Every year for 10 years now as a head coach I’ve made sure to tell myself we were going to move slow with regards to practice. One of the toughest challenges as a coach is to be patient – you know what it is supposed to look like, you know what it looked like at the end of last year when you had your last practice, and you are naturally concerned that you won’t be ready when you start playing games. You want to put everything in quickly, even if it’s sloppy, so that you can start working on all of your stuff as a team.
This year in my first year as a new coach at Maine I made sure that we were going to move slowly. Coaching an entirely new group with a new staff is a completely different deal. So I was certain we were going to go nice and slow so everyone could get it. And once again, for the 10th year in a row, after a couple of practices we were talking about the need to slow down. We were moving too fast and guys were struggling to pick things up and compete at a high level of intensity.
It’s your responsibility as a coach to make sure your players get it. If your players cannot handle what you are throwing at them as a coach, it’s not on them, it’s on you. The easy way out is to blame the players and say they aren’t focused or mentally ready. And that certainly might be part of it. But it’s the leaders responsibility to make sure everyone in the group clearly understands what they are supposed to to, and to prepare them to do it at the level they need to. So when your players are struggling with something it’s OK to ask them to do better, but you also need to ask yourself what you can do better. And one of the best things you can do is slow things down and give them more time to understand what you are trying to get across.
Ask yourself this question – when your team goes to play your first game, and you put kids out on the floor who don’t know the plays, how do you react? Is that on you or is it on them? I’ve always felt as a head coach that if I get to a game and I ask my team to execute, and they aren’t able to do it because they don’t know the plays, that’s on me. I can talk all I want about how they aren’t focused or mentally ready, but ultimately it’s my job to make sure they are prepared to execute in a game. If they aren’t ready to do that, it’s my fault.
One of the best things you can do to make your team better is to slow down and keep things simple. I know you want to make sure you have everything in and there are a million game situations you want to be prepared for. But if your kids are thinking too much they aren’t going to be able to compete at a high level, and your team won’t improve at the rate they should be. Slow down, keep it simple, and resist the urge to do too much too fast. Your team will be better for it.