It’s time we took action to make basketball fun, writes guest columnist Mike Nichols.

Since 1984, the first time I picked up a ball, I was hooked. The game allowed me to be creative, to express myself and communicate with others in a way my usual shy young self didn’t allow. Looking back, I ask was it the game or my coach that allowed me to be who I could be?

Over the years, I grew, developed and with the right guidance thrived. I represented England Under-19s as a 17 year old, being voted MVP at a tournament in Holland. I played National League Division One, being selected an All Star back in 1996.

As an older player I had opportunity to coach others, just as my first coach coached me, through nurturing, supporting and allowing them to learn from mistakes rather than fear criticism. I became a student of the game, using ‘secrets’ to pass onto others.

As I grew older I learnt the game from different angles, as a national league team owner/administrator/coach/Secretary and as part of my Bachelor’s degree I studied a local national league basketball club and also the GB strategy ‘Game On’ which set out plans and policy in the Olympics.

Since the 2012 Olympics I’ve been disappointed in results as I’m sure many other people are. The disappointment made me look at the game, again from different angles. I soul searched, worked with a couple of BBL players helping them overcome mental barriers with remarkable results but still felt there was a way I could impact the game on a greater scale because the game wasn’t progressing as quickly or as effectively as I expected. I was even the assistant coach at Manchester Giants in 2015 but still something didn’t feel right.

Our game took a set back with funding cuts and the future looks bleak. Who could make bold decisions to move things forward?

In September 2016 I decided to take things into my own hands. I was researching for an article and stumbled across an American Coaching Organisation and immediately felt a connection because they promoted and encouraged the same philosophies I coached.

Through my own hunger to develop I’ve based my own coaching style on Phil Jackson’s. Phil Jackson, Steve Kerr and other winning coaches are ambassadors for this USA organisation – Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) and share and advocate this recipe for success. I saw a vision of the future of youth basketball here in the UK.

I decided to reach out to people in the basketball community, read articles and put some things in motion.

One great youth coaching legend Humphrey Long shared some great insights of his beliefs and values and how these impacted on the young boys he coached. It wasn’t win at all costs, it was about winning the right way and learning life lessons with winning at basketball low down in the list of priorities. it just so happened due to the philosophy, his team’s just happened to win.

I read some extracts from former players, talking about their experiences and it was clear how their success was formed. Its no coincidence, Humph shares the same philosophy as Jackson when it comes to coaching youths.

Success in youth sport isn’t just about the win column, but about winning through life lessons, honouring the game and creating a culture within a club/team where everyone is on the same page including parents, coaches and players.

I experienced it through Geoff Watson, my first coach, Humphg made sure his players experienced it and over in the USA hundreds of youth teams experience this success.

I recently read an article that highlighted the difference between GB and Spain and two things stood out. In Spain the kids start as young as four and coaches are paid as a full time job. Here in the UK kids start a lot older and coaches coach in their spare time.

The problem that arises with part time voluntary coaches is the mind set to be successful isn’t what it needs to be. There’s no value to the work! There are a lot of talented people out there with some great tools to share to help the game develop but there has to be a business mentality to draw the best out of our kids. There has to be an investment of time, learning, growth, money and support from coaches, parents and players in return for support, knowledge and programs from the specialist.

There has to be a marker that separates coaches because I know Level Three coaches and believe me when I say just because you have a certificate doesn’t mean you’re a good coach. This new marker allows the great ones to benefit from a badge of honour, telling others around that, ‘hey, I invested in developing myself in a way that will attract parents and kids to my programme because I’ve got the backing of PCA.’

All the research supports these new methods that I have chosen to invest in and I’ll be damn sure to implement these and receive the support I require to stand out.

Through PCA online courses (they cost no more than £60 and take around 90 minutes to complete and include support documents and my support, plus free resources from the PCA website http://www.pcadevzone.org/), any youth team or club can build a culture for young players where mutual respect from parents and coaches form a cohesive ethos that the young player can grow, not just in basketball but also in life. They learn that losing is ok and handling how to behave after a loss is just as important as knowing how to behave after a win.

It’s important to understand, taking and passing this accreditation is the start of an exciting growing process. The bigger picture will become clear and I already have the plan prepared for those ready to come along for the ride.

When we nurture our youth, we create a platform, a foundation of strength on which their minds will be open and creative, allowing them to feel positive about themselves even when things don’t fall their way. We not only begin to produce great young players, but great young people who go onto great things.

PCA has allowed me an outlet for my passion and vision to help others learn and grow through these online courses and support not just within their local community but in the basketball community as a whole which impacts on the success of our National teams and the development of our youths off the court.

Coaches who instil the right philosophies like Humphrey and Geoff are a rarity and now is the time to discover and establish a new breed of coach in the same mould with the support of those who have been there and done it. it’s time for the UK to accept what we’ve been doing for years hasn’t worked as well as we’d hoped and to do something different.

Until now, being British means giving it our best shot but coming up short but it’s ok because we worked hard and hard work deserves credit right! Let’s stop being British and take control of our youth teams and steer them in such a way, success both on and off the court becomes a natural part of their lives.

I know creating and building a positive culture of growth and support within a team, getting parent, players and coaches on board on the same page, isn’t for everyone so if you’re against this, think you don’t need it or have something challenging to say, please message me direct or simply continue to do what you’ve always done and move along.

Success won’t happen overnight. I can’t do it alone but together we can shift gears, take off autopilot, and begin to do things differently for the right reasons. We can grow bold and feel the success we deserve! The success other nations have felt for years is now available here!”

Mike Nichols is a partner of Positive Coaching Alliance and a former assistant coach at Manchester Giants

Share and Enjoy:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • MySpace
  • Print

You must be logged in to post a comment Login