Recommended Basketball Media

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Some recommended basketball movies and documentaries:

The Pistol: The Birth of a Legend (1:30, G)
• Hoosiers (1:54, PG)
• Glory Road (1:58, PG)
The Dream Team (1:07, TV-PG)
• Finding Forrester (2:16, PG-13)
30 for 30 – Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. the New York Knicks (1:08, TV-PG)
• 30 for 30 – 40 Minutes of Hell (1:08, TV-PG)
• 30 for 30 – Survive and Advance (1:08, TV-PG)
Jump Shot – History (6:33, PG)

Some recommended basketball training videos:

Stronger Team Basketball Drills
Pistol Pete’s Homework Basketball: Dribbling
Pistol Pete’s Homework Basketball: Ball-Handling
Pistol Pete’s Homework Basketball: Passing
Pistol Pete’s Homework Basketball: Shooting

*** to be revised and updated later.

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A Few Facts About Great Leaders

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The key to building a great team in any setting is to be great leaders. Great leaders are in the making, moving from a good leader to a great leader.

Good leaders know they must prepare themselves, better themselves, make changes, and keep growing. The leader’s desire for positive change will determine the level of leadership achieved.

Greatness largely due to bravery and courage in escaping from restrictive old ideas, hindering old standards, and a mere respectable way of doing things. Here are five facts about great leaders.

1. Great leaders are always growing and reaching to improve their leadership. Take responsibility for your own failures as well as successes. If you keep learning, you will improve, and your leadership will get better. It’s ok to not be okay, but it’s not ok to stay there. Because the greatest fault is to be conscious of none.

2. Great leaders are pushing the boundary lines to move beyond what is normal or usual. Leaders are pioneers. They venture into unexplored territory and help guide others to new and often unfamiliar destinations.

The person who is afraid to risk failure seldom has to face success. We should expected team members to make mistakes, but only as long as they are mistakes of commission. A mistake of commission happens when you are doing what should be done but don’t get the results you want.

3. Great leaders are risk-takers. They reject the maintenance mentality and take risks from strength, preparing thoroughly, understanding what is at stake, and marching forward with confidence. It is never too late to be what you might have become as long as there is air in your lungs!

He who has never failed cannot be great. Failure is the true test of greatness. Great leadership is great stewardship – the cultivation of resources that God has entrusted us for His glory. The idea of Sabbath in particular gives us both theological and practical help in managing one of our primary resources: time.

It is better to make a thousand failures than to be too cowardly to ever undertake anything. For we can be certain that God will give us the strength and resources we need to live through any situation in life that he ordains. The will of God will never take us where the grace of God cannot sustain us.

4. Great leaders are resource finders and releasers. They have built a leadership structure that finds potential leaders, helps to train them, and then releases them to greater levels of work. Great leaders help others to also become leaders; they serve and assist others to help them improve, grow, and actualize their ambitions.

5. Great leaders are future-focused and dedicated to do whatever it takes to get there. They give the present work at hand their full attention and energy while maintaining a healthy perspective of something greater to work towards. Their faith capacity has increased to believe that God will provide all that is necessary as their need arises. God will always provide; but what He provides will be what is needed, not necessarily what is wanted.

A great leader’s “people capacity” is also increased so that getting along with and caring for people is at the leader’s heart. Having a heart for people and faith in God’s ability gives the great leader strong confidence to focus on the vision and devote his resources to seeing that vision through to its completion.

It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare, but it is because we do not dare that they are difficult. We should all take the challenge to move from being a good leader to a great one and expand our leadership capacity.

7 Traits of Great Team Members

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Whether in the office, at a school, on a sports team, in the warehouse, at a restaurant, on the sales floor, at home, or anywhere else you can think of, there are definite characteristics that most good team members personify.

This is certainly not an exhaustive list, or even each characteristic fully explained, but here are 7 traits that make a great team member:

1. Sense of humor.

It’s critical on any team that you be able to laugh… with each other… at life… at corny jokes… and sometimes even at yourself. We should have fun together and learn to never take work or sports too seriously. We should work hard and play hard, but never at the expense of losing sight of the bigger reasons behind such things. When we are having fun that makes any team we are on better.

