Dear Mo’ Motion X – Girls,
Thank you for your time and hard work during our fall-winter season. I wanted to take this time to share with you some of what I learned this past week from my former teammate, Kelly Cole, who is an assistant coach at Harvard. I asked Kelly what changes she’s seeing that are tough for her to watch as a coach – what’s different about this generation – and she flagged three critical points and valuable pieces of information for us.
1) Everyone looks good in drills – because most of them have personal trainers now. As for applying what they’re learning to game situation, Kelly is not seeing it as often as you’d think given all the personal training hours. Why?
2) Games, games, games – kids have been playing them since elementary school, and while it’s good to see they love the pressure and thrill of games, there’s a whole lot of standing around going on by players who do not have the ball. There’s a whole lot of driving to the basket by dominant players who are just showcasing over and over their driving habits and aggression in many helter-skelter games of youth and high school hoops. Kelly said maybe coaches don’t see it or don’t know how to teach it, but what’s missing is what we as a program teach very well …
3) Court sense, spacing, tempo, cause and effect, ball reversal, off-the-ball screens, when one player cuts here, all the other player have these options, and if one does this, then I do that because I know that the gap or board is going to open up here, etc. This understanding of the game is a lost art. College coaches want players with a full understanding of the game as smart, team movement in motion and players who have the ability to read ALL information as it unfolds and react to it accordingly.
You can separate yourself from the pack by seeing this full team picture, but only if you aggressively attack your areas of weakness. The timetable for this, I believe, is over the next 6-8 months. You don’t do it now, and chances are you will fall short of our team goal of producing outstanding, hardworking VERSATILE players. You have many skills, you stay on the floor. You have a few and deficiencies you keep trying to hide – and other players will take your minutes.
AS A TEAM, I told Kelly the areas where I felt we were lacking – aggression, conditioning, passing, passion, and advancing our skill development by practicing and conditioning solo. We agreed that players in our program will benefit tremendously ONLY if they can identify how critical it is to improve our personal weaknesses NOW and along the way, apply all that we know about a cohesive, solid team game.
Spring ’13 – We have a work ethic, right? Yes. We established this in the fall. Attendance – much better than last season.
But showing up and punching a clock does not mean you have a true work ethic.
We are going to show up and
1) GET OUT OF OUR COMFORT ZONES and be
2) PERSONALLY ACCOUNTABLE to each other by acknowledging our areas of weakness and actively improving them within our workouts and when you train on your own and in small groups without the coaches holding your hands.
Players who do not like to attack basket.
You will find mental, physical and emotional approach to overcoming this major hurdle. You do this by asking coaches and teammates to bump you at practice. You do it by playing one-on-one out on the playground or by playing street ball where you have to call your own foul, and if you call it, it better be a legit foul or you lose all respect on the court.
Players who are out of shape and only getting to 50 percent of conditioning level.
It’s because you are refusing to push past your comfort zone. You need to work so hard that you are not bordering on the uncomfortable zone, you are IN the zone and it hurts. You suck it up, stay in it, push deeper into it, recover, then get in there again. Jogging down the floor – not acceptable anymore. Be ready for this our first day back of practice. And note that the dramatic meltdowns we often have are due to fatigue. Improve your physical stamina by conditioning around homework – it will boost your academic performance – and your mental and emotional states will improve drastically. Dramatic players who can’t keep up because they are winded will not stay on the floor.
Players who think aggression is enough to hide lack of true offensive skills.
What is not workable for me is when I hear parents or coaches who call and say, “She’s really good on defense, and likes to rebound, but she doesn’t like to shoot and she’s okay at driving, but she doesn’t have a lot of confidence on offense.” One coach who wanted me to help his senior in April get a college scholarship told me, “Well, she doesn’t have a left hand and she can’t shoot from the outside, but she’s a great point guard.” Sorry – can’t help you because the player never decided to help herself in spite of my telling her BOTH of these points – get a left and learn to shoot properly – her freshman year.
Players who think shooting all the time is the answer.
Wrong in a big way. Great players average a high amount of points, rebounds, assists and/or steals, not just points. One-dimensional players will not cut it over the long-term – even the aggressive ones. They don’t know what they’re missing – all the rebounding fun, the passing fun, the game-winning steals, the feeds to the post, the making yourself dominant because no one knows what you are going to do – that scares defenders. Ask Michael Jordan. You saw him hit the huge shots, but did you see him make the huge defensive plays? He did. All the time. The dishes when he was double teamed? Do not think that being a high scorer makes you a good player.
Players who think just showing up is enough.
It’s not for me. Not for us. Our baseline is this – I want – and I think WE want all of us to have at the very least solid high school years that we all can look back on and think, “WOW, I did all that – I gave it my best, and I feel darn good about it.”
The way to get there is to get uncomfortable NOW.
Example: A brilliant, funny girl who would love for me to help her get into Harvard – and I love this kid – always in middle school refused to go for any rebounds or loose balls in her AAU games. Now in grade 10, she still jokes that she’d rather let everyone else get in that dog pile so she can save herself for shooting the outside shot. If she’s lucky to get what she wants (not likely unless every loose ball rolls her way), it’s important for me to note that being a cheerleader on the bench at Harvard is half the job. The other half of the job is to actually push your starters at practice. I don’t think Harvard coaches want players who think of ways to bypass the dog pile. Save those rational thoughts for math and science class. You have to be as aggressive, if not more aggressive (aka slightly more unstable in a good way) than the girl who is diving for every loose ball to get that break into Harvard. (I am thinking that maybe a soccer goalie scholarship to MIT – Div III – the girl plays goalie and loves it – is a better fit.)
Whatever you want, you must make up your mind to WORK for – aggressively NOW.
Starting in week 1, all Mo’ Motion X players are going to grade themselves 1-10 on the following categories:
• CONDITIONING (Ryan’s specialty)
• STRENGTH (Ryan’s specialty)
• SKILLS (well-roundedness)
• TEAM FRAME OF MIND (spacing, timing, position, choreography)
Each X player is going to flag the three areas that make them most uncomfortable or leave them feeling inadequate (things that I am hounding them about all the time) – example: driving to basket, conditioning, passing, boxing out) and come up with a plan physically, mentally and emotionally to overcome those obstacles.
Remember my analogy: Some players drive to the basket and hope they don’t get hit. I drive to the basket thinking, “I dare you to get in my way. I dare you to hit me. I dare you to think you want this lane more than I do.”
If you choose to avoid your areas of weakness, and keep sitting in your comfort zone, you will see your play plateau or even decline. I am asking you not to run down this path because it’s a disappointing place to be and sometimes if you run too far down it, your confidence leaks out of you and it’s a bad feeling that strips all the fun right out of the game we all love.
I think you will all agree on this – even though the last meaningless game was the downer that I hoped we would avoid, what I am most proud of this season is that every one of you improved. That is my job every season. My job is to make that happen again now through June and then Sept.-November in preparation for high school ball.
Your job now is to aggressive improve your areas of weakness.
On the first day of spring workouts, I need to see, hear, and know that you are ready and willing to get uncomfortable.