Posted by Coach Dave Stricklin on May 21, 2015
If you happen to be one of those coaches who swear up and down that players today are somehow different than the players you've coached in the past then you should know two things: 1) You are not alone and 2) You are absolutely correct!
In his book "Not Everyone Gets a Trophy," author Bruce Tulban says this generation of young people (which includes your players) "have been nurtured, scheduled, measured, discussed, diagnosed, medicated, programmed, accommodated, included, awarded, and rewarded for as long as they can remember." Now does that sound like your childhood and/or adolescence? It certainly wasn't mine, that's for sure!
As a result most players today possess a combination of qualities that many of your previous players didn't possess. Recognizing these qualities will give you a better understanding of who you are working with and this understanding will hopefully help you become a better coach.
These qualities include:
Overconfident. Because many of today's players have never failed at anything their entire lives they are often convinced that they know everything and can do anything. After all, didn't they get a trophy on every youth team they were ever on while growing up? Yes they did, so they must be really good players, right?
Sheltered. Back in the day kids who wanted to play basketball would go to the park or to the playground or to the city gym (every player knew exactly where to go to find a game), find out "who's got next" and just play. If there wasn't enough to run 5 on 5 then they would play 3"s or 4's. Today's players have been so overprotected and over supervised that many have never played in a pickup basketball game; they've never argued over the score or a foul and have never had to decide whether to go home or to wait two hours to play again since they lost a game. In fact some have never had to make any kind of decision at all.
Needy. Because this generation of young players aren't used to hearing much negative feedback they don't handle it very well when it is presented. However, they are used to immediate feedback and so expect to constantly hear from you about how well they are doing. Criticizing their performance might bring out the tears but not saying anything to them could drive them right into depression.
Now those are some of the negative qualities, the ones that drive you crazy and slow the players' growth and development. Following are some positive qualities that will help you win more games.
Team Oriented. Quite a few of your players have never really done anything by themselves. Even babysitters often work in pairs these days! These players have worked with shooting coaches, personal trainers, strength coaches, etc. and have relied on organized teams to find competition. Working with others and being part of a team is completely natural to them.
Achievement Oriented. It's very likely that the majority of your players have never been recognized or applauded for their work ethic or perseverance. Instead, their lives have been a steady stream of rewards, trophies, and gold stars that they've received any time they've accomplished something. They might not be very process oriented but they are extremely achievement oriented. They want those trophies!
Technologically Advanced. Smart phones and tablets loaded with Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and other assorted apps are the norm for the players you coach. Not only do these things allow you to build strong relationships but they also allow you to coach them up by sharing game video, YouTube links, and detailed diagrams with the touch of a button or swipe of a finger.
Look, I'm not going to tell you how to take advantage of these 6 qualities because everyone's situation is different. What I am saying is that instead of complaining all the time give yourself a competitive advantage by understanding your players and then finding the best ways to coach them! All of your coaching peers are working with the same types of players - the coach who does the best job of adjusting his teaching methods is going to be the coach who is most successful. Why shouldn't that coach be you?