What Coaches Want

By May 31, 2013 6 Comments

This week is all about coaches’ insight for players. Next week we’ll discuss what coaches should do, but this week is to help players. In this blog post we’ll discuss five things coaches want in players. These five traits are universal and can be applied to all athletes across the sports spectrum. We’ll count them down from five to one.

5. Coaches want players who know and accept their role on the team. Every good team needs quality role players. It’s not possible for everyone to have the lead role, but it is possible for everyone to play an important role. Some players will get the majority of minutes and even the headlines, but team success cannot happen unless everyone accepts their role. Players should never try to undercut or bad mouth teammates in order to improve playing time. Coaches want players who are genuinely happy for the team’s and their teammates’ success. Players should not mope, display poor body language, or bad mouth any member of the team. If the player is experiencing a problem or frustration, they should seek a one-on-one meeting with the coach.

4. Coaches want players who are committed to the team and program. This involves a great deal of discipline. If a player is truly committed, they do the right things on and off the court. They get good grades, have good attendance, and display great behavior. Being committed to the program also means giving back, and one of the best ways to do this is to be a positive role model for younger athletes. If a player is committed they are early to practice and stay after to work on their game. They do not let anything besides faith, family, and education take precedence over their commitment to the team.

3. Coaches love players with a team first attitude. One of the best responses a player can give a coach is, “Whatever is best for the team.” This might mean a person moves from a starting role to a reserved one. Before the end of the school year I gave the girls on my basketball team a sheet with two statements, and they had to check which one they agreed with most. The two statements were, “I would rather play a lot of minutes for a losing team” or “I would rather sit and play for a winning team.” Now this is a hard question to answer, especially for high school kids. We were about 50/50 on which responses were checked. This week at our first open gym of the summer I explained why I gave them the sheet and what the meaning was. I told them I love that players who want to play, and I expect that attitude. However, we will never get to the level we want to be at or achieve the success we want unless your willing to give up playing time if it means your team wins. Once you have a buy in like that from the players, look out! It’s my job as a coach to get them to that point; it’s not easy, but it’s something I work toward every day as a coach.

2. Coaches absolutely love players who play with a competitive fire. One thing that all of the greats, (Jordan, Bryant, Bird, Montana, Manning, Gibson, Ruth) have in common is an intense competitive drive. Coaches want players who are driven to become their absolute best. We as coaches want players who hate to lose. Players should not only compete with their peers, but more importantly they should constantly be competing and pushing themselves to become the very best they can possibly become. As a player, do you try to beat your personal bests everyday in every drill? If not, you need to start.

1. The number one thing coaches love in players is a never give up attitude. As a player you should never give in no matter what the circumstances may be. The great thing about sports is that if you develop this mindset as a player it will take you many places in your personal life. You are going to lose and get knocked down, but can you get back up and give the same or better effort? The rough times in sports help prepare you for the rough ones you’ll encounter in life. Coaches want players who give their best effort each time they set foot on the court or field. We want players who play hard and leave it all on the floor. If you can look yourself in the mirror after every practice or game and say you gave it your all, you’re a winner no matter what the scoreboard says.

It goes without saying that if a coach wants these traits in his or her players, they must model them.  A player will not have these traits unless his or her coach does. I firmly believe that.

Players, this is not too much to ask of you. If it is, you need to adjust your outlook and what you value. The great thing about all five of these traits is that they bring you success in all that you do. Any great business or company is going to ask the same thing of their employees. If you can develop these and perfect them as an athlete, you will have a leg up on the competition.

Coaches, feel free to comment and share any traits you look for that are not mentioned in the blog. Players, your input and feedback is always welcomed and appreciated as well.

Thanks for reading, have a great week, and be an RGP today!


Join the discussion 6 Comments

  • Derek Davies says:

    Some interesting points. I am guessing the 50% who checked the sit and win option were the players that will not actually be sitting.

    I do feel the above is a bit win at all costs. I would hope at the younger age groups we would be looking more at developing individuals as part of the team. This includes the better players understanding that if players in their team are going to develop they need game time. Yes we all want to win, it feels a lot better than losing:-) I think it’s more of the case for allowing athletes to think i understand why i am on the bench , i am not happy about it (that’s ok no one ever really is) what can i do to about it?


  • kelmendorf says:

    Thanks for taking the time to read and comment Derek, I appreciate it! In our program, we do not stress win at all costs. However, it is a high school program and winning is a goal. At the lower levels we try to play as many players as possible. We stress to make it a fun, learning experience that develops them not only as players but as people. Once we get to the varsity level, the better players get the majority of the minutes. As the varsity head coach I do make it a point to get all players game experience when possible.

    You have great points, and I agree with them. I see a big problem with youth sports and the win at all costs mentality. Less than 3% of all HS athletes make it to the professional ranks. Almost 75% of kids are burnt out & quit sports by the age of 14 because of the win at all costs mentality. This has to change. We do a lot in our program that teaches and promotes character and sportsmanship.

    In the near future, our group, the ECA is going to launch something new aimed at this topic. I hope you check back in and provide your feedback.


  • April says:

    I totally believe that youth are struggling with the idea of “we must win no matter what”. I believe some of this comes from their parents. Many parents try to find the success they did not have through their children. This promotes that the child must become the best person on the team and they must win all the time to be a success. I believe that losing teaches a person something more. It shows them that everyone must do their best, that everyone is important, and it teaches one dignity. What I mean by that is something I always tell my players…”winning is the joy of hard work you have put in and losing is the strength of facing the obstacles and overcoming them with their heads held high…dignity in its finest!” This is a life lesson learned through athletics. It teaches them to never settle for less than the best of oneself and to overcome those things which stand in ones way. Many times it simply means to be determined to overcome whatever caused them to lose the contest in the first place. Even the best of the best players have off days and need to realize that it is not the end of the world. It’s simply another opportunity to get better. I hope my opinion does not offend anyone. It is simply my opinion.

  • kelmendorf says:

    Those are excellent thoughts April! I did not find your comments offensive at all, I thought they were great. I love what you shared about what winning and losing truly mean. Your players are lucky to have you as a coach. Our society needs more coaches with your outlook, perspective, and ethics. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, I appreciate it.

  • Nick Davis says:

    I have been coaching since 1987. I’ve coached elite players and younger developing players. One of the points I stress is that I want my players to get better everyday. Better after practice and better after games. This means they must concentrate and apply themselves every second they are on the court, whether it’s practice or a game.

    I don’t stress winning or losing. I truly beleve if you get better each day, and you do it as a group, the winning will take care of itself. And as long as we get better, the losing doesn’t sting as much (it still stings, but not as much).

    I enjoyed both of your articles. This one and the one about what players expect from their coaches.

    Enjoying your writing,

    Coach Nicky

  • kelmendorf says:

    Thanks for reading and commenting Nicky, I appreciate it. I am glad you enjoyed the articles! As coaches we sometimes tend to complicate things more than they need to be. By focusing on “getting better everyday” we focus only on what we can control. I think you hit the nail on the head with your comment. Thanks for sharing!

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