Coaches Corner

Mathematics is a significant part of the game. Statistics, percentages, time/distance increments and the geometry of the game all make basketball easier to understand and to play. Basketball math can make points with a clarity easily comprehended.

On Offense without Ball & Defense

Perhaps the best example is using math to illustrate the importance of moving without the ball and playing defense.

There are 32 minutes in a youth game.

If you play all 32 minutes, how much time do you spend playing offense? Playing defense?

The answer is half on each.

If you are not the point guard, how much time do you actually spend having the ball in your hands? 1 to 2 minutes.

What are you doing the rest of the time?

This is where boys get blank looks on their faces! Moving without the ball. Cutting, screening, and getting in position to rebound a shot.

Now, how many of the 16 minutes spent on the defense are you actually playing defense?

Rarely does anyone fail to realize that you must play defense the entire time your team does not have possession of the ball. Which means you cannot rest on defense.

The point regarding the importance of defense is solidified.

Statistics & Percentages

The individual scoring statistic is the most detrimental basketball statistic in basketball. The stats you should pay most attention to:

  • Opposing team field goal percentage.
  • Assist/Turnover ratio.
  • Your field goal percentage.
  • Rebounds- Opposing and yours. Offensive/Defensive
  • Free Throw percentage.

Time & Distance Increments

A large part of basketball is based on time and distance. How long can you stay in the key, how long can you dribble the ball while being closely guarded, and how much time can you have the ball in the backcourt, etc…

Distance is more about the geography of the game- Spacing. Because small distance can make such a big difference, it is important to know the distance from the basket to the free throw line, the 3 point line, to half court. Or how wide is the key or the court.

Know the score, the time and the situation. In many instances the time and situation have something to do with one another.


Basketball is a game of angles. Passing angles, dribbling angles, screening angles, cutting angles, and defensive angles. Utilizing incorrect angles in these areas can result in costly mistakes.

The Team Party


An end of the season party is an important event to celebrate the season and acknowledge effort and commitment to the team.


A team mom or dad usually organizes the party at a restaurant or a home with a potluck of sorts. All parents are asked to contribute monies toward coach's gifts and awards, payable at the party (The person who paid up front fro everything should send an email reminder about the gifts and to bring a check or cash).


As a coach, you must take the lead on scheduling events at the party and act as the master of ceremonies. Ahead of time, you should prepare your comments, reflecting upon the season, highlight and short segments about each player. Using a 3 x 5 card for each is a good way to be organized.


A proven way to start things off is to welcome everyone to the party, letting all know what will transpire and when.


Begin with getting the food out of the way. Serve the kids first. It will take them longer to eat because they will be engaged socializing with their teammates.


1)      Announce you will be starting your comments in 5 minutes.

2)      Begin your speaking segment thanking all who helped put on the party, assisted with scorekeeping during the year, communication, getting awards together, etc. Then thank your assistant coaches for giving their time to the effort.

3)      Reflect upon the season. The things the team improved on collectively, memories from the season that you believe are worth sharing and savoring. Quoting well known coaches or players to highlight your thoughts works well.

4)      Comments on the players. Keep them brief. Focus on effort and attitude, and how each improved throughout the year, perhaps recalling a moment in a game or practice that stands out in your mind. Also mention what you feel each  player should do to improve their skills for next year.

5)      Most important: It is time to make each player feel important. Eye contact... And  when you call each player up to receive his award, shake hands and thank them for playing on the team.

6)      Close your comments about your love of being in the gym with the kids, and how grateful you are that the parents have put their faith in you to the share the game with their children.


You can choose to give individual awards. At younger ages, you might wish to shy away from giving an MVP award. I suggest if you desire to hand out individual awards: Hustle award, Defense award, Passing award, Attitude award, or Captain award, signifying the player who gives the most to his teammates and makes basketball plays.


Scoring is what everyone wants to do, but giving awards for other aspects of the game may inspire your players to think more about other phases of the game, instead of scoring. More often than not, scoring is the result of someone on your team putting you in the position to score a basket.


Trophies vs. Certificates


I don't understand "trophy-mania", where every player gets a trophy. I believe it sends the wrong message to kids. Michael Jordan never received trophies for participating. And that's exactly what kids at the youth sport level are doing: participating. Jordan earned them for helping to win Championships and for significant achievements on the basketball court. Kids in youth sports haven't accomplished anything to earn a trophy. By giving trophies to players for participating, it creates a sense of entitlement.


Trophies are earned by Champions.


Would you give a trophy to your child for going to school? Would your boss give a trophy for showing up to work?


Trophies will get lost in your child's room, so much so, they won't remember why they received it in the first place... And when they do, I guarantee the meaningless pieces of plastic will be among the initial items thrown out when they look back at their athletic participation. I suggest crafting personalized certificates for your players, with a quote or a slogan on them... Something they can read. Something that inspires them to pause to reflect...


Pride is in participating, not in the false sense of entitlement that trophies create.


In youth sports, the pre-game, time out huddles are so important to the psyche of your young players. It is a time for direct communication using eye contact, giving praise, teaching by critiquing in a positive way, and using humor.





