As we continue with our blog series on F.O.C.U.S., we will now discuss Unity, which is the U in our acronym. As I’ve mentioned in past blog posts, on a personal level, the most lasting lessons that basketball and team sports taught me were the skills of working well with others.

I don’t remember a lot of scores, plays or highlights from my playing career, but the things that have lasted the test of time are the friendships I made along the way and the lessons I learned about working towards something bigger than myself.

Sometimes they were difficult lessons to learn. Sometimes they were downright painful. But below you will find 3 lessons on Unity that can be taught through basketball and other team sports.

#1 My Needs vs. The Team’s Needs

Being a part of a team sometimes means putting the needs of others ahead of yourself.

Admittedly, this can be a difficult and painful lesson for young players. Not always getting what we want is a tough lesson for kids to learn. But, just like we teach our children to share toys, we need to teach them to share the spotlight.

At some point, players need to ask themselves, and answer honestly, do they want to be on a winning team or do they play for personal glory. Great teams have players that want to win, no matter the cost to their personal performance. Michael Jordan didn’t make every game winning shot for the Bulls. Steve Kerr was ready for his opportunity when it came.

Sometimes as a player, you will have an off night and the best thing for the team is for you to be on the bench. Players and parents must remember that it’s a coach’s job to give his team the best chance to win. It’s not about one particular player or some players parents and making sure he or she is happy. It’s about the TEAM.

Sometimes players have to remind themselves, and parents have to remind their young athletes, that there are other players on the team and everything does not revolve around them! A team can’t be truly unified if two players are pouting on the bench about not getting playing time.

Great teammates find pleasure in the success of their fellow team members, even if it means they take a backseat sometimes. And great teammates make great teams! And great teams win.

One example is Tim Duncan during the last few seasons of his career. As a former All-Star and NBA MVP, Tim spent much more time on the bench during the end of his career. Tim is undoubtedly a special personality, but for many of us, fading out of the spotlight by sitting on the bench would have been a shot to the ego.

Tim handled it with grace and knew that his time in the spotlight was coming to and end and it was THE BEST THING FOR THE TEAM for him to be sitting. Tim Duncan understood the need to put the team before his own ego. That is why the Spurs continue to win!

#2 Productivity and Value

Teams are the most productive when everyone feels valued.

basketball unityThe “attitude of me” is like cancer to a team. It is the unity killer! That is not to say that kids that don’t get playing time are selfish when they desire to play.

This is a two-way street. Coaches need to sell a selfless team culture and players need to buy into it.

Sometimes coaches fall short on this and sometimes players just won’t buy in. Again, great teammates make great teams!

If we look at some of the best teams in the NBA today, like the San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors, you can see that everyone feels valued, their star players aren’t always their star players and team members find joy in the success of their teammates.

Great coaches and team captains know how to make each team member feel important. From the star player to a member of the scout team, EVERYONE has their role to play and EVERY role is important. No one likes feeling undervalued in basketball, in the business world, and in life in general.

Learning how to show appreciation for what your teammates add to the team will make everyone feel valued and create a much stronger team culture. If you want to help your child or team find success in any form, focus on creating a culture based on unity.

#3 Everyone is Different

Every player, every coach, every person, is motivated by different factors. Some players crave the spotlight and some are just happy to be on the team. Some players need constant positive reinforcement from their coaches and teammates and some can thrive without it.

Being a part of a team can teach you to read people and determine what makes them tick.

How can I make this person feel valued?

Can I show this person that I care about them?

How can I show them that I appreciate their performance?

When people feel valued, they work harder towards a common goal, which leads to a greater likelihood of success. Anyone in any position of leadership can take this lesson, practice reading and genuinely appreciating people and help their team win.


Basketball and teams sports are not always smooth experiences. Every team has their share of conflicts and confrontations. This blog does not pretend to say that every team needs to hold hands and sing kumbaya. A certain level of conflict is going to arise. But with a strong culture based on caring about your teammates, these conflicts will come and go without bringing down a team.

It is my belief that at the end of the day, teams must have members that care about one another in order to meet their common goal, which is hopefully to win games!

It is so important for young people to learn how to work well with others as they will undoubtedly need this skill for the future. In their social lives, business, education or sports, getting along and learning how to work with people is a skill that can not be overlooked.

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