Coach Burson Answers Your Top Basketball Coaching Questions (Part 3: Keep Motivation Alive)

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Coach Burson answers your top basketball coaching questions (Part 3: Keep Motivation Alive)We’ve already covered two really good questions in this series: Plays vs. Players and Player Attitudes. The third question is just as pertinent for this time of the year: Keep Motivation Alive.

Background to this series
Recently I asked my Twitter followers, “Tweet me your top coaching concern for this season & I’ll answer in my next article.” Coaches responded with great questions! So I decided to devote an entire blog post to each question and publish my answers as a series, both written and audio.

The Four Top Basketball Coaching Questions

1. “What’s more important in a team? Plays or how individuals play?”  - Russie @rustler2194      [Read & listen: Click here

2. “My biggest concern in my new program is ridding it of cancerous attitudes. It’s 2 players, but one of them affects the entire team’s composure and the other questions everything I say.”  - Andy Rochon @AJRochon22    [Read & listen: Click here

3. “Keeping our team motivated and working hard throughout the entire season.” - Hannon Basketball @HannonBBall   [Current. Continue reading below.

4. “I lack quickness and athleticism playing in a very athletic league.” - Matthew W. Smith @coachmswsmith      [The final question of our series]  

Top Basketball Coaching Question #3: Keep Motivation Alive

Hannon Basketball @HannonBBall, brought up one of the fundamental topics of coaching. He tweeted,

@JimBurson keeping our team motivated and working hard throughout the entire season.”

Motivate me: motivate you

First and foremost, you must keep yourself motivated. Don’t get too high or too low at practice, particularly after a win or loss. Evaluate the bad, always look for the good, and keep pushing toward becoming all you can be. Sure, wins are helpful with motivation, but you find what you are really made of in the quality of your teaching and your character during those periods of losses. 

Goals drive motivation

The best way to keep motivation alive over time is to set goals and keep them visible and present at all times. When motivation wavers or when situations become complicated, review your goals and re-commit yourself to them, both the coach and the players.

You need to have clear goals for your team, for yourself and for the season. And they can’t be around winning or losing. It’s more than winning and it’s more than losing, although you and I both know it’s tougher when you lose.

The goals you set must have 3 basic elements plus a 4th characteristic that connects the goal to player motivation.

Your goals must

  1. Be achievable – If you have a team that’s young and inexperienced and you think you’re going to go undefeated, that’s going to be tough.
  2. Show progress – If you’re not winning, you’ve got to be able to show whether shooting it better or passing it better has improved, not only in individuals but the team, in order to keep them motivated.
  3. Be realistic – This fits in with the first one, ‘be achievable;’ your goals must be realistic
  4. Be transferable to players – The players must believe in the goals themselves.

Let’s take one example of setting a clear goal. “I want to get better defensively.” How might you measure that? Here are some examples:

  • Points allowed
  • Defensive pressure
  • Toughness

You can expand on these points and show your players and others, “Well, we lost but we didn’t allow as many points.” Or, “We lost, but we put more defensive pressure on them and they shot worse.” Or, “We lost but we put more defensive pressure on them and they shot worse.” Or, “We lost but we are getting tougher and I see great, great possibilities in the future.”

These are all valid possibilities. Can you come up with goals and measurements that are relevant and meaningful for your team this season?

Share it with your players

Any goal you set must be transferable to the players so that it is intrinsic for them. It has to be theirs. They have got to want to win, to want to play better defense, to want to be better fundamentally. They have got to want to work harder than any team around.

 That’s got to come from the inside out.

Although it’s important to measure progress toward goals, because that keeps them real, the actual measurement isn’t as important as the need to find ways to say to your players, “You have really gotten better” in a way that is genuine and in a way that the players can recognize and understand. Because the feeling of getting better is a true motivator. You won’t have a lot of trouble with your teams in life if that team feels like it’s getting better and making strides.

You can even involve your players in the goal-setting and measurement choices. You might be surprised at the challenges they set for themselves. No matter what, if they’ve played a part in setting up the goals and measures, the motivation within them will be more sustainable than anything else.

Let’s summarize

  1. Keep yourself motivated as a coach. Don’t get too high or too low, regardless of wins or losses.
  2. Maintain high quality practices and your integrity even in the rough times. Boy, is that tough in coaching. It’s easy to say, “I want to” do something, but then we’re getting beat or one of my kids quits or someone gets in a fight. You’ve got to maintain your integrity.
  3. Set realistic, achievable goals that are measurable and demonstrate progress. Involve the players in this process.
  4. Communicate progress to your players specifically and consistently.

This is the best way I know to get and keep them motivated throughout the year. Unless you’re fortunate enough to have gone undefeated.

What do you think works in keeping teams motivated and working hard? Share your thoughts in the “Leave a Reply” comments box below. (Scroll down.)

1351880873_kmixListen to – and download – an audio recording of this article.
Click here.

Next up, our final topic: Question #4 from Matthew W. Smith; @coachmwsmith: ”@JimBurson, I lack quickness and athleticism playing in a very athletic league.” Boy, what a fun time that will be. That sounds like me. It sounds like the way I played in a tremendous league with great people and I can tell you only one thing that’s coming: we were tougher than the people we played. I’ll publish my answer in a few days. Click here to subscribe now (it’s free) so you don’t miss anything.

Photo: “Basketball”© V. Yakobchuck Fotolia.com

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  1. Coach Burson Answers Your Top Basketball Coaching Questions (Part 4: The Power of Coaching) | Jim Burson | Solution-Based Basketball | The Heart of Coaching Basketball - October 19, 2013

    […] hard throughout the entire season.” - Hannon Basketball @HannonBBall   [Read & listen: Click here]  Comments: “#GreatSourceofKnowledge” and “Your advice on achievable goals will […]

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