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Sam Vaughn

Better Coaches Mindset: Feedback, Criticism and Trust

By | Basketball, Coaches Resources

December 5, 2017 - Piscataway, New Jersey, U.S. - Michigan State's head coach Tom Izzo talks with guard Cassius Winston (5) during NCAA basketball action between the Michigan State Spartans and the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Rutgers Athletic Center in Piscataway, New Jersey. Michigan State defeated Rutgers 62-52. Duncan Williams/CSM(Credit Image: © Duncan Williams/CSM via ZUMA Wire)

This article was written by Doug Brotherton, a writer for FastModel Sports. Doug is a seasoned coach, as well as an NBA scout. Through all of his experience, he has found the importance of trust and communication in basketball, which he discusses in this article.


Feedback, Criticism, and Trust

If you attend any basketball practice around the world, you are likely to hear the Coach stressing the importance of communication. It might be talking on defense, echoing a play call, or two players interacting. If you really want to learn about the communication of a basketball team, watch the players and coaches when there is a breakdown on the court. Do the players take the time to communicate through the challenges, or does one player bark instructions at the other? Do the players demonstrate respect for each other, or do they settle for negative body language? Does the coach worry about blame, or finding a solution? Does the player respond well to the coach’s feedback? In most cases, this depends on the culture, trust, and experience of the team involved. Great players and teams have a growth mindset. They are constantly seeking information, which can help them improve and get better.

So, what is the difference between criticism and feedback?

To make it easy for our basketball team to understand, we have used the following to demonstrate the difference between criticism and feedback.


Communicating a problem, which has already happened, and cannot be changed. Offering nothing to allow the person to improve or adjust their behavior/actions.

We want our team to avoid these messages.

EXAMPLE: “Becca, you have like eight turnovers. What are you doing!?!”



Communicating a problem in a way that allows someone to fix the problem moving forward.

This is required for Championship level communication.

EXAMPLE: “Becca, we can’t win the game if we keep turning it over. If you feel sped up, jump stop, and be strong with the ball.”


Another perspective, which comes from Tim Grover, who became famous as Michael Jordan’s personal trainer, “the only difference between feedback and criticism is how you hear it.”

As a coach, the most powerful way to control what your players hear, is to develop trust. Players will take every message as feedback, if they trust you, and believe that you have their best interest at heart. As the saying goes, “Players do not care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” As a coach, there are few things that are more important than establishing trust with your players.

Trusting people is easy. Whenever a person says, I have a tough time trusting people, they are wrong. We all trust people, every single day. Let me prove it. When you get behind the wheel and drive on a two-lane road, you are trusting a total stranger to control their vehicle and stay in their lane. In reality, you are trusting a random stranger with your life. When you get sick, you are trusting a doctor to prescribe you the correct medicine, to help you get healthy.

“As humans, we do not have a tough time with trust. We have a tough time trusting people, who have the ability to emotionally hurt us.”

This is where players, and parents, have a tough time trusting some coaches. They worry about being emotionally wounded, by the coach. They worry that the experience of playing basketball, which players love, might be damaged. This is the power that a coach must realize, and then use to their advantage. Going back to the earlier message, if a player knows that you care, they will not have a difficult time with trust. When a player trusts you, they will take any message, regardless of the delivery, as necessary feedback. Most importantly, if there is consistent trust throughout the program, then a setback can be viewed as an opportunity to learn and grow. This mindset will develop a team that is consistently improving and is bound to play their best basketball late in the season. Trust is a powerful tool. It helps players eliminate criticism, accept feedback, and is a necessary ingredient for a Championship team.

If you have questions, thoughts, or would like to further discuss this topic, you can reach Coach Doug Brotherton via email at: CoachBrotherton@gmail.com

He can also be reached on Twitter at: @CoachBrotherton

For more content from Doug Brotherton, follow him on social media @DynamicCoaches


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Jay Bilas Skills Camp: Top 5 Takeaways for Coaches

By | Basketball, Coaches Resources

This article was written by Doug Brotherton. Doug is now in his 14th year of coaching basketball. He is also a regional advanced scout with the Chicago Bulls. In this article, he talks about the Jay Bilas Skills Camp for basketball, and the takeaways for coaches he got from the camp.


5 Takeaways for Coaches

The 2018 edition of the Jay Bilas Skills Camp continued to provide both coaches and players exceptional opportunities to improve.

The Jay Bilas Skills Camp is quickly becoming one of the best basketball camps in the entire country. At the camp, players are split into teams, which are each led by a full coaching staff. The Head Coach of each camp team is a current college head coach. The three Assistant Coaches are a part of the camp’s Coaching Development Program.

