What I learnt from coaching my son's junior basketball team

March 3, 2023

What I learnt from coaching my son's junior basketball team

What I learnt from coaching my son's junior basketball team

What I learnt from coaching my son's junior basketball team
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On Saturday the 2nd April 2022, the Bobcats Jaguars Under 12 Boys team won the Grand Final in their very first season together. To top it off my son was part of the winning team and I was lucky enough to coach him and the boys. A pretty good result right? In my opinion, absolutely! But to be honest, winning the grand final wasn't the best thing about the season, there were so many more little things along the way that made it a winning season, no matter how you look at it. Of course I feel extremely proud of the team and winning the final match was a thrill. Thinking back on my illustrious junior sporting career :) premierships were very hard to come by. As his grandfather Pete would say, "Some people play sport for an entire lifetime and don't even make a Grand Final, let alone win one and our Baxter has won in his very first season".

What I feel more proud of are the steps we took to get there, how we managed to improve and the different things we did to think differently to grow through the season. This season was the very first time 7 of my 8 players had ever played basketball and 2-3 months earlier we were a totally different team when we all met for the first time and started playing and practising together. I managed to recognise quite early in the season that my role as coach was really to motivate, ensure the boys were having fun and learning the basics like rebounding, dribbling, calling out each others name, making second efforts and encouraging each other. I'll be the first to put my hand up and say my basketball knowledge I thought was pretty advanced, however it's quite humbling when you begin coaching and you realise the tricks up your sleeve run out pretty quick. I think that's partly due to how clever kids are now and how each week they would challenge me on things we should change during the game and problem solving when we were behind. Not to mention my son Bax, like so many has become quite an expert on the NBA, LeBron James and all things basketball thanks to our friends over at YouTube. Seriously, it's crazy how much kids can access and learn from watching basketball on YouTube, a whole other blog post waiting to be written right there.

So how did we actually get a team full of first time basketballers all the way through a season and into a winning grand final? Well it wasn't a smooth ride to say the least, we encountered covid throughout the season, with a couple of disruptions through the season with missing players and forfeited games and playing on different courts and at different times. Our season had match day on a Saturday this year and our training happened to be on the Sunday following. So the weekends were quite full and challenging to get everyone there. I knew that in order to get the team accelerated in their development and speed up their cohesion as a team, I needed to create more opportunities for them to get together and gel as a team during the week. This was always going to be a struggle for me personally, as I have 3 daughters also and my wife works full-time, so creating more time for one child was going to be difficult. Not to mention one of our players Jireh is from a family of 6, their parents are true heroes Bruce & Lisa! :)

Enter our secret weapon, that would lead us to the promise land of premiership glory, Jai Natonewski! Just prior to the season I had identified that Baxter wanted to play basketball and needed to find a club. My mate Adam Natonewski suggested we try the Northern Bobcats and I was lucky enough to be able to coach the team and have some great support from Tate's dad, Andy who was a great team manager, stand-in coach & occasionally loud parent on the sidelines, lol. Adam's son Jai, who is a superstar basketballer currently representing Victoria & Geelong at a state level, was someone I turned to see if he would be interested in privately coaching the boys during the week and mentoring them. Not only did he do this, but he was kind enough to give of his time to come to the games, help me on game day and guide our young boys. To give you an idea of the affect and growth Jai has had on our team, we went on to win the grand final by 19 points, to the same team that we were beaten by 3 times earlier in the season. Our players learnt how to defend, rebound, shoot properly, work as a team & back themselves in pressure situations. The credit here has to be given to Jai, as it made my life so much easier on game day.

If you're a parent reading this, then you probably understand when I say it's hard to get a kid beyond 9-10 to listen to you, especially as their sporting coach. It's not impossible, but the reality is we are totally different generations and at this pre-teen age they will always resonate with someone closer in age. As a result, Jai really did make the difference as he not only had awesome basketball knowledge, but he had a unique way with the boys that really got through to them. I like to think it was all me, but we all know deep down, it was Jai.

The Premiership team:Brandon Burns (Coach), Joshua Young, Jirech Corrin, Baxter Burns, Mateo Carrington, Lachlan Inglis, Dexter Shaw, Tate Walters, Jai Natonewski (Coach), Andy Walters (Team Manager)

I wanted to take the opportunity to thank a few people who really helped this season, none more so than my wife Kristy, who was kind enough to bring our 3 girls to every game and cheer on Baxter, often before and after long days and nights with me being grumpy, tired Dad. She enabled Bax to have such an amazing season with his friends and for me to be able to relish coaching my son and building that connection. Something that is often a challenge when you have multiple kids and working weekends can make it a real challenge. My team manager Andy was a ripper, standing in when we were away and managing all of the game day logistics. To the parents of Jaykob, Dexter, Lachlan, Mateo, Jireh, Josh & Tate you guys did such a great job committing to training and working with Jai and for scoring on match day. To Jai, what a find and such a game changer for us in so many ways, most importantly developing our boys into respectful young men.

I want to highlight Jireh, our best on ground performer who scored 20 points on the day and wasn't allowed to score any more beyond this point. Watching him pass to his teammates and bring them into the game through scoring themselves was awesome to watch. Also, our star defender Mateo who did an excellent job playing a role defending the oppositions best player and passed the ball in like a pro.

Lastly, I want to thank my son, BB, as he has done the one thing I only ever ask of him at the start of every season and focussed on improving as much as he can. As a Dad it's been awesome watching how seriously he takes the game and his mum and I often talk about how competitive he gets and really gets into it. That's really all I could ask of him, as he hadn't even played a game before this season and by the end of it he became a really good teammate and really good shooter. He's been particularly patient when his grumpy dad has had to cross the line from parent to coach and treat him like all the other kids, a challenge known all too well to other parents I'm sure.

So what did I learn?

  • Kids will always surprise us and sometimes we just need to get out of their way and let them express themselves.
  • Kids learn and develop at different rates, but when part of team they lift each other quickly.
  • Basketball is a very inclusive game and so much fun to play and watch.
  • Team sport is awesome for young kids and for their parents to see them off screens and out of the house being physical and exercising is so valuable.
  • Kids respond to other kids and having a coach close in age is an excellent way to have a relevant role model.

Now it's onto the winter season and I'm off to coach 2 of my 3 girls Sadie and Pippa in Under 7's soccer. Our little Lucy will be running around crazy as our team mascot and here's hoping we have a great season!


Baxter & his best mate Mateo

What I learnt from coaching my son's junior basketball team
TorchT Productions
Get in touch to discuss your creative project!
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