2. Team spirit.

We should not have any lone rangers or solo acts on our team. It’s never a one man show. We should actually rebuke struggling and working alone! We are part of a team and no one should be carrying any burden on their own, without the help of their teammates.

Especially in the game of basketball, it is impossible to win a game by ourselves. There cannot be any W’s to add to a stat sheet without every player, every coach, or even every person involved in helping the game take place from refs to those running the clock and keeping the facility in shape, all the way to our parents. Similar to how there is no such thing as a “self-made millionaire” in that regardless of how it may appear, they had help and “luck” involved in whatever financial success they’ve achieved, as well as the millions of dollars actually coming from other people… there are no self-made athletes or solo winners in sports. This is all the more obvious in team sports; in basketball there are five players per team actively playing at any giving time, with other players to sub, and opponents. If we attempt to act as if we’ve created our own abilities, earned every achievement alone, and are solely responsible for any success, whether athletic, academic, business, financial, etc. we buy into (and then subsequently try to sell) a monumental lie. When you act as if you are your own creator in any way, it is cosmic plagiarism.

This doesn’t mean we neglect ourselves or don’t try to improve ourselves, but we shouldn’t be working to better ourselves to the detriment of those around us. We should also want to make those around us better. As corny as the old acronym sounds: T.E.A.M. means together everyone achieves more… it rings true. As many rings as Bill Russell, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, etc. have on their hands… not a single one of those rings were earned or won by their hands alone… not to the slightest degree.

3. Work ethic.

We shouldn’t be worried about constantly micro-managing everyone and everything. It is not possible to dictate how hard or how often our teammates will work. We need to simply rely on people having the sense of responsibility and inner drive needed to put in strong effort and work hard. We can only control our own efforts, and we should be pushing ourselves to always give whatever task is at hand our best. The best competition we have is against ourselves to become better.

Each of us must make the effort to contribute to the best of our ability according to our individual talents. And then we put all the individual talents together for the highest good of the group… Understanding that the good of the group comes first is fundamental to being a highly productive member of a team. We want to encourage everyone to work their hardest and passionately give every practice, every game their best, but we cannot control anyone else’s actions.

As a coach for the Dallas Thunder organization, I like leaders who are passionate about Christ and people, and are also willing to do what it takes to accomplish our vision and goals. I want to see all of us resting in the already finished work of Jesus Christ; and from that rest, work in glad assurance that our efforts are never in vain. (The Book of Hebrews; Philippians 2:16; Ephesians 2:10; 1st Corinthians 15:58)

Also, good teammates know who they are and what their role is every time they step onto the court, into the office, on the field, in the store, etc. They assume that wins and losses rest entirely on their shoulders. That’s not true, but the best teammates always think that way.

4. Healthy personal life.

We deal with a lot of messiness in other people’s lives, do we not? No team is immune to the tragic effects of the Fall on the entirety of humanity. Balance is one of the most important components in basketball and it is a very important part of life. We must always keep things in perspective so that we can maintain emotional control. It would make it very difficult to maintain the level of competitiveness required of us if we were not personally living healthy lives spiritually, emotionally, and as much as it depends on us and we can help it, physically healthy.

We should be more concerned with our character than with our reputation. Your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are. We shouldn’t feel like we cannot expose the pain and sorrow we are facing in life at any given time. We should be comfortable enough with our teammates to confess sin, admit weakness, and acknowledge our short-comings; as well as announce good news, proclaim victory over a struggle, and give praise for anything that has turned out well.

5. Open spirit.

We share burdens with one another. Our teammates don’t live on an island all by themselves. Nobody should be trying to live completely alone, ever. The more we learn to trust each other the greater this process of being a good team becomes. We are open to challenge the “system,” the sport, and each other in an attempt to make ourselves and our team better.

We never want to be such a skeptical pessimist that we spurn any new advice on technique, process, or point of perspective. We should be most interested in finding the best way, not in having our own way.

6. Loyalty.

It is imperative in our organizational structure that a team member be dedicated to the vision, organization, and senior leadership of the team.