Coaches in the Coaching Development Program range from College Head Coaches, to Graduate Assistants, Student Managers, and High School Coaches. The Coaching Development Program featured a tremendous lineup of speakers, including Don Showalter, Alan Stein, John Shulman, Jeff Lebo, Kevin Eastman, Mike Dunlap, Paul Biancardi, Bart Lundy, Grant Leonard, Bob Richey and, of course, Jay Bilas himself. I was also lucky enough and honored to give a short presentation to the coaches on how to maximize FastDraw to not only enhance your playbook, but your overall program as well (photo above).

By far the most impressive part of the Jay Bilas Skills Camp is the quality of on-court teaching that takes place. Players are treated to a crash course of “how to play basketball,” which featured skill development work, progressions, and special situations. The key however was that this section moved at a pace that resembles a college basketball practice. The progressions included different ball screen actions, off-ball screening actions, post splits, and more, and was all geared towards ensuring that the competitive games segment of camp featured high quality basketball.


1 – “If you think that a task is below you, then leadership will be beyond you.”

Jay Bilas Skills Camp staff featured former NBA coaches, College Head Coaches, and yet there were absolutely no egos. Everyone bought into the example that was set by Bilas, which was to serve others and pour everything into making the camp a tremendous experience for all involved. I felt like this phenomenal quote by Bilas had to be shared.

2 – “Relationships are the life blood.” 

This was a line that was shared by Alan Stein, but it was a theme that was echoed by all of the speakers in the Coaching Development Program. You you want to maximize your impact as a coach, then you had better learn to connect with your players.

3 – Two Types of People: ‘Know-it-alls or Learn-it-alls’

Kevin Eastman dropped this knowledge during his presentation, while Mike Dunlap was a living example of a “Learn-it-all.” Coach Dunlap is the Head Coach at Loyola Marymount, and has been an NBA Head Coach as well. He is widely regarded as one of the most intelligent basketball minds in the business, and he chose to be a part of the Coaching Development Program. This example, from an extremely successful coach, just hammered home Eastman’s point about being a “learn-it-all.”

4 – Communication Circle

Coach Showalter shared this pre-practice exercise, in which players must hold hands, look each other in the eye, address a teammate by name, and then share information. This focus on communication builds team chemistry, teaches communication, and has countless other positive impacts on a team. Check out this video that demonstrates how Coach Showalter uses the “Communication Circle” with his teams.

5 – Do NOT delay gratitude.” 

Bilas gets a second mention in this top five list, and not just because his name is on the camp. This was a line that he used multiple times, but it was also a theme for the staff. Everyone was excited and thankful for the opportunity to learn and grow. This “attitude of gratitude” fostered a fantastic environment and atmosphere, and we all got better in our time spent at the camp.

It was truly an honor to present to the Coaching Development Program at the Jay Bilas Skills Camp. On the last day, I wrote a hand written note to thank John Searby (Camp Director). That note was written on the cardboard backing to my note pad. In all of my years of attending practices, camps, and clinics, it was the first time that I went through an entire note pad at one event. The amount of quality information that was shared by the speakers was incredible, and I am already looking forward to being a part of next year’s camp!

If you want to get involved, you can find information about the Jay Bilas Skills Camp via its website, and follow on Twitter at @JayBilasCamp.

Follow @CoachBrotherton on Twitter and view all of his submitted sets on the FMS PlayBank here.

More posts by Coach Brotherton: 5 Scouting Tips for HS Coaches | Better Coaches Mindset


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Coach’s Role in Building Confidence: Part 1 – Preparation and Success

By | Coaches Resources

Coaches play an integral part in developing confidence in their players.This article was written by Scott Rosberg. Scott is the owner of Great Resources for Coaches, a website that serves as a tool for coaches across the country. Scott is a professional writer and speaker, and talks about preparation, success, confidence, among other topics in this article.


Coach’s Role in Building Confidence


Developing confidence in athletes is a key part of coaching, and preparing them properly sets them up for success.

In the last few posts I wrote for Fast Model Sports I talked about some important elements of team sport success being things that we might not always think of as the most important, like the locker room and bench behavior. So much of what we do to prepare ourselves and our teams for a season is involved in the strategy and performance areas – offenses, defenses, special situations, plays, drills for building skills, small-sided games, etc. These are major areas for us to learn and get good at. The better we are at these, the better chance we have at success.

I also said that I have long felt that those areas are secondary to a number of other areas. Things like developing team standards, instilling a team-first attitude, emphasizing and then working on kids having strong work ethics, building confidence and trust with teammates, and rewarding positive behavior and good sportsmanship are all elements that would fall into this category.

This post is the first in a series on one of those types of topics – the importance of coaches understanding our role in building an athlete’s confidence.

