Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Locker Room

Definition: The place where players and coaches meet to discuss game plans, strategies and scouting reports; also known as the place where athletes get dressed and prepare for games/practices; a meeting place for teams. 

We all know what a locker room was originally designed for.  A private place for a team to come together, prepare and bond.  As a player - it was a place where we would come to hang out in between classes.  It was a safe place to crack jokes on each other or confess secrets that nobody but a sister would understand.  My sisters were there for me, they called me out for not being there on help-side or they congratulated me for hitting a game winning shot in the locker room.  We would turn on our favorite song and dance until we laughed and the stress was no longer on our mind.  We could say whatever we wanted in the locker room and there would be no judging or repeating to people outside of the locker room. It was one of my favorite places to go and clear my mind.

As a coach have you ever thought about the value of the "locker room" to your players?  Why? -- You want the locker room to be a place your players feel a sense of ownership and safe.  Its where you come for pregame, halftime and post game discussions.  

Here are a few ideas to create a comfortable, safe and fun locker room for your team:
  1. Music - Have a place where players can plug in an ipod or listen to some sort of music.  Music can help player set the tone for practice or games.  Let the music be their choice so that it is something they relate to.  Based on your school's policies, they may not be able to listen to any kind of music during pre-game warm ups out of respect for the crowd, but the locker room is theirs!  Let them play whatever they need to get ready for the task at hand.
  2. Motivation - Hang posters or paint inspiring words, favorite quotes or scriptures so that players read them on a daily basis.  This is a sub-conscious way to reinforce the culture you want to create and keep players engaged mentally.
  3. Memories - Hang pictures of the team from some of their favorite moments such as a thrilling overtime win or a trip to the beach your team took.  Seeing pictures of the "family" is a great way to help them overcome adversity.  When things get tough and they get mad at their sister (which is natural) you can remind them to stay together.  Or you could have trophies or awards won hanging in there as motivation for players to strive towards reaching again.  Everyday when they come into practice it may also start some dialogue for players to work hard so they can reach their common goals -- to win!
The best teams have a locker room that players feel a sense of family.  It's like in the older days comparable to the dinner table.  When families would sit together to give thanks, share stories from the day and bond.  If you can get your locker room to be a safe place for your team to open up, it will set a tone for how they also perform on the court.  The locker room is a place to hold players accountable or to recognize high academic achievements.  Its the place to discuss and strategize.  The court is strictly for basketball and business!  How do they mentally get ready for the day?  It all starts in the locker room!