4.1.1 Setting expectations for each player
- How many players are on the team?
- What commitment is required from the players?
- What team rules will be established?
How many players are on the team will obviously depend upon the number of players available and may also be influenced by the maximum number allowed in the competition, or possibly the requirements of the club or school.
When coaching young players, the coach should bear in mind the following:
- anyone interested should be allowed to play; if necessary, two or more teams can be formed so that everyone has a chance;
- there should be enough players per team to allow the activities to be carried out in the right conditions, but not so many as to make it difficult for all the players to participate;
- the level of players on one team should be similar. This is much more beneficial for all the players than including players of different levels on one team;
- one of the main motivators for children to play a team sport is to play with friends. Accordingly, if possible, mini-basketball teams (and sometimes teams made up of 13/14-year-olds) should be made up of players who already share other activities.
Coaches need to consider a wide range of factors in determining what commitment they will require from their players. Some considerations are:
- During which months is the activity carried out?
- How many days a week will the team train? How many games will be played?
- Are the games played on weekends?
- Will the players have to travel?
- What school commitments are players likely to have?
Players can only be expected to dedicate a reasonable amount of time to the team, as they must also have time for school, other sports or activities they may do as well as friends and family. Some may also have work commitments.
Many of these things may be outside the control of the coach and player, whilst some may be a choice that the player can make. Whatever commitment the coach requires, the coach must make sure that all players (and their families) understand them.
If the players’ obligations are not made sufficiently clear or the coach establishes obligations that all or some of the players are not willing to fulfil, sooner or later this will create a serious problem that will affect the way the team works.
In determining what commitment is required, the coach should establish obligations suitable to this team and not simply copy rules from another team.
The commitment required should be reasonable, based on the players’ age and other characteristics, and the most important thing is that once the commitment is made by the athlete they, and their family, are expected to fulfil it.
For this reason, it is not appropriate to set out a commitment but then to allow players to train or play only when they feel like it or when they have nothing better to do.
In many cases, it would be a good idea for the coach to talk with the players and their parents, involving them in the decisions concerning the commitment they expect. If all parties decide on this together, the players should feel more committed.
Once the required commitment has been set, it must apply to all players and the coach.
Choosing Team Rules
Establishing team rules is a key element in the organization of a team. The rules do not have to be lengthy but they are important in setting the culture and accepted behaviours for the team.
Establishing them early can avoid problems occurring later and also provide a framework for dealing with any problems that do arise.
The commitment required from players is an important part of the team rules but it is only one part of the rules.
To be successful the rules need to be few and very precise; they should be clearly defined and should not give rise to doubts, arbitrary interpretation or conflict when applied.
They should be suited to the circumstances and level required of each team, keeping in mind the level of commitment undertaken by the players or the level that can be reasonably expected of them.
For example: certain working rules can be established such as being ready to start the practice at the agreed time, arriving one hour before the game properly dressed, taking turns collecting the balls at the end of the practice, etc.
Rules can also be set up for mini-basketball teams, related to participation in games. For example, a rotation system can be established so that all the children will play a minimum number of games throughout the season and a minimum amount of time in each game.
For these teams, it could also be appropriate to establish rules regulating the parents’ behaviour, explaining the reasons behind these.
For example, they should not tell the children what to do during games or sit on the bench with the team. Young players often find it difficult if they feel they must “choose” between what the coach is saying and what their parents are saying.
Coaches should consider having team rules in relation to:
- The expectation of sportsmanship from players and spectators;
- Philosophy on “playing time”(e.g. everyone plays equally, everyone plays every half, playing to win which means some players may not play in some games, etc.)
- How players are to communicate with the coach (particularly about any absences);
- Time commitments (e.g. when to arrive for games/practice.)
Having organized, well-written and clearly explained policies will both make it less likely that the rules will be broken (because the players know what they are) and also make it easier to deal with a situation where rules are broken.
For a junior team, the coach should at a minimum set rules about:
- When does the team practice?
- What time are the players expected to arrive?
- What do they wear to practice?
- How, and when, does a player communicate if they cannot attend practice (e.g. SMS, email, phone call to the coach)?
- What are the ramifications if a player does not attend practice (e.g. not starting in next match)?
- Are injured/ill players expected to attend practice? If they do attend practice what are they expected to do? For example, a coach may have an “injured player’s skill workout” or require them to be with the coach during the training.
- What time are the players expected to arrive for games?
- What do the players wear to games?
- How, and when, does a player communicate if they cannot attend a game?
- Respect and Fairness
- Standard of behaviour expected between teammates
- Standard of behaviour to be shown to officials and opponents
- Travel (if applicable)
- How is travel done (e.g. bus, individually)?
- Accommodation rules (curfew, non-basketball activities, laundry)
- What is provided by the club (e.g. meals) and what is the players’ responsibility
- Smoking & alcohol policy. For junior players neither smoking nor alcohol should be permitted.
- How will team rules be enforced? (Does the club have a process in place?)
- What values underpin relationships within the team and how they play (e.g. honesty, integrity, perseverance)