Don’t just go through the usual motions. Combine effort, creativity, and awareness every day. Get open.
My kids have a basketball or lacrosse game almost every weekend (usually at least two games) so I watch a lot of youth sports. Last weekend I was watching the younger kids, grade 2 or 3, play basketball. Right when I walked in the gym the ball was knocked out of bounds and the kids lined up for an inbounds play.
I heard a couple of parents in the stands calling ‘get open’ and a few others asking ‘who’s your man’ but it was mostly casual, positive chatter. Stuff like ‘good work guys’ and ‘keep going you’re doing great’ generally positive and generic for the younger crowd.
Before I could even check the scoreboard to see how much time was left in the game there was a flurry of activity. One of the kids on court was working to get open. He was running, juking, dodging and screening like a swarm of bee’s was after him. It was a blur of unbridled effort and creativity. His defender was no slouch either, sticking with him through every cut, stutter step and burst of speed.
But the ref was still holding the ball. The other team was trying to figure out a sub. By the time the ref was ready to give the in-bounder the ball, the kid on the court was spent. When his teammate slapped the ball and yelled “Break!” all he could do was jog in one direction, not even looking at the ball.
One of the other kids on his team was standing a few feet in front of the player with the ball. He jab stepped left and then hopped to the right, his friend made the easy pass and the game continued.
At first I thought that the kid who was working so hard to get open was exactly who I would want on my team. Anyone who shows that kind of heart and hustle can play for me any day. Then it was obvious that the smart, heads up play made much more sense. That was the player I wanted and the one I wanted my kids to play like. Truth be told I want them both.
I wound up thinking about this later in the week. Like that first kid, I’ve been trying hard to get open. I’ve been writing my next novel, blogging, sharing interesting stuff on social media and taking a class on Udacity. But I’ve been wondering if the ball is even in play yet.
When it comes life though, the ball is always in play. You need to be both types of player. Every day requires unbridled effort and creativity, but you have to pay attention too. Always be ready for the smart heads up play. It may not take much effort in the moment, but it will be possible because of all the effort put in beforehand.