NEW CASTLE —
What do you think, young people?
Is Mr. Baker right about you?
If you don’t mind, I’ve got your back on this one. I don’t think you’re lazy at all.
Distracted, yes. Very.
Video games, reality TV, Facebook. Not bad things, but they’re constantly pulling you away from the best things.
But lazy? No, not at all. This year I’ve had the pleasure of watching some of the hardest-working athletes I’ve seen in some time. I’m not buying lazy.
Now that I’ve stuck my neck out to defend you, don’t make a liar out of me.
It’s early February, and that means the basketball regular season is winding down. To that end, your team is in one of two camps:
•Positioning itself for a deep playoff run.
•Out of playoff contention and close to packing the uniforms away for another year.
If you are among the fortunate ones with postseason dreams, it’s pretty easy for you to get motivated to play. Every game counts these days. Heck, every POSSESSION counts. There’s a good chance you’re focused, alert and prepared to tangle with your opponent.
But let’s say you’re on a team that’s 7-12 right now. It’s pretty tough to get out of a warm bus, traipse through the snow and cold, then compete in a game that really doesn’t mean anything.
Unless, of course, you take a different view of athletic competition. Instead of seeing each game as a big picture, which can be overwhelming at times, break it down into much more manageable puzzle pieces.
In other words, forget your teammates. It’s all about YOU.
Yep, I said it. Your next victory or loss is on YOU. So be as greedy as you need to be on the court.
I know all about the locker room signs — “There is no I in team” and “T.E.A.M., Together Everyone Achieves More.”
I won’t argue. But I will make the point that every team is made up of INDIVIDUALS, who must do their singular jobs or the entire unit collapses.
I call this the “50-50 rule.” In any given game, there are dozens of “50-50” opportunities for you to win. Your job, as an INDIVIDUAL, is to take them.
Here are some examples ...
•When a rebound comes off the board, you and the opponent you are boxing out have a 50-50 chance to get the ball. Get the rebound.
•When a loose ball is on the floor, you and your opponent have a 50-50 chance to dive on the court and grab it. Secure the loose ball.
•If your opponent isolates you in a clear-out, you have a 50-50 chance to stop him from getting to the basket. Don’t let him score.
•If your opponent is pressing you and denying the inbounds pass, you have a 50-50 shot to get open. Get the pass.
Stop focusing on the scoreboard — that’s “big picture.” You, individually, are not competing against the other team anyway.
Instead, start focusing on the player right in front of you. But here’s the twist: You are not really battling him either.
You are always competing against YOURSELF. Someone else just happens to be in the way of you getting the rebound ... securing the loose ball ... making the stop ... catching the inbounds pass.
In reality, you are competing against your lack of stamina, against a lack of determination, against a lack of courage and toughness.
You are competing against laziness, as Mr. Baker might say — and distraction.
So what does all of this mean as you hit the floor for your next game?
Well, as always, your team has a 50-50 shot to emerge victorious.
The odds, as you might have guessed, increase dramatically every time you win an individual battle.
And I’d be willing to bet that all of you within reading distance will find a way to overcome perceived laziness and distraction to do your job well.
Your coach believes that — and so do I.
You better not make liars out of us.