Role With Me
In our basketball program we run a motion offense. The term ‘motion’ has become extremely watered down over the years to the point that now nearly every offense is some type of ‘motion’. The essence of a true motion offense, however, is randomness. There is no pattern to motion. Offensive players make decisions based on how they are being guarded by the defense. It takes time to teach. Often, a long, long time. It requires players to think and understand the game.
I would consider it a high risk, high reward scenario. When executed well, it’s incredibly difficult to defend. With no pattern, it’s impossible for the defense to anticipate what is coming next. I mean, the offense doesn’t even know until they see what the defense is doing.
It’s a great offense. I enjoy teaching it and our players enjoy running it. Each player usually has to make numerous decisions on each possession so there is a built in sense of autonomy from the start.
However, there is an important aspect of this decision-making freedom that seems to remain vague on many teams: role embracement.
Why Should We Care?
Notice I said role embracement, not roll acceptance. That’s a significant difference when we begin considering the execution of each role on a team. And it’s that difference that often separates a good team from a great team.
But, before a role can be embraced, or even accepted, it must be clearly identified, articulated, and shared with those we expect to fill it. This step may seem obvious, but it is too often presumed rather than assured - especially in regards to the part of the role that is most important.
The corporate world we love to point to a ten year old job description that was created by leaders that have moved on physically, or mentally. It’s complete with a list of bullet points itemizing each duty you are responsible for.
This list is important. You need to do them, and probably a lot more, but it’s not the most important.
In the sports world, basketball is one of the most difficult sports to clearly define roles simply because all players play offense and defense and they all can pass, dribble, and shoot the ball. This creates a lot of areas for blurring of roles. Players can easily get drawn to the more glamorous role of say, scoring while the team needs him to rebound or screen.
The basketball roles of screening, scoring, rebounding, etc is similar to a job description. Your team needs you to do this in order for it to execute at its best.
Beyond the job, or basketball, there is another significant role team members must accept that often goes unstated. It’s the same for everyone, though often at varying degrees.
So, what makes up the most important part of your role on a great team?
Sacrifice, vulnerability, and faith.
REAL TALK - Action Steps
We, as the leader, must embrace them while also clearly establishing the need for those on our team to do the same. It’s not enough for team members to accept the necessary sacrifice, vulnerability, and faith. They must embrace it - want it - seek it.
As a coach, I used to dread talking to players about the roles we needed them to embrace for the good of our team. I always felt like I was asking them to do something they didn’t want to do. Now, I see role discussions as opportunities to empower players to maximize their contribution to the team.
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I'm a teacher, coach, and parent seeking excellence while defining success on my own terms.