At certain points when kids are growing there can be a very large discrepancy in size. It can be a tough thing to deal with especially for kids who are on the smaller end of the scale. I remember last year one of my players who was in grade 8 was literally half the size of one of the players on the grade 9 team we were scrimmaging against. When he stood beside the centre he only came up to his waist. There is a saying that is often used “It’s not how big you are, it’s how big you play” or another one often used is "It's not the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog." This can be of comfort to help players to cope with being small as they have to learn to work harder and engage in figuring out what skills to focus on that will set them apart.
When you aren’t the biggest player figuring out what your skill set is can help you harness your game. Are you fast, are you a lock down defender, are you a great passer, are you focusing on shooting the ball, do you do the small intangible things that help your team be successful, are your courageous, are you a good teammate? Most importantly do you play BIG? None of those things have anything to do with size. Sometimes getting exposed can be the best thing to happen to you. Although it can be painful and very raw to know that truth. If you learn to evolve it can be a blessing. This knowledge can help you to change your game as you continue to find your niche. Everyone has limitations to their individual game, after all no one is perfect, but it is those that focus their skills that will find a way to improve.
Take Wayne Gretzky for example, on many of the teams he played on he was a couple of years younger than many of his teammates. In one of his books I read he credited that experience with helping him build his incredible vision on the ice because he had to know where all of the big players were at all times due to fear. Take away that experience and he wouldn’t be the same player he ended up being during his career. In your journey in sports as well as in life there are always things to overcome and figure out. Just giving up or getting discouraged doesn’t help you to grow. Quitting or holding back limits your ability to think of a solution or find a way to evolve yourself. Some of your biggest strengths will come from your toughest challenges. Keeping with something even when its hard and using your brain to get better is a great way to overcome obstacles.
What does it mean to play BIG?
Well playing BIG is for everyone not just for players who are physically big. Playing BIG means doing the little things that help your team to be successful. When I think of playing BIG I often think of a player coming down on a fast break ready to do a layup and they have a defender coming from behind to block their shot. Instead of taking the layup right away the player does a pump fake under the basket. As their opponent misses the ball and flies right past them the offensive players finishes their layup. To me this is the epitome of playing BIG. It doesn’t matter if the player is big, small or somewhere in between they used their mind to conquer the situation and it stands out because they made the right read. Here are a couple of other examples of playing BIG:
- Setting great screens
- Making the extra pass to get your team an open shot
- Diving on the floor for a loose ball
- Taking a charge
- Learning to make good decisions especially around shot selection
- Developing the mentality to fight back
The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Sure big players have an advantage and there are many times when a coach is going to give preference to a player that is big and has potential to get better over a smaller guard. However, being a big guy isn’t always the best scenario when players are younger. In fact, sometimes they grow so fast that they don’t know where their limbs start and end so they can be very uncoordinated. I have seen a player that went through a growth spurt try to catch a ball that went through his hands and hit him right in the face. There are also the growing pains and injuries that can come from growing too fast. Keep in mind that when you are the biggest guy on the court you are also often tasked with guarding the biggest player from the other team which isn’t always glamorous if you aren’t as big, strong or skilled. There are many different types of big and so sometimes you might be a skinny guy that has to guard someone that is very strong and powerful which can be very challenging. Sometimes coaches pigeon hole big players and don't allow them to do what they want to in terms of being outside the paint or shooting the ball (yes that still happens). Also, the rest of your life you have to deal with people asking you how tall you are or make comments about it on a continual basis.
In closing, you can’t control how fast or how much you grow. You also can’t control when either because some people hit their growth spurt early while others may be incredibly late. What you can control is how you react to it and the way you are going to choose to help yourself to find ways to get better. You can set yourself up to grow by eating healthy, getting enough sleep and getting enough exercise. You can also perfect your skills and learn to do the fundamentals to set yourself up for success. Striving for personal greatness isn’t easy. Whether you end up growing a little or a lot is outside of your control but using the experience to be the best version of yourself is always a great way to manage the obstacle.