Basketball on the Edge – Ask The Experts! What Are The Three Most Important Life Lessons You Learned From The Game Of Basketball?


I am dedicated to bringing you the most value possible as a reader of Basketball on the Edge so I recently reached out to three master coaches for their opinion on the question What are the three most important life lessons that you learned from the game of basketball?  It is an honor to share the wisdom of these three outstanding minds in the world of youth sports.

Alan Stein, Jr. – Alan Stein, Jr. is a veteran basketball performance coach, corporate speaker, podcast host and social media influencer. He has spent the past 15 years working with the highest performing athletes on the planet (including NBA superstars Kevin Durant). Alan delivers high-energy keynote performances to develop genuine leadership, authentic team cohesion and true mental toughness. He inspires his audiences to take immediate action and improve their mindset, habits and productivity. In other words, Alan teaches organizations how to utilize the same strategies in business that elite athletes and coaches use to perform at a world-class level. He is an amicably divorced father of 7-year-old twin sons (Luke and Jack) and a 5-year-old daughter (Lyla) and lives just outside of Washington, D.C.

You can learn more about Alan at

John O’Sullivan – John started the Changing the Game Project in 2012 after two decades as a soccer player and coach on the youth, high school, college and professional level. He is the author of the #1 bestselling books Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes, and Giving Youth Sports Back to our Kids and Is it Wise to Specialize? John’s work has been featured in The Huffington Post,, Outside Magazine,, Soccer America and numerous other publications. John is an internationally known speaker for coaches, parents and youth sports organizations, and has spoken for TEDx, the National Soccer Coaches Association of America, US Lacrosse, IMG Academy, and at numerous other events throughout the US, Canada, Asia and Europe.

You can learn more about John at

Trevor McLean, “Coach Mac” – Trevor McLean is the founder of Basketball For Coaches. He is a passionate youth basketball coach, player, and overall lover of all things basketball. He has had experience coaching on and off at the youth basketball level for the past 8 years. He started his blog a couple of years ago to give back to the game he loves. As Trevor was growing up he was fortunate enough to have many coaches and teammates that had an incredibly positive impact on his life. He was taught first hand that basketball is a fantastic medium for players to learn life lessons and develop long-lasting relationships. Trevor learned that the best coaches aren’t necessarily the ones that win the most games, but the coaches that impact the most lives. His mission is to have the same positive impact on the next generation of players that his coaches and teammates had on him.

You can learn more about Coach Mac at

The question that I asked each of them was, “What are the three most important life lessons that you learned from the game of basketball?” There are great insights to take away from each of their answers that can make you a better player, coach, or parent.

Alan Stein, Jr.

Lesson #1: Develop Positive Habits

There are two things that make the best the best. One is the mindset, rituals, habits and discipline they have during the Unseen Hours. It’s what they do when no one is watching. The other is that they make the most of every opportunity to grow, to develop and to improve. They take advantage of every chance to get better. And both of these become habits. You must acknowledge that your habits are a choice. You choose your habits and your habits dictate your success. Therefore, success is a choice. Success is not a result of what we do occasionally. Success is a result of what we do all of the time. Truly successful people in all areas of life have embraced this fact, have taken full ownership and have chosen to create and implement positive habits. They understand that you can’t be selective when it comes to excellence. The best know that how you do anything is how you do everything.

Lesson #2: Hold Yourself to a High Standard

In 2007, Stephen Curry was a college counselor at the Kobe Bryant Skills Academy. It was after his freshman season at Davidson… and before he became the Stephen Curry we are all enamored with today. In fact, at that camp, most of the coaches referred to him as Dell’s son. He was clearly the least heralded of the college players there… but there was something about him that was special. Despite his lack of a physical presence, there was something about him that stood out. For starters, he was always the first player laced up and on the court. While other guys were too cool for school… and casually walking around in flip-flops and headphones, Steph was already going through a purposeful shooting warm-up. He always made at least a hundred shots from different spots by the time the workout officially started. When the very first workout was over, he grabbed me – we had never met before – and he asked if I would rebound for him. He said he doesn’t leave the gym until he swishes 5 free throws in a row. Yes, swishes five in a row. Which means he could swish 4 in a row, hit the rim on the fifth one… and even though he still made it… he would start over. He did this at the end of every workout… and if memory serves, it never took him longer than 10-12 minutes to swish 5 in a row. Stephen Curry will go down as the best shooter in NBA history because he holds himself to an unparalleled standard. And I say ‘holds’, in the present tense, because the general mindset, rituals and routines Steph used to become great are on par with what he does to remain great. Now, he has had to tweak them. He’s had to improve them. He’s had to level up. Because what got him ‘here’ won’t get him ‘there.’ But the framework is the same. Can you imagine him saying, “I don’t have time to practice this week” or “I’m already pretty good, I don’t need to practice anymore.” Of course not! So why do so many people feel this mindset is acceptable? The best hold themselves to a high standard all of the time.

Lesson #3: Embrace Discomfort and Adversity

As human beings, it is wired in our DNA to crave comfort. To subconsciously make things as easy as possible. But that’s not how you grow. You grow through discomfort. You grow through challenge. You grow through adversity. If you want to maximize your potential as a leader, you must condition yourself to be comfortable… being uncomfortable. How many times have you heard that you need to work hard to be successful? Probably more than you can count. But no one really defines what hark work is or what it means to work hard. Here is my personal definition: Hard work is intentionally leaving your comfort zone with purpose. If I had you all start doing push-ups right now… what would most of you do when it started to get tough? You’d stop, right? Unless you were insane. I mean once your chest and shoulders and arms were on fire… and burning… and you were shaking… you’d stop. But what if I told you that the reps you do after it becomes uncomfortable are the ones that make the difference. They are the ones that allow you to get stronger. The same is true in business. It’s only after a few no’s… after initial resistance… that the best ideas surface. I want you to think about a firefighter. The brave men and women that run in to burning buildings while everyone else runs out. Like firefighters, the best constantly run towards discomfort.

John O’Sullivan

The three most important lessons I learned from sport, lessons that were reinforced by my parents along my athletic journey:

1.Work your hardest

2. Fulfill your commitment

3. Enjoy yourself or it is not worth doing.

Coach Mac

1. How to Control Emotions

When participating in youth basketball, players will go through a full range of emotions. They’ll suffer countless defeats, they’ll experience the elation of winning championships, they’ll be cut from certain teams, etc. Through all this, players are forced to understand and learn how to deal with their emotions.

2. Success Require Sacrifice

No one LOVES waking up early on a cold morning to get in the gym and get up shots; but it’s crucial for all players who want to give themselves and their team the biggest chance of experiencing success.

3. Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses

Through competition, players will learn to take advantage of their strengths and avoid their weaknesses. Players will still work on their weaknesses, sure, but it’s important to understand what you’re good at in all aspects of life.

Big thanks to Alan, John, and Trevor for sharing their thoughts with us. I hope you find as much value in their answers as I did!

I’d love to hear from YOU on this topic!  Please submit your own answer to the question, What are the three most important life lessons that you learned from the game of basketball?”  I’ll publish the responses sometime in the coming weeks.  Thanks!!  Send your responses to

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