Are your practices designed to prepare your kids fully so that they enter the competitive arena with the confidence to perform well? Do your actions follow and align with your words with regards to instilling and building your players’ confidence? Do you recognize the various levels of confidence that each of your players has? Do you see that some of your players’ confidence levels may be sky high in some realms and in the basement in others? Do you talk to your team as a whole about the importance of each of the players’ roles in building confidence in their teammates? These are some of the questions coaches should ask themselves, and that I will provide some tips to consider.


Confidence comes from a variety of sources. More than any other source, though, preparation is what builds the most confidence. When we feel prepared for something, we enter into it with a much higher degree of confidence than when we are not prepared. Think about any test that you ever took in school. Chances are that you felt more confident for tests that you studied for and knew the subject matter for than those that you didn’t prepare for.

The same holds true for athletes. When we help them prepare to the best of their abilities to enter their competitions, they will attack the competitions with a confidence that they could never hope to have without the proper preparation. Putting in the time and effort to prepare is the strongest way to boost confidence.

It is critical that we as coaches offer as much preparation as possible to our athletes. No matter the sport, we must give athletes the tools for success before their competitions, so they feel confident in those competitions. Without a doubt, practice is the most important element. From skill-building to drills that break down team assignments to strategies and plays, a well-planned, well-run, efficient practice has the greatest impact on an individual’s, and consequently, a team’s preparation. Therefore, the most important thing that coaches can do is create great practices that put their athletes into positions that help develop their confidence.

Apart from the actual practice, things like film study, scouting reports, positive affirmations, proper training and conditioning, nutritional tips, and a well-planned pre-game warm-up can also help an athlete feel better prepared for the competition. Each of these elements just gives an athlete another “arrow in the quiver” that can help fuel the confidence necessary to perform.


While practice is the most important element in an athlete’s confidence, prior success is another strong force. If athletes have had success before, that success can help fuel their confidence for future contests. When athletes experience success, it often helps them feel they are capable of more of that success. Sometimes, success can be such a strong element, that the success does not even have to be in the exact same realm as what the next endeavor is. For instance, if an athlete had a strong scoring game last time out, it may also impact his or her passing, rebounding or defense in a positive way the next time.

Also, successful athletes in one sport can often use that success to carry over to a different sport, especially if there is some similarity between the sports. While soccer, basketball and lacrosse all have very different elements to them, there are enough similarities in the way the games are played as well as the action and flow of the games that players can transfer some of the feelings of what created success in the one over to the other.

My son told me years ago after playing in his spring soccer season and preparing for his summer basketball tournaments, “This may sound strange, but I think my ball handling in basketball is better because of my soccer.” Understand that he had not been playing basketball for a few months! But it made sense to me. He had spent the prior two-three months having great success dribbling a soccer ball around a field with his head up the entire time. Imagine how that could impact you as a ball handler for basketball. So, he started back to basketball with another level of confidence that he developed from the success he felt playing soccer.


Be careful with using success as a confidence-booster, though. While past success can definitely impact future confidence, it cannot be counted on like other confidence-builders. That’s because success can be fleeting, it can be fake, or it may not ever occur. For those who have success in an endeavor one week but then not the next week, it can be confusing and difficult to understand.

Consider what led to the success the prior week. Was it that you had prepared so well that you were completely ready for your opponent? If that was true, but then this week you did not put as much into your preparation, then your success the prior week may be setting you up for a setback this week, especially if you face a tough opponent.

That brings up another problem with success as a confidence-builder. What if your success last week was against an inferior opponent? One could easily feel confident this week due to the success last week, but it would be confidence based on a false premise. This happens often to teams and athletes who destroy far weaker competition. They get a false sense of security in their abilities. Then, when they come up against a better opponent, while they may feel confident, their confidence can soon be replaced by doubt, fear, and tentativeness when they realize they are not prepared for this opponent. So, while you can use prior success to help motivate athletes to feel confident in their futures, don’t count on it as always being able to push your athletes to new levels of confidence.

Confidence is an extremely sensitive thing. You never know what will spark it or crush it in someone, as everyone is different. One method of inspiring confidence for a person may do nothing for someone else. That means that coaches need to constantly be trying new things to help determine what works.

No matter what methods you try, two proven ways that we can build confidence in our athletes are preparation and success. While coaches will play a role in both the preparation and success, ultimately, it is up to the athletes to draw upon their own preparation and success to fuel confidence.

Next post, we will move into external forces that can impact an athlete’s success, specifically coaches and teammates.

For a more in-depth look at instilling confidence in athletes, I highly recommend two booklets by Bruce Brown of Proactive Coaching. The first one is Playing with Confidence: For Athletes to Read, For Coaches to Teach.”This is available in both printed and ebook formats. The second is “Confidence: How Parents Can Help Build a Confident Athlete.” This one is in ebook format only. You can pick both up at www.proactivecoaching.info.


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