Developing Leadership on Your Team

1. Meet with potential leaders (returning juniors in most cases) as soon as you intend to start workouts for the next season.  This could be in the  Spring before Spring or Summer League workouts, and then again in the Fall, before Fall conditioning starts.

2. In these pre-season meetings, discuss the goals and objectives for the upcoming season.  Don’t lecture, dictate or intimidate in this meeting, but  rather, make it an open discussion where the players express to you their thoughts.  Listen carefully and get as much input as you can in the off-season.  This will allow them to practice leadership skills and also help you evaluate their team goals for the season.

3. Leaders should be responsible for setting up the practice court.  They can assign players to sweep the floor, get out the basketballs, and set up other training equipment.  This sets up a "shared responsibility" for everyone involved in the program.

4. Establish a phone-tree and/or text message system where you can contact your leaders and have them be responsible for contacting the rest of the team.  This is an effective way to get word out quickly to the team about practice schedule changes, last second meetings, or other  important events during the summer and the regular season.

5. Have different members of the team direct the stretching and warm-ups before a practice session or summer game.  As coach, you don’t need  to be the only voice heard in practice every day.

6. Let the leaders teach the newer members of the team your drills and skills at the beginning of the season.  They will help get the new players up  to speed much faster then you can alone.  Besides, what could be a better way to reinforce what they have learned then to have them teach it to  someone else?

7. When practice is not going well, have the leaders huddle up the team (or sub-groups) and talk to them about the importance of giving a better  effort.  Rather than you getting all upset at the team’s efforts, put the responsibility on them and let them work it out.  This will lead to great  communication on the court during games, and often save you a timeout which would otherwise be wasted on a prep talk.  Leaders need to  learn how to motivate too.

8.  Your leaders should be responsible for the locker room atmosphere. They should set the mood before the game with the focus and attitude you  desire.  Then you can step out of the way and let them bond and prepare together.

9. Leaders are responsible for the condition of the locker room after practice and games.  They make sure everyone cleans up after themselves. 

10. Leaders meet with you periodically during the season to discuss problems, changes, new ideas, and other subjects that might come up. When  they are comfortable coming to you with problems, then you know you have developed some good leaders.

A note to first year coaches at a new program or school:

Be patient when choosing your captains and leaders. Get to learn the players well before settling in with one or two leaders for your team. Remember, whoever your leaders are, the rest of the team will follow. Choose wisely.