Thursday, April 24, 2014

Focus on What You Control

   I often run into youth players I’ve coached who have grown up and are of high school age. I usually ask them how they are doing and whether they’re still playing. If I know they are on a high school team, I’ll ask whether they’re enjoying the experience. I’m always a little disappointed when I hear a young athlete I’ve coached tell me: “I don’t get along with the coach.”

Unfortunately, these words are the usual outward sign of a boy or girl who is starting to lose ground to other players or otherwise feels frustrated with their playing situation. Blaming the coach is an easier way for many struggling players to deflect personal shortcomings or failure.

Before you throw in the towel…

If I know that a player has good skills, or sense that the player still wants to succeed despite their frustration, I tell these young athletes to refocus their energies on actions and behaviors that every coach likes—behaviors that the player controls. As discussed elsewhere in this blog, there are opportunities in most sports to succeed based in large part on a player’s desire, attention to detail, and willingness to sacrifice personal goals for those of the team.

Let your practice and play demonstrate, in no uncertain terms, why the coach must play you more. Regardless of other factors (personality, parents and politics), almost all coaches will play their best players.
Consider how you can apply the above traits to your sport. In basketball, you might first look to focus on your defense, raising your intensity level. Hustle. Hit the floor. Use practice as an opportunity to shut down the player you’re covering, preferably one with whom you are competing. Every team needs a star defender. For other parts of your game, concentrate on the little things such as making the pass to the open man, reducing mistakes and turnovers, and consistently boxing out your opponent to improve you’re rebounding. Make the coach ask himself, “How does he get so many rebounds for a player his size?” You want the coach to recognize your “intangibles”—the less obvious characteristics that make you a winner. Most team sports contain the same or similar situations and opportunities to succeed.

Coaches always appreciate players who embody these types of qualities. When faced with selecting between two players of equal physical ability, a coach will choose the one that demonstrates these characteristics. Don’t be the other person!

Copyright © 2014 Jeffrey S. Rhoads. All Rights Reserved

If you enjoyed this article, you may like my book: The Joy of Youth Sports: Creating the Best Youth Sports Experience for Your Child

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