Competitive Nature

As an athlete nothing should ever trump winning, not stats, not your role, nothing...EVER!  Winning is absolutely the key ingredient to Teammate-Ology.  Great teammates want to win and the best teams are filled with people who, at all costs, are fueled by winning.  In sports, and often in life, winning is everything.  From business, to sports, to branches of the military, winning must be at the forefront of each member’s priority list if the group wants to win.  When each player truly embodies this concept lifelong bonds are built.  This is only possible when all members involved can agree on a common goal and the standards at which they agree to be held accountable.  On a practical level as a player this means you are competing to win at all costs.  In practice, in the weight room, a player should be driven to win in every phase of the game. 

The will to win is simply the most important piece to any athletes make up.  It’s why Michael Jordan will always be the G.O.A.T. in my opinion.  Go to YouTube and listen to how his teammates, and even his opponents, talk about how far this guy would go to win.  Most players have a finite amount of talent and that only gets you so far.  Trust me, I’ve played professionally in 13 different countries all over the world and there is no shortage of talent out there.  Even some of the most talented players simply don’t make it for a multitude of reasons.  If you want to be a great player and a great teammate you need to learn to compete in everything you do.  Some would argue that you either have a competitive spirit or you don’t.  There may be some truth to that.  But, if addressed properly, a player’s competitive nature can be developed. 

Developing a Winner

Bill Self, Head Coach of The University of Kansas men’s basketball team said, “Toughness is a learned skill, and that a willing player can learn to be tougher…. I absolutely think you can build toughness in a person and in a group.”  In the book ‘Toughness’, ESPN College Basketball Analyst Jay Bilas describes an instance during his playing days at Duke University.  In this particular moment Bilas describes a loose ball situation where he thought he had an easy recovery and a transition layup.  Instead an opposing player dove on the ball while Bilas was attempting to bend over at the wast to pick up the loose ball gaining possession for his team.  This happened during at critical time of this particular game, Coach K of Duke was livid about the lost possession, in fact, he wouldn’t let Bilas live it down.  Bilas learned in that moment that not being tough wasn't an option at Duke University and he grew tougher because of it.  This changed Jay Bilas’ approach to the game from that point forward. In short, because of this moments and many other moments like it, Bilas grew tougher as a player.  Toughness is a key component to competing.  The toughest team usually wins. If toughness can be developed then surely a player can learn to compete.  Coaches should build their practices around competition, awarding winners and punishing losers.  It has to be about winning if players aspire to play at a high level. 

The greatest compliment to any player is he is a great teammate. We can’t all be great players, but we can all be great teammates.
— Jay Bilas

Think about the pace at which you practice or the intensity of your workout routine; are you giving it all you have consistently?  The great thing about playing at a high level is that players will embarrass you if you don't bring your A game daily.  Also, if you are just going through the motions and are still able to win then that's not really winning.  It's simple to say you won or lost on a given day by looking at the scoreboard and most players would argue that they compete.  But do they really? You may be at a level that allows you to do so, and if that's true then your goal should be to dominate.  Day in and day out, showing up your competition should fuel you so there's never an excuse not to give it everything you have. Are you doing the small things daily to improve so that you can put yourself in position to dominate?  That's the progression; compete, then win, then dominate!  These principles are explained thoroughly in NBA training guru Tim Grover's book Relentless. 

When being considered for an opportunity to play a general rule is this; the higher up you want to go, the more winning matters.  As a college player, I often just went through the motions thinking I could get by on my talent.  I was WRONG! I had some really tough teammates that gave me a serious wake up call.  They competed, they beat you and let you know about it every day.  Determined to be a pro, I had no choice but to get more competitive and go that extra mile.  I learned to eat a certain way, how to properly lift weights to accentuate my physical gifts and to do the extra work; shooting, STRETCHING, extra push-ups at night, watching film and developing my game.  I spent hours and hours in the gym honing my craft.  All these things equate to small wins, and small wins eventually lead to big wins.  It's definitely a process, nothing great happens overnight, but it's difficult to put in that type of work and not be willing to compete.  A wise man once told me, "Take care of the pennies (small wins; daily workouts, extra shots, diet, stretching) and the dollars (big wins; scholarships, contracts, winning seasons. etc.) will take care of themselves." 

Note: If you lack in competitive spirit simply ask yourself the following question.  Why do you want to play?  Is it to be cool?  Or maybe because your friends are doing it.  Or maybe you want status or to fit in.  If so, recognize early that that is why you’re in it and realize that you can’t/won’t go far in this game if you don’t genuinely want to win.  

