What is the Most Important Team Offensive Mental Skill to teach Players?

Let’s review what we have discussed in the last three blogs:

1) What is the most important individual skill?

Answer: Creating off dribble & driving 

2) What is the most important team offensive physical skill to teach players?

Answer: Spacing

3) What is the most important individual offensive mental skill to teach players? 

Answer: Confidence 

4) What is the Most Important Team Offensive Mental Skill to teach Players? 

Answer: ….let’s find out! 

Coaches work tirelessly to master this skill with their players daily, annually and throughout their coaching lifetime. You won’t have many arguments that SELFLESSNESS is the most important mental quality to have as an offensive team. 


If ALL of your players are truly wanting to give up their own goal for what’s best for the team, then your offense will always get the BEST SHOT every possession. All five players will do whatever it takes to WIN the game. ALL THEY CARE ABOUT IS WINNING. It was Kobe’s mindset every time he played. He wanted to WIN. He learned how to channel his selfishness into a team spirit because early in Kobe’s career he wanted to do it all by himself. 

As a Coach, if you can get your players to be obedient to the role you give them that night, your offense will have no problem getting great shots and/or getting to the free throw line. 

Let’s look at selflessness more in depth:

We all are born bent, broken and in pain: it’s spiritual. I never really understood that until I had kids. I have three of them and when they were 2-4 years of age, they acted like some of the most selfish kids in the world,  “give me that, I want, MINE, LET ME HAVE IT, NO you can’t have any, where’s mine?” All these behaviors were not learned but INNATE. My wife is the most selfless person I know and she certainly didn’t teach them that. MJ and I have to constantly modify that behavior to selfless thinking and acting.

The same thing goes with your team. All players have their own brand and agenda. As a coach, you must channel that to a team ego. 

Here is a good FAMILY mantra: 

  • Forget
  • About
  • Me
  • I
  • Love
  • You 

A TEAM mantra: 

  • Together
  • Everyone
  • Achieves
  • More 

I encourage you to have your players study the selfless GREATS:

Manu Ginoboli – 6th man

Lou Williams – 6th man

Lebron – a pass first guy 

Kobe – stopped relying on his fade J on two guys and started using his teammates 

Jordan – gave up the rock in double teams 

Spurs – had team dinners, coaches were holistic, allowed players to have a voice. 


– Stat touches. Who has the most Steve Nash or Lindsay Whalen high fives or dabs? Make this a cool award or reward.

 – Stat celebrations. Who has the most phrases or words to a teammate celebrating them. But it has to be more than just saying “Nice job Kobe!”

– Have certain players lead drills, no coaches involved.

– Have players take a timeout every so often and let them draw or talk.

– Ask players for advice before you implement something in a team huddle or meeting.

– Captain & leaders have to give rides to players to practice.

– Give them a shoutout on social media.

– Have a bucket for them on the wall in the coaches office, drop a kind note in their “bucket” once a week or randomly.

– Have them interviewed together, never separate or just one player. Bring teammate(s) to the podium with you.

– If Nike or another shoe company hooks a player up with gear, always ask Nike to hook up their teammates as well

– A teammate does not end in the gym. A teammate never stops being a teammate. It continues in the locker room, dorm room, lunch, hallways, etc. Communication is continuous

Practical Solutions Specific to Coaches

Meet them where they are at. Treat them as a person more so than a player. Who they are today, not who you think they should be and then go from there. This is hard. I even struggle with this because of my “old school” habits and the era of when I grew up as a player. It’s different now, so as coaches we HAVE TO adjust and think of them before our stubborn values. 

– Get to the gym early, rebound for a player. Talk to the players about “non basketball stuff” while they are getting taped or warmed up. Carry a conversation with them that sparks humor, laughter, empathy, curiosity, or other meaningful emotions. 

– Have a meal with them, break bread with them (NO PHONES ALLOWED). Have MANDATORY team meals a few times a month. Anytime I work out a player for a long period of time, I try to eat with them before the workout or at least after the first few workouts. You can tell a lot about a person during a good meal. This helps you sniff out the selfish and selfless tendencies. This also helps you form bonds with your soldiers and bonds within themselves

– If your team, (middle school & beyond) does not do at least two community service projects together a season (My wife does one a week with her College team) you are missing out. These 100% build selflessness and servanthood with your team! 

– You HAVE to coach your best PLAYER HARD! As a coach the MOST selfish thing you can do is to NOT coach your BEST PLAYER hard. If you coach them hard, the other players automatically BUY IN. If you don’t, many players will resent you and play for their agenda.

This is one of the factors that helped Kobe become great! All of his coaches were Hall of Famers or (close to it) because they pushed him! They held him ACCOUNTABLE, this is one of the most selfless things you can do as a Coach. Why? Because it’s HARD.  It could backfire, get you fired, cause uncomfortable conversation. It’s safe and easy to sugar coat, ignore mistakes, and “coddle” your super star.

Google Dell Harris, Phil Jackson, Byron Scott. These are great coaches, men and leaders and they all taught selflessness.

– Physical touch & tone projects to the player you care about them! Anytime you can high five a player, hug a player and genuinely mean it, it turns on their “Heart light!” Greg Poppavich, according to Manu, would always smile and touch guys, it showed his sincerity. I was fortunate enough to spend time with World Champion and Olympic Coach, Cheryl Reeves. She was a master at getting her players to open up. Why? She had a warm smile, loving disposition like she cared for them as daughters, as women, and not just assets, players, or IP’s. I spent time with Ray Allen and he said Doc was like this too. Kevin Eastman told me Doc would have individual dinners and meetings with guys. They felt he cared because he gave up ALOT of his TIME. He was not just there NBA Coach in front of the media, but he was there Coach all the time. 

I spent time with Steve Kerr when he was General Manager of the Phoenix Suns. He would shake my hand, smile and genuinely wanted to know how I was doing living Phoenix in the summer. He would text me randomly and ask how Amare’ doing or that he appreciated my work with him. 

It’s the little things that people do unselfishly that make BIG DIFFERENCES in each other’s lives. 

Strive it be a selfless coach who coaches selfless players! 

Keep Getting After it!

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