Thursday, 22 December 2011

Loyalty and Winning; A preaching about basketball

With the start of the NBA season just around the corner, and a few interesting trades that might make for a few exciting games, there's a conversation I had recently that I've reflected on which I wanted to discuss.....but to clarify; if you don't know basketball, read on anyway, it will all make sense....

Loyalty and respect
In basketball, the comment I passed is that you must have it to truly be a champion, you must have given your all to a team and to team-mates and to a coach as well. You must have given that bit extra. It all comes in the light of the Chris Paul move from New Orleans Hornets to LA Clippers. Don't misunderstand me, I don't necessarily disagree with the move but I'm just commenting. The same is true of Lebron James and his movement to Miami Heat from Cleveland Cavaliers, he was there, he was the franchise player, he was the man they would build a team around, and they would have. I feel like making that move becomes something of a short cut, it becomes a quick fix.

I know that in the modern world we like more instantaneous gratification but it isn't so simple. I think to Michael Jordan and the years he worked to become the championship player. And in a similar sense the same is true of Kobe Bryant, especially after Shaquille O'Neal left the Lakers, he had to learn again, to evolve. And whilst it pains me to say it (I am not Kobe's biggest fan) - he is one of the greatest players of all time. But not because of who he is, because of what he does for his team. I always think back to Kevin Garnett, one of my favourite players, and how he stuck with Minnesota for so long and they failed to surround him with the right players to turn it into a championship franchise. But in the same sense I remember his $100 million plus contract in the late 1990's that essentially led to the last lock-out! How was his team going to afford the players he needed whilst he's being paid that much!?!?

In all of this my loyalty comment makes a nice playground analogy; that if you lose a pick-up game, you don't ask to change the teams, you should ask to play again, and this time improve or play better. Work harder. Work together. I always say basketball has to be about more than winning and losing games. A team can play well and lose, or play badly and win. I don't see the kudos in a lucky win. It has to be about always respecting the team, the players, the opponents and the game.

In coaching a game recently I am embarrassed to say that I did this. I lost that respect, and fortunately we lost the game. Whilst we had been up by 19 points at one stage, we were outscored by 20 points in the final quarter, and we were right to be. I do not take all the blame for this; I was, after all, on the sideline. But I did not lead the team the way that I should have done, and that carries significant weight. Had we won we might not have taken the lesson away that we did. Or that I did, and that I hope the players did.

I have spent previous blogs talking about the number of books I have read this year, and I am currently finishing up 'The Winner Within' by Pat Riley, and have recently finished 'On the Art of War' by Sun Tzu. Everything I read now is applying to basketball, is applying to success and to coaching, and to improving the team to their potential. I hope some of the players will read this and take the time to think about everything they need to do to give THE TEAM the best chance it has to win at 2012. I guess when it comes to loyalty and a national team it has to be about making sure you give your all, you commit your heart to being the best you can be. In doing so you make the team better that fraction. If everybody does that then the team gets better by a larger fraction. It might not get you selected on to your team for your sport, but if it makes someone else work harder to be selected and thus perform better, perhaps you have done enough at your stage to help the team win. I know that is a hard approach to have but to me it has to be that way. It has to be everything.

I read 'The Lombardi Rules' earlier this year, and a quote stuck out in my head. So much so, in fact, that it is the signature at the end of my email:

"Practice does not make perfect;
Perfect practice makes Perfect"

To me this means more than just working that hard all the time you're training, and having the discipline to know that you must train your weaknesses to be strengths and your strengths to be stronger. But knowing that  someone else is out there doing it. Your opponent is on a court right now, working on their left, perfecting that post up shot that you missed in the last game. Are you happy knowing that whilst you're watching TV? Have you done enough today? This week? This month? This year? This is a team sport, when you go out there it's not about letting yourself down, it's about letting your team down, and them letting you down if they haven't done enough.

When you're at the highest level; in everything you do, every action you have you need to ask yourself:

"Will it help my team win"

Of course, the likeness here to business, or departments, faculties, etc. are hopefully obvious.

At some point or another, Life is a team sport.

Be Well, and have a great Christmas and New Year


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