A manual for the rookie coach, and how to live with teenagers (by JU16-1 coach Petar Stoiljkovic)

Geplaatst op maandag 24 juli 2017 06:00 uur door Webmaster De Dunckers

"If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles" - Sun Tzu

My knowledge of basketball tactics and strategy is very limited. I was not prepared to be a coach, I had no idea what to do, and had no plan going into the '16-'17 season. It all happened so fast and I really had no time to plan this out. I figured I'd show up at practice, have the players run a bit, and work out a way to manage minutes as the season went on. I had no idea what they could do and what their strengths and weaknesses were. But the team needed a coach, and loyalty can be a hard habit to break.

My initial impression was really bad. Most of the guys didn't know what Pick and Roll is, the defense was terrible, shot selection completely illogical, ball control nonexistent, things were not looking great. These were just kids running around. Basketball, and sports in general, was a major thing in my Slavic upbringing. If you play for the sake of playing, you will not do well in the east. Regardless if it's a pickup game or the tournament finals, you are expected to show your teeth and push yourself to new limits every single time you step on the court. Otherwise, no one will ever want you on their team. Do it right, or step back and let someone else play. Someone better.

Our first real game together, though, the kids came at me sideways. What JU16-1 lacked in mechanics and technique, they made up with heart. They fumbled around the court, jumped at every ball, stood in front of charging opponents with absolute dedication. It didn't look pretty aesthetically, but the passion I saw was enough to make me think that maybe this could work out. And when you've been around basketball for a quarter of a century, you know that without that drive from within, you will never achieve anything, as a team and as an individual. We still lost by a couple of points, but I saw these guys fighting and clawing and refusing to give up, and in 40 minutes time, they had me locked in. This is the moment that the fire ignited.

But then I ran into a different problem. Teenagers. They were hitting their formative years, biology and physical development wrecking their self-confidence and the need to show off turned out to be a problem, as is usually the case at this age. After a small skirmish at a particularly bad practice, I was ready to hang it up. I was not equipped to deal with teenagers, as this was my very first time educating anyone, let alone young men at a tricky age. I grabbed my things and left the arena, and in my mind, I was not going to go back.

After thinking about this nasty situation for a couple of days, I came to the conclusion that it would be wrong to just give up on them. I kept forgetting that they were kids who were scared of entering the world of adults, not knowing how to act and react to trouble and disagreement. I realized that I was doing that same exact thing. I had the responsibility to lead by example.

So I went back. Everyone involved apologized and promised me that it wouldn't happen again. This set the tone for the rest of our season, as the seeds for growth and respect poked through the soil.

Weeks and months went by, and my team of 14-16 year olds started maturing, physically and psychologically. Watching people this young learn from their mistakes is incredibly satisfying, and after such a long and heavy period of growing pains, I finally felt like I had a team that worked as a unit. I could now relax and focus on basketball. We weren't winning a lot of games, but every minute I spent on the sidelines, I saw improvement in them.

It was February, and not a lot of basketball left to play. There was no way we could make up for the deficit in the standings. But this also presented me with the perfect opportunity to experiment. I did that horrifying thing that every player dreads: I changed up the starting five. I wanted them to forget about who the good players were, who they thought the weak links were, etc. They had to learn how to operate as one entity on the court, no matter who was playing. They had to know eachother. This was really tricky, because I expected them to complain and lose morale, but not one single player did, and that is a sign of greatness. The experiment hurled towards the stratosphere and we went on to annihilate and dominate everyone who was unlucky enough to stand in our way. Teams that were ranked first and second, teams with guys twice our size, teams with 3 damn coaches, they all fell under the steam roller that JU16-1 evolved into. Opponents who easily defeated us previously were pulling their hair, trying to understand what they're doing wrong. Rifts were forming in every team we came across, coaches screaming at their players in anger, and for us this just cemented the idea that without a team mentality, you have no chance. It was beautiful.

We willed ourselves back into the top 3 and ended the season with a bronze medal. That fire I was talking about earlier, had turned into superheated plasma that engulfed every aspect of my life.

