Basketball Coaching: 3 Basketball Quotes to Turn Your Captain into a Leader

By Doug Campbell, Dr. Dish Basketball
From the Coach’s Clipboard Basketball Playbook
"Helping coaches coach better..."

This article was submitted by Doug Campbell of Dr. Dish Basketball, makers of the Dr. Dish Shooting Machine.

When you selected your captain, the pride in your young player's eyes made you smile. You've just set him on a lifelong journey. The weight of that "captain" title will weigh on him years after his career is done. But it will weigh on you as soon as he accepts it. To ease your burden, we offer you three of the absolute best quotes to turn your captain into a leader.

As his coach, you saw a spark that set him apart from his peers. It may have roots in his physical talents, but the reason he was selected captain is because you and your team believe he will accurately represent your program. He'll be able to react quickly under pressure and inspire better courses of action. He'll be respectful to referees that haven't earned it and he'll understand that losing – painful as it is – is a part of the process.

That's a young man you want to lead your team. Your goal is to place tools in front of him that he can use for his own personal growth. From now on, the hardwood court isn't the end of his journey, it's just the start.

These three quotes touch on the most important aspects of leadership:

One of the hardest things for new leaders to learn is the limits of leadership, the fact that people don't automatically follow you because of your title. This quote from Boston Celtics legend Larry Bird gets to the heart of how to assert leadership on a basketball court.

Larry Bird
Larry Bird

1. "Leadership is diving for a loose ball," Bird said. "It's about being able to take it as well as dish it out. That's the only way you're going to get respect from other players."

The quote describes servant leadership – not asking for more than you're prepared to give. An added bonus is Bird brings up respect, which is crucial to any cooperative success. While many leaders are thought of as vocal, leading by example can be even more impactful. Once your captain is able to sacrifice for the good of the team, he will be one heck of a leader.

The next quote is some of the most difficult advice for most young players to follow. It's about keeping a level head and not getting too high or too low. This quote comes from Hall of Fame coach John Wooden of UCLA - arguably the greatest coach of all-time:

Coach John Wooden
Coach John Wooden

2. "You can't let praise or criticism get to you," Coach Wooden said. "It's a weakness to get caught up in either one."

There are even many adults who have yet to learn that lesson. Still, it's important for your captain to understand compliments and criticism are two sides of the same distracting coin. Wooden doesn't suggest ignoring either. He simply says not to 'get caught up' emotionally. Some criticism is true – use it to improve. Some compliments are false -- look for the motives behind them. And most importantly, don't let either change your mindset as a leader.

The last quote comes from another legend, Michael Jordan's college coach, Dean Smith. Smith was a master strategist and a great molder of minds and talents. Coach Smith's quote addresses the trickiest part of leadership – when to share information and when not to share.

Coach Smith, in very few words, touches on truth, trust and sharing, which are huge issues for a basketball team. Withholding information from other players, even for the good of the team, is hard for a young person. It's why the phrase, 'It's lonely at the top' exists.

Coach Dean Smith
Coach Dean Smith

3. "I always mean what I say," Coach Smith said, "but I don't always say what I'm thinking."

It's the mark of a true leader that he or she holds something in reserve as the situation unfolds. It speaks to depth and discipline. The benefits of having your captain understand this quote is two-fold. First, he will understand your thinking and why you coach the way you do. Second, he will understand that being a great leader may require him to refrain from ALWAYS saying what is on his mind.

It can be difficult for young players to constantly carry the weight of leadership throughout the entire year. Help them along the way. Share these quotes with your captain and watch their world expand.

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