For any relationship to be healthy, to survive, and to flourish to any degree, there must be trust, respect, and loyalty among all those within the relationship. Once an individual is a part of a partnership or group, they must consider the affect their actions will have not only on themselves, but everyone involved. The characteristic of being loyal and committed to not bailing out of things even when the going gets beyond tough, gives everyone an ironically liberating sense of comfort.

True freedom is not being unshackled to create your own truth, but is liberating submission to the Truth. Freedom is not the complete absence of any restrictions, but rather the presence of the right restrictions put in place. For example: a fish out of water. The fish is not more free when released outside of the confines of the water, but instead his ability to enjoy life is drastically hindered and he is sure to die.

“We can become great in the eyes of others, but we’ll never become successful when we compromise our character and show disloyalty toward friends or teammates. The reverse is also true: No individual or team will become great without loyalty.” – John Wooden

7. Servant’s heart.

If one cannot approach their position from a humble point of serving others and Christ then he or she will not be able to work well on our team. It’s the model of our entire ministry and must be represented first by our coaches.

Discipline and self-control are much easier for us when our hearts and affections are stirred for something greater than ourselves. How you treat creation shows how you feel about the Creator. Strong people don’t put others down… they lift them up. In the end, much more can be accomplished by teamwork when no one is concerned about who gets credit.

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.” – C.S. Lewis

7 Requirements to Being a Leader Today

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To be a leader requires more than just knowledge… especially these days. Knowledge alone is not enough to get desired results. You must also have the more elusive ability to teach and to motivate. A teacher who is attempting to teach without inspiring the pupil with a desire to learn is hammering cold iron. This defines a leader; if you can’t teach and you can’t motivate, you can’t lead.

“Leadership is the ability to get individuals to work together for the common good and the best possible results while at the same time letting them know they did it themselves.” – John Wooden

Here are 7 requirements to being a great leader today:

1. You have to be adaptable.

Things change fast these days. Real fast. Just considering technology, it is advancing at compounding rates that leave even manufacturers struggling to keep up. You must lead a team that responds well to change.

“If we fail to adapt, we fail to move forward… If I am through learning, I am through… Failure is not fatal, but failure to change can be.” – John Wooden

2. You have to be moldable.

You must personally grow and change fast too… or you might be left behind. (This of course doesn’t mean you have to completely change your values, beliefs, or convictions on a regular basis. In fact, that may work against you in some ways.) We’re all imperfect and we all have needs. The prideful weak usually do not ask for help, so they stay weak. If we humbly recognize that we are imperfect, we will ask for help and we will pray for the guidance necessary to bring positive results to whatever we are doing.

3. You have to embrace a team approach.

There are no single heroes today. Not a single individual wins the Super Bowl, the NBA Finals, the World Series, the Stanley Cup, the World Cup, etc… it is a team that earns such a prize. Even in individual sports competition there are coaches, trainers, and other players competing involved. No successful business is the result of only a single person… besides, consumers and customers are needed even if it is a “one man operation.”

To be honest, there never really was such a thing as an isolated hero. Consider the big super hero movies owning the Hollywood box office this past decade: Batman and Superman never truly work alone, and then there are of course the Avengers and the X-men that are literally teams of super heroes.

“We can become great in the eyes of others, but we’ll never become successful when we compromise our character and show disloyalty toward friends or teammates. The reverse is also true: No individual or team will become great without loyalty… Much more can be accomplished by teamwork when no one is concerned about who gets credit.” – John Wooden

4. You have to consider social responsibility.

People want their individual work to make a difference. They also want the place where they spend their time, whether paid or volunteer, to make a difference. Nobody in their right mind wants to sneak through life without making any impact at all.

5. You have to think bigger than today.

Tomorrow is coming quicker than ever before and people are looking for leaders who can provide competent direction and consistent encouragement. (Time really is constantly speeding up throughout your life. We experience and perceive time from the perspective in which we live… and when you are 50+ years old, a day appears as a much smaller fraction than it did when you were only 7 years old.)

6. You have to be willing to serve others.

People will no longer follow a simply autocratic leader. Much of our society today seems to be less loyal than in generations passed. If you want to remain a leader today, you must prove you care for people personally. Trust and authenticity is more important than appearing to have all the answers.