The last practice was one of the most emotional things I ever had to endure. We spent so much time and attention on each other, and now this adventure was coming to an end. I spoke with every player individually and explained what I saw in them. How they improved since the start of the season. I also told them what to work on, and what they can expect in the future. I also thanked them for an experience that I will never forget. I saw the fruits of our labor. Even though we did not win the first place, I feel like I helped these guys see the game of basketball the correct way. I also hope to have made an impact on their life in general.

If you, reader, ever find yourself in my situation, take my advice. Never look down on anyone. Never talk with anyone while sitting down. Never bark orders. Never allow your buttocks to touch the bench. You stand every minute of the game, and show them that you're in it with them. Don't show them how to win; Show them how to play the game. If you manage to do that, the W's will come.

Just teach. Teach respect, teach equality, team work and how to rely on the four guys around you. If you run into a problem, approach it without emotion. Find SOMETHING in each player and push them to exploit it, while you add other things to their repertoire. Often, they won't even notice that they're getting better. You make damn sure that you tell them that they are. Be a family. Don't teach Mamba Mentality, don't encourage individual achievements, and never ever look at your team as anything but a machine that needs all of its pieces to work. Just remember that the pieces are human beings who sometimes need guidance, and your job is to put them on the right path. They will have to walk it themselves. Know your enemy, but know yourself even better.
Unfortunately, due to life taking me in a different direction, I'm not able to follow these guys into the next season. I'm very sad and sorry about it, but I will watch them continue to improve with unmatched pride. Not because I feel like I made them better, as they did all of the work, but because they made me better.

Thank you, boys. You taught me way more than I could ever have hoped to teach you. Never give up on basketball. Keep it around, in any quantity that your life will allow, but never give up on it.

Because each and every one of you got "it". This is your calling.

De Dunckers JU16-1, there is not a better team in the world, in my eyes.
Petar Stoiljkovic

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M16-1 nieuws / verslagen

A manual for the rookie coach, and how to live with teenagers (by JU16-1 coach Petar Stoiljkovic)

Geplaatst op maandag 24 juli 2017 06:00 uur door Webmaster De Dunckers

"If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles" - Sun Tzu

My knowledge of basketball tactics and strategy is very limited. I was not prepared to be a coach, I had no idea what to do, and had no plan going into the '16-'17 season. It all happened so fast and I really had no time to plan this out. I figured I'd show up at practice, have the players run a bit, and work out a way to manage minutes as the season went on. I had no idea what they could do and what their strengths and weaknesses were. But the team needed a coach, and loyalty can be a hard habit to break.

My initial impression was really bad. Most of the guys didn't know what Pick and Roll is, the defense was terrible, shot selection completely illogical, ball control nonexistent, things were not looking great. These were just kids running around. Basketball, and sports in general, was a major thing in my Slavic upbringing. If you play for the sake of playing, you will not do well in the east. Regardless if it's a pickup game or the tournament finals, you are expected to show your teeth and push yourself to new limits every single time you step on the court. Otherwise, no one will ever want you on their team. Do it right, or step back and let someone else play. Someone better.

Our first real game together, though, the kids came at me sideways. What JU16-1 lacked in mechanics and technique, they made up with heart. They fumbled around the court, jumped at every ball, stood in front of charging opponents with absolute dedication. It didn't look pretty aesthetically, but the passion I saw was enough to make me think that maybe this could work out. And when you've been around basketball for a quarter of a century, you know that without that drive from within, you will never achieve anything, as a team and as an individual. We still lost by a couple of points, but I saw these guys fighting and clawing and refusing to give up, and in 40 minutes time, they had me locked in. This is the moment that the fire ignited.

But then I ran into a different problem. Teenagers. They were hitting their formative years, biology and physical development wrecking their self-confidence and the need to show off turned out to be a problem, as is usually the case at this age. After a small skirmish at a particularly bad practice, I was ready to hang it up. I was not equipped to deal with teenagers, as this was my very first time educating anyone, let alone young men at a tricky age. I grabbed my things and left the arena, and in my mind, I was not going to go back.

