(English) At both practice and games, coaches have the opportunity to reinforce on court rules (how the team is to play) and these may change over the course of a season. Off court rules (how the players interact and present themselves) are equally important although inexperienced coaches often do not regularly review them or take steps to enforce them until something major occurs.

Things to consider in relation to the team rules are:

  • Have as few as possible – the coach should be able to explain why each rule is important;
  • Each team should have their own rules – in determining team rules coaches should consider for each team what is necessary. This will depend upon the personalities, skills and experiences of the players, which differs with every team. Having the players involved in determining the team rules (particularly in relation to off court) is useful;
  • Write the rules down – coaches often provide a “playbook” (which essentially contains the on court rules) but should equally have the off court rules written down and provided to everyone on the team. With junior players they should also be provided to the parents. Having players sign the rules and displaying the rules where players will see them (e.g. in the changing room) can be important to ensuring they are followed;
  • Use the players’ language not the coaches – simply, the rules need to make sense to the players. Particularly with junior players they should be expressed in language appropriate to the age of the players which may mean using appropriate colloquialisms;
  • Use positive language – wherever possible the rules should be stated as what will be done (e.g. “we accept responsibility as a team for whether we win or lose”) rather than what to avoid (e.g. “do not blame team mates when we lose”).

Finally, to ensure that the team rules are clear they must be enforced consistently by the coach. If a team rule is that “we accept responsibility as a team for whether we win or lose” and after a loss one player says to another “the referees were unfair, we would have won if John hadn’t been fouled out”, the coach must act.

In this example, the player is not taking responsibility as a team – they are both blaming the referees but also blaming the loss on John not playing. Whilst this may not require much of a penalty, the coach should at least correct the player and remind them that the team must take responsibility and that the result of the game is the aggregate of every possession. Obviously, the coach must not make comments like this either.