Five Secrets to Great Player Retention

Dwight Howard is an example of a player who left a more financially beneficial contract to move to another program for a smaller contract (Source: Keith Allison)
Dwight Howard is an example of a player who left a more financially beneficial contract to move to another program for less money (Source: Keith Allison)

Player Retention is a topic not often discussed in any great detail around stadiums and basketball courts below the semi-professional and professional levels. However, player retention plays a part in basketball just as much in juniors as senior and beyond. Building a program starts and succeeds largely on the players within it. For this reason, players need to be thought of as a crucial element of achieving success. The best players within any competition will always be in demand and it is by having a solid player retention ethos that these players can be kept within a program for an extended period.


At the senior levels of basketball and sport in general players have the ability if they are happy in a program to stay and play their entire career in the same place. This might mean as a senior player an individual making a contribution of many successive years to a program. This can help establish and consolidate a program culture, facilitate the development of a brand and create positive relationships throughout an entire club, association, school, college or sports organisation.


At the junior levels of sport young players and athletes who are happy are more likely to stay within a program for longer and as a result talent that is developed in a specific program, stays within that program. When the development pathway is working well within the program, this will result in players being able to go from strength to strength building upon the player’s talents and developing their weaknesses.


Some of the secrets to a successful player retention ethos are:


Facilitate open communication throughout a program. One of the most common problems given by players for leaving a program is that they felt as though they were never given an opportunity to take part in discussions and put forward their thoughts or opinion. In all team and individual situations, having an opportunity for players to provide feedback and be heard is important in displaying their value to the program and team.


Provide all players within a program with a role. All players must have role within the team. There is no way around the fact that players who feel they have a role within a team are more likely to be more satisfied and positive in their disposition to the program. The roles for players can be focused around their playing position, offensive or defensive attributes and leadership or senior playing position within the team. By defining a players role they gain responsibility and can be held accountable to the demands of this part.


Cultivate opportunities for leadership to develop within the program. Opportunities for players to display leadership characteristics and attributes empowers individuals and allows players the opportunity to invest in a program. This leads to players feeling as though they have ownership over a program and its performance. When players feel as though they have an association with a program then they will be less likely to leave a program as they can see define how they can have an effect on the programs and teams outcome.


Develop and establish a program culture. This probably one of the most over used, and least understood points to do with program development and player retention. A program culture is about developing a shared vision around what a program is and what it should be. This vision does not come exclusively from the coach or a program administrator, but the group as a collective.


The skill in being a coach is to direct the discussion in such a way that your ideas and thoughts that are proven to bring success are woven into the discussion around the desired culture. This message must be delivered without you dictating these to the players.


Once a program culture is establish then recruitment in semi-professional and professional becomes a lot easier as well, as perspective players can be gauged against these principles or themes around a program and teams culture.


Facilitate formal player performance reviews. One common aspect that tends to come up from employee retention information as well as in the sports sphere is that feedback and reviews are important and valued by players. These can be conducted on a game-by-game basis, monthly, annually or at whatever increments you see necessary without being a waste of time.


In the professional era of the sports person there will always be considerations given by players to other aspects such as financial rewards and specific industrial relations conditions. Nevertheless, these are not the only considerations and this can be seen in many professional sports around the world. Players make career decisions every day that are not as financially lucrative, but they feel are a better fit for them personally.


For team’s that purely recruit based on financial factors will find themselves buying trouble when players attitudes do not match the established culture of a program.


Player retention is a very important subject and if you are not thinking about this topic right now you are failing to plan, and therefore, planning to fail. Player retention starts with recruiting the right pieces to the puzzle initially as well, so recruitment is also part of the player retention cycle.

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Coach Riches has been working within the sport, business and education industries for many years. During this time he has built an extensive number of formal and informal qualifications. A firm believer in training and development designed to help people reach their full potential, relevant o their needs and functional to their industry environment.

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