I have talked with kids of all ages and playing abilities about their goals and dreams when it comes to basketball. Whenever I do, these are some of the typical responses that I hear. “I want to play in the NBA.” “I want to get a Division 1 Scholarship.” “I want to be a starter on the JV team next year.” “I want to be on the “5th grade “A” team instead of the “B”. My next question to any player or in the case of younger players, their parents is, “How do you plan to reach that goal?”
The older I get, the more contact I have with people who have a great deal of success in their life. This includes coaches, players, business people, and parents. Their success may be financial. It may be professional. It may be in the form of a great family life. It may be in the amount of people they can influence and help. However you define success, the one thing that I have come to understand very, very clearly is that success is a result of hard work. Really hard work. The people who achieve great things generally work harder, smarter, and longer than others that achieve less success. The idea that you can coast through life and still get want you want is not reality. Effortless success is a myth.
What is Saban saying here? If you want to be good you have to do what it takes. There are no shortcuts. Sometimes natural athletic ability, size, and maturity can allow a young athlete to have early success, but eventually hard work and grit are required to remain on top.
There is a clear difference between a kid who plays basketball and a “basketball player”. I will often sit in the stands watching a game and remark, “That kid is a basketball player.” I’m not talking about the kid who is able to dominate because they are six inches taller than everyone else or the one who is physically mature at age 12. I’m talking about the kids who understand the subtleties and nuances of the game. Those kids are easy to spot. How did they get to the point that they are so easy to pick out from the crowd? Those “basketball players” got there by putting in many hours on the court, whether by themselves working on fundamentals or playing more than their peers.
Too often in society we look at a person that has success and attribute their success to luck, or genetics, or politics, or connections, or something else. In reality, the vast majority of people who are successful got their because of hard work. Maybe they did have some luck, but the harder you work the luckier you get. Maybe they do have good genetics, but they maximized their gifts. Maybe someone politicked for them, but they worked hard to cultivate that relationship. Maybe someone helped them get their job, but they worked hard to build a network of connections.
In the world of sports, we usually only see the end result of the hard work, we don’t see the work itself. Practices aren’t televised. Workouts aren’t televised. We only watch the games where we see the end result, excellence. We all need to help our kids understand that success and hard work go hand in hand. Practice matters. Grit matters. Habits matter. Whether we are talking basketball, math, art, or music, if you don’t put in the time required and build great work habits you won’t be successful. Effortless success is a myth.
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