Courtesy of Hog Tales

Any good basketball team is one with very good team chemistry and unity. Everyone does it together and the teams’ success depends on each other.

It is important for all players to understand that everyone plays defense.  Unity is never more evident than on the defensive end of the floor.  The ability of a team to score is not the only thing.

As with everything else, you can greatly enhance the unity of your team and players by setting goals for unity.

The development of unity starts before your team ever hits the floor with activities outside of practice.  It is enhanced once practiced starts, reinforced – but it must be forged outside of practice.

A concept I like is the “Brown Bag”, a daily goal or point of emphasis that is reinforced daily in practice and then gives credit at the end of practice to the one player who best exemplified that emphasis.   The emphasis rotates to a new and/or different daily.  Players vote on the “Brown Bag” winner each day.  The selection of the winner by their peers adds additional meaning to the award.  The “Brown Bag” contains small items that are useful to the players.  Make those items specific to your team and your level and gender of team.  Candy, gum, pencils, Chap Stick, Blockbuster card, etc… This helps make players aware that they have a responsibility to each other, the staff and the program.  Be creative with your “Brown Bag” items.


The “Top 20’ for Building Team Unity:

1.            Do not let one teammate yell at another teammate.  Teach them how to speak to each other in the right way.  This also helps build trust.

2.            Understand that no player or staff member is perfect.  You yourself aren’t perfect.  There has never been a perfect basketball game played or coached.

3.            All players need positive encouragement. You must care about the last player on the bench as much as you do your brightest star.

4.            Avoid “yanking” players.  “Yanking” players is taking them out solely because of a mistake.  If players are giving you total effort that is what it is all about.  If you can, wait until the player who messed up does something positive to sub for them.

5.            Show respect for each player and each staff member.

6.            Understand the meaning of tolerance. Work hard every day to show tolerance and support every person involved in the program.

7.            It is vital to build open lines of communication between player to coach, coach to coach and coach to player.  With players, this should begin during the recruiting process.

8.            Constantly provide players with praise when they do things right.

9.            It is important to have players on the bench “into” the game, supporting their teammates with cheering and encouraging with words of support.

10.            Make a priority of unselfishness and make a point to recognize players who exemplify unselfishness.

11.            Track what is called a “screen assist.”  Keep track of the leaders in screen assists.  Screen assists are given to the player who sets the screen to get the player who scored open.  Can be the on ball pick or screen.  Screen assists are equally as important as the assist and the shot.  It all has to work together.

12.            Give players the freedom to request to come out because they are tired and let you know when they are ready to go back.  Without being “penalized.”  This supports them playing hard all the time and not “losing” playing time because they are tired.  If you don’t do this, they will never ask to come out when they are tired.  A fresh reserve is better for two minutes than a tired star.

13.            Consistently reinforce that each member of the program needs each other.

14.            This one is huge and is almost extinct.  After a game, give recognition and credit to the opposing coach and team.  Something more than the obligatory handshake and the “that’s a great team in that other locker room.”  It shows an example of respect that your players will see and will emulate.

17.            One of the most powerful ways to build team chemistry and unity is to instill in your players to not let each other down.  If they take pride in that and trust each other to do that, it will really help solidify the bond amongst the team.

18.            The surest way to develop team chemistry and unity is to teach players the best way to play the game is to play hard.  Players must understand and respect that every player is important to the team.

19.            Empower all players to invest, to understand this is their team; they will develop the standards of behavior and the coaches, with them, will enforce them.   Promote an atmosphere of “self-policing,” where they can (in the right manner) hold each other to the accepted standards of behavior.  Do not allow any “phony” rules — they hurt team unity.

20.            People who want to become a complete player and a better person on and off the floor want to be disciplined. They want a disciplined environment.  This approach helps to develop both team and self-discipline.

One more… Give your players a second chance when it is appropriate and doesn’t undermine your standards or adversely affect the team.

Coaching Hints:

1.            Get reserve players to realize that they are not in the game just to try to score.

2.            Teach positively, avoid negatively criticizing a player.  Find the balance between positive critical analysis and being negative.

3.            Never embarrass a player in a game or practice.  Speak to a player in private for situations that could be an embarrassing situation.

4            Stay away from sarcasm in teaching, and critical analysis situations.

4.            You must be accountable if you are going to hold your players accountable.

5.            Promote self-confidence in all your players.

6.            Positive thinking is essential. Teaching your players to control their attitude is essential.

Substitution System:

1.            Develop a system – whether it be by rotation, feel or minute based.  Whatever it is, develop it and be able to explain in.  Allow players to earn time and rolls in practice and games.

2.            Define your “energy player” on your reserve group. Have that player ready to go in when your team is dragging or when a player is really tired and gives you the signal.  It may only be for 1 – 2 minutes, but it gives the team a lift and that player a very vital role.  If you do not have one player that can do that for any position, you might have to have a couple of them.

3.            This is primarily for high school and younger teams:  Decide, whether you want to win or make parents happy.  It’s next to impossible to do both.  Explain to the parents of your players the expectations for parents and the parent standards of behavior before the season starts.  Use a hand out and have them sign it so to acknowledge their understanding it.

Player-Coach Relations:

To be successful in basketball you have to have great teamwork.  It is certainly more than five players being ready to play when they are on the floor.

Avoid rating players one through fourteen. It is best to rate them and group them by position.  The first group will play better, play harder and trust in the system knowing there are reserves prepared and ready to get in the game for them.  Teach each player the role that will best help the team be the most successful.

Your ultimate goal in establishing team chemistry and unity is that all players will take great pride in their roles.

I also firmly believe in the “buddy” system, or big sister system.  This develops a reliance on each other.  Instills, by actions, “I’ve got your back.”  This is started right when players come on campus with activities to help the new players acclimate themselves to their new surroundings and being away from home.  This continues through the preseason conditioning drills.  When the team is running, they run in groups and their “buddy” or “big sister” is their partner.  Ask your upperclassmen to set the example for the rest of the squad.   Continue this throughout the season with team running.  For example, when practicing free throws, the whole team runs when free throws are missed.  It’s a little thing, but it is a team chemistry and unity thing.

Empower your captains, seniors to come to you with problems, not names.  Work back through your standards of behavior with them and use the covenant amongst the players to handle these problems and situations.

Please send me your thoughts on developing team chemistry and unity and any of the activities that have worked for you.


  1. Thanks for the tips am sure this will be helpful. I have a male team that has really good as individuals but have been struggling to get them to play as a team. I find myself calling for unnecessary time outs just so i can constantly remind them of their bad habits. Last week i had a player going up for 3 point shoots with 20 seconds on the shot clock not once but 4 times in a game without the re-bounders positioning themselves. i really need help. Kindly send me some more tips if any.
    Much appreciated.

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