Players of all sports often hear the saying “You practice how you play!” It is important to evaluate your personal practice habits and the environment you are contributing to as a player in order for your team to work at its highest level. Many players make the mistake of leaving it to their coaches to push them and make them better. If you are waiting for your coaches you may be waiting too long and missing out on some key development opportunities that can help to take your game and your team to the next level. Players that expect their coach to motivate and push them all of the time are like wheelbarrows. Expecting someone to pick you up and move you around can be very labour intensive for a coach because they have a lot of players to work with. If the majority of players are expecting that you tend to not go as far as teams with self-motivated players. It is much better to be self-sufficient and find your own way as an athlete. It’s similar to an animal being fed in a zoo versus an animal finding their own food in the wild. The zoo animal waits for things to come to them. The wild animal fends for itself and figures things out.
A coach is definitely someone that can assist you on a personal level but they are looking at the whole team it is hard for them to catch everything. They don’t know you as well as you know yourself so it is possible for a player or two to slip through the cracks. They may be also dealing with those players that have the biggest problems so it is a really good idea to learn how to motivate and fend for yourself. This will help you to find the best long term development.
Performance Is Not a Switch
The whole meaning behind the saying above is that the energy and atmosphere you bring to practice is the same energy you are bringing to the game when the game starts. Many players make the mistake of not bringing their best to practice and so when the game starts they are not ready. The thing about performance is that it isn’t a switch you can turn on and off with any degree of accuracy. Really great players only have one switch they are always on. If you take moments off at practice you are definitely going to do the same in games. Even when these elite players are on the bench they are still engaged in the game and ready to go. Get in the same mentality you do for practice as when you are in a game. Listen to music, get into the proper mentality and play at game speed. Your mentality should be to prove you are the best person in the gym and better than YOU were yesterday.
Find Your Level
Without a question you will know yourself better than anyone will so hold yourself to a high standard. In high school I was on a very under-skilled team where I grew up. Over the summer I attended a basketball camp in Hawaii and my eyes were opened to a whole other level of playing. When I got back to my team’s practices I held myself to a higher standard and that became the level for my play. It didn’t matter what my teammates were doing I had my own goals in mind and it was like playing golf I was more interested in trying to play against myself. My goal was to make myself better as well as my teammates. I knew my teammates didn’t have the same goals as me but I worked with them to help our entire team be successful. I was the player setting the tone for my teammates and I worked with them to help us to be successful.
Bring Others With You
The energy level is critical if you are a leader on the team then it is up to you to get the best out of your teammates. If you don’t think practice has the right level of energy then work on shifting it. Leaders work on bringing others with them and one by one they start to change the energy level of those on the team. They might even take time over a water break to pull people in and encourage each other to give more. You might see something your coach doesn’t see so really work on being positive and encourage your teammates to give their best. Positivity is key and use your leadership to provide the guidance as well as encouragement. If you try to get what you need through being negative it isn’t as easy for people to buy in but sometimes it is needed to get the message across. Sometimes a teammate needs to hear the truth there is nothing more detrimental to the team than fake harmony. Be real, honest and authentic to each other in order to be able to perform your best. Most importantly show you care because it goes a long way.
Get On The Same Page
Basketball is a team game so if your team is on the same page and locked in they will be successful or at least on the right path. If the players start buying in and coaching each other from the inside and the coach is doing their part it helps to develop a new level of teamwork. When everyone is working together towards the same ends the team moves much more effectively towards the goal. The more engaged the team is the more they move in the same direction. Think of the opposed where everyone on the team pulling in a different direction and going nowhere.
Focus On The Details
You might do the same drill over and over again throughout the course of a season or even during your career. The higher the level of play the more important it is to be locked into the details and doing things right every single time. This is what it takes to master skills and also hold other people accountable as well. This can be really powerful in terms of your development of standards over time. Work on figuring out the drill from a mastery perspective by understanding the details. Look to re-engage with the drill by thinking of one of the same details you want to do correctly every single time. Whether it is from the start of practice all the way through to the cool down really lock into executing the small things.
1) Are you an energy giver or a taker on your team?
2) What is your preparation when you come to practice? How does that differ when you are getting ready for a game?
3) Do you encourage other people on your team to get involved when they are holding back?
4) Do you go at every drill in practice to make it game speed or to get better?
5) Do you practice your hustling skills?
6) Are you vocal in practice in a positive way (talking on defence, giving reminders, cheering when you aren’t involved in the drill)?
7) Do you take it easy on your teammates because you are friends instead of pushing them to be better players?
8) What can you do to make your team better in practice?
9) Is there anything you are holding back from your team that you want to identify?