Every young player wants to be the best player on their team, be a division one basketball player, and someday play in the NBA. Players always want t be like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, etc. Everyone wants to be great, but sometimes don’t understand what it truly means to be the best.
For players like Jordan and Kobe it wasn’t good enough to just be a starter, a division one prospect, or an NBA player they wanted to be better than that and carry their legacy for decades. They continually pushed themselves to the limit to be the best basketball player at every level never being satisfied with just being good at one time, but all of the time. The true definition of being great is to stay dominant and change your game when it needs to change to stay relevant.
Too many players at every level are flash in the pan type of players. They are dominant at one point of their lives, but never find a way to continue to stay relevant past a year maybe two. Some of it has to do with players leveling off and reality setting in. A high percentage though have all of the tools to continue to be at a high level but lose the desire to work and get better because of the feeling of satisfaction for the moment.
The young people in our game need to understand that just because they are being singled out for their talent now doesn’t guarantee them success in the future. All it does is guarantee that people who they are today.
Recently I had a conversation with a very good friend of mine Dave Telep from ESPN about the changes of the game. The biggest change of the game in my opinion is how technology gives us sneak peaks of players. It is a good thing, but also a curse. Players are over hyped and over exposed by scouts, media, bloggers, etc because of this technology. Back 20 years ago you would read about a player in Hoop Scoop, Blue Ribbon Magazine, Street & Smiths, and maybe catch a glimpse of them on Scholastic Sports America or the McDonalds game.
When you eventually got to see them in person it was an exciting time because all you did is hear or read about these players and to actually have the chance to see them live was a privilege. Now there are thousands of bloggers, scouts, and media people that post things online giving you access to players from all over the world at the age of 10 until they get to college, or should I say IF they get to college.
Technology in no way is bad for the game, I use it every hour on the hour and have access to so much information to make my job and life easier. The problem rises where players have more access in reading or watching themselves so much that it is a false sense of accomplishment. They feel as though they’ve “Arrived” because they were featured on a scouts column or their highlight video on Youtube had 100,000 views on it.
I never want to give players false hope. I never say to a young player if you practice everyday you can become the next Michael Jordan. Just because I worked for and study Kobe Bryant more than anyone I never tell players that they can transform into Kobe. What I do tell them is that both of those players continued to stay relevant in the game for 20+ years. Most f the players that we work with will never be relevant in the game past 4-8 years and that is perfectly fine. What this tells us is you can’t just be happy with yourself in the present because there will be others that will be trying to knock you off. Also what you impact your game with today could be taken away tomorrow.
We see a lot players at a young age that are bigger than everyone else. That 6’5 wide bodied power forward that destroys players at the freshman level. You read about them online and the classic line is that they will grow to 6’11 and dominate people because they have a size 14 shoe as a freshman. Fast forward 3 years later and that 6’5 beast is still 6’5 and plays the exact same way. Players that he used to dominate as a freshman grew and now instead of being scored on are now blocking his shot. Instead of the player or people around him expanding his game it just stayed the same and went from dominating to mediocre.
I’ve been in this game 20 years at basically every level. I’ve had the privilege of working with the absolute best all the way down to the absolute below average. My message stays the same and that is to prepare to expand or suffer the consequences. Too many young people rest on their success at a young age and never try to explore getting better.
In basketball you can look at Michael Jordan and how his game changed. He came into the league as an explosive scorer but limited success as far as winning championships. Continued to be the league’s most potent scorer, but also distributed to his teammates making them an unstoppable force leading them to 6 Championships. Later in his career as his athletic ability started to plateau and level off Jordan began to add a post up game to his arsenal. Kobe’s game has gone through changes as well starting as a young explosive scorer. His game transformed to a combination of explosiveness and footwork. Later in his career his post game is dominant as well as his passing ability. Both of these players would stay relevant regardless of the changes in their abilities, but they both understood that by never being happy with the present that they would be prepared for the future.
For a high school player that has a chance to play in college at any level the lesson would be how are you going to stay relevant in college. It is important to identify the challenges that you will face physically, talent level, position skill, and responsibility. The important thing is to keep them focused on the task at hand and that it wont be a cake walk. Make small goals that they can be attained and continue to grow.
College recruits make the big mistake of thinking because recruiters promise that they will be part of the school’s future that they wont recruit over them if there is a better player or they struggle. They need to continue to work and understand how big the basketball world is. There are so many players from so many different places that there will always be someone better. Continue to stay hungry on achieving goals and aspirations.
The last issue to deal with is how will your player stay relevant past their playing days. How can they take the lessons learned from basketball and use them in their everyday life. Hard work, focus, accountability, and dedication are all things that should be taken into their lives. For most there will be 50-70 years to be lived once their playing careers are over how will they deal with those years?
The problem that we are facing is that so many of our young players are banking on dreams of playing in the NBA and not thinking past that. For 99% of the players out there they will never make 1 nickel playing basketball. It is our job as coaches,teachers, and mentors is to teach our players how to stay relevant in basketball as well as life. For most that ball will stop bouncing and people will forget about their accolades off of the court. They can enjoy the moment, but not live in it.
Too many of our young people never think ahead. Never understand that the world is a big place filled with billions of people with the same hopes and dreams that they have. As a coach it is important for your players to understand that being good tody is ordinary, but being relevant is extraordinary.