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On coaching youth basketball

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A follow-up thought about investing yourself in the lives of young players.

NBA: Preseason-San Antonio Spurs at Orlando Magic Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Just as the NBA season is finally starting, so are the various youth leagues. All of those youth leagues need coaches. I would like to think that members of the Pounding the Rock nation, who are both Spurs fans and discerning students of the game (you are reading this, for instance) are perfect candidates to be those youth coaches.

My previous piece on coaching youth basketball (which ran two years ago at this time and is repeated below) ends with the advice to “Have Fun” – look and act like you are enjoying coaching the game. “Coach like you like doing it.” Part of that will be reflected in how you coach your team. If you feel like you need to yell and scream to get your point across, perhaps coaching youth basketball is not for you. It certainly won’t be fun for the players.

I was reminded of my Coaching Youth Basketball piece by an article in Monday’s Los Angeles Times. Unlike the Spurs, who have been truly blessed to have Coach Popovich over these many years, my local team (the Lakers) has run through a series of coaches since Phil Jackson left. The Lakers’ rookie coach this year is 36 year old Luke Walton, only 4 years out of the Association as a player, and 3 years since matching up man-to-man against super son Pablo in a Manhattan Beach men’s league. Now Luke is coaching one of the most (if not THE most) valuable franchise in the league.

As explained in the article, Luke has made the conscious decision to coach positively, starting with a comment you would never hear Pop admit (even though he probably thinks it – the first part, not the second):

“I like leading by love” Walton said. “But I had hippie parents so that’s to be expected. It’s the way I was raised.”

One of the Laker young players, Larry Nance Jr. (whose father was also in the league) talked about the effect of Luke’s approach:

“Luke’s the kind of coach that you just don’t want to disappoint. It sounds weird saying, but it’s almost like a parent. They don’t have to yell or scream or anything like that but just the fear of disappointing them is enough to give it your all.”

Finally, Luke talks about the fact that he did not play for yellers, either in high school, college or in the pros. He ended with the line which fits perfectly into my thoughts about coaching youth basketball: “That’s probably why I like basketball so much.” To all of you youth coaches, keep that in mind. You want your players to enjoy the experience you provide. That way, they can feel the same way young Luke Walton feels as he begins his long, strange trip as coach of the Lakers.