Coach’s Corner: Building Trust and Unselfishness

Roy Rana World Team head coach Roy Rana

For an annual event like the Nike Hoop Summit, it’s hard enough bringing together kids from different teams and having such a limited time before playing a big game. That challenge becomes even greater when the players are gathering from nine different countries around the world. Nevertheless, World Team head coach Roy Rana enters the 2014 contest with back-to-back victories – the first coach in Hoop Summit history to accomplish that feat.

Rana, the head coach of Canada’s Junior National Team, is therefore a good source to speak to about what it takes to bring young basketball players together at any level. Of course, fielding an international team has its unique challenges.

“Certainly there’s some language issues, there’s some style of play issues, some basketball culture challenges,” said Rana. “But for the most part these kids are really, really high level players, so they’ve got a great natural understanding of the game that can overcome so many of those challenges. As long as they’re willing to play unselfish team basketball, it really speaks a lot about their skills and their willingness to sacrifice.”

Playing unselfish basketball was something that U.S. Junior Select Team coach Mike Jones also talked about. So how do you teach and coach unselfishness?

“It’s really about decision-making, and it’s about helping them become aware of what the right decision-making process is when you play, and then what the right decisions are within a possession,” said Rana. “Not admonishing them for making the wrong decisions, but really trying to help teach them what the right ones are. And at the same time trying not to handcuff them. We’ve got some kids with really incredible natural ability. We want them to be aggressive. We want to let them try to make plays. So a lot of it is giving them freedom but at the same time hold them accountable for that freedom.”

The World Team arrived in Portland, Ore., for the Nike Hoop Summit about three days earlier than the U.S. team. With players from Canada, China, France, Serbia, Turkey, Switzerland, the Congo, the Dominican Republic and Ukraine, the extra time certainly comes in handy. Still, Rana acknowledged that he can’t prepare for the game as he might with a team that plays together all the time.

“This is a completely different coaching experience because you have such a short time to prepare them for a very big game,” he said. “So really what it comes down to is, What are you willing not to teach? What are you willing to accommodate? Because you’re not going to be able to do everything. There are going to be little things, fine details, that you will have to overlook because you just don’t have the time. So you want to give them a basic structure. You want to bring them together so they trust each other, so that they play together.”

Rana said they must accept the fact that some of the finer points of the game -- a close-out or something on the defensive end – are not going to get worked on. “You’ve got to coach them a little differently. You’ve got to be wiling to accept certain things that normally you wouldn’t if you had the team for a longer period of time.”

Canadian Participation on the Rise

There are two players from Canada on the World Team, and they are hoping to follow a trend that has seen Canadian players making a big impact in the NCAA and the NBA. Recent members of the World Team have included 2013 NBA first overall draft pick Anthony Bennett and 2014 Kansas freshman sensation Andrew Wiggins. And that’s the tip of the iceberg.

Much has been made of this being the result of a generation growing up with an NBA team in Canada – the Toronto Raptors have been in existence since 1995. Rana thinks that exposure has been aspirational for kids in Canada. But he also pointed to the youth coaches.

“I think our coaches have done a fantastic job at the grass-roots level,” he said. “We have a lot of coaches that have coached these kids from a very young age, and just done it the right way. We’ve got a lot of young kids who love to play the game. They’ve had fun doing it and they’ve managed to do it at a very high level of intensity with a real passion and commitment. So much of it has to do with those coaches who have really touched them on their way up.

“Our basketball culture has really improved, and kids really understand what it takes to be a high-level player and our coaches are getting better at helping to support that.”

Rana’s advice for coaches at any level, in the U.S., Canada or anywhere else?

“I think just to be curious, be resilient,” he said. “There’s lot of ups and downs in our paths as coaches, but as long as you have curiosity and a continuous desire to learn, it can only help future coaches.

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