By: Andy Louder
You hear professional athletes all the time denying the fact that they are role models for kids. I have two conflicting thoughts on this. First of all, I don’t see how professional basketball players can deny the fact that kids look up to them more so than other professionals and follow them closely. For this reason I think professional athletes have a responsibility to kids to try and be a good example. On the other hand though I think the public can put way too much of a microscope on them and expect unrealistic things from them. Most of them just want to play basketball and be left alone and you can’t blame them for that.
When it comes to coaches at the youth level all the way up to the college level there should be no denying or misunderstanding from coaches. You ARE a role model whether you like it or not. In most situations, players of today spend more time with their coaches than they do with their own parents. If you’re a coach it’s your responsibility to accept this fact, embrace it and commit to doing everything in your power to not only make your kids better basketball players but to also make them better human beings. The worst thing you can do to yourself and to the kids you coach is to deny that you can make a difference in these kid’s lives or refuse to accept the responsibility because all you did was agree to coach basketball and not act as a parent. The fact of the matter is you WILL influence your player’s lives in multiple ways, whether you like it or not. It’s going to happen because you are around them so much and because they look up to you so much. It’s up to you to either be a positive influence or a negative influence because having no influence is impossible.
Most coaches will accept the fact that they are a role model but take it too lightly. They think that all kids are independent thinkers and that there is no way the experiences they go through during a season will have a long-term influence on the kids they coach. This is very far from the truth. The truth is… kids look up to their coaches. To them you are on a pedastool and you can do no wrong. You were assigned to be their coach because you are an expert at the game of basketball and what you say is the truth. That’s how they look at you. There are certainly exceptions but even the kids that lack respect or don’t like you will be influenced by you. Sometimes it takes years before they realize it but one day they will either silently thank you or curse you for what kind of impact you had on their life. Most players value their experiences on the basketball court much more than they do in the classroom. They are more open to listening on the basketball floor because that time actually matters to them whereas when they are in the classroom they don’t absorb much because they don’t like being there.
Teach your kids respect
As kids become adults it’s important for them to have respect for themselves and for others. If they don’t they will likely struggle in the real world. They will struggle in finding a good job and they will find it difficult to get along with others. Be conscious of how you treat every player because this is where they will learn that respect. Be fair, be honest, be tough and be respectful.
Example: Letting a player get away with trash talking is sending the message to him that he is more important than the kids on the opposing team. If it goes unchecked this type of attitude will carry on and as an adult he will struggle in society.
Teach your kids accountability
The answer to a lot of our society’s problems right now is accountability. We live in a day and age where people don’t want to take responsibility for their actions. Our current economic condition is a direct correlation for people not wanting to be accountable for their decisions. When you aren’t accountable nothing gets fixed. All remedies are temporary and problems just get worse and worse. You aren’t doing your kids a favor if you aren’t teaching them accountability. They may like you for the time being but eventually they will be an adult and they will figure out what they missed out on and mark my words they will resent you for it.
Example: Setting team and individual goals is something all basketball teams should be doing. If you don’t re-visit your goals often and hold yourself accountable for not reaching goals you are teaching your kids that it’s o.k. to not meet your goals. You are teaching them that goals don’t really mean anything and that you don’t have to take them serious. How far can someone get in life with that type of attitude?
Teach your kids sacrifice
Nothing in life is free. If you want something you have to pay the price. Somewhere there is a quote about the fact that nothing comes without a cost is worth having. I love that quote because it is so true. As humans, we appreciate the things we acquire much more if we’ve had to work for it. When a person learns this simple lesson in life they are well on their way to success. I’m sure we’ve all seen adults who have grown up with a golden spoon in their mouth and struggle to accomplish anything on their own because of it. Make your kids work hard for any rewards you present to them.
Example: Instead of just saying yes to things your kids might want to do, make them work for it. If there’s a summer camp they want to attend or if they want to wear a certain style of uniform, come up with something they have to do to earn it.
Teach your kids discipline
Most things that are worth having aren’t easily acquired. There are times when your players will feel like giving up. The worst thing you can do is give them immediate comfort by letting them know it’s o.k. to quit. They need your support, they need positive reinforcement and they need you to be there for them. Send the message loud and clear that it’s very normal to struggle and that it’s o.k. but what’s not o.k. is quitting.
Example: Let’s say you have a player that has worked very hard and wants to get a scholarship but you happen to know that he still has a lot that needs to happen before that is realistic. You can either go to work helping him out or you can encourage him to lower his goals so that you don’t have to bother with it. I think it’s obvious what needs to happen in order to teach this player discipline.
Build character in your kids
It’s easy to see the value of character. People that have it succeed in life and people that don’t struggle. A person with character is honest, sincere and pure. They don’t try to act like something they are not and they recognize that other human beings are just as important as they are. If a person doesn’t have character they have a very difficult time finding happiness in their life and usually don’t make much of themselves. As a coach it’s important that you are honest in everything you do and that you treat all of your players with the respect they deserve.
Example: Letting one of your better players off the hook for academic problems because you want to win the big game teaches the player that winning is more important than being honest. Imagine living in a world where everyone believed that. It seems like such a small thing but the lessons learned from experiences like this carry with these kids on into adult-hood.
Build up the self-esteem of your kids
It’s hard for anyone to accomplish much if they don’t believe in themselves. I’m not a psychologist but I would dare bet that if you took 100 adults that have poor self-esteem you could trace their condition back to something that happened to them as a kid. I cannot under-estimate the importance of this enough. Something that you might see as silly and trivial could end up ruining a kid’s life for years and years to come and possibly for life. I’m not suggesting that you baby your players at all, what I’m suggesting is you treat your players with respect and do as much as you can to build up their self-esteem. Some players you might not need to spend much time with but others you may need to go out of your way to support them and help them see how valuable they are.
Example: After a loss you need to be careful about how you react. Give your players the understanding that losing is not accepted but it’s also not the end of the world. Everybody’s goes through a loss at one point or another. Just because you lose a game doesn’t mean you are an inferior person and can’t accomplish great things.
I also want to point out that even NBA players are influenced by their coaches. Certainly not to the extent that younger players are but to think that just because they are adults their coaches don’t have an impact on their lives is silly. There are players all the time that come out and publicly thank their coach for being such a positive influence in their life. It’s so important for you youth, Jr. High, High School and College coaches to realize that your actions are influencing how the kids you coach turn out. Of course kids are accountable for their own actions and make their own choices. I want to recognize that fact. I don’t believe that just because a kid ends up struggling in adult-hood that it’s his basketball coach’s fault. I’m just pointing out the reality that what you do and how you act as a coach, matters a great deal and can make a big difference in the player’s lives that you coach.
About the Author
Andy Louder is the owner of HoopSkills.com, a basketball coaching and training website. Visit the site for more free basketball tips and coaching resources.
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