When & How Do You Promote Selfishness?

By Joe Haefner

Extreme selfishness is not a quality you want with your players. Sometimes, selfishness can destroy a team full of great individuals. Most coaches experience these type of players and have developed good tactics to handle them and promote team unity.

But coaches also come across players that are too unselfish. Too unselfish to the point that it is hurting your team. Athletes usually become unselfish for many different reasons ranging from confidence to social acceptance.

So what do you do when the player is too unselfish?

Recently, while reading a PCA article about promoting selfishness for certain players, I saw this quote. The commenter named Eric talks about his Rugby experience and how he communicates to his basketball team when unselfishness becomes a problem:

“I had an epiphany one day when I played rugby. When I began playing, I always liked being in the action but didn’t necessarily want to be a “star”. Anytime I got near to scoring I’d pass the ball to a teammate. I surprised one with a pass one time when I was practically at the goal line, and we botched the play. Finally I realized that my unselfishness, if that’s what it was, was counterproductive. Doing your job includes scoring when you have an opportunity. I found out that if I got more aggressive with looking to score, it would focus more attention on me from the other team’s defense, and I could then create more opportunities for my teammates. Since then I’ve realized that when I scored, the points went to the team, not me. I’d tell your player that when she scores, she’s giving her team the points, and probably setting her teammates up for a lot more opportunities later. I’ve used this for some of my shyer basketball players, who don’t always like to shoot. The emphasis for these selfless players should be that they can take pressure off of their teammates by trying to score.”

What are your ideas to promote selfishness when you need to?