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Monday, July 31, 2017

REGARDLESS OF SKILL & TALENT, ALL PLAYERS CAN DO THESE

This past month has been primarily an evaluation period for those in the college game with two full weeks travelling the country looking for players that best fit our Aggie family.  As someone that cares about the game, observing the competition in the summer can by uplifting or disappointing depending upon the team and players you are watching.  It's a lot of pressure on these young women because they know that a summer performance can often preclude their future options. 

Some players can be found doing too much.  At times players can play with the thought of trying to impress a coach and end up over doing it as opposed to doing what their team needs to do to play better.  Ironically, helping your team play at a higher level is more impressive to college coaches than individual performance.

During the summer, I found myself jotting down a few things that EVERY player could do to be better that had nothing to do with talent.  Things that regardless of their skill level, they could enhance their contribution by focusing on these areas:

1. Shot Fake and Pass Fake
Truly a lost art.  When's the last time you said to yourself, "that player is excellent as shot and pass fakes."  Of course part of the responsibility belongs to us as a coaches -- are we teaching and emphasizing it?  Few things can help an offensive player more than the proper use of a pass fake and a shot fake.

2. Know and Execute the Plays
Sounds a little silly saying "know the plays" but it's amazing to see a player or two who doesn't know where they are supposed to be or what they are supposed to being doing.  Whether is an inbounds plays, a half-court set, a motion entry or anything else structured, take the time to know where you are supposed to be and what you are supposed to be doing.  Next is execution -- doing it when you are supposed to and as well as you can.  This does not take talent but commitment to knowing and understanding your team's playbook.

3. Play Hard
Again, seems like it shouldn't have to be said but it does.  And here is the key to playing hard -- you have to do it all the time...not just when your team's ahead or the play is called for you.  Playing hard means that you are making all your cuts in your offense hard.  It means that you are sprinting to screen.  It means that getting back on defense is a full speed proposition.

4. Have a Team First Attitude
Be the player constantly encouraging their teammates...picking them up both physically and emotionally when the time comes.  Don't be the player with the horrific body language when a teammate turns the ball over as if you were saying "I wouldn't have made that mistake."  If a played does make a mistake, correct it is a positive manner.

5. Understand Shot Selection
Forcing shots does not help your team nor does it impress a college coach.  Know what a good shot is for you -- and yes, your shot selection will vary from those of your teammates.  Don't hunt shots, let the shots find you.

6. Concentrate
As I heard Nick Saban once say, "Wherever your shoes are, be there."  Don't wonder mentally.  Stay focused to the job at hand.  Be a process oriented player.  Don't worry about the past play -- it's over.  Don't worry about a play in the future they may or may not happen.  All you can control is the current possession you are involved with -- give the possession complete concentration.

7. Be a Great Listener
This actually can do a long way to helping with concentration.  In timeouts are you locked in with your eyes and ears.  Does you coach have your complete attention.  There's a free throw situation and your coach or captain is barking out instructions.  Are you actually listening and processing or just hearing -- and there is a difference between listening and hearing.

8. Be in Great Shape
Without doing anything in regard to skill work...without saying anything about your talent level...you can make an impact on your team by being in great physical shape.  When the game is in the fourth quarter or late int he second half and everyone else is starting to drag, this is where you can make a difference.  Not only will you be a step faster because of your conditioning level, but you will be mentally sharper as well.  How many times have we seen a team put on a late run and in large part because of players that are in just better shape that run the floor and past their opponent.

9. Control Your Intangibles
Again, these have nothing to do with skill or talent but they are game changers.  The three areas that players can control (but often choose not to) are: attitude, energy, enthusiasm.  Now I'm not saying it is easy but if you want to make a difference in your team its well work working on.  By controlling your intangibles, I mean you don't let officiating, teammates, opponents, coaches, gym conditions or anything else effect you having a team-first attitude, with high energy and positive enthusiasm.

10. Be an Example
What do your teammates see when they see or think of you?  He or she is always early to the gym.  They stay late.  They are on time for meetings.  They listen to the coach.  They keep their composure.  Off the court they conducting themselves the right way.  They maintain a proper diet to put fuel in the tank.  They are positive talkers -- not criticizing a coach or gossiping about a teammate.

11.  Rebound
Some of the best rebounders are lacking in talent and athleticism -- they board well because of effort and tenacity.  Rebounding is one of the only areas in basketball where it's alright to selfish.  I've coached for over 35 years and have never heard of a coach taking a player out for rebounding too much!

I would imagine some of my coaching friends can add to this list but the key for players to understand is that every player can adopt these principles and it will make them a better player and their team a better team.  There's nothing on here that requires you to jump higher, run faster or have an amazing handle.  Be committed to areas that you can control and work towards being the best you can in those areas.