The coach is a reflection of the team. If he or she conducts rigorous practices and drills that instill toughness, the team will be a rigorous, tough team.
If, however, the coach does not implement the important fundamental skills and qualities to the team, the team will be dysfunctional and mentally, emotionally, and physically weak.
The role of the coach is important in both wheelchair basketball and able-bodied basketball. The ideal coach teaches structure and discipline to the players. Both Kevin Bailey, the Triangle Thunder wheelchair basketball coach and Claude Shields, the Men’s basketball coach for the Peace Pacers, believe in this truth.
I had separate, in-person interviews with both men, and covered several topics with them. (The answers to the questions have been edited to provide clarity for the reader.) One of these topics was about their philosophies on coaching:
Q: When do you decide to bench a player?
“I will never take anyone out of the game for taking good shots. I take people out of the game for taking bad shots repeatedly. And then lack of effort — I’ll take someone out if they’re not giving me the effort.”
“We take players out of the game when we notice guys are tired. That’s when they start breaking down, making mental mistakes on defense and offense — and their play really starts to suffer. We’ll take you out of the game for taking a bunch of bad shots or not taking a good, open shot.”
Q: What are some of the fundamentals of basketball (and wheelchair basketball)? How often do you tell your players to focus on learning the fundamentals of basketball? Do you emphasize the importance of fundamentals to more athletic players, or do you let them play their own way?
“Chair skills are a massive part of wheelchair basketball. Without them, no good player can be good. For example, shooting a layup at full speed is difficult in wheelchair basketball, because players have to learn how to control their chairs to get to the proper speed before shooting.”
“And honestly when we see players that have no chair skills — even if they can shoot — they’re just fresh bait. We just know they’re not going to hurt us.”
“We put guys through everything (footwork, defense, passing, rebounding, offense, dribbling, etc.) We have bigs (i.e., centers and power-forwards) doing guard drills and vice versa. We try to create simple mismatches e.g., a center with the quickness and footwork of a guard can out-maneuver the opposing center.”
We have some guys who are really athletic, but they have to learn [to do] the little stuff right. They can’t just rely on their athleticism.”
After covering their philosophies on coaching, I asked them some more general questions on when and how practices are conducted:
Q: How many practices do you hold during the year?
“We have off-season practices and regular season practices once a week throughout the year. The practices are optional, because no one’s getting paid, and it all depends on where this sport fits into their priorities. Some players have jobs and families. So, wherever this game fits in for them, that’s the level I expect them to commit.”
“We have practice six days a week (because of the NCAA requirements, we cannot practice seven days a week). We get into 90-100 practices each year. We’ll play pickup games as well.
“During the off-season, they’ll do 7:00 AM conditioning: two days they’ll run sprints. The next two days they’ll lift weights to build strength. The next two days they’ll play pickup games.”
The reason for this disparity in scheduled practice time is because wheelchair basketball, with the exception of the Paralympics and collegiate wheelchair basketball, is more of a recreational sport. Anybody can be a part of a team if they want to join.
In college basketball, however, players are held to a higher degree of expectation(s). Players are scouted by coaches, and they have to tryout in order to make the team and play at the level of college basketball.
Having said that, practice time is truly the only difference between coaching in able-bodied, college basketball and wheelchair basketball.
In terms of coaching philosophy, how practices are conducted, and what coaches emphasize to their players during practice, coaches Kevin Bailey and Claude Shields are like-minded.
What do you think about this comparison of coaching? Is it an apt comparison? Leave a comment below. Don’t forget to like the post!