At my son’s 4th grade team practice this week I was also responsible for coaching my daughter’s 6th grade team. Her coaches had work and family obligations and weren’t able to be at practice. That left the responsibility for coaching both teams to me and my assistant coach. I knew this would be the case in advance so I was able to plan accordingly, but it is very difficult to watch 18 players at all times during a practice. We did several drills where every player had a ball and was working on a dribbling or shooting skill. As a coach it was impossible to watch every player make each move or take each shot. I made it a point to stop one of the drills and explain to the players on both teams how important it was to work hard and give their best effort even if no one was watching.
Chances are, most of us work pretty hard when someone else is watching us. We try to do things right, we don’t fool around, we give an effort to be proud of. But what happens when no one is watching us? Do we work just as hard? The great players do.
I have this conversation with my son all the time. Whenever he knows I am watching, he shoots the ball with correct form and tries his best. On the other hand, when he thinks I am not watching he’ll often loft the ball at the rim with terrible form. Those shots almost never go in. I’ll ask him why he shoots that way and he’ll shrug his shoulders. As a father and a coach, I have a hard time understanding his thought process. You have more success when you shoot correctly so why not do it right all the time? Maybe it’s harder, maybe it requires more concentration, I’m not sure. Regardless, it’s my job to keep encouraging him to do his best, even when no one is watching.
The best players and teams are great when no one is watching. They know that it requires discipline to bring your best effort whether a coach, parent, or teammate is watching or not. It’s much easier to slack when you think you can get away with it. The problem with slacking off is that it doesn’t make you better. Why spend your time going through the motions to be mediocre?
Practice by yourself and develop the self-discipline to work hard even when it’s just you alone in the gym. During a team practice, get after it on defense even if the coaches are focused on the offense. Look for opportunities to improve your skills.
If you want to be a great basketball player, or for that matter, a great anything, learn to be great when no one is watching.
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