Basketball on the Edge – How Can We Help Players Be More Competitive? – Vintage Edition

James Thomas 2

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.

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Basketball on the Edge – Elite: The Most Overused Word In Basketball by Ganon Baker

The Elite

Stop selling “Elite” and start selling “Development”. That’s a quote from Matt King of USA Basketball and CCC Stars. In this article Ganon Baker shares his advice on what it takes if you truly want to be ELITE in basketball or any of your endeavors.

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Basketball on the Edge – Can You Get 1% Better Every Day? – Vintage Edition

1% Better

How can my son or daughter get better and make the team next year? How can they go from being a bench player to a starter? How can they go from being a starter to being the best player on their team? These are questions I hear from parents all the time. There is no one magic bullet that will suddenly transform your young child into a superstar with multiple college scholarship offers in hand, but I have recently come across a concept that is so simple in its approach that any player can do it and get better.

What is this concept? It is called Kaizen. (If you want to read the history of where the term came from you can read about it here – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaizen) In very simple terms Kaizen means “continuous improvement”, but what does that mean from a basketball perspective and how can your child apply it to become a better basketball player?

Sustaining an effort is the most important thing for any enterprise. The way to be successful is to learn how to do things right, and then do them the same way every time. Over the length of a season, a correlation always appears between great effort and great overall numbers. It may not show from one game to the next, but in the long run superior effort is reflected in the win column. – Pat Riley

Get 1% better every day! Sometimes the road ahead of a young player can look very daunting. Other players are much more skilled, or stronger, or faster. How can a young player “jump” a level and really improve? Help your child make continuous 1% daily improvement their goal.

“When you improve a little each day, eventually big things occur. Not tomorrow, not the next day, but eventually a big gain is made. Don’t look for the big, quick improvement. Seek the small improvement one day at a time. That’s the only way it happens — and when it happens, it lasts.” —John Wooden

How do you help your young player implement the concept of Kaizen into their basketball training? Have your child ask them self this question every single day: What’s one small thing I can do today that would make me a better basketball player?

What does that look like on a daily basis? Pick a reasonable amount of time for your young player’s age. (Start small, 10 minutes a day. After a while they can add time depending on their age, motivation, and desire to improve.) Then, simply practice a particular skill for that set amount of time each day. Let’s say your child wants to be a better ball handler this coming season. If they spend 10 minutes handling the ball EVERY day for the next 10 weeks until their official practices start they will be better. They key to Kaizen is the daily continuous effort that yields small 1% gains.

The Kaizen approach to improving your game completely breaks down the big, overwhelming goals into small daily increments. Getting 1 % better encourages action. The small successes a young player experiences compound on each other and start building momentum, which leads to taking bigger and bigger actions, (like adding minutes to their daily practice time).

In addition, one of the key components of Kaizen is that there is no magic bullet that will suddenly make them a great player. Change comes through small, continuous improvement. Instead of wasting time searching for the miracle that will change everything, Kaizen helps a young player direct their attention to their daily workout and reminds them: “You already know what you need to do. Get to work and find small ways to improve along the way.” This is a great message for your young player to hear and internalize, especially when it doesn’t always come from you, the parent nagging them to practice every day. Once their daily workout is in place intrinsic motivation should take over.

Success is a few simple disciplines, practiced every day; while failure is simply a few errors in judgment, repeated every day. —Jim Rohn

Finally, Kaizen isn’t a “one and done” approach to basketball training. It’s a process of continual improvement. Your child will never “arrive” as a basketball player with Kaizen, so the temptation to sit back and relax once they’ve seen a bit of improvement is reduced.

Success isn’t owned, it’s rented. And the rent is due every day. – JJ Watt

Start getting 1% better today!

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Basketball on the Edge – Fully Invested by Bob Walsh

Fully Invested

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…

Click here to read the article by Bob Walsh

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Basketball on the Edge – The Case for Humility in Youth Basketball – Vintage Edition

Head Start Basketball Director Mike Klinzing hosts his camp in Strongsville.

“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.

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Addicted to Getting Better - On and Off the Court