Could You Explain Basketball To A Foreigner?

by Randy Brown - Date: 2007-03-16 - Word Count: 594 Share This!

If you have ever tried to explain a game or activity to a novice, you understand how difficult it can be. Sometimes just giving directions to a visitor to your town is a challenge. There is a valuable lesson for coaches hidden in this activity. Could you explain the game of basketball clearly and concisely to a foreigner?

One of my many collegiate coaching experiences came from the classroom at Miami of Ohio. The philosophy of coaching basketball class was given to myself and another coach on our staff. As I eagerly jumped into teaching the art of coaching to students, I found soon that I was progressing too rapidly through the material. Students were faced with understanding the game and it intricacies as well as I did. The students were left in the dust.

As I reviewed the material I realized that I took too much for granted in my teaching style. Upon returning to class I explained my mistake to the class and promised to move at a slower, clearer pace. I gave an assignment that day that raised many eyebrows. I asked each student to write down their game plan for explaining basketball to a foreigner. The results of this assignment were amazing.

A few students read their assignment out loud to the class. The more papers that were read, the more discussion it created. Student were frustrated, saying, "No foreigner could ever understand the game listening to you". More questions than answers were raised. What created itself was an outstanding platform for teaching.

Starting at the ground and working our way up, as a class we developed our explanation of basketball. What was startling was the simplicity of the words and concepts. As you explain a sport, we learned you must also define the words you are using. The words basketball, hoop, court, backboard, defender, and scoring must all be clearly presented. The class was impressive in their approach to this project. I saw that each of them gained a clarity around the game. Each felt equipped to explain basketball to a foreigner.

Why do I bring this experience up? I feel that communication and clarity are two of the prime components in coaching sports. What good are drills, plays, schemes, and head knowledge if they cannot be clearly presented to young athletes. Here are my observations:

1. As coaches we assume athletes know more about the game of basketball than they do.

2. Coaches see the whole/part/whole concept of teaching, but players do not.

3. The terminology we use can be confusing and vague. If players do not know what your terminology means, how can they do what you are asking them to do?

4. A coach is a leader. A good leader is an excellent communicator and teaches in a manner that allows all players and coaches to speak the same language.

5. We give players too much information before the fundamental learning is mastered. Players cannot run before they can walk.

6. A player that thinks too much is a player that cannot execute consistently in practice or games.

7. Basketball is said to be the most under taught and over coached sports in existence. There could be a lot of truth to that.

I hope this article makes you reflect upon your own coaching and how you teach, explain, and coach your team. Every coach need to make communication a key part of the coaching process and dedicate himself to painting the clearest picture possible for his players. Take an honest look at your own coaching style and work to improve yourself each day. Your players deserve your best.

Related Tags: basketball, coaching, rules, understand, objective, foreigner, explain

Randy Brown has dedicated his life to the game of basketball. His 18 years in college basketball highlights a successful 23-year career. Coaching positions at Arizona, Iowa State, Marquette, Drake, and Miami of Ohio fill his resume. Mentored by Basketball Hall of Fame coach Lute Olson at Arizona, he learned the game from the best. At 39, Randy became the head coach at Division I Stetson University in Deland, Florida. His efforts have helped develop 12 NBA players including Steve Kerr, Sean Elliott, and Jaamal Tinsley. His passion for mentoring young coaches and developing youth programs is known and respected throughout the country. Over the years he has authored over 50 articles on coaching basketball and has taught over 24,000 young players in summer camps and clinics. He works as a basketball consultant and mentor for coaches. He is also an author and public speaker. For free articles and questions, Randy can be reached at

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