Some of us will come home from practices and wonder, “Why on earth did Johnny decide to come out for the basketball team if he doesn’t want to try?” We spend so much time and energy on the frustration and the struggle to get players to perform at their optimum level during games.

I think it can be summed up in one common sports phrase:

“The way you practice is the way you play the game.”

Too many of our players don’t take practices seriously and they are joking around and not focusing on the task at hand. They don’t pay attention in practice and it is reflected in the way they play on the field, court, or arena. What makes the problem even worse is the fact that these players often have a detrimental effect on the attitude and coachability of others.

So, how do you motivate all of the players on the basketball team to start practicing hard? First, accept that you will always have at least one bad apple. The key is limiting the amount of influence that player can have on the rest of his or her basketball teammates.

Here are some of the other methods you can use to get your basketball team motivated to practice hard and play hard:

oReward the basketball team for ‘basketball team’ efforts – Often times peers are the best motivators. You don’t need to crack the whip on any particular player, singling that player out more than the rest. You simply need to motivate the majority of the basketball team by rewarding them when the entire basketball team comes out to work hard during practices and games.

If their basketball teammates don’t want to work and the rest of the basketball team misses out on rewards, or worse yet have to do more work at practice, you can bet that person is going to hear it from the players. I would suggest that will often be motivation enough to get most players in line with practicing hard.

oSet a goal with the basketball team before each game – In hockey, you could set a goal of each basketball team member making a good pass in each period. If the basketball team achieves that goal then they are rewarded.

The goal can be as simple as winning a game, or doing a number of different basketball team skills effectively – even in a loss. As the coach, you can find any number of goals that a basketball team can try to reach during a game or even a practice, in order to motivate the players.

oExplain to them the importance of practice – You can use all sorts of coaching tactics for this one. Start with the fact that other basketball teams are preparing for them, so they need to prepare hard and well for the other basketball teams. You can tell them that improving skills is crucial in raising the basketball team to the next level.

There are literally dozens of different motivational tactics that can be used by coaches to get their basketball team up by showing them the importance of practice. The only thing that you shouldn’t do is be negative. Always be positive with the approach that you are taking. Players don’t often respond to negative remarks.

oHave fun at practice – Set the example early that practices are going to be work, but they are also going to be fun. That way a player knows that they are going to be able to have fun during the practice, but they will also be able to have fun.

This is especially important for the younger players. At that level, you are trying to maintain excitement and enjoyment for players that are probably just learning a game. If they see and hear a coach that is negative and yelling and the practices aren’t fun, then you probably aren’t going to see them for much longer. If they stay, you likely aren’t going to get much out of them.

oSimple encouragement – You wouldn’t believe how far positive encouragement and telling a player when they are doing well goes. It is unbelievable. Just think back to when you were a player in your sport and you heard your coach say, “That was a great steal Joe,” or “how to get the ball out quick Jenny.”

All of those comments help. They help a heck of a lot more than degrading or getting angry at players. No one wants to work hard for a coach that yells at his or her players during a practice or during a game. Players like coaches that lead them to victory through positive reinforcement, good coaching and setting a good example.

It isn’t always easy getting a basketball team motivated for practices, but that is the place to start – especially if you also want to get them motivated for games. Helping to build that motivation by giving players and the basketball team some positive goals to work for – with a positive coaching mentality is the best way to get the most motivation out of your basketball team.

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