Coaching Philosophy


NS Coaches Offered the Opportunity to Help Shape Coaching in the Region

August 24, 2017 — Increasing coach success and athlete experience is a key focus of the sport leadership community. The Canadian Sport Centre Atlantic (CSCA) is asking for feedback and input to help shape the future direction of coaching in the province.

“If we think of all Nova Scotian athletes – no matter your sport, your age, your ability, or your level – the single biggest factor in the quality of that experience is coaching,” says Natasha Burgess Johnson, ChPC, Coaching Lead with the CSCA. “Our coaches at all levels do an exceptional job. We want to develop strategies to better support these (predominantly) volunteers, provide more training opportunities, share best practices, and celebrate excellence so the experience can be even stronger.”

Feedback will be received through in person, stakeholder consultations. Based on the collective feedback, each region will develop a new strategy that will be rolled out in the fall. Coaches from all sports/levels are strongly encouraged to attend the free two-hour consultation at the MicMac Aquatic Club on Prince Albert Rd on Monday, September 25, 7-9pm. Please RSVP

Coach’s Corner

“At the beginning of the season I didn’t know what to expect when I volunteered as a coach, I was nervous and afraid that I wouldn’t live up to the expectations of the players.  As the season rolled along I realized that this is something I love to do, this year has been one of the highlights of my life, it was my honour and privilege to coach for the Dartmouth Lakers, and I hope you have a coaching spot for me … next year. Thank you so much.”           Dave Savage.


Becoming a Dartmouth Lakers Basketball Coach

The basic requirements for becoming a coach with the Dartmouth Lakers are to complete a coach registration form and consent to a criminal records check. Coaches are often parents of players, but this is not a requirement.  A number of Dartmouth Lakers coaches are former players who want to “give back” to the club.

Anyone who would like to become a Dartmouth Lakers coach should inform the Coach Coordinator ( by early September. A Head coach must be at least 18 years of age. Assistant coaches do not have to meet this age requirement of 18 years.

In order to coach a team at the Basketball Nova Scotia Provincials, at least one coach must have completed the NCCP ‘Introduction to Competition’ course. Details can be found through Basketball Nova Scotia.


Coach Selection

Occasionally we encounter a situation where we have more coaches than teams at a given level. Or, we may have multiple coaches wanting to coach a given team. Ideally the individuals involved will remember that it’s about the players, not the coaches, and will find a way to work together or resolve things amicably. However, if this proves untenable the decision shall be made by the Lakers Board based on a majority vote. No specific rule or formula applies to all scenarios, but the following factors shall be considered.

  •  Overall experience
  •  Experience at the age group in question
  •  Experience at the level in question (i.e. competitive vs. development)
  •  Training & certification

If one of the coaches involved is a Board member, he/she shall abstain from the vote and be absent from any discussion. For all teams, the Lakers Board shall have final say in the selection or acceptance of any coach.


Team Selection

All players in each age/gender group are brought together to be assessed by the coaches of the respective groups. After a few assessment sessions, players are grouped together according to their ability and skill level.  (Please refer to the Lakers team selection policy for more details regarding this process.)

It is important to note that team selection is about placing the players where they belong.  The Dartmouth Lakers places a lot of value on players being selected to the team that best suits their ability.

If coaches have difficulty with team selection, the Coach Coordinator and other senior Lakers coaches may be called on to provide an objective opinion.




After 29 years of being a coach’s wife and 22 years of being a sports mom, I’ve encountered hundreds of coaching styles.

Here are the top six mistakes I’ve seen youth sports coaches make:

Mistake 1: You Refuse to be a Student of the Game

Coaches, you might talk about the values of being coachable with your players. But what about you? Are you looking for ways to better your coaching skills? Are you a student of your game?

The best coaches I’ve known were those who always looked for ways to better themselves as a coach. They studied films, watched other teams play, went to clinics to learn from experts and asked other coaches for advice.

Even after three decades of coaching, my husband is still learning how he could improve. If you think you know it all when it comes to coaching your sport, then it just may be that you’ve already reached your peak as a coach and it’s downhill from here.

Mistake 2: You Try to Make Everyone Happy

You cannot please everyone. If you try, you will not only stress yourself out, you will dilute your influence as a leader. People pleasers do not make strong coaches.

Instead of giving in to parenting demands so they will not be angry at you, focus on what’s best for the team. If you don’t have skin thick enough to do that, perhaps it’s best to hand over the reigns to someone who can.

Mistake 3: You Focus More on Outcome Than Process

In youth sports, the primary objective is not winning—it’s development and fun. Winning is definitely a goal, but it should not be pursued to the exclusion of everything else. Youth sports are a journey and a process that shapes young lives. Winning at all costs ignores that.

Mistake 4: You Put Athletes in a Box

You might be doing this in two ways. First, you label kids because of size, sibling performance, rumors or even because of what you think of their parents. Labels are convenient and perhaps they make things easier for you as you plug kids into positions. But labels do not give every athlete a chance to grow and reach their potential. Let the athlete prove you wrong.

The second way you might be putting your players in a box is by forcing them to play only one position. This is understandable in college and the pros, but in youth sports, kids should be challenged to think outside the box and stretch themselves. Give them chances in practice to work on other positions. You never know what butterfly may emerge from the cocoon.

