I was chatting with a couple of coaches at practice the other day about how to get our players to compete harder. We know there are a lot of drills that improve competitiveness in practice. We use many of them. And we know that adding a reward/punishment factor to all drills also helps create a competitive environment. But what we struggled to understand is why we need t create a false atmosphere to get our players to compete hard right through practice.
The first thing our coaching staff always does as when practice starts to wane is reminisce about the good old days when we would play hard for hours on end. I have to remind them that we played harder because we weren’t nearly as skilled.
The biggest difference I find between players today and when I was growing up is the amount of street ball we played. My friends and I played street ball six or seven days a week. Today’s young ballers (at least the ones on the teams I coach) don’t play much pick up ball. Most of their basketball playing happens in organized sessions.
It was the pick up game that honed our competitive skills. When you went for a run in my days winning was imperative or you could find yourself sitting for up to 90 minutes before you got back on the court. There was always way too many guys waiting to play and the gym time was always way too short. In some gyms if you lost you went home because you weren’t getting back on before the gym closed.
There were always lots of arguments and a bunch of guys who would just straight up cheat to win. So you had to learn how to stand up for yourself or you would never get a call. And it wasn’t always the best players who won pick up games. It was the best players who were the toughest and most competitive who won.
I wonder if kids these days played more street ball if they would develop the competitive edge and toughness that is sometimes lacking in some of our players? Or maybe we coaches are “misremembering” how tough we really were back in the day.
Enjoy this article in complex magazine about people you meet at pick up basketball games.