When it comes to leadership on the basketball court, players can come in all varieties — big, small, loud, soft-spoken, and many more. All that matters is having the ability to help inspire your teammates and show them that you have a single focus: the team.
If you’re unsure about how you can show leadership during a game, here are five tips to get you started.
1) Mental Toughness
How do you react when things get difficult? The answer will provide a clue as to your current level of leadership. Good players must develop the mental toughness necessary to ignore the negatives surrounding certain game circumstances. PGC founder Dick DeVenzio called this “a noble quality of mind.” Too often players allow adverse conditions to affect their performance – a bad call, a missed shot, a turnover, a hostile crowd. The best players can block out the noise and continue to lead their teams with a steadfast mindset.
2) Don’t Take Your Opponent Lightly
This should be an obvious requirement – something that fans and analysts talk about, but players never consider. However, as the sport of basketball booms in popularity and the number of good players continues to rise, any time that you step on the court, you can lose. Don’t look ahead. Play like every game is your last. When the leader of a team doesn’t take an opponent seriously, it can rub off on teammates and create a disastrous domino effect in performance. Continue to get good shots every time down the floor, rebound aggressively, play hard defense, and dive for loose balls. In the book “STUFF Good Players Should Know,” DeVenzio talks about “habit of play” – never taking an opponent lightly, or heavily, or any other way, because you’re in the habit of playing the same way all of the time.
3) Responding To An Injury
In our first point we discussed being mentally tough. Another characteristic of leadership is being physically tough. Many baskets are given up over a season from players who suffer a minor injury and waste time processing what happened. Whether taking a spill onto the floor or getting hit in the mouth, immediately popping up and running down the court will communicate to your teammates your passion and will to win. (If you have a major injury – ligament tear, broken bone, etc. – this doesn’t apply.) One of the most common minor injuries is getting poked in the eye. While your natural instinct is to stand there holding your eye, you can condition your body to create a new habit of running down the court while your eye begins to heal. Being both mentally and physically tough is a common trademark of team leaders around the sport.
4) Taking The Blame
Have you ever watched a press conference following a game where a player threw his teammates or coaches under the bus? Did it make you shake your head in disappointment? A leader should always put the responsibility on themselves, even during a game. If there’s a turnover between two players, nothing good comes out of them blaming each other. Simply pointing to yourself and saying “my bad” makes a big difference. “I should have caught that, that’s my fault” goes a lot farther than “you should’ve thrown the pass better.” Teammates will immediately recognize that part of your personality, especially during a game when emotions are at their peak.
5) Thanking Your Teammates
We all enjoy a good pat on the back, and there’s no better person to deliver them during a game than the team leader. Anywhere you can acknowledge the good play of a teammate, do so. Assists, rebounds, blocks, steals, and screens are opportunities to show your gratitude to another player, even if they’re not the one scoring 30 points a game. Basketball is the ultimate team sport where everyone comes together, doing the little things, to contribute to the success of the group. The old adage “we win as a team and lose as a team” is absolutely true and should be the way all leaders convey their messages.
If you’re interested in reading more from Dick DeVenzio in “STUFF Good Players Should Know,” you can buy your copy here.
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This is a correspondence between PGC owner Dena Evans and a long-time PGC grad. I was so moved by Dena’s response to this player, which the player’s father shared with me, I decided to ask Dena, and this athlete, for permission to share this correspondence publicly. If you know the heart-ache and disappointment of not reaching your team or individual goals, this is a must-read.
Mental Toughness or mental strength is what you choose to focus on. Players and people that aren’t very mentally tough tend to put their focus on petty problems.
PGC Basketball provides intense, no-nonsense basketball training for players and coaches. Our basketball camps are designed to teach players of all positions to play smart basketball, be coaches on the court, and be leaders in practices, games and in everyday life.
We combine our unique PGC culture with a variety of teaching methods and learning environments to maximize the learning potential of those that attend our sessions. In addition to spending 6-7 hours on the court each day, lessons will be reinforced through classroom sessions and video analysis.
Our goal at PGC is to empower you with the tools to fulfill your basketball dreams, while also assisting you in experiencing the joy of the journey.