How to Avoid the Superstar Syndrome

By John Anderson

We have heard countless stories about young athletes in among the professional and college ranks that get into trouble because they violate the law. As coaches, fans and parent we wonder how this occurs. The Superstar who had everything going for them loses it all in an off the court mistake.

What we failed to understand is this behavior often starts at an early age. Oftentimes, basketball coaches have one or two players on their teams who outclass the other players. These individuals can help or hurt a team. This article will focus on those players who can hurt your team and how you as a coach can reverse what my coach called the “Super Star Syndrome. ”

What is the Super Star Syndrome?

The Super Star Syndrome is when a youth player knows s/he is good at basketball. S/he hears how good they are from parents, coaches, fans and even the referees at times. Any player can experience this and it doesn’t start overnight. It starts the first time s/he receives better treatment than the remainder of the athletes on your team.

To illustrate, a player comes from a single parent home and their mother isn’t able to take them to practice. As a coach, you either want them or need them on your team, so you take the responsibility of picking them up every day. In a young person’s mind, this gives them a sense of entitlement.

This idea of entitlement is further fueled by our children viewing celebrities’ lifestyles on television according to Terry Carson, M. Ed a well-known parent-coach.

Coaches Unknowingly Feed the Behavior

As a coach, we can feed the Superstar Syndrome through our behavior. For example, take a situation where a thirteen-year-old point guard believes s/he is the best.

While playing in the game, s/he is imitating Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant by making behind the back passes, no look passes and out dribbling themselves to the place where they are creating more turnovers than points. The turnovers are occurring because the Superstar is playing beyond the ability of their teammates, which they are not expecting, or are not advanced enough to anticipate these types of passes.

As a coach, we have the responsibility to call a timeout, pull the player out of the game, and explain in a positive manner what our expectations are for all players. When we fail to address the issue, we contribute to the development of the Superstar Syndrome.

Teammates Can Feed the Behavior

Most often, the Superstar Syndrome occurs when parents, fans, teammates, and coaches overlook early issues, such as attitude and behavior problems. Teammates can contribute to the Superstar Syndrome as well.

To illustrate, teammates will often depend on the best player to win the game by scoring the most points. They will habitually pass the ball rather than take an open shot because they have more confidence in their teammate than themselves. As a coach, we have an obligation to ensure that every player is treated equally on the team. We must make it clear to our players that everyone on the team is a contributor.

The Parents Role

In situations where young players may feel special, the parents are the first to make sure their children don’t become over confident. Parents have to teach their young players good values, and work ethics on and off the court as well as discipline. According to Carson, young children today must be taught the value of money management, gratitude, and kindness. Coaches must support parents in their endeavor to avoid making a young player feel s/he is more valuable. In addition, we as coaches must impart to the player’s teammates not to overvalue their gifted teammate.

The Coaches Role

On the court, coaches can ensure the advanced player practices each drill and sets attendance rules. If you have an academic policy, enforce it and stand by it. Let's say, if your best player doesn’t attend practice s/he shouldn’t be allowed to play in the next game; despite the fact it may cost your team a game.

If you are committed to drive your gifted player to practice, make sure on the court s/he is treated like other players. Don’t share personal information about other players on the team with him/her as well as talk to them about how their teammates play the game. Have this discussion with your assistant coach or a friend rather than share it with a player. Such conversation can empower young athletes.

There will be times when you have a parent who knows their child is gifted on the court and they are hoping to see him/her become a professional athlete. For many, this is their only hope of getting out of an uncertain future. These types of parents put a lot of pressure on their children to succeed on the court and they may expect you to take part in promoting their dreams of NBA stardom for their child. We, as coaches, can prevent this early by telling parents what are our policies concerning players are.

Start as early as possible to support good behavior, work ethics, academics, and the other aforementioned suggestions to help combat the Superstar Syndrome. By preventing it at an early age, children will not grow up feeling entitled and think they deserve to play because without them the team wouldn’t be as good. As a coach, we have the responsibility to help our young players to become good young men and women as well as responsible citizens who grow up with morals, appreciation, and compassion.



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