Do YOU recognize and applaud unselfish plays on your team?
By Greg Bach
Scotty Thurman is the owner of one of the more memorable shots in March Madness history: a high-arcing three-pointer with 53 seconds remaining that broke a tie with Duke in the 1994 title game and helped deliver a national championship to the University of Arkansas.
But that moment never happens without his teammates doing their jobs, like setting screens and delivering accurate passes so Thurman had time and space to get off his shot.
It’s a formidable task of coaching: creating that special environment where players are pulling for and supporting their teammates.
And willing to embrace any role – especially the not-so-glamorous ones – to help make it happen.
“I think you have to make sure that you have teachable moments when unselfish plays and unselfish acts are made,” says Thurman, an assistant coach with the Razorbacks and the only player in Arkansas history to be named All-SEC First Team three times.
That means halting practice to applaud players who take a charge, pick up a floor burn diving for a loose ball, or get a fast break going with a great outlet pass.
It can’t be all about the player who sinks the shot; it’s got to be about everybody contributing in their own way and being appreciative and supportive of their teammates.
“It’s being able to help a player understand what it is to make an unselfish play,” Thurman says. “Where it may not be me getting the assist, but I may have made the pass that led to the assist; or a pass that led to a shot for someone else; or a screen where I got someone else open.”
Engage your players in discussions about what it means to be a good teammate; and be sure you’re recognizing unselfish displays every chance you get.
The more you draw attention to it, the more players will buy in to its importance and deliver.
“It’s important for them to understand that to be a team you have to make sure that you’re unselfish,” Thurman says.
The origins of that shot Thurman hit on that magical Monday night back in that ’94 NCAA title game can be traced all the way back to his youth basketball days.
And his coaches who stressed the fundamentals of the game.
“I had a lot of good coaches back when I played church league basketball as a fifth-grader and sixth-grader all the way up into junior high who spent quite a bit of time with me in terms of perfecting my shot and getting up quality reps and making sure that I was confident in the way I shot the basketball,” Thurman says. “My form changed probably four or five times from the time I was in junior high to high school, but I always had guys who were always consistent in terms of making sure I had proper rotation and all of those nuances of being a good shooter.”
It’s those fundamentals that were stressed to Thurman early on in his development that he encourages today’s youth coaches to zero in on, too.
“I think the fundamentals of the game are often lost,” he says. “Especially when you are talking about 10-year-olds. I think so much of the focus today is on young guys just scoring the basketball but not necessarily on how to play the game. I think it’s important for coaches to make sure that fundamentals are an integral part of what they do in terms of preparing for practice and preparing for the games that they play.”
EMBRACE EVERY DAY
Every practice and game is an opportunity for players to learn and improve.
So, it’s important that they are arriving with energy and enthusiasm and you’re capitalizing on your time with them.
“Coach (Nolan) Richardson always had this saying that ‘you’re only as good as your last game,’” Thurman says. “So for me every practice and every game I approached it as though it was my last shot to prove that I was a good player or help my team prove that we were a good team. That definitely kept me on edge and that’s something I try to show our guys is that you have to be ready to come out and play each and every game, and you’ve got to be ready to come out to practice each and every day to go to work to get better.”
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