LIFE LESSONS FROM BASKETBALL
Yesterday my daughter played her first ever basketball match and she played a blinder! I was able to channel all my competitiveness and enthusiasm for the game through her without having to move a muscle or expend a kilojoule!
As she pelted up and down the court, defending to the death, and finding space to shoot baskets on the attack, I swelled and swelled with maternal pride! The crowning moment came when she had been fouled and had to take a free shot. She looked consternated, balanced the ball awkwardly in one hand (not two, as any basketballer would tell you to do), did a sort of grunting heave ho……
And the ball sailed neatly straight into the basket!
While I was watching all this, my coaching brain was turning all the attributes I watched her display, into lessons I need to learn for myself!
1. BE PREPARED
She got up at 7am this morning in order to practise her flute before we went, and she made sure she had her kit clean and ready the night before.
‘FAILING TO PLAN IS PLANNING TO FAIL’
By thinking ahead, being clear about her goals, and fully prepared, she was able to fully enjoy the day.
2. BE FLEXIBLE
Basketball switches at lightning speed from defence to attack and back again. Both are equally important in winning a game. The first game I watched (not my daughter’s team), they managed to get the ball and attack, but however many times they got to the scoring end of the pitch, they just couldn’t seem to find the basket! Your team needs shooters to win a game. However, my daughter is a demon in defence, and even though she is new to the game, and hasn’t fully mastered dribbling at speed, or shooting on the move, she marked her man as though he were Peter Pan and she his shadow. Peter Pan happened to be one of the most dangerous players on the field, but once she glued herself to him, he was almost out of the game.
Know when to attack and create space to make an opening and seize the opportunities available to you, and when to defend your territory. Be flexible to switch between the two.
3.BE WILLING TO TRY, MAKE MISTAKES, AND POSSIBLY MAKE A FOOL OF YOURSELF
In practise sessions, I noticed that my daughter was not really willing to have a go at shooting, as she didn’t believe she was any good at it. Whenever she received the ball, her instinct was to get rid of it as fast as she could! But when it came to the match, her competitive instinct came to the fore, and she was willing to take the risk, and take the shot. She scored a significant number of baskets!
‘If you want to succeed, double your failure rate’. CEO, IBM
That’s right, double your failure rate! That really does mean failing twice as often as you have doing up to now. We learn by doing, by taking risks, showing up and trying. It applies to all of life, not just shooting baskets!
4.LEARN HOW TO MAXIMISE AND UTILISE THE SKILLS OF YOUR WHOLE TEAM.
My daughter and her friend were the novices on the team. I have noticed in practise, that the more experienced players often don’t pass to them, as they want to win – even though they are only practising with their own potential team mates! How can anyone learn unless they are given the ball to try something? And how does it help you win matches if you are only utilising half your team?
Some of the good players weren’t at the match, and so in the first game, my daughter and her friend, who are both tall, freed themselves to be near the basket, were passed balls by their team mates, and shot some useful baskets. So those who were good at dribbling, dribbled and those who were tall, but less good at dribbling, shot! Good use of resources.
In the last game, don’t know what had happened, but I heard one of the older students comment that they weren’t being passed the ball, and I noticed that they had gone from utilising the whole team to passing between the experienced players, but guess what? It was the only match they lost! And it only took a couple of players to have lost their oomph, for the defence to breakdown, and for them to go from leading to losing in three minutes!
‘You are only as strong as the weakest link.’
When working in a team, take time to build the skills of the whole team. Play and work smart – play to people’s strengths and look out for the skills and qualities of each team member.
5.AGGRESSION AND COMPETITIVENESS CAN BE USEFUL, BUT ONLY IF THEY ARE UNDER YOUR CONTROL, AND NOT CONTROLLING YOU!
Basketball is one of those sports where there is a fair amount of on-court gamesmanship. Assertiveness is definitely an advantage, but competitiveness and a spot of aggression can come in handy when someone is trying to steal the ball from you! But control is the key! It is the difference between a brilliant block and a foul – between saving a few points or giving them away on a plate. And if my memory serves me correctly, sometimes one just needs to stand still because if you are in the way but not moving, I don’t think it is possible to foul, but it is sometimes possible to prevent a shot being taken.
Self control is the key to harnessing competitiveness, assertiveness and even aggression to use them for achieving our goals. Lose control and we can lose the game!
6. KEEP YOUR EYES OPEN TO SEE OBSTACLES, OPPORTUNITIES & HELP AVAILABLE ALONG THE WAY
When you have made a brilliant steal and are making a break for the far end of the court, it is sometimes easy to be so focused that you don’t see the obstacles (the opposition) or the help (your team- mate standing under the basket) available. Sometimes sheer determination or the thrill of going for glory means we miss the help available AND the basket! Sometimes it’s better to be the person who made the brilliant pass that set up the basket, rather than the person who hogged the ball and missed the points!
When working or playing in the team, often the WIN-WIN situation is the one where we accept the skills and help of others in the team and go for the overall win, rather than going for solo glory and more probable downfall.