A few years ago, a high school senior that I coached in Atlanta, Georgia was being recruited by an NAIA school in South Carolina for basketball. I drove the kid out to the school on an official visit so he could meet the coaches, see the campus and get a little workout with the team. As I sat in the room with a few of the college basketball coaches and answered questions about how they could land this recruit, I thought it would be wise to increase my knowledge of the game since it was my first year with a clipboard in my hand. I asked the seasoned head coach of that school a series of coaching related questions. He answered the best he could, and then he got really serious when he told me what he needed on his roster.
He loved shooters, defenders, and unselfish guys, but most of all he needed dogs. “Is this kid a dog?”
He inquired firmly and I wasn’t totally sure how to answer. I said that he had displayed spurts of “dogness” and “dogicity.” They chuckled…but since I was still in student mode, I fired a question back at him: if a player isn’t a dog, can you inject some canine in him? He swiftly replied no. He said, “But if there’s some dog deep down inside him…I can find it.”
If you’re unfamiliar with the term, it’s used in sports to define a relentless player that has a killer instinct and competitive nature that doesn’t involve backing down. Dogs don’t believe in excuses, they love to be challenged, and they exhibit supreme confidence because they train just as hard as they play. It’s deeper than being a superb talent or having a will to win. Canines are carnivorous beings that will slay their own flesh and blood on a playing field to obtain victory. Think Allen Iverson or Kevin Garnett. Michael Jordan had a cutthroat spirit that carried over into the golf course, the gambling arena, and the boardroom. He made up self-victimizing lies in his head before games so he could be angry at his opponents. Nowadays you see guys like Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, and maybe even Draymond Green just to name a few that have a kill-switch that they hit when it’s time to destroy an adversary.
Of course during my own self-reflection I thought about this seemingly natural trait and wondered if I was one of those people with the deep down dog buried within. Shamefully, I attempt to motivate youngsters on the court with a whistle around my neck using encouraging words, but at times, I envy the potential-filled position they are in. And as much as I sarcastically scold someone for “not wanting it” bad enough, I feel like I am speaking to the 15-year-old version of myself at times. I want to tell these students that their coach didn’t play with an edge in high school, he wasn’t a killer, and he knows what it’s like to think he’s really good, but never reach his full potential. Who wants to hear that story as motivation? Read the rest of this entry »