Topic 4 – Create a fun and positive learning environment

 Create a Fun and Positive Learning Environment

When coaching young players the focus should be on creating a fun environment and fostering learning.  Many youth players are focused on how to get to the next level and eventually to the NBA.  The sad reality is that a very small percentage of the population ever reaches the highest level of competition.  It would be wrong to promise players that extremely hard goal, instead it would be better if coaches promise development and feedback.  Focusing on this without the goal of NBA level basketball will help create a fun, learning environment.  

Another way to create such an environment would be through differing coaching styles.  Everybody learns differently, so in order for it to be fun and beneficial, coaches must adapt their style to different players.  Grouping players based on their learning styles will allow for practice, and feedback, to be delivered more seamlessly.  For example, some players do not mind being yelled at and challenged in front of teammates, while others do not react or learn well from such an environment.  Separating these players into groups based on this should allow for optimal learning.  

A third aspect to creating a fun learning environment would be ensuring participants’ readiness to participate.  Readiness is determined by players willingness and ability.  If a player is willing and able then go ahead with any drill, any situation, etc.  If a player is willing but unable, maybe run a drill that requires less skill and focuses more on conditioning or form.  If a player is able, but unwilling, it would be more beneficial to run a scrimmage or a fun game, rather than forcing the player to participate in a drill they do not want to partake in.

Next, explain tasks thoroughly after it has been determined that the players have the necessary readiness to participate in the drills.  80% of what players learn comes visually, and only 20% comes audibly, so when possible both show and verbally explain the drill.  Some coaches will be unable to demonstrate certain parts, or whole drills, in such a case, have a top player demonstrate the drill while the coach explains it.  If a drill starts, and players are not doing a part correctly then stop the drill and explain it again.  Doing a drill wrong could be detrimental to their success and it is well worth it to stop the drill entirely.  

Lastly, feedback is a great way for both player and coach to improve throughout the season.  To start, the coach should be giving players feedback on technical issues, attitude, body languages, conditioning, etc.  Such feedback will let the players know what they should improve on in between practices and games.  Coaches should also not be afraid to ask for feedback on their coaching skills from players.  It is important for the coach to start this conversation because most youth players will not have the confidence to address their coach.  The coach should be receptive to all feedback because it allows the coach to improve, which in turn allows the player to become better.  Even if the criticism is received as wrong by the coach, it will at least allow for a misunderstanding between player and coach to be cleared up.

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