10 Habits To Instill In Young Players

When speaking to coaches at all levels there is a frustration with the lack of skill level of players. Many blame grassroots coaches, mostly AAU/Club Coaches for the lack of skilled players produced. Many complain of how players these days are harder to coach than any other era. Players are not as dedicated to getting better as well as being coached as they were 10,15, or 20 years ago.

My answer to them is that the problem doesn’t come from the lack of skills taught by their coaches at the younger levels. Yes there is a small issue with the amount of games that young players play in comparison to the working on their game, but that’s got very little to do with the lack of dedicated basketball players in the United States today The problem is that no one teaches them how to be pros early.

When you hear that probably the first thing you think of is how to make players more like Kevin Durant, LeBron James, or Kobe Bryant. That wasn’t what I was going for, it has nothing to do with how talented that you make your players, but it’s the habits that you instill in them early on. Everyone wants to try to make their players into superstars like the ones that I mentioned, but to be honest it’s almost impossible. To recreate the work ethic and drive of a Dirk Nowitzki or Kobe Bryant is almost impossible and not fair to the player or coach. No, what I mean is teach them the habits that solid professional basketball players have that make them relevant in the sport. Talent for the most part is something that players are born with. Repetition, drive, dedication, and good habits are what mold talent.

In todays post I want to go through some of the habits that should be instilled in our young players to not only help them in basketball but in life. In my 20 years of being in basketball I’ve come across some special professional players. Yes some were superior talents, but many found a way with limited talent to stay in professional basketball a lot longer than they supposed to. What kept them in pro basketball so long were the great habits obtained from listening to great teachers, coaches, veteran players, and others. I hope this helps coaches at all levels instill great habits in values in your players.

Like anything else great habits aren’t obtained in a day. It takes countless hours of hard work, dedication, and accountability to add. Talent can only take someone so far, it’s the discipline and great values that brings the best out of someone’s talent. Here are some great traits for young players to help their longevity in the game of basketball.

Being on time is something that is expected. Don’t pat yourself on the back because you’ve never been late to a meeting or practice. No one notices players that are on time. Players are noticed when they are early. You want your coaches to come in and see you already at your locker 30 minutes before practice or a meeting. This gives the perception that you are invested in what is going on and are dedicated to winning. Always be early even if its 15-20 minutes. Always think on time is late. If you have to get taped, or have a meeting with a coach you don’t want to stroll in 3 minutes before practice this puts a lot of stress on you to be late because of these prior engagements. Even if you have nothing to do get to places early this will get you noticed.

Perception is what many people go on. Sometimes it is fair and legitimate and sometimes it is out of miscommunication. Having good body language means never rolling your eyes or shrugging your shoulders when your coaches are talking to you. Always have your head up and look alert. People make so many judgments based on body language, don’t ever give them a reason to judge you based on a dirty look or something. Your body says a lot about you without you saying a word. You have to mask your frustration at times and pick your battles. Never give anyone a reason to misjudge you by you giving off a bad vibe. You don’t have to smile 24/7. But always show that you are alert and invested on what’s going on.

There is nothing worse than coaching a player with no energy and just going through the motions. Once you are warmed up and ready to go show energy and enthusiasm in whatever you want to do. Think if someone came in to practice, a workout, or a game who is that person going to be impressed by? I don’t care if it’s a ball handling, shooting, or defensive drill do it hard and with enthusiasm. Coaches love energetic players that run, cart, and go hard. Show that you have passion to get better. Leave it on the court every day.

Be invested in what you do and to get better at your craft. After practice take those extra three point shots to improve your range. If you want to be great at whatever you do, spend the extra time on your game. If its working on your shot, working on defensive slides, passing, etc you need to put the work in. You can’t be the last one in the gym and the first one out the door. You have to put the work in and show your coaches and teammates that you don’t just talk about being great, you are willing to do what it takes to get you there.

There are many different meanings to being a good teammate. Here are some easy examples. Being enthusiastic and cheering for a teammate when they do something well. Don’t just expect people to root for your accomplishments, be there for your teammates to show them you care about them as well. When you are on the bench show good energy by clapping and cheering for your team. When a teammate goes down on the court rush over to pick them up. Always show that you are invested not only for your own well being but for the team as well. Cheering for a teammate is easy, supporting them when they are down is important. When a teammate is struggling give them encouragement and pick them up, just as you would want to be picked up when you are struggling.

