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Discipline is often a challenge at the youth level, but it must be done if the athletes are going to be able to practice in a proper learning environment.
It is crucial the coach establishes discipline immediately and insists that what he/she says is followed. In many cases it may not seem like a "big deal" if the coach does not insist that the kids follows the directions. As an example, if the kids don't sit on the line they were asked to sit on, does it really matter? Does it really make that much of a difference if a child gets in a couple of more shots after they were asked to come in? But each time a child is allowed to deviate from what they were asked to do, it tears away at the authority of the coach and discipline necessary to conduct a quality practice. Allowing a child to not follow the instruction shows to the others that the behavior is acceptable. The more unacceptable behaviour that occurs without consequences, the more time the coach spends on trying to establish order, and thus the more time is taken away from practice. Coaches must 'be firm, but fair' to create an environment where players can learn.
Here are some examples of behaviours the coach should insist upon:
- No talking where the coach or another player is talking - never talk over the athletes.
- Come in immediately when asked - no extra shots, going to water bottles, etc.
- Move quickly and exactly to where they were told
- Do not bounce basketballs when the coach or another player is talking
- Do not leave the gym without permission
- Never talk to a teammate, coach, or parent in a disrespectful tone
Coaches must also prevent children from getting off task by keeping the activity level high and their talk to a minimum. It is more likely kids will stay on task when they are engaged in a drill or game. This is why long lines should be avoided. Many coaches fall into the mistake of attempting to tell kids every part of a skill or drill when it is impossible for them to remember everything. To get a drill started, organize the children in the positions they need to start from, then give a couple key instructions, and let them try it. Then after a few reps add another point (or two); as opposed to giving them everything at one time. They can't possibly remember every point and it will only lead them to being bored and, possibly, off-task.
As every teacher knows if you begin by clearly explaining the behaviours you want to see, insist they are followed, and give consequences when they are not, discipline will be established early, and teaching becomes that much easier as the school year goes on. Coaches should follow this formula because every athlete deserves the opportunity to learn the game and practice their skills in a safe and disciplined environment.
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