Zoe Carr played 152 games in the WNBL in a stellar career and has made a highly successful transition to coaching in recent years. The Basketball Victoria High Performance Coach shares some of her insights and learnings from the last three months.
As we slowly edge towards heading back on court, I would like to take some time to reflect on what the last 2 months of our forced hiatus has taught me as a coach. Interestingly enough, it’s not all bad.
Junior athletes need more of an off season. The time off has given athletes the opportunity for heal their injuries and focus on their body. Strength and Conditioning in this time has increased and it is something I would like to see stay. The benefits of stronger athletes are obvious however with the intense schedule of our junior athletes, it’s up to us as coaches to include S & C into our sessions…and not just as punishment or penalties. Another outstanding result is our athletes have grown considerably across the board as their bodies have been given the time to recover.
Skill based development wins out. Junior athletes that arrive at training to run offences or practice presses will not prosper when competition returns. The most skilled athletes, even with de-training, will be more successful. It’s reaffirmed the mindset that our time is better spent upskilling our athletes.
Motion based read and react offence is key. As we have a short turnaround between training and games returning, and we have a responsibility to ease athletes back into basketball, offences will be forgotten, and mistakes will be made. Athletes that have had motion based read and react principles ingrained from a young age, or as their only exposure to offence, will ultimately be able to step back into basketball and find more early success as we move forward.
Adaptability and innovation of coaches is more important than ever before. When basketball came to an abrupt halt, coaches were forced to adapt to keep their athletes engaged with the sport. Whilst some may disagree, the transfer from in-person to virtual coaching is not as simple as it sounds. In some instances, you have athletes who have the greatest backyard basketball set up, and some who don’t have a rim or minimal space. Add to that, the weather. The ability to be creative and cater to all circumstances takes time and thought and is a skill that we need to carry back to regular practice to ensure we are making basketball enjoyable for everyone
Consistency and detailing of messaging from online training to on court needs to stay. Virtual coaching has had an unexpected benefit of coaches having to check the language they use without the luxury of being able to demonstrate. The detail required to explain what is required of the athlete has been taken to a new level
Mental health of athletes always matters yet is increasingly important now. We always need to be conscious of the mental wellbeing of our athletes, however the effect Covid_19 has had on our athletes extends well beyond the norm. I have seen coaches hold team Zoom chats or pick up the phone to chat to their athletes to check in. It’s a fantastic habit that coaches have acquired in this time
Basketball coaches are great at sharing the game and it needs to continue. The amount of information sharing in the last 2 months from basketball coaches has been exemplary. Webinars, Zoom chats, note sharing and articles have been shared both publicly and privately allowing all coaches an opportunity to engage with some Personal Development. PD is often something that is thrown to the side during our busy times, however if we can find a way to keep sharing, having conversations and creating/extending our coaching fraternity, we will all benefit
Take the time to switch off from coaching. A lot of coaches have revelled in the time off and it is a lesson that we as coaches can’t afford to forget. As coaches we give our whole selves to our teams and at times end up consumed by results or other issues that stem from the team. Taking time to switch off and refresh, and frankly, having some time to miss the game, has, I believe, has been great for coaches
Online platforms should continue to be utilised. There isn’t a coach in the world that doesn’t want more time with their team. Whether it be to shoot the ball more, or have a skills session, the last 2 months have proven some sessions can continue to be facilitated online. The sessions don’t necessarily need to be basketball related. As a part of the High Performance team at Basketball Victoria, we implemented Stretching Sessions, Guest Speakers and even Cooking sessions. These sessions help us develop relationships with our athletes and allow them to learn lessons other than basketball
There are more important things to focus on, than winning junior basketball games. We all knew this one before the lockdown, however if Covid_19 has taught us anything, it’s that the focus on winning junior games is not key to success with junior athletes. Of course, try to win games, however the development and safety (especially in this time) of the athletes is always paramount