This is probably the hardest thing that coaches go through these days at the high school and college levels. Players have such a hard time taking criticism from their coaches. They take it as offensive and show bad body language towards them. As a player you need to allow yourself to be coached. That is the bottom line. There is so much written about the San Antonio Spurs and what makes them great. The biggest reason why they are great is every player from Tim Duncan all the way down allows their coach to criticize them and correct their mistakes. You need to be able to allow your coach to correct your mistakes. Coaches are emotional and sometimes will get heated about your mistakes. As long as they don’t get personal with you let them make their comments and then if you have any questions ask them. Make sure you understand what you did wrong and then what you need to do to fix the problem. Correcting your mistakes is the only way that you will become better.

Many players have a hard time speaking to their coaches. It’s something that is not easy to do in some cases. But, what makes you a better person is your ability to communicate and carry on a conversation. It takes time, but puts you on a great page with your coaches and allows both of you to sometimes voice opinions on what is going on. It is important to be able to sit down and have a conversation about certain things that you want to share. It could be clarification about your roll, if there is anything more you can be doing, explanation of an argument so you can share what you were thinking and they can do the same. Many young players have such a hard time speaking with people of authority get the edge and star trying to talk to your coaches.

When traveling to a tournament or even when you are at home it is so important to get rest. During the season it is so important to stay focused on what you are trying to accomplish. It’s totally understandable to hang out with friends, but you need to be responsible to get home at a reasonable hour to get enough rest to function the next day. Never put yourself in a position late at night to make bad choices and risk your privileges . During the off season is the time to blow off steam, during your season stay focused on what you are trying to do. If you are traveling to a tournament think of it as a business trip. Set a reasonable curfew and stick to it.

99.9% Of the people on this planet have to answer to someone. We all have rules on one form or another that we have to follow. When we make mistakes or don’t follow instructions we all have to answer to someone. Don’t be one of those people who thinks its always someone else’s fault and never yours. You have to look yourself in the mirror and when you are wrong or have done something wrong take claim for it, take the punishment, and move on. If you are late for practice and your coach suspends you, or gives you punishment except it and move on. Players who continue to give others a hard time when THEY make a mistake and feel as though they shouldn’t be punished don’t last too long. Own your mistakes and allow people to point them out.

Being around real professionals, not only do they respect coaches and high ranking people in their organization, but they also show a lot of respect to locker room attendants, janitors, ball boys not only of their own team, but others as well. People that they don’t even know. They always say please and thank you and never take them for granted. This may seem like a small thing, but it goes a long way to people in their organization. It shows that they are grateful for what they have and never take things for granted. This shows tremendous character and makes them people that others want to be around. Having respect for elders and people in general is a trait that is desperately needed in young people today.

Being a professional is so important in life. When you think professional the first thing that comes to mind is fame, fortune, and bright lights. What should come to mind is dedication, character, and drive. Anyone can have talent, especially athletic talent. Being dedicated to work on that skill and develop it while performing in a team environment is a very difficult task. It takes a lot of effort to become a true professional. It’s not about talking about being great, but actually taking the steps that makes you great.

I think as educators we need to do a better job especially with younger people instilling good habits such as these to them. I’m not worried if a player can make a jumpshot or know how to initiate a pick and roll as much as their attitude. We can teach them skills at most stages of their careers, but attitude and character need to be stressed early in their lives.

Most basketball players on the planet will never make a dime for it when the time comes and that is totally fine. What you want to do is show young people the way to handle themselves from a character perspective so not only in basketball, but in real life they can succeed. These 10 examples of good traits can be used in any stage of life for a young man or women. When basketball is over and they go out to the real world functioning with not only their boss, but their co workers will be so important in developing their career.

You need to show them that having skills on the court will make them relevant in the game of basketball, but having good character and discipline will help KEEP them relevant in the game. So many good players get washed away too early because talent is all that they had and no one ever helped them develop their character. I think it’s time we started taking a stand with coaches developing character as that will take them further in life than any skill you can teach them on the court. Having good character, discipline, and work ethic can help a player play the game of basketball until they are at least in their twenties. What they will learn by having these things will keep them relevant in life until they are in their seventies and God willing a lot longer than that.