Interview with Coach Zafer Aktas (Akhisar-Turkey)

Zafer Aktas

Zafer Aktas has been participating in the OBC combines since 2008 and has been a huge fixture in the continued success of the camp by not only signing/helping/coaching players but also encouraging/motivating current coaches from NBA, DLeague, Europe and WNBA.

Turkey Interview with Coach Zafer AktasMay 18, 2015
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Zafer Aktas
Zafer Aktas

Zafer Aktas Head Coach in Akhisar Belediye (TB2L) gave an interview:

What would you try to teach your players besides basketball? How would you do that?

Besides basketball, it is very important to me that my players keep positive attitude, spread good energy, have faith, be courageous and loyal. To reach the goals, there also has to be a high level of determination and self-confidence. Basketball is not just a game that you have to bring to the perfection; it is a very complex system of values that each player has to develop during years. These are some of the things that I am trying to teach and pass on my players. These values are part of my philosophy. I believe in my players and by believing in them, I am improving their self-confidence. I am also using various situations to make them feel responsible for the whole team as for themselves, and higher responsibility means better motivation and higher concentration. In that way, they feel how important they are to the team, every single one of them. While I am making decisions about the team, I encourage my players to join and say openly what they think; it also makes them feel respected, once they understand their opinion counts.

Who are your role model in coaching and why?

Obradovi is my role model. I like his teaching style and the passion he brings into the game. He says basketball is simple, we make it complicated.

How do you plan on improving as a coach from year to year?

You will do what ever you need to do, to improve yourself as a coach. The most important thing about being a good coach is experience and I am talking about a lot of experience. By facing up the problems, you become a better coach during the years. I think, once you’re up, when you feel like you’ve suceeded, it doesn’t mean you can stop learning and working hard on yourself. Actually, it means the real ‘party’ is just beginning. You always have to go on, try to improve your coaching. Basketball is same everywhere, but every coach has a unique philosophy and it’s always interesting to see how other coaches are running the whole thing. You are not only learning from your games, your own good or bad decisions. Watching others and learning from them helps me improve my coaching, helps me add something new to my philosophy and brings me more basketball knowledge.

How coaching is affecting your life?

Coaching job is very diffucult and above all it is very demanding. Players come to practice, they spend max. 3 hours in the gym and after that they go home. If you are a coach, you are coach for 24 hours, it never stops. Sometimes, even while you are sleeping you work. You cannot stop your mind, your mind goes on thinking, making decisions, solving problems or visualising games that are yet to come. I think that’s why a coach cannot have a ‘normal life’. Besides working hard as a coach, you also have to put too much effort into finding some kind of a balance between work and the rest of the things in life. The only way to be a coach is to fall in love with coaching. Very important thing is to have a family on your side, a family that understands you and supports you. Without that, you don’t exist. That’s why my wife says, we don’t only love basketball, we live basketball.

How do you deal with players about discipline issues either major or minor?

It depends on how you define discipline. For example in my philosophy, discipline means to think and to want the same. For a team, it means to breathe as one, to have same dreams, share the same goals and move together towards them. It’s that simple. If there is a player who doesn’t fit into this frame, who doesn’t share team’s thinking and dreams, that player cannot stay with us, he will only be a distraction. When you’re playing a game, what you need are focused players who share visions of winning.

Describe your typical pre game, half time and post-game locker room routine plus explain the thinking behind it.

Before the game I like to listen to the music. It relaxes me, but it also helps me focus. 40 minutes before the beginning, I go to the locker room, I repeat the tactics that we want to apply in the game and I give my players positive feed back. I expect them to give their best, whatever it takes. During the half time, I don’t talk about their mistakes and I never bring up the things we didn’t do in the 1st half, I just tell them what they should do in the 2nd half. No matter the score, after the game I just take my team to the middle of the court and thank them for their effort. I don’t enter their locker room, I send them to take shower and relax. That’s what they need, not my talking. Talking comes in the meetings.

How do you plan on motivating players and getting them to buy in to their role on the team each year?

First thing I do at the beginning of every season is to have a long, individual conversation with each of my players. I am explaining them what is their role in the team, what I expect and what the other team-mates expect from him. If he knows this at the very begining, he gets the orientation and he can make himself ready for the season. As for the motivation, I believe requirements create it. Thats why I am trying to chose players who have high requirements and who will do everything to satisfy them.

What are your coaching goals? Where do you hope to be in the following years?

Actually, I am not planing to be anywhere. Coaching is my passion and I will take it anywhere with me. In other words, it doesn’t matter to me where I am, as long as I am coaching. Of course, I have my dream, a dream that keeps me going, that keeps me doing this and pushes me to being better every season. That dream is to be a euroleague coach. My other wish is to have many of my ex players who will remember me as a friend and who will call to check up on me once I get old and retire from coaching.

Describe the top five priorities in your life in rank order and explain why.

Health; If you’re healthy, the whole world is yours, you just have to conquer it. If you’re not, everything stops and you’re doing evertything to be healthy again.
2) Family; Makes you stronger, makes you work harder for your goals, it is kind of a sanctuary. I get additional strength when I see my family behind me during the game.
3) Learning; Never ends
4) Philosophy; If you have developed your own philosophy, you will never lose the balance. In basketball it is same as in life – if you know where you want to be and you developed the methods of how to get there, plus, you are working hard every day not ever doubting yourself, I don’t see a reason why you shouldn’t reach your goal.
5) Basketball; Passion

What one word or phrase do you want people to associate with your name?


source: BasketballDeal Interviews

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