There has been a growing concern in my heart about the state of youth competitive basketball.
Remember how much fun it used to be when you first started playing?
Where did the fun go?
A 1992 study of 8,000 youth athletes in the USA found that “having fun” was their primary reason for participating in a sport and yet more and more frequently, we see this primary reason slowly begin to fade. In many cases, the fun factor of a sport will take a backseat to factors such as getting a sports scholarship, winning, pleasing parents or coaches; the list can go on and on. In the worst cases, the fun factor of a sport is replaced by stress inducing factors that eliminate the fun altogether.
How can we prevent this from occurring and keep the fun in the games we love?
Identify the Problem
We live in a culture of instant gratification. We want success and we want it NOW! This mindset has created a problem in the way we view of mistakes; an obstacle to stop us instead of an opportunity to rise above. We can solve this problem by changing our mindset.
In Carol Dweck’s book Mindset, she shares a story about children trying to complete difficult puzzles. When confronted with the puzzles, the children were excited. They asked questions and attacked them with an eager ferocity that had no fear of possible failure. She states, “Not only weren’t they discouraged by failure, they didn’t even think they were failing. They thought they were learning.”
The most successful people have a growth mindset that does not fear failure. They do not fear because they see opportunity in disappointment.
Do not fear failure. Do not fear mistakes. They are opportunities to learn and get better. A growth mindset will be one of the most valuable weapons in your arsenal for life.
Don’t confuse Capability with Mastery
Can’t Shoot= No Fun
Making shots in games is probably the most fun you can have on the basketball court. The crowd erupts. The adrenaline pumps through your veins. That feeling is amazing.
Do you want to have more fun playing basketball? Make more shots. Notice I did not say “Take more shots.” You do have to be able to make a high percentage of your shots without getting a warm seat on the bench.
One of the most common mistakes that athletes make is confusing capability with mastery. Just because a seventh grader can make a three point shot does not mean that he is a good shooter.
So, what does it take to achieve some level of mastery at a certain skill? The clear answer is practice and repetition. We must understand the difference between real, focused work on your game and just being in the gym getting up shots or playing. A serious player has fun, actively striving toward mastery.
- They find joy in the process of correcting fundamentals
- They take pride in the consistency of their practice sessions
- They thrive on pushing themselves to the point of uncomfortable growth.
The fun for great players is the process of mastering their craft because they understand that is the only way they will be able to enjoy making shots in games. So take the time to master your craft and as you rain 3’s, the fun will rain down on you. Better bring an umbrella.
Comparison is the thief of all joy
Not all basketball players are created equal. Some have to work much harder than others to achieve their desired level of success. What takes the joy out of the game, for some players, is the fact that they never come to grips with this concept. They put in work but they are not athletically built like Andrew Bogut, or they do not have the natural innate ability of Mathew Dellanova and so do not get the exact same results. That is okay. You have to be comfortable with you.
Players have a tendency to compare themselves to players around them. You are constantly bombarded with rankings, message boards, and social media telling you who is better and where you stand. This can be very discouraging.
Players, Please! Stop comparing yourselves. It’s not you against them. It’s you against you. You must understand that none of that stuff matters. The only thing that matters is becoming as good as YOU can possibly be. Let me ask you this, what is your end game? To be ranked ahead of someone else? If so, you are putting a ceiling on your own game. Stop comparing yourself to others. If your sole focus in life is a relentless, unwavering pursuit of the best version of yourself, great things in LIFE will pursue you.
Avoid the ‘Next Level’ Trap
A big reason why so many of today’s high school basketball players play the game is to get a college scholarship. There is a problem with this mindset. When getting scholarship is in the forefront of your mind, it makes it impossible for you to be the best teammate you can be. Simply put, you have an agenda. You want to further your own career. You want to be seen. Your innermost desire is to be recruited resulting in the fact that you are playing for yourself, even if only subconsciously. You may not notice it. Coach may not even notice it. But you cannot be the best high school player you can be if your main goal is anything other than being better than you yesterday and giving yourself completely to the team.
So when do we expect a mindset like this to stop? It is human nature to want more. The freshman player just wants to make varsity. The varsity player just wants to play college basketball. Okay. Let’s say he works hard and things happen to work out for him and now he is playing Junior College Ball. Now he just wants to get a D1 scholarship. Would he rather win a JUCO national championship or get a D1 scholarship? In most cases, the latter will be true. You may think that once a player is playing college basketball they drop any agenda and completely give themselves to the team and their coaches. Think again.
I was asked to speak to an NCAA Division II team last year. This team was full of delusion and battling turmoil in the locker room. The coach reached out to me for help. He wanted me to give them objective insight on what it takes to truly be part of a TEAM. I looked all the guys in the eyes and asked them why they played basketball. The majority of them said to get a job playing overseas or possibly get drafted. This was a Division II team! I could not believe what I was hearing. Their team chemistry problems made complete sense to me. It is no wonder that they had such a cancerous locker room environment. Half of the team was playing for their own agenda. When does it stop? There is no place for agenda driven ambition in team sports. Misery will follow. Drop your agenda and find the fun in simply striving to get better every day.
Still not convinced?
The simple fact of the matter is the odds of getting a college scholarship are not in your favor. Ability doesn’t always equal opportunity. Some things are just out of your control. It is extremely difficult to get a college basketball scholarship. There is also a certain amount of luck involved. Look at some numbers put together by Pro Shot Shooting Systems.
There are currently 351 Division 1 teams that each offer 13 scholarships a year.
- On average, that means there are 1141 available new scholarships each year.
- However, 30% of Junior College/Prep School players take those scholarships (342 total) that leaves us with 800.
- Additionally, 10% of all scholarships go to overseas players which means we need to take off another 114.
- That leaves us with 686 players that Division 1 schools can sign directly out of High School in the US.
- There are 38,400 public and private high schools in the US that offer a basketball program.
- On average, there are 4 seniors that play for each varsity team.
- There are 154,600 High School Seniors, give or take, trying to get 686 scholarships.
- 0.4%. Yes, as an American High School Senior you have a 0.4% chance of getting an NCAA Division 1 scholarship.
- Half of these scholarships will go to players 6’5″ or taller. So if you’re under 6’5″, reduce your chances to about 0.2%.
I am not trying to stress you out. My desire is for you to let go of your worry about getting a college scholarship. You cannot control that. The source of joy in sports cannot be on a goal that is out of your control. You must strive to be the best possible version of yourself. That is the only way to have the most fun playing this game.
To this day, I still think about how great it would be to have one more chance to play in a basketball game. Why? For Glory? For a chance to play at the next level? To prove something? Not even close. FOR FUN. That is the only reason why I wish I could play in one more game. Forget the other reasons. Watch the pressure of the moment fall away. You will be more likely to peak-perform. Pure hearted basketball is played for one reason and one reason only- because a basketball player simply loves to play the game.
Source: PGC Basketball
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