Exposing a Thief of Team and Individual Success
by Ed Schilling
One of my favorite things about basketball–playing and coaching– is the friendship and comradery that develop and strengthen throughout the course of a season. Memories from the really good teams that I have been a part of are not my points per game, assists or minutes played. Those most meaningful memories are the brotherhood, the friendships, the good times in the locker room, and the joy of “going to war” together. Ask a professional athlete after he retires what he misses most, and he will probably tell you that he misses the relationships and putting on that uniform with his teammates and going to battle with those whom he has poured out blood, sweat and tears.
As great and fun as athletics can be, the joy can be stolen and the unique opportunity to form life-long friendships can be easily missed when the vision shifts from the “we” to the “me”. The goal in sharing insights from over three decades of my playing, coaching and parenting is to help max out the enjoyment, the recognition, the improvement and the winning and avoid the “thief” of these of basketball delights.
“If you want to be miserable, all you have to do is be selfish.” –Joyce Meyer
“Happiness ends where selfishness begins” –John Wooden.
When playing high school basketball in Lebanon, IN, we had a team that had a blast together. We loved playing ball with each other, whether in the park in the summer or in the gym during the season. We trusted in each other and believed that we had each other’s best in mind. As a result of our trust, we were one of the best teams in the state. Although I later became a starter on Division 1 conference championship and NCAA tourney teams, I probably never had more fun and enjoyment than I did with that high school team. Perhaps the foundation of the positive experience laid in the fact that neither the players nor the parents had selfish agendas. We wanted to win and we cared about each other. I learned a significant lesson from that team—if one wants to really enjoy the basketball experience then value the other guys on the team.
By the way, those parents had a great experience too. They didn’t worry about the coaching, stats, newspaper articles, rankings or awards—they positively supported and encouraged instead of complaining and manipulating for their child’s “benefit”. I have come to the conclusion after many years in basketball, that an athlete cannot truly enjoy the basketball experience if the parents are negative at home. Players listen and absorb what the parent’s say and carry the emotion of home into the practice and games. If the parents are “killing” the other players or the coach, the player cannot help but to be impacted. The negative impact steals the joy from the game, ultimately hurting the team. When the atmosphere is positive and encouraging those attitudes are reflected in the energy, enthusiasm and effectiveness of the players.