Mistake 5: You Don’t Communicate Efficiently

Unfortunately, many coaches are notorious for their poor communication. Have you ever felt scattered and found yourself constantly forgetting to give pertinent information to parents? Or perhaps you don’t feel the need to explain to your players why you do certain things, like pull them out of the game or take them out of the starting lineup.

If the true purpose of youth sports is for kids to grow and develop, then it’s also important for coaches to communicate the why behind the what. Why a child isn’t getting as much playing time as she wants. Why a player can’t play the position he wants. Why you are running this offense or defense. When athletes and parents are well informed, it will go a long way on cutting down the season’s conflicts.

Mistake 6: You Put Bandaids on Broken Bones

What happens when there’s a conflict between two players? Do you bench them and move on or do you help them work through it? What happens when a player constantly shows up late for practice? Do you make him or her run laps and ignore that there may be something deeper going on?

Coaching is a demanding job and it’s understandable why you may be tempted to liberally use bandaids.

However, a good coach may sometimes have to wear a therapist hat for a few minutes. Obviously, if there are deep emotional issues, the athlete may need to see a counselor. But as a coach, you should be striving to develop the whole child, not just improve her batting average or his throwing percentage. And that means that you may sometimes have to look beneath the surface for what’s really going on in a situation.

Coach, never underestimate the positive impact you can have on a child’s life. You may think you can only teach Xs and Os, but really, you can teach them life. If you’ve made any of these mistakes, face them and learn from them. In doing so, you are modeling yet another life lesson to your players: mistakes are made for learning, not repeating.

Janis B. Meredith, sports mom and coach’s wife, writes a sports parenting blog.



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Getting Set For League Play

Once teams are selected, each Coach should notify the Registrar ( and the Uniform Coordinator ( with their roster. Be sure to also include names of assistant coaches.

The Uniform Coordinator will then choose jerseys for those players who need them, based on the size noted on their registration form. Numbers will be selected from those available in order to avoid conflict with existing numbers on each team. The Uniform Coordinator will arrange a time and place for coaches to pick up the uniforms.

Each coach should then update the Registrar with their final roster including player numbers. This should be done as soon as possible to allow registration with the Metro Basketball Association (MBA) in time for the start of league play. The coach should also provide contact information for the MBA web site, along with a suggested division. (Divisions are described below in How The MBA League Runs. New coaches may want to seek help from other coaches at the same level in naming a starting division.)


How The Metro Basketball Association League Runs

MBA League play begins in late October, as follows:

  •  All U10 and U12 games, plus U14 girls games, are played on Saturdays
  •  All other games are played on Sundays
  •  Most levels start the last weekend in October, although U16 and above start later to allow for high school team selection

Each age/gender group in the MBA is divided into divisions, to group together teams of similar ability. The first three games are alignment games, intended to identify in which division each team should play. Games are scheduled from week to week pending results, beginning with the divisions suggested by each coach.

After the first three weeks, divisions are finalized and the schedule for the rest of the year is posted. (Occasionally divisional alignment and schedules are adjusted at the Christmas break.)

The MBA holds playoffs for all divisions starting in mid-February. Important: ALL teams make the playoffs!

All coaches should refer to the MBA web site to get familiar with rules variations, including those for calling up players from other teams. It’s important to understand the shift system and equal play rules for U10 and U12 age groups.


Playing Outside The Metro Basketball League

There are a number of opportunities for teams to play outside of the Metro League. Each year Basketball Nova Scotia runs Provincial championships for all age/gender groups.

For U10 they put on a fun tournament called the ‘Jamboree’ rather than a provincial competition.

As an aside, teams outside of HRM are often interested in exhibition games against Metro League teams. This helps them get seeded correctly for Provincials.

In addition, there are a few invitational tournaments available including:

  • The SLAM Christmas Tournament
  • The Bedford Classic

If you want to be invited, it’s best to discuss with a coach from the hosting organization within your division.


Other Notes and Coaching Policies

Basketball Nova Scotia holds coaching seminars and more formal courses through the year. The intent of the Lakers Board is to pay fully for these courses for all coaches, but policy is to approve each course as it comes up. (This is necessary as course fees and coach interest can vary, along with the Lakers’ budget from year to year.)

Regarding playing time, please refer to the Lakers Fair Play Policy

All practices are open practices, which means parents are permitted to attend and watch practices, but are not to interfere in any way unless invited to do so by the coach.

Every team will occasionally encounter games which are mismatches, resulting in either winning or losing by a large margin. When facing a big loss, try to keep positive and refocus your goals. When playing a far less skilled team, please try to keep the margin under control in the interests of sportsmanship. There are a number of ways to do this: stop pressure defence and fast breaks; mandate a minimum number of passes before a shot; give less experienced players more responsibility; etc.

Note that the alignment games at the start of the year are a special case, since the league coordinators need to get a true measure of the difference between two teams. It’s important not to be misleading, but a coach can still manage the margin. If you win by 30 and feel it should have been 60, please let your Division Coordinator know.

Coaches should be aware that the Lakers have some equipment that can be useful. In particular, two time clocks are available if you want to set up tournaments or exhibition games. These can be accessed by contacting the Equipment Coordinator (


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