I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.
I was quite the athlete when I was young – football and track, but my real sport was basketball. They called me Dr. Clay in homage to Dr. J! I had another nickname, but that will have to wait until another time. Each summer, there would be tryouts for the team. Those of us that were already on the team would sit on the sidelines (wearing our varsity jackets in 89-degree weather!) and watch dozens of people trying to make the team.
The tryout would begin at 8am sharp. The coach padlocked the door, and no one could get in and no one could get out. He would put them in two lines and have them shoot layups – the easiest shot in basketball. For several of the totally unskilled, it would be the only shots they would take. It was hard to watch some of them, but there was also a kid transferring from out of state, that everyone thought was not only a shoe in to make the team, but might be a starter.
The rest of the tryout was a series of drills. He would pair them off and have them do a chest or bounce pass. They would have to stand in a squat position with their hands up moving their feet pretending to play defense. Then they ran…and ran…and ran some more. I was tired just watching. Two hours later, he blew the whistle and sent them home and told them to look for their names on the list tomorrow morning.
I went up to the coach and asked, “That’s it? No scrimmages, no game simulation or even a free throw?”
“I have seen all I need to see,” he replied.
He must have seen the look on my face. I was team captain (hey, I have always been a leader!) and insightful, so he gave me a little more.
Ok Clay, I will tell you my secrets to identifying who would be an asset to the team:
- Can they be on time? I don’t care if George Gervin (it’s the 80’s!) is on the other side of that padlock, if you can’t be on time for something that is supposed to be important…I don’t need you!
- Can they do the fundamentals? Shooting a layup may not show me they can make a longer shot, but it shows me their form – their potential. They can develop the other shots through coaching and practice.
- Can they master what matters most? For every shot taken in a game, six passes are made. I want to be sure they can do the majority activity with accuracy.
- Can they dig deep when challenges come? Running the suicides tells me about their heart. I can tell when a kid is acting tired although they have more to give…and I can tell when someone is giving me everything they have got.
The next day, we all ran to look at the list on the school bulletin board. The guy that transferred from another school’s team did not make it. The guys were shocked and surprised. I wasn’t. We had played pick-up games with him and he was very talented but did not always “play hard.” I remembered that coach had told me,
Heart is first…talent is down the list. Coach Doug Lozell
The following summer, I coached a little league team for the Boys Club (I was only a couple of years older than the players. Hey, I have always been a coach!). The first practice?
Layups, passing, laterals…and running, running, running. I made my list and checked it twice. Now that I have been doing this for thirty-five years, I am looking for others to say…
I’m Ready, Put Me In Coach!
Are you ready?