ball goes inside as a first option.

We also need to ask ourselves as a team, what do we do well?  How can we best take advantages of our strengths?  We work on our weaknesses but at the same time we build what we do around our strengths.  Provided the talent level is somewhat even, more games are won or loss on the mental part of the game rather than the physical.  We want to be great at the aspects of the game which require little to no athletic ability.

Having a coaching philosophy is wonderful but it is not enough.  You also need to find a school which will embrace that philosophy.  When interviewing for a coaching position, as they are asking you questions, you also want to interview them to be sure the situation is a good fit prior to signing on the dotted line.

As you prepare for the upcoming season, it might behoove you to write out your coaching philosophy so you aren’t caught out to sea like a ship without a rudder.


Bob Beatham

About Bob Beatham

Bob, a lifelong Bangor resident, has just completed his 21st season as the Public Address Announcer at Mansfield Stadium in Bangor. Bob is also the public address voice for John Bapst Crusader football. He also currently serves as the scorekeeper for John Bapst basketball. Bob is an avid follower of Maine high school athletics, particularly football and basketball. The University of Maine at Farmington graduate is the service coordinator at Aging Excellence, which provides in-home care for seniors..