In sports, there’s no substitute for great effort.
It doesn’t matter how talented you are—if you don’t play hard, you won’t win very often.
Although at least part of that effort must come from within, coaches can also take steps to help elicit a more ferocious, more tenacious level of effort from their players.
Don Showalter, Director of Coach Development for USA Basketball and Head Coach of the USA Basketball Junior Men’s National Team, recently spoke on the topic at a Cavaliers Academy camp in Strongsville, Ohio. It starts with setting a standard for effort from day one, and holding each player to that same standard through thick and thin.
“You set a standard. Coaches set a standard for players,” Showalter says. “Here’s how we do things. That’s your culture. So if there’s a loose ball on the court, our standard is that you have guys go after that loose ball in a very aggressive way. Then the positive reinforcement they get for that is a huge (part of developing great effort)…That’s a way to develop a really high standard of playing hard. Constant positive reinforcement for guys that play hard. So if we have a guy on our team that plays really hard, we’re constantly reinforcing that effort to everybody else. Hey, this is the way Jalen is playing. We want to see everybody play that way. So you’re getting that feedback from everyone else by giving that positive reinforcement. Then, very honestly, if a player is not buying into what you want done, the bench is a great motivator. Well, you sit here and watch for a while, and you’ll find out why you’re not playing more. Here’s the guy ahead of you who’s playing a lot of minutes because he’s playing the way we want him to play. So sometimes that bench is a great motivator.”
Showalter’s point of constantly highlighting and praising great effort is an excellent one. Great effort is rarely the stuff of highlight reels, but it’s often the difference between winning and losing. The film room can be a great opportunity to highlight effort and intensity. By consistently lauding players who demonstrate great hustle, coaches send a message to their teammates. That message is, “If you want to impress me and earn more playing time, play like this.”