“A leader’s most powerful ally is his or her own example.” – John Wooden

7. You have to allow others to receive credit and assume authority.

It’s what attracts leaders to your team these days. They want to feel they are playing a part in the team’s success. I’ve never met or heard of a guy who honestly wanted to be a part of a championship caliber team, but then have zero contribution to that team.

“Goals achieved with little effort are seldom worthwhile or lasting.” – John Wooden

These are some of the key elements required in leadership today. I realize this brings some unique challenges for spiritual leaders. We have a message of good news and faith that is unwavering… and that needs to stay that way. I certainly don’t intend to continually “change my message” or attempt to alter the Gospel. As a Christian leader, though, we must understand the context of culture in which we find ourselves. The way we lead, motivate, and recruit people to join in stewarding God’s resources has changed (and will continue to change). If we don’t recognize that, we will be less successful in accomplishing our God-given assignments.

Thankfully, in the end, when and where we are weak… God is strong (Romans 5:6-11; 1st Corinthians 1:17-31, 4:10; 2nd Corinthians 11:30, 12:9-10, 13:4, 9).

Some Life Lessons from Basketball

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Basketball, and sports in general, can be a great metaphor for life. For example, in the course of a basketball game, many analogies can be made to what transpires in a person’s life. The ups and downs, the challenges, the adversities, and what it takes to meet them head on.

The dynamics in the game of basketball very much correspond to what takes place in life. As in basketball, so in life:

1. Learn and “master” the fundamentals of the game.

Before you can play the game of basketball you must learn the basics or fundamentals – how to play the game, how to pass, to dribble, run the court, and shoot the ball. You have to develop the necessary skills to play at an acceptable level.

I discovered early on that the player who learned the fundamentals of basketball is going to have a much better chance of succeeding and rising through the levels of competition than the player who was content to do things his own way. A player should be interested in learning why things are done a certain way. The reasons behind the teaching often go a long way to helping develop the skill… Good things take time, as they should. We shouldn’t expect good things to happen overnight. Actually, getting something too easily or too soon can cheapen the outcome. – John Wooden

Lesson: In life you must also learn the basics. You must establish what it (life) is, what it means to you, and want you from it. You must then develop the requisite skills and strategies for attaining your goals.

2. Be prepared both mentally and physically.

Elite athletes know that you can’t function optimally or win games if you’re not prepared both mentally and physically. You must be in great physical shape to withstand a long, grueling and demanding basketball game (and especially for an entire season). Equally important, you must have mental fitness. Mental fitness includes a positive, willing, and winning mindset. One without the other will not win games.

Failing to prepare is preparing to fail… There is no substitute for work. Worthwhile results come from hard work and careful planning. – John Wooden

Lesson: Being prepared mentally and physically is equally essential in life.

3. Be unselfish and a team player.

Basketball is a team sport, which means it requires contribution and co-operation from every member in order to play well and win. Everyone must focus, work together, and fulfill their individual roles for the common good of the team.

As great of a player that Michael Jordan was, he did not win any championships until he learned to involve his teammates by trusting them and distributing the ball.

In one of the highest scoring games of his career, where he scored 63 points and set a playoff game record, his team lost to the Boston Celtics. In a sport where individual greatness is in large part measured by winning a championship ring, personal glory does not get the job done. Not even players like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, or Lebron James can win championships by themselves.

Much more can be accomplished by teamwork when no one is concerned about who gets credit… We don’t have to be superstars or win championships… All we have to do is learn to rise to every occasion, give our best effort, and make those around us better as we do it. – John Wooden

Lesson: So it is with life. Contribute, co-operate, and share.

4. Be alert and aware. Anticipate the play.

The greatest players in basketball have all been credited for having extraordinary court vision and awareness. Pete Maravich, Larry Bird, John Stockton, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, and other great players knew exactly where everyone was on the court, the other players’ tendencies, and which plays would work against the different teams. The ability to anticipate and be ready for a play made them active, rather than reactive, players in a game. It’s one of the factors that separates the great players from good players.

Each of us has a huge capacity to learn and to achieve. Being ever alert makes the task of becoming all we are capable of becoming so much easier… When we aren’t alert, we miss opportunities to improve ourselves. We should always watch for circumstances or situations that can help or harm us and be eager to learn from these encounters. – John Wooden

Lesson: Being conscious and aware in life sets the stage for greater achievement.

