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The Entitlement Cure: Not Everyone Gets a Trophy

Updated: Jan 15, 2020

Basketball is Psychology IV


Psychologist Dr. John Townsend defines the attitude of entitlement as the belief that I am exempt from responsibility and am owed special treatment.

Entitlement is an attitudinal disease.

This disease can come in many different forms.

Entitlement is refusing to accept responsibility.

Entitlement is thinking I am above the rules.

Entitlement is thinking I am the victim.

Entitlement is thinking it’s not my problem.

Entitlement is thinking it’s not my fault.

Entitlement is thinking I should be appreciated just for showing up.

Entitlement is believing I deserve.

"Whatever the cause of the sense of entitlement, the end result is that the person believes that he or she doesn’t have to play by the rules of responsibility, ownership, and commitment.” (Dr. Townsend)

This Disease Has a Cure

Entitlement is an attitude, which means it’s a habit of thought, and you choose your thoughts. Although entitlement gets blamed on this generation, it is not a new problem. Entitlement has been around forever and we all struggle with it to some degree.

Many believe they deserve a trophy, deserve more playing time, deserve a scholarship, and deserve to take more shots in a game -- all without having to do the hard work to earn them. Parents, culture, and experiences may influence someone towards entitlement, but they don’t create it.

Entitlement is a choice.

Instead, adopt the attitude that we are responsible for our own lives, and no one owes us anything. The solution to entitlement is doing life the hard way. Dr. Townsend defines the hard way as the habit of doing what is best, rather than what is comfortable to achieve a worthwhile outcome. Dr. Townsend offers 4 solutions that all focus on doing hard things the right way to achieve a worthwhile result.

Make no mistake, there is no easy way. There is the hard way and there is the harder way. The harder way (entitlement) takes shortcuts that catch up to you in the long run.


The Four Solutions to Entitlement:

1. Understand the Power of Words

Words matter. Words reveal your thoughts. It is physically impossible to say something you haven't first thought about. Words affect our feelings, behavior, relationships, and emotions.

The first step to curing entitlement is to remove the phrase “I deserve” from your vocabulary, and replace it with “I am responsible”.

I deserve is a dangerous phrase.

“I deserve more playing time”

“I deserve to be the mvp”

“I deserve to take a day off”

“I deserve to start”

“I deserve to be more appreciated”

What did you do to deserve this? “I don't know, I just deserve it”

You have lots of needs, but you don't deserve anything in the basketball world.

The phrase “I deserve” is DISEMPOWERING.

It takes the power out of your control because it means what I want has to be given to me. There's nothing I can do to get it, I have to sit around and wait for someone else to give it to me. I have no power.

The phrase “I am responsible” is EMPOWERING.

It places the ball in your court. Responsibility puts you in charge and gives you the choice to take action.

Example: “I deserve more playing time.” Feel out that thought; now try this: “I am responsible to do what it takes to earn more playing time.” The second phrase implies “I need to get more shots up, work on post moves individually with my coaches, watch more film and know the plays, get in better shape, and talk more on defense.” You feel helpless when you think you deserve things. When you are a person of high ownership, you feel capable of anything because you have the power to make a change.

2. Do The Hard Things First

Successful people have tough mornings and easier evenings. They do the hard assignments, then the easy ones. Positive reinforcements motivate us. You eat your dinner then get to eat dessert. This eliminates the temptations of procrastinating and taking shortcuts. Make your #1 priority doing the next hard thing. Even if it's painful and boring, requires more energy, takes more time, and feels uncomfortable, success is on the other side of that. Choose discipline.

3. Keep Inconvenient Commitments

Entitlement says I'll keep this promise as long as it's convenient and a better offer doesn't come up. Be more empathetic. Feel the impact you have on other people. Be impeccable with your words. If you say you'll be on the court by 5:00, be early, even if you don't feel like it. Live by your commitments, not by your feelings.

4. Engage in Service

Many psychological studies have been done on happy people, and what truly makes people happy is helping other people. When you help someone, your brain releases hormones that make you happy and make you feel like you matter. It's hard to be thinking about what you deserve when you're busy helping people who are less fortunate. Serving others shifts your perspective. Look for opportunities to serve -- they're everywhere. Bring out the basketballs before practice, rebound for a teammate, volunteer and do community service. Experience the cure for entitlement.


Managing Millennials

Members of this up and coming generation are the product of over-parenting. From the time they are born, their parents have been telling them how special they are. While I am a firm believer that each individual is unique and has special gifts, that is not an excuse to expect everything to be handed to you.

Louisville women’s basketball head coach Jeff Walz went on a classic rant about entitlement during a post-game interview in 2014. He talked about how this “everyone gets a trophy mentality” has taught kids that it's okay to lose. Unfortunately, there is a loser in every basketball game. You have to compete every day to win. Once players understand that, the choice can be made to do hard things the right way. Once you commit to a life of responsibility, you won't have to learn the harder way -- losing due to lack of effort, which will catch up to you even after your playing days.

It’s hard to coach an entitled person. It's hard to teach them the game of basketball when you don't know if they'll buy in. In the book Not Everyone Gets a Trophy, Bruce Tulgan provides effective ways to lead and coach Millennials.

-Get them on board fast with the right message and diversify your sources

-Train and engage them from day 1 and keep them up to speed

-Give them the gift of context -- help them understand where they fit in your picture

-Teach them how to manage themselves (help them make their schedules, decide their priorities)

-Teach them how to be managed by you and your staff (regular 1-on-1 meetings, set ground rules)

Bruce Tulgan also debunks several myths about Millennials:

-Millennials are disloyal. Reality: they offer the kind of loyalty you get in a free market -- transactional loyalty. Remind them frequently what lessons they are getting out of it, about how the hard work now will benefit them later. When they understand how committed you are to them, they'll give you the same commitment.

-They won't do the grunt work. Reality: they won't do the grunt work if no one is keeping track. They are perfectly capable of working hard. They just don't want their hard work to go unnoticed. Incorporate the recording of everything into your program. This could be as simple as having players write on a board how many shots they put up after practice, how much time they spent on their ball handling, or even recording their progress in the weight room.

-They want the top job on day one. Reality: they want to hit the ground running on day one. As long as they feel like they are making progress every day toward that starting job or superstar role they want, they'll buy in.

-It's impossible to turn them into long-term players. Reality: you can turn them into long-term players, you just need to do it one day at a time.



Yes, Millennials are high maintenance players. It's a big investment, but it will be worth it. Build those relationships and grow them every single day. Don't enable entitlement. Challenge players to change their thinking.


You don’t get a trophy for showing up and doing your job. If you want more, do more. You’re not entitled to anything. You don't deserve anything, but if you put in the hard work, you can earn anything you want.


-This article is not blaming participation trophies for entitlement. Entitlement is not new, and entitlement is in all of us. The intention of this article was not to bash this generation, in fact it was written by a 21-year-old.

-You don’t need to get rid of the trophies, just the attitude that needs them. This article is not about trophies or even basketball, it’s about attitude.


Written By: Julie Fournier

Founder & CEO

Basketball is Psychology™️



Townsend, J. S. (2015). The Entitlement Cure: Finding success in doing hard things the right way. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Tulgan, B. (2016). Not everyone gets a trophy: How to manage the millennials. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

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