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March 7: 7 Toxic Behaviors Detrimental to Growth

This is another excellent article from Mitch Cole and the Texas A&M Men’s Basketball Newsletter.

Most would agree that running a successful program involves more than merely the X’s and O’s. Knowing the right buttons to push and how to motivate our players to play up to their potential is just as important. Sometimes this involves studying them and helping them grow. Below is a list of 7 toxic behaviors that can be detrimental to that growth:

Blame-Shifting and Excuse Making

  • Inability to take personal responsibility for failures or problems. Its always someone else’s fault!
  • “Coach just isn’t using my talents”.
  • “The coach, the Refs, or my teammates cost us the game”.
  • “If we had ____________ we wouldn’t have this problem.”


Solution: Instead of pointing the finger, we need to change our thinking into: What can I do to change the situation? How can we fix the problem? Learn to take personal responsibility for problems and control what we can control.

Constant Negativity

  • Always seeing the negative in every situation. Negative “self talk”.
  • Never giving praise where praise is due. Nothing is ever good enough. Discontent.
  • Being an “energy sucker” through your words and body language.


Solution: Train yourself to have positive thoughts about people and situations. Embrace the challenge of “turning a negative into a positive.” Acknowledge good when you see it. Identify an enthusiastic, positive person and imitate them!

Taking Everything Personally

  • Inability to handle confrontation, conflict, or criticism of any kind.
  • “Coach, teammates just don’t like me”
  • “Coach always singles me out”

Solution: Learn the mantra, “Its not all about me!” View constructive criticism and conflict as a way to eliminate mistakes and grow. If enough coaches, teachers or teammates tell you the same thing, you might want to acknowledge your fault, and CHANGE!

Victim Mentality

  • The thought that coaches, teammates, refs etc. are against me.
  • “I’ve been dealt a “bad hand”, and haven’t been given the same opportunities as others.”
  • “I get pulled out of the game for that, but when he does it, it’s ok.”

Solution: Just like #3, avoid the thinking that everyone is against you. The truth is that most successful people have had obstacles to overcome and more than likely, come from more difficult circumstances than you. If everyone really is “holding you down”, you might want to find the answer as to why everyone dislikes you so much! Once you realize they don’t, you can attack your problem!

Emotional Reactivity

  • Blow-ups, tantrums, or outbursts when things don’t go your way. Becoming easily angered or showing bad body language.
  • Inability to handle conflict, challenges or adversity in a healthy way.
  • Inability to remain cool when there are “hiccups” or unexpected obstacles.

Solution: Understanding the big picture that a certain amount of adversity is NECESSARY for growth. Understand how to  control and harness your emotions so you can think clearly in the moment. Tough times, conflict and obstacles are inevitable, just don’t let them get the best of you. No one wants to be around a “hot-head.” 

Tearing Others Down

  • Making others look bad so YOU can look good. Drawing attention to flaws in others.
  • Gossiping and finding subtle ways to lower people’s opinions of a teammate, coach or another person.
  • Allowing jealous thoughts to lead to negative and destructive behaviors within the team.

Solution: Learn to be comfortable “in your own skin” and in who you are. Spreading negativity to those around you for your own benefit is ultimately selfish and the enemy of TEAM. Maturity is found when you can put Team above Self. Another level of maturity comes when team members can actually share in the joy of a teammate’s success and accomplishments.

Constant Need for Validation

  • Viewing playing time, stats or awards, your role on the team, etc. as a measure of your worth as a person.
  • Self promotion, building yourself up, even at the expense of others.
  • Seeking the credit rather than giving credit to those around you who have helped in your success.

Solution: This will always be a problem for athletes whose only identity comes from success on the court. Players will slide into many of the above behaviors if all their energy is spent trying to “validate” their own worth to friends, parents, coaches or teammates.  This is where we as coaches need to develop the whole person, student-athletes who are taught to put team above self and are confident in their role and value to the TEAM and PROGRAM.


Each of these behaviors are toxic in the sense that they are “poison” to the idea of TEAM. Of course, if we as coaches model these same behaviors, we can’t expect our players to avoid them. Ask yourself which ones you fall into. Then, think of a healthy way to address them with your players!



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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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