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June 5, 2016

Give 10 out of 10 Effort on Every Play

Give 10 out of 10 Effort on Every Play

FAMILY SUNDAY – I’ll soon be producing a podcast with New York City Rens AAU Coach Andy Borman. Andy played soccer at Duke and walked on the basketball team. He also has been a college coach and the top basketball director at IMG as well as the head of House of Sports in Westchester. He left the pay-to-play model for the AAU model where all of the funds are raised and no kids have to pay.

Given how many points and core values we agree on, I’ll be writing about Andy and what he said over the next few weeks. The one thing that stands out the most for me is when I said I struggle with my intensity issues compared to most of the kids in our program verses other kids in the leagues we play in, particularly here in Harlem. The kids just play so much harder. The go at a 10 out of 10 effort wise all the time. Or at least 50 percent or more do all the time, and if you do not, you will find yourself on the bench more and more with every passing year. Andy said that starting as long as he can remember – to back when he began hoops in grade six – if he lost a game, he’d sometimes walk home. I think he said it was a mile or two. His parents just knew to leave him be. His girlfriends did, too. He said he was way too intense, but that intensity is what drove him to squeeze every moment possible out of his basketball and soccer careers.

I said to Andy how hard it is for former athletes like us who coach kids who either don’t care as much. Or maybe they want to win a little, but not as much as just play. There’s also the very strong cultural factors where there’s just not that much weight put on how important the game or practice is when a family has another 15 thing to do that weekend. He said that in his situation where he does not have to keep kids, he can easily look into the huddle and see usually every one of the kids who are totally in, playing a 10 out of 10 on every play. He said to me, knowing our situation, in that we don’t believe in cuts and we want to encourage participation that he knows the spot I’m in. “If I am looking at a kid and have to say, ‘If I’m caring about this game and your development more than you are, then we’ve got a problem.’” So how and why do we need to get the kids more physically, emotionally and mentally invested? We have to repeat hundreds of times that the platform sports gives us to show character is one of the greatest parts of our weekends. We don’t have to win, but we have to put the effort in consistently and even when the odds are against us that the outcome will be in our favor.

It takes a 10 out of 10 level effort all the time or as much possible, because when the kids commit to it, as several did today, three things happen:

a) They can stay at a 10 for longer.

b) They will love what it feels like to work that hard to the point where it will become a habit, and a way of life and the only way to play.

c) They will be putting more of themselves on the line, and in doing so, that scoreboard, that loose ball, that rebound, that missed shot will mean so much that they want to pop at the end of the game when they disappoint not their coach or their friends, but themselves. That’s what you want a kid to do – not to answer to mom or dad or coach, but to look themselves in the mirror and say, “Did I give it my best effort?” We’re on a mission to set up this type of energy and effort for the fall. We have friends in our league who have 9, 10, 11 year old kids who set the example every time they play. If every one of their kids can do it, every one of our kids can, too. It’s a mindset. If our kids can go to school all day and come home and do four hours of homework, then they can also do what we ask for 50 minutes to two hours max on the basketball court.

Over and over, I said to the kids during my fourth of six games I coached today, “I want a 10 out of 10. I’m giving you my 10. Give it back. Pass it around.”

The kids started saying “TEN” on three. I think most of the kids get it. Most of them are in. A few of the moms came up to me and said they love how hard we work. They love how hard I work. They are totally in for us to raise the bar. A dad who is self-made – neither parent went to college – said he loves this approach, too, because he struggles with how to show his kid how far effort, guts, heart can take him in the world of Manhattan where we are over-served, kids especially.

What it’s going to take is for the parents to give us room to make them tougher. They’re going to have to say that if my kid can take the heat here with direct feedback on what to improve (and not just bench kids with no chance of returning), he can learn to take it anywhere. If the parents don’t believe it or don’t think we should be doing it, all we have to do is point to the other teams like our friends at Milbank, who have kids running through us and around us on every play.  They chase down every loose ball and rebound because in their minds, there is no other way to play.