Whew, it's hot in Houston! It's so hot in camp that when I swim as soon as we're done in a heated pool, the water feels cold! Houston is hot but the kids have been terrific. Next week's camps are the fun ones when we focus on shooting. We always try to talk about other things in the teaching process besides basketball. Leadership is one topic. The following is from 6-21-06.
The game is Team Competitive and it is one of the contests we use at our basketball camps. The rules are uncomplicated. Lines are formed at each elbow. (Elbow refers to the place where the free throw line and the lane intersect.) Each line has one basketball. The player at the front of each line shoots once, chases the ball, and returns it as quickly as possible to the next person in that same line. Games continue until one team has seven baskets and is sitting with the ball resting with the first person. Penalty points are deducted anytime a team member fails to mimic, or shoot an imaginary shot concurrently with the shooter. I am blessed with two great groups of girls this week. After lunch, my team is named the LONGHORNS. So far this week, the LONGHORNS have struggled. Several of the girls have the chance to be good shooters but we have not fared well when shooting versus other teams. It was announced thirty minutes into our session that we were going to have a camp wide Team Competitive shootout. Honestly, there was no reason to think the LONGHORNS would win any matches. Before we played our first round opponent, one of the girls asked me a question. Allyson inquired if they could line up in the order that would give them the best chance to win. You might think logically that would always be the way they approach a competition but it isn't. My answer was in the affirmative. As a result, the girls arranged themselves from one to nine, with one being the strongest shooter and nine being the weakest. It also meant the better shooters were likely to take more shots and the poorer shooters were likely to take fewer. Early in the week, I talked to the girls about finding ways to win. I mentioned lining up your best shooters first. (In a camp setting, I don't array the kids by skill level but I was thrilled they were listening.) There is also the risk someone will get their feelings hurt; no one wants to be last. After we finished, I made the point that if they did not want to be at the rear of the team, there was an option- improve. Guess what happened when the contests started? The LONGHORNS won elimination games versus three other squads and lost a close match to a boys' team in the finals before the entire camp. I really like these kids. They are good listeners and have shown much improvement this week. The biggest improvement came from Allyson. Some of the other girls might have been thinking it would help to align by ability. Allyson is the youngest girl on the team, a sixth grader, AND the only one brave enough to verbalize the obvious. When the opportunity presented itself, she took a position of leadership.
The hardest part of coaching girls is finding leaders. It is much easier to find skilled players than players who willingly fill leadership roles. My belief is that young ladies are so afraid of teammates' reactions to them that they will bury their talents rather than risk being criticized. But what I've found is that players will enthusiastically follow a good leader, someone who puts the well-being of the group ahead of their own interests. In the end, the best interest of the team is the best interest of the leader. Probably the finest leader I've ever coached was Karie Stewart, a marginal player at her peak but one who commanded the attention and respect of every other girl in the locker room. She would encourage, push, instruct, and take a stand if the situation demanded it. I wish you could bottle it but you can't, just like you can't force someone into the responsibility. Families, businesses, schools, and especially churches are dying for someone to step out and be extraordinary. Read any history book- read the Bible- and see that it isn't always pleasant to be out in front. But the rewards for the group can make it more than an acceptable risk to take. Ask Allyson. She has talent and she proved this afternoon that she's not afraid to set herself apart in a positive way. She has a chance.
Applicable quote of the day:
"Effective leadership is putting first things first."
E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org