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Coach K on adapting to your players

Coach K on adapting to your players


By Greg Bach

Duke coaching legend Mike Krzyzewski, who made the first of his dozen Final Four appearances in 1986, has mastered the art of adapting to his players.

That was certainly evidenced last night during the Blue Devils’ 68-63 win over Wisconsin in the national championship game, as a quartet of freshmen accounted for 60 of Duke’s 68 points, including every point the team scored in the pressure-filled second half.

Krzyzewski, owner of a coaching résumé unlike any other in the history of collegiate sports – five national titles, two Olympic gold medals and more than 1,000 victories — spoke with SK Live during the season. He shared his thoughts on running productive practices, building values and the ultimate key to coaching: connecting with – and adapting to – your players.

Use the advice he shares below to make a difference in your players both on and off the court.


“Volunteer coaches are obviously committed and thank goodness they are, but they are not committed to their own ego in it,” Krzyzewski explains. “A coach’s ego in it should not be about what the team’s record is. Their ego in it should be about the kids learning, getting better, having fun and gaining better values from their association with you.”


“Kids have to want to come there so the very first thing is to be organized,” says Krzyzewski. “You have to make effective use of your time. If you have a number of youngsters eliminate as much standing around as you can.”


“There should be more activity than listening,” he says. “It’s not about what you know and how you’re explaining things. It’s about what they’re doing. You can talk to them while they are doing drills but try to cut the talk short, make the activity long and make sure there is no standing around. The more you can keep it moving the better.”


Throughout Krzyzewski’s glorious career he has mastered the ability of connecting and adapting to his players, and it’s a skill that is important for all coaches – at all levels – to understand.

“The really interesting thing about coaching is not just to put out a drill or a play but to understand the people who are doing the play or drill,” he says. “And that’s difficult for a volunteer coach because you don’t have much time so what you want to do is pick up on certain personalities that you have in the group. And talk to the kids. Ask them how they feel about things and try to get them to really be a part of what you are doing.”

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