7 Ways to Make a Lasting and Positive Impact on Your Players!

By Craig Cleveland

Wooden, Krzyzewski, Knight, and Boeheim are some of the most storied names in the game of basketball, setting the bar pretty high when it comes to winning games and championships.

As a coach, we all want to have many winning and successful seasons like these famous coaches -- but does winning games become the only measure of impact and influence you have as a coach on your players, your school, or your community?

This is a question that I had to ask myself as I began my coaching career some seventeen years ago and truthfully, have had to ask a few more times along the way. Let's just keep it real shall we? We all want to win! We love the feeling of victory and want it more than the sting of defeat. Personally, I hate to lose whether it's playing basketball, coaching basketball or just playing Uno with my nephews.

Winning is what really matters, right?

Well, the answer to that particular question will vary depending upon who you ask. But, over the years I've come to firmly believe two things...

  • First, it's important to teach my players how to display character in winning and losing because they are both a part of the game.

  • Second, making a positive, long lasting impact on the players that come through my program is more important than double digit wins in a season or a playoff run to the state tournament. In my opinion, the legacy I leave behind as a coach should be measured more by the way my former players positively impact their own families and the world around them.

Coaching That Impacts the Next Generation

Are you currently a coach or want to become a coach who makes a lasting, positive impact on your players?

If so, here are 7 things I′ve learned along the way that have helped me tremendously and I would love to share them with you.

  1. Practice what you preach – One of the greatest ways to lose the respect of your players and others around you is to be a hypocrite. Players need to see and know that you live by the standards you are trying to teach them.

  2. Admit mistakes and seek restitution – No one is perfect and we all make mistakes. As a coach you have to be willing to admit when you′ve messed up, seek forgiveness and then change the behavior that got you in that situation in the first place. This kind of humility goes a long way with your players and leaves a lasting impression.

  3. Be available – Players have to know that they can count on you to be there when they need you. Try to make yourself available to your players as much as possible. Consider meeting before or after practice or even on the weekend if they need to talk with you about things going on in their lives. This shows that they have importance in your life beyond the realm of basketball.

  4. Listen intently – When you spend time talking to your players, make sure you listen intently and pay close attention to details. Look your players in the eye when they are talking to you so that they know you are truly paying attention to what they are saying. Listening intently also helps you read between the lines for those hidden messages or even hidden agendas that might be there.

  5. Be fair and consistent – Simply put, when it comes to discipline, team rules and how you run your team etc., don′t play favorites. Don′t let your stars get away with things that you wouldn′t let the 6th man off the bench get away with. Hold all your players accountable for their actions both on and off the court. This also goes back to practicing what you preach.

  6. Keep in touch with your former players – This should not be hard to do with all the technology and social media options we have available at our fingertips. One sure way to make a lasting impact on your players is to keep in touch with them as they turn the page into adulthood. Email, snail-mail, text messaging, Facebook or phone call, it doesn′t matter just pick one. Check in with them every now and then to see how they are doing at school or how the wife and kids are doing. Always invite them to come back and invest in the current players you have in your program. This is very important and you should make the time to do this. I promise, they will love and want to hear from you.

  7. Have a sense of humor – When you work with kids you have to have a sense of humor. In fact, I don't see how you can work with or coach kids without having one. Your players will love being around you when they know that you are someone they can laugh and kid around with while not crossing the line of disrespect. Youth players and kids in general are full of life, energy and humor so why shouldn′t you be?

As a coach, how do you want to be defined? What kind of impact do you want to have on your players? What kind of legacy do you want to leave? Will wins and losses be the determining factor or will you do what it takes to look beyond the games or championships won in order to make a positive, lasting impact on the next generation?

Please leave your comments, suggestions, and questions below...


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Ken Sartini says:
9/19/2013 at 8:05:56 AM

Helen -

Typically you are coaching either a boys team or a girls team. So, if you coached a girls team you would change "wife to husband"


Helen Young says:
9/18/2013 at 11:06:49 PM

In your coaching tips you suggest coaches keep in touch with former players and one way is to ask..."how the wife and kids are doing..." - are all your ex-players male?


Venerando Bacongol says:
8/27/2013 at 10:48:48 PM

Yap! harmonious relationship between coach and players are the best impact, regardless of what kind of sports we are . . .


Coach Ali says:
8/20/2013 at 9:13:34 AM

Thank you for this article. I've coached at the middle school level and now, retired, I help coach my sister's daughter in a youth league. There's a big difference in coaching middle school and youth leagues. I appreciate this article. Everything you mentioned is a must for either age group. Sometimes we need to be reminded of these important issues. Thank you so much for reiterating this.


Coach John Willis says:
8/17/2013 at 10:24:14 PM

Coach Cleveland,you are so correct when you stated that players don't forget when you laughed with them and also not be so manly that yopu can't share a CRY,IF CALLED FOR.I hope every coach in the world could have an appetite for loving their players as if they were his own Biological kids. Lets always keep your players in your conversations and in your Prayers.GREAT ARTICLE!!!!!!!!!!


Jimmy Esteban (jimoy) says:
8/15/2013 at 9:18:07 PM

nice... let's all practice this as a coach to our players.. keep up the good works..


jimmy says:
8/15/2013 at 9:15:28 PM

nice article.... i was encouraged by that. keep it on... live in it, love it and learn from it with action....


Coach Shelly Patterson says:
8/2/2013 at 12:12:09 PM

Thank you, Coach Cleveland.

I thank you, not just for writing this article, but for living it. As a fellow coach and a mama whose son has benefited from your life and your coaching, I am grateful for who you are, on the court and off.

You have left a legacy of integrity, caring, and coaching for my son and for me.


John VanDover says:
8/1/2013 at 11:45:25 PM

Great article. Words of wisdom for all coaches regardless of sport. And true for us as teachers as well.


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