5. If the plays aren’t working, re-adjust the game plan.

Every great basketball player knows that when your plays aren’t working you have to adjust, and then adjust some more. The varying strengths and styles of different opponents require different tactics. You have to be able to withstand and respond to whichever attacks an opponent uses on you. Sometimes a player/team will have a weakness at a certain position, will be vulnerable to a certain type of offense/defense, or have difficulty guarding a certain type of player or style of play; good players, teams, and coaches notice these things and adapt to exploit them to their benefit.

The greatest fault is to be conscious of none. – Thomas Carlyle

If we fail to adapt, we fail to move forward… Failure is not fatal, but failure to change can be… The man who is afraid to risk failure seldom has to face success… If you do not have time to do it right, when will you find the time to do it over? – John Wooden

Lesson: Life presents us with many challenges for which we must adjust our game plan.

6. Never give up on the play. Persevere.

Another characteristic common to the brilliance of players like Pete Maravich, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Reggie Miller, and Tim Duncan was that they never gave up on a play. When they missed shots they would be the ones to retrieve their own rebounds, dive for loose balls, outwit defenders, and make every last second count (many times it did). They were willing to do the small things that the statistics didn’t reflect. Many a dagger was thrust into an opponent’s heart by these players when the outcome of the game seemed a foregone conclusion. Why? Because they never gave up. Not on the play, not on the game, not on themselves!

Success is never final. Failure is never fatal. It’s courage that counts… Success is piece of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing that you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming… Remember, results aren’t the criteria for success – it’s the effort made for achievement that is most important. – John Wooden

Lesson: Persevere. Never, ever, ever give up.

7. Win more games than you lose, but accept both victory and defeat graciously.

No matter what sport you play, you can’t win every game. In a 7 game championship series, two evenly matched teams often win only one more game than they’ve lost. Sometimes that deciding game is even only by a few points. It takes blood, sweat, and tears to win a championship. If you give it everything you’ve got, no matter what the outcome, you can walk away with your head held high. The San Antonio Spurs‘ team from 2013 is a prime example of a team that lost a game 7 World Championship with grace, class, and great poise. It was a devastating loss for them after having come so close to winning it all in game 6 and losing game 7 at the wire, but they walked off the court celebrating and congratulating the Miami Heat on their win.

Learn what it takes to win and come back and try again. Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Lebron James and many other players before they won, lost many, many games and championships. They had to learn to experience and accept defeat before they understood what it took to win.

If we magnified blessings as much as we magnify disappointments, we would all be much happier… Perfection is what you are striving for, but perfection is an impossibility. However, striving for perfection is not an impossibility. Do the best you can under the conditions that exist. That is what counts… You can always look back and see where you might have done something differently, changed this or that. If you can learn something, fine, but never second-guess yourself. It’s wasted effort… Does worrying about it, complaining about it, change it? Nope, it just wastes your time. And if you complain about it to other people, you’re also wasting their time. Nothing is gained by wasting all of that time. – John Wooden

Lesson: So it is with life. Everything will not always go your way. There will be both losses and wins. If you give everything your best shot and learn these lessons along the way, you will come out a winner.

Basketball: Without the Basketball

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There are some things about the game of basketball that we all know and fully comprehend, but sometimes we don’t seem to notice all the implications of that basic, simple, and common knowledge. For example, we all know that there is only one basketball used to play with in a game. During an organized league game there are ten players on the court, with five players on each team actively playing. Only one player can control or have possession of the basketball at any given moment. Only one player at a time can dribble or shoot the ball. In whatever the league, however long the quarter or half is played, there will always be nine players who are playing the game without the ball currently in their hands. This obvious knowledge can actually tell us a lot more about this great game.

As a player, it is very important to have good ball-handling skills, to make moves with the basketball in order to avoid having it stolen, to make clean passes, and to be able to shoot well. However, 9 out of 10 players on the court will be playing without the ball in their hands at every given moment of the game. So the chances are pretty high for any particular player to not have the ball for the vast majority of the game. This leads us to realize that there is going to be a great necessity for understanding and playing the game without having a basketball in your hands.

