Motivation…Or Lack There Of - By Todd Wolfson

Play Hard! Run! Dive on the floor! Hustle! Take a charge!

Show up at 6:00am, practice, lifting, training, study hall, team meal, film, practice, rehab, sleep, repeat.

Fall ball, spring league, summer games, AAU, trainer work, dribbling coach, shooting coach, strength and conditioning.

Are we doing too much? Are our players tired?

In 2016, I listened to a total of eight coaches speak at coaches conferences. Excited high school coaches sat in awe as they listen to the men and women they idolize as they are blessed enough to coach at the division one level. Hanging on every word and transcribing the numerous nuggets of information, thinking these notes were the key to success that they could take home and implement to win state championships. At the end of each coaches speech came the words, “Any questions?”. Hundreds of hungry hands arose dying for information from these famous men and women in which they idolized. After the fourth or fifth speaker I started to notice a trend in the questions asked by the audience.

“How do I get my team to play harder?”

“I feel like there are times where I want it more than my team, do you get that?”

“What tools do you use to motivate your team?”

Wait a second. Why are there so many coaches here asking about motivation? Is there an epidemic around the sport of basketball where players aren't playing hard? As coaches we get up every day, excited, hungry and eager to teach and compete. Why cant our players? What's going on with our sport?

I have heard all the excuses...

This generation is different, they don’t have any work ethic.

You cant be tough on them anymore, they will transfer.

I shouldn't have to ask my team to play hard.

I feel the answer to this problem is YOU! (The coach)

The team needs to believe in YOU. If your players don’t believe in you, they wont play hard. Your players will not be motivated and wont make the extra effort for a coach who they don’t love and respect. Whether that’s right or wrong, that’s the way it is. It’s the same in business, the more respected the boss, the more the workers will go out of their way to not let the boss down. Same goes in basketball, if your players respect you and believe in you as a coach, they will make the hustle plays and be more motivated when they believe in the head coach.

Everyone dreads being around people that you do not like and respect. Toxic relationships make any situation unenjoyable. I remember as a player I couldn't stand my head coach. I would show up a minute before practice, wouldn't stay late and didn't put in the extra effort because any extra minute I would have to be around my coach was a minute too long. The players didn't respect him, we didn't trust him and being in the same gym as him wasn't fun. Why give extra effort for a man we didn't respect?

Your players have to love you, they have to respect you and they have to trust you. Your players have to feel that you care about their well being more than just if they can score or rebound. Your players need to know you care about their basketball life, as well as their personal life. Your players need to believe that you will do whatever it takes to get them to the next level.

Sitting at coaching clinics writing down word for word the X’s and O’s that these college coaches were giving isn't the solution to motivating your team. Running the right plays or having the best defensive schemes isn't going to get your team to play harder and become more motivated. YOU (the coach) are the biggest factor in your teams motivation. They will play hard for you if they believe in you and respect you. Get to know your players, shoe them a little love and loosen up off the court, you may find a more motivated team next season.

Coach Todd Wolfson is head Varsity Basketball Coach at St. Francis High School (my alma mater!) in La Canada, California.  Prior to SF Todd was the head basketball coach at Chaminade High School where he led the Eagles to the 2014 California State Championship and was named CIF coach of the year for the second time in six years.