"Coaches Corner" articles are written directly by high school coaches, providing a unique perspective on topics both on and off the court that impact the game and prep sports in general.
Written by Beaver Dam girls basketball coach Tim Chase, who has coached for more than 20 years.
Summer basketball is both a blessing and a frustrating experience for a high school basketball coach. Every coach gets excited thinking about what the upcoming season may be. A new offensive or defensive approach, taking a look at new players, and seeing how a team competes in leagues and tournaments makes for an exciting time of year. It can also be quite discouraging when your kids are not participating in the events you have planned.
Summer provides us with a chance to experiment with some new ideas that can potentially change a team’s culture or philosophy before the season starts in November. I always feel bad for the programs that don’t have a coach in place early in the spring. It really puts a program at a disadvantage because it is more difficult to bring kids up to speed with what they may be doing in November. Every coach will see players differently than the summer parent coach or the previous coach. So being able to get your players on the right track can give the programs that take advantage of it an edge.
The whole point of summer basketball is to get better. To have players become better players and to have teams play at a higher level. Playing together in the summer allows players to get an idea what they do well and what they need to work on. It is important that a coach lets the individual players know what specific skills they need to have to become a successful basketball player. It also is a good time for the coach to share the vision of what the team should look like. Players will hear what you say if you emphasize what is important.
I do find it a little unfair when coaches do not give players the chance to compete in the summer. Every kid wants a chance. During the summer, giving kids a chance to play will let them know where they fall with everyone else. As a player, take advantage of the chances you get. If you don’t put yourself out there it is difficult to blame a coach. Even if you go out and don’t play well, come back the next day and work harder and get better. Coaches love players that come back after a bad day and are ready to get after it. It can be a tough game and not every day is going to go well. If you love the game, you will do whatever you can to be successful.
Now comes the difficult part of summer basketball. Kids are so involved. Most of our kids are the best students, best athletes in multiple sports, have jobs, and want to spend time with family and friends. As coaches we all have to share with AAU and other sports. In the past, I set too many dates for play. As a result, I had a difficult time finding kids to fill all of our times. Everyone tells you they can come months ahead of time, but when the date comes around something will come up. Not having enough kids to participate in a pre-committed event is an awful feeling for a coach. Kids are the ones that have to make the decision how involved they want to be. Hopefully you have leaders that want to become better and want others to be better as well. It is great to have a vision as a coach, but if the players don’t buy into it, you probably won’t see a lot of success in the summer. The players must be the ones that hold each other accountable.
So what is the solution? It really depends on where you are at as a program. If you have a lot of kids playing AAU, then the important part is getting the kids together for team cohesion. If you don’t have a lot of kids playing AAU, then you need to make sure the kids are getting the reps they need. What your kids accomplish in June and July will affect the entire team once the season starts. Getting kids together and letting them have ownership in the planning definitely starts things in the right direction.
Players: make sure you are getting the reps in and that you are making yourself a better player. Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone to improve. Now is the time to try that new move. Also get your teammates involved. It is a team game.
Parents: please be supportive of both players and coaches. Summer is not the time to get too up or too down. It is a time to see where your daughter is at and a time to support them in working on becoming a better player. It is the time to try new things for both players and coaches. It takes time to improve.
Coaches: have fun, give kids a chance to show what they can do, and don’t get too upset when kids don’t take advantage of all that they can. Every coach wants the best of everything for their players, but the best teams have players that want it more than we do as coaches.