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Unity - The Cornerstone of Winning Basketball Programs

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Dictionary.com references multiple definitions for the word unity. One is "the state of being one." Another is "oneness of mind, feeling, etc. as among a number of persons." The common theme among all of them is the focus on there being only one vision that multiple people share together. Unity is all about forgetting yourself on behalf of a greater cause that you have in common with other individuals. When unity exists there are no hidden agendas. There are no ulterior motives and there certainly isn't any selfishness.

With unity there is honor, sacrifice, and courage.

There are very few things in this world that are as powerful as unity. With it wars are won, fortunes are made and souls are healed. When it comes to winning in basketball, team unity is as important as it gets. You can have the biggest, strongest and most skilled players in your league but if those kids don't have a common vision and healthy chemistry among them - they won't win at the highest levels. They might be able to win some games against extremely inferior competition but when it comes to the games that really mean something, they will get beat every time.

When there is no unity among players on the floor 1 + 1 is always going to = 2. It's each player on his own trying to make things happen for whatever incentives they have created for themselves. On the other hand when all 5 players on the court have unity among them 1 + 1 can all of a sudden = 3 or more. When players are working together towards the same goal and have each other's backs they can accomplish amazing things. They can accomplish much more together than they could if they just added up each other's individual contributions. It can be a confusing concept to grasp on paper and might not make any logical sense but there is magic in unity that can't be denied.

To help illustrate my point I want to share with you a video I recently came across that featured Pete Carroll and his USC football team. For those of you who don't follow football very religiously USC was always a powerhouse of college football when coach Pete Carroll was at the helm. They were ALWAYS either THE team to beat or one of the top 5 teams in the country. Pete Carroll was their head coach and receives high praise from every top football mind in the country on how good of a job he did building such a dominant program at USC.

This video highlights an experience Coach Carroll put together for his team where he invited the famous singer and songwriter Bill Withers to come and speak to them. For you youngsters out there, Bill Withers is most famous for his song "Lean on Me" which I'm sure you have heard.

The video lasts about 6 minutes is all, watch it real quick and then come back and I'll wrap up a few points. The first minute is Bill playing a joke on the team. Then he gets serious and offers priceless advice at the end.

A Note to Players

I realize that a topic like unity isn't something you consider too exciting right now. All I can do is hope that you take to heart just how important it is. It's not just basketball that requires unity in order to be successful. When you start a career or start a family you'll learn that if you haven't learned how to support others and let them support you when you are down, you'll struggle through life.

Realize that coaches notice selfish players and think of them as a cancer to the team. If you are more worried about your individual stats than you are about how the team does, it will be noticed and you'll pay the price. You may not pay the price immediately, it may even take years for you to recognize the damage that was done but rest assured the time will come and it won't be pleasant.

Can you comfortably put your arms around each of the players on your team like these USC football players did? Are you actively getting to know each of the players on your team instead of just your close friends? If not, please make an effort to do better. You'll build life-long friendships, you'll acquire positive habits that will help you later on in your life and believe it or not, you'll win more games and improve as a player.

A Note to Coaches

When was the last time you planned an exercise or event that would build team unity? Hopefully it wasn't too long ago. If it was, you may need to reevaluate your coaching philosophy. For a lot of coaches, unity is one of those things that is an afterthought. Or it's not thought of something that can be improved. They feel like either you have it or you don't and you have to deal with the card you are dealt. This is completely wrong. Unity is something that is built. It is something that must be nurtured and planned. It is something each team has control of.

Take a lesson from Pete Carroll. He MAKES TIME for team building exercises just like he does for conditioning, drills and scrimmages. He has a reputation for spending a lot of time focusing on things that will bring his players together. He makes it a big priority because he believes that it is THAT important to winning. Knowing the x's and o's and having the perfect game strategy is important but if your team doesn't have chemistry there are so many things that can and usually do go wrong.

Stress the importance of unity to your players. Let them know that selfishness will not be tolerated and that you all sink or swim together. It's up to you to help the team create a vision or mission statement that everyone buys into. It's also up to you to hold players accountable and lead by your actions. Take it serious and don't leave it up to chance. Plan something into every practice that is specifically designed to improve team unity. Try and be creative too. Think outside of the box on how you can really help your players understand how important it is for them to think and act together.

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