Next Play Mentality

You made a mistake in a game, what is your next reaction as a player? Do you hang your head, jog back to the other end, complain to the ref, or show frustration (palms to the ceiling, punch the air)? One of the hardest things for any athlete is to move forward and focus on the next right play.

The concept of next play mentality is simple; don’t let one mistake affect how you play for the remainder of the game. If there are 70 possessions in a game, there are going to be a lot of mistakes or lapses, resulting in either a score or a defensive stop. If you commit a turnover on offense, don’t let that one mistake lead to a quick score in transition because you didn’t sprint back on defense. Basketball is unique in the sense that it is a fast paced and continuous game. There is no time to think or worry about the missed shot or bad pass. The difference between a winning and losing effort may come down to who has a better response. Not dwelling on the past but playing in the moment.

There is a time and place to correct and deal with a bad play or possession, but in the middle of the game is not one of them. If it is misunderstanding a play or coverage, wait for a timeout or stoppage in play to regroup and talk to a coach. Postgame, on the car ride home, talk about what you saw or what gave you problems during the game. Even If you’re having an off night, focus on what you can control. Continue to lead with positive body language, communication, effort, and a next play mindset. Relax and play basketball.

I challenge you to see how fast you can move on to the next right play. It’s not about the turnover you committed or the made three to tie the game, what’s next. Watch this clip and notice whether it’s a scoring play or turnover how quickly Michael Jordan transitions back into making winning plays for his team. He scores at the rim, and immediately turns, sprints back on defense to get a steal. When he starts attacking, the ball gets stolen from him. Instead of feeling sorry for himself, he sprints back to prevent an easy layup on the other end. Jordan moves on to the next play. “I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” – Michael Jordan

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Understanding Your Role: “Do Your Job”

How would you define your role on your team? Are you the primary ball handler, spot up shooter, lock down defender, hustle player, or the team leader? Everyone has a role that is extremely valuable in the success of their team. Once you figure out what that role is, it is your responsibility to accept it and embrace it. As a player, owning your role means constantly looking for ways to improve your game, being coachable, and working hard toward your goals. Coaches want players who are disciplined, accountable, and great teammates. There is tremendous value in a player who is always in the right position, who is engaged in the game at all times, and who responds in the right way.

“Do your job.” A phrase used a lot by Coach Holtmann and the coaching staff at Ohio State. These three words, simple, but effective in getting the message across that you should focus on only what you can control and do whatever it takes to help your team win. Doing your job means being prepared for when your name is called, paying attention to the little details and putting the team first. Winning is a result of one side executing better than the other and when everyone on a team is connected, bought-in and understanding of their role, it puts the team in a good position to do just that.

In my experience, I was blessed with the opportunity to be a part of some very successful teams that shared great chemistry and common goals. My role within each team may have changed each year, but the quality of my effort, attitude and confidence stayed the same every time I stepped onto the floor. In high school, having made it to two State Championships my role on the court was significant in being a leader by example, helping my team win whether it was on the offensive or defensive end. At Ohio State, my role had changed. Understanding that now it wasn’t about playing time or scoring, it was more about the experiences and being a part of something bigger than myself. Ranging from pushing the starters around in practice to help prepare them for games to cheering them on from the sidelines whether we were winning or losing. Having positive body language throughout all the ebbs and flows of a season is contagious and is what helped contribute to our success as a team.

In the video above, Geno Auriemma talks about body language and the type of player he looks for on his team. I suggest you watch it and think about how you are impacting your team, not only from a playing aspect but also as a teammate. As the legendary coach John Wooden puts it, “when no one worries about who will receive the credit, far more can be accomplished.”

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