What an exciting time for coaches – filled with hope and optimism for the season upon us. I have enjoyed spending time with college and high school coaches talking strategy, culture, and discussing the themes of my Elite Journey book series. I have not only learned a lot from my conversations, but also through observing practices, culture days, and team meetings. One topic that threads many programs is how to intentionally communicate and honor the value each team member, (whether most talented player, least talented, or student managers) brings to their program. We also discussed the merit of praise, recognition, and the waning importance of individual honors – especially the Most Valuable Player award.
I recently attended an NBA game and it did not take long for the home team’s fans to start chanting MVP MVP MVP as their star player was at the foul line, leading them to victory. Many coaches still give out a Most Valuable Player award at the end of the season. Though after many conversations with very smart coaches and much thought, I have come to believe that it is time for coaches to sunset this award. Honestly, it is either a very obvious choice or such a painstaking choice – coaches either give the award will little fanfare or create a co-MVP as to not cause resentment.
A team’s Most Valuable Player award has traditionally been designated for the most talented player, or the team’s best player. Do they really need one more acknowledgment? More importantly, are we misusing the term valuable. Value implies importance or worth. Could you imagine if someone asked a mother or father which one of their children is the most valuable?
Transformational coaches care about each player equally, yet know the star players will dominate the headlines – often taking oxygen away from others on the team. Creative coaches counter this with different ways to show they value their players. Coaches may give a public shout out in the locker room, via social media, or hand written notes of appreciation. Value should not come from production on the court – only playing time should.
Some may argue – the best players deserve the most attention and that we worry too much about being politically correct or hurting feelings. Furthermore, they may say, let the cream rise to the top – motivating others to raise their game. I understand that mentality – in fact, I am a big supporter of a meritocracy that determines playing time and promotes players for end of the year honors such as All Conference, All State, or All American. Also, awards at season ending banquets like Best Offensive Player and Best Defensive Player are more measurable and would adequately take the place of the Most Valuable Player award.
If we, as coaches, are preaching team, team, team and that each player has an important role, then we should be mindful of what we recognize, value, and award. Team and individual awards should reflect our values. In other words, we should only recognize what is important to us as coaches. If we truly value ALL our players, do we really need a Most Valuable Player award? Just food for thought as we continue to explore ways to motivate and lead!!
For more information on the Elite Journey Books for your staff or players take a look at my website or feel free to reach out at [email protected].
Check out what people are saying about the book series!!
“I love this book and so do my boys! It encompasses so many lessons that will be valuable forever.” Fran McCaffery University of Iowa Basketball Coach
“An Elite Journey II gets right to the heart of leadership. An important read for athletes and coaches.” Jon Gordon Author of Training Camp and The Carpenter
“Coach Massucci has taken a topic that everyone talks about, but few understand. This book clearly defines what leadership is all about. An Elite Journey II continues to show great examples of excellence demonstrated by the main character, CJ Harding. One can see just what it takes to go beyond one’s comfort zone, both on and off the court. This is a must read for all coaches, parents, and players.”
Coach Jeff Tungate Oakland University Women’s Basketball Coach
I stopped giving an MVP award years ago and started giving an MVT – Most Valuable Teammate. Then I stopped that and gave all of our awards based on our Core Covenants (Values) for that year. Our players and coaches all vote on the awards. So if our covenants were “Work Ethic,” “Team-First Attitude,” and “Discipline,” our awards were “Hardest Worker,” Best Teammate,” and “Most Disciplined.” We also had a “Most Improved” award because one of our goals is always to get better each day. Finally, we had an “Ultimate Ranger” (or whatever your mascot is) who was the player who best exemplified all of these. This way, every kid on the team can win an award because they are all based on elements within everyone’s control and have little to do with playing time or physical talent. They are based on the things you say your program values. These awards are mainly about living by the standards that you have set forth for being part of your program.
I say nope. I never talk to my teams about individual awards. The best I do is say a small congrats. Last December my team won a pro championship. One of my players was MVP. I don’t usually say it out loud but I care zero about ROY, COY, DOY, …