I was motivated to write this blog post after watching my little brother compete in his first exhibition game of the season. Their team was substantially more skilled and talented; however at the end of each quarter they always seemed to be down by a handful of possessions. Why were they not consistently beating the other team? They were getting out competed. Why did this happen? Are they not a hardworking group? NO, they just have not learned the skill of how to play hard and with ferocity on a consistent basis.
This is the most important skill you can possess as an athlete. No matter how skilled or talented you are if you don’t play hard you will always be the focus of your coaches ire and never reach your full potential. And playing hard is NOT something you can not turn on and off. If you fall into this trap you will end up finding that when you need that extra effort the most it will be missing in action.
So the next question will be how can you learn to play hard? Playing hard is a skill that is partially physical and mental. You must be in sufficient physical condition to play hard. The vast majority of basketball players vastly overestimate their conditioning levels. I know I did, and it held me back. Imagine being fresh during the fourth quarter while your competition is barely able to run up and down the floor. The advantage this would give you is obvious.
How do you get in good enough physical condition to play hard all the time? You need to focus on two things, cutting down your body fat% (so you have less extra baggage to carry around) and increasing your cardiovascular output. I have found the solution to improve both aspects to be quite simple. WALKING. I recommend the first thing you do when you wake up (before you eat breakfast) is to go out for a walk for 20 min (if you are a real keener you may listen to audiobooks while walking to fuel both your brain and your body). If you want faster weight loss results or want to improve your conditioning more quickly I recommend you walk for longer periods of time or walk in a more hilly area.
However, being in shape is NOT enough to enable you to play hard all the time. Being able to play hard means that you are locked into every play and playing with the ferocity of a lion! You have to have the desire and intent to dominate every play. Russell Westbrook is my favorite player to watch right now and is the best point guard in the NBA because he plays with unmatched energy on both sides of the floor. He has mastered the skill of playing hard on a consistent basis. Sometimes he does a get bit too aggressive. But as a coach it is way easier to reign in an overaggressive player then it is to coax a passive player to be more aggressive.
If you want coaches and scouts to notice you play harder then anybody else. This is something that will not happen overnight but it is a skill that you must continually focus on and push yourself to become better at. I have never heard a coach say a player plays with too much passion or energy. However, I have heard plenty of coaches lose interest in recruiting a player once they watched his “low motor”. If you desire to play past high school it is vital that you can play harder than or equally hard as anyone else to get noticed.
Be Happy and Chase your Dreams,
PS Here are a couple of ways to connect with me if you have any questions or have any specific topics you would like me to address.