When dealing with players on any level, you will come across some that will be disgruntled for one reason or another. In some the talent could be there and never made it to the level they should have, or for others they never had it in the first place.
For many high school and college athletes they will not be honest in assessing their level of talent or mistakes they have made. It is always someone else’s fault why they didn’t achieve their goals. For coaches it’s always our first priority to have your players maximize their potential.
I’ve never been one to waste people’s time when trying to evaluate their level of performance. I think if you appease the player with their feelings or ego in mind they won’t benefit in the long run. Brutal honesty is always the way to go with them. This way they know where they are with you and what you think of their performance. You can’t let them get into a blaming game when the answer to their issues is standing right in front of them.
I always tell a player when they are venting to me “You Have To Look In The Mirror”. The meaning behind that is that they need to self reflect on why they didn’t achieve a goal. The most popular complain that you will hear as a coach is why a player isn’t playing more minutes. After going through 10 minutes of the player’s thoughts on how they are getting short changed by the coach and should be playing, I simply ask the question “Look In The Mirror”. They always get a little upset with the question like you are questioning their desire or heart.
Here are the questions that I would ask a young player at any level when complaining about playing time.
Every question would start with “Can You Look In The Mirror and Say that you…
1.) Put in extra work with your coaches before/and or after practice?
2.) Put up 200-300 shots a day to perfect your craft on your own?
3.) Put in your 3 strength and conditioning workouts to work make sure that your conditioning is at its best?
4.) Watched film on your games and ask a coach to critique your performance
5.) Watched film on your upcoming opponent to make sure that you were prepared for them?
6.) Sacrificed staying up late and going out to get 8 hours of rest to be at your best for your team
7.) Showed energy in practice and made n impact to stand out to your coaches?
8.) Not on time , but 20 minutes early to all team required functions? (Practices, meetings, film sessions, pre game)
9.) Honestly outplayed the players above you in the rotation in practice and in workouts?
10.) Do anything on or off the court to get your coaches upset with you?
11.) Met with your coaches and asked what you need to do to get on the floor more?
I’ve asked these questions to high school to pro players when they would vent to me about the subject of their situation. Not every player is able to do the things on the list of questions that I have asked above. The premise is the same in all instances. They need to be honest with themselves and stop looking for people to co-sign their gripes.
Coaches at all levels would do basically anything to get an advantage over their opponent. I would explain to the player that in most cases if player could help a coach win, they would give them every opportunity possible to play and help their team. Looking in the mirror is a very tough thing for a player to do. It’s natural for a player to only look at things at their point of view. It is so important to be truthful with them about the reality of their situation.
I’ve found that question eleven for players at all levels is the toughest. It is seldom for a player to want to communicate with the coach, especially about playing time. There is a natural divide between a player and coach from the players perspective. I tell players all the time to communicate more with coaches so they have an open line to them and can speak freely with them. I think if presented well that inquiring about playing time is a positive thing between a player and a coach. As a player they should be open to their coaches in a respectful manor about what is on their mind. For coaches it’s equally if not more important to be honest when answering the question about lack of playing time from a player.
Honesty is the key when dealing with players. I don’t care about what level you coach at. Being honest cuts through a lot of the issues that you will run into with them. If they aren’t good enough, tell them that. If you don’t like freshman or younger players than just be honest and tell them that. There is nothing to lose when telling a player the truth.
We are in a world of players having circles of people that are afraid to tell them the truth. I’m not even talking about only elite players. Ordinary players have family members, friends, summer club coaches, etc telling them things that they want to hear for one reason or another. It is important as their coach to tell them the truth.
For players the most important thing that you can get out of this is to understand that not everything on the court or in life will go your way. It is easy to show energy for things when everything is going well. When adversity strikes what are you going to do? Life is about putting yourself in the best possible position to succeed. If someone tells you that you aren’t good enough at something and gives you advice on how to improve, don’t fight that advice. Take the advice and run with it. Respect the people that tell you things that you don’t want to hear rather than those who tell you that everything is great all the time. We all can improve and push ourselves to get better. The great players in this sport have all faced adversity at one time. They too had to look themselves in the mirror and make changes. That is a trait of all successful people.
Next time you find yourself upset at a situation, look in the mirror and ask yourself did you do everything you possibly could do to be successful. Chances are you didn’t and there’s no time like now to start to improve.