Give Them The Answers

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Have you ever noticed that in today’s world, you talk to someone and the intent of the person you are speaking to is not to understand, but to reply? Nowhere is that more true than in dialogue between player and coach. Players always feel like they are being attacked. Coaches always feel like they are being questioned.


Watching interaction between players and coaches never ceases to be interesting. There are good interactions, bad interactions, long interactions, short interactions, but al interactions are interesting to me. I find it fascination that the two sides, player and coach, who are after the same thing, have trouble reaching one another.

I was in a practice, helping a coach who was a friend of mine. He was a yeller and a screamer, and when he got on you, it was not a pretty sight. As you might expect, sometimes his players did not want to hear from him.

At the end of the practice, he got his team together to talk to them. It was obvious that he had great affection for his kids and the team felt the same about him. But still, sometimes it was difficult for them to accept his direction when they felt they were being attacked. He tried to put some things into perspective.

“I am going to yell at you, you can’t escape it,” he said. “While I might try,” he continued, I am too old to change and you have to adapt to me.”

Then he offered some advice that to help put things in perspective. He asked, “What would you do if you were in math class taking a test? You don’t know the answer to number 6 so you ask the teacher. And he gives you the answer. What would you do?”

The Captain of the team spoke up and said, “I would say thank you.”

“Well,” he said, “the math teacher is not going to do that. But, I will. When you have a problem on the court and I yell at you, I am telling you how to fix the issue. I am giving you the answer. Instead of being upset, just say, ‘Thank you,’”

I thought that was an interesting and valid perspective. If you can get your players to look at you as someone who can solve their basketball problems and help them through rough patches instead of someone that they have to please, you might find tem a lot more receptive and tolerant of your coaching methods.

Just a thought.

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.