🕐 4 minute read
So, you made the team. Your hard work has paid off, but the journey has just begun. When coming into a new situation, there is always a learning curve. You may have played basketball your whole life, but you haven’t played with these teammates or this coach wearing this jersey. Whether it is a new youth program or your freshman year in college, there are some tried and true approaches to ensure a more successful transition to a new team.
First and foremost, always work hard. Bring the energy to every single drill or competitive situation in practice. Hard work will not only yield better results, but it will also enhance your credibility, almost instantly. Respect in an athletic setting is earned, never given. Whether they acknowledge it outwardly or not, your teammates and coaches will notice the consistent effort. An easy way to do this, relatively speaking, is to always touch the line. By that, I mean, when you inevitably have to run a line drill or a 17, don’t come up short and cut corners. Put your foot clearly on or over the line. Your mind goes to a lot of places when you are tired, but don’t allow the temptation to gain a small advantage to become your MO. Hard work is non-negotiable so set the tone early on.
That said, don’t rock the boat either. Challenge others to be the best version of themselves through competition, but don’t create animosity. Never appear to be a ‘know-it-all’ or carry yourself as if you are better than anyone. A good teammate makes recommendations to help others improve, but they must do so within reason. Negativity may creep in when emotions are high but always end on a positive. Follow what I call the “jelly bean theory”. That is, share your perspective, but always end with the best. For me, it’s the red jellybeans.
First impressions last a lifetime, don’t let your play earn you the selfish label. In basketball, we often use the term, “black hole”. This is used to describe a player who shoots far more often than they pass. Once they touch it, it’s gone. Counter this by getting others involved first. Players want to play with people who make them look good, it’s human nature. Setting your new teammates up early will build relationships, and, in turn, chemistry. Demonstrate how you can help the team and eventually your turn to do what you do best will come.
X’s and O’s
Know the plays! There are few things more frustrating to a coach or teammate than watching someone get lost on the floor and fail to execute. While there are numerous things out of our control on a basketball court, your knowledge of the playbook should never be one of them. If you aren’t on the floor getting the reps yourself, watch, review and ask questions. You can quickly lose trust and respect from teammates if they can’t rely on you to perform your task in a given situation. Failing to capitalize on a scoring opportunity because you didn’t know what you were supposed to do will quickly land you on the bench.
“Carry yourself with a quiet confidence that comes from being supremely prepared for all situations”
Further, be confident and play free. In every situation, show what you can do, not what you can’t. In an earlier blog post, we discussed the importance of self-awareness to define your role on a team. While your role on your former team may have been a primary scoring option, that doesn’t mean you should force shots from the jump here. The process of joining a new team may also include some re-evaluation of what role you can now play. This isn’t to say that primary scorer isn’t a role you can work your way into at some point. It just means start by demonstrating other facets of your game that you know will allow you to shine immediately.
Be seen, then slowly be heard. There are countless approaches to leadership, but when you are new to a team, lead by example. Be the first one dressed and ready to sit through a film session. Spend an extra 30 minutes after practice reading the scouting report. Don’t do it to be noticed, but know that you are. Carry yourself with a quiet confidence that comes from being supremely prepared for all situations.
Listen and Observe
Ask questions and learn about what makes your teammates tick. Listen and observe their behaviors. Are there one or two big personalities that demand a lot of attention or pull the energy of the room towards them? Maybe that is who you are naturally, and that is great, but remain an observer at first. Be a presence in the locker room by engaging with teammates but don’t dominate conversations. If you are more introverted, that is also great, but it may require you to make a bit more of an effort to be social. Never isolate yourself on an island, be a part of the community. The majority of the best teams all have good chemistry off the court as well.
Remember, success is rented not owned and the rent is due every day. Never allow complacency to creep in where you feel as if you have made it and can set the cruise control. Have an insatiable hunger to learn and improve. With that mindset, good things will follow.