Building Foundation Successful Program By Rob Slopek, Assistant Women's Coach, Stevenson University, Owings Mill, Md.

Whether you are taking over a successful program or a team that has seen better days, it’s important to consider how to build a strong foundation when you step in as head basketball coach.

I discovered five main building blocks that have laid the foundation to our winning program:

1. Hire good assistant coaches and managers.
2. Gain the support of the administration and school.
3. Have your players buy into your program.
4. Have parents buy into program.
5. Have a vision and mission for your program.

Good Assistants & Managers

The people you surround yourself with are the ones who make you what you are and help define you as a coach. Your assistant(s) must be knowledgeable and must be willing to accept the responsibilities and role of an assistant coach. Let them know you are in charge but that their input always is welcome and encouraged.

The best assistant coaches are the ones who want to become better coaches, whether they strive to be a head coach or not.

Administration & School Support

Communication is the key component in securing the support of your school and the administration. The more you talk about your program, the more people will be interested in your team and more than likely will attend your games. Your players are busy working hard to become better on the court, so you owe it to them to showcase them in an off-the-court manner.

Be proud of your team and encourage students, faculty, administrators, etc. to come out and support your players. Invite administrators to games, banquets or other special events. Give them T-shirts and other spirit wear so they know you’re thinking about them.

Players Buying Into The Program

Provide players with responsibility of looking out for each other. The only way your players are going to buy into what you’re doing is to have them take responsibility for everyone within the organization and to take ownership in their every action.

Also, allow players to have a voice in your organization. Don’t allow them to set the rules and policies but do allow them to add additional rules and procedures to the base ones you establish.

Parents Buying Into The Program

Once again, it all comes down to communication. Communicate your team’s goals and expectations with parents at the start of the season. Make them aware of what is going on with your team, so they feel part of the program.

Take advantage (in a good way) of the parents’ desire to be a part of the children’s lives. Provide them with the responsibility of organizing events such as the banquet, senior night, pasta parties, etc., and watch them take a sense of pride and ownership in the program.
It’s also a good idea to allow parents to watch practices. Of course, this only works if you lay down ground rules from the start. Do not allow parents to interject or speak with their child during practice — they only are there to observe.

Have A Program Mission And Vision

Your vision needs to focus on putting your team in a position to win while being realistic and honest with yourself and players. Having a false sense of hope is not a good thing.

A great starting place for your vision is to ask yourself what you want players to accomplish during their four years in your program. When players graduate, what do you want them to say about playing for you and your school?

Also, set up a values system for your program. Be mindful of your core values, then come up with the team’s core values. Both sets of values may be different and that’s fine. The point is to work with players in having a say in how they conduct themselves on and off the court. How players act on the court is in direct relation to how they will act off it.

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