Written by Mel Downer, Basketball Queensland State Performance Manager – South
Great athletes are a combination of a good player, but also a good person. When it comes to team selections, good character is a fundamental attribute over talent, purely because if you have one person with poor character – whether it be a parent, coach or athlete, it can change the whole dynamic of the group and what they’re trying to achieve.
Certain things that we look for in athletes above talent that come selection time that are really important are:
Elite communicators – This applies to both on and off the court! Don’t be afraid to have a tough conversation and be able to talk face to face – not via text or email. If athletes are injured or have a lot going on, it’s important that they can communicate what they can and can’t do and be able to give detail. The whole premise of this character stuff starts off the floor – athletes need to practice good character in life, not just in basketball. You can’t just walk on the court and have these characteristics ‘turn on.’
Athletes also need to be disciplined, which again starts off the court. Athletes need to be accountable for themselves and can’t rely on anyone else to do things for them. At home, that would look like doing your homework without being told to and being a contributing member of the community without being told to. In basketball, that looks like being in charge of your own recovery, being able to tape your own ankles without relying on Mum or Dad, being in charge of your own skill development and being in charge of nutrition.
State team athletes don’t rely on anyone else. They are self-sufficient and disciplined. They are also selfless and have a team mentality with a desire to make their teammates better which overrides a desire for their own personal success. Better people make better state players!
How does culture impact a team?
The thing about a team is that it’s a group of individuals all from diverse backgrounds, all different goals in life, with lots of different things going on, and you’ve got to bring them together in order to achieve a single goal. To do that requires the building of a culture of what’s acceptable in the environment that you’re in. In your team environment there should be a set of standards, rules and values that make up what culture is and if one person doesn’t buy into that, then it becomes very difficult. You’re only as good as your weakest link – so that’s where the balance shifts. The best teams may not be ‘full of stars’. As Phil Jackson says “Good teams become great ones when the members trust each other enough to surrender the Me for the We.”