Mastery as measured in the enduring excellence in one’s craft. It’s foundation is the hours of tedious training in the most simple tasks the craft has to offer so that each one of them is so ingrained in the mind and body as to require no concious effort to perform thereby achieving genuine simplicity. The moment’s of genius that linger in history are simply extensions of this foundation, and not possible without it.
As a seventeen year old high school senior, Kobe Bryant worked out for Jerry West and the Lakers. West is “the Logo” of the NBA and at that moment of his life, had committed every professional breath to the game of basketball. He found Bryant’s work out to be the best he had ever seen. Bryant was a tremendous athlete with enticing potential, but the greatness of his work out was not found there, but in what he chose to do instinctively in the work out. Before recieving any instruction, Bryant began taking shots, shots from specific places on the floor and making a specific amount of shots before moving to the next spot. Few players, let alone seventeen year olds, would have the discipline to shoot in this manner without direction. It is why Bryant is a Laker, a five time Champion, a Gold Medalist and a top 10 player in the history of the game.
This past weekend at ODP try outs, I observed a young player that stood out from his peers. His name is Michael Lynch. I am not here to proclaim him the next Zidane, but he is an impressive midfield talent. His foundations firm and deep. Throughout the two day process, Lynch was by far the most vocal player on the field, but it was what he said that was even more impressive than how frequently he talked. Like most kids, he called for the ball, but Lynch repeatedly organized defensively with his voice, called teammates not to allow players to turn (and attack), and was quick to encourage his team verbally, including specifically call out support to a player who had made a mistake. He was poised and mature. I believe that his talking, which extended beyond himself, strengthened his own mentality. He was connected to his team effort, and not sidetracked by his own, albeit rare, mistakes. Teams he played on played the most coherent football on a consistent basis. As a player, he was tireless. He covered more ground than any other player dropping into defense, and springing into attack. His technique is inherently simple. He runs well, but does not possess dazzling speed. He controls the ball easily, but does not possess Neymar-esque flair. It is rather the repetition of basic skills, first touch, create space, head up, play that distinguish him and make his impression endure.
Yesterday I got the Coaching U Live newsletter that featured St John’s assistant Mike Dunlap saying that “building blocks are the only way to develop a player”. This is what Bryant and Lynch personify, and what Michelangelo spoke of.