Basketball on the Edge – 8 Tips for Developing a Winner’s Mentality in Your Young Player

What defines a winner? How do you develop a winner’s mentality? Here are some characteristics of winners that your young player should embrace on their journey towards success in basketball and in life.

1.  Winners have confidence.

They believe that every time they step onto the basketball court they are going to win. It doesn’t matter who the opponent is, they believe in themselves and their team. When I played I always thought I was better than the guy I was up against. Maybe I was delusional at times, but I believe that helped me to win more often. When I lost, I was surprised. I did not expect a losing outcome. That kind of confidence comes from putting in the work to develop the skills necessary to win. Skill building is confidence building.

2.  Winners Do the Right Thing.

Whether someone is watching or not, winners make good choices. Help your young player to understand that they need to work hard, be honest, and treat people with respect regardless of whether you are there or not. Players that only work hard when the coach is watching them won’t get very far. Doing the right thing will serve your child well as a basketball player and as a person.

3.  Winners Believe Their Future is Bright.

Winners know their hard work will pay off down the road. They believe that they will continue to win in the future. Winners are confident that their best days are ahead of them. Young players need to know that where they are now is not where they will end up. Help them understand there is plenty of time to grow and develop. The best players in fourth grade are not always the best players in high school!

4.  Winners Make Those Around Them Better.

A winner has a way of bringing energy and enthusiasm to everything they do that is contagious and rubs off on others. Winners are great teammates that other players want to play with and coaches want on their teams. Winners lead with their actions as well as their words. Winners hold others accountable and don’t allow their team to slack off.

5.  Winners Embrace the Journey and Focus on Small Steps.

Success along the journey generates the confidence to go after those larger goals and dreams that may initially seem out of reach. You cannot win a championship in one day, but winners set smaller goals they can reach more frequently. Attaining these smaller goals helps develop the confidence to go after those big goals down the road. The human mind has evolved to derive satisfaction from accomplishing a task. That is why it is more appealing to break tasks into smaller steps than to stare hopelessly at the big picture. Winners recognize there are small steps along the way to their ultimate goal.

6.  Winners Have a Growth Mindset. 

Winners attribute their successes and failures to their own hard work and effort. They don’t blame factors that are out of their control. A loss is not the fault of the coach, the ref, or their teammates. Winners focus on what they can do better to make the result different the next time. Winners see their mistakes and losses as opportunities to grow. Winners are coachable, willing to listen, and don’t think they know it all. Winners look inside themselves for the solutions. Teach your young player to get comfortable being uncomfortable. The best learning takes place when we push ourselves outside our comfort zone and try to do a little more than we are capable of at the present moment. Winners adapt and learn.

7.  Winners See Hard Work as an Opportunity Not a Chore.

I try to help my own kids develop this characteristic by always saying, “We get to go to practice tonight.” Or “We get to work together on your school project.” Instead of “We have to go to practice tonight.” Or “We have to work on your school project.” It is a very subtle difference to be sure, but I believe it helps put them in the proper frame of mind as they approach what they are about to do. Winners see their life as a series of opportunities rather than a series of chores. That is not to say that everything they do is going to be enjoyable or fun. There will be hard work along the way and things will not always be easy, but winners stay positive and continue to embrace the challenges they are given.

8.  Winners Increase the Odds in Their Favor.

Winners surround themselves with good people, have great mentors/role models, and are self-aware. Help your young player make good choices regarding who they hang out with on and off the court. As a parent or coach, make sure you are their best role model. Help them be present in the moment and realize how the choices they make impact their future. Winners realize that luck often plays a role in their success and by building a great support system for your young player you’ll maximize their chances to succeed at whatever they do, basketball or otherwise.

These characteristics are applicable both to basketball and life in general. As parents and coaches it is our job to use youth basketball to impart life lessons to our kids. Look for teachable moments where you can help your young player develop the winner’s mentality.

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