So again, during the game, all but one of the players will be moving without the basketball. This means that your skill level to dribble and shoot the ball are only part of the game. While those parts are very essential and require a lot of time and effort to develop and refine, the majority of the time during a game actually consists of how well you play without the ball in your hands. It won’t be that great of a value to a team if you can shoot lights out, but you are slow, don’t play defense well, can’t even get open on offense, and just seem to get in the way by being out of position when the ball isn’t in your hands.

Remember… movement is life. If you’re not moving, you’re not living. (And don’t be silly or pedantic; even when you are sleeping or just standing still, your heart is beating and body parts are operating internally to keep you alive.) In the game of basketball, we are required to have constant ball movement, but also constant movement without the ball. All this movement without the ball must still have an actual purpose. All five players on the court should constantly be working together as one unit, with one common goal: score more points than the other team. Whether the ball is in your hands or not, there are aspects of the game that go well beyond your ability to manipulate a round, orange object. Here are some absolutes for the game when there isn’t a ball in your hands:

1. Each player should always know where the ball is at on the court and who has the ball.

2. Each player should be anticipating what others players are about to do and where the ball might possibly go next.

3. Each player should be comfortable setting screens and coming off screens.

4. Each player on offense should be looking to get open for a pass, or set someone else up to get open. We should be spread out or bunched up tactfully in order to create the right spacing needed for the best possible quality shot.

5. Every player needs good court vision. We must survey the court and quickly process where everyone is, where they are headed, and how to exploit any holes or weaknesses in the opposing team.

6. Each player should be moving on offense, not just the point guard bringing the ball down. Whether you are setting a screen, setting your defender up for a screen, flashing through the lane, posting up on the block, darting up to the top of the key, rotating to the backside, drawing the defense away from another player to set up an opening, or sliding up to the elbow to create better spacing during a set play, you should always be moving.

7. Whenever the ball is shot, the ball becomes fair game on a miss, and you should want that rebound. We should all be crashing the boards; this is not merely the job or role of a post player. Anyone and everyone is allowed to rebound the basketball, not just the 4 or 5 position.

8. Every player should be hustling up and down the court on both offense and defense. No team can function properly if all five guys are cherry-picking or snowbirding on every single possession; somebody has to rebound the ball after all. We have to fill the lanes and run on offense, but we must also do the same on defense. On the way back downcourt, everyone should be locating where their man is, where the ball is, if anyone is out of position, and if help is needed on the ball or an opponent who is currently a wide open threat.

9. On defense we should always know where our man is at when we are in man-to-man, and always know who is in our area when we are in a zone defense. You’re going to have to move to cover your man or area; zone defense does not mean we all stand flat-footed in a 2-3 or 1-3-1 formation; you are guarding a general area and working together as a unit in a zone formation to prevent penetration into the paint.

10. You’re on defense, and you want the ball back… so you should be trying to get the ball back.

Players on defense obviously won’t have the ball and will need to do their best to get the ball back; and hopefully do so without the other team scoring any points first. We should be using our heads more than our hands to get the ball back from an opponent. We can get quicker by running suicides and defensive slides all practice, but I’m sure most of us would rather become “quicker” by using our heads.

We want to work and play smarter, not just harder. Our defensive positioning, hands up and moving around at all times, getting low and wide on ball coverage, slapping up on the ball while being dribbled by our opponent instead of down, disrupting passes with our backhand instead of compromising our position, constant communication with our teammates, putting pressure on the ball, contesting shots, anticipating where the ball will bounce on a missed shot, blocking out on rebounds, and going for the ball with reckless abandon when it is loose are all key components to playing the game well… and none of that has to do with how well you can dribble, pass, or shoot the basketball. We need to learn to play well without the basketball.

7 Keys to Effective Player Development

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Have you guys ever heard any version of this quote, “Individuals may get better in the off-season, but teams get better during the season.”

I think that while we can appreciate the mindset behind this, that team development must be the #1 priority during the season, this statement seems to imply that individual player development isn’t as important from October to March.

If that is the case, we should highly disagree. Individuals need to get better during the season as well. In fact, the most effective way for us to improve our team is to improve ourselves!

