Advice for Aspiring Coaches

Posted on Jun 22 2021

One of the great strengths of the Australian basketball coaching community is the the willingness to share and support other coaches. We asked some of our experienced coaches to provide some advice for aspiring young coaches as they make their way on their journey.

Sandy Brondello – Head Coach, Australian Chemist Warehouse Opals & Phoenix Mercury WNBA

The best advice I can give to young coaches is to be really good at teaching the fundamentals of the game to their players. This will not only develop your ability to teach the finer points of the game but will help you develop your communication skills which is so important as a leader .

Being a great individual coach and then learning from the head coach with the Xs & Os of the game will provide you with the platform to grow in all areas of the game.

I encourage young coaches to study game film, and have the ability to use technology to provide feedback to head coach as well as to players to help their development. Work hard, be a team player, listen and learn but don’t be afraid to speak up and offer advice.

It is ok not to know everything, so ask questions or else find a resource that can help you improve in the area you seek. But most importantly, bring great energy and a great attitude every single day to practice and games.

Mike McHugh – Former New Zealand Tall Ferns Olympic Coach & Basketball Australia Master Coach

Your coaching philosophy will determine the objectives of your team, all aspects of practice and finally your game plan. The game plan is the cement which binds all activities of a coach and his team linking practice skills and techniques to game performance.

What makes a good basketball Coach?

  • Believe in yourself – all great coaching flows from self-confidence and self-belief.
  • Be SELFLESS – the opposite of selfish. Put the players first – and yourself second.
  • Coaching is a performance partnership. The more faith and belief you place in your players, the more you can both grow and improve.
  • Permit players to make decisions, make errors, solve problems, learn and grow in the training environment. Provide them with a wide range of training experiences to teach better decision making, be an athlete focused coach.
  • Accept that all coaches – regardless of their level of performance and experience are LEARNERS. It does not matter if you have coached athletes to gold medals at the Olympics or are a Championship winning coach – coaching is life-long learning and a career of ongoing development

Key Coaching Skills – Self Awareness and Responsibility

Help your players LEARN – through effective questioning and active listening


  • It’s about the people not just the sport of basketball.
  • Raising awareness, creating responsibility & self-belief gives ownership to athletes.
  • It’s about learning, not telling – focus on helping people learn.
  • Coaches need to follow the athletes’ lead to facilitate their development.

3 Key Principles of Quality Coaching = Less is More

  • Create SELF-BELIEF

Cheryl Chambers – Southside Flyers WNBL Head Coach & Opals Assistant Coach

My advice to young coaches – Enjoy the process & make it a positive experience for everyone. Don’t correct every mistake & remember that all players and people are different.
It is important to be enthusiastic, patient & be a great communicator.  Most importantly…have fun!
Paul Mellett – Development Manager, City of Sydney Basketball Association 

Best advice for young coaches? Be yourself. Don’t try to be someone else. Remember you are coaching people and that you are there for the players. Form relationships with all of them. Give them the confidence and freedom to make plays and don’t be afraid to coach them hard.

At practice be organised with a plan and a major focus on skill development (with lot’s of shooting) as fundamentals win games.

Create an environment which is both fun and conducive to learning the game and getting better. Always be consistent in your message, have a never ending hunger for knowledge and don’t be afraid to change the way you do things to give your players the best chance to be successful.

As you start the journey of developing your offensive/defensive philosophy I thought a quote from legendary martial artist Bruce Lee sums it up pretty well – “Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless and add what is specifically your own.”

Rex Nottage – Head Coach Newington College and BA Master Coach 

I always felt that it is best to get to as many “live” events as you can, whether they be camps, clinics, practices or games. It’s valuable to be an assistant coach also, as there is no better way to improve your knowledge, get feedback instantly, develop relationships, find mentors and network.

Young coaches need to understand the importance of staying in the game, not let their impatience get the better of them. This is a people business and coaches need to get with the people they are coaching and coaching with.

Cal Bruton – Former NBL Championship Coach and NBL Hall of Famer

My best advice for young coaches would be to (1) keep looking in the mirror, (2) become the best version of a coach you can be, (3) by being a student of the game!
When you’re working in a team environment and follow those 3 points in particular, you’re accountable and you begin to look for ways to improve and understand how to build a culture, within a team environment, whereby you’re prepared to show up everyday and work on your team’s weaknesses and build on their strengths.
Of course it all starts with mastering and enjoying teaching the fundamentals of the game. Remembering as a staple, that “Teamwork makes the Dreamwork” on both ends of the court and in transition.
The quality of your leadership will evolved around your teaching capabilities. To be a good teacher, you need to care, give, work, prepare, set goals, short, mid term, long term and bring that “Run, Stun and Have Some Fun” element to your program.
In summary, if you can make a difference in young players lives, impact them, you were born to coach. Good luck!
Robbie Cadee – Former Opals Head Coach and NBL/WNBL Coach of the Year

Working with young coaches i continually emphasizing the importance for them to develop a Coaching Philosophy early in their development stage. As a player I was fortunate to be coached by some great people such as Lindsay Gaze, Barry Barnes, Brian Kerle, Owen Hughan and was able to call on their experiences to help me transfer from player to coach.

Importantly, I was able to piece together their coaching values together while attending numerous coaching clinics, reading coaching articles and frequently seeking their and other coaches advise to help me develop a coaching philosophy that I would continually tweak as I evolved as a coach.

Today there are many avenues available for young coaches to seek advice as basketball has great coaching knowledge throughout our NBL and WNBL programs. Important remember in your search you take what you need from the various resources and mentors available the fits your vision as a coach and not try to emulate any other coach.

Peter Lonergan – BA Director of High Performance Coach Development 

Have as many varied coaching experiences as possible. Coach girls, coach boys, be an assistant, coach juniors, coach seniors. Every team and experience adds to your “basketball library” and provide points of reference for future games.

As a young coach, engage in the three R’s –

  • Read as many books and articles as you can
  • Review your practice and game coaching constantly
  • Reflect on your conversations and behaviours

Thanks to our coaches for their thoughts and hopefully some of this will impact coaches at all levels of the sport.




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