🏆 Ego and Arrogance. Beware!

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Here's what's coming:

  • Beware of EGO and ARROGANCE on your team ⚠️

  • Jay Bilas GOLD on Teammates🥇

  • A Pat Summit classic on communication 🗣

  • Read Time ~ 4 minutes

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There is a difference between being egotistical and having an ego.

As coaches, we must be conscious of this. We cannot let a confident athlete turn into an egotistical and arrogant athlete who hurts our team.

Teaching athletes to be confident and humble will allow for much more success and be long-lasting in your program as opposed to athletes who become egocentric and arrogant, which can create toxicity in teams and programs.

I always share the following quote about confidence with our team:

"You EARN the right to be proud and confident." - Author Unknown

I want our team to be confident, not cocky. I want them to know that confidence is earned. It matches the "No Deposit - No Return" mindset in our program, a mindset that everything is earned, including Confidence. This is the #1 Culture Topic in my popular book, Culture Wins: 50 Ways to Build a Winning Culture.

But what happens when an unhealthy Ego and Arrogance enter the picture? How do you address and deal with this Ego and Arrogance on your team?

John Wooden had great insight into this. His book, Wooden: A Lifetime of Reflections On and Off the Court, is my second bible. I give this book to my graduating senior players at the end of each season because it has so many life lessons.

One of these lessons is regarding EGO and ARROGANCE.

As John Wooden said...

"Everyone has a certain amount of ego, but you must keep that ego under control. Ego is feeling confident and important, knowing you can do the job. But if you get the feeling that you are too important, that you are indispensable, or that you can do the job without real effort and hard work, without correct preparation, that’s arrogance. Arrogance is a weakness. This is why I like this poem..."

- John Wooden

Indispensable Man - by Saxon White Kessinger

The first step to dealing with an unhealthy ego or arrogance is to remind your players that we are ALL replaceable.

In dealing with young athletes, developmentally, they are ego driven. It is typical human nature for a teenager to think of themselves first. This is one reason that team sports are critically important in developing our young people; they teach you to sacrifice your self-interests for the team's betterment.

When discussing ego, remind your players that they, too, will be off at college or the next steps of their journey in a short period of time, and someone will replace them.

We are all replaceable.

This is how tradition grows and develops in a program. Athletes are humble enough to know that many have come before them and many more will come after.

They learn to make the most of their moment.

Another way we discuss ego with our team is with one of my favorite quotes for our off-season development program. It is from Pete Carril, the former longtime basketball coach at Princeton.

“Everybody makes such a big deal today about team play because there's such a scarcity of it. Greed is a reason. You have to understand the influence of greed. A player has to be selfish in the pursuit of the development of his skills, but he cannot be selfish when it comes time to blend them in with what's good for his team.” 

- Pete Carril

We always tell our guys that the off-season is about THEM. This is their chance to improve, grow, and take chances.

We tell them that if they want their role to change for next season, this is their opportunity to change it.

You will get out of basketball what you put into it.

I want them to be more "selfish" in the off-season so we can flip the switch to be all about TEAM when the season comes around.

During our season, I want them to put WE > ME, learn their role, accept their role, and thrive in their role.

This quote by Carril is one of the means we use to promote this in our culture.

Having an EGO is normal for anyone.

How you discuss EGO and use it to fit into your culture and program matters a lot.

Finally, one of the most mature things I have ever heard an athlete say came from Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo. He talked about ego and humility. Watch this video below.

What an incredibly mature mindset from a 26-year-old professional athlete.

"When you focus on the past, that's your ego. When I focus on the future, it's my pride. I try to focus on the moment, in the present & that's humility. That's being humble." - Giannis Antetokounmpo

Creating confident and humble athletes is a goal for many coaches. Managing the many egos on your team is a critical part of creating a successful culture and winning program.

Don't let Ego and Arrogance get in the way of your team's success!

Good Luck!


“Give a coach the opportunity to take fifteen minutes to say what he should in fifteen seconds — he will!”

- John Wooden

"The greatest compliment to any player is to be called a great teammate. We can't all be great players, but we can all be great teammates.”

- Jay Bilas

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