"You're not shooting enough!"
"The coach doesn't know what he's doing!"
"Your teammates are selfish."
"Why don't you get more playing time?!"
There are so many forces outside of the team that weigh on the shoulders of young people. Parents, friends, family members, and AAU coaches are constantly voicing their opinions to players and that can be an added pressure outside of the normal on court ones. How do we stop these outside forces?
The short answer is you can't. That is the reality of the situation. There will always be someone there to question why you aren't a better coach, player, father, husband, etc. What we can do is teach players how to deal with outside influences. The truth of the matter is that the only opinions that should be taken into consideration are those of the coaching staff and the other players on the team.
Keep the circle tight and teach the players that, while they may love you and have your best interest at heart, they are not at practice nor do they fully comprehend your role on the team. Make them feel value in their role and allow them an escape from those outside influences. If a player feels added pressure, it is our job to alleviate this by reaffirming how important they are to the team. No team member is invaluable.
This is my 17th season coaching High School basketball and I have had the privilege to coach in three separate states and several different schools. In addition, I have worked with some very good AAU basketball programs. The major change I have seen in the last 5-6 years is that players are becoming numb to losing.
The problem that I see is that these kids play in meaningless tournaments throughout the offseason with their AAU team where the main goal is exposure. There are no standings to worry about, no conference or district titles to strive for, and definitely no end championship that they have to qualify for (except for the top tier shoe company circuits). They go from event to event where they play 3-6 games regardless if they win or not. Winners are given medals on a ribbon that get lost or put in a junk drawer in their room. What's even better is I see AAU teams forfeit tournament games and don't even compete for the championship. This is now seeping into high school basketball where when kids lose a game or start to lose a game it doesn't sting as much as it once did.
The individual performance is now the lead question every kid gets. Parents, family, and classmates are less concerned with a team win and more invested in the player's point total. Social media is now filled with individual highlights and player stats. Gone are the days of papers posting high school box scores from around the area/state. Kids are worried about getting their shot blocked or ankles broken by an opponent because that will be seen by their friends on Twitter the next day.
Winning isn't everything with coaching or playing the game of basketball but we should be pushing our players to compete to win. Losing should sting, it should hurt, it should drive us to be better. We should care that we didn't perform to our best or that someone was better than us. That is how we improve.