Understanding the Tournament Rules

The coach must understand the rules of the tournament, particularly if they vary the game rules (e.g. limit the number of time-outs that can be called).

Other rules the coach needs to understand:

  • When teams are tied, how is their placing determined;
  • Which team wears “light” and which team wears “dark” uniforms in a given game;
  • Which changing room the team uses?

In regards to teams that are tied, the placings are usually determined by:

  • If two teams are tied – whichever team won the game that they played against each other;
  • If three or more teams are tied – Points Difference, but only for the games involving the teams that are tied.

Accordingly, coaches may be conscious in a game of the significance of a potential “points difference” however it is paramount, and FIBA expects
that all teams will play within the Spirit of the Game.

There are a number of things that the coach must consider in preparing for each game in the tournament:

  • “Scouting Opponents”;
  • Relationship with the Referees;
  • Setting Objectives;
  • “Player Satisfied” Index;
  • Keeping Yourself Well;
  • Delegate Responsibility.

Relationship with Officials

During the tournament it is likely that teams will have the same referee officiate their game on a number of occasions. Coaches should strive to have excellent relationships with all referees. This starts with speaking with them before each game.

There is no “magic” secret to having a good relationship with referees – it is simply a matter of treating them with respect. Ask them how the tournament is going for them – engage them in a short conversation. Ask what trends they are seeing, they may have even officiated your opponent. The more a coach builds a rapport with referees, the easier it is to raise an issue if that needs to be done.

Each player should shake hands with the referees at the end of the game and do so sincerely and consistently. No coach would like to have players swear or yell at them, and nor should they accept a player yelling at a referee (and the coach must not either).

Setting Objectives

In a tournament, there is little time between one game and the next and there may be emotional “highs” and “lows” that need to be forgotten and the next game to be the focus. By setting specific objectives for each game, the coach help the players to remain focused on the next game.

The objectives may be consistent throughout the week (e.g. keep opponents to less than 10 offensive rebounds) or they may be specific to that game, and that opponent. These objectives provide the foundation to evaluate performance in the game and this can be important to “forgetting” an exceptionally good or bad performance earlier in the week.

“Player Satisfaction” Index

This is not an actual index, however another aspect during a tournament is keeping players “happy”. Players may be unhappy with the amount of court time (particularly if they are used to playing more minutes than they are at the tournament) or they may be unhappy with their performance.

By setting objectives for the team and for each player, the coach may be able to demonstrate to a player that they are having “success” and, often more importantly, that they have an important role in the overall performance of the team.

A coach may not be able to make the player “happy”, and this is part of the mindset that an elite athlete needs to develop. Players need to be able to “move on” quickly from disappointments and should learn not to judge their “worth” based purely on court time. The coach’s aim is for each player to be “satisfied” – satisfied that they understand their role on the team and satisfied that they are performing that role.

“Court time” is affected by a number of factors – including foul trouble, “mis-matches” with opponents, team tactics employed etc. The need to develop this mindset is not limited to tournament play, it applies to all forms of the game. However, the compressed timeframes of tournaments, may highlight issues. However, it is pertinent for coaches to recall that “all players will be treated fairly, but not necessarily equally”[1].

Keeping Well

Coaches often plan for tournaments in minute detail, develop intricate game plans and yet forget one of the most important factors – their own welfare!

Coaches need to ensure that they get enough sleep during a tournament and that they have some rest during the tournament – no coach can be “on” the whole time. Coaches also need to ensure that they eat well, which can be challenging when they spend a lot of time at the competition venues. However, it is just as important for a coach to eat well as it is for players to do so.

Delegate Responsibility

No coach can do everything and no coach should try to do everything. The coach must be prepared to delegate some tasks to others within the team (e.g. assistant coach or team manager), not only because it will provide the coach with more time to focus on the performance of the team, but also because it will help to “engage” the others in the team.

If the coach tries to do everything, the others in the team may feel as though the coach does not trust them or they may feel that their role is unimportant and that there is little point in them being involved.

When delegating responsibility the coach must:

  • Set clearly any parameters they have about how the task is done;
  • Advise when they want or expect the task to be completed, including any report or feedback that they require;
  • Say “please” when delegating the task and “thank you” once it is done.
  • Most importantly, let the person do the task!

For example, the coach may delegate to the team manager the responsibility for providing team meals. The coach may provide the manager with their pre-game and daily routine (e.g. how long before games they want to eat, what time players are to be in bed). The coach should then not need to make decisions regarding where the team eats or what they have for dinner.


Patrick Hunt. Coach Hunt is the chair of FIBA’s Technical Commission and the President of the World Association of Basketball Coaches. He coached with junior and senior Australian teams at Olympic and World Championship level and was the Head Coach for Basketball Australia’s National Intensive Training Program from its inception in 1993 until 2008.