Because of what I do I get to meet and talk with lots of boys and girls of all ages. Since I am not their school coach and won’t cut them or bench them, I think I get honest answers when I ask questions. Some kids fall in love with the game as early as they can remember. They live for every practice and every game. They spend endless hours shooting and dribbling creating every possible move they can dream up. These kids have a passion to be the best they can possibly be.
By high school they have played in many leagues and tournaments and along the way they have encountered a variety of coaches. Most of the coaches display a passion for the game. They are inspiring and mostly encouraging. Most kids speak well of their coaches. Most take pride in the compliments from coaches, opponent coaches, fans and even other parents.
But along the journey these kids have encountered a few bad coaches. These coaches are easy to spot. They are completely focused on favorites instead of the good of the entire team. No matter how hard a kid works they simply don’t acknowledge the work. Some coaches even take jabs at kid’s abilities.
I’ve been told, “this coach just killed my passion for the game.”
You might read that and think that if a kid really loved the game no one could take it away. I thought that as well, but I had the privilege of having outstanding coaches that loved the game, cared about my soul and always showed respect to me as an individual. What I’ve learned through listening to many kids is that when passion dies, it’s often the most heartbreaking thing ever. One student told me that their passion was destroyed when a coach looked at me in the eyes and said “You may think you are going to play here, but you’ll never play for me.” That statement “you’ll never play for me” tells me a lot about that coach. That coach isn’t there for the development of players, they are there for their own selfish agenda even if it is at the expense of a teenager.
Saying “hard work always pays off” and then not keeping your word kills passion. Saying “you’re just not working hard” even when the kid is literally laying their body out for the team simply destroys passion. Turning teammates against a kid is abuse as well.
I tell kids all the time, put more work in. Get better. Don’t let anyone destroy your dream. I say that, but at the same time I understand how powerful a coaches words can hurt someone. I so respect coaches that understand developing athletes. They care about the whole kid, they care about the kid’s family and put a high value on building a relationship. They push their own agenda aside and see kids as individually unique and know how to get the best out of each player. I respect those who resist the human nature to play favorites or politics.
I understand the focus on winning. When I was a youngster I couldn’t sleep the night I lost a basketball game. I thought fun was directly attached to winning only. I get it. I love competitive sports. I love having to beat out someone for a position. But I also understand basketball is a team game and everyone is important.
I encourage those who teach or coach the game to remember this: Inspiration always trumps intimidation. Making someone feel bad doesn’t make them play and work hard for you, whether in the classroom or on the court.
Careful with your words and body language is my plea. You are impacting lives, treat them with complete respect.
**If you are a kid reading this and love the game. Keep working hard. Never quit. Control what you can. Push yourself beyond your perceived limits. Reach for the stars. Soar!