How Players Act on the Basketball Court Matters…A Lot

Most of you know that I’ve spent the last 20 years on the basketball sidelines as a coach.  That has been at the youth level, 18 seasons at the varsity level, and helping out at the college level.  Over that 20 years, I’ve noticed a lot of trends.  One of the worst trends is the behavior and actions of players on the court.  Not how they play, but how they act while they play.

During the last couple of weeks, I have attended around 20 basketball games at all levels.  I’ve been to 5th-grade boys basketball, freshmen girls basketball, varsity boys and girls state tournament games, MSU clinching the B1G regular season title, and Ferris State winning the GLIAC tournament championship.  When it comes to on-court behavior, at all levels, I’ve seen a little bit of everything.

But it was a game I attended on Thursday night that compelled me to write something.  The Hudsonville girls basketball team lost to Muskegon in overtime of the regional finals.  It was that electric environment you come to expect in March.  I was talking to my family on the way home and I told them that in my 30 years around the game I’ve never seen a team maintain their composure like the Hudsonville girls did.  It really is the entire team and modeled by head coach Casey Glass, but it really shows in Kasey DeSmit, Arinn King, and Sydney Irish.  In this game, those three were tested physically and emotionally by a strong, physical, and athletic Big Red team.  Not once did I see one of them hang their heads – never disrespected an opponent or an official – not even when their high school careers were coming to a close.  Time and time again this year I looked over to my 14 and 11-year-old children and told them to watch how they act on the court.  Watch how they represent their family, the basketball program, their school, and the community.  I can be a little bit of a maniac on the sidelines.  What I’ve seen over the past couple of weeks has helped me better understand how my players acted when they played and what things I modeled or didn’t model very well.  Those are things you can learn when you sit back and watch a game and aren’t engulfed in it.

I’ve been away from the high school game for a few years but I’m sure it won’t be much longer before I’m back on the sideline in some capacity.  These couple of weeks have helped me to develop a checklist, almost a report card, of how I will want my players to act.  During all of those games, I’ve seen players like Tum Tum Nairn or the Hudsonville girls team showing me just what those characteristics should be.  Here’s my list.
1) Body language

2) Respect for opponents

3) Respect for officials

4) Positive towards teammates

5) Composure and poise during adversity

It’s ironic how things change as you get older.  I used to always tell my kids to watch the best player on the court.  Now I find myself telling them to watch the players on the court who act the best.