  • Always make sure you smile at the kids, giving each one eye contact, letting them know you enjoy being in the gym or on the field with them.
  • Being so easily distracted by the anticipation of a contest, make sure they are listening. I recommend using the "Listening Drill", by clapping a series of claps and having them repeat what you've done in unison. This is a great way to get their attention and put all of your players on the same page.
  • Remind them of a few important aspects of the game, such as getting back on defense, spacing, sharing and valuing the ball.
  • Make sure every player knows what position they are playing and who they are defending.
  • And always, incorporate giving good effort and having fun into your thoughts.
  • Close every huddle with a player hand in the middle of the huddle and use a "Focus Word" in unison. For example: "On 3- defense... 1,2,3 DEFENSE!"... You can change the Focus Word... Teamwork, Effort, Sacrifice, Pride, etc...

Time Outs:

  • Know why you are calling a time-out and have your thoughts organized when players come to the bench or sideline.
  • When you greet them coming to the huddle, look at them confidently using positive body language and eye contact. They need to know you are there to help them succeed and have fun.
  • Begin with a positive comment like: "I really like our passing so far". Or, "You guys are really playing hard".
  • DO NOT yell at the kids or embarrass a player in front of his peers with negative comments. Stay positive, constructive and reaffirm when needed. "Joey, do you know who you are guarding?" "I forgot, coach"... "That's alright, Joey, but ask me if you don't know because its kind of important that we know who we're guarding, isn't it?" Or, use humor: "It's important that we know who we are guarding because we don't want anyone from the other team feeling lonely!"
  • Although it is easier to do in basketball or volleyball than in soccer, try to end the timeout with a positive comment directed at each kid.

The huddle is the place where kids can feel like their coach is looking out for their best interests, sometimes creating a long lasting memory.

As parents, we have control over the memories we make for our kids. I encourage you to pay attention to the sports, the teams and the players your child are interested in.

Ask your son or daughter what they like best about the players they love to watch. This one question may shed light on what things they are looking at in a player, things they are noticing about the sport, and how they might play the sport.

In the early 1970’s, I was enamored with the New York Knicks. I knew all the players, their stats, even the colleges they attended. Frazier, Reed, Monroe, Bradley, DeBussure, Lucas… All of them eventual Hall Of Fame players. They epitomized teamwork. Each was a gifted individual talent, but they recognized they could be greater together, so they checked their egos at the door and wound up being one of the best all around teams in basketball history. Anyway, my father recognized my passion for this special team, and while taking me on a business trip to Los Angeles, he got tickets for game 6 of the Knicks- Laker 1973 Championship series. After we arrived at the Forum with a family friend, we reached our seats only to find there weren’t enough for the three of us. It was then my dad handed me a ticket and pointed to where I was sitting. It was a fourth row view behind the Knick bench.

I watched the Knicks win the NBA Championship that night, and shook hands with Bill Bradley and Earl Monroe as they came off the floor. It was a surreal moment that is with me always. And, when I think of my father, I think of his kindness and interest in me.

My dad isn’t a big basketball fan, but learning that I was, he made a lifetime memory for me. Pay attention to the passions of your children, you’ll feel better because of it. I know my father does.

Basketball Team  When it seems as though society is lacking in many areas of decency and community, gratitude shouldn't be one of them. Using basketball as metaphor for life experience illustrates the abundance of positive energy that comes from demonstrating gratitude.


Take the ultimate basketball example: Scoring a basket. The casual fan or the young player sees the end result, the basket, and thinks nothing of it. It may not occur to them what went into scoring the basket. The great defensive play, the rebound in traffic, diving on the floor for a loose ball, the pass.


Perhaps the most beautiful play in basketball is a rebound, then an outlet pass on a rope, to a pass for a basket at the other end of the floor. The ball never touches the ground, instead touching multiple players in a matter of seconds for a score.


I recall watching Team USA in one of their first games this past summer. Dwight Howard snatched a tough rebound, turned and outlet the ball to Chris Paul at half court, who then threw a bounce pass to a streaking Dwayne Wade for a dunk. Immediately following his flush, Wade turned and acknowledged the rebound and outlet pass with a laser look and a wave to Howard. 
Mr. Wade knew who made his basket possible, because Mr. Wade is grateful to all who help him succeed. It is part of his personality and humility that make him a player teammates will run through a wall for.


Demonstrating gratitude on the court is contagious. It shows appreciative teammates are playing and thinking together. It creates a

synergy that is noticed by the opposing team. "My gosh, these guys are all on the same page!"... Not only that, but they are on the same word in the same sentence on the same page. Teams who are grateful for each other, play better for each other.


Remind your players to show gratitude for effort, for sacrifice--get them in the habit of saying "Thank you for being my teammate". To build on this concept, give a point for acknowledging an assist in scrimmages, a point for hustling over to help up a teammate who's just dived on the floor for a loose ball or fallen down.


Just as in life, basketball is a game of giving. Giving deserves to be appreciated. One must be grateful for what they receive...