After thinking about this nasty situation for a couple of days, I came to the conclusion that it would be wrong to just give up on them. I kept forgetting that they were kids who were scared of entering the world of adults, not knowing how to act and react to trouble and disagreement. I realized that I was doing that same exact thing. I had the responsibility to lead by example.

So I went back. Everyone involved apologized and promised me that it wouldn't happen again. This set the tone for the rest of our season, as the seeds for growth and respect poked through the soil.

Weeks and months went by, and my team of 14-16 year olds started maturing, physically and psychologically. Watching people this young learn from their mistakes is incredibly satisfying, and after such a long and heavy period of growing pains, I finally felt like I had a team that worked as a unit. I could now relax and focus on basketball. We weren't winning a lot of games, but every minute I spent on the sidelines, I saw improvement in them.

It was February, and not a lot of basketball left to play. There was no way we could make up for the deficit in the standings. But this also presented me with the perfect opportunity to experiment. I did that horrifying thing that every player dreads: I changed up the starting five. I wanted them to forget about who the good players were, who they thought the weak links were, etc. They had to learn how to operate as one entity on the court, no matter who was playing. They had to know eachother. This was really tricky, because I expected them to complain and lose morale, but not one single player did, and that is a sign of greatness. The experiment hurled towards the stratosphere and we went on to annihilate and dominate everyone who was unlucky enough to stand in our way. Teams that were ranked first and second, teams with guys twice our size, teams with 3 damn coaches, they all fell under the steam roller that JU16-1 evolved into. Opponents who easily defeated us previously were pulling their hair, trying to understand what they're doing wrong. Rifts were forming in every team we came across, coaches screaming at their players in anger, and for us this just cemented the idea that without a team mentality, you have no chance. It was beautiful.

We willed ourselves back into the top 3 and ended the season with a bronze medal. That fire I was talking about earlier, had turned into superheated plasma that engulfed every aspect of my life.

The last practice was one of the most emotional things I ever had to endure. We spent so much time and attention on each other, and now this adventure was coming to an end. I spoke with every player individually and explained what I saw in them. How they improved since the start of the season. I also told them what to work on, and what they can expect in the future. I also thanked them for an experience that I will never forget. I saw the fruits of our labor. Even though we did not win the first place, I feel like I helped these guys see the game of basketball the correct way. I also hope to have made an impact on their life in general.

If you, reader, ever find yourself in my situation, take my advice. Never look down on anyone. Never talk with anyone while sitting down. Never bark orders. Never allow your buttocks to touch the bench. You stand every minute of the game, and show them that you're in it with them. Don't show them how to win; Show them how to play the game. If you manage to do that, the W's will come.

Just teach. Teach respect, teach equality, team work and how to rely on the four guys around you. If you run into a problem, approach it without emotion. Find SOMETHING in each player and push them to exploit it, while you add other things to their repertoire. Often, they won't even notice that they're getting better. You make damn sure that you tell them that they are. Be a family. Don't teach Mamba Mentality, don't encourage individual achievements, and never ever look at your team as anything but a machine that needs all of its pieces to work. Just remember that the pieces are human beings who sometimes need guidance, and your job is to put them on the right path. They will have to walk it themselves. Know your enemy, but know yourself even better.
Unfortunately, due to life taking me in a different direction, I'm not able to follow these guys into the next season. I'm very sad and sorry about it, but I will watch them continue to improve with unmatched pride. Not because I feel like I made them better, as they did all of the work, but because they made me better.

Thank you, boys. You taught me way more than I could ever have hoped to teach you. Never give up on basketball. Keep it around, in any quantity that your life will allow, but never give up on it.

Because each and every one of you got "it". This is your calling.

De Dunckers JU16-1, there is not a better team in the world, in my eyes.
Petar Stoiljkovic

← Terug naar het overzicht


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