Coaching today’s basketball players features a unique challenge in the sport. Considering all the other outlets and opportunities available to young people these days, finding the right way to grab their attention remains paramount for basketball coaches.

Coaching Today’s Basketball Players

Have you ever told your team that they should just worry about the things they can control and forget about the things they can’t control? Referees, hostile fans, illness, injury, size & speed of opponents, tournament draws are all out of the players’ control so they just need to find a way to deal with them and work around them. Have you ever taught that concept to your players? I’m willing to bet that you have – probably several times!

My question to you today is this – are you following your own advice, especially when it comes to the individual personalities of your players, or do some of them just drive you crazy?

Now for an even bigger question – are you letting those personality differences keep you from coaching the players up to the very best of your ability? Think about it for a second. Are any of your players being short changed, even unintentionally, because they are loud, moody, self absorbed, tatted up, and/or listen to music that you neither like nor understand?

Coaching Basketball: The Mental Game

In his book Coaching the Mental Game, H.A. Dorfman tells about the time he was speaking to the St. Louis Cardinals organization and a question was asked about coaching “today’s kids.” Dorfman responded by saying that if they so choose, coaches don’t have to listen or watch the music and television of today’s generation of athletes. But they:

“do have to coach and teach a pitcher with a nipple ring and a “dude” mentality. That’s a contractual obligation. The player’s styling is not his substance. You’ve got to know more about him than how he looks and speaks.” (p.21)

Do you know more about your players than just how they look and speak?

I can’t tell you how many frustrated coaches there are who tell everyone within earshot “Back when I was playing, players (fill in the blank),” or “10 years ago players would (fill in the blank) but not anymore.”

If you are one of those coaches – quit saying those things! You’re not back in high school and your players aren’t back anywhere. They are living in the here and now and they need you to coach them! Dorfman may have had this in mind when he went on to remind those in attendance in St. Louis that they all signed a coaching contract and each contract had a specific date on it. “You’re not being hired to coach kids of the 60’s, 70’s, or 80’s. The effective leader addresses the mission of the organization and the needs of each player. Whatever his age – or yours!”

Reaching Your Players Today

Of course players are somewhat different than from previous generations but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Regardless of how they look or talk, or act off the court kids/players of this generation (often referred to as “millenials”) are generally more motivated, more competitive, and have a greater understanding and appreciation of technology than any group you have ever coached. Instead of worrying about things you can’t control why not take full advantage of them instead?

Motivated players want to improve and are willing to put in the necessary time and effort and competitive players want to win! I don’t know about you but those are players I can work with and want to coach, regardless of the other “baggage” they may carry.

Great teams and great players of every generation have all won the exact same way. By playing hard, playing together and by mastering the fundamentals of shooting, passing, ball handling and defense. That was true 50 years ago and I’m willing to bet it will be true 50 years from now.

You might not be able to control who you coach but you can certainly control how you coach. And how you coach is going to determine your success or failure.

Related: 6 Ways to Show Commitment

Coach Unplugged Podcast: 

Youth Player Development

Ep: 844 Basketball Coaching Today

If you found this useful, don’t forget to check out additional blog posts at Also, check out TeachHoops on FacebookTwitterInstagram and YouTube.