Friday, July 23, 2010

Playing Because You Love the Game

The other day, one of our players was going to his high school summer league game later that night. He had been frustrated with his play, and had not been playing very well. We had a very good talk and it was evident that his stress stemmed from the idea that if he didn't play well he wasn't going to impress his high school coach, he wasn't going to get any playing time, he wasn't going to get a scholarship, etc. This stress was causing him to play poorly and he was stuck in that cycle all of us as coaches know about. He had stopped playing basketball because he loved basketball..

With our high pressure basketball culture we've created, sometimes the love of the game has become lost in the shuffle. Players start earlier and earlier playing to get a college scholarship - not because they want to continue playing but because they want that scholarship. They want the prestige of the scholarship. Now, there isn't anything wrong with wanting a scholarship and having college paid for - and there is nothing wrong with playing basketball because you want to play professionally. But those dreams shouldn't make you forget why you started playing in the first place - because you loved the game. If you lose the love of the game, basketball becomes a job and you will eventually burn out. The great ones are the ones like Kevin Durant who play because they love it. You watch Durant play and it's pretty evident he loves to be out there. If you forget that you love the game I think it impedes your ability to work at it. What you need is a combination of goals (scholarship, money, etc) and the love for the game - when you have both you will go farther.

As coaches, I think we need to do things to foster a love for basketball within our players. Part of it is giving players time to just play and enjoy it. Now that time isn't in the middle of a game, but in practices and the off season players need to just be able to play and have fun. So make sure that you are incorporating that into what you do. Also, help your players to be fans of the game. Simple things like talking about the previous nights games, pro and college, will help and you can even step it up by taking your guys to different high school, college, and professional games where they can just be fans.

After having the talk with the player he sent me a text after his game tell me he had a great game. Scored 18 points and pulled down 8 boards. He said it was the most fun he'd had because he started playing for the love of the game again - stopped worrying about everything else and just loved the game again. So maybe there is something to be said for loving the game.

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