Book offers coaches help with modern athlete
Like its author, Jim Hinkson’s latest coaching book The Art of Motivation for Team Sports is all about motivating athletes to be not just great team players, but also great people.
Hinkson, who has already written nine coaching and lacrosse books, said this book was written based on his more than 30 years of playing and coaching experience at high level lacrosse, coaching high school basketball and working at basketball camps in the U.S. and Canada.
Published this year by Rowman and Littlefield, the 362-page hardcover is organized into five parts: motivating through leadership; motivating through setting goals and team rules; motivating through planning and teaching strategies; motivating by working with individual players; motivating through pre- and post-game speeches and game coaching.
This book is a guide for coaches in response to how athletes think and how they are inspired now.
“Now you’d better learn to deal with kids differently and not in a militaristic [way],” he said. “In this day and age kids question authority and they want to know the why? I ask kids [to] ask why all the time. ‘Why are we doing this? Why do I have to do it like this?’ You’d better have an answer,” he said.
He came to this conclusion after teaching for three decades, participating in hundreds of coaching clinics across North America. It’s all about getting the most from your players.
Although he had several forewords his publisher could have chosen, this book’s foreword was written by Jack Armstrong, analyst for Toronto Raptors, who has coached at the NCAA division 1, including high school and grade school levels.
“It’s not the X’s and O’s, but the Jimmys and Joes,” he wrote.
Hinkson credits much of the quality of the book to his editor Christen Karniski. Her background in soccer was invaluable. He said the book effectively conveyed his thoughts thanks to her.
Hinkson said all coaches strive for one ideal.
“We want to make a difference in [players’] lives,” he said.
Hinkson said it was different when he was growing up when coaches or gym teachers dealt with children like they were soldiers. After all, the coaches were often from the military so it was just expected.
“One time we had the triangle where the coach is at the top. Now you turn [the triangle] upside down where the coach is at the bottom. He looks after the player. I mean, you still have the control and everything else, but you’re there for the players. The players aren’t there for you, which was the old hierarchy. That’s the way it was.”
There’s a fallacy with coaches believing drills teach players a skill.
Hinkson said the player really learns from the coach’s feedback, whether it is corrective or an affirmation of how they executed the drills. There must be a balance between praise, correction and criticism. His ideal ratio is 60 per cent for correction, 30 per cent praise and 10 per cent criticism.
A high school teacher with more than 30 years of experience, he knows what makes a student tick.
The approach for coaching is the same as it is in a class.
“You come in heavy and then you empower them. You give them power and that way they end up in the end running the team under the principles you set up for them,” he said. “Input by the players is everything. When you have a core of leaders, they run the team. If you give them that ... a lot of coaches because of ego don’t want to give up that power, but if you can give your key players power to make decisions (that’s why team meetings are important in the beginning) because you set your goals. You set your (behaviour) goals. You set your dream goal – where do you want to end up. It’s not always a championship and then you get the player’s input. Then they became committed.”
This book works for any team at any level, except for professional.
“When you’re trying to make a difference in a kid’s life or young person’s life there’s more to coaching than winning and losing,” he said.
“I never went into a room and said we have to win,” he said.
A coach who demands a victory before a game is stressing players needlessly, he adds.
“All it does is puts pressure on them. When you say you’ve got to win you put pressure on kids ...You can’t control the future, but the main thing is it puts lots of pressure [on players]. I want my kids to have fun and I want them to be loose and I talk about being successful. Being successful is doing your best. You go out and play your best what more can you do?”
One way to show a player is having success is with quantifiable information in the form of statistics.
Establishing a priority of statistics will focus the team to work on goals. For example, he’s had his past basketball teams prioritize a high shooting percentage and second, to keep the opposition to a certain low shooting percentage.
“Now kids don’t think about winning they think about getting good shots off. Not forced shots. Not hurried shots,” he said.
He adds if the team shoots 20 per cent then the coach can ask why that happened? Is this related to coaching? Is it related to bad shot selections? Is it because of the time to shoot?
“Now it gives you an analytical objective rather than subjective [goal],” he said.
Using statistics is related to performance goals, he said.
“It becomes a game within a game and that’s really important. You’re not competing against the opposition you’re competing against yourself and that [takes away some of the] pressure,” he said.
The key to playing sports, he said, is being in the present, which is reinforced by working to the analytical objectives.
Hinkson said after reading 300 coaching books, which included a book by the NFL team, the New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, the key thing he took from them was that in the beginning of a relationship between coach and player credibility comes from the coach’s knowledge of a sport. In addition, motivation is rooted in the coach’s personality.
“Are you a positive person or are you always complaining and criticizing kids? Are you consistent? Do you act the same way when you win as you lose? Do you have the patience? Patience in coaching is really important,” he said.
Some coaches have a false sense that when a player is drilled on something they will learn it. The reality is players need time to learn so a coach requires patience to not get upset teaching something over and over.
Other important traits are character and values.
Coaches want to help players improve not just for the playing field or area, but to improve them for life.
“We want to make a difference in kids’ lives. We want to teach them values. We want to teach them behaviour goals,” he said.
The book outlines 11 behaviour goals related to how to be successful in life.
There is no difference between life and sport, he said.
The top-three behavioural characteristic traits of a winning team are they play hard, they play together and they play smart.
Hinkson said coaching comes from his younger days when he played lacrosse for coach Jim Bishop.
Bishop was hard on him and his teammates. They practised five or six days a week.
Hinkson loved it all though and it came down to who Bishop was as a person.
“I loved it because it made me a better player. But you know what the bottom line was? He built a relationship with us. He cared about us. We knew he cared about us ... he knew your parents. He’d come up and talk to you before and after the practices and we knew he cared,” he said.
Ultimately, he wants coaches to question what and how they’re doing something or to reaffirm what they’re doing. Coaching is an ongoing process.
“You never end up saying: ‘Finally, I’m a coach.’ No, you’re always learning ... There’s never a stop [to learning]. It’s always continuous. It’s just an ongoing thing all the time,” he said.