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by Coach Dave Stricklin As a former player and a current coach I can easily tell you that there are few things as frustrating as being in a slump. Most players know when they are not playing as well as they can or should and it bothers most of them whether they readily admit it or not. In fact some players are so distraught at being in even a minor slump that they never fully recover and it adversely affects the rest of the season for everybody. Just like kids need their parents the most when things are rough, players need their coaches when they're not playing well. Unfortunately, too many coaches have a tendency to push the struggling players aside and concentrate their attention on those players who are already playing great. Coaching is synonymous with problem solving and "fixing things." Here are 7 ways you can help a player who is in a slump: 1. Set Goals. Not big lofty goals but goals that can be reached fairly easily. Once those are reached then slightly increase their level of difficulty. I recently advised a player who was in a shooting/scoring slump that she needed to quit worrying about points and take a closer look at the shots she was getting. We initially set a goal that she would try to get a driving layup, a fast break layup, a put back, a mid range jump shot, a three point attempt, and also get to the free throw line. Getting various types of shots made her more active and helped her realize that if one type of shot wasn't dropping there were other options available. 2. Teach & Reinforce Mental Skills. I realize this is much easier said than done but it can be a huge help. Players both in and out of slumps need to learn how to stay positive, focus on the process not so much on the results, keep their emotions under control, visualize, and move on to the "next play." Use one or more of these mental skills as the basis for at least one of the goals you help your athlete set. 3. Put the Player in Contact with a Mentor/Role Model. Take advantage of the fact that nearly every player has gone through some type of slump at one time or another. Contact a former player or a current college player, someone who been through it before, and ask if he would be willing to reach out to your player. He might be able to share some more ideas and tips that worked for him and will be able to reinforce the fact that everyone goes through it - and eventually snaps out of it. 4. Be Available. A player in a slump needs you now more than ever and so you need to be there for him both on and off the court. Under no circumstances can he ever feel that "I'm not playing well so coach hates me." Your unquestionable support of him during the rough spots may do more to get him back on track than any of these other steps. His teammates, friends, and even parents may be down on him and he may be feeling like he's trying to get through this all alone. Be there! 5. Double the Praise & Reduce the Criticism. Most slumps become more mental than physical and too much criticism only reinforces what he already knows - that he's not playing well. I'm not saying you should heap tons of unwarranted praise on him or make things up in order to help him feel good about himself - just don't let an opportunity slip by where you can praise him for actually doing something right. 6. Don't Add Anymore Pressure. I know coaches who have made things much worse by telling their slumping star "If you don't snap out of this our season is heading right down the drain," or "If you don't start playing better you'll never make All League," or something similar. Instead, try to take the pressure off of him. Tell the newspaper that it's not his fault; that you need to put him in a better position to succeed. 7. Individual Workouts. Get the two of you in the gym and work out together. The individualized attention will help fix any minor flaws in technique and I have found that repetition cures a lot of problems. Plus putting in extra time with him will show him that you care, that you have his back, and that you are available. (See Tip #4) John Wooden once taught that success is never final and failure is never fatal. Use that same philosophy when dealing with players in a slump and he will be back playing well in no time. HoopSkills.com is home of the 'Train Your Game' weekly ezine with 29,000+ subscribers. If you're ready to get on board and receive FREE basketball training & coaching tips on a regular basis visit www.hoopskills.com.