I used to think of this as a case by case issue but in reality, it shouldn’t be. I’m not going to give you the whole “everyone is treated exactly the same” speech because I just don’t believe this is true in any program. The reason – all of our players are human and they are all coming from a different world and different situations. Below, are merely suggestions on how can handle a power player that just can’t seem to get it straight. However, the one rule I do think you should live by, is to coach what you believe in and don’t waiver from that for anyone.
How do you plan around a person who could possibly be a major part of your team but can’t commit?
The answer is simple, don’t plan to have them in your program. If this player is as good as you think, you will be able to adjust if he decides to commit. If he doesn’t commit and you didn’t have a plan B in place, then you are really in trouble. Plan B might not make you better but it will keep you competitive.
Is it fair to babysit one player over another?
For me this is always a fine line. I feel my job as a coach goes way beyond winning and losing. I am not just trying to build great ball players but even better adults. With that, has to come patience and understanding. My coaching staff and I create an atmosphere where the main issues are black and white and everything else is an opportunity to grow.
However, there are certain things I will not tolerate in my program:
- Any disrespect to the coaching staff or members of the school staff
- Any troubles with the law after they have been in our program
- Cheating in academics
- They stop improving themselves (e.g., timeliness, attitude, etc.)
These will lead to dismissal from the team or significant suspension from the team. I don’t care how good you are, team morale and values are more important to me, the individual and and the team.
What I am looking for is improvement. My players are not going to change overnight. They have been raised and taught a certain way for years before they fall into my hands, so this is going to be something that will take time. The best thing I can do for them is to create as many black and white situations as possible and make sure they know what the consequences are and that they had better take me and the rest of my coaching staff seriously.
If I can get my players to understand the importance of passing classes, body language, following through on promises, taking care of more than just themselves, then yes, the “babysitting” is all worth it. You might not reach everyone but the ones you do, will never forget.
Do you expect to go into every season knowing there will be a problem player?
I don’t because what I am hoping for is that we have already ironed all of these problems out during the summer or the off season. Whether it’s with individual players and their situations or new recruits seeing how I handle these problems with their teammates. Create the culture from the start and your players will be able to figure out what you do and don’t care about e.g., talent. If they can’t conform to our program’s standards, they will not be part of our program.
How do you reward an unreliable athlete so they keep coming back?
In my experience, I’ve seen two types of unreliable athletes:
1. They have never had a coach that cares about them and needs as much reinforcement as possible.
What I try to do with this player is to show them that I see every improvement they’ve made, nothing is unnoticed. I might not do this publicly, but every chance I get I let them know they are making necessary changes and that they are on the right path.
2. The one that feels entitled and their previous coach just gave them the keys and let them do whatever they wanted.
I try and challenge this player as much as I can from day one. I do tell them that they are great players (because they are) but I also tell them they can be a lot better. These type of players secretly want the challenge and have wanted it for a long time. They will respond to any and all challenges. Goal setting can be critical with these players all the time and I believe the smaller the detail in those goals the better.
What kind of message are you sending to the athletes that show up every day and work hard on their own?
This is tough but what you should know is that everyone wants to win and these athletes secretly know that without the “superstars” the chance to compete for a championship are smaller. I make it pretty clear from the beginning that I don’t care who you are, I will hold everyone to a high standard and if you fall short there will be consequences. I also tell them at our retreat that everyone is coming from different worlds, some of them had both parents growing up and some of them had none so the only person that knows everyone’s background is me and I need everyone to trust my judgement and the fact that I am going to do what is fair by everyone. I always have and I always will make the tough decision to suspend or release a player if they fall short, even if that means we lose a game or two.
Hopefully you have established a culture where your players don’t fall short, but is they do lets hope that Plan B is strong enough to keep your program going in the right direction. I stole from Coach K the only rule in our program:
“Don’t do anything that is detrimental to yourself, because if it is detrimental to you it is detrimental to our entire program” -Coach K
How do you deal with an unreliable superstar athlete? Do you give them preferential treatment and has it ever backfired on you?