Topic 1 – Coach Roles by Age

There are many roles a coach can fill.  The amount of roles a coach needs to fill will largely be determined by the age of their students.  

Ages 6-9

For ages 6-9 students are impressionable, but not extremely so, and are more participating in basketball to learn the game and have fun.  When teaching this age group, role modeling and teaching good morals is not too important.  Coaches should be focused on teaching fundamentals, and proper game integrity, and most importantly making sure the students are having fun so they want to continue to play.

Ages 9-12

As players enter the age range of 9-12 they become more impressionable as they mature, making the roles and behavior of a coach more important.  As students become more observant, coaching roles such as “role model” and “development officer” become a larger part of how students feel about the game of basketball, going to practice, games, etc.  If students view their coach as a positive role model, it makes all basketball activities more enjoyable and beneficial.  For this age group, fun should still be the main focus, again encouraging them to continue learning basketball fundamentals.

Ages 12-18

From ages 12-18 players are at their most receptive point.  Their coach can strongly influence their enjoyment of the game, this is often the age group when students decide whether or not they are playing basketball for fun, or want to continue playing competitively.  This age group is also the time when coaches need to fill the most roles, and have the strongest influence.  Often, whether a player continues playing for fun or competitively is largely determined by their malleability with their coaches. Throughout this age group, coaching is a combination of teaching students good morals, while improving their skills.

Ages 18+

At ages 18 and older, players have decided what role basketball will play in their life, and their coach will have little impact on that decision.  For the players who do continue to play at a competitive level, the coaching tactics will become extremely skill based, rather than role model based. These players are looking to refine weaknesses in their game, and are focused on winning.

As you can see in the chart in the age groups U12, coaches have little influence and players are participating to have fun.  Between ages 12 and 18 coaches have the most influence, becoming both a role model and teaching players new skills while refining weaknesses.  For players O18, the coach becomes strictly about skill development, rather than teaching game integrity or life lessons.  At this point, older players both know game integrity, and have formed their own morals.

Other Information Affecting Roles

Other aspects that affect the roles a coach plays are the skill level of players and the type of team being coached, and the reason the players are playing.  For example, if coaching a team of young players, on a recreational team who are only playing for fun, the coach would focus on teaching some basic fundamentals and game integrity.  Since basketball is not a large part of these players’ lives, the coach would not bother becoming a role model for them because the students are unlikely to recognize them in such a position.  Even so, the coach should still try and push basic values such as respect for others and teamwork. 

Across all age groups, skill levels and motivation for playing, coaches must let their players know they care for them as more than just athletes.  Caring for athletes as people, rather than just athletes, sets an example for students on how to treat others most importantly.  It is crucial for coaches to emphasize the effort put forth, rather than simply winning.  Later on in the students life, this will give them a process-based mindset, which will ultimately lead to more progression, rather than an outcome-based mindset.

There are many ways coaches can improve within the coaching roles.  One is to become better at self management, because if a coach is unable to manage themselves, they will be unable to properly manage others.  Another is to have a mentor and learn constantly.  The most successful people always have someone who they discuss important issues with, and attempt to learn more regardless of their perceived knowledge.  Transparency about failures will also allow a coach to relate more closely with their players.  Allowing players to see both the good and bad sides of a coach will increase respect in the player-coach relationship.

Overall, the roles and leadership tactics of a coach are dependent on the age of players, but also by players’ skill level and motivation.  Coaches should consider these measures when deciding how involved they should become in the development of their students both on and off the court.

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