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22 Tips to Coach Today’s Players

Players today are different from they were when I was growing up… and I’m not even that old. I know every generation says that… but it’s true.

One of the biggest changes to our society as a whole has been technology… more specifically the internet… and even more specifically… mobile smartphones and social media.

What does that have to do with basketball?

Everything.Rizzo hug

Basketball has always been and will always be an interpersonal activity that requires human connection and communication.

Coaching is all about building quality relationships. As they say, ‘it ain’t about the X’s and O’s… it’s about the Jimmy’s and Joe’s.’

But because of things like social media and the ‘everyone gets a trophy’ mentality, the Jimmy’s and Joe’s of 2015 are not the same as they were in 1995.

And even though we can’t stop the waves… we can all learn to surf.

Here are 22 tips for coaching today’s players…

  1. Find out how to truly connect with your players. Find out what makes them tick, what motivates them and what is the best way to coach them (in front of their peers and behind closed doors).
  1. Embrace social media and technology… it’s not going anywhere. It’s important to your players, so it needs to be important to you.
  1. Learn to speak their language (I am not referring to profanity). The top 2 ways players communicate today is through textcoach phone message and social media (particularly Instagram and Twitter). Learn to use those platforms.
  1. Understand this: consistency breeds excellence – excellence breeds trust – trust breeds loyalty – loyalty builds a strong program. Be consistent with everything you do. Players won’t respect you if you don’t.
  1. Encourage this 3-step mistake policy with your players – Admit it. Fix it. Don’t repeat it! The first time it is a mistake. The second time it is a decision.
  1. Coach attitude and effort before X’s and O’s. Without proper attitude and effort the X’s and O’s don’t matter.
  1. Clearly articulate your core values, principles and each player’s role. These are non-negotiable. They make up your program’s culture.


  1. Players want to know the why behind everything. So tell them! Explain why you do what you do, why you believe what you believe, and why you expect ABC from them. The higher the perceived relevance, the higher the buy-in. And at the end of the day, a coach’s #1 job is to get buy-in from every member of the program.
  1. Social media has created an abundance of superficial ‘friends’ – make sure your players know you truly care about them (on and off the court). That you have their back.
  1. Don’t try to be ‘friends’ with your players. If you are too close to them personally you can’t hold them accountable. You should be a role model, a teacher and a mentor… but not a buddy.
  1. Players all learn differently. Make sure you can effectively teach each type of learner (audio, visual, etc).
  1. Players want to show their individuality (shoes, haircuts and especially with pre-game starting line-up announcement antics and routines). Don’t fight it. Have some leniency within your program rules. Respectfully, today’s idols and role models (LeBron, Melo, etc.) are a lot different from MJ and Bird.
  1. Create a climate and culture that values people over productivity. Your players must know you care about them as a human being first and a player second.
  1. If you want to know if you are a good coach…ask your worst player.
  1. You’re either coaching it or you are allowing it to happen. You either accept it or correct it.
  1. Replace ‘but’ with ‘now’ when instructing a player. For example, “I like your release, now try to get your elbow over your knee.” This minor change will make a huge impact.
  1. Focus on what your players can be… not what they are.Champions
  1. Science shows that most people have a pretty firm definition of what is right and wrong by age 13. Hold them accountable. Ignorance is not an excuse. However, learn to choose your battles. Kids will be kids. If a players posts something stupid on social media… don’t condemn them for life. Use it to teach a life lesson. Hold them accountable, but use it to teach.
  1. Players actually want It shows them that you care and are invested in their success.
  1. Most of the players today have grown up in the ‘trophy generation’ – which has created an immense sense of entitlement. Players need to learn another ‘E’ word… earn. Create a system where players have to earn
  1. Players today want to play immediately. They don’t understand the concept of ‘right of passage.’ Freshman want to play varsity. Young players want to play serious minutes. Learn to channel this desire but keep them focused on the process and the long-term.
  1. One of the biggest changes between the players of 1995 and 2015 is with the parents. Parents are much more involved and much more vocal (especially on social media). Parents can be a tremendous support system… or they can be a total thorn. Here are my guidelines for basketball parents.


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about rick torbett

Rick Torbett has taught thousands of coaches to win more games through his innovative approach to the game. He has created powerful training for coaches at any level so they can coach their best and win more games.

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Read & React 5-Player Coordination Drills

Enter your email address to get an inside look at teaching the Read & React Offense with the drills in this free video.