One thing I say to my kids when they are headed out the door to a game is, “play hard and have fun!” It probably falls on numb ears after so many years of hearing it, but I mean it. I have no great coaching advice at that last-minute that will make a huge difference (they should have been paying attention and working hard in practice) and I’m not going to go ad nauseam about what they should do because that too will bore them and be lost to them, but what I can do is reach out and suggest they do two things that can make a difference in their performance. Make their best effort and find joy in the game.

What could be better for them (and their team)?

But this is not an easy task. Working hard in itself is not super fun. And often you’ll work hard and have a bad practice or a bad game and think, “What the hell am I doing out here? Why am I playing basketball?” But it’s the hard work that allows you to be the very best you can be, and ultimately gives you the ability to do what you want to do on the court, which translates to more fun.

To this day there are times I need to remind myself of why I play the game. Even when I was in college I would be burned out at the end of every season. So as you can imagine there were times during the season that I was tired of giving my best effort. Giving your all during games and practices may seem like a given, but how often does it really happen? Many kids today play one sport year-round, which means tons of practices and league games, so it’s easy for them to become lackadaisical. With so much time on the court they may be honing their skills, yet at the same time they may be losing their love of the game, that spark that pushes them to work hard.

So if you find yourself bored and dying for a break, remind yourself of why you play. What is it that you love about the game? Is it the times you dominate the boards? The times you light up the court with your jump shot or dunk over someone’s head? Is it that feeling you get when your team jells on the court (or even off the court)? This kind of fun is worth working for.

Each time you head out to play remind yourself to work hard, and think about what fuels you to play the game. What makes basketball fun for you? Is it hearing the ball swoosh through the net or maybe it when you out rebound someone twice your size? Whatever it is, use it to fuel you to play your best, and go out there and have some fun!