Individual player development (which includes both athleticism and movement training, as well as basketball skills and fundamentals; and even better understanding of and insight into the game on a bigger scale) should be addressed and given priority at every practice. To what extent we should focus on these elements depends on the age, skill level, previous experience of the players, the length of practice, and the time during season (early pre-season vs. playoff time).

I know we can’t win if nobody rebounds the basketball. I’d be willing to bet that some of you realize that for the overwhelming majority, “defense wins championships.” However, the name of the game is to put the ball in the basket. So working on offensive moves and getting up quality reps of game shots from game spots at game speed is paramount to our team’s success.

Before he coached his first practice as the head coach of Butler, a colleague recommended that Brad Stevens have a manager chart how many shots his best player took during a 2+ hour practice. Coach Stevens ran what he thought was an excellent practice (in-depth teaching, sound team concepts, etc). After practice he found out his best player took less than 25 shots the entire practice, which Coach Stevens immediately recognized was unacceptable. From that day forward he began to implement quality shooting drills in every single practice.

Former NFL coach Jon Gruden laughs when he hears other coaches say, “We need to get back to working on the fundamentals” after a tough loss. Get back to them? Why did you ever abandon or neglect them in the first place? That may even be why you lost!

“I discovered early on that the player who learned the fundamentals of basketball is going to have a much better chance of succeeding and rising through the levels of competition than the player who was content to do things his own way. A player should be interested in learning why things are done a certain way. The reasons behind the teaching often go a long way to helping develop the skill.” – John Wooden

While the amount of time we spend on everything will vary (and we have a limited practice schedule of only 2 hours – twice a week), I firmly believe every single one of our practices should have at least some aspect and component of individual player development.

Here are 7 keys to effective player development:

1. Build our game brick by brick. Every rep of every set of every practice is important. How you do anything is how you do everything. You learned to walk one step at a time. You build a house one brick at time. You build your game one drill at a time.

2. We have to leave our comfort zones. All of us have to buy into this together. Once a player has the movement, skill or footwork down, they need to push harder than game speed. The harder you practice, the easier things become during games.

3. Know the ‘why.’ Every drill must have some perceived relevance. That means the players can clearly understand how this particular skill or drill will improve their game performance. Will being able to dribble 3 basketballs reduce turnovers when the lights come on and the crowds start cheering on game nights? Doubtful. Therefore it has minimal perceived relevance, but any drill that incorporates something that can be used in a game is highly important and worth the time.

4. Use visualization. Great players like Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant don’t just do a drill; they compete in that drill with the same focus and effort as if they were in the waning seconds of Game 7 of the NBA Finals. They imagine they are being guarded by an elite defender; not just lazily ‘going around a cone.’

5. Avoid fatigue and boredom. These are two of the biggest killers of player development. We must get in better shape, increase our endurance and stamina. We can combat this issue by being in better basketball shape and by trying to use some more innovative, purposeful drills. But in the end, we must all work as a team to be able to run harder, run longer, and run together. When your body gets tired, your mind quickly follows. Nobody improves their ability to learn when their exhausted and worn out; we are less likely to get better at a skill when our minds and bodies are exhausted… so we must work on conditioning, always.

6. Do everything with precision. Details matter! Perfect form and footwork are imperative. If you want to build a beautiful brick house, you have to lay every single brick with care and precision. Every stone must be in the right place, or it will throw the others off. Once you start sloppily laying bricks… the house suffers (both in appearance and structural integrity).

7. We must learn from our past mistakes. Remember that nobody is perfect. When you make mistakes, be sure to take the time to analyze and learn from them. Don’t dwell on it with regret and lose sight of what you can learn from the mistake, but rather focus on what you can learn from it in order to prevent it from happening again. Great players realize when they did something wrong, admit it, and learn from it.

Also we all need to understand and remember that skill improvement takes time, and is often a process of 2’s:

​• It takes 2 minutes to learn a new move or new skill.

​• It takes 2 weeks to work on it daily until you develop confidence in it.

​• It takes 2 months of constant work to be competent enough to use it in a game.

“You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start in order to be great.” – John C. Maxwell