At Club Estudiantes, Madrid, I received a fantastic education in establishing clear expectations for players through a combination of open communication, mutual respect, and a focus on team goals. Here are a few key approaches that I observed the Spanish basketball coaches using:
Clear communication: The coaches I worked with believed that open communication was key to establishing clear expectations for their players. Coaches typically met with their players regularly to discuss goals, strategies, and individual player roles. They encouraged players to ask questions and provide feedback, and they listen carefully to their players’ concerns and suggestions. We found that just a simple conversation about players expectations went a long way.
Often it’s about coaches’ expectations of players but if a player had thoughts and feelings about a playing position or maybe how skills they had could be utilised we wanted to hear them out. Communication was a two way street.
Mutual respect: At Estudiantes the coaches believed that establishing a relationship of mutual respect with their players was critical for creating a positive team culture. They treated their players as with respect (rather than a “do as I say as I am the coach” approach) and encouraged them to take responsibility for their own development.
Coaches recognised the unique strengths and weaknesses of each player and provide feedback in a constructive and supportive manner. In addition, coaches also heard the players out too. For example I saw a coach who started to make his players run a lot and it was clear the players were not enjoying their basketball anymore so he asked them how they felt, they confirmed the coaches suspicions and he found a different approach to getting more out of his players.
Emphasis on team goals: The Spanish basketball coaches prioritised team goals over individual accomplishments. They encourage their players to focus on contributing to the success of the team rather than seeking personal glory. Coaches set clear expectations for team performance and held players accountable for meeting those expectations. Players were even moved to different clubs as they were focusing on scoring rather than playing with the team.
Emphasis on fundamentals: Spanish basketball coaches prioritise teaching their players the fundamentals of the game. This was especially true at Club Estudiantes! All you need to do is look at the national teams from U14s to seniors and look how many played at Estudiantes during their formative years. They believe that a solid foundation in basic skills such as passing, dribbling, shooting, and defense are essential for success at higher levels of competition. Coaches emphasised the importance of repetition and practice in mastering these skills.
Emphasis on sportsmanship: Finally, Club Estudiantes coaches placed a strong emphasis on sportsmanship and respect for the game and respect for the club and it’s history. They expect their players to compete hard but always to play with integrity and to treat opponents and officials with respect. Coaches also stressed the importance of playing for the love of the game and enjoying the experience of playing basketball both in training and in games.