As the basketball season kicks into full gear, players have and will continue to take on different roles and responsibilities within a team. Whether or not we agree with a given role or the responsibilities we have been assigned, learning opportunities are always present. On a personal level, I have been the best player on teams, a starter while being a 3rd or 4th option, a guy who both plays coming off the bench or was on the fringe of a rotation. I’ve also been someone who didn’t see the floor unless it was a blow-out. Each role taught me something different and has given me incredible perspective and empathy as a coach.
Many strive to be the best player on a team, but often don’t understand what comes with that. External expectations are higher and you’re constantly being watched, critiqued, and analyzed. Your daily habits are crucial and your bad performances are often magnified at a higher level than someone else’s. It’s easy to start making excuses and pointing the finger at other people, but it must be understood that to whom much is given, much is expected. On the other end of the spectrum, if you’re in a position where you don’t see the floor, you quickly understand that it’s not about you (it never is, but even more so in this position). My freshman year of college this was me. I came to realize that I needed to be the best practice player I could be so my teammates in front me were challenged each day. That role wasn’t what I expected nor what I wanted at the time, but in reflection, it taught me what it actually means to be a great teammate. In other situations where I was on the fringe of a rotation (some games I played a lot, others very little), I learned to always stay ready- that when an opportunity comes you had better be prepared.
It’s easy for players and parents to lose perspective over the course of a season. Players who don’t currently have the role they desire are often clouded with a poor mindset and given bad messages outside of their teams. Growth opportunities and bigger lessons go out the window. On top of that, no role increases without first being a star in your current role. If you’re a person who isn’t seeing playing time but wants to, then every practice had better be your Super Bowl. Self-pity, lackluster effort, and a selfish mentality has never caught anyone’s attention in a positive manner. We have to look past short-term frustration and shift our focus onto where we can improve, what we can be learned, and ultimately how we can be our best in the situation we are in!