I used to hate reading. When I was in middle school and high school and it was excruciating to try to get me to read. It hurt my eyes (I’m far sighted), it was boring (uninterested in who killed the mockingbird), and it took time away from things I liked to do (basketball, and ummm basketball). Now that I am older and wiser, I think it’s really important to read. As a matter of fact, some of the best information on this site is written. My hope is that you will take advantage of it because it will take you from being good, to being great.
Stephen Covey, one of the most popular writers and speakers on the topic of leadership and living a better life, has a book that I’m currently reading: The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness. His most popular book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is a must-read at some point in life (sooner rather than later). After I got home with the book it ended up on the coffee table, probably where most of your books end up too, usually better used as a coaster than reading material. One thing that caught my eye my the “effectiveness to greatness,” tag underneath the title.
It got me thinking: what takes people from being good at something, to being great? How does someone who’s effective, become great? There are lots of answers to this question, and Covey talks about the solution being the ability for someone to “find their voice.”
Covey describes your “voice” is “unique personal significance–significance that is revealed as we face our greatest challenges which makes us equal to them (1).” While you’re probably in your teens I don’t expect you to go out and “find yourself” yet, I do think that the idea of finding your voice is very applicable to a young basketball player. How do you, as a young basketball player, find your “basketball voice?” What is it, that allows you to channel your uniqueness into a greater good for both yourself and your team?
I want you to spend a few minutes sitting down in a quiet room and think about why you play the game of basketball. What enjoyment is that you get from the game. YOU, not anyone else; not mom, dad, or your girl or boyfriend, but you specifically. People become attracted to the game of basketball for a feeling and joy that it brings to them. What is that joy for you?
Even if you don’t have a quick answer, I want you to think about it for 5 or 10 minutes and scribble down some thoughts if it helps you. Often times writing things out will spark some real thoughts on why you’re playing and why you’re visiting this site. Obviously you’re serious about the game of basketball, but what is it about the game that keeps you playing? You shouldn’t be looking for the obvious answer like, “to get more girls” or “because people will respect me.” Take your time and dig a little deeper. Some common answers might be, “it gives me a feeling of self worth”; “I enjoy competing”; “I enjoy working toward a common goal/teamwork.” There are no wrong answers here, just reason(s) why you’re playing.
Learning to integrate your “uniqueness” into the team concept will allow you excel at any level. Do you think that Dennis Rodman was in the NBA because he could shoot? On the opposite end of the spectrum, do you think Steve Kerr was in the NBA because of his ball handling skills? Every team has a place for a variety of players from the dominant scorer to the hardest working guy who can set solid screens and dive for loose balls. It’s important to realize who you are as a basketball player and who you want to be.
If you’re one of the few guys or girls who is willing to sacrifice their body by diving on the floor to save a ball from going out of bounds, or willing to take a charge from a Lebron-like athlete screaming down the court, you will earn a spot on any team in the world. If you’re a great post player but struggle on the perimeter, put most of your effort into dominating the post; Tim Duncan was never known for his perimeter game. Whatever it is that drives you and you’re best at, do it and do it better than anyone else!
But Don’t Forget…
Sometimes when I tell people to focus on what they’re best at and use that as their focal point, they seem to forget the other pieces to the puzzle. Just because you’re a great rebounder, doesn’t mean that you don’t need to get better at dribbling. It simply means that you should focus the structure of your game around it.
During the off-season and during skill work your focus should be on bringing up weak areas of your game. There is a certain level of growth that comes as a player once you can do all areas of the game effectively. You don’t need to be the best ball handler if you’re 6’9”, but that doesn’t mean you won’t ever dribble the thing either. If you’re a point guard you can benefit on working on post moves a small amount of the time so that if nothing else, you have an idea of what your big man faces when you’re trying to feed him the ball and give him good court position. Don’t spend the majority of your time there, but put some effort in because it will help elevate your game to the next level.
If I were to ask you what the one piece of Rajon Rondo’s game is that is holding him back from being considered the “best” point guard in the NBA what would it be? Shooting. If Rondo could should like Ray Allen, even though he wouldn’t have to use it as much as Allen, wouldn’t it take his game to the next level? Imagine trying to defend Rondo if he was a great shooter? How much quicker would his first step be? How much easier would it be for him to get in the lane? A lot.
If your goal is to transform yourself from an effective player into a great one you must be willing to elevate your game. Work extra hard during the off-season on whatever your weaknesses are and come back ready for next season better than before.
Stay tuned for Part II where I talk about specific skills and drills to improve your game….