Hey interwebs. This is about a 3 minute read on: Coaching Youth Basketball – THBA Tips
As a twelve-year professional point guard, adjusting to life in the United States after traveling Central America on a sailboat or living abroad in Europe has always been a struggle for me. Mainly, adapting back to the fast American culture and speed of life is always tough. And second, I was excited to get back and start coaching my first season of AAU basketball, and oh man, have I learned a lot. I have a fun group of boys that are trying to figure out how to win against quicker, faster, stronger players playing AAU downstate.
Coaching Youth Basketball – THBA Tips
The first rule I should have implemented at the beginning of the season is on how to deal with struggle and my 5 principles for playing time:
Consistent Effort (in-season and off-season)
Being a good teammate on and off the court.
Our Northern Exposure’s goal this season was to develop players and kids into capable young men, yet I know when I look around AAU, there are a lot of people dropping the ball (yes, literally dropping it) and just yelling, cussing, and letting bad habits happen all over the place.
Figuring out how to coach kids on how to win reminds me of my first time playing pick up in at Mott Community College in Flint as a high schooler. Everything I thought worked up North, well, it actually didn’t work at all. I was completely shocked. I struggled. I turned it over. I was inferior on the court. It was like starving sharks attending a chum block party.
Frustrated, I’d come home to my small town of Petoskey, Michigan and realize how much work I had to do and every summer, I’d get a little better at handling the pressure. Every morning before school, I’d work on my dribbling. Every 30 minute lunch time was spent shooting in a gym by myself. I really didn’t care about if I came back to algebra sweaty and red faced.
I was determined to get better.
As a senior, I actually made those athletic, quick, defensive risk takers in Flint pay for pressuring me. Smirking, I’d score or dish an assist and tell them to back up confidently. The truth is, if teams think they can take the ball from you, they must think you are an inferior skilled individual player or team.
It’s your responsibility to teach them to back up.
Plus, I was sick and tired of guys beating up on me. I was sick and tired of losing. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired.
I wanted to have success, so I focused on getting better every day. I mean, what else can you do but try to get better every day?
Then I got to Kent State University. And damn! It happened again! My first 20 practices, I must have turned the ball over 25 times a practice. I turned the ball over like it was a hot potato. Every time down, someone poked it away or made me cough it up. I can still hear my coach Gary Waters voice in my head, “Trevvvor, you’re soft now. Can’t be soft. You gotta be strong to play this game!”
And to make matters worse, as upperclassmen would take the ball away from me, they would talk trash to me, “Weigggghhhhhttttttroom Huff. Gimme that!”
And it irked me. It made me mad. It angered me that I couldn’t run the offense, or get by my defenders when I wanted to like in high school. And so something dawned on me. Failure after failure, turnover after turnover, bad practice after bad practice, excuse after excuse… it was time to make a choice.
Option A: it was time to quit, pick up a new passion and focus on that…
or Option B: start getting better at the game I loved…
The problem was me, and I knew it. I got in my own way and I had to admit reality sometimes sucks. No parent could save me. No teacher could pump me up. It was time to understand that I struggled because I wasn’t good enough yet. And that’s okay. There is nothing wrong with admitting what’s really happening. I was turning the ball over because I wasn’t good enough not to turn it over (simple right?)
I hadn’t practiced enough on my own to produce the results I wanted against better division one athletes.
Swallowing that I’m-not-good-enough-pill is hard, but without admitting it and popping that thing down, you will never truly understand the beauty of sports– that sports are a struggle, life isn’t always fair and…
Success goes to the few that are lucky enough to figure out the puzzle of learning how to play well, develop their game in the offseason, and execute the five coaching tips and principles better than the rest of the players.
And yet, as a college player, I lingered and argued with myself in my own head, listening to my own long list of excuses. I had no friends on the team. The cheerleaders didn’t like me. My schedule was tough. I was a freshman. I had no legs. The weight room workouts were too hard. The conditioning was too close to practice. The guys were fouling me. The refs sucked. The coaches didn’t care about me. I wanted to transfer. I wanted to quit. I wanted to play the two. Maybe the level was too high. I wanted to someone to actually coach and talk to me. I wanted, I wanted, I wanted, I wanted…
Guess what Huffman?
How about you just get better?
There was a question I didn’t want to hear, but damn, it was 100% right! And like an old memory I had forgotten, I remembered I had been through this before.
It must have been the younger self reminding me about the young boy that had seen the same struggles; the same voice of doubt; the same questions; the same excuses with a different colored bow and wrapping paper.
From middle school to freshman. From high school to AAU. From freshman to varsity. From Varsity to college. The struggle was there for me at every level, and yet when it happens in real time, you forget that struggle is just life whispering to you to get better.
From good to great business leaders, teachers, writers, to coaches and players– every level you go up, you are going to struggle and have to admit reality.
How do I just get better today?
Humility is a special thing. It teaches us to take accountability for effort. It teaches us how to get better if we can admit that we need work. And that’s just how it is if you want to reach goals in life, whether it’s sports or not.
And I knew then it was my own personal struggle to find out who I could become on the basketball court. And it began with the long, slow, daily building of my own personal Rome.
Rock by rock.
Brick by brick.
Column by column.
Dribble by dribble.
So if you are struggling, listen up.
I was the worst player on my college team as a freshman and I vowed to work to make sure it didn’t stay that way by the time I was a senior. Luckily, I didn’t have to wait that long and ended up breaking my school’s all-time scoring record and getting the chance to play in the Elite Eight and 12 years of professional basketball afterward.
That would have never happened if I couldn’t admit where I was.
To be honest, I’ve always felt like an underdog and maybe that’s why I always focus on getting better. But I tell that story to remind youth basketball players and coaches out there that there is no better recipe for success than getting better every day.
And now, as I coach these boys, I see their struggles, I see my struggles (yes, I called a timeout and put 6 players on the court for the press break up 12) and I remind myself of the process. I am honest with them. I’m not the best coach and not all of us are guaranteed to play or coach next year.
Not all of my players will even play varsity and that is a tough reality.
But I hope I can teach them that none of us are guaranteed anything but struggle in life and if we choose to react with humility and a get-better-attitude, we will eventually succeed by learning the secret that sports teaches us.
Struggle is a blessing, we just don’t see it that way.
I think about my younger self that made the choice to punch struggle right in the face every morning and fight back.
Get better, Trevor.
Just get better.