How The Greats Win

To simply have the desire is only the first step.  The question is, how far are you willing to go?  Your will is measured by your actions, what you do. How much extra work will you do on your own?  Are you willing to change your diet?  Your sleep patterns?  These small wins make all the difference at the end of the day.  Tom Brady is the best quarterback I have personally ever seen.  Now in his 40’s with plenty of rings under his belt he still goes the extra mile.  It’s been reported that Brady drinks up to 35 bottles of water daily.  Not to mention the countless hours of film studying himself, his team and his opponents.  He is relentless in his approach to greatness.  While that may be an extreme case, it's no wonder Brady is extremely good.  These are the types of sacrifices winners need to make.  

LeBron James is widely accepted as the best player in the world.  LeBron is a workout fanatic pushing his body to its' physical limits, but also understanding when he needs rest or recovery.  He does yoga, pilates, pool workouts to preserve his joints and an insane amount of stretching, icing and massages.  It has been said that Bron spends up to $1,000,000 per year on his body.  That's a serious investment.  But on a more subtle note, LeBron James KNOWS THE GAME!  He is an underrated thinker of the game.  He's well aware of his opponent's offensive goals and defensive schemes.  He knows college players and even high school players long before they enter the NBA.  When Larry Nance was recently traded to the Cavs LeBron was asked about his new teammate just hours after the trade was official.  With no hesitation LeBron broke down Nance's strengths on court telling where he likes the ball and what Nance brings to the table defensively.  He was already familiar with Nance's style of play.  He has the mind of a quarterback or a coach with elite size and athleticism.  Bron is known for his passing, he recently notched his 8000th NBA assist.  He's always been a gifted passer.  But he reads the game extremely well because he studies.  In the link below watch LeBron pick apart the defense. 

Check out 'Bron's IQ in real time vs Golden State in the NBA Finals last year here.  He reads the defense and makes the proper adjustment.  No coach told him what to do or called a play.  He simply read the game. 


Spark The Competitive Fire On Your Team:

If you want to kick your personal competitive level into over drive while raising the level of your teams play go into your next practice with the sole intent of winning EVERYTHING! Don’t say a word.  Just have it in your mind that you will win in every single thing you do.  Approach every single practice this way until you win a day (meaning you won the vast majority of drills and games that day) then let everybody know.  Keep it friendly,  you're not trying to start a fight,  but let them know that you beat them and how.  Don’t be shy, tell them how you beat them.  Now your teammates will have to step their game up and want to one-up you by winning games of their own. If they don't respond they may not be wiling to compete, at that point your goal should be to dominate them on court.  I don't mean demoralize them with words, we ALWAYS pick our teammates up no matter what.  You are a unit, remember that.  But you came to win and if they didn't then they need to step it up.  But when your teammates respond competitively then what you have just done is raise the level of competition on your team.  Competition should bring out the best in all of us.  Now you can’t let your guard down because your teammate is gonna let you have it when they beat you.  The objective here is to motivate yourself to bring it every single day and develop a culture of winning.  When game time comes take that same spirit and go out there to demoralize the other team with a heightened sense of competitive drive.  What you will find is that players will play harder and the idea of self will be greatly decreased.  I want to beat my teammate every single day in practice and I want him to want to beat me.  (That makes winning that much better)  But when game time rolls around I want US to destroy the other team. 

Teammate example:

One of my most competitive teammates was my guy Charlon Kloof.  Charlon was born in a small Caribbean country called Suriname.  Just to get out and achieve his goal to play Division 1 basketball at St. Bonaventure in New York he had to defeat the odds.  This guy overcame so much just to set foot on a college campus as an NCAA athlete.  He  defeated even greater odds to become a pro.  His path gave him an edge, he was a fighter.  Coming from where he came from how could he not be ultra competitive?

Charlon stands about 6’4 and plays the point guard position.  He’s a crazy athlete and a lock down defender who can guard 3-4 different positions at any given time.  We played together in Istanbul, Turkey in 2014.  Charlon wouldn't quit when it came to winning.  He would compare shooting percentages, points per game and different moves and we always battled in practice.  We always did it out of love, pushing each other to be better and the results spoke for themselves as we both had really good seasons that year. 

He always made a point to remind me he averaged more points per game than I did that season.  Well I’m sure he will read this and I just want to remind him that the team only won one game before I arrived!  Yes, I saved the season that year.  You're welcome!  And don’t forget about my back to back game winners in the same week! (Especially the one when Coach called the play for Charlon! The nerve!)

Charlon is now playing in what most consider the best league in Europe, Liga Endesa in Spain.  He also competes in a top international competition, the Basketball Champions League and plays with the Netherlands national team who just finished competing in EuroBasket 2019.  You came a long way, finish strong this season Charlon! 

At Inspire we believe that the physical is the easy part.  But what truly sets a player apart is the mental, the intangibles.  We aim to help each player improve both mentally and physically.  This summer 2018 expand your game mentally and physically when you sign up for either one of our NIKE Basketball Camps in Kansas City, Missouri!  Click the banner below to register.

Esian henderson