How many of you have been to a youth game where the most talented player on the floor/field struts around like he/she is the greatest thing since sliced bread?
What about when that player gets benched and hangs their head, pouts, and makes it visibly obvious that they're upset?
Today, I'm going to explain why your body language is so incredibly important to not only yourself, but to your team's ultimate success.
Besides great talent and great coaching, what do championship teams have in common?
They certainly play together, understand the importance of sacrifice, and have a common belief that their goals can be reached.
When I played college basketball, our coach instilled a set of fundamental beliefs for our team based on the culture we had established, our abilities as a group, and what we collectively thought we could accomplish. In many cases, we were challenged to think bigger. Not so big that our goals were unrealistic but big enough that what we decided on was worth chasing.
Of course, we then had individual goals that mapped up to our team goals. Put simply, each player had to bring his best to the group so that we could achieve what we all agreed was possible.
Body Language Speaks
One of the most underrated things in all of sports is collective energy. But in order to have team energy, it all starts with you. When you walk into practice, do other people want to be around you? Do you whine and complain behind the coaching staff's backs? Do you immediately go to the stat sheet after every game because you care deeply about yourself?
I go to games all the time where players refuse to shake a teammate's hand as they head to the bench. I watch basketball players get knocked down, and teammates just stand there and wait for them to get up. I watch a guy make a bad pass and the potential target roll his eyes.
I've also been fortunate enough to coach several teams over the years, and one of the things that we'd do is stop practice EVERY TIME I saw this stuff.
When players act selfishly, the team suffers. And when the team suffers, the chances of not only winning the game in front of you go down, but the chances of ever being an elite team disappear.
Chemistry in Play
I just finished watching the Netflix docuseries, Swamp Kings. The series covers the University of Florida's football team in the mid 2000's when they won national titles in 2006 and 2008.
For me, there were two major takeaways:
1. Veteran leadership was the reason why they won two national titles. When your leaders care, not only about themselves, but about the accountability of the whole team, everyone wins. It was a rude awakening for a lot of guys to learn "how things were done." Those guys set a standard and expected everyone to join them, as opposed to saying things like, "He's a freshman. Eventually he'll figure it out."
2. Chemistry was the reason they didn't win a third national title in 2009. It wasn't talent or coaching. It was the ability for the guys in the locker room to stay connected through adversity and keep their focus on their collective goals.
These are Life-Long Skills
For any young person reading this, my number one takeaway would be this:
Learning how to handle yourself as an athlete and be a positive teammate will impact you for the rest of your life.
Future relationships will be better, jobs will be better, and you'll win more. You just will. And the reason you'll win is because you'll understand that there's no room for the negative energy, the slouching, or the silent treatment. Great communicators are winners, and that's both verbal and non-verbal.
The other thing you'll understand is that the attitude and energy you put off is what you get back. When a few people on a team understand this, the culture improves. When the entire team understands it, you're now ready to compete for championships.
Body language "experts" now evaluate political candidates, FBI suspects, CEO speeches, and more. If you think your coach is doing you a disservice by harping on this stuff now, he/she is actually giving you some of the best free advice for the rest of your career.
John Willkom is the author of Amazon best-selling basketball books: Walk-On Warrior and No Fear In The Arena. John is an avid reader, sports fan, and father to two incredible little girls.
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