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Setting the Tone with Your Pre-Game Talk

James Gels, a basketball coach and blogger for the Coach’s Clipboard, offers important insights into the importance of the pre-game team meeting. Gels explains that whether your team is playing at home or away, a pre-game team meeting is a great way to get players focused on the job at hand, discuss game strategy, and review the things that will help the team be successful.

Gels often started his pre-game meeting with a story, something that happened to one of the team members—something that “might make us laugh, or even make us cry, but will bring us together for having shared it.” He feels that telling a private story can strengthen the team’s feeling of "togetherness” because the team embers are sharing in something that only they are privy to.

Gels emphasizes the importance of using a calm tone for the meeting. “I don't think you gain anything by trying to point out the importance of this game,” he writes. “Instead of trying to get them fired-up, you need to calmly reassure them that everything will be OK, and that we are here to have fun and that we will focus on doing the good things that have made us successful in the past.”

Gels also uses the pre-game meeting to reinforce any special adjustments that they had worked on in practice specifically for the opponent. In addition, we would point out the opponent's best players and the plan to contain them.

“We remind the kids that if we just do our jobs and do the things that have made us successful in the past, we will be OK,” says Gels.

Gels feels that coaches are wasting their time trying to come up with a passionate "win one for the Gipper" type speech or an inspirational quote to use in the talk before a big game.  He feels the athletes already know that it's a big game and such strategy only serves to over-hype the game and make the players more nervous.

“Instead, I think a calming, business-like approach is better,” he says. “It's how you prepare in practice, and how you work on fundamentals, team skills, etc that really counts. We try to maintain a very business-like attitude with our high school players... everyone has to go out and do his/her job every afternoon in practice and during every game.

“I reassure them that being nervous is normal and can be a good thing if they channel that extra energy into playing great defense, rebounding and hustling for loose balls. Playing hard on defense and scrapping under the boards are good ways to "settle-down.

“In the overall scheme of life, for most players, their basketball career is really short, so they should try to enjoy every game and every moment with their teammates as much as they can.”

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Other Pre-Game Rituals

Gels lists the following items to be done before each game and become routine:

• Review with your assistant coaches the starting lineup and defensive match-ups, substitution patterns, and any special strategies for this game.

• Gels prefers to have the starters know ahead of time who they will be guarding, rather that just "matching-up" when play begins. This way, you are not wasting time going over match-ups in the last huddle before the game starts.

• Assistants should know their roles and where you like them to sit or stand.

• Have your official scorebook roster entered in advance. You can have an assistant do this, but you make sure the entries are correct. For away games, you can do this on the bus.

• Have your clipboard(s) ready, with extra marker pens and a cloth/eraser to wipe it. Don't waste half of your first timeout looking for the clipboard or a pen that works.

• Make sure your medical kit is available.

• An assistant can recruit statisticians, assign who's keeping which stats, and have the stats forms ready on clipboards with sharpened pencils (unless you do your stats with a computer).

Click here to read the article from Coach Gels on Coach's Clipboard.

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