The Coach John Lucas Blog: The spirit of competition is dying in basketball

The Coach John Lucas Blog: The spirit of competition is dying in basketball

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The Coach John Lucas Blog: The spirit of competition is dying in basketball


Coach John Lucas is widely regarded as one of the foremost authorities for basketball training and development on every level in the world with top college and NBA players flocking to Houston to train in the offseason. A former All-American at Maryland, Lucas played in the NBA for 14 years before serving as head coach for the San Antonio Spurs, Philadelphia 76ers and Cleveland Cavaliers. Currently, Coach Lucas is the Director of Player Development with the Houston Rockets. Now Lucas kicks off his blog with USA Today High School Sports.

Hi world, I’m excited to start my blog with USA Today and to get a chance to share my thoughts and lessons about the state of the game.

One of the things that really bothers me, and something I’ve felt very strongly about for a while, is that the spirit of competition is dying in basketball.

It’s on a lot of different levels; from certain teams only wanting to go to certain tournaments to players not wanting to play against other players to parents complaining about the games, etc.

It’s a problem. It’s hurting the kids and the game.

A lot was made over Kevin Garnett’s comments about AAU basketball and how it’s killed the league. This ties in to what I’m addressing.

MORE FROM LUCAS: On AAU players | On parents, coaches | On protecting players

What happens is that the shoe companies separate the best kids, and they end up NOT competing against one another.

I get companies wanting to have the relationships with certain players and certain teams, but, at some point, you must do what’s right for the kids.

A lot of players don’t like to come to my gym (aka The Lab) because I don’t get involved in rankings. It doesn’t matter to me who you play against, just compete.

It’s almost like skipping steps; and it starts with parents. They don’t like to be uncomfortable when their kid isn’t playing well. But I’ve never seen a player go to the NBA out of the third grade. The best fifth grader is probably NOT going be the best eighth grader for a lot of different reasons that are beyond their control.

It sounds simple: To be successful, you must learn to develop the mindset that no matter who I’m playing against, I’m gonna go hard; and give it everything I’ve got.

The opponent shouldn’t matter.

It’s uncomfortable to constantly challenge yourself. However, I tell guys all the time that being uncomfortable and thinking in those uncomfortable situations is what life is all about. Ultimately, that’s what the game prepares us for – LIFE!

I believe that we are supposed to be preparing kids for those hard life lessons through the game.

I always talk about “the two Ds” in sports; most kids just want the DESTINY, but they don’t want to learn how to make the DECISIONS to get there.

I recently had my John Lucas All Star Weekend. It’s only for the best teams, regardless of shoe affiliation. The tournament is setup for early morning games; the reason being most good teams lose are the early morning games. Teams do not prepare for 8 a.m. games. This is why I say the spirit of competition is not taught anymore.

There will always be competition. Therefore, you must ALWAYS be ready to compete.

The kids compete and do great. However, I have more problems with the parents of second and third grade athletes and their coaches than any other grade level.

The coaches don’t want to lose, so instead they run from competition.

The irony is that you always hear coaches and trainers talk about how they made this player and that player elite.

Well, like Jay Z said in Lost One: “OK, so, make another me!”

In AAU and on these different circuits, coaches and trainers try to steal kids that are already elite; that’s NOT competition.

Why not teach them to be elite?

Isn’t that the mark of a true coach/trainer?

I have coaches that tell me these great players and teams they’re bringing and they request preferred times because of WHO they’re bringing.

What’s that about?

Again, it starts at the top; the parents and coaches must be held accountable. Never should it trickle down to the players; they are not to blame. We need to examine what got them there.

It’s really simple. When the lights come on, you must compete; with everything you’ve got, you must compete. Period.

When we get back to the basics, then we will be headed back in the right direction: Play Hard. Play Smart. Play Right.

Don’t forget to follow Coach John Lucas on Twitter: @JLEnterprises


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