Everybody wants to win but not everyone plays with a winning attitude! As I watch today's athletes, I see more and more "professionals" taking the attitude that I will compete when I feel like it. I really don't understand how you can call yourself a pro and have that attitude. The truth about sports is that anyone can win on any given day. I often wonder about the player who has to face a Roger Federer or Rafa Nadal or a Michael Jordan or a Kobe Bryant (oh it kills me to mention a Laker). Do they just show up figuring they are going to get smashed or do they come to play?
As we saw this year in the Wimbledon Tennis Championships, any player can win on any day. Watching the number of top seeds fall got me thinking what goes into being able to put together an upset win. All I had to do is to think about some of the guys that I play basketball with. At 6'5" 235lbs I tend to have a big size advantage over most of the guys I play against, but I have some friends who just seem to come with the right attitude every game and compete. I think of a couple of my friends like Jeremy and Aaron and Justin just to name a couple who I have a considerable size advantage over but they come to play every time and our games are a lot of fun and competitive.
Here is what I notice about these guys that makes them a part of my all-star attitude team:
1. Never be afraid to lose - My buddy Aaron is a good example of this. He's a football player who likes to play basketball. He didn't play in high school but he likes to get out and have fun and get a good workout. We've been playing a lot of those 1v1's to 100 that I wrote about in a previous article "Going The Distance". This guy plays with absolutely no fear of the outcome. I read a tweet recently that said if you play not to lose then that is just what you will get, a loss. You have to learn to go into every game confident in what you know. That is why you practice, to build up the confidence to use the skills that you have learned. I tell my players that you have to make your opponent play your game. The only way to do that is to take chances and do what feels natural to you. If your opponent has figured out one aspect of your game, then you try to use something else that you can do to get yourself back in it. Most players tend to get too focused on what their opponent is doing and not remembering that they have their own strengths that they need to call on. My dad told me as a young player that it's not that the other guy is better than you, he just knows things you don't, but never forget you know things he doesn't. What he meant is that you have to always focus on what you can do and if you give it your all and try to use everything you know how to use, don't be surprised if you find yourself on the winning end of the score. For Aaron, he brings that attitude every time we play. It's an honor to compete with such a stand up guy who has no fear of the outcome. I know that he's gonna bring his best every time and will keep playing as long as it takes.
2. Leave it all out on the floor - My friend Jeremy is a guy that I have a lot of respect for. His number one sport is Lacrosse but he loves basketball and can be a bit of an addict like me. He comes to play every game and gives everything he has every time. I have seen him out hustle guys twice his size and speed. Now don't get me wrong here, he is a tremendous athlete but he brings that extra energy and determination every time. In high school we used to have this saying "Never Underestimate Real Determination" we called it the N.U.R.D. principle. Simply put it means that never overlook someone who is determined to win. This dude brings his lunch pail to ever game and does work and pushes you to do work as well. I want him on my team every time and on the flip side, when I have to face him (we like playing 1v1 a bit) I bring my "A" game every time. He's one dude I will never go to sleep on. That is the attitude that every player needs to have. Be the most determined guy on the floor/field. Be everywhere, be hard to guard, be aggressive, never take plays off! The old expression can prove true that hard work beats talent any day!
3. Put your heart in it - My guy Justin is a dude that makes basketball fun. He's not the biggest guy out there but he probably has the biggest heart. I have seen both extremes of emotion on the court from him. He puts everything out there when he plays. You can easily see when he's disappointed when a shot doesn't fall or a play falls short, you can also see when things are going right and he gets pretty excited. One thing that you will never see out of him is someone who quits. Even when the game is out of reach, he gives everything until the end. Most players that I see today give up when their one or two "bread-n-butter" moves don't work. Charles Barkley said it best when he said that when he was playing, if one aspect of his game wasn't working, he simply found something else to do on the court to contribute to his team. This is where I see "pros" taking games or quarters off or plays off. This simply amazes me because nobody plays games to lose. At the pro level there is no excuse whatsoever for taking games and plays off. Another friend, Trey said to me the other day that he doesn't know why anyone would take plays off. If you are going to play, then play the whole time and don't let the other guy do what he wants. Great wisdom from a teenager! He is so right, you have to always play the game no matter what. I just have to look at one of my favorite teams, The San Antonio Spurs who have been described by one writer as a team that plays wall to wall team basketball. They have been known to take their star players out when things aren't working and allow the bench players to get out there and try to get the team back into it. It usually works because the bench players keep playing Spurs basketball and take advantage of the other team who usually backs off when the "bench" is in. They make them pay for every mistake and missed shot. After a while they find themselves back in the game and the stars who are on the bench get motivated and at the right time are brought back into the game. That's a team with heart, a team that plays it out to the end, no matter what the outcome may be.
It's all about attitude. If you approach the game and life with some of these mentalities, there is no telling what kind of success that you will find. A wise man once said, "Change your attitude, and you will change your life" So true, so get out there with the right attitude and take over the world!
Stay Forever Strong!