Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Basketball Lessons from J-Lo!

In the early 2000's, Jennifer Lopez was It. Fresh off of her performance as the late great Selena, Lopez picked up the microphone and started a career as a "singer". Lopez had the foresight and luck to join a very hot producer named Irv Gotti during his incredible streak as a hit maker. Lopez became a disciple of Mary J. Blige and the genre she helped create which was Hip-Hop Soul. The difference between Mary J and J-Lo, as Lopez was increasingly known , was that Mary J could SING, while J-Lo could "sing".

Technology has touched all walks of life. The music industry is a major benefactor of technology and Lopez benefitted greatly from modern techniques. Her musical coach, producer, Irv Gotti knew the environment in which J-Lo thrived in. He kept things simple for her by writing simple verses that were heavy on the monotone requirements and stayed away from complicated voice arrangements. Lopez hits were hook heavy, catchy rhythms that even the untrained could sing along. Gotti used technology to add reverb to Lopez's voice in order to give it more substance. The result was a very successful album and designation as a pop star. Then J-Lo got in over her head.

One of the most difficult things for a grassroots basketball coach to ensure is that you are putting your players in a position to succeed. Our job is to teach supreme confidence in the face of competition. We help shape a positive vision for young players in a field that is full of rejection and failure. We preach that the odds can be beaten, that seemingly insurmountable numbers do not apply to our players.

While instilling self belief, coaches also have to keep in mind that like music, there are levels to success, ceilings in fact. And too like music, individual and collective ability determines a players success at conquering a certain level.  A grassroots coach will inevitably  face a time where their players are not capable of effectively achieving in a game, a time when they have hit their ceiling. VERY few players can play in ANY environment and still achieve. Those that do/can, eventually become the pros that we watch on TV.

The difficult part in realizing that your players are in over their heads is first admitting it. At times we can feel as though it is a personal indictment of our ability and resist  admitting that our kids are not ready. Then comes the hard part, benching or limiting the minutes of a player that you have taught to always believe. It is hard not to feel like a hypocrite. You have instilled an "I believe in you, so you believe in you" philosophy in your players, yet in those overwhelming situations, you obviously do not believe in them enough to play them. Being an integral part of their development, you feel you are positioned to know their strengths and weaknesses. You feel like, "who knows them better than you" and surely your positive intentions for their well being is beyond question.

 I am sure that is what Irv Gotti felt like after he and J-Lo created magic and enriched both of their careers. Gotti knew what J-Lo's ceiling was and he made sure to keep her on a successful level. J-Lo then chose to undertake a different form of music, singing ballads. The problem was that J-Lo failed to understand that she was not really like Mary J Blige. Unlike Blige, who was raised singing difficult gospel ballads in church, she could not go to that NEXT level and achieve the same results. J-Lo and her advisors, akin to some basketball parents, figured that since she may have outsold and received more praise on the Hip-Hop Soul level than Mary J at that time, she was as good as Mary J and ready for that NEXT level. Wrong! She should have listened to Gotti, the coach (producer) that KNEW her skill set best. Instead, her music career has been EXPOSED as a novelty. She "played in front of scouts" versus singers that were truly NEXT level performers and her career has never fully recovered. Basketball parents should take heed. Sometimes that Irv Gotti ,that has your child in the correct lane, is there for a reason. They know when to add reverb, a simple hook and a catchy rhythm. They also know that unlike J-Lo, basketball scholarships do not include royalties and you are paid(rewarded) on current production, not past performance on an inferior level.