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How to Coach Through a Stressful Situation

Hoops Mind - How to coach through a stressful situation

Imagine yourself in a basketball game with a couple of minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. You’re at the sidelines with your team as the huddle breaks. They jog back into the court after the timeout has expired. The crowd rises to their feet, their cheers drowning out your last instructions to your players.

You then take a moment to see them from the other end of the court. Their bodies are drenched in sweat, their breaths becoming faster and deeper. Your point guard brings the ball across the court. Halfway through, the opposing squad’s best defender sizes him up. He forces your ball handler to dribble in different directions, staying with him no matter what.

Your point guard loses control of the ball and turns it over with less than a minute left in the game. The opposing team is in the lead by two points. Worse, your team’s point guard slams the ball to the ground in frustration, catching the ire of a nearby referee.

A whistle blows and a technical foul is called. You call your last timeout. The scene you saw from afar is right in front of you. Your players are exhausted and frustrated. They’re near the point of giving the game up. These players then direct their tired gaze towards your direction, waiting for you to provide instructions.

As their coach, it is your responsibility to steer the ship through the storm. These people are relying on you to get them through this problematic late-game situation. Rather than buckle down from the immense pressure placed on your shoulders, this is your opportunity to lead your team out of this mess. Here are some tips that can help you through this ordeal.

Model the Composure You Want from Them

Hoops Mind - How to coach through a stressful situation

During the huddle, you notice everyone is emotional, restless, and anxious. This is your opportunity to calm your team down by being calm yourself. Ask them to take a couple of deep breaths, if possible with their eyes closed if that’s familiar to them from practice. In doing so, they can gather themselves from what happened moments ago, and put the past moment in its proper place. If done successfully, your guys will be in a proper state to listen to your instructions and process them the right way.

Tell Them What To Do Instead of What Not To Do

Hoops Mind - How to coach through a stressful situation

Once everyone has calmed down, it’s now time to set things right. 

Saying things like “Don’t turn the ball over” aren’t helpful to players. Saying specific instructions like “Everyone come and meet the ball on all passes!” can prime up things you’ve practiced and can help them execute them in this stressful moment.

Set a Clear Plan of Action

Hoops Mind - How to coach through a stressful situation

After settling your team and keeping them accountable, it’s now time to come together for that final push towards victory. Be firm and clear as you explain your plan for the final moments of this game. You need to spell out the responsibilities of each player and how they should work together. Lastly, it’s important that your players know you trust them during this pressure-filled situation. When the players know you trust them, they’ll be more confident and will go above and beyond for you. 

If done correctly, you and your team will have no regrets in the end. Whether you get the win or not, you’ll walk away with the fact that you’ve coached your players well during a problematic situation.