I have been a college head coach for a total of 13 years. Nine at Rhode Island College, and four at the University of Maine. Both jobs are considered “tough” jobs. State schools that don’t have a lot of money, so you don’t have a lot of bells and whistles. They are both “more with less” places – as are many of the places in college basketball that you don’t see on TV (and some that you do).
So I learned in recruiting that the profile of the school was really important. The culture of the school was really important to who we could attract and retain as basketball players. We needed to recruit guys who understood the nature of the school and felt comfortable in that environment.
I would ask myself the question – does he complain or appreciate?
Are you a guy who complains about the things that we don’t have, or who appreciates the things that we do have? There is a huge difference, and that difference can have a significant impact on my program. Kids who were going to complain about the things we didn’t have weren’t going to make it at RIC or at Maine. It just wouldn’t work, because we didn’t have a lot. The kids who appreciated what we did have – a positive culture, an elite individual development program, great relationships, high-level practices, open communication, etc. – those were the kids who were successful, and who we were successful with.
So when I go into a gym to watch a kid play, and I see him complaining about stuff – he doesn’t like a drill, he doesn’t get the ball enough, why do we have to run? – it immediately raises a red flag. Because I know that kid is also going to complain when he sees our weight room, or when he doesn’t like the free sneakers we give him.
The thing that amazes me is you see it in gyms all of the time. Kids who are complaining about stuff who can’t handle adversity the right way are literally eliminating colleges that might recruit them. Because coaches are always looking for that stuff. And so many places have “less” stuff than you would expect. So why, as a player, would you want to eliminate the number of colleges that can actually recruit you? It makes no sense to me.
The kid who complains is not a lot of fun to be around. He is an energy drain, as coaches like to say. He’s hard work, and usually not a great teammate. He’s always bringing the negative to the party. His teammates don’t want to be around him, and tend to avoid him. He’s the guy that recruits a small group of complainers to roll with him in the locker room, so he feels more comfortable. He’s a guy coaches always have to be concerned about, because he can have a negative impact on the team.
The kid who appreciates is generally a great teammate. He always finds the positive in things, and he’s constantly encouraging his teammates. He takes pride in being tough, both physically and mentally. He doesn’t need all the comforts that other players need to be successful, he’ll beat you with the bare minimum. He’s fine with what he’s got, because he sees the value in the work and the commitment needed to be successful. He’s got a ton of pride.
Which kid do you think I’d rather coach? Heck, which kid do you think I’d rather just be around?
There are two paths you can take – one where you complain about everything you don’t like, or one where you appreciate the things that make you better. I’m amazed at how many kids take that first path, probably because it’s the easy way out. If I complain about it, everyone will know about it and I have my excuse.
As coaches, we should be looking for ways to develop appreciation within our teams. It will lead to positive energy every day. The kids who are complainers, they can go find somewhere else to play.
When trying to build an elite team, there’s no room for them.