Now we are down to the “S”…and it’s my personal favorite. The four previously mentioned topics are all extremely important concepts that basketball and youth sports can teach young kids.
But, the “S” is what takes some people to the top. The “S” is what holds 99% of us back. The “S” can be the greatest lesson that young people can apply to their adult lives.
Without it, nothing great has ever been accomplished. Without it, experiencing discomfort or enduring the struggles of adult life can be difficult to bear. Without it, we struggle to learn to make tough decisions.
The “S” in our acronym, and I believe the most important thing youth basketball can teach young players, stands for sacrifice.
Before I go any deeper, let me say that I’m not advocating for a life of solitary focus. I’m not telling young players to abandon everything else in their lives in pursuit of their basketball dreams. I’m just here to tell them that SOME PEOPLE DO! And as a player, that is who you are competing against. Basketball greatness…and greatness in general…is reserved for very, very few people.
As coaches, we hear it all the time. “I want to play in the NBA”, “I want to shoot 40% from three this season”, or my personal favorite “I just want to win a championship!” HA! I have to hold back my automatic response when I hear these things sometimes because, in my head, I’m saying, “NO YOU DON’T!”. I hear these claims from young players and then watch the way most of them work and things just don’t add up.
So, what does this have to do with sacrifice?
You can’t imagine how badly I wished I could do something like that when I wanted. Players will find that there are countless times throughout their playing days that the temptation to do something “more fun” or “less stressful” or “less demanding” will rear its ugly head.
Sooner or later it will hit you that the goal you have chosen is forcing you to sacrifice so many things in life that you might find more enjoyable in that moment. It takes a special personality to maintain that focus and make constant sacrifices.
What are some ways that achieving your goals makes you learn sacrifice?
#1 Sacrifice Time
As I just mentioned, the temptation to do other things. Do you want to start on your varsity team or spend your summer by the pool? Do you want to be an all conference player or hangout with your friends all day?
Basketball teaches us to sacrifice our time…and sooner or later (hopefully!), we all learn the lesson that anything great we want to accomplish in life will do the same thing.
Some people choose to make basketball their only focus. Their entire day revolves around working towards their basketball dreams. Again, I am not saying this is right or wrong, I’m stating this as a fact that young players, who are serious about accomplishing their basketball dreams, need to know.
#2 Sacrifice Self-Pride
Basketball (and sports) can teach us to sacrifice our egos. This is why I am skeptical when players say, “I just care about winning a championship!”.
I always want to ask those players, “Ok, what if I told you that your team will win the championship, but you will only play 3 minutes a game. Would you do it?”
That’s a much different story.
Being a part of the team sometimes means sacrificing your own goals for the good of your squad. If you really only cared about winning games, then you would never roll your eyes when the coach takes you out of the game. You would never pout on the bench because you’re not playing as much as you think you should.
All great players have off games. Sometimes they have to sacrifice their desire for the spotlight and give their teammates the chance to shine.
Do you really only care about winning or do you care about personal glory?
You can’t always have both!
#3 Sacrifice Convenience
Sometimes you’ll have to sacrifice convenience. Those that are hyper-focused make every decision based on their goals. If they have a dream of becoming a world-class athlete, they often make life harder on themselves.
Sometimes it would be more convenient to play for the team that practices in your neighborhood, but they choose to drive an hour to play for the best coach they can find.
Recently, a swimmer from my gym won a gold and silver medal at the Rio Olympics. Before the games started, I heard her personal story and it was filled with sacrifices she and her family made. She left her school when she was young and moved away to join a club and a coach that she knew could help her accomplish her dreams. Talk about sacrifice!
If you’re a young basketball player, truly ask yourself these questions:
- Would you consistently skip out on doing what your friends are doing versus going to the gym and working on your game?
- Would you leave your comfortable school, the bedroom you grew up in, and your friends all for the sake of a slight chance to make your dreams come true?
- Would you dedicate a lot of your time in the gym, even when you didn’t feel like it?
This is a level of sacrifice some people are willing to go to. They are out there!
One of my favorite quotes, that is often attributed to the great artist Michelangelo is…
“If people knew how hard I worked to gain my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all”.
People often romanticize great basketball talents and the lives they lead. They see the fame and fortune and they don’t see the hours of painstaking hard-work.
I’ve been lucky enough to see greatness in person. I spent a season around Stephen Curry and watched him put himself through grueling track workouts.
I watched him shoot for hours in an empty gym, and I promise that it’s nothing like the well-lit, super stylish footwear Ads you see today. It’s quiet and it’s difficult.
Watch it for 20 seconds on an Under Armour ad and it’s looks amazing. Watch it for 2 hours and you’ll be bored to death for an hour and 45 minutes. But that’s what it takes for him to be the greatest shooter in the world.
And he does it EVERY…SINGLE…DAY!
I’m sure there are times that he would rather be playing video games or hanging out with his friends. But Stephen Curry sacrifices those times in order to accomplish his goals.
I hope that this writing motivates some to honestly evaluate their daily decisions. I do not mean to discourage kids from setting lofty goals or having big dreams and I do not pretend to always make the right decisions myself.
I believe that if we tell young players that they should DREAM BIG, we owe it to them to be honest about what it takes to accomplish those dreams.
It’s a daily and hourly battle to hold that focus.
But if young players can learn to sacrifice their time, their egos and their comfort and learn to struggle towards their dreams, then youth sports will have accomplished what it should focus on…teaching young people how to work towards self-improvement and success.
How do you plan to sacrifice today?