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Surviving Your Second Year as a Basketball Coach

Chapter 9 - Someone Is Selling Something To Somebody All Of The Time
by Ed Riley

A word of advice to all of you would be writers, DON'T FOLLOW MY LEAD. Go with shorter titles where you don't have to capitalize a lot, (typer's cramp). Anyway, I am sure that this title will raise a couple of eyebrows. Yes, folks, this is where I am going to sell you something, an idea.

I have this innate belief that life consists of a series of little and big sales. Let's take jobs for instance. A lawyer sells himself to his client, and then sells his client to the judge, jury, etc. A doctor sells his expertise. Think not? Look in the yellow pages under physicians, they advertise themselves. The assembly line worker sold his employer on his abilities to get the job done. In fact, every job interview is nothing more than an individual selling a potential employer on their own abilities. Other examples? How about a discussion? Isn't someone normally selling their perspective to the other person?

OK, ED, ENOUGH ABOUT SELLING, ALL RIGHT??? So what does this have to do with coaching basketball? Everything, is the correct answer. Here's an example of why. I get a lot of e-mails from you folks asking for help with this situation or that. The following is an e-mail I received from one of you folks. Read it, figure out how you would solve the problem this coach has, and then read on. The background is this: You have a mom, who was a basketball player herself, and is now coaching her son's 4th grade team. The rest I will let you read in her own words.

"Hey, Ed! Where are you and how quick can you get to Arkansas?

We scrimmaged the 5th graders last night, got beat 38 to 4. But I played all the players and this was their first ever game/scrimmage.

Now I have practice tonight and need to go over some plays. They never took the time to slow down and do anything last night. It was constant running back and forth up and down the court. Any suggestions? We have a game Saturday AM........


Got the picture? Her 4th graders played against experienced and bigger 5th graders. Now walk away from your computer and take a short break. Seriously think about what you would recommend to her. While you are thinking about this, I am going to go take a quick smoke break. (Yes, I have the ultimate nasty habit, and I love it.)

Glad to have you back. I am sure you have solved the problems of the universe for this coach right? Well, here is my e-mail response to this coach. LET'S SEE HOW CLOSE YOU AND I CAME TO HAVING THE SAME ANSWER.

"I wanted to see you play against an older and bigger team, and you boys did great. I know you may not think you did so good, but you scored 4 points against an older team. This Saturday when you play a team your own age and your own size, it should be a lot more fun. If you can play the older boys, you can beat the ones your own age.

Karen, it's time to turn the negative into a positive, motivate your guys."

What exactly did I suggest for her to do? Nothing more than to sell her players on the fact that they should feel good about what they accomplished. I even e-mailed her that silly little speech. A coach motivates, right? Motivation is nothing more than selling someone on an idea. This coach can throw up because of nerves, or she can try to turn the negative into a positive. Coaching is selling.

So let's look at some other ways coaches sell. How about teaching your players a drill, or a move, or an actual play with X's and O's, isn't this selling? Have you ever tried to teach your team a play, and watch them butcher even the simplest of moves? It's at these times when you begin to wonder if anyone on your team is bright enough to chew gum and tie their shoes at the same time. Wanna know why they aren't getting it? It's because they aren't sold on it!!! It doesn't take a kid long to learn something that they think is cool or fun. This is because they are sold on the idea. It takes a team forever to learn a play if they aren't sold on it.

I just opened up a basketball academy here in St. Louis. We teach kids how to play. Our goal is to teach these kids enough to be able to make their high school team. We have 6 hours a week of LS's and we play very few games at the moment, like none. For a kid, this has to be boring. So how did I get 60 girls to pay me to bore them to tears? First, I sold them on an idea that I could teach them enough to give them a shot at making their high school team. Second, I sold them on the idea that they are an extremely select group of warriors learning how to do battle. Last, I sold them on the idea that I could make LS's fun without playing a game for a while.

Here is a wonderful use of Ed's version of the English language. A definition of "Coach" means coach, a form of the verb "Coax." To coax, to sell! How's that for abusing the English language? I hope you get the idea. To maximize every situation, try turning the negative into the positive.

I once had a 4th grader who wasn't wrapped too tight. OK, I'll be honest, she was flat out mentally slow. She would believe everything I told her. One time before a game, she couldn't make a shot during warm-ups to save her soul. I mean she couldn't even hit the backboard. So I went up to her and told her, "You know, you can only miss so many shots in one day. After that they all have to go in. But you need to be careful because you can only make so many in a day before you have to miss all of the rest of them. So you keep on missing them in warm-ups like this, and you'll probably make every basket in the game." I then turned and walked away. This girl didn't want to quit shooting even when the horn blew for her to go to her bench for the start of the game.

She only took 5 shots that night, but she made four of them. After the game she came up to me with a real long face and said, "Coach, I'm sorry! If I had missed one or two more before the game, maybe I would have made that last basket in the game. I shot as much as I could before the game, I just ran out of time."

Someone is going to sell something to somebody, all of the time. Either you are going to sell them on your ideas, or they are going to sell you on theirs. You're big, they're small. You are educated, they're not. You are experienced, they're not. You are an adult, they're just kids. So how come they win most of the time? Because they are better at selling than we are. Now you know their secret, beat them at their own game. Sell them on why they should learn this drill, or that play, or whatever.

Don't forget, according to Ed's basketball dictionary, coach is a derivative of the verb "to coax, meaning to sell." So you can try to dictator your way through your teaching of drills and plays, or you can try coaxoaching your way through them. By the way, I think I'll keep that word - coaxoaching. According to Ed's basketball dictionary, coaxoaching is the act of a coach selling their team , individual player, or even the player's parents on an idea, drill, play, or wanted type of behavior through the use of words, verbal tone, or outright bribery. Folks, I'm not proud, I can bribe with the best of them. Sometimes a dollar candy bar saves you a $100 worth of headaches.

Remember there are more chapters to come.

Copyright by Ed Riley, Steve Jordan, Darrell Garrison and Steve MacKinney. All rights reserved

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Excellent video with thoughts and drills on organizing your practices. Learn from one of the greatest coaches of the game, Coach "K".
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