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AthleteBy Anthony Interaction Fortunaso


started my foray into the coaching world in 2005 - fresh out of high school and with no experience save a few methods that had rubbed off on me from my old coaches. Every practice was a learning experience but eventually a few things clicked. They’re little things but it’s hard to understand how I never “got” such simple concepts, ones that now form the basis of how I coach. The most important factor that I began to realize a few years ago is that players have to WANT to play for you. Take the recent firing of NBA coach Jerry Sloan, for instance. He is one of the greatest coaches in basketball but he could never get his team over the hump because of his refusal to adapt to younger generations. This eventually cost him his job. Now I know we are not dealing with multi-millionaire athletes who believe they are owed something, but the same principles still apply. Your players have to want to play for you and they have to not only look up at you but also respect you. I see lots of coaches who have all the technical knowledge in the world but their teams rarely perform as they should. Why was this I started to wonder? To me it came down to how the players responded to the coach. I always make an effort when I come into a practice or a game to ask as many players as possible how their days are going. I try to take an interest in other activities they have going on from piano to life-guarding. I even go out of my way to go see these players compete in other school sports. I feel that if they know I support them in what they do, then in turn, they will support me in what we are trying to accomplish. In the same vein, a lot of coaches try to make it about themselves. Athletes don’t respond to that kind of coach. They want to know that you are there for them, and you have their best interests at heart. That may mean you don’t play your star player when she’s hurt, even though she wants to play. It may also mean staying 20-30min after practice putting in extra work with a player, even though you have something else you need to do. Tell terrible jokes as well (Bieber), especially with

younger athletes. They love to laugh with you as much as they love to laugh at you. Trying to keep up on popular culture helps and if you haven’t tried listening to Justin Bieber I definitely suggest you give it a try not for the musical value, but for how well your athletes will respond to you when you make fun of him. Players will laugh with you more often than you think, and that means you’re doing a great job. Replacing words such as “I” with “we” will go a long way with helping you identify with your team of athletes. Rules are another thing that sometimes get in the way of managing team. While rules are good, I also find that they cause people to stop making decisions. I want my players to make good decisions and learn, so I set out some guidelines of what we (not I) are trying to accomplish. If you can somehow combine a little bit of these factors into the way that you coach your team, I think you will find that the players will start to respond to you in a much more positive manner. As always, have fun and love what you’re doing. Checking out the new Justin Bieber single wouldn’t hurt either - the kids love it. Anthony won a 2004 provincial basketball championship with the Argyle Pipers. He is currently the assistant coach for the Argyle Senior girls basketball team.

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Anthony Fortunaso Coaching Column  

Anthony Fortunaso shares advice on connecting with players.