Relish Routines: Arizona great on developing young athletes
By Greg Bach
Former University of Arizona star Damon Stoudamire recalls in striking detail how legendary coach Lute Olson structured every single practice during his four-year stay in Tucson.
And these sessions took place 25 years ago.
“I can pretty much tell you right now how we did everything, from what we started with to what we built up to,” says Stoudamire, who played 13 NBA seasons and now is the head coach at the University of the Pacific. “We had the same routine at practice every single day.”
It was that unrelenting focus on the fundamentals that Stoudamire has never forgotten.
And it’s an approach he encourages today’s volunteer coaches to keep in mind as they guide their teams.
“Don’t get bored doing the little things and don’t get bored doing the right things,” Stoudamire says. “I think that sometimes we tend to take for granted the little things that make you successful and that is something that Coach Olson always stressed.”
Stoudamire’s basketball journey has been an accolade-filled one: he was the 1995 Pac-10 Player of the Year at Arizona and the NBA’s Rookie of the Year in 1996. Last year he was honored as the West Coast Conference Coach of the Year.
We asked Stoudamire to share some coaching tips to help you and your young athlete, so use the following when you take the floor with your teams this season:
FULL FLOOR FOCUS
Of course, young players love scoring and watching their shots tumble through the net.
But inspiring kids to embrace the action at both ends of the floor is so important. Since players will run into days when their shots aren’t dropping, they can still be valuable to their team on defense and impact the game with their hustle and tenacity in guarding, rebounding and chasing down loose balls.
“You can’t base your whole worth as a basketball player on the offensive end of the court and if you’re making or missing shots,” Stoudamire says. “Everybody likes to score but you still have to do other things.”
It’s a message players need to hear, and see it reinforced by coaches who recognize and applaud defensive efforts.
“That’s what I tell my players and my own son, too,” he says. “I tell them not to base their existence on scoring because shots are going to come and go but as long as you are doing other things to contribute that is what is key.”
“Don’t skip steps and be patient,” Stoudamire says. “Right now, we’re in this instant gratification world and I think in youth sports especially we are into skipping steps and it hurts a lot of these kids without them even realizing it.”
That means devoting more time to helping players dial in on the basics of the game so that poor fundamentals don’t dissolve into bad habits that become more challenging to correct as time goes on.
“When you are coaching youth sports you’re supposed to give them a base,” Stoudamire says. “You have to teach them and you have to be patient."
BANISH BAD BODY LANGUAGE
“Bad body language is the biggest turnoff,” he says. “I hate bad demeanor.”
He addresses it with his team all the time and how one player’s body language can wreck team chemistry.
“I talk about it all the time because people see that and it just gives off a bad vibe,” he says. “And you don’t want to be that guy who is throwing off the bad vibe.”
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