Competitiveness is one of the areas that many youth basketball players (and their coaches) struggle with on a daily basis. Do players fight for every loose ball or rebound? Are they willing to get after it on defense and take pride in shutting down their man? Do players want to win the one on one battles that determine the outcome of so many games? Too many coaches I talk to say the answer is no. They believe players today just aren’t as competitive as players in the past. I would tend to agree as I’ve observed this on both teams that I have coached and in my work with players as a skills trainer. How do we develop that determination to win? What can be done to help improve the competitiveness of today’s young players? I have a couple of suggestions that can help coaches improve the competitiveness of their players.
Make sure that your players compete every single day in practice by keeping score. If there is a way to make a “drill” into a “game” try to do it. Don’t just have your players shoot layups, put them on two teams and see which team can make more layups in a minute. Don’t just do a shooting drill, set a goal so the team has to make a certain number of shots in a certain amount of time. Play short squad games like 1 on 1, 2 on 2, 3 on 3, etc. but make sure you are keeping score. In my experience, I have found that competitive kids always know the score. My youngest daughterplayed smurf soccer where no official score is kept, but every time a goal was scored she told her coach or her teammates what the score was. She competed hard for the ball during the game and wanted to win. Some kids have that naturally, others don’t. By keeping score during practice coaches can help all kids become more competitive in the moment. Coaching still requires teaching a skill first before you can get competitive, but once the skill has been taught your creativity as a coach can create competitive drills/games that will develop competitiveness in your players. If your players are never trying to “win” in practice, how will they learn what it takes to win a real game?
The second way to increase the competitiveness of your players is to put your players through drills or “games” that require contact and physical play. By creating games that require players to make physical contact (think rebounding or a drill where the offense can’t dribble allowing the defense to get right up on their man) coaches can put players in position where they have to play physical to be successful. Physical play tends to bring out the competitive spirit in most players. If you’re getting bumped and pushed around you’ll tend to play harder while bumping and pushing back. Remember that playing “physical” is not shoving other players in the back, tripping them, or taking cheap shots. It just means putting players in situations where physical contact is created and required for success in the drill/game. Doing this helps players become more comfortable with the contact that occurs during a real game.
In each and every practice, find ways to get your players to compete with each other and play physical. It will undoubtedly translate to success in games.
In this article Bob Walsh shares 21 ways that players can demonstrate that they are fully invested. I love this and plan on using it with my kids’ AAU Teams this spring. A great read for players, coaches, and parents.
What does it really mean to be fully invested?
Fully invested players are selfless. They think about the team first…
“Discipline and diligence are up there on the list, but one of the most important qualities of many really successful people is humility. If you have a degree of humility about you, you have the ability to take advice, to be coachable, teachable. A humble person never stops learning.” – Todd Blackledge
Beyond the quote: The ability to be humble allows you the strength to grow and develop into a class with so few. Many people self-claim to be different but it’s those who do things without saying a word that get my nod. There’s nothing wrong with being a self-promoter but it’s the words or actions you chose and how you display them that can make all the difference. Those who have the ability to handle humility get attention two ways- love and support by many…..or the jealous reaction of those who can only wish.
Youth basketball today often recognizes the self-promoting organizations, teams, coaches, players, and parents. The win at all costs mentality encourages everyone to be more brash and tell the world how great they are. Local and national “scouts” are ranking players in elementary school! Have these “scouts” seen every 5th grader in the country to know who is the best? Organizations and coaches boast about their rankings and tournament victories, not about how they are developing kids into better people as well as better players.
No matter how successful you are it pays to stay humble. When you think you have made it as a player, coach or parent, chances are someone else is about to pass you up. When you stay humble, you are always striving to be better because you know there is no moment of arrival. You are constantly working to learn more and be better than you are today.
It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts. – John Wooden
Advice for staying humble.
Players – Even the best players in the NBA have coaches and personal trainers that help them learn and grow as players. Great players will listen to anyone that can help them get better. Don’t tell me how good you are, show me with your play and your coachability.
Coaches – Always work at your craft and learn from other coaches. Don’t act like you invented the game and your strategies are the only ones that work. When you win, give players the credit. When you lose, take the responsibility.
Parents – Don’t tell everyone how great your kid is. No one wants to hear it, even if it’s true. Be proud of your young player regardless of the outcomes on the court. Search out coaches and organizations that are interested in developing kids into good player AND good people. Just because your kid is on the 2nd ranked team in your state doesn’t mean they are learning, getting better or having fun. Be proud, be supportive, and be humble.
Don’t go into a game believing you are better than your opponent, you must show them first.
Chris Fore shares a great message to parents in this article. As long as you are fine with what happens, your child will be fine with it. Here are some points Chris makes in the article.
If you’re teaching your kids all along the way that the TEAM > i, then when he doesn’t start, it won’t be a big deal.
If you’re teaching your kid to shake the coach’s hand, and say thank you after every single practice and game, he will have a healthy respect for his coach; it won’t matter when he doesn’t start.
If you teach your kid that every single person has a role to play on a team, starting at a young age, then it won’t be a big deal when he doesn’t start.
If you teach your kid to “just play hard and have fun,” then it won’t be a big deal when he doesn’t start.
If you use teachable moments while watching the NFL to teach your child that you don’t always get what you want, it won’t be a big deal when he doesn’t start.
Why is body language important? How can it impact your success as a player? Why do coaches care about it? This article and the accompanying video of UConn Women’s Coach Geno Auriemma clearly explain the importance of body language and why players should be mindful of the messages their body language is sending.