Basketball seasons are winding down all across the country. This is a time of great excitement and anticipation, as teams prepare for their post-season tournaments with dreams and goals of an eventual state championship. However, it is also a time of reflection for coaches and athletes alike.
Late in a season we sometimes play the “coulda’, shoulda’, woulda’” game and wonder what might have been had we done things differently. Or we look back and think how glad we are that we chose to do things the way we did them, for they produced many of the results we desired when we started our seasons a few months ago.
One key area for coaches to focus on is impact. What kind of an impact did you have on your kids and your teams? As you come to the end of your season and you look back on all that happened, can you say that you helped create an experience for your kids that was worthwhile and significant? What will your seniors look back on and say their final experience playing in your program was like? What can you do with your teams in the future to ensure that they will always remember their senior season in the best way possible?
While there is not too much you can do at this point in your season to create an entire season’s worth of significant moments of impact, you can still do some things to help your kids make the last few weeks special. First, focus on doing just that. Help them to have the best weeks of the season right now. Of course, scoreboard success will help with this, but scoreboard success is something you have very little control over. A few things that you do have control over are your practice and game preparation, your focus on character and sportsmanship, and how you treat your kids.
Prepare for your practices and games in a manner that keeps things fresh for your players, while maximizing your time and all that you have put in this year. Try running new drills that work the skills you most want to have them prepared for. For games though, this is the time to “let them play.” You have taught and worked with them all season to be able to perform and compete at a high level at this time of year. Don’t overload them with too many new things (something I have done all too often!). However, this is also a great time to throw in a new wrinkle or two in order to have some extra “arrows in the quiver” and to help them feel like they have an extra advantage over their opponents.
Also, make sure you continue to emphasize good character and sportsmanship. Just because the stakes are higher doesn’t mean we can slack off on being accountable to our standards at this time. In fact, it is precisely in more pressure-packed, emotional moments that we need to be our best selves.
Coaches always talk about wanting to “play our best at the end of the year”; we should also be our best when it comes to character and sportsmanship.
Finally, make sure you continue to work to provide your kids a great experience. By changing a couple routines up, you can keep things fresh. If you don’t have games until the weekend, consider giving them Monday off, or make it a day for watching game film and having a pizza party. Then get back to practice on Tuesday-Thursday.
You must also keep treating your kids in the most positive way possible. Check in with them and make sure they are feeling good about the final push to the end. Keep them motivated and excited to be part of the program. Inspirational messages and quotes can continue to provide great insight and meaning. Help them see the light at the end of the tunnel is near, and it is time to make the absolute most of their time together.
Remember that your seniors are going through some emotions that the other players are not dealing with, so help them to navigate through the end of their high school career in your sport. Every year I have told my seniors to “Pack every moment with everything you have because you won’t believe how quickly it is going to go. You want to make sure you can look back on the season and say, ‘I’m so glad I did …,’ instead of ‘I wish I would have…’”
Before you know it, your season will be over. What are you doing to make the most of your last few weeks together with your team? I would love to hear some things that you do to close out your season with your teams that help make it memorable. You can leave your comment on our Facebook page.
Also, this is the start of Senior Nights and End-of-Season Banquets. My newest booklet, Senior Salute, written for coaches and parents to give to their senior athletes on Senior Night or at End-of-Season Banquets, has seven team themes that have been prevalent in their athletic lives and will be part of their future lives: Character/Integrity, Trust, Passion, Toughness, Accountability, Teamwork, and Success, with many quotes supporting each theme. The inside front cover is set up for you to write a personal note to your senior athlete. You can get Senior Salute for $6.00 each or a 10-pack for $50.00, plus shipping! To take a sneak peek at the “Introduction and First Theme,” or to order Senior Salute, just click here.
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