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5 Cs Leaders Need to Improve in Every Player’s Development

Credit: FSU Athletics

Credit: FSU Athletics

I believe all successful leaders spend much time evaluating what their team is lacking. Then once deficiencies are identified, they begin to work non-stop to strengthen those weaknesses to limit the vulnerability of that group.  It is very easy as a coach to see skill or physical deficiencies. The really challenge is found, first, in sorting out from around all the facades young people try to mask about who they are and what they are about to then identify the true personality issues, and second, to have the energy and the courage to instill habit breaking, then habit forming exercises, consequences and consistent learning opportunities that will create the mindset growth to really see change in the success thinking of those you lead.

In today’s generation of young people where the advent and rapidly growing interactive technological forms has become their norm, I see 5 critical areas of personal and psychological growth and development that we as their older generation leaders must help them discover and grow within their beings. Young people’s mind space and ear space are so much more cluttered they find little time to dream, think and make great attitude adjustments to reach the potential within themselves.  The 5 critical personal skill characteristics I see becoming less and less developed in our youth these days are:

1.       Communication.
2.       Competitiveness.
3.       Creative Thinking.
4.       Conflict Resolution.
5.       Confidence.


Playwright and political activist, George Bernard Shaw said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” This quote is even a greater truth today. With most young people escaping into communicating almost exclusively through the world around them by text or social media, how can we know if they truly understand the lessons trying to be communicated? Each year, it is becoming more of a necessity to create as many forms and methods to get the players on our team to talk on the court, to talk in group settings, and in general to just sit and have a one-on-one engaged personal conversation. And once they have left a meeting, they will have had a dozen different reach outs from people wanting to know what the coach wanted them for. So it becomes a challenge to see if they really received our message. It has become apparent that to succeed with the development of those we mentor, that our communicated messages have to be delivered multiple times before we begin to see the change or growth hoped for in the individual and within the group. Author, Brian Tracy shared, “Communication is a skill that you can learn. It’s like riding a bicycle or typing. If you’re willing to work at it, you can rapidly improve the quality of every part of your life.” As long as I coach, I will insist with my players the importance of genuine and developed communication as a foundation of our program.


Football great, Tom Brady was quoted, “Every quarterback can throw a ball; every running back can run; every receiver is fast; but that mental toughness that you talk about translates into competitiveness.” In today’s world most kids are never having the opportunity to learn the mental toughness to earn what they get. The neighborhood rivalries are rare. Going to the playground and waiting your turn… then having to win to stay on the court are long since passed. The video game world of just reset the game if it’s not going well is the easiest thing in the world to give into. So when the dog eat dog real world is shown to a youngster it is truly something they do not recognize or feel comfortable in its presence.  I truly believe as coaches, in today’s environment, we must first make this an educational component to our players and their families. We cannot let the situation be the teacher for them to learn by but we must teach them from day one about the realities of competition in our game. Once we have spent time communicating information, we must remain consistent in our teaching and to the foundation of how we have shared to our players how they earn what they get. The former Prime Minister of Australia and the first woman to hold this position, Julia Gillard, got this when she said to her constituents, “Our future growth relies on competitiveness and innovation, skills and productivity… and these in turn rely on the education of our people.”

Creative Thinking:

Motivational author and speaker, Stephen Covey wrote, “We are the creative force of our life, and through our own decisions rather than our conditions, if we carefully learn to do certain things, we can accomplish those goals.” Not derailing on how the development of technology has hindered the focus of younger generations, but to learn to build these great modern innovations those creators had to learn and to learn one has to find the time to think! Kids these days enjoy the wizardry of the innovation but they are not dreaming and thinking about what they can create. Even in basketball, the advent of personal trainers and skill developers has taken away that process where all the greats in basketball history pounded on their skill set with a goal and a ball by themselves and figured something’s out about their game on their own. Those greats created the game in their mind and brought it to life in their creative application. They watched other great players and spent hours trying to emulate their own version of how they wanted that part of their game to look. As coaches, we need to create situations where players have to think for themselves. To add a twist of innovation to a situation. To visualize their own greatness and to act on those positive thoughts with communication and personal competitiveness. Literary great, Paulo Coelho said it best, “Everybody has a creative potential and from the moment you can express this creative potential, you can start changing the world.”

Conflict Resolution:

American journalist, Dorothy Thompson once said, “Peace is not the absence of conflict but the presence of creative alternatives for responding to conflict – alternatives to passive or aggressive responses, alternatives to violence.”  As you can see in this thought, conflict resolution builds off the ability to have creative thought. Without learning how to coordinate and to condition one’s thoughts, peace cannot be found because you will always be looking for someone else to step in for your conflicts and fight the fight for you or the individual lets the internal pressure build up to the point where the response can only be one of violent aggression, which sadly we are seeing more and more in our news each day. As coaches, we must maintain the heart of a teacher and talk with and about conflict with our players and immediately address conflicts within the group at all levels with purpose and clarity that allow all involved to see how the situation going unresolved will remain a detriment and eventually will inhibit all progress from being positive. In groups there are going to be conflicts. Great leaders understand this and work to make conflict a positive period of growth. Novelist, William S. Burroughs, said it best, “Happiness is a byproduct of function, purpose, and conflict; those who seek happiness for itself seek victory without war.”


Musician, Fred Durst said, “To walk around with an ego is a bad thing. To have confidence in yourself is a great thing,” and is he right. When I coached in the NBA, I had the honor to work with a great old-school coach, Johnny Bach. Johnny first brought the term ‘false confidence’ to my attention. He would talk about certain players as frauds because they were not truly confident players. He pointed out how they hid themselves behind much false bravado and much fake energy. I have decided that is what Durst is talking about in his use of the term ego. It has been my experience that the truly great are egoless. This allows their confidence to be genuine and you see them act in big ways, while always appearing at peace with themselves in all situations. This is probably the hardest of all these discussed characteristics in my blog today to teach and to see the quickest results.  Hall of Fame quarterback, Roger Staubach shared, “Confidence doesn’t come out of nowhere. It’s a result of something… hours and days and weeks and years of constant work and dedication.”

We may not see the efforts in the immediate with our players, but we must continue to teach to demand excellence in the spirits of our individual team members so at the least they will eventually get that true confidence to be leaders in their homes, and in their communities later in their lives.

In closing out these thoughts, I realize these building block necessities are by far the hardest thing we have to address with those who we lead. It is hard to know if we have even made a dent in the development of even one.  But, it without a doubt the most important thing we can do in trying to continually make an attempt to inspire our players in their personal growth as people. As coaches, we have a stage that allows us to tackle this challenge. Challenge yourself to make an even bigger difference each and every day with those you lead.

- Stan Jones

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