Can someone help me understand? For most of my life, I have been pretty much secluded from the mainstream. Growing up in a secluded rural town before the internet, I didn’t really know much about the world. Then for the next half of my life being in environments that very few people get to experience, I only heard stories about what happens in youth sports, but I never really knew first hand what was going on.

Over the last 5 years or so, I’ve experienced many things that I don’t understand. I need help.

1. If you want to be elite (or if you want your child to be elite), why would you put yourself in situations and environments that are clearly not elite?

The list is long. From training, to teams, to organizations, and events. There is so much mediocrity out there. I know that will always be the case. There is always more stuff going on out there that is average because that’s what average is. The thing I don’t understand is why people settle for that if they truly don’t want to be average. If you truly care about what you’re doing, or if you truly care about your child, why would you be around average? Kids bounce around from this to that. Is different really better? Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. But after one or two “mistakes”, don’t you think you would make sure you got it right? In some cases, there was really nothing wrong with option #1. It just got too hard. Instead of sticking it out and making it work, you’re looking for the “easy” road. Well, there is no easy road to greatness, but it also doesn’t mean you have to be in situations and environments that are clearly less than optimal.

2. If you grew up in a world before the internet and cell phones, why would you think that being good at anything is as simple as walking through the door?

People say it all the time. It’s a different world. Social media has changed everything. Kids now are all about instant gratification. Ok so there may be a lot of truth to that. Here’s what I don’t understand. Parents, who grew up in a world without a lot of technology and who weren’t conditioned that way, are wondering why their kid after a few months of practice twice per week. Then their kid thinks the same thing, or they put so much pressure on their kid that their kid can’t handle it. From 7 years old to 17, the age doesn’t matter. We see parents and kids all the time who don’t know how to handle it when things get hard or they don’t get what they want.

3. If winning is so important, why do so few try to do what it really takes to win?

We do challenges in our training every so often. The challenges last 4 to 6 weeks. Winners get gear or other prizes. The challenges involve a few different activities with or without a ball that show a certain level of proficiency. We intentionally make them hard. We don’t ever want anyone to “get the challenge” on the first day. The whole idea is that you go home and you practice and if you do it consistently, you’ll be able get it. Typically less than 5% actually complete the challenges. If a challenge has 4 parts, less than 50% of the kids will get 1 out of the 4.

The only time they ever work on getting the challenge is when they come to training. Then when they see one of their peers get the challenge, “That’s not fair.” They are so amazed at how someone else was able to get it. I don’t know if they think that someone else is more naturally talented, or if it’s some magic. However, since we’ve been working with kids whose first experience with a basketball was with us, we know that “natural talent” does not exist. What does exist is someone’s desire to win. Some kids don’t care if they lose. They will say that they do, but they don’t.

In our gyms, losing is a choice. You didn’t get the challenge because you didn’t put the time into it. The reason that you didn’t make your team, or the reason you’re not getting playing time, or the reason you’re not getting recruited is that you aren’t putting enough time in to earn those things. Maybe you’re behind It’s not the coach’s fault. It’s not political. We’re fine if you don’t want to put the time into it. That’s perfectly ok with us. This whole idea that it’s someone else fault bothers us.

Is it true that a lot of coaches aren’t really helping their kids? Yes of course. Is it true that “politics” is involved? Yes, of course. But it is your decision to be in that environment. You have other options if you want them. They may not be convenient. They may require you to get out of your comfort zone and think creatively, but there are always other options.

I guess at the end of the day, that’s the answer to the question. There is such a lack of self-awareness and self-accountability. I understand my strengths and weaknesses. I understand that if I’m not successful that’s on me. I’m going to keep working to get better. I’m not going to blame someone else for my failures. Winners win in spite of obstacles. Losing is a choice.

Some of our older athletes laugh when I tell them that their “mistake” is my fault. I mean yes, they missed the shot or whatever it was. But if I can help them be successful, and I’m not doing that as best I can, it is my fault. Maybe I need to hold them accountable better. Maybe we need to work on something in a different way. It’s my job to figure out what it takes to help each player. If I can’t help you, then go somewhere else. But if you think anyone can turn you into Steph Curry in a month, then you should probably stop playing basketball. That goes for anything though. If you want to be great, it’s going to take a lot of time and struggle. It’s going because you surrounded yourself with the right people and you said no to the rest. Most people can’t do that. They want to be liked and that desire to be liked is more important than the desire to be successful.

It’s the instant gratification of someone or something making you feel better in the moment instead of the long lonely boring journey that it takes to be great.

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