Developing a Team Attitude

Written by

Basketball is a team game. One of the challenges of coaching is trying to get 12 players (or however many you have on your roster) to assume the same values, have the same goals and to play as one. Well, if everyone knows it is a team game why is it so difficult to get all of your players on the same page? Why is it so hard to develop a team attitude?

Consider the Factors

Your team does not exist in a vacuum. When they leave your gym, they become people other than players. There are many factors that affect their lives and you have to consider what they are.

  • Egos – Everyone has an ego and you have to recognize that and get your players to put it aside
  • Background – everyone has different experiences in their lives that have shaped their value systems. Understand that a different value system, as long as it is positive, is not necessarily destructive to your team. But, your values should be added, not replace the aspects of the player's system.
  • Parents – Parents and home lives put different demands and expectations on each player. Try to be aware of what those pressures are and try to use them to benefit the player.
  • Social Pressures – Athletes are very susceptible to peer pressure. Your team atmosphere must be somewhere where your players feel safe and can translate that into their outside life.

What Doesn't Work

IMG 4323I have tried many methods in my attempts to build a team attitude. It is a challenge reading your team. Some things will work with some teams other things will work with other teams. There are things that I am sure I will never do again. Many of them seem to be sound ideas, especially when sitting in the office. However, they didn't work so well when put into practice

Making teammates responsible to one another
– we used to penalize the team if one player missed class. The whole team would run if one player was late. The object was to get players thinking more about their teammates first and to get some positive peer pressure going.

Team penalties for punishment – If were had a sub-par effort or a bad practice, everyone got on the endline. The object was thatindividual success was tied to team effort.

Severe penalties for losing teams – you win as a team, you lose as a team. The more you lost or the more points you lost by, the tougher the penalty.

None of these worked. All they did was build animosity between players themselves and between the players and the coaches. It had no effect on the players outside of the team attitude and removed incentive from players who already believed in the team.

What Did Work

These are things that I found were consistently positive with all the teams I have worked with.

me teaching 4Strong leadership from the coach – when your players change every year, you cannot depend on your players for leadership. If you have a player who is a good leader it makes life easier, but you are the leader.

Consistent and equal treatment – players have to know what to expect and that they will be treated equally. That doesn't mean they will be treated the same because people react to situations differently. But what is good for one must be good for all and what is bad for one is bad for all.

Role definition – everyone has to know what he should and shouldn't do. Everyone wants to shoot, but not everyone is a good shooter. Be direct, positive and open about role definition, "He shoots that because he is good at it. You handle the ball because you are good at that."

Call them on the carpet – if you have issues, get them out in the open. Don't be afraid to speak your mind. If you try to sugarcoat issues, they are easily misunderstood and will get worse.

This is For Sure

me teaching 2People are the key. Always try to get good people in and around your program. Regardless of what technique you use, people make decisions solely because they decide to. Any one who adopts a particular attitude because you want them to will not last. They have to adopt that attitude because they feel it is best.

There are 3 types of people:

Those that are team players (constructionist) – these people will buy in regardless of what you present. These are the people you need.

Those who are not team players (obstructionist) – these are people that will never have a team attitude. Don't make the mistake of saying that, "If we surround him with good people, he will come around." That NEVER happens. You have to get these people out of your program.

Those who can go either way (agnostics) – These are people who are on your side when things go well and are against you when they don't. Invariably, agnostics sink to lower levels when you have obstructions in your program. If "misery loves company," agnostics give company and support to those that are not happy. Having agnostics and obstructionist is a recipe for destruction. Agnostics and constructionist might give you something to build with.

Try as we might, we cannot come up with a "one size fits all," approach to building attitudes. The only thing that is consistent is that all people are different. Recognize that and react accordingly.

Don Kelbick

Coach Don Kelbick has had 27 years of coaching experience, 25 at the college level including 14 years as a head coach and 10 years as a Division I assistant including stops at Hofstra University, Marist College, Keene State College, and Florida International University. In 2 years as a high school coach, his teams produced 6 Division I players and was ranked #1 in Florida 28 out of a possible 34 weeks. In addition to coaching he has scouted for NBA teams, including the Knicks and the Hawks, and served as a general manager in the USBL.