Playing Favorites

By October 18, 2013 8 Comments

Have you ever thought your coach or your child’s coach was playing favorites? In the coaching profession you often hear many complaints. In basketball, one complaint that particularly sticks out is playing favorites. Do coaches play favorites? Yes they do. In this week’s post I’ll tell you why.

Coaches do play favorites. I play my favorite players and am not ashamed to admit it. You might be surprised to hear that, but I hope you understand after reading my explanation. As coaches, we play the players who possess the best (and often our favorite) traits. I’d like to share with you 10 traits that make a player a coach’s favorite.

  1. Be a hard worker. Coaches love players who show up for everything. We love the players who are the first ones in the gym and the last ones to leave. A hard-working player gives their best effort every time they take the court, whether it’s a practice or a game.
  2. Be a leader. Coaches love players who lead in action and through words. Leaders inspire their teammates to reach another level. They inspire their teammates to give it their all through their example. Leaders are an extension of the coach on the floor. They buy into the program’s philosophy and get their teammates to as well.
  3. Be a great teammate. Coaches love players who support their fellow teammates. Great teammates are accepting of all team members and help others to get better. Coaches love it when an upperclassman goes out of their way to help the underclassmen learn. A great teammate embraces their role no matter what it is and does it to the best of their ability. Great teammates are all about “we” and whatever is best for the team.
  4. Be a competitor. Coaches love players who do the little things it takes to win. We love players who treat practice like it’s a game. Great competitors never go through the motions. They want to win every drill, game, and contest. Through their desire to win, and more importantly their preparation to win; great competitors inspire their teammates to give more.
  5. Be a good citizen. Coaches love players who represent the program well on and off the court. We love players who give back to the game and their community. Being a good citizen means doing the right thing even when it’s the most difficult thing to do. Good citizens behave in school, get good grades, and have good attendance.
  6. Be a playmaker. Coaches love players who not only know what to do but can do it. Playmakers step up and make the big plays when the team needs it most. They are always making plays. Coaches love players who ask questions that will make them better. Playmakers know “why” because it gives them the confidence to go out and perform.
  7. Be coachable. Coaches love players who can take constructive criticism. We want players who want to be coached and who want to be told what they need to do to get better. Coachable players never roll their eyes at the coach. They listen to their coach and not the stands.
  8. Have pride. Coaches love players who consistently wear and represent the program’s gear. We want players that help promote our programs. Players who exemplify pride express it through their words and actions. They act like being a part of the program is a big deal and means something. Coaches love players who take pride in the little things and doing them well.
  9. Be dependable. Coaches love players who are always on time. Don’t be late. Don’t miss practices, events, or games. We love players who offer no excuses and no explanations. Coaches want players they can depend on both on and off the court to make the right decisions. Being dependable also means you’re always there for a teammate in need.
  10. Have heart. Coaches love players who play with enthusiasm, courage, and spirit. Having heart means having and playing for a purpose beyond the scoreboard. When the score’s out of reach, players with heart continue to play hard to honor the game and a purpose that mean’s something to them. We love players who never give up or give in. Having heart means getting back up and going again, even when it seems the most difficult.

If a player has these traits, they will quickly become a coach’s favorite and earn more playing time. It’s not always about talent. It’s about what you do with that talent. It doesn’t take the most athletically gifted person to have any of these traits. It doesn’t require skill. However, it’s not easy. It requires a lot of mental and physical fortitude and it’s not for everyone. That’s why the few who are able to do it become Coach’s favorite.

Coaches, what are some other traits your favorite players possess?

As always, thanks for reading, have a great week, and be an RGP today!


Join the discussion 8 Comments

  • Lee Becker says:

    Coach Kyle,

    An athlete with these qualities will play, no doubt about it!

  • kelmendorf says:

    Thanks for reading Lee, I appreciate it!

  • Art Hunsdorfer says:


    I completely agree with everything said. Every year, I am accused of having my favorites and that may be the only time during the season that I agree with a parent!

  • Tony says:

    Coach Kyle,

    All of these are wonderful traits and would definitely get a player playing time. But the questions I raise are these;
    “Is it significant playing time?”
    “Is the coach fair and honest in his distribution of playing?”
    “Does he/she feel pressure to play others that may not display all of these traits but the parents/guardians contribute monetarily to the program?”
    It all boils down to the traits of the Head coach. I have witnessed this from College D1 programs on down.


  • I have always said that I am human. I have favorites. However, that doesn’t mean that I “play” favorites. Kids who are my favorites are the ones who possess the qualities you mention in your post. I also feel that on top of that, kids who treat you with respect, are friendly, and are enjoyable to be around are the kinds of kids who are my favorites. Who wouldn’t like someone like that? So why couldn’t I have them as my favorites just because I am a coach? Now, if I play kids more just because they are nice to me, then that would be wrong. But your list explains the reasons why those kinds of kids get to play more than those kids who are not that way. Nice job, as always, Kyle.

  • kelmendorf says:

    Thanks for reading and commenting Art, I appreciate it! Glad you liked the post. Best of luck to you and your team this year!

  • kelmendorf says:

    Thanks for reading Tony. Great questions, thanks for sharing. I would say anyone who possess all of those traits would get significant playing time because if they’re able to do those things, they’re going to put themselves in position to succeed during the games. I think some coaches are more honest than others in their playing time, but through my experiences I think the most coaches are. However, you and I both know they are exceptions. You raise a great question and point about pressure to play a child because of a parent’s contribution, especially monetarily. This provides some thought for another blog post. I think the coach must be up front on honest with players and parents about goals, expectations, philosophy, and playing time. There can be no gray area, when there is, trouble creeps in. You’re absolutely right that it boils down to the HC. The HC must be a leader who communicates their vision and philosophy, and is also able to get others to buy in.

    Thanks Tony!

  • kelmendorf says:

    Thanks for reading and commenting Scott, I appreciate it! You’re right. It becomes a problem if we play someone just because they’re nice. Coaches must have a list of traits to develop in their players. I am very big on character education, it’s been huge for our football and basketball programs. Coaches must have a vision, goals, and philosophy that is clear. Then we have to get players to buy in. When that happes along with players having the traits listed in this post, great things will happen.

    Thanks Scott!

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