Basketball Requires Some Salty Communication

getty images on espn.com

getty images on espn.com

I’m excited for the start of the NBA season this week because I love hoops and I love to learn.  I’m excited to see if the Warriors can continue their dream run, if the Spurs can plug in some new parts, if Kevin Durant can return from his foot injury, and if my Milwaukee Bucks will continue to make progress.  I’m anxious to watch the coaches I love and I’m anxious to find teaching points to pass on to our team.  As we move into our second week, we’ve implemented the basics of our dribble drive offense, but since we’ll be playing with a size disadvantage, we’ve taken a page out of Golden State’s playbook of small ball concepts – concepts that only work when players clearly communicate. Sometimes that communication is very difficult, especially with players who are hesitant to talk or have concerns about how their teammates will hear the message, but we expect our players to say what needs to be said to help each other grow and as we do that, I’m reminded of the Christian’s call to be “salty.”

BASKETBALL – Communication

Teammates on and off the basketball floor have to be able to communicate – both verbally and non-verbally.  When that communication occurs, basketball is a beautiful game, as the Warriors displayed last year:

That early offense is something we’re trying to replicate, but it takes everybody being on the same page.  If any of the Warriors take a “me first” attitude, there’s no way they can maintain spacing and create scoring opportunities.  As you take a look behind the scenes of their championship run, the Warriors’ ability to communicate stands out, but many times things have to be said that a player doesn’t want to hear.  A coach or a teammate may have to get a little “salty” with his words to help a player see things from a different perspective.  Salt as a seasoning can be a flavor enhancer and a preservative, but used too much or used to the extreme, it can be over-bearing.

Our team this year is loaded on the extremes.  We have several experienced seniors balanced with key, inexperienced freshmen and only a few sophomores and one junior. How well we learn to communicate will be a critical factor in our season and sometimes, our experienced guys will have to step and use a little “salt” to help our young ones see things that aren’t always apparent to them.  Issues like shot selection, creating space, and reading secondary defenders can be difficult for new players to process or to hear and more importantly, off-the-court situations will also require some salt!

LIFE – When Salt is Required

ConvoSooner or later, each of us will be confronted by situations and conversations that require a little salt – salt that enhances and salt that preserves or maybe even salt that challenges. Family relationships and close friendships can be deeply affected when we speak up, but even though we may risk damage to the relationship, there are times when faith and morality will be tested by family and friendship.  Basketball teammates and coaches can be more effective with those salty conversations when they consider when, how, and why they will deliver a message that a player needs to hear.  If the message is driven by judgement, jealousy, or resentment it may not be a message to give right in the moment. Lizzy Harden of Relevant Magazine has some great advice in How to Navigate Tough Conversations.  Just remember, the danger of avoiding those conversations can lead to a loss of saltiness and a life without flavor!

FAITH – Salty or Unsalty?

Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

Jeff Chiu/AP

God has planned for each of us to be salty – not in an overbearing or judgmental way, but in a way that brings flavor to our lives and to the lives of those around us. We have been designed and created to reflect God’s love throughout a fallen world. Jesus tells us we’re the “salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13) and Paul reminds us that God gave us “a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7).  And here’s the kicker, many times when you speak up, others may not like it and they may not like you:

“Woe to you, when all people speak well of you.” (Luke 6:26)

Sometimes Christians can be a little too salty.  We’re not called to outwardly oppose everything wrong in our culture – I mean, let’s face it, there are so many things in our country and in our world that we can speak up about, but God will direct each of us on when it’s appropriate if we’re willing to listen.  And when He does direct us to be the salt, we may not be liked for the position we take and some people may not speak well of us. In my book, just as teammates on the basketball floor may have to make an unpopular statement or take a stand, God expects us to be salt to the world.  So, let God be your guide and when needed, pass the salt!

Great Basketball Players Know How & When To Multitask

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

For me the jury is still out.  In the ever-increasingly complex world in which we live, multitasking and the ability to do several things at once is not only a desired skill, but frequently a necessity if you want to succeed.  On the other hand, studies like Your Brain on Multitasking from CNN, show that our brains actually do not function well when we switch back and forth between tasks and it reduces our efficiency in a way similar to smoking pot.  So, what about in basketball? Don’t we need players to have laser beam focus on one task at a time?  Or is the game so fast that to be a great player requires athletes to multitask?  Interestingly, the Bible has something to say on the matter as well!

BASKETBALL – Slowing the Game

Can Stephen Curry get any better?  Seriously, can he?  While most of us have pondered that question since he led the Warriors to the NBA title and walked away with league MVP honors over the more physically gifted Harden, James, Westbrook, and Davis, Curry has done all he can to keep improving.  And, it’s more than just shooting shots, working on moves, and lifting more weights.  The best way for Curry to improve is actually to train his mind to slow the game down.  That’s one of the reasons he’s able to make plays like these:

Curry’s preparation for his encore season has involved neurological training that includes green lights, beams of light, ropes, and tennis balls (see ESPN.com’s How Stephen Curry Gets Even Better) all in an attempt to help Curry make the right decision to shoot, fake, or drive before his defender even has a clue.

