This is a topic that should be of interest to all coaches and athletes. Are you born with the attributes that it takes to be competitive and to have competitive greatness or are these skills and attributes that are learned during the course of your life? In my opinion, the answer is true competitive greatness is a learned trait that has been taught or discovered by anyone who has ever achieved greatness. To be great at anything in life including athletics, you need to have the skills, passion, and desire; however, to be truly great and achieve competitive greatness, you need more than this; you have to have that internal motivation to be your driving force. Sure you can become great utilizing external motivators, but if you can’t motivate yourself from within and that is not the true driving force that makes you tick; then I don’t believe you can ever achieve true competitive greatness.
So how is competitive greatness learned or discovered? I will discuss my answer in terms of basketball and how I believe it can be taught to athletes in today’s world and I will share with you three steps in which I believe are the most important when trying to achieve competitive greatness. The first step towards competitive greatness comes from being competitive! Children in today’s society are taught that there are no winners and losers in sports; that just being involved makes everyone a winner. I agree to a certain point, everyone involved is a winner because they are putting a great effort into their sport; however, these children are not stupid, they know whether or not they won or if their team won, so why not just tell them! Everyone can celebrate the fact that they have participated and gave their best effort, but the earlier these children learn the importance of competition in the world, the better off they will be.
As a college basketball coach, we are always looking for ways to teach and add competitive fire to our players. One of the best ways that we utilize is by making every drill and workout competitive. Not only does it make for better practices and workouts, it gives us a better look at which individuals thrive on competition. By learning which player’s thrive on competition, we gain a much clearer perspective into who our team is, what we are made of, and who should be on the floor at the biggest moments of the game. At the college level, every player should be competitive! If they made your team and don’t have a competitive fire within them, then I think you may need to re-evaluate your recruiting strategy to find players who carry this significant attribute.
The second step towards competitive greatness comes in the form of internal motivation. As a coach, you need to get to know your players, get to know what makes them tick, and see what it is that truly motivates them. This is not an overnight process; you need to build a relationship with your players and then and only then can you find these answers. If a player is continuing to play the game of basketball at the collegiate level, they must of some form of internal motivation. Being a college basketball player at any level is not an easy task. It takes hard work, dedication, discipline, and a full commitment from every player if your team has any chance of being successful and achieving competitive greatness.
As a coach, you do not really have the ability to teach internal motivation to your players. This internal motivation likely is built in to each player at an early age. It is your job as the coach to find out what each players internal motivations are and then utilize them to pull out the best each one of your players has to offer. For instance, if you were coaching Michael Jordan, you would have known that his internal motivation was to never be outworked, to never lose, and to be the best player he could possibly be. You would have known this and anytime you saw him skipping a workout, taking it easy on a teammate in practice, allowing himself to overlook basic fundamentals; you could just walk up to him and remind him that these actions are not going to allow him to achieve his internal goals and I am sure he would have immediately taken over and dominated the rest of practice or the workout.
The third and final step towards competitive greatness that I will share with you today is preparation. The definition of competitive greatness varies depending on where you look; but basically means being able to perform at your best when your best is truly needed. In order to perform at you best, you need to be prepared physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. If you take care of your body, mind, and spirit and prepare them on a daily basis then you are on your way to achieving competitive greatness.
As a coach, preparation is the key to your success! You need to prepare your team for every practice, workout, meeting, scouting report, and game. By having each practice and workout as competitive as possible, you are preparing your team to play at its best in crucial situations. By knowing what motivates each individual player internally, you are preparing yourself to lead them to victory. By successfully preparing for your opponent, you are giving your team the best opportunity for success. By having your players be prepared physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually day in and day out you are preparing your team to achieve competitive greatness!
John Wooden, arguably the best coach at any level of any sport created the Pyramid of Success during his career as a basketball coach. At the top of his pyramid was competitive greatness. The reason it was at the top of his pyramid is because he truly believed that if you achieved competitive greatness; then whether you win or lose, you were successful. I couldn’t agree more with Coach Wooden. Only one team at the end of the season will be crowned champions. So does that make every other team losers? Of course not, if you and your team gave their best effort day in and day out, then you allowed yourself and your team to reach competitive greatness and had a successful season!