The gym is full of hopeful young athletes. They’re playing hard, trying to impress the varsity coach just a week before tryouts officially will begin. The seniors are confident and physical, the underclassmen are a little tentative and there are lots of sidelong glances as no one was really sure where they stood. The games are sloppy though spirited. The coach doesn’t have much to say as he opts to observe. Although full of high hopes for the season, this team–like so many others–will likely lose lots of close games and underachieve this season yet again.
Most teams are very average, and most players don’t stand out. The shocking truth is that it’s not that hard to do something special. Here is a little secret I have gleaned from observing special teams and players for the past 20 years. Good things happen when you have an intentional approach. Nothing surprising will happen when a team has a happenstance approach.
Great basketball teams consist of players who have a unique chemistry. Many think of chemistry or culture as something that occurs naturally by some mysterious alignment of fate. I would suggest that those events are much more in our control than many realize.
I have traveled across the Nation and worked with hundreds of high-school basketball programs. I’ve seen the kind of chemistry that builds great teams, and I’ve seen great teams build chemistry. There are three simple things those great basketball teams and players do that most teams are missing.
1. Perfect Practice
Most athletes and basketball teams have a very lackadaisical approach to each individual repetition in practice. Champions, however, are ruthless about each cut, catch and finish. They perfect their footwork in every move. They take pride in practicing each thing perfectly, no matter how small it may seem, because to them, there are no small things. The legendary John Wooden, for example, would spend hours planning his practices. To him, they were a work of art, planned down to the most specific detail. He would even plan where the ball racks would be positioned in order to maximize each second of time.
This summer I had the chance to observe USA Basketball prepare for the Olympics in Rio. What was stunning was the level of accountability between the stars on the team. They immediately recognized that in order to achieve a special goal, they had to urge each other on to greater effort and precision. Champions hold their teammates accountable to putting forth maximum effort. A championship-level team will win everything – win the day, win the drill, win the bus ride…. They compete. They care. They have a culture of holding each other up when that level falls below the line. When an individual’s will may fail, a team’s will can overcome.
Positive touch–high fives, chest bumps, back slaps–is a staple of successful basketball teams. These teams often communicate more and share the ball and provide more help on defense on the basketball court. Why is that? Because these kinds of positive touches bond basketball players and build team chemistry. Average teams will only create this culture of touch when they are successful. But teams that want to manufacture energy and success will also manufacture positive touches when they don’t feel like it.
THINK THE GAME
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Perfect practice, accountability and touch: these things are easily understood but often difficult to CONSISTENTLY do. Become a champion for these concepts. Fight for them every day. Make them a priority. It won’t be easy at first, but it is these simple things that, when done consistently, will become an easy way to win more games.
Too many players waste time working on things that don’t happen very often in games. One thing all great players have in common is their intentional training of game-specific actions
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.
Far too often, basketball players make the game too hard with their go to move. They use multiple dribble combo move that rarely result in a successful attack. James Harden
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.