What is the right pre-game or post-game mentality?

Much has been written and said lately about this generation not caring about winning or not knowing how to win or getting to eat pizza after a game whether or not the team won. Basically, the entire generation, and maybe life itself, is going to hell, and it’s all because of trophies and post-game meals.

Now, nobody does pregame macho posturing quite like the UFC, but last week, this happened during the weigh-ins:

Does anyone question VanZant’s and Watterson’s desire to win? Does anyone want to question their toughness?

Why are we okay with MMA fighters dancing and hugging before a fight, but somehow smiling or eating or managing to go on with daily activities after a loss is a sign of weakness or a lack of caring?

I’m still waiting for an answer as to the appropriate behavior for a player after a loss to prove that he or she cares about winning or is tough enough or serious enough. Bob Huggins seemed to imply that players should forego meals after a loss. Jeff Walz was less specific.

Grayson Allen has been slammed and suspended for his behaviors, although his actions (lashing out, throwing a tantrum, and crying) seem to align more closely with the sentiments of the coaches than the dance off above and nobody has questioned his toughness or will to win.

So, what are the appropriate behaviors? Does dancing with an opponent undermine one’s credibility as a fighter? Does throwing a tantrum on the bench display Allen’s will to win? How do we want players to behave because every week another coach criticizes the current unspecified behaviors of today’s generation?

By Brian McCormick, PhD
Director of Coaching, Playmakers Basketball Development League
Author, The 21st Century Basketball Practice and Fake Fundamentals

2 thoughts on “What is the right pre-game or post-game mentality?

  • Hi,

    Thanks for the post. This has been bothering me as well. I am 34 and absolutely got 7th out of 8th place trophies for basketball when i was a kid. Nobody thought it ruined me. I am growing tired of people 30-60 bashing the 18 and under generation. There are always differences between generations. I feel like it is an adults responsibility to identify the differences and figure out how to work with it. Not to just constantly complain about how they don’t care about anything. These people are the parents, teachers, coaches, ect. Are they not at least a little responsible for how the 18 and under crowd behaves?

  • Joe:
    I agree. Everything that the adults are criticizing happened during their childhoods too. Maybe not to them, but certainly to those in their generation. I received participation trophies. I went to pizza after Little League games whether we won or lost. Heck, that was the best part; pizza and arcade games. The only time I got to drink soft drinks! And, sure, I never played D1 or professional sports, but friends who had similar upbringings played pro basketball in Europe/Australia, played in the NFL, made it to AAA baseball, and nearly made MLS. It’s not like these experiences ruined their athletic drive.

    I think the “adults” have it wrong. The problem isn’t the participation trophies and pizza parties. It’s the stress. Youth sports were not stressful. They were fun. We wanted to win. We competed. But, it was fun. Parents didn’t yell and scream. There were no fights in the stands. Coaches didn’t yell too much and never were blatantly demeaning. If a coach pulled behaviors that I saw at a local HS varsity girls basketball game this week, the coach would have had problems with the parents. Now, standing over a 5’5 girl and pointing at her and screaming in her face is sadly just part of the game.

    If there is a lack of concern for winning, (1) it’s not new as my first bosses in college basketball in 2001 and 2002 complained about the same thing; and (2) it’s because so many of these players don’t even like basketball anymore because they’ve played it for so long and been yelled at so much and had so much pressure to get the scholarship.

    Those are the two issues that these coaches miss: (1) It’s the early specialization and year-round play, which the college coaches tacitly encourage, not the number of games in a weekend; and (2) it’s the fact that for most high school players and younger, the goal is the college scholarship. College coaches are coaching players who have accomplished their goal already. They did. They won. They got the scholarship. So, yeah, they may not care as much because their goal has been accomplished, not because they eat pizza after games or got a trophy as a child. For many players, and especially the parents, the goal is to get the scholarship more than it is to play college sports.

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