A Letter to the Seniors

I recently handed out personal letters to each of our seniors in preparation for their final year in high school. All seniors must come to the realization that this will be their last opportunity to accomplish any of their High School goals. Unless they have the IQ of a kiwi in which case we’ll probably see them next year. But most seniors fail to grasp the fact that they won’t be coming back until it’s too late, whether it’s denial or the inability to see the big picture. And as a result they tend to not make any goals or plans for their future.

So in those letters to our Seniors I was honest with them about their abilities, and their potential role on the team. But most importantly, I challenged them to make personal goals for their final year of high school. Everybody wants to play in the NBA, go to college, and win a high school championship. There’s no question there, but how do you do it? Unfortunately there isn’t an easy answer or a magical lamp for them to rub to accomplish these dreams. Instead there are smaller goals, like rungs on a ladder, which must be made and surpassed before any dream can be reached. These goals must also be separated into two categories and prioritized. Those two categorizes are Personal goals and Team goals.

Personal goals can range from increased strength and speed to more measurable marks like improved shooting percentage and a better assist to turnover ratio. These personal goals should challenge you to do more than you ever have before or push you to try something new to improve as an overall player. After making your goals the next key is to establish a list of ways to accomplish those goals. If you want to improve as a shooter you’ll need to put together a game plan that consists of finding and using different drills and scheduling time each day to shoot.

I understand how difficult it can be to stay focused and organized as a senior in High School. Though students never really seem to understand but us coaches were once in High School too! Even though the distractions have changed names, the discipline it takes to be successful hasn’t. While making your goals you should take some time to decide what is most important to you and make that a priority, but remember you only have one basketball season left in High School and those 20 plus games go real fast. And if you’re worried about having a car or a job or a girlfriend, DON’T. Since I graduated High School in 2007 I have had 3 different cars, 5 different jobs and 4 different girlfriends. There will be plenty of time to worry about them in the future, trust me.

You have a rare opportunity to write your own story and dictate how it will end because you know exactly where and when the line is drawn. Players like Yao Ming and Greg Oden would have done a million things different if they knew when one chapter of their basketball lives was closing and where others would open. And as you write your final chapter as High School seniors realize that your teammates still have time left and can learn some valuable lessons from you. A team is only as good as its’ worst player. Don’t pass up a chance to share your experiences with others.

Your team’s goals should be something that you’ve been talking about with your teammates throughout the off season. If you haven’t, then you need to start talking NOW. These goals need to be agreed upon by the team and should reflect the team’s mission for that season. As a senior, you are inheriting a leadership position whether you want to be a leader or not and know that the rest of the team will look up to you. My fondest memories of playing basketball in High School were actually the team events we had off the court. So much stress and pressure is placed upon you on the court that it becomes therapeutic to blow off steam with your teammates, whether it be a cookout at someone’s house or a Christmas party. A team unified is a team that cannot beat itself and in return only has one opponent on game night instead of two. I challenge you to organize at least one team function where everyone is invited to something other than basketball and see if afterwards the team doesn’t come closer together.

“Talent is important. But the single most important ingredient after you get the talent is internal leadership. It’s NOT the coaches as much as one single person or people on the team who set higher standards than that team normally sets for itself.” – Mike Krzyzewski

To succeed, you must work harder than you ever have before. If you shot 200 shots a day last year, shoot 300 this year. Understand that being a leader is an everyday task. If you take days off or don’t give it your all, how can you expect your younger teammates to give it theirs every day?

“The second I let down, particularly if I’m considered a leader on my team. I give others the opportunity to let down as well. If the person out front takes the day off or doesn’t play hard, why should anyone else?” – Michael Jordan

I personally don’t believe in regrets, they tend to become negatives that can eat away at your confidence and ambition. But I do believe in missed opportunities, whether they’re non-mandatory workouts or a chance to get the team together away from basketball. To actions and attitudes during the season that affect the team and your goals. When your name is called before your final home game and your standing next to your fellow seniors, will you be happy with what you have accomplished? Did you meet the goals you set for yourself and your team? Were you a good leader? Did you give it your all every day? Only you can answer these questions.

3 thoughts on “A Letter to the Seniors

  1. Excellent points, though I can’t bring myself to agree with the point that a team is only as strong as it’s weakest player. It reminds me of too many times watching a lay up line and focusing on a couple of goof balls that can’t walk and chew gum, then feeling a wave of confidence that you can’t lose to that group, only to realize that those guys never play meaningful minutes and remain largely irrelavent to the final outcome.

    1. I agree with you. My point which I didn’t elaborate on in fear of writing a novel, was that the work ethic and positive attitude a senior can instill on the rest of team is important to every member. Even the last guy on the bench. Though his impact on the court will be minimal, his attitude and the way he practices can help his team.

      1. This is the point where you link to my fantastic post on Ted Baxa as the quintessential last man on the bench.

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