Certainly focus is an essential element in basketball, especially when shooting, but training your mind to be able comprehend and process everything that happens in fractions of a second can separate players from others – like seeing the ball and your man at the same time or being able to dribble off a ball screen and read not just your defender and the screen defender, but also the help-side defenders.  That requires a brain that has been conditioned to be aware, creative, and determined – all at the same time!

StillpowerIn one of my favorite books from my summer reading , Garret Kramer  in his book Stillpower strays from conventional thinking about willing your way to victory.  As Kramer has worked with athletes in a variety of sports, he suggests that a major key to the mental approach to any sport, is to unclutter the mind from the distractions and anxiety created by traditional performance-based thinking.  Far too many players never reach their potential because they fail to master their emotions and fail to confront the moods and perceptions created by their circumstances.  When a player learns to still his mind, new possibilities and new mental capabilities can allow any player, like Steph Curry, to better handle multitasking no matter what distractions come in the heat of competition.

LIFE – Career or Family?

algonquin.com

algonquin.com

In another book I recently read, North Carolina Coach Roy William’s autobiography, Hard Work: A Life On and Off the CourtWilliams lamented the many years he sacrificed quality time with his children as he developed into a Hall of Fame coach.  When his first grandson was born during the 2010 season, Williams vowed to take a different approach with his grandchildren and has now learned that he can coach at the highest level, but also take on the role of actively involved grandparent.  Far too many of us, like Williams, see that as an either/or choice, but isn’t just another type of multitasking?

www.theguardian.com

www.theguardian.com

This week, that subject took center stage in the political world, as Congressman Paul Ryan only agreed to accept the thankless and high-pressured position as Speaker of the House if allowances would be made for him to stay actively involved in the life of his young children.  The good news for all of us is that it seems that Ryan has already shown he can multitask as a Vice Presidential candidate and a key congressional leader while staying actively involved with his children.  In a society in which multitasking has become so ingrained in us, the ones who truly make it work are those who can still their mind to be able to focus without allowing the circumstances and distractions of life to limit their effectiveness.  I respect coaches who may step aside for family reasons, but I’ve also learned that God has shown us throughout scripture that there are times when we’ll need to multitask and when we do, maintaining our priorities allows that to happen.

FAITH – Biblical Multitasking

NEHEMIAHIn the Old Testament, long before the birth of Jesus, God’s chosen people repeatedly rebelled against God’s plan and were taken into exile by various enemies.  As a result, God’s temple and the city of Jerusalem were destroyed.  After many years, under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah, God allowed His people to return to their homeland and gave them the opportunity to rebuild the city and more importantly, their relationship with God.  It’s a truly inspiring story and one that has meaning for each of us today.  Nehemiah’s role in the process is the epitome of multitasking – he was a respected leader with a tender heart like Lincoln, a relentless perfectionist like Patton, and a savvy and tested statesman like Churchill. When God’s temple had been rebuilt by others before him, Nehemiah knew it had to be protected by rebuilding the city’s walls.  And while God was rekindling the spirit of the people, Nehemiah led them through an exercise in multitasking as the people constructed a wall while protecting themselves from their enemies – shovels in one had and spears in the other.(read Nehemiah 4:16-23)

Followers of Jesus often repeat Paul’s words “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength,” and that includes, when necessary, how to multitask. When that process was difficult, here’s what Nehemiah did:

We prayed to our God, and set a guard as a protection against them day and night.  (Nehemiah 4:9)

When necessary, each of us CAN multitask, but only if we keep our hearts turned toward God and follow His lead in determining our priorities.

 

 

 

Throwback: Preparing for Injury

Stack.com

Stack.com

As our team opens practice this week, we will be adjusting to a new squad on which we do not have a physically imposing center.  Do to graduation and some losses to injury, we’ll be experimenting with inexperienced freshmen and undersized players to fill that role. Like many teams, any injuries we experience will have a dramatic impact on our team and will affect how we are able to play.  With that in mind, I though it would be good to review a previous 3 Point Wisdom article from 2013.

 Click here for:   Preparing for Injury

Baylor Team PrayerHopefully, our players have been diligently preparing and conditioning for the grind of the season, but as we begin our practices we will be very proactive in help them condition and to develop proper communication and routines with our training staff.  For our team, it’s going to be a necessity!

But what will also help our team and is one of things I am most grateful for in coaching at a Christian university, is that we will address all over personal and team challenges together in prayer.  There’s no greater source of inspiration and collective team commitment than for us to take our concerns to our Heavenly Father.  That will help us handle whatever injuries or adversity we’ll face.

 Thank you for joining the search for wisdom through basketball.

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