The Art of Camp Coaching

Posted on Jun 24 2019

Camps are a huge part of Australian basketball and indeed the International  landscape. From the early days of the legendary Five Star camps in the US to the various junior development camps in our country, camps and the ability of coaches to function efficiently in this environment is an important aspect of any coach’s development.

Between associations, state bodies and the national program, there are quite literally hundreds of basketball camps held in Australia every year. These range from the holiday camps for children new to the game, to specific development camps, elite camps and of course, junior and senior national team environments.

We often counsel emerging young elite talent about the importance of performing at camps and help them develop the skills and resilience to do well in an environment where there may be multiple sessions, possibly sleeping in a foreign bed, juggling fatigue and information overload.

But what about coaches? Camps are such an integral part of our overall system, so how we can assist coaches develop some very simple skills to be effective in this setting and use it as a key part of their overall development?

To this end, consider four key elements of being an effective camp coach –

  • Energy & enthusiasm
  • Pro-active mindset
  • Punctuality
  • Ability to coach on the run

Most camps consist of multiple sessions each day, over two or three days. The ability to maintain and level of energy and enthusiasm throughout is crucial. The players face the physical challenge of finding and maintaining energy across multiple sessions, so it is imperative the coaching panel does the same. Attitude reflects leadership and coaches can make a huge difference to the energy of the camp by being on floor early, engaging in pre-practice by simply rebounding as players “get loose” and organising the equipment for the first drill.

We expect the players to get on floor early and start preparing physically and mentally, it is important we are not checking that last e-mail or sending that final text as we walk onto the floor. The importance of “being where your feet are” is so relevant in the camp setting, demonstrate by your actions that each session and this camp is the most important thing to you as a coach at that time.

There are always lots of moving pieces in any basketball camp. For the coaches, being pro-active in all aspects of the camp is the trademark of a good coach. During sessions, moving quickly from drill to drill, setting up the equipment for the next drill, organising the clock, setting up the video and writing the scrimmage groups on the board are all part of the role of the camp coach.

Camps also usually have a larger number of players on the floor or in the each session than a normal practice. There are also likely more coaches on deck than your usual practice. Being pro-active in “corralling the court”, maintaining appropriate spacing between coaches in the drills and simply things such as each coach having a ball under their arm and a towel on their shoulder help camps run more efficiently.

Our game is about time more than any other. 24 second shot clock, 8 seconds in the back court, 3 seconds in the key, 5 to get it in-bounds, one minute time-out etc, the list is endless. Similarly camps are about time with aspects such as travel, meal times, on-court sessions, coaches meetings, education sessions, recovery and strength and conditioning. Coaches need to set the tone for the importance of time management and punctuality.

With multiple sessions, tight timelines and likely a larger number of coaches on the floor at any one time, the ability of coaches to coach on the run is such a valuable skill. No player likes a session that is stop-start and there is always the risk of information overload as each coach is so keen to help, teach and get their respective points across.

By corralling the court during sessions, coaches can provide constant feedback and instruction without stopping the drill constantly. Using “flightpath coaching” techniques such as quickly talking to an individual as they wait in line for a drill or as they are walking to their drink break is another way to ensure coaches are making an impact on development without impacting the flow of the session or camp.

Think about this quote from respected high performance consultant Michael Poulton – “Most athletes think coaches coach too much.” This is an important message to remember in the camp setting.

Some aspects to consider for the camp coach –

  • Less meetings – plan your camp, then take out half the meetings
  • Let them play
  • Presentation – look and present like a coach
  • Have a pad and pen court-side for notes during each session
  • Get outside between sessions

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