Great teams at any level of basketball all have their own identity. Whether we’re discussing the “Showtime” Lakers, led by Magic Johnson, or the “Bad Boys” that were the Detroit Pistons with Bill Laimbeer stopping anyone who dared enter the paint, great teams have an identity.
The Chicago Bulls, who went on a dominating run in the 1990s, were known as MJ’s team, and the more modern Golden State Warriors, led by the “Splash Brothers,” altered the game forever with their long-range three pointers and jaw-dropping box scores. No matter what level of basketball you’re participating in, it is crucial that you develop an identity for your squad.
Identity matters because it’s vital that your team does something exceptionally well. There aren’t enough hours in the day for an entire team to become great at everything, so you’ll have to find a way to focus on what you’re best at and turn that into what your squad is going to be. It doesn’t mean that a great defensive team is going to be inept on the offensive side of the ball, but if your team has a natural disposition to phenomenal defense, establish your identity as a defensive stalwart.
At any level of basketball, especially youth basketball, it’s difficult to get players to memorize a long list of plays. While you probably have “sets” that get your team in the position you want them to be in, filtering every second of every game through your team’s identity will enable players to focus more on the “big picture” instead of being caught in the moment. If your team is going to be built on rebounding, every play on both ends of the court will see your roster get in a proper rebounding position while having others prepare to get into transition.
Creating a team identity gets every player on the team to buy into the fact that there’s something going on that’s bigger than any one player. Plenty of children have lost interest in basketball early because one player was given the sole responsibility of shooting the ball in the name of winning. Creating a team identity lets you, as the coach, find a key role for every member of your roster to build the identity. Players will become engaged when they feel like they’re contributing to the overall success of the team.