During World War II Victory Gardens were tangible ways Americans assisted the war effort. Instead of being consumers, Americans could be cultivators by growing their own food and decrease the pressure on the public food supply. Soldiers would have plenty to eat while serving their country and world. The distinction between consumers and cultivators is critical. That same critical distinction will occur with my Freshmen Fillies next season. True success cultivates, not consumes talent. Let me explain.
A talented player makes the team because she can shoot, defend and/or rebound. To consumers, she’s like those extra fries at the bottom of the McDonald’s bag. Oh, look, more delicious potato preservatives, fried in greasy carcinogens, saturated with blood-pressure-spiking salt. Mmmm, they taste good. Devour ‘em while you got ‘em. Consumers use what they have and make the most of it. If a team is laden with shooters, rebounders, speed, size or strength, consumers find ways to use those talents. It’s like savoring that last Vanilla Coke. The red and white can is so enticing you crack the tab and listen to the shoooosh of escaping carbonated water. You watch the caramel-colored liquid trickle over the ice cubes. Lifting the glass to your lips, you thoroughly enjoy the last can of Vanilla Coke. Mmmmmm that tastes good. The glass sits empty.
I don’t want glasses to sit empty. I don’t want to enjoy the last can of Vanilla Coke.
Consumers use; cultivators nurture. As coaches we need to cultivate the skills and players we want.
Cultivate a rebounding mentality. Rebounding has very little to do with skill and everything to do with heart, desire, tenacity and a willingness to endure and inflict physical punishment. A team that doesn’t understand the passion and technique for rebounding, won’t rebound well. Inerrant shots that bounce their way will be the only tally marks on the stat sheet. Cultivating creates rebounders it doesn’t simply use them.
Cultivate shooters. The 2009 Fillies didn’t shoot many three-pointers because we didn’t cultivate the attitude. Oh, we cultivated shooting skills but not a three-point attitude and not the skills needed to nurture shooters. Consumers use the good shooters that end up on the roster. Cultivators create, nurture and develop good shooters. Cultivating good shooters doesn’t happen with repeating one drill every day. It happens through teaching, nurturing, application and repetition. It happens by teaching detail and demanding detail in isolated drills, demanding detail in scrimmages , demanding detail in games. Cultivating shooters does more than use good shooters, it creates more good shooters to use.
As much as it pains me to acknowledge this, the Spartans don’t excel at defense and rebounding solely because of skill. All D-1 athletes possess skill. The Spartans played in the last game of the NCAA season because the coaching staff successfully cultivated a team that rebounds and defends.
I began this post discussing Victory Gardens so it makes sense to end with an allusion to seeds. Coach Izzo cultivated a team that defeated last year’s National Champions and trampled this year’s overall number one seed Louisville. They didn’t just consume the talent they recruited, they cultivated that talent to grow a team that vied for the National Championship.
Cultivate players and the team will enjoy its own victory garden.