“To go from where you are to where you want to be; you have to have a dream, a goal, and you have to be willing to work for it.” – Jim Valvano
“Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways wise! It has no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.” – Proverbs 6:6-11
As a former high school basketball coach with 20 years experience, one of the most important jobs I had was to motivate my players. When it came to building a competitive program at Norfolk Christian, it all started with the foundation of developing buy in, responsibility, teamwork and accountability among our players. As most coaches will attest, the “off-season” is one of the most important times to develop as a player. Therefore, it was my job to find ways to get my players motivated to get in the gym to develop their skills.
During the basketball off-season, which is considered the summer months, the work and development done during this time would play a major part in our success during the actual season, which is during the winter. If our guys were to turn the corner and become competitive within our local conference and then ultimately across the state, our off-season expectations and standards would need to be raised; and that’s exactly what we did.
“The key (of success) is not the ‘will to win’…everybody has that. It is the ‘will to prepare to win’ that is important.” – Bob Knight
We took a three step approach. First, we provided summer skills open gym workouts twice a week. They were given a minimal amount that they were required to attend (say 10 out of 15 days). Secondly, they were required to attend Team Camp together – no questions asked as they had to attend. This was important to getting away as a team and bonding as a family. Lastly, we also gave minimal requirements or milestones to achieve during our open gyms. (ie: Shoot a certain amount of shots, perform specific ball handling drills, footwork drills, etc.) Through the years of building our program into one that was respected not only across Virginia but across the country, there is no question the majority of our success was attributed to this off-season program and raising the bar on our standards. For our commitment, we were blessed to win back-to-back state championships and four consecutive conference titles. This was not by luck or talent alone – we prepared during the off-season when many people were not watching.
However, inevitably, every year we would have at least one or two guys who stated they wanted to be a part of our program, but would not meet our expectations and would end up either being cut or being dropped to our JV program for further development. This was mainly because of their laziness or lack of commitment in the off-season. They would seldom attend our workouts or if they did decide to attend, they would go half speed in our fundamental work and rarely made progress in developing their skills. This was all due to their lack of motivation. They wanted to shine before many during the season and have the glitz and notoriety that went along with that however they were unwilling to put in the required work when no one else was looking.
“Everyone wants to do what the great ones do: but very few are willing to do what they did to become great.” – Jon Gordon
As stated in our scripture above from Proverbs, “we should look at the ant and consider its ways wise!” The ant does not have someone lording over it making it go out and look for food to bring back to store for the winter months. It just falls in line with the others and does what is required. They know if they do not prepare ahead of time, they will not eat. Well as I related this to our players, if they are not “storing up” on their skill work in the off-season (summer) to where things will become natural and second nature to revert back to during the season (harvest time), they will not eat. And by eating I meant make the team, play as much as they would like to or win as much as they would like to. It all went back to “what you reap is what you sow.”
So in conclusion, whether in your athletic endeavors, your academics, your marriage or your vocation, you must be motivated to work for everything that you desire as nothing is going to handed to you. Thankfully we have a savior who does not give up on us and guides us in the way we need to go. Just like a coach would guide his players and give them a plan on how to improve, God gave us a plan through Jesus Christ on how we should be living and it is therefore up to us to be motivated to follow that plan – His plan.