The Difference Between Teaching and Coaching

The difference between teaching and coaching can have a significant impact on the development of a player.

Periodically, we like to give you a look behind the curtain at an internal staff blog curated by PPI’s technical assistance program. While we focus on “stories from the field” here, our internal blog serves as a forum for our global team to learn more about issues at the intersection of coaching, youth development and peacebuilding, underscoring our commitment to organizational learning.

In the post below, adapted from that internal blog, we take a look at a classic article on ways to coach youth basketball, written by Jay Bilas.

Jay Bilas is a writer for ESPN.com who specializes in college basketball. In 2004, he wrote an article that should be considered required reading for youth sport coaches in the U.S. called “America needs more ‘teaching’ from its coaches.”  Bilas focuses on the importance of individual player development.

Writes Bilas:

“Generally, coaching consists of team preparation, the devising of game plans and schemes to defeat opponents. When you are coaching, you are dealing with strategies different offenses and defenses and putting in plays…The measure of a coach is the quality of the development of his system and has been distilled into winning.

‘Teaching’ consists of instruction and training of individuals in the fundamental skills of the game, and in teaching players how to play, instead of how to run plays. The measure of a teacher is not in winning, but in the fundamental soundness and skill level of the players taught.

Practicing fundamentals is something PeacePlayers focuses on.

Bilas’ fear is that youth basketball coaches get so wrapped up in trying to win through micromanagement and over-coaching that teaching their players the skills they need to succeed falls by the wayside. It’s important for a coach to have plays and help their team succeed, of course, but for a youth coach, far more important is the development of the player.

The development of the player is something that PeacePlayers focuses on through a healthy practice to game ratio that would make Bilas proud: most often twice a week a coaches work with players on fundamental basketball skills in order to develop the player.  PeacePlayers focuses on basics: shooting, dribbling, defense.  These basics allow players to better themselves rather than falling victim to micromanagement and over-coaching.  Our kids still like to win: when one participant from PeacePlayers Cyprus was asked whether it was more important to win the shooting competition or to focus on the correct form, the player smiled before saying “both”.

PeacePlayers is an organization that also operates beyond the hardwood. We teach participants life skills and how to become leaders, through activities such as our Leadership Development Program.  While Bilas’s article, which can be read in full here, focuses largely on competitive basketball his points about instilling discipline and the importance of coaches spending more time with players resonate with the PeacePlayers mission regardless of teaching content.

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