"Can I ask you for some advice?"
I get asked this question almost daily. Sometimes I feel like Lucy from Charlie Brown. For you kids, that was a cartoon back in the day. And we're not talking The Family Guy. Cartoons, the kind that were meant for kids.
I'm not a great advice giver. I promise. But I'll try.
Here are a couple of things to consider as the season approaches:
- Do you get it? Either you do or you don't. It's that simple. Do you have good grades? Do you honor the rules and guidelines that are given to you by your parents, teachers, coaches, leaders and those that have your best interest at heart? Do you play hard in blowouts? Do you run through a wall in practice? Do you stand up for your teammates? Do you do the right thing? People are watching. They are always watching.
- Are you humble? Guess what, it's okay to say you didn't do something right. It's okay to sit back, take the tongue-lashing from a coach or hear a criticism from someone that knows the game and the recruiting process. Learn from it. Get better from it. You learn the most when you are the most humble. Swallow your pride every once in a while. Part of becoming a man, is taking it like a man.
- Find your fit. Parents and players ask round the clock about what school is the best. It's about the fit. Of course, everyone wants to play at the highest level. Who doesn't want to hear Dickie V go crazy about you? But guess what, there is more to life than that. Don't rob yourself of a great opportunity because you want to go to a high-major and play when the games are clearly in the books. Will you find your best fit at a: High-major? Mid-major? Low-major? Division II? Division III? Junior college? NAIA? Do your homework. Finding the best fit is the first start to an amazing college experience.
- If you do go to a high-major school, make sure you know what it takes to be a teammate. Guess what, that guy that you'll be rooming with or traveling in a bus across the country and flying in a cramped airplane is just as good as you (or better). So are the guys that the assistant coaches will be recruiting when you are in college. Sometimes it is his night to shine. Hopefully you all shine together.
- If someone goes out of their way to come and watch you play (ahem, a college coach!), be sure to sincerely thank him. Chances are, he'd probably like to be tucking his kids into bed and sitting on the couch with his wife back home. Instead, he came to watch you play. Be aware of that. Be sure to thank them. It goes a long way.
- Research, research, research. I can't stress this enough. I can't tell you how many times I've seen kids renege on their commitment. Honor your word. It is part of becoming a man. Find out everything you can about that school. Visit them. See the town you want to live in for four years. Find out if they have your major. See the campus. See the people. You might meet your wife there. You might meet your future business partner there. You might cure cancer thanks to the studies you receive there. Find out if that coach runs a style of play that you can shine in but be challenged to grow as a player. Can you win at that school?
- Associate yourself with people that you trust. That is, hopefully, your parents. That is, hopefully, your high school coach. That is, hopefully, a travel team coach. Seek out those that want you to succeed long past your playing days are over. There are a lot of wolves in sheep’s clothing. Beware.
- If you are a college prospect, everything will take care of itself. Don't worry about rankings. They have never paid for anyone's education. You do by your play, your work in the classroom and your character. You can't rank those. If you want a gold star, I'll take you down to CVS and buy one for you. Worry about what happens on the court, what happens in the classroom and what happens within the walls of your own home. Everything takes care of itself if you are doing your part.
I could go on for days but this should cover it. For now, at least. Play ball, play hard, play for fun, enjoy your high school days and find those that you consider your friends and listen to your family, who loves you and wants the best for you. If you do that, you won't need the advice because you are probably already living these principles already.
(I orginally wrote this for my Georgia Hoops blog on 10/22/07. In preparing for my camp this weekend, these thoughts re-entered my tiny, pea-sized brain. I hope they can help someone.)