I’m not exactly why these comments are making the rounds now considering the logo behind Geno Auriemma clearly indicates they were spoken at the 2016 Women’s Final Four, but making the rounds they are. And their (lack of) timeliness doesn’t make them any less true.
“Recruiting enthusiastic kids is harder than it’s ever been because every kid watches TV, and they watch the NBA or they watch Major League Baseball or they watch the NFL, whatever sport they watch, the WNBA, it doesn’t matter, and what they see is people being really cool. So they think that’s how they’re going to act. They haven’t even figured out which foot to use as a pivot foot and they’re going to act like they’re really good players,” Auriemma said.
“You see it all the time. You see it at every AAU tournament, you see it at every high school game, so recruiting kids that are really upbeat, loving life, love the game, and have this tremendous appreciation for when their teammates do something well, that’s hard. That’s hard. That’s really hard.
“So on our team, we put a huge premium on body language,” he continued. “And if your body language is bad, you will never get in the game. Ever. I don’t care how good you are. If somebody says, ‘You just benched (Breanna Stewart) 35 minutes in the Memphis game a couple years ago.’ Yeah I did. ‘Oh, that was to motivate her for the South Carolina game the following Monday.’ No, it wasn’t. Stewie was acting like a 12-year-old, so I put her on the bench and said, ‘Sit there.’ It doesn’t matter on our team.
“Other coaches might say, ‘Well, you can do that because you’ve got three other All-Americans.’ I get that. I understand that, but I’d rather lose than watch some kids play the way they play. I’d rather lose. They’re allowed to get away with, just, whatever, and they’re always thinking about themselves. Me, me, me, me, me. ‘I didn’t score, so why should I be happy? I’m not getting enough minutes, so why should I be happy?’ That’s the world that we live in today, unfortunately. Kids check the scoreboard sometimes because they’re going to get yelled at by their parents if they don’t score enough points.”
Watch his full comments below.
Great video of Coach Geno Auriemma talking about: 🔸Character 🔸Recruiting 🔸Body Language pic.twitter.com/N43cEOptWY
— Donach O’Donnell (@DonachODonnell) March 20, 2017
In a way, coaching a team full of All-Americans makes Auriemma’s job more difficult, at least in this respect. When every player you recruit is the best in the nation at their position, when every team they’ve played on since age five has featured them, and when every single person who knows these players watches them sign with UConn, is it any wonder why they may be disappointed when they’re asked to set screens, take charges and grab rebounds so their teammates can score?
And Auriemma touches on a too-often-ignored factor in this epidemic. A recent study stated that nearly 40 percent of youth sports participants don’t want their parents at games, largely out of fear of disappointment. So when a generation of athletes raised on AAU competition where the final score matters less than the box score that rides home in car where, as Auriemma said, a tongue lashing waits if they don’t score enough, is it any wonder why they may be more concerned